Think for yourself

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In my wilder, younger days, I was the proud owner of a postcard. Not your usual postcard; this one was flourescent pink and highly psychedelic with the words: “Sometimes, I get to thinking. Sometimes, it gets to me.” Even then, I understood that this was a profound statement, one I have used now and then over the years whenever I feel that life, people, and the world around me, fail to make much sense. Thinking can damage your mental health, I sometimes think. (Is thinking about not thinking a paradox?)

Anyway, I have been saying the same thing to myself over the past couple of years: sometimes, I get to thinking, and sometimes it gets to me. And what, you may ask, has prompted this excursion into profound thought on my part? The answer is the totally absurd way many people seem to arrive at positions on a variety of issues. It seems that it has become trendy to refuse to believe anyone who knows anything about a given topic. Experts are to be doubted. The (mainstream) media are to be disbelieved on principle. Governments, in fact any source of traditional authority, is looked at with grave disfavour.

I will hear someone announce that, for example, Covid was a hoax, that it was deliberately designed to increase the power of government and the Deep State over the lives of us ordinary mortals. And so I ask them why the overwhelming majority of experts, scientists, doctors, health workers, etc., disagree with them. What about the numerous statements that discredit the conspiracy theory du jour? The simple answer of these simple people is: “I don’t believe them!” Fair enough, I may ask; why do you believe they are lying, or just wrong? That is where things get complicated and thinking starts to get to me.

The situation, as it turns out, is that they read somewhere, probably on Facebook, or Twitter, or some other “social” media platform, that these experts are all part of a deep conspiracy to lie and deceive the rest of us.

So, I ask: you don’t believe the experts, the medical profession, the governments, and the vast majority because you choose to believe instead someone you don’t know, never met, with no qualifications, who somehow has delved into the murky reaches of the Deep State and discovered the “truth”. That can get my brain somewhat fevered. I should point out, since I am part of the media, however, not so mainstream, that I am convinced that questions should always be asked about everything. I am deeply committed to the principle that, if something is true, then you can ask any question you like, and there will be an answer. Nothing should be taken on blind faith, especially not something “someone said”, or what you find online.

But, and this is a major “but”, the key and vital part of asking questions is that you ask the right ones of the right sources, and base your position on the evidence, the verifiable evidence, and not merely on someone who just tells you to believe them, because “they know”. The big, really big, problem society faces these days is that we have lost the belief in truth. From the Enlightenment on, and accelerating rapidly over the last century or so, trust in the very facts has been undermined. Relativism has overcome common sense. “That may be true for you, but not for me”. Fine. When it comes to thinking that the Beatles were the greatest band ever, that may not be true for you (but, you’re wrong). But that is a personal taste, a valid and legitimate difference of opinion. But there are real facts out there that we all know to be true. If you stand in front of that speeding train, it will smear you over the landscape, whether you believe that is true or not.

We have played an intellectually dishonest game which says that everyone’s “truth” is equally true. But that is simply, dare I say it, not true. Yes, there is a school of thought, and a major religious belief, that everything we see around us is illusion, the product of an unenlightened mind. But even those who believe that won’t stand in front of that speeding train to prove (or disprove) the point.

Where is all this going? I suppose I just want to know why so many people will refuse to believe the overwhelming testimony on some matters, and rely instead on some individuals on a computer somewhere. I have no doubt whatsoever that there are secrets being kept “out there”, and that, as Hamlet wisely said, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” And yes, people like to feel like they’re in on the secret, they are the initiated, the enlightened ones who see what most people are too blind to. Some think that about Christians, but the difference is the evidence, the responsibility to not only ask questions, but to check out the answers, to demand the sources of statements by those preaching conspiracy and intrigue.

Our society is suffering from a lack of trust, in the assumption that has gained currency that everyone is lying to some extent, that there are hidden agendas, that no-one is telling the truth. That may be so; how do we know? The only way forward is to think for yourself, meaning look into what you’re being told, use more than one or two sources for your information. Use that most uncommon thing: common sense, and ask yourself: why would this be true? What is behind the things being claimed? It’s not an easy road to take, but it is the only way to make sure that the real victims of the conspiracy theorists is not you.

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