by Robert Wilkinson
Today we revisit a problematic theme in many distorted arguments that usually leave us frustrated and wondering why we wasted our time.
We all have all the signs in our charts. Some are occupied by planets, while other signs are not. All the planets and signs have their strengths and weaknesses, and these present themselves at various times as the planets transit the signs. Today we explore the problem of false equivalencies, and how these indicate a distorted or dysfunctional Libra energy.
Libra is the part of us that tries to find balance, justice, fairness, and "equivalency" between points of view or opposing positions. We all deal with this energy on a constant basis as we move through life experiences and try to figure out what relates to what and how. However, being a function of how the mind uses its "compare and contrast" function, we often aren't clear about equivalencies since the mind is ultimately not reliable as a final judge of much.
I pondered this theme for many years before it came into close focus in early 2010 due to a variety of factors, from a formerly close personal relationship asserting something completely out of balance in terms of equivalency all the way to an extremist tv pundit trying to draw a comparison between the antiwar demonstrators in the 60s and the jerks who spit on civil rights pioneer and legend John Lewis and threw bricks through Congressional office windows in the run-up to the 2010 elections.
The pundit also asserted that we should equate people who protested against Bush/Cheney war criminal and anti-Constitutional behaviors with the batch of wackos who screamed racial and homophobic epithets against Congressmen just after they voted for the flawed but urgently needed health insurance reform bill. He asserted that if some behaviors were done by some people at a past point in time, it justifies people doing and saying racist and homophobic things today.
This is what I term a "false equivalency" since it attempts to link two unrelated things that are different from each other, whether in substance, style, or motive. It often is used by the ego mind to justify a behavior that is negative by comparing it to something else that is marginally related, if at all.
The "compare and contrast" process involves the Libra ability to weigh and judge the relative similarities and differences between things. The downside to this is the assumption of ego with its perceptual biases that "if A does X, then if B appears to do anything resembling X then there is an equivalence in behavior, intention, or whatever between A and B." In other words, if ego can justify any apparent similarity, it must be an equivalent action.
The problem arises when there are attachments or preexisting biases that influence the apparent comparisons. Sometimes a false equivalence is drawn even if there are few if any true resemblances between A and B other than superficial appearances.
One way to target false equivalencies is by what is not factored into the assertion that is essential in the comparison. In other words, if we factor in an essential point previously overlooked in the argument, how does that change the comparison? More importantly, if we do attempt to introduce a critical piece of information, is it welcomed or denied by the one making the false equivalency? This shows the fluidity and openness or lack of these in the interactive dynamic, since false equivalencies require rigid stances and usually cannot adapt to conflicting or contrasting views.
Astrologically, all signs externalize through the traits of the opposing sign. Just as one-pointedness is an Aries virtue, one-sidedness that does not factor in other views is a quality of dysfunctional Aries energies. Where there is a lack of a well-rounded view in how the parts relate to the whole and how causes are related to effects you can bet there is an Aries-Libra energetic problem going on. You may also note that some of these imbalances or false equivalencies are triggered by planets in Cancer or Capricorn, since these challenge and/or release the positive or negative potential of the Libra (and Aries) dynamic.
Batterers and abusers use false equivalencies. Think "You lied to me, therefore I get to hit you." In this case the illusion is that physical violation is somehow equivalent to something said (or believed to be said!) that may or may not be true. The concept of using an accusation to justify a destructive behavior is both peculiar and erroneous thinking.
I have also seen that those who have a victim mentality can fall prey to false equivalency. This has been most evident in situations when friends and loved ones who persist in making strong statements of fact to bust someone in denial are seen to be the equivalent of an abuser attacking their victim.
A friend getting in our face is not the same as getting hammered by an abusive spouse or lizard! Unfortunately, a victim mentality often equates their friends yelling at them to wake up as similar to their abuser yelling at them to make them submit to their lower desires or selfish intention. This is a classic false equivalency.
In my personal opinion, those who must speak or shout truth in the face of lies and self justifications are not being abusive. A lie spoken nicely is still a lie. While I agree that losing one's cool is never a good thing, it's very frustrating to confront liars and deliberate dissemblers. Here it may be useful to take note of those who choose self-pity and rationalizations over self-reflection and initiatives toward a broader, higher, more inclusive point of view.
It seems that there have been more examples of false equivalency arguments in the air during the time of Saturn in Libra, since when planets conjunct, square, or oppose Saturn it generates the need for clarity in comparing and contrasting what's going on so we can find the appropriate view, balance, or rhythm. I figured in this time of oppositions to Saturn, with Venus now opposed to Saturn along with the recent Full Moon in Libra, it would be good to put the focus on taking a new look on how our Libra energy is functioning in our lives and world.
I believe there are clear factors that can always help us get beyond false equivalencies, but these often require us learning to evaluate what standard of measurement we're using to see how something is in or out of balance from a larger, holistic angle of view. This means getting beyond ego subjectivity and utilizing Divine Discrimination, seeing the lesser and the greater, the core and the peripheral, the selfless and selfish.
If you wonder if a false equivalency is being made, look for statements that deflect, distract, justify, or employ non sequiturs to make both sides of the argument somehow equal. Usually these will ignore destructive or selfish factors while also dismissing valid considerations that show the substantial differences in the points of view.
Some examples of this begin with the unfortunate tendency of news "reporters" to give equal time to the dozen or so "counter protesters" who show up to assert their point of view as opposed to 10,000 people protesting a war or illegal or immoral public policy. Here the massively destructive results of bad policy are made falsely equivalent (in an oppositional way) to a better way to live life and relate to other humans.
We also see false equivalency in the argument that we must pollute the environment to ensure jobs, or that we must pay outrageous bonuses to bankers who helped the world financial system to melt down or we will lose their supposedly necessary expertise. These arguments all involve an "either-or" polarization of points of view that have little or no relationship to each other, usually to obscure the true issues.
Another example of a false equivalency is when a supposed reciprocal "agreement" is asserted when the original circumstance was no such thing. This often takes the shape of someone asserting that because they did something for you then you must also do an equivalent thing for them, whether appropriate or not. Again, a classic tactic of abusers to rope their victim into doing something they never agreed to in the first place. To be willing to consider something in the future is not the same as agreeing that you will do that thing.
So I'll close today with the warning to be alert to false equivalencies. They can be simplistic and very destructive of critical thinking about something that needs correcting. Here it is useful to remember the dictum to "consider the source."
What is the source from which the assertion of apparent equivalency arises? What is the motive, intention, and purpose for asserting the supposed equivalency? Is there defensiveness or rigidity present? Why is X necessarily equivalent to Y? What are the common points, and what are the essential differences?
This directly relates to the article, How To Know the Difference Between Negative Ego Rhetoric and A Principled Stand. In that we explored how the compare and contrast function is valuable in knowing rhetoric from reality. However, as we can see, the compare and contrast function can also be turned to destructive false equivalencies by manipulators and those stuck in unhealthy denials.
That's why it's important to be on the alert to false equivalencies in the inner world of consciousness as well as the outer world of forms, ideas, and behaviors.
© Copyright 2010, 2011 Robert Wilkinson
(ps. - None of this should be construed as being an indictment of any particular sign. Again, we all have all the signs in our charts, and so we all can transcend any negative quality of any sign or planet.)