Twenty years ago I stayed in a remote village in India. We had been called by the village there on a humanitarian project to build a school. We were a small scouting group. It took 26 hours on a plane, an all night train, and an all day bus ride to get there. We were pale Americans and many of the children thought the color had run out of our bodies and we had come to their village to die. We were in the tropics, it was hot, and although the village was poor, the women wore bright colors and everybody embraced us. The name of the village was Vuudumudi—-one of hundreds of lyrical sounding villages leading to the Bay of Bengal. One muggy afternoon we heard the sound of a hollow drum beat. The children all ran to the footpath that led to the small Hindu temple in the center of the village. The man with the drum sang out the daily news: coming events, a little gossip from the neighboring villages, a little political commentary. The people loved it, and so did I. The town crier in America was replaced by newspapers a couple hundred years ago. Newspapers are now published online, and most people get their news from opinion writers on blogs.
Communication is no longer a few credible, well-researched voices who spend weeks getting to the facts to present an unbiased story. Communication is now a morass of voices with half-baked opinions, biased perspectives, clever name calling and idiom sound bites. The Internet is a big gossip cluster.
And it’s our fault, all of us.
Most people don’t trust traditional news. And the vast majority of consumers trust an anonymous opinion about a product more than an advertisement. The information age led to the misinformation age, which grew into the age of cynicism. We created it by first accepting everything we read online as fact. Then by allowing everybody with a laptop to be a journalist. Then by building a vast global network of input devices and giving them a space (looking at you FACEBOOK). We were all so vanity ready to post, and believe. And now we are paying for it. We’re no longer thoughtful, we’re judgemental. We’re no longer tolerant, we are polarized. We’re not even educated, we’re just woke.
So what do we do about it?
Cynicism begins by questioning everything, and ends there. A genuine critical thinker would use questions to plumb answers. We can live in our despair, or we can contribute to a better world—-which by the way, the one we live in isn’t so bad if you look at it in historical context.
The premise of ThinkClearly is to look for the third answer. Nearly every issue has two sides, and therein lies the tension, like two opposing magnets. Left alone in the universe, those to magnets would be frozen in opposition forever. But introduce a piece of steel and both magnets are immediately attracted to it, each of their energy going to the same place rather than eternally fighting against each other. ThinkClearly seeks to look at things from a different perspective, to see solutions in polarity. If we think clearly about the issues that divide us, that entrap or exploit us, we can find solutions that free us.
And to that end we invite you to contribute. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief outline of your thoughts. If we like your idea, we’ll ask you to complete the article and post it on ThinkClearly with your name listed as the author.
We don’t pay for articles, but we do give credit where credit is due. Who knows, your ideas might just shape the new world.