There are just so many things out there to believe in, you know? So many perspectives and points of view to entrench ourselves in. So many differing ideologies. As we move forward on down the road of life, I find that, more often than not, we only take the paths that reinforce beliefs we already have. The signs on the road say things like, “You’re right,” and “Don’t worry, we all think that too.” It’s comforting, but how often has “comfort” produced anything that’s really progressive, or forward thinking? When we are comfortable, what we actual mean is that we are “complacent,” and complacency, by it’s very nature and definition, breeds a kind of stagnation. While you’re on your “self validating” path, you may just start to notice that you keep seeing the same signs, and then you might realize that this isn’t so much a path, but more of a circular track. Round and around you walk; not actually getting anywhere. It’s part of human nature, unfortunately. There’s an aspect of “tribalism” that is ever present in groups of people, because how can we have our own opinion without having it constantly validated? What’s the point of having beliefs if we’re not part of some majority?
Honestly, a “unique” perspective is almost impossible. No matter what your persuasion, you will most likely find a group of people, however large or small, that hold your beliefs as forgone conclusions. There is a lot of people on this spinning mass of rock, so, you will most likely find a contingent of folks that you will find agreeable. It comes in all sorts of different “flavors,” if you will. Religion, politics, philosophical leanings, anti-religion, anti-establishment, and on and on with increasingly redundant things. Sub-categories for sub-categories(We’ve never seen something that we couldn’t label!). We are part of some group whether we like it or not. Even people who whole sale refuse “labels” are part of some societal sub-set. It’s an unavoidable part of having thoughts. The problem, an avoidable one too, with this is how we allow our identities to become wrapped up with belonging to one of these groups. How may times have you heard, “Well, I’m a [insert political affiliation], so…” or “I’m a [insert religion], so…”?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with identifying yourself as part of a group. It’s kind of like a short hand one can use to alert someone to what, in general, we believe. The problems start when that’s where we let it end. To some, naming the group you associate yourself with is explanation enough. I always find this really odd. Why would someone be comfortable with other people speaking, in entirety sometimes, for them? Groups, big or small, usually have a few people that lead them, and, ultimately, speak for them. People are comfortable with this? You may be part of a group, but the loudest voices are that of only a few people, and how often can you really say that, without a doubt, you wholeheartedly agree with every idea that passes through their lips? This is where “identifying,” and “involvement” come to an impasse. Identifying yourself with a group does not automatically mean that you are actually active. You are just another parrot espousing opinions that were given to you rather the ones you developed on your own. Sure, you may read the literature, and listen to the propaganda, but that doesn’t mean you’re having a conversation with the material; sussing it out, and forming your own ideas. The great irony here is that’s what you are supposed, or should, do. Whether it’s coming from a religious establishment, political movement, or your mom, you should carefully consider what you are told you believe by being part of a group. Even if what you are told is coming from an “expert.”
Yeah, what about experts? In this day and age, it’s a really important thing to think about. So, many “experts” are of the self-proclaimed variety. A lot of them have been around for a long time, and have become institutions. This engenders a certain amount of trust within people. They develop a type of “faith” in their voices and opinions, but the important thing to remember about faith is that, more often than not, it’s blind. We search out experts because there is the assumption that they know more about a certain subject/belief than we do. It’s not always about validation of our own thoughts; sometimes, it’s about information. We have to put our trust somewhere. I would assume that even “experts” look to other experts for something that is beyond their expertise, because no one knows everything, you know, if they they know anything. The idea of not being able to personally vet, in some capacity, information is something that makes me increasingly uncomfortable. I know that it may make me seem some what “paranoid,” but honestly, in the light of recent revelations(Foregone conclusions for us in the paranoid group. Hazzah! Dammit… I really wish the world would stop validating my paranoid tendencies, but it doesn’t.), how can one not have the desire to “find out for yourself.” If it’s true then prove it to me, or at the very least, make a compelling argument that I can think about. The burden of proof is not on those that do the listening. That’s largely for the people that do the telling. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty rare occasion that people hold them to this standard, and so this whole “It is this way, because I say it is” dynamic has grown. Just because you “tend” to agree with someone that is a perceived authority doesn’t mean that’s true for the entirety of their ideas.
