Believe In Your Religion? Your Candidate? Convince Us.
Two years ago, I was at a local university to hear a speech by New York Times editor and writer Tom Zeller Jr. While taking questions from the audience, he was asked about how the media is doing when it comes to helping the people understand complex issues.
His answer jolted me.
Media has changed, he said -- and so have we, the consumers of media.
"It is easier than ever now for individuals seeking information to find only information that affirms their preconceived notions of an idea," Zeller said. "It is very difficult to be exposed to information that challenges your point of view."
Had I been creating an echo chamber around myself -- hearing only people who agree with me?
My wife challenges me, questions me, and expects me to defend my decisions, opinions, and actions. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. She doesn’t believe in crap, lies, or hurting people. She doesn’t believe in arguing for entertainment. She expects wisdom and intelligence in the people around her. There is no echo. It is rarefied space -- sometimes a tough space, but always a place for personal growth.
Creating that kind of space elsewhere is, as Zeller pointed out, hard.
Exposing myself to information that challenges my point of view has become part of my goal. I have surrounded myself by friends who do this. My religious beliefs are challenged, my politics, my self-belief, my opinions. I value people who act their beliefs -- the people who campaign for their candidate, who demonstrate their faith without words, who ask questions in public, who stand up to be counted. I don’t have to agree with them -- I don’t want an echo chamber. I want to be available to be taught -- and to teach, if I can be useful.
What I’ve learned in the past two years is this: Looking for information that agrees with what I already think is NOT thought. It is entertainment. A bobble-headed life.
I can do better.
There is value in speaking publicly for what I think I know. And value in listening to what you think you know.
If I’m quiet, am I useful? If you're quiet, are you useful?
We get what we allow. If it isn’t right, but we don’t fight it, we get to keep it. Pornography, pollution, government, obesity, lasciviousness, deception -- all “ours” by choice.
The hard part about liberty and equality is that most of us want to be dictators -- we want to tell people, not be told. If I believe something is true, can I teach it, instead of shout it? Believe your religion is true? Teach it. Believe your candidate is best? Convince us.
When measured by what we are willing to work for, what we are willing to sacrifice, most of us don’t believe in much at all. We’re not lining up for the hard work of convincing anyone. It’s easier to “yell” what we believe (think Facebook) and retreat back to our echo chamber. But have we been influential, or just produced sound and fury?