Logical Fallacies

The other day I mentioned in a WhatsApp group I’m in that I didn’t like a certain person’s music. I told them that I found it depressing because it left me in a worse mood. It was just not my cup of tea. Now, this is a very popular musician among the group members and I knew very well that I would be attacked for saying that. I was right, someone retaliated by saying that my cup of tea consists of ‘5 lines mumbled a thousand times.’

While I don’t deny that I enjoy trap music, I did not quite get the comeback. I understand that he was offended, but he committed a fallacy which most of us are guilty of: argumentum ad hominem: the error of attacking the character and motives of a person who has stated the idea, rather than the idea itself. Instead of adressing the matter of the artist’s music and give me his dissenting opinion, he chose to attack my character: loving trap music. This is no way to win an argument.

The whole purpose of a debate or a discussion is to help us see both sides of the coin, and therefore reduce bigotry. However, logical fallacies defeat this purpose. I see this a lot with politicians. That’s why I sometimes cannot bring myself to watch the discussions on television regarding the current political climate. A lot of logical fallacies are committed either knowingly or unknowingly. I will bring some of these to your attention in a few.

Maybe I should first say what prompted me to research on this. A certain lady had commented on politics and as always, some people were offended. They called her a whore, a bimbo and many other deregatory names instead of saying why exactly they disagreed with her. I had settled on chauvinism as the main culprit but then I realized the problem was much bigger than that. What is the source of  chauvinism? A flaw in reasoning. Our thought processes account for who we are. To deal with a problem, we must first change our mindset. It is important we know of these fallacies so that we avoid commiting them, point out those who commit them so that at the end of the day we engage in a meaningful and fruitful discussion.

That being said, the next fallacy I want to bring into focus is Post Hoc (ergo propter hoc), claiming that because something happens after something else, the first caused the second. In other words, saying that because two things correlate, one caused the other. This takes me back to my primary school days, when a certain teacher happened to be in a mood for caning us whenever she donned clothes of a certain colour. We would conclude that the particular colour was the cause of her bad moods. In retrospect, I believe that her moods dictated her choice of clothes. Not the other way round. Another good example: your company has been doing very well since a new manager was appointed. You attribute the success to the manager yet he hasn’t done anything new. In fact, it’s the one in charge of marketing who should take the credit since he or she has been working overtime.

Another common fallacy is Argumentum ad numerum,(appeal to numbers), where if many people are of the same opinion, then it must be true. Well, those many people could be wrong! Our argument must not be wholly dependent on the numbers, we must take other factors into consideration.

The last one I want to mention is Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority), assuming that because a public figure has said something, it must be true, even though the said person has no experience whatsoever in the area. For example, concluding that slimming tea helps one lose weight just because a certain celebrity said so. Most of the time, they have been paid to promote the product.

There are so many others I have not mentioned. You can read about them here and also here.

Have a fallacy-free time, won’t you?

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Bringing Out The Experienced Child

I got teary as I recounted tales of my childhood the other day because I noticed something about younger me that I had not noticed before. I was one determined girl. I barely took no for an answer.

Take this instance for example: A few weeks into class one, a certain teacher came to our class and asked who had participated in singing games (nursery rhymes associated with a set of actions) in nursery school (sorry, kindergarten ;)). A number of pupils raised their hands. I was among them. The teacher wrote the names of those who had raised their hands and asked them to go back to school in the afternoon so that they could practice for the oncoming music festival. Problem is, she never saw me. She never wrote my name.

I was really annoyed. Good thing is that younger me could not accept things without putting up a fight. So during lunch at home I told my mum that I was going to go back to school anyway even if the teacher didn’t jot down my name. Luckily, she didn’t hold me back.

So I went back to school in the afternoon and explained everything to the teacher. She gave me that look that suggested she would have loved to get rid of me but she couldn’t, heaved a sigh of helplessness and told me that there was no problem, I could join them.

This tale and many others brought tears to my eyes because I wondered where that determination went to. I realized that growing up does something terrible to us. Voices from the outside become louder than the voice inside us hence most of the things we do is dictated by other people’s definition of sanity. Our sense of determination melts away. We become trapped in our picket fences, afraid to take risks.

I want to bring out the child that’s trapped inside of me. She child is not a novice anymore, however, her many years of experience has not dampened her spirit of risk-taking. She has not allowed other voices to drown her own, and she has not lost her sense of wonder.

