We live in interesting times.
That’s not always a good thing.
Especially if you’ve read any headlines lately. Seems to me at the moment we’re in a tailspin as a whole.
There’s a brexit vote that ABSOLUTELY HAS TO BE HONOURED., there’s the recent own goal of an election that defied the odds, and a coalition government of sorts with a minor party from a somewhat unstable and deprived part of a country most people wouldn’t know existed unless it started exploding again.
This is happening while the world teeters towards a nasty combination of a impending resource crisis, a failing economic system and a changing planet. We do not live in stable times,
This is starting to finally be reflected in our day to day lives. The uncertainty of so many decisions made by our ruling elite and via our democratic processes, not to mention our day to day lifestyles, are directly impacting our way of life. Spending power, income rates, services…all these things are coming to a head.
Grenfell. The recent attacks by madmen in the streets. A failing health service. Brexit. These things are causing a direct impact on our lives. For a second time in my lifetime, the political decisions made at the top seem to actually be causing genuine repercussions. The first was that bloody war in Iraq…
It is about time that the way we are all discussing and viewing the world is questioned. But on that front, I fear our society is unable to react wisely to the future facing it.
We have active choices to make, and unfortunately many flawed sources of information to act on. In these times, an engaged democratic society is required to push things forward in the right direction.
But which direction?
Left and right, up and down, red, blue, yellow…whatever your political leanings we seem to be at an impasse. If I raise a concern about healthcare funding you can equally find facts supporting why we cannot resolve it. If you raise a concern that corporations are taxed too much I can shoot it down too.
The problem comes when you raise a concern about global warming being fake or wrong, and won’t budge on the issue. Suddenly demonstrable facts are able be questioned and debated.
It is at this point our primary means of solving problems via discussion and reason is launched firmly out of the window when any level of expertise can be bogged down in debate and discussion. It gives political power to ignorance, and prevents us from problem solving.
Misinformation rules our age like nothing else. This is because of the abundance of platforms that can appear legitimate, rather than an abundance of true information that is vetted and understood.
To solve this, and correctly allow our society to adapt to these changing times, we need to change the way we look at the world as individuals. It’s something all of us can do today.
It is incredibly easy to simply accept authority and a given headline as truth. It is also incredibly easy to allow rational thought to give way to rage and reaction at some perceived injustice. Both these things combine to allow the sources of news to appear legitimate when actually they’re nothing more than a mechanism to sell themselves. No one has to be accurate in this world because the prime purpose of many people involved in this practice are in it for the money and not the social responsibility.
Take a look at the headlines…and take a look at that language.
It’s easy to be outraged…but why?
We need to dissect these headlines and ask key questions:
- whose fury about the turks?
- What plot and what significance is it?
- Why is it a plot? Who are “they” conspiring against?
- Where is this 1.5 million figure coming from?
- Why is it a bad thing to let in this many people and under what context?
This is nothing more than critical thinking – a step to understand the underlying components of a given situation. Anyone can do it. It’s not rocket science and it just takes a moment to step back and ask what these issues really are.
Unfortunately this gap in our day to day thinking is a serious blocker for us to tackle the changes approaching our society. Safe in our bubbles, we can be deluded into thinking its someone else’s concern, or accept key issues as nothing more than talking points to throw into a conversation halfheartedly before getting into a partisan argument with a leftist/rightist/uptightist.
This is a sin committed by everyone across every aspect of every talking point in today’s age. It is laughably easy to be distracted by injustice and become OUTRAGED.
Outrage is easy. Mobs form because of outrage. But mobs don’t solve problems.
And we as a nation, as a society, have many, many problems.
So considering the fact we’ve undergone yet another major democratic exercise and demonstrated how thoroughly divided we are, perhaps we should ask why. And instead of wondering and bickering over each other’s point of view, we as a society can approach it with a level head and practical thinking:
- why is our economy tanking?
- Why are we so thoroughly divided economically?
- What role is party politics and first past the post playing in our power structure?
- What role should the press be fulfilling and how do we tackle its partisan nature without compromising free speech?
- What can we do to address the growing skills gap in our society?
- What direction do we want our society to head into?
- Where do we need to direct investment to future proof the next generation?
- How can we keep our country safe in the short term and address the long term causes of other’s anger toward us?
- How do we address the cultural divides that seem to be causing such friction in our communities?
- How can we face climate change in a practical manner?
- How can we face tax avoidance in a globalised world?
- How can we resolve a growing housing crisis and the impact of non stable homes for a growing population of young people in a gig economy?
- How can we address the rising amount of pensioners with a stagnant economy?
This a tiny fraction of things that we need to look at. And each one requires an understanding of the underlying history, causes and potential solutions to offer a decent opinion.
All of which can be washed away by a simple reaction or soundbite grabbed from one political party, newspaper or other source.
Simply accepting another’s opinion as fact, no matter the source, is dangerous. When we try to understand things we must attempt to understand it from multiple viewpoints. Not doing this is dangerous, even if its coming from the most legitimate and trusted sources. We still need to question everything.
But we also must act based on the best understanding we have, from multiple angles and perspectives.
We live in a time of change. The world is changing, people’s mindsets are changing, the ruling elite are changing. Uncertainty is the defining word of our time.
If we are to adapt to this change we must begin to understand the causes and how to discern truth from nonsense in an age of user content and abundant information, and misinformation.
The worst thing we can do is stick to our echo chambers and continue our partisan road into the future. In order for the future to change for the better, for all of us, we need to stop accepting truths given by the powerful, the loud, and the righteous. We need to question these people, and question everything. But we need to do so knowing there is a difference between fact and opinion.
If we simply argue that any given fact is an opinion, as is so popular these days with ideas like vaccinations, climate change and evolution, then we run the risk of destroying actual knowledge.
It is one thing to question everything. It is another to question demonstrable proof of various aspects of reality. It is a balancing act that requires understanding.
The only way we are going to survive as a society in the next century is if the general public is armed with a basic level of literacy, and a basic level of critical thinking. It is also required that everyone should have some understanding of the scientific method.
I honestly feel without these things we will not emerge from this time in a recognisable form. Our way of life, our freedoms, and our society, will forever change in the coming century.
The question is, how do we want that future to look? In what form? What values should be lost and inherited? What values should be preserved?
We live in these times. That means that we get to define that era. And it doesn’t just start and end on an election day. Democracy does not only involve politics. It is the act of community, the act of individuals in that community, pushing and challenging ideas of the time.
Now more so than ever, that right, that basic aspect of democracy should be front and centre.
Only you can change the future. And you, and you, and you….