The quotation in the title is ascribed to one Irene Peter, but strangely I cannot find a thing about her on the web, only the tagline ‘famous American writer’ heading a short list of other pithy observations. A quick search on-line brings up no lists of books or articles. Nothing on amazon.com. I am therefore puzzled; confused even. Does she not exist? Has whoever it is been blanked from the interweb for expressing common sense?
So: now I’m thinking who cares who said it. The message is what counts. In fact this could well be the aphorism for our times. Every day the mass media attempts to shape our thinking on important (in some cases life-threatening) matters. We have think tanks, government spokespersons, celebrities, politicians, bots telling us in unexamined sound bites and headlines what to think. We are forever being herded into one corral or another in a bid to secure our consent for either one position or another.
Keeping us divided in opposing camps is part of the strategy. Firstly, shouting at each other to defend our positions consumes a lot of energy, even if that shouting only takes place in our heads; there may even be some entertainment value, elements of atavistic tribalism satisfied. The shouting also cements our respective positions, making a change of mind less likely.
And once a large enough body of consensus has amassed around a particular issue, then anyone brave enough to question it needs to be ready for reputation-smearing and all round media pillorying. And so by these means we are distracted from scrutinizing the actual issues, rational discourse is effectively outlawed and we thus fail to discover who precisely benefits from the lines being sold to us in the world-wide hypermarket that we now inhabit.
Time to be sceptical then. Time to unpick the assumptions that we’ve taken for facts, and the opinions we’ve accepted as evidence. Time to face the confusion – even though, first and foremost, it means standing our own views and convictions on their heads. You never know, if we all did this some actual world-wide wisdom might surface.
copyright 2019 Tish Farrell