|Edifice of learning|
Yvalain Debodinance---With the advent of the Internet and social networks anyone can speak and publish everything that comes into his or her head. It is safe. It is behind the screen well protected. Most of the time all this is friendly: we exchange jokes, pictures, pretty little thoughts of wisdom or things that astonish us. Yet there is the opposite side of this mass communication privilege, and it is this and some ethical considerations that should also be addressed.
The ability to communicate on a global scale can also reveal how the reign of hatred spreads, the more murky thoughts, uncontrolled anger and the most obnoxious ideas that are offered an unexpected promotion. It’s like that. The system is open to all without control. It is up to everyone to do the sorting of ideas and refrain from contributing to the dissemination of racist, homophobic, sexist and anti-democratic speeches that take advantage of this freedom to poison our society. In some societies this type of speech is considered a crime and the perpetrators punished. In France the offense of incitement to racial hatred is punishable to law.
This democratization of speaking is undeniable progress. Thus new counter forces can emerge within society, because the press no longer plays the role that had once honored democratization since large companies or rich men have purchased much of the media and dominated it.
That said, let’s exercise our critical sense: everything is not the same level. If we do not perceive the differences we participate in the confusion that has gripped the minds of the Western world, at work since the loss of old landmarks and bankruptcy of all current political thoughts.
In this system of communication open to everybody, we have the right to share what inspires us: our joys, our happiness, our sorrows, our astonishments or our anger. Virtual friends will join us and share their own feelings. All that is very friendly and contributes to the social fabric that everyone needs to feel alive. We are in the field of conviviality. It is the same spring as an informal discussion with someone we meet on a sidewalk. We exchange small talk, nothing important in the end, but we feel good.
The same channel disseminates ideas and opinions. Most of us no longer see the difference between an idea and an opinion. Everyone has an opinion. That does not make it true, of course. But everyone feels entitled to express an opinion on all subjects, even those on which he or she has no knowledge. The concept of idea refers to something else: reflection and knowledge or at least looking for certain knowledge. Opinion is easy, fast and painless while an idea or requires effort and preliminary work, such as verification by various methods. Some researchers question what they do as well, and their mission is to uncover facts. There should be a proper balance, and too often research can also be abused with too much opinion and too few facts. We need a variety of methods to elicit the truth of anything.
“The Road Less Traveled” by M. Scott Peck offers insight into this discussion of ideas and opinions and how they are shared. The author said he had attended a lecture. He came out of it very exhausted because he had made efforts to listen and try to understand what the speaker had expressed. And he was furious to hear people around him, who had listened to the lecture distractedly, give a final and totally superficial opinion. The lesson from this becomes nobody is obliged to to use the necessary efforts to understand a particular subject, but at least he or she should not comment or judge peremptorily.
There is a tendency, in the current confusion of how ideas are expressed, to put everything on the same level: the view, the opinion without root (if it is not in a pure feel at a given moment) and thinking to which was devoted an important work. It is heartbreaking to see an idea, patiently developed and carelessly swept by a superficial reflection, due to the fact that the system, which allows us all to speak, puts an equal sign between the two.
Our time promotes the idea that everything should be easy. Products are defined as easy to open, procedures said to be simple and complicated works popularized to make them accessible to all. Yet we can appreciate things that allow us to reach for knowledge. An example is the software used to make music that is said to be intuitive and easy to use. Yet music is an area that also requires reflection, which is not so easy.
Reflection opens our mind to the world and aims to liberate us. Yet God knows how much effort to reflect is denigrated in our time. Contemporary philosophers are ridiculed. We no longer admire knowledge as we did once. Teaching does not attract vocations anymore. Researchers are poorly paid and subjected to the dictates of profitability. Political figures are among our favorite targets in these times, but we hasten to elect one who holds the most simplistic and demagogic speech. At the same time reality shows promote the idea that anyone can say anything: when it’s on television it becomes a kind of truth and we see children repeat in the schoolyard the good words heard in these emissions. Televangelists use easy emotions and religious slogans which are emptied of all content through being repeated endlessly.
In any group, if one tries to talk about something thought-provoking and instantly he or she will get objections, sarcasm, a joke that will cut any desire to continue on this ground. Those who persist with the facts or new ideas find they will be attacked on the theme: “who do you think you are?”
We live in a time of thought bankruptcy. The lowering of reflection and the glorification of opinion are a tangible sign. The phenomenon is global. We find politically left regimes that adopt an ultra-liberal economic model defined by the right-wing economists group at the University of Chicago and then we understand that these governments have lost any desire to develop alternatives.
Scott Peck also said: “If we are unable to think for ourselves, we are easy targets of domination and manipulation. To keep us in a state of dependency, we are taught that it is not worth thinking too.”
What is striking today, and the social networks clearly show it, it is how many people have abandoned the idea of thinking independently. Worse, they believe to be original when they are repeating platitudes that are nothing other than Zeitgeist. They confuse emotion and truth. An emotion is deeply felt within oneself. A source of emotion can be full of conscious or unconscious causes. False information, judgment errors, false perception and indoctrination can generate emotions. As strong as it is this emotion expresses nothing other than what it is. Emotions are contagious, they aggregate the crowds. But they do not become truth either.
Therefore let’s cease to arouse emotions to see what truth will come out! For that is what occurs from many of the opinion polls, random surfing for news items without checking facts or finding verification, or listening to or watching newscasts that exacerbate emotions, as these are often just wonderful ways to manipulate people.
There is in our modern world a certain glory that comes from indulging in one’s emotions - because nobody can doubt that emotion that grips our guts, as it can be displayed as a self-affirmation with no doubt. Thus we hate the one who makes the effort to not let his own affects go and we accuse him or her to feel nothing. Yes, the current bankruptcy of thought reveals itself in all circumstances.
Many of the opinions deposited on social networks are the expression of these little emotions, quickly shared and quickly forgotten, without consistency or root. And it is obviously deliberate. It has become the new standard as arguments frighten or are belittled by all.
There are those of us, however, personally committed to the intellectual effort. Those with that commitment feel very strongly the need to be freed from all that is compelling, whether coming from outside or from inside oneself. Those with that commitment listen to their guts but also don't just use this spontaneously to express ideas if they would not interest others. We can be wary of preconceptions, Zeitgeist, false truths expressed by TV every day. We can be wary of all indoctrination - and even more so those who want to manipulate others who have the capacity to feel emotions strongly and sincerely.
We can be open ourselves and allow ourselves to question beliefs and everything we may have thought was certain, if new ideas are advanced that allow us the information that might change what we had previously thought. It may appear to be a path less secure than others, but it is more liberating. One can look forward to one's own path while getting rid of rigidity.
Scott Peck told us: “Those who are well aware of their depression, their doubts, their moments of confusion and despair, may be much healthier than those who are generally sure for themselves, sufficient and satisfied. In truth, the denial of suffering is a better indicator of disease than its acceptance.”
Perhaps we must really suffer in order to seek the causes of that suffering and relief from it, and maybe there is some truth in that. For some people perhaps a superficial way of thinking, that indicates a certain laziness of people, are not unhappy even when their minds are not open to new ideas and therefore appear to have minds that are empty.
On the other hand each one of us has the capacity of a depth of mind and heart even if life circumstances can pull us out, even if we seem to have lost contact with our deep truth (not to be confused with emotions of course). In that case, nothing is definitive in the human being ans the potential for man's development in many ways is potentially endless. But he or she must at least know that it is possible to start the internal dynamics release from the rigidity of thought and the impact of emotions from all that occurs around us. We can then be attuned and be part of a revival of consciousness, even on social networks. In being like this we can silent the defeatist voices that demobilize us so that we become like them.
Given the freedom of communication the Internet provides, let’s do the sorting, discern the messages that are passing: emotions transformed into words, inconsequential chatter or at contrary ideas which we are free to join or not, but ideas that have depth, which reveal some work, some search for knowledge. And then: yes, let’s go, let’s enrich with intellectual work done by others and let’s bring also our stone to the knowledge edification. Let’s be ambitious. Let’s not just live and feel. Let’s have the ambition to try to understand what is happening within us and around us. It’s not enough to state that we have chains: let’s break them. Let’s have the ambition to share anything other than vacuum or some provisional. Let’s create spiritual wealth. Let’s bring light.
And then, we should have the humility to “know that we don’t know” which is the preamble to the desire to learn. Let’s be patient because learning takes time. And, as long as we don’t master a subject, let’s learn to be silent because it is better to say nothing than to say anything: “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’” (Mat 5-37)