A lot of times, especially in the news media, experts are often asked things outside of the purview of their given expertise. There’s nothing wrong with this in general. In fact, it can interesting, and sometimes even enlightening to hear the opinions of “smart” people; just don’t mistake their opinions as the truth or as facts. Opinions are someone’s perception of information. We all do this; it doesn’t make us anymore right, and it doesn’t make us anymore wrong. So, when you hear someone giving their opinions about something that is outside their realm of expertise, maybe you should take it for what it is, an opinion. Even when they are asked to comment about something that has to do with their given field of study, often you’ll hear the phrase “What is your expert opinion,” so, not even in the experts can’t really get away from the specter of opinion. It’s a fair position though. No one knows everything, and, by extension, no one is always right. It’s just not possible. Now, I’m not saying you should never believe or put your faith in anyone. What I’m saying is you shouldn’t just blindly believe in what they say. It’s not that hard. In this day and age, almost at an instant, we have access to untold amounts of information. So, not looking into things ourselves just reeks of laziness and indignation. I know that no one likes to be wrong, and, for some, even the idea of proving oneself wrong is an idea that sometimes our fragile egos just can’t abide, but wouldn’t you rather have it that way? If you already “know” something, you just might stop trying to further inform yourself. It goes back to that whole idea of complacency that I brought up before. We have a real problem in our society with “opinions as facts/reality.” Our opinions are just poor representations of someone else’s perception of information. It’s not really our fault though. News media has become inundated with “opinion panels,” and that’s largely where we hear about things. It’s very rarely ever presented in a form that engenders discussion with their audience, and it always has a “spin” to it.
You may have heard about a little trial that’s been being vomited all over your TV and social media sites. Yeah, I’m talking about the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman trial. I know, I’m bummed that I’m talking about it too, but I think the way the public has reacted to this situation really succinctly underlines what I’ve been talking about. The most consistent thing that I’ve heard parroted throughout this whole “media circus” is racism. That’s the focus of the majority of the coverage. There seems to be an insistence that the people of this country are all horribly racist, and everyone should feel appropriately guilty for just being born. Now that George Zimmerman has been found innocent, well, that’s obviously proof of this alleged racist ideology that we all carry. The media has just been attacking our senses with this type of language. Sometimes directly, and sometimes more subtlety. So, considering that people have to work and have lives of some sort, no one has time to really look into this whole case for themselves in any great depth, so, we only catch little bits and pieces, and all of though little bits and pieces are all trumpeting the idea that this is all about racism. So, that’s what most folks take from it, and that’s what they end up believing. You can’t really blame them either. I mean, you can hold people accountable for having ill-conceived opinions, but you have to be reasonable. The onus is on the journalists that allows themselves to act as if they are working for a supermarket tabloid. It’s all about sensationalism; not about “the news.”
Another disconcerting thing that has surrounded this trial is the full blown acceptance of hate speech. Oh, not all hate speech, of course. That would be silly. Just the approved kind. Like, against anyone that doesn’t tow the line, or believes in our judicial system, or at worst(Looking at you The New Black Panther Party) if your white(Oh, I know George Zimmerman is only “half white,” and that’s obviously his racist half. So there.). If you do some light searching around the internet there is a plethora of threatening, and hateful posts. Many of them saying that they either want to kill Zimmerman themselves, or that “the hood” would get him. In fact, shortly after the incident itself happened, a group of black kids attacked some random 78 year old man while yelling, “Justice for Trayvon!” None of this stuff seems to be a big deal to most people, and sometimes the behavior is even justified. I’m calling bull shit on that, by the by. The way this stuff is reported is pretty disconcerting. A brief mention, and a “Oh boy, people are upset,” then more discussion about how racist everyone is. There is most definitely racism in this country, but I don’t really think it’s as ingrained in our societal fabric as we are led to believe, and the racism that exists is certainly not a clear-cut, one sided issue.
Honestly, the propagation of this idea that we’re all racist does nothing more than cause us to get on one side or the other of some imaginary line; further entrenching ourselves, and then as a consequence it stops us from actually speaking to each other. If society wants something to change then society has to be on board, and it has to be the majority of us. Not just a small, “righteous” minority, but don’t let that stop you from bringing your narrow minded, hateful message out on to the streets.
Just like the “Occupy Wall-Street” protests(Ahh, remember that time you cared about something until your iPhone ran out of juice, and you had no choice but to pack it up and go home to charge it? Dude, you missed Neutral Milk Hotel!) from a few years ago, granted on a smaller scale, people are making signs and hitting the streets. I assume that everyone that has an impassioned opinion on this subject did their research and made up their own minds. I mean, obviously…. From what I understand, it’s mostly peaceful, well, unless people decide they don’t want you there, because the right to be there is only given to those that are “active” in their desire for justice… It’s a pretty eclectic crowd, to say the least, and I have to wonder how many of these people actually care as apposed to being there just for the sake of being there. I don’t mean that to be snarky either. That’s an honest thought. The problem with this protest, and others like it, is that there is no organization, and no clarity of purpose. Yeah, “#JusticeforTrayvon” I’ve seen that, but how do you even want to go about getting this justice? The only thing I’ve heard, with any clarity, is not too dissimilar to what I heard during Occupy Wall-Street, and that’s to get the federal government involved. You know, because that’s always a good thing. Look at how much it’s helped out with things like marriage equality, and taking the illegal activities of corporations to task! How could this not be a good idea?! It’s a dangerous road to start heading down, and signals to some of the more “draconian” powers that be that society can’t even handle taking care of something like a murder case. You may not like the outcome of the case, but asking for assistance on that level is, quite frankly, absurd. Don’t let that stop you though…
The NAACP currently has a petition making the rounds, asking that the Department of Justice get involved. Yeah, the fucking Department of Justice. The sad reality is that these kinds of cases, a lot of them much worse, literally happen everyday. Take the recent murder of 16 year old, Darryl Green, for instance. Where’s the public out cry? Oh, I’m sorry, it doesn’t serve some type of fucked up agenda. My bad. No one has been saying that there was going to be violent protests in the streets for the past two months. So, there’s no need, I guess. The fact that organizations like the NAACP, and The New Black Panther Party have been the stalwarts of these protests makes me rather suspicious. Especially, in light of the call for the President and the rest of the government to “get involved.” It makes me feel like this whole thing isn’t so much about “Justice for Trayvon,” but more to serve some type of larger personal agenda that these organizations have been fighting for. They probably see this as a good opportunity to start pushing for them. In the words of Rahm Emanuel, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
At the end of the day, all of this stuff doesn’t change the tragedy of what has occurred. A kid is dead, and acquitted or not, a man’s life has been pretty much ruined. He’s going to have to walk around for the rest of his life with a black mark on his reputation. He’s always going to be “The Guy That Killed Trayvon Martin,” and going by the way things seem to be, I doubt anyone will let him forget about it anytime soon. Most of the public ire about this case comes from assumptions they’ve made, most likely way before this even went to trial, about Zimmerman’s character. They’re based on things they can’t possibly know. Oh, but they were told that’s the way it was. So, it must be true… Based on my limited knowledge of the case, I would have thought he would have gotten manslaughter, but like I said, my knowledge of it is limited, and I’m in no position to say one way or the other. Are you?
In life, I think there is nothing more important than being open minded, and well informed. There is so much “stuff’ out there to consume; why would you limit yourself to things that you already know, or believe? It’s okay to be part of a group, but don’t let it be your defining quality, and make your voice heard. Don’t be just a bleating sheep, and do a little thinking for yourself. It can even be fun. So, close the BuzzFeed(Jesus, I can’t stand that site.) window you have open, and just look something up for yourself. Get a broader perspective on things before making up your mind. There are multiple sides to every story, and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. We live in a world where “thinking for yourself,” and learning about things in depth has almost become a novel idea. Don’t buy into the bull shit kids, otherwise it might leave you smelly.