The most dangerous thing right now isn’t the virus, or the economy
In problematic times, the need to evaluate ideas and solutions is far too important to be clouded by denial and divisiveness
A shift seems to be taking place around the world. Such times cause us great concern; times of change often bring fear, and fear is a great hindrance to thinking carefully and critically about ideas, each other, and the future.
I say “right now” as its importance takes precedence for a few reasons: the world is in flux, economically and politically. We seem to be at some precipice, about to pass a rubicon, having been pushed there both with fear, and events mostly beyond our control.
It’s as if the ground is shifting beneath us; we fear that the earth will crack open, so we better just pick one side to stand on, and stay there, to be safe.
Intellectual honesty is paramount in this time. The push to identify the ‘other’ and follow the chosen narrative will increase intensely; many are vying for your mind, your headspace, and your eyeballs, more than ever before.
Our willingness to label people and ideas may not only prevent us from acknowledging good ideas, but even from recognizing others as human beings, and this may take us to places we never sought to travel.
Labels are a terrible substitute for critical thinking and they actually quash it. There’s little reason to stifle or demonize the type of thinking that may offer solutions to problems we are facing, no matter who or where it comes from.
We know it’s good to read with an awareness about possible intent, but conversely, we know it’s not good to stay within a small, circular echo-chamber. I hope we strive for informed opinions, rather than groupthink. Attempting to think independently should not automatically mean that you must be a strict individualist who does not care about the group. Solutions to help all of us would be best, and they may well begin with one individual thinker.
Opinions are good, by all means, form opinions. But how many people will stop reading if certain words or phrases are mentioned, regardless of context?
If there’s anything that’s going to injure us or end us — whether physical or otherwise — its the labels that we have adopted, sometimes recklessly, and worn on our sleeves. Sometimes what’s worn on our sleeves conveys a great deal of information.
The atmosphere in much of the world — and specifically in America right now — is highly-charged; politically, socially, and economically.
We couldn’t be much more divided politically, or separated financially, nor have we been much less certain economically;
We are seeing uncertainty about whether our leadership is really able to handle problems on this scale;
We are in a time of increased popularity with Democratic Socialism, for better or worse;
We are seeing how Asian countries responded to COVID-19, and we’re seeing both positive and negative spin being put on it;
We are seeing some embrace of cultural and financial ideas coming out of China and its attempts to show global leadership;
We are facing serious economic issues in the global economy, whether you believe America is doing great or not;
Many are temporarily dependent on the government, whether they want to be or not;
“State of Emergency” powers are far-reaching, and have often been abused in the past;
There are uprisings happening all over the world that mostly boil down to inequality in some way.
Things are changing and are likely to change more profoundly. The rate of such change often increases during times of crisis. Generally, these changes are not something we vote on, and quite frequently, they are irreversible.
It’s quite a mess. We are humans. Humans are messy, but we are all human beings. The psychological effects of a divided America are many, to say nothing of the causes.
I don’t think anyone in their right mind wants to be silenced, stripped of their rights or freedoms, or dehumanized. I should hope that others don’t want to do these things to someone else, but in many ways that’s what we’ve been doing, isn’t it?
If you simply must categorize people into one of two buckets, please consider these: Some are trying to be intellectually honest, and make evaluations using critical thinking, and there are others not yet doing this. This applies to left and right, rich and poor.
Are you really willing to completely overlook possible solutions by bucketing what filters into your eyes and ears into some dualistic system of thinking and judging? Let us ask instead: is it the group, fear, or pride driving us?
If a person is on fire, they need to either get the fire out if they can, or meet their demise. That’s a good example of a two-option situation. But ridiculously complex systems like our economy, our political system, geopolitical ramifications, the American way of life with our personal freedoms — these things are far too complex to reasonably boil down into one of two (or maybe three, if you think you’re being really open-minded) buckets.
One big reason for this is that there is too much to learn and understand for the average person at a given time. We need to take in information in order to really make an informed decision, regardless of what our spouse, neighbor, or political party believes.
When I began drafting my thoughts and decided to start here with Medium, I had no plans to write about politics — and I still don’t. As I started getting my notes together though, suddenly doubts crept in. Concerns, really, that something I’d write may be passed over after just a few paragraphs or sentences, based not on my writing, but on the implications we tend to glean from words.
Perhaps it’s most important to understand that critical thinking, and having thoughts and opinions don’t necessarily have to fall into the camp of immediately conforming to a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ binary. After all, we often don’t know for certain until we have the benefit of hindsight. But I’m not at all saying that there aren’t truths.
You may still be forming your thoughts; you may have an opinion, but are staying open to different understanding; you may be considering an idea to determine whether it’s a good or harmful approach, or if you simply won’t know unless it moves forward. These things do not need to immediately conform to the limitation of being “right or wrong” — nor should we fear this in our thinking. To this extent, there is hypocrisy and guilt on both sides.
If you’re unwilling to think critically, you likely won’t remain open-minded about anything that I write, let alone others. You must be willing to question it, test it, and see how it holds up against scrutiny.
It’s time to drop the labels. Put them down. Above everything we must remember that we are human beings. We are facing change. This applies to everything from financial to ideological change, and from peace to revolution.
Stay tuned, and stay safe.