It wouldn't be a controversial assertion to say that we are seeing a dumbing-down of the level of debate and discourse right across the mainstream of the Western world. Would it?
Reading comprehension is seemingly deliberately poorly practiced by those who need to protect their worldview from evidence and fact to the contrary: They simply misread such a statement in a way that further entrenches their original belief. Actually, we are all guilty of this from time to time; it has been called the Backfire Effect.
An objective observer would be confused by the majority of sane, rational folk who allegedly participate in a representative democracy like the US, UK or Australia (to name a few) yet who blithely allow our elected representatives to blatantly lie, obfuscate, misrepresent and dissemble as if it was what we wanted them to do all along.
Why is it that we are so seemingly averse to actual rational discussion, to a clear-headed look at the facts of our existence, to the opportunity to learn, be educated and maybe change our minds from time to time - at least in the cultural mainstream? It's a wilful blindness, this societal disease, and it's corrosive not just to the individual, but to the soul and heart of the fabric of our togetherness. It is anti-truth, therefore anti-life.
My thought is that it's actually a perverse self-protective mechanism. Simply put, that the truths of our planetary and species reality are simply too raw to be easily borne. That were we to open our hearts en masse and as a group actually experience the vulnerability and pain that we - as a species and a brother/sisterhood - are actually within the midst of, the shock would be too great, and the actions we would have to take as responsible, sane people would be too hard to bear. That I think is our fear.
Even the revolutionaries among us, the agitators for a great awakening, sort of cadge and hedge our emotional bets sometimes. We need those politicians and pundits to opine dogmatically and with scant regard for the base realities to better affirm our own flawed-in-the-detail beliefs and worldviews, and besides; we too fear the shock of everyone suddenly feeling the cry of our brethren humans and mother planet.
So we sabotage the very thing that got us in this mess, ironically - our vast untrammelled intellect, which we have wielded this last many centuries with scarce material regard for matters of our spiritual and emotional wellbeing, for our actual species-identity. Thus have we created the monster we now face. Perhaps we punish ourselves by deliberately dumbing down our level of discourse, we slap the face of the thing inside us that has given us such troubles. We now finally face a greater enemy withing than that of the 'self' that each of us faces on our journey: This time it's the enemy of us. To overcome it, we are trying to hide from its power to move us, we struggle in vain to become desensitized to the plight of that majority whose lives are still connected to an actual struggle for survival.
We coddled, spoon-fed Westerners are becoming blinded precisely because we cannot stand the brightness of the flame we have created that is burning at the core of our collective soul.
But I have a suggestion. A simple one, that doesn't require any great wrenching shift or soul-baring agony. One that is just a little cultural thing, a return to one simple virtue that is slipping away from the most affluent planetary citizens (not that the ones so affected consider themselves as affluent, despite their decadence). And that is a pride in being properly educated. In reading comprehension, most particularly.
For poor reading comprehension skills - which require elementary logic and critical thinking - are the prime mechanism we use and unconsciously enable in others as well as ourselves to carry on this farce we call discussion and communication in the Global Public Sphere. We make ridiculous assumptions about others' positions, we argue from received 'wisdom' and dogma without being willing to support our assertions with evidence and we accept from others as fact those things that 'feel right'; which in other words support our own beliefs, and do not challenge them. As I have said, it is corrosive to the heart, because it pushes away the thing the heart craves - exposure to true life, reality, the place where love is. For there also is grief and pain. Cowards, sometimes, we are.
But back to the reading. Recently someone said of the former murder and crime capitol of the world, Medellin, Colombia, that the problem of entrenchment was due to two factors - ignorance and guns. Then the city got a new governing body who did one main thing - they started spending 40% of the city's budget on education. Real education, where children (and adults) are taught the skills of learning, taught how to think, and where there was an emphasis put also on the artistic and expressive ways of thinking. Value was put squarely back on being a participant citizen via a path driven by peoples' personal quests for self-realisation, not by some ideology of the state or the market. People were given every opportunity to thrive as people, on their own, through education. And there are now no more 'no-go' areas of Medellin, and a pride of place (and enviably low murder and crime rate) prevails, just 10 years later.
Because when you have pride in yourself as a learned person, one who can frame and explain a logical position, who can hold two ideas simultaneously in your head, and who can allow the existence of questions that have no answers - the world of feeling and spirit - then you have an awakened people who are no longer content to allow their polity to devolve into dissemblance and disingenuity for the personal agendas of the privileged few.
It's just about using our brains and the learnings we have made to empower ourselves again with a seeking mindset. To use our intellects again for what they are good at - solving and pondering. That way I believe we can feel string enough to face these awkward and painful truths, to discover that together we are happier anyway, and that as a species we can easily overcome the problems we have created. To bring back good heart.
So please, teach your kids and talk with your fellow humans using your brain. Not just the words of some nameless person who said something once that sounded about right as though they were fact. It's really simple if you remember a basic thing like this:
A square is a rectangle. But a rectangle is not necessarily a square.
So the next time you hear someone talking of a system of economics that taxes those with higher incomes at a higher rate than those with lower incomes and through the agency of using these taxes for the benefit of all - thus redistributing wealth - describe such a system as communist or anti-capitalist you can see straight away where the bullshit disconnect is. And then maybe you can feel what is right for you in that moment too.
This was my thought for today.