Why I’m Sad

Learning and passing on what I’ve learned to others has been one of my passions since I can remember.  I believe the more I know, the better my decisions will be, and as a result, the better my life will be.

I have proof that this is so, because I started out in life with a tribe of people who lived in fear mostly because they were uniformed. Because they were uninformed, they relied on others to tell them what to think and do—a friend, a family member, a spouse, a doctor, a dentist, a politician, a priest, a radio show host, a newspaper—always knew more than they did.

That was the tribe’s assumption. Whether the friend, family member or spouse knew any more about the subject at hand than they did, didn’t matter. Whether the doctor was incompetent or the dentist a liar and a thief (as actually was the case with one dentist from my childhood, but that’s for another essay) didn’t matter. Whether the politician was self-serving, or the priest was a pedophile, or the radio show host and the newspaper delivered information on a slant, didn’t matter. Those were what they had come to rely on to tell them what to believe and how to live. 

The reason for this was that the people I grew up with lacked not only critical thinking skills, but very little education—formal or otherwise—to stimulate or facilitate said critical thinking skills should any try to surface. As a result, they were insular, suspicious, superstitious, and xenophobic. Anything unfamiliar frightened them, because the unfamiliar felt like a threat to the method of existence they’d cobbled together to survive.

Their day to day actions, where they lived, what jobs they took, who they married, what they passed on to their children, were all derived from the dogma of anxiety and the creed of  trepidation and the fog of ignorance. In other words, because they didn’t know and didn’t try to learn, they were afraid to act on their own. Because acting on their own would require making a decision that might not be one that the tribe would make. It would require self-confidence, self-reliance, self-governance. All of which meant change, but even a change for the better would take them out of their safety zone.

Don’t get me wrong—this is not to say that some of them weren’t very nice people. They were just terrified people.

Some of us broke out, and we did so in various ways. We had some drug addicts, some alcoholics, some criminals, and some suicides. And then there were those of us who started to read. And from reading we began to question. And from questioning, we began to think. And from thinking, we began to learn. And the learning led to trying to do things on our own, a new way, possibly a better way. And when the new way didn’t work, some of us crashed and burned and went scurrying back to the tribe and the old way.

But some of us tried again. And again. Until one day, we got it right, and bit by stealthy bit, we improved ourselves and our lives. I was one of those people and for me, it was so hard, and many times, so sad, because it alienated and even estranged me from people I loved.

But at the end, it was incredibly liberating and f*cking joyous.

Which is why I continue to seek to learn, and I continue to seek to teach what I’ve learned. I want every human being I meet to know the feeling of being the best version of humanity they can be. To live, not to just exist.

So I write a lot of crap on Facebook and Medium. I wrote two non-fiction books cataloging my journey, and I try to make my screeds humorous and relatable, so that those in the blinkered, inward-looking, isolated corners of