Change is the Only Constant 

In the 19th century, a group of people who called themselves Luddites after their leader Ned Ludd (who was perhaps mythical) objected to the Industrial Revolution. They expressed their frustration by breaking into factories and smashing textile machines. You see, these were British weavers and textile workers who had taken so long to learn their craft. You can understand their anger when they found out that people with no experience or skill at all could now weave thanks to the spinning jenny’s and other textile machines that were invented. 

Luddite is now a general term referring to a person who is opposed to increased industrialization or new technology 

Technology has improved our lives in so many ways. However, it has left a bitter taste in our mouths. Can we acknowledge the fact that adapting to change is never easy? Also, each time something new is invented, someone somewhere loses a job. 

Most people are now using the Standard Guage Railway to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa because it is cheaper and faster. This is a sigh of relief to many people who had had to endure several hours on the road. But. There’s always a but. There are people who are losing business. Bus companies, hotels in Mtito Andei because not many people are stopping by for refreshments, the list could go on and on. 

The first time computers were introduced to schools and businesses as a means of storing data, so many people were opposed to them. How can one simply trust machines with important information? Computer literacy programs were rolled out so that employees could learn how to operate them but some refused to take advantage of them thinking that they (the computers) would never be an integral part of a company’s day to day activities. What happened to them? They were sacked. 

Change is the only constant, they say. Nothing we do can stop change from occurring. Therefore, instead of spending a lot of time and energy fighting it, we should channel our resources into adapting. That’s the only way we will survive. 

Right now the change most of the people are grappling with is social media. But guess what? It is here to stay. All we have to do is exploit the opportunities it offers us and we will go far. Do you think companies who don’t have a social media presence will stay for long? What of public personalities who  do not take time to connect with their fans? Will they be relevant? 

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

Hair Chronicles

“Oh my gosh, your hair! What’s the secret?”

“Hehe, honestly, there’s no secret.”

“You just got it in your DNA, eey?”

“We could say that. I never even apply oil.”

“You have made it worse. Never say that to someone like me. We do struggle.”

 

I guess that’s my little secret. The only time I get to apply oil is when I go to the salon to blow-dry my hair. I don’t have fancy hair products. Yet the crown of my beauty is adorned with splendour and glory. Haha.

The conversation above reminded me of a time at the height of my adolescence when I had mild acne breakouts. I was quite worried so I decided to seek advice from a friend of mine who had amazing flawless skin. I asked her which skin products she used and to my utter astonishment, she let me know that she only used Vaseline. Abeg! Vaseline! Vaseline was my skin’s best friend but…

I have just remembered this one: A teacher asked her students which skin products they used. Heck, that was an opportunity to mention the expensive cosmetic brands and they had to exploit it. The likes of L’Oreal and St. Ives were thrown casually into the air. However, one girl, the one with the most incredible skin among them, humbled them. She said she used, wait for it, Arimis. Yes, you heard me right. The famous milking jelly was more than enough for her.

You also have something that is aggressively beautiful. You don’t even struggle to make it great yet it is effortlessly amazing. You don’t know what it is? Keep looking, don’t settle. (Uncanny resemblance to Steve Job’s speech? I know right ;)) Pay attention to compliments. Instead of turning them down, say thank you. 🙂

Back to my hair. There’s this time I opted to wash my hair at home so as to save money. I went to the salon to have it blow-dried and boy was it an embarrassing thirty minutes! My hair, akin to the chimney of a big factory, emitted terrible dark billows of smoke that were suffocating other people. They all gave me looks that chilled me to the very core. Twice did the hairdresser ask me if I was really sure I had washed my hair.

And that is why, my friends, I had to resign to washing my hair at the salon whenever I want to blow-dry it. I had to get used to the hands that wreck havoc on my scalp in the name of massage not forgetting the extremely uncomfortable sinks that make me feel like I am about to slip into a comma.

The Long Wait

To say that I was extremely exhausted would be a super understatement. The person I was waiting for at the airport had apparently forgotten that the country he was departing from was in a different time zone! His terrible mistake had caused me to arrive at the airport two hours earlier! I was therefore forced to imbibe on excessively overpriced juice (you  know how unreasonably expensive restaurants stationed inside an airport can be) while thinking of better ways the money I had spent on the miniature glass of juice could have been put into use. That money would have fed the whole world and there would be still some left over. I haven’t even mentioned the exorbitant packing fees.

