Something has happened, and few are thinking about it.
We live in a time of more books, movies, and accumulated knowledge than ever. The world should be ripe for thoughtful discussion, yet nuanced ideas are in short supply, if not dangerous.
Not necessarily a danger of physical harm, but sleepless nights, depression, and anxiety. Lost personal connections, too.
We don’t want to look outside after dark. I’m not speaking of the time when the sun goes down. Instead, differences among friends and relatives who we believe have gone over the edge.
It doesn’t matter what side. Neither tribe (and maybe more than two) takes enough time to move beyond surfaces.
When a statement conflicts with our beliefs in conversation or public debate, friction starts and sometimes stops in two seconds. Our brains turn on the mute.
Better not to think about it, some would say. Better to search for distractions. Better to rely on authorities we believe in, news outlets who echo only what pleases us, and topics unlikely to cause trouble at work or home.
The current remedy is to grasp simple answers acceptable to the folks we live near, attend our church, and like our spouse.
Of course, there are other things to think about. Getting the groceries, raising the kids, saving money, and looking forward to a Saturday night date.
Are the Chicago Cubs a lousy baseball outfit? At least, that is something about which we can agree.
But the questions don’t go away because we don’t want to enter the dark space inside or outside ourselves.
My take is that while some of the “other guys” are opportunistic and deceitful or worse, not all are, and not everyone on our team is pure. Nor am I always a paragon of virtue.
The talking heads have mostly made up their minds and ours along with theirs.
I like to learn more than what a closed mind offers.
It won’t take you very far to think that the other party or clan is full of stupid or evil people. Better to ask why they take the positions they do and what is important to them and read books that tell us things we don’t know.
In other words, get past comfortable explanations to those that might enlighten us.
And, once we’ve thought through the present and learned the unsettling lessons of human history and experience, to take responsibility.
Consider action intended to make the world better for everybody, not just your team, club, party, religion, race, country, gender, or tribe. That’s where the best possible future is to be found.
But first, you must focus, ask questions beyond what you are told, and move past the madness of the crowd.
The late 19th-century painting by José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior is Girl with a Book. The bottom image is Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Tower of Babble. Both are sourced from Wikimedia Commons.