Monologue

Our Growing Failure to Communicate

Opinions are worth more than gold these days. Whether these opinions are right or wrong seems immaterial. When it comes to fake news stories and Twitter nonsense, common sense is the last line of defense to what really matters in our own lives. But it seems that common sense is becoming a thing of the past. Memes are at the forefront of our information exposure, while they are nothing new, the speedy global saturation in which they are delivered is much more pervasive. The world sees these things faster than ever before, and the different is instead of a professional journalist informing us, who may have had training in journalistic integrity, now anyone with a phone can. It is harder for people to know what is really fact, so they do what is easiest; they become reactionary and spread whatever they are exposed to without parsing it for truth. If Homo Sapiens are getting dumber as a species, then all of this oversharing is expediting the process to an overwhelming degree. In other words, if dumb were a tumor, social media would make it a malignant one.

Born of Ridiculousness

If you don’t already know the tower of babel story here it is: Once the world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone and tar for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower what’s top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole Earth like dummies.” (I’m paraphrasing here) But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of men had built. And the lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” — Who God was talking to is beyond me — So the lord scattered them from there over all the Earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.1

The Tower of Babel was an early and completely vacuous attempt at explaining the etiological nature of languages throughout the Earth. As it goes, there is a far more logical way to think about language than what the ignorant Bible offers. Here’s mine: Mammals make noise; they grunt, yelp, howl, bark, etc. If one group of human mammals goes off in the forest and their noise for ‘hey you!’ happens to be a particular monosyllabic grunt like, oog , and another group of humans goes to the coast and their noise for ‘hey you!’ happens to be, oot, the two independent groups will end up with two completely different languages over time. That is a perfectly rational, natural, and random developmental insight. One slight independent change can alter the whole future of that individual language. If it is only influenced by that region that is. The real reason that language is so diverse is because this happened many times throughout history. Sadly the truth is never as charming as the fiction.

It Gets Worse I

Okay, maybe not worse than the Bible, but pretty bad. The first gleam of vocal communication was around 500,000 plus years ago. Since then there have been symbols, full alphabets, stone tablets, books, computers, phones, and now social media. Because of the quick access to a worldwide public forum the world is now drowning in quick aphoristic blurbs and commentary about things that are none of the commentator’s business. One can say that anything can be anyone’s business, but I would argue that you can’t, nor should you, care about everything. Also, I am not arguing for a stifling of freedom from information. An instance of where information is helpful is the United Airlines video that came out. That is something that matters and should be treated as important. Violations of basic human rights should be known. If information wasn’t so available United would have lied to cover up the horrific mistreatment of a paying passenger. What I am saying is that we have to do much more work to educate ourselves.

We are teaching our next generation of humans to be distracted with any story that pops up be it meaningful or not. The most recent example is Pepsi having to pull an ad that was a poor attempt at trying to promote unity between cops and citizen protestors2. I agree that you should not use social ill to promote a multi-billion dollar product, but who fucking cares? It is a commercial. How is that important? It can’t trivialize a movement unless people pay attention to it and let it do so. Then twitter gets into the matter like it is the most important thing in the world.

It Gets Worse II

Salt Bae, How Bou Dah, celebrities airing their opinions at the Oscars, and anything you can alter with Photoshop has infested the lives of even the most careful people who do their best to shield themselves from the stupidity of popular culture. I believe this is because most people want to feel like they are in control, and safe, but to a large degree control and safety are an illusion that is intensified by social media. The world is a scary place, and our increased suppression of that has never been more evident than now. And I am sure it will cost us.

A teacher in Florida via a survey asked students ‘how comfortable’ they are around black people, Arabs and others and was fired3. In a time where teachers are needed desperately, it seems that a dialogue should have been had to gauge if this teacher had malicious intent. The survey was taken for a book titled “Exploring White Privilege” by Robert P. Amico, a philosophy professor at a private and Catholic University in New York. While Amico says that these questions are meant for an older crowd, he defends the teacher by saying that, if “re-worked”, it could be a valid method for children to explore their biases. Fired for an underdeveloped attempt at getting kids to explore biases. These kids were 12 years old, which I think is old enough to handle such a thing, but the school caved to dumb, reactionary, parents who want to protect their kids from the real world. Biases exist. We must expose kids to them intellectually rather than keep them sheltered.

