The Case for the Companion Flag; or, Pinpointing and Resolving ‘The Great Correctable Error'

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Let’s start with your elevator pitch. What is the Companion Flag? And what is The Great Correctable Error?

The Companion Flag is a symbol of all that human beings have in common despite—or I should say in addition to—our differences. The idea is to fly the Companion Flag below the other flags of the world on the same pole, never alone. Thus, its name.

Flying the two flags together sends the message: “Here we are proud of our differences, our diversity, and our special affiliations, but we are mindful, too, of our essential humanity and all that we share in common with people everywhere.”

The Great Correctable Error doesn’t lend itself to an elevator pitch but I can gesture at it this way:

A.    It’s a descriptive presupposition or ‘given’ that we all rely on unwittingly every day. It’s buried deep in our collective unconscious, so much so that it surprises us when it’s identified or called out. We assume it must be something pre-wired into our brains at birth. On the contrary, I’ll argue that we acquire and embody the error by osmosis or “implicit learning.” We subconsciously infer its existence from observing the behaviors of our parents and other caregivers in the first two or three years of life. Over time the nonconscious neurons in our developing brains encode the error and apply it as though it were a fixed rule of social psychology.

Aka “observational learning.”

Right… I say “a rule of social psychology” because the error concerns one particular—and particularly important—category of behavior: whenever we intentionally perform an act or say something that we know is likely to impact the well-being of another person or group of people. I call these “moral actions,” for short.

B.    The Great Correctable Error is a hypothesis, not established fact. I’m not a psychologist, neuroscientist, or philosopher; still, I believe the argument for its existence as a fundamental error of fact that operates in the background of our lives is strong.

C.    The Error perpetuates an ancient misconception about the quality and scope of our knowledge and awareness of the other person that we need to ensure ourselves that our moral actions are — and will be seen by others as — coherent and intelligible from the start. All humans with normal mental health, being ardently social, automatically seek to satisfy this threshold requirement, starting at around ages three to six, in order to avoid rejection, banishment, or worse at the hands of other humans with whom they seek to affiliate or identify.






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