No matter how slowly you drink a glass of juice, you will still finish it. What would have taken a gulp to be finished managed to take thirty minutes. Ahem, round of applause. Taking atom after atom of juice so that you are not kicked out of the restaurant is no mean feat. I was determined to finish off the dregs, but to no avail. I had no choice but to vacate my safe haven.

I joined other people who were waiting, hope and anticipation written all over their faces. The sweltering heat of the sun did not seem to deter them. Occasionally, planes would land and after several minutes smiling people would descend to the waiting area, dragging their big suitcases. 

“Hey! Mary! Lucy! Dad has arrived!” a middle aged woman standing behind behind me shrieked with glee. Before she even finished her statement the two children had already started running to their father without a care in the world. One almost knocked him down. 

There was still no sign of the man I was waiting for. I was reduced to mere observer, observing other people’s joys. I saw happy reunions everywhere I looked. Running with arms stretched wide seemed to be the signature dance move for people in the airport. My eyes however caught a man who seemed distraught. He was bald and considerably overweight. I could not  quite see his face. Clutching at his suitcases, he was scanning the airport. No one was running to him, no one seemed particularly excited to see him. In the midst of all these joyous reunions was a man who could not trace a familiar soul. Maybe he thought that his family didn’t care about him, that they had forgotten him, that they had lied that they would be waiting…

Opposite me were people who, just like me, were tired of waiting. Some were even raising placards that contained the names of the people they were expecting, but none seemed to approach them. On one side, some people, including the bald man, never found anyone waiting while on the other side, some were getting weary of waiting for people who didn’t seem to come. The irony of life has never been more apparent.

I don’t know what led me to approach the man, but I found myself walking towards him.I wanted to see how I could help him. I wasn’t prepared for the pleasantly rude shock that awaited me. He was the man I was waiting for.

“Michael! Is that you? You’ve changed! Oh my gosh!  You’re losing hair, you’ve gained…”

“Shhh…” he interrupted and reached out to hug me.

We were locked in deep embrace. Tears of joy streamed down my face. I had finally gotten the chance to see him after so long. He was alive. He had arrived safely. Nothing else mattered at that moment. 

My Love Affair With Books

Though I have a faint recollection of that day, some details are ever so clear. I was in class five. The tuition program we were to attend had backfired so we were told to borrow books for our holiday reading. I picked ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. Like any 10 year old, I was enchanted by the images on the cover: a man who was blowing a pipe was being followed by a ‘delegation’ of rats. The book was begging to be read, itching to tell its story. 

I couldn’t resist the charms regardless of the fact that 1. I had read it before. 2. I was perhaps too old for such books. 

So I confidently took the book to the classteacher to have her indicate that I was borrowing the book. 

To cut the story short, she never let me take that book, saying that it was too short. She had me borrow a copy of ‘The Boxcar Children’, a novel. For one accustomed to reading storybooks, this was very overwhelming. How was I supposed to read that giant of a book? I took it  heavy heartedly and commenced the herculean task of reading it. I was excruciatingly bored within the first few pages, to be honest. My mum encouraged me to read on, saying that a time will come when I would not be able to put the book down. 

True to her word, I was hooked once I reached the middle. What I had previously termed as a herculean task turned out to be very easy and aggressively entertaining. You should have seen how dejected I was when I finished reading it. 

That is how my love affair with books started. Little did I know that in this part of the world, most people conclude that you are a very boring person when you tell them you are a reader. How can you read during your free time? Don’t you have a life? 

That became very apparent in high school. Not wanting to be associated with boredom, I stopped reading. I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I did not regret this. This, in fact, is my biggest regret. 

I was determined to get back to reading after high school. It was a struggle at first, but I got back on track. I vowed never to let people’s opinions dissuade me from doing what I really love. 

Books have really helped me in a lot. They helped in my grammar, opened my mind, allowed me to have a better understanding of areas that I was not familiar with before. It is always refreshing to read books whose characters you can relate to. The advantages of reading are just so many. 

Next time I say I enjoy dancing and you tell me ‘To books?’ ‘To poetry? ‘ I will proudly tell you I wish I could, and that I adore books. 😂Try reading too. You never know, you too might fall in love with books. ☺

Flo-Rida Teeth

One day they brought a feature on TV that I could very much resonate with. They were showing the plight of people of Baringo who were suffering from dental fluorosis. Brown teeth. Though I only have a faint recollection of the feature, I remember one lady’s story very well. 

“Urembo anao, umbo analo lakini ni kitu kimoja tu ambacho kinamfanya akose mchumba…”

The reporter’s voice bellowed as they showed us a very beautiful woman with  perfect figure. Until. Until she smiled and revealed her set of teeth. Discoloured. Brown. Her teeth were the bane of her life, the only impediment to getting a boyfriend, she said.

There’s usually that excitement when your permanent teeth start growing, right? I, like many children, watched permanent teeth fill the gaping holes left by milk teeth with so much excitement. My excitement quickly turned to sadness when I noticed that my teeth were getting discoloured. My two front teeth were particularly affected, while the rest were a pale shadow of their former colour, white. 

What do you do when you notice that? You start covering your mouth when you laugh. You smile without showing your teeth. Your photos would do well without any evidence of brown teeth, you tell yourself. You are tempted to cover your mouth whenever you talk, but then you tell yourself that it would be too much work for the hand. The only time people get a glimpse of your teeth is when you talk. 

Little did I know that my mum was not going to give me an easy time. There was no way she would let me cover my teeth. 

“Laugh freely,” she said, “your teeth are perfect the way they are. Why are you making you complicating your life? It is not your fault that your teeth got discoloured. Don’t let people’s comments and looks make you deny yourself a chance of having a good laugh.” 

And so I stopped covering my teeth. Most of the people around me in primary school had brown teeth, so I didn’t stand out. In fact, few people had white teeth. The intensity of the brown colour was different in different people. Others were lucky to have an almost invisible mark at the corner of one of their tooth, while others teeth were deeply discolored. 

One day people came to talk to us about fluorosis, and what causes it. They told us that it is the water in that area that was responsible, it had high amounts of fluoride. While fluoride in itself is an important element and helps in the strengthening of teeth and bones, excessive amounts lead to discolouration of teeth, they added. 

All hope was not lost though, they said. They showed us a water filter, which worked by filtering the excessive amounts of fluorine and hence made the water very good for drinking. Whoever drank the filtered water would not get fluorosis. 

One pupil’s hand shot up. “What if your teeth are already discoloured? Can the filtered water help to restore the white colour?” 

We all waited for the answer with hopprehension (hope and apprehension). 

“Unfortunately no. The damage has already been done. However, we can  prevent dental fluorosis is other people, now that we are armed with the information.”

We were disappointed, but at least we were salvaged from our ignorance. 

Fast forward to high school, when I noticed that I was one of the three people in class with brown teeth. Most of the people there had white teeth. Exact opposite of primary school. Insecurities crept in again, but I reminded myself of my  mother’s words. I had to love my perfect imperfections. Whenever I felt like laughing, I laughed until my last tooth was seen. After all, people only notice the difference in your teeth the first time they see you, and then they get used to it, and they don’t seem to notice it anymore. 

If you have brown teeth, don’t worry. You can afford a white smile though, if you can afford it (terrible pun). If you go to a dentist, they can cover your teeth with a layer of filling (if there is any dentist reading this, forgive my utter ignorance of terminologies). They can also use other methods such as microabrasion where they scrap off a thin layer of enamel. You are spoilt for choice. 

Of course there are those people who go the herbal way. The said herbalists use a mixture of herbs to scrub your teeth. Well, I hear that those people scrap off a large layer of enamel and your teeth become very sensitive. I have not heard any story first hand though, so there is a chance that the herbalists are very efficient. 

You know how dentists are expected  to have flawless teeth; white and perfectly arranged? There is one dentist I saw on TV who is challenging the status quo. His teeth are discoloured. Being a dentist, he obviously can afford to get his teeth whitened but he chooses not to. Isn’t that the quintessence of loving your imperfections perfectly? He inspires a lot of people. When was the last time you were treated  by a dentist with brown teeth? I bet never. Unfortunately, his name escapes me but I salute him for being brave. 

Let’s go back to where I started from, to the woman who claimed that she cannot get a boyfriend because of her teeth. How many people with brown teeth are married? You see how a terrible mindset can put one in perils of their own making? 

Whoever has read this to the end, thank you. I hope you shed all the misconceptions you had before about brown teeth. No they are not rotten, they are just discoloured. Do not assume that people who have them do not brush their teeth. 🙂 

Haha, I’ve just remembered that in high school someone asked  me why I don’t use Colgate. In university too, someone told me that they thought I smoked cigarettes. I have gotten to a point where I can just laugh off these comments. 

Did you know? People with fluorosis are relatively resistant to dental carries.