The fired Florida teacher is a recent example of ignorant parents keeping their kids from experiencing the real world. And throughout the past couple years speech has also been suppressed at college campuses. The case of Jordan Peterson in Canada is the most positive in my view for the right to fee speech. In 2016 Peterson refused to acknowledge the myriad gender pronouns that are increasingly coming into existence. He objected to the Canadian government‘s Bill C-16, which proposes to add “gender identity or expression” as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, as well to the list of identifiable groups against whom it is illegal to promote genocide or publicly incite hatred under the Criminal Code. His objection to the bill did not concern the LGBT discrimination legal debate, but rather the freedom of speech implications of C-16’s other amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code, regarding their accommodation of language4The bill, if passed, would make it illegal to address someone as other than their chosen pronoun. Peterson argues for the freedom to not have to address someone as ‘zhe’, and ‘they’, but to address them as what is common parlance, and also , oh I don’t know, based on what they are biologically. I argue that we are diluting ourselves into oblivion with overspecialization, but I don’t want to get into that debate here. However, I think it is worth saying that you should be able to call someone, and say, anything you want and if you end up offending someone then a dialogue should be had. If the offending party doesn’t accept a remedy, then just don’t associate with that person. That is how differences used to be settled. Every little thing is now being brought to the national stage of importance. And if we are to continue to further the democratization and availability of opinion, then we have got to be able to speak and understand what is spoken better. And to not be so offended by even the slightest verbal injustices. Peterson has gained a lot of notice for his efforts, and I commend him for fighting the battle against ridiculousness.

Full-Unrestricted-Democracy May Not Be a Good Thing

Since we have solved the food problem (More people are poised to die from eating more rather than less for the first time in history5) and since individuals have grown richer than any point in history6, we are left with much more idle time for us to manage. And what do we do with it? Gossip, meddle, and pay attention to anyone’s life but our own. What stared with the cult of personality, grew to the obsession with celebrity,  formed into the social media craze that causes everything to matter when most things just don’t, has led to a world of complete confusion. Humanity has never had it so good in terms of safety and fecundity of wealth and it is causing us to become bored.

American popular culture is leading the way in producing the whiny, over-fed, privileged, perpetual-children of the world. It is a shame that the people who point these flaws are seen as so negative when instead what is said should be taken as an opportunity to look within oneself for the reasons why someone is saying these things. Self reflection, and personal accountability are become lost in this new sea of ‘me’. If we continue to shield ourselves from what we don’t like, and only associate with minds like our own, then we just end up talking to ourselves.

The Value of Facts

There is an ever increasing drift from the true nature, and value, of the facts of today. Our communication with one another has always depended on them. Communication is also incredibly complicated and extremely important. But how is it that we are losing touch with facts to such a degree that we can’t tell what facts are? And what will it cost?

Authority

When a person has the authority to speak to the whole world instantly, as is available today, it is up to the public to do a job we might rather not do. In fact, it seems the job is not being done at all. The job is asking questions. We have a known pathological liar as our President.1 The President should be mercilessly called out on his false claims and statements. If he makes an unsubstantiated claim like being wire tapped, leaders like Angela Merkel should hold him accountable and address it. Especially after some of the things he has said during his campaign.2  How has he gotten away with so much lying?

Truth is what is known to be real. The word for truth in ancient Greek is alētheia, which literally means to “not forget” their past. Because they were so close to the things that happened in the past, there was no need for distinction between truth and legend. They did this by framing their past truths inside of stories of myths and legends.

It can be argued today that truth is always there waiting to be discovered. Lies get in the way and slow us down. All politicians lie,3 but the lies matter much more now because more people are exposed before the truth can be discovered. It slows society down at a much faster rate. And people seem to believe anything they hear from even the most questionable authorities.

Our emotions drive us to believe, and we can not help but be swept away by the excitement of the lies. People believe because it fuels their team’s argument and the country gets ever more deeply divided as a result.  lies make us feel good about ourselves, our situations, and opinions. Or they energize us and make us feel that we are a part of something good. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is in our nature to be biased. We tend toward what feels good, and we deal with these emotional biases, one, by hiding ourselves from a potentially painful truth, and two, by forming groups with other like-minded people. Factions, tribes, governments, whatever you call them. Forming cooperative groups has been what has saved humanity up to this point. But now it is different. There has never been a time in history whereby so many humans can share so much information so quickly. And it is not clear yet how to deal with this shared knowledge.

We make our world significant by the courage of our questions, and the depth of our answers -Carl Sagan

Source of Knowledge

There is too much emphasis on having knowledge no matter where it comes from. Misinformation runs riot because of the oversharing. But we share in order to secure our status as informed in our group. Our lives depend on status, so it is in our nature, also, to lie and use other tools to attain it. If you are the type that craves a higher status by any means necessary then you will readily take a gamble on sharing misinformation hoping the person, or people, you are sharing with are just a little less intelligent than you. It could be that they just don’t care and are persuaded by your charming ignorance. Or the misinformation is packaged in an visually enticing way, or benefits them in some way. In this Buzzfeed article they state that fake news on Facebook outperformed real news last year as far as it reaching people’s eyes. At best it is embarrassing that someone would share information before checking the source, and at worse it is malicious and unintelligent. This is the democratization of the news, and it is not going well.

It should be said more often, and with a louder voice, that just being considered intelligent is not good enough anymore. There is a specific kind of intelligence that should be held to task. It is not what we know, or think we know, but how we know and share what we know. The specific type of intelligence I am thinking of is being critical. The simple act of asking questions. Learn as much as you can about the topics that are most relevant to you life.

College is Becoming a Terrible Thing

Aside from the wild oversharing, many college campuses are doing a great disservice to students by not allowing them to be challenged with questions and even alternative viewpoints. Creating safe spaces where students are free from critical thought is a first step toward a dictatorial society. Even if someone says something you don’t like, don’t ever suppress them, debate them. Create a dialog. And if you can’t change their mind just continue to respectfully disagree. There is no reason to take the time to be so offended if you have bigger, better things to do. And you should have bigger and better things to do.

Change Your Mind

If we continue to put feeling good over what is real then we are going to get into more and more trouble. Suppressing speech by not allowing people to ask questions and create a dialog with one another will lead to nothing but ruin. If you suppress speech then the lies have it. Be calm, listen, and learn. Question everything. Take a journey with me through this Questionology project, and let’s take a look at some of the things that we can question together. Let’s all be Questionologists.

-logy

-logy is a suffix in the English language, used with words originally adapted from Ancient Greek ending in -λογία (-logia).The earliest English examples were anglicizations of the French -logie, which was in turn inherited from the Latin -logia. The suffix became productive in English from the 18th century, allowing the formation of new terms with no Latin or Greek precedent.

The English suffix has two separate main senses, reflecting two sources of the -λογία suffix in Greek:

  • a combining form used in the names of sciences or bodies of knowledge, e.g. theology (loaned from Latin in the 14th century) or sociology. In words of the type theology, the suffix is derived originally from -λογ- (-log-) (a variant of -λεγ-, -leg-), from the Greek verb λέγειν (legein, “to speak”). The suffix has the sense of “the character or deportment of one who speaks or treats of [a certain subject]”, or more succinctly, “the study of [a certain subject]”.(The Ancient Greek noun λόγος lógos mentioned below can also be translated, among other things, as “subject matter”.)
  • the root word nouns that refer to kinds of speech, writing or collections of writing, e.g. eulogy or trilogy. In words of this type, the “-logy” element is derived from the Greek noun λόγος (logos, “speech”, “account”, “story”). The suffix has the sense of “[a certain kind of] speaking or writing”.

Philology is an exception: while its meaning is closer to the first sense, the etymology of the word is similar to the second sense.

References

  1. List of ancient Greek words ending in -λογία on Perseus
  2. “-logy.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. retrieved 20 Aug. 2008.
  3. “-logy.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. retrieved 20 Aug. 2008.
  4. “-logy.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Oxford University Press, 1986. retrieved 20 August 2008.
  5. “-logy.” Online Etymology Dictionary. retrieved 20 Aug. 2008
  6. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert. “A Greek–English Lexicon”. Perseus Project. Tufts University. Retrieved 8 February 2016.