The Age of Unknowing

Everyone in America has an opinion. Current fashionable imperative dictates you must express yourself as loudly as you can. The internet is screaming.  Awareness is at an all-time high and minority issues are of majority concern.  What is the problem?

The loudest opinions are often the least informed.  They are reactionary, chains of linked thought designed to be inflammatory rather than logical. We spend our outrage recklessly, commenting on other peoples experiences and treating them as our own.  We consider ourselves informed based on hearsay, hastening to praise or condemn without solid information.

Take the latest news.  A child falls into a gorilla’s enclosure and as a result, the zoo kills the gorilla.  Instant outrage.  Horror expressed, shouting on all sides.  It was the parents fault.  The zoo should never have slaughtered a harmless animal.  Who is legally responsible and who will pay for this tragic turn of events?  Animal activists, children and parent right groups, zookeepers associations…each asserting their own perspective as the only acceptable view.

My personal favorite?  Posts that claimed everything would have been handled differently if the child was of color.  What?  What does race have to do with anything?  Furthermore, the child involved was indeed of color so those posts of outrage were especially foolish.

The old adage “Be careful what you read” is more true than ever before.  Sally posts a meme, expressing a defined opinion.  Peter reads it and hurries to top it, adding his own spin of moral outrage.  Connie reads both, takes them as fact and shares with all her friends.  This leads to a partially informed and wholly opinionated information system. Reactions spread like wildfire, colorfully embellished with mocking cartoons and inflammatory language.

On the positive side, awareness of issues does increase. Transgendered individuals, who are a small minority of the population have burst into everyone’s consciousness.  That is not a bad thing. Change resulting from this kind of awareness is a topic for another day. Feminism, racism and a host of other isms color our news feeds.  It is the proportion of time and awareness, the proportion of difficulties and consideration that I question.  Are some of these topics being over published and under examined? Are we making issues bigger than they need to be, beating a dead horse by repeatedly visiting old grievances rather than seeking new solutions? Are we busy dividing ourselves instead of working together?

We are wasting valuable time. There are true horrors every day on this planet, horrors that need to be legitimately addressed.  While we are busy asserting ourselves on day to day topics we are distracted, busy being important, taking our stance. Meanwhile we are losing global perspective on events shaping the future of humanity. Thousands are suffering. Is it necessary that I take a stance on one woman’s college experience?  And if I do involve myself in that debate, is it my social responsibility to address every individual instance of perceived injustice?

We do love to live vicariously, to feed off other peoples drama. We enjoy the power, the casting of blame.  Soap operas and reality TV are guilty pleasures. We point fingers and pretend to know what is best for everyone.  Shame on us all. Any mother will tell you that children do unexpected things, and it only takes a moment for circumstances to change. Gorilla experts can prove that possessing the strength of ten humans is problematic, even when gorillas have the best of intentions.  Those are facts. Some things happen and there is no blame. Life can be hard.

There are real and important issues worthy of consideration.  They deserve time and research. Like the funny meme if you wish.  Before jumping into a debate, however, look at all sides of a question. Dig for fact. Examine with patience and logic as well as heat and heart. Think for yourself.  Draw your own conclusion. Don’t express the popular view. Explain your own conclusions. Are you supporting or denying a political candidate based off provable fact or has the internet conveniently thrown you all the “proof” you need?

We have more access to information than any generation before us and we squander the opportunity, instead relying on cheap thrills and quick answers. A little knowledge remains a dangerous thing.  Be truly informed. Become not a parrot, but a thinking individual. We don’t have to have opinions on everything.  Know what you don’t know.  No one person can have factual knowledge of the world’s problems. We can sure do better, however, than the majority already expressing their opinions.





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