Looking on the Bright Side
What is “Common Sense”?
It is a type of logical thinking based on commonly held beliefs and it has been part of our American history going back to Thomas Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense”. Even today, we can probably agree on a definition of common sense, as the ability to think and behave in a reasonable way and to make good decisions. But “good decisions” and “reasonable behavior” vary with one’s personal beliefs and with one’s personal view of reality. So what is viewed as “common sense” by one, can be viewed as “stupidity” by another and sometimes progress occurs when what was once viewed as “stupidity” becomes “common sense”.
For example: The belief today that “All men are created equal” does not fit reality. Each person is different, with a unique set of abilities and flaws. At a time when the divine right of kings was taught, believing that a serf was created equal to a king was absolute stupidity; however, the belief that “all men are created equal” is slowly changing the world and has moved humanity toward accepting and encompassing all of humanity as equal and as one. This progress has taken generations, and with each abrupt step forward it continues to move closer to being accepted as “common sense”. This follows a path that “shows respect”, “listens with an open mind” and “is slow to judge”. That thought process is what others want from us and what we want from others. So it should be “common sense” to respect, to listen with an open mind and to be slow to judge, but it’s openly not that way.
So for the present, that definition of “common sense” remains somewhere in our distant future, although we desperately need it today.
by Terry O’Neill, former alderperson and Lake Geneva City Activist
Cartoon by Terry O’Neill