Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't Burst the Bubble!

The other day we facilitated the second of six story circles with members and attendees of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Niagara. As these things usually are, it was amazing. I was reminded again of why I have such faith in human beings to change the world in miraculous ways. I sometimes despair when I read about the many, many people who simply believe what they are told through various media outlets. They seem to be quite willing to enter the bubble of unreality that these people construct. On one hand, I understand this—these people offer simple solutions. Or at least they seem simple. Usually they are totally illogical and make no sense whatsoever. But if one is in a drowsy state of unawareness, I suppose it can all seem pretty attractive. It seems that lots of people are scared and so they are willing to leave their brains at the door whenever someone tells them that it's all Obama's fault, or that Democrat equals socialist or whatever. People want things that are simply impossible to have happen all at the same time. Some idiot at some town hall show or tea party rally or something had a sign that said, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Huh? Without government hands on Medicare, there's no Medicare. It is after all, government run health care—gasp! Maybe that person who receives this government run health care is actually a closet socialist who wants to take over the world—the total ignorance just boggles the mind! Then there are the cries to lower the deficit, magically create jobs, cut taxes, and fight terrorism around the globe. Never mind that you simply can't do all of these things effectively all at once. It makes me laugh to hear people blatantly lie and make stuff up watch the masses agree. I read an article the other day arguing that maybe populism isn't such a great idea. I take the point. If people want their elected leaders to listen to them, then they have to be truly knowledgeable about the issues they care about. Ignorance is not enough. Taking pride in your ignorance is not enough. Just believing something is true because some other ignorant person said it and told you it was the truth is not enough. Usually I am pretty accepting of the idea that I am witnessing the continuing downfall of this nation as a superpower. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. Clearly, the population is simply not up to the task. You can't create a fantasy world, pretend it's real, revel in your own ignorance and expect to thrive. What goes around comes around. And the fact is, you can't reason with someone who is attached to their own ignorance and the fantasy world they inhabit. Because you don't live in their world and they don't live in yours. And when you ask them questions or ask them to clarify their position, they can't. They keep repeating the party line to which they have subscribed. I find it sad. We have these incredible human brains that many people deliberately choose not to use—wasted resources, indeed. I read the other day that neocons are coming back. One in particular keeps getting invited onto talk shows simply because he edits a journal. Their ideas have been completely discredited and they keep repeating them. One friend of this guy said that he didn't care if he was right or wrong, as long as he is unique. I don't have a problem with the guy himself. This is a strategy that's working for him--and that is all he seems to care about--himself. The problem comes when people give him credibility. In a world of aware people, he would be a fringy guy who most people don't take seriously. His ideas have never worked, remember. In fact, they have created a mess for the country. And yet, people still believe him and ask him to come and talk about these discredited ideas. A Republican pollster who gets much business from the financial industry advises people to just lie or to oppose things before they know what they're even about. This may good in terms of individual gain--I am sure he making lots of money. The moral question about what he is doing is one he will have to answer--and has, I suppose--for himself. But again, these strategies should not work. The only reason they do is because there are enough people who are willing to hand over their brains to someone like this. So as things continue to get worse, people should be looking at themselves and their failure to take responsibility for knowing what is going on rather than embracing ignorance. It's easier, though, to blame someone else and then be surprised later when things don't work out as your fantasy storyline says they should.
I think the sooner the US loses its world dominance—a moment that seems to get closer each day—the better it will be for the planet. I am not sure I want China at the helm, either, but since we helped them get where they are—our mindless consumption of cheap crap certainly has helped their economy grow—we will have to live with those consequences, too. And the more US debt they hold, the more control they have over us.
But as I listened to the stories in the circle on Saturday, I was reminded that there are people who are energized by learning different points of view, who are not stuck in one mode of thinking, who have the capacity and the desire to engage in independent thinking, who have chosen to live in the real world, messy as it is, and who actually seek out ideas. These are the people we don't hear about on the news. These are the people who give me hope. These are the people who can change the world—one story at a time.

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