We’ve Arrived

I hesitate to say “we’ve arrived” if only because it implies that the game is over.  OT (over-time), additional innings, whatever, the obese, socially correct female has sung her last note.  Perhaps it’s only because I am not just a river in Egypt that I refuse to believe The Story (as opposed to “his-story”) is absolutely, well, history.  Wishful thinking?  I think not.

But I do believe we have arrived at an age where we have access to a cacophony of ideas.  Sadly, we are indeed taking advantage of this deluge to conclude that we have no idea what to conclude, and the best strategy is to bury our heads in the sand (apologies to the ostrich).  Or, maybe congratulations are in order?

Some would say that we have discovered that “experts disagree.”  Hello?  They have always disagreed.  The only thing that has changed is that we are now aware of the lack of unity.  Or, we have indeed matured to the point of realizing that one hundred people have one hundred opinions.  This is not newsworthy – it has been a constant for millennia (or eons, or ever since the first human had a thought (there’s something in The Wizard of OZ on this – go ask the Scarecrow, not the White Rabbit – or should that be the “albino bunny”?).

Yes, technology has given us awareness.  Maybe this “new” data will give us knowledge that could lead to wisdom?  I think I’d rather invest in Bitcoin.

There is a cartoon out there (creator unknown, enlighten me) that shows in three panels the state we now find ourselves in.  The first panel shows an apparently random number of dots and is labeled “data.”  The second panel shows the same set of random dots connected and is labelled “knowlege.”   The third shows the dots connected to show a cartoon of a cat and is labeled “creativity.”  (And of course my short search of the internet does not bring us this particular cartoon.)

A recent opinion piece in a trustworthy newspaper by an “anarchist” accurately points out that many people defer to the opinion of “experts.”  We have a long and easily accessible history of the great unwashed masses deciding that smiling and nodding at the promulgations of the experts was the easiest way to get thru life.  You could either “toe the line” and enjoy NIMBY (Not in My Backyard), or you could be forced into a cattle car (a cautionary tale right there) and sent to a gulag (gotta thank the Soviet Union for bringing that term into the lexicon).

Maybe the internet is indeed something of a solution (if not savior).  Usta be all we could rely on was the newspaper delivered to our front door every morning, or the evening news on the telly.  Now, just turning on your laptop brings you the headlines of hundreds of news outlets and you are confronted with who to not click into oblivion.  So, you narrow your exposure to names you know, some unknown to your parents – tho none recognizable to your parents.

My father, a newspaperman all of his adult, professional life, always read the sports page first (I have never), once asked me if I read a newspaper.  Unthinking (as usual) I said no.  He was deflated if not horribly disappointed.  In fact, in his world, his world was pretty much confined to a few paper newspapers; in my internet world, I can very quickly scan a half-a-dozen or more at the touch of a finger.  He formed his world around one, or two, specific newspapers, and one evening news show.  I am not as limited (and paradoxically, probably not as wise).

But the point is, if any term should now be thrown into the dustbin, “expert” ought to be the first.  Not that there never have been experts, there have been.  It is that there are now so many.  And, as the essay referred to above implies, even the so-called experts rely on other so-called experts.

The “patron saint” (if you will) of an informed populace could be Paul Revere.  Without the endorsement of a government broadside, or an underground newspaper, he took it upon himself  to spread the word that a menace was approaching (and his – unnamed – horse: “You want to go out riding at this hour, yelling at the top of your lungs, waking people with very big rifles, to do what?”).

I offer that the internet is our wakeup call.  COVID is a warning – but so far not succeeding – that our slovenly (“Twinkie”) lifestyle is not sustainable (on a very, very personal level).  In the USA we have a government (at all levels) that is working very hard to take decisions away from the individual – sounds like the “divine right of kings” to me.  If you are ignorant now, it is because you don’t care.  My father’s generation did not have the luxury of accessing the hundreds of opinions of thousands of experts, we do.  They had the luxury of being surprised – we don’t.

You all know the story of the frog in the pot on the stove.  We are the frog, and it is getting warm. 

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