Okay, this must come first. It would appear that clearing thoughts from my mind, today, is not an idle luxury to be engaged when time is plentiful. Time is not plentiful (a status that is becoming increasingly common) and yet until I clear some space for the work I must accomplish, nothing much will happen. And in many respects it all ties together – reading enlightenment era scholars, weaving their insights with those from the classical period, the middle ages and the Renaissance while dancing with the image of my upcoming thesis... truth, beauty and goodness (oh, my!)… and these two old men chatting at my local Peet’s coffee. But it’s the two old men that kicked this one off.
Studying communication is fascinating, frustrating, invigorating and irritating… often all at the same time. It is impossible for me to listen to any message, especially mediated messages, without taking them apart. It’s almost as though I have been cursed with x-ray vision except when I see though messages, I see the (often ugly) truth. “But what about… Except that… You forgot to mention… You mean like when...” and so on; my usually silent but ever-present rebuttal, my skepticism, is never far away. Sometimes I can turn it off and other times… other times there are two old men sitting near me at Peet’s coffee.
One is doing far more listening than talking because the other is obviously much more knowledgeable about pretty much everything. Just ask him, he’ll tell you. Now I know that in the great big picture, two old men telling lies at a coffee shop doesn’t amount to anything. The “smart” one likely feels some sort of inferiority and his ego has found his passive friend a willing victim. So what, right? The friend has probably listened to his pal boast for years. The fact that his stories are so clearly false shouldn’t mean a damned thing to me. And it doesn’t in the particular sense, but more generally it is a somewhat disturbing sign about who we are as a species.
Why is the truth so unpopular? Even amongst those who ordinarily carry high standards and are probably in fact “virtuous,” the truth is becoming less and less important. It has become nothing more than a means in a world of ends. If selective non-disclosure is of greater benefit or if a flat-out lie will bring instant results, what is the harm if, in the end, the goal is reached? Better that those two North Western pilots were in heated argument – no, now they were engrossed in their laptop computers - than to tell the embarrassing, but honest, truth. But what is more embarrassing, does anyone really believe them? That’s their story and they’re sticking to it because we can’t prove otherwise.
But we know.
My thesis will take a good hard look at what we as a species are willing to settle for. There are far more things that cannot be proven than can, but with the power of communication, good reasons can be provided that do not necessarily prove anything, but they can and should determine what we will believe. Some say the human race is more gullible than ever. I disagree; I say the human race is far lazier than ever. At least in the industrialized world, we are not starving anymore, the diseases that used to decimate our populations are historical footnotes, we have manipulated our environment to suite us to the point that we really don’t work to survive anymore, our labor is for our comfort. I’m afraid that comfort is extended to accepting just about anything anyone has to say – without question or regard.
No, we’re not gullible, we’re just lazy.