I can be one of those sometimes irritatingly idealistic people who believes with his whole heart that if you tell people truth, they cannot help but do the right thing. People fight and people panic in the name of things that they believe to be total truths. That inner turmoil that makes violence, panic, and even love possible (yeah, love…think about it, man) is only amplified when you insert one’s personal interpretation of justice. People will fight continuously because they do not fully understand why it is that they are fighting. Many times, that is because they have been told only a fraction of what the truth actually is. See, you tell a man that “I’m fighting this war so you can live, because the enemy is dangerous.” Next, if he believes you, there is a good chance that he will fight his brother, quit his job, and sell his house to make that point. He can easily commit even when he has not been told the whole truth because he has been raised to ignore idiosyncrasy.
The everyday American has been told that in the name of their freedom, they need not ask difficult questions about what wars we fight or who we make our money off of. Thus there is no need for difficult answers. Many would rather just be told “the enemy is dangerous” and, sadly, feel no need to know more.
I feel like the most troubling aspect of this issue is that figuring things out for yourself has become something we have grown less and less interested in doing. So if we are not told directly and we do not spend time trying to figure out what the truth is, we are likely to act without substantive knowledge. It is as if we no longer ask questions to understand, but only because we want to be told what we should do and what it is that we should think. That yearning to simply be told what to do is not necessarily a bad thing, given that we live in a world of major distractions and seemingly unfathomable complexity.
Sometimes, for the sake of efficiency, it is fine to just be told what to do. But consider the fact that you are a citizen of the United States. You should be asking questions, and that is a much more serious responsibility than say, being a supermarket clerk. Naturally, a person who lives in this country should be asking way more questions as a person who lives in this country than they should as a supermarket clerk.
I sincerely hope you can see the problem with this and feel as I do, that it is cause for alarm, given that we are moving into an age where our palette, spectrum, capacity for knowledge and acquisition of that knowledge is growing faster than it ever has before. (Metaphor time!) If monkeys got smarter, they would move out of trees and start building houses, no? Therefore, as humans who are getting smarter, should we not be building houses? I mean to say that we should try something new. I am talking about us as people who sometimes willingly take instructions and convoluted explanations from people whose job it is to talk, not make sense. We have not been asking our public mouthpieces for an elevated level of discussion. We instead tolerate partisan and ideological regurgitation. It is breaking us down and leaving us uninterested, ergo, jaded. And how could you say we are not when not even three fourths of the eligible population voted in the last presidential election? That means not even half of the country is interested in steering it.
I assure you, you understand so much more than you think you do. You also would be astonished by what you can will yourself to do and what you can will others to do. People my age and people in the coming generations are going to need better explanations than some of the drivel we have been getting.
We live in a more complex world now. We have dealt with a major national tragedy, two wars, international protests, and elected the first black president of the United States of America. So let us welcome some complexity and progressive behavior. This is one of the scariest, most turbulent, but also exciting ages of man in history. So I am asking you to not let anyone insult your intelligence by feeding you garbage. How? Do this by making up your own mind. Do not just operate on the whim of what any political collective deems to be true simply because they deem it to be true. Then they own you, and you are way too smart to owned. Rationality and logic are the legs on which political truth stands, they are all that separates the truth from a transient notion, and we need not forsake them.
For us to move our country and world forward, we should be listening to voices other than the ones who want to spoon-feed us their less than adequate insights. You do not let a man with a microphone talk down to you simply because he has a microphone. He talks to you like that because he thinks he can understand more; he thinks he is smarter. You do not try and bring a man like that down to your level. That is what he wants. As fast as you bring him down is as fast he is back on his horse. You rise to where he is, you look him in the face, you let him know you are his intellectual equal, and that you refuse to be spoken to like an idiot.
We have the capacity to be so much brighter and say so much more, but we have been giving up. We have been accepting the idea that our intellect is insufficient, and assume we do not understand before we have even tried. But you should not be afraid, because we can change all of that together. We just have to say something.
Raz Robinson is a third-year student majoring in philosophy. He can be reached at email@example.com.