One evening before my sister left for her Canadian walkabout, we were talking about something that we feel has been lost in today’s world…
My sister is a genuine student of history and has the ability to see a lot of what is happening today within its historical context. So talking to her is always something of a learning experience for me.
One of the things we talked about was that people…not all people, but enough to make it a problem, have lost the ability to see or put into context the events which are occurring every day.
The reason for this, we believe, is that they view the world through a very narrow prism. For the most part, this is a prism that reflects only the point-of-view they already have developed. They, for whatever reason, refuse to look through other prisms and embrace or at the very least even hear about other points of view.
So then the game in society becomes how can I make my point-of-view more appealing than someone with an opposing viewpoint can make theirs.
As a result, you end up with people on both sides of any given issue who know very little about the other side of whatever the issue might be because all they are feeding their heads with is reinforcement for their own points-of-view.
And the fact that they are gleaning this knowledge from a device that they control, as opposed to a real conversation that they cannot necessarily control, they end up with a very one-sided view of, not just one particular issue, but also of the world in general.
I’m pretty sure that this was not an intended consequence of creating a single repository of pretty much all the world’s knowledge, which the Internet is. It’s just how things turned out.
People Have Not Always Been This Way
Back in the day when people would actually encounter differing beliefs, a conversation would ensue and there was a very good chance that, at the very least, these people would be exposed to beliefs that were different from their own, and broaden their perspective. Maybe even change their minds. But also maybe develop a little empathy for people with differing points of view.
This is part of what is known as context: i.e. seeing how what you believe stacks up against what other people believe.
But the digital world, the one that puts complete control of just about everything in the hands of each individual user, has pretty much eliminated the idea of understanding context. Because all that most people do is search for other expressions of what they already believe. Then they pat each other on the back and think they’re actually learning something when in point of fact they are simply choosing to avoid other points-of-view, and because it’s so easy to do, they do it all the time.
If you want to know why such a huge divide between liberal and conservative thinking exists in the world, this would be as good an explanation as any.
And it’s kind of sad when you think about it, because those people who steadfastly refuse to even hear about points-of-view other than their own will never know if they are right or wrong, so the chances of their being wrong at least 50% of the time are pretty much a given.
What Does This All Mean?
I like to put issues like this into my 80/20 Differential Calculator, which, on this issue, states that 80% of the people out there (and this is probably higher) are ill-informed about what is going on in the world because they filter all their information through a single prism of opinion and are therefore ill-equipped to deal with it, and much more capable of being victimized by the agendas of those who would wish to control them.
The remaining 20%, (and this is hopefully higher), are the people who filter their information through two or more different prisms of opinion. These people have had a much better chance of genuinely understanding what is going on in the world and therefore are better equipped to deal with the way things are and resist being victimized by controlling agendas.
Add A Prism Or Two, And Viva La Difference
The path to true enlightenment, even in a minor league sense, is one of opening your mind. Not always seeking out affirmation but understanding opposition and why people feel differently about things than you do.
Doing this, looking around and broadening your perspective, has a couple of very real benefits:
- A) It can strengthen your belief by testing it against other beliefs.
- B) It can perhaps show you how your beliefs can be added to be more inclusive and tolerant, and actually, help bring the two sides closer together constructively.
Of course, none of this works unless you have the will to do it. And it’s not easy, stepping outside your comfort zone. But if you are paying attention, even a little, you can clearly see that the world is pretty badly divided and that things cannot get better until this divide starts to close.
It all begins with understanding. And that understanding can begin with taking a single step across the divide. Even if it’s just to see what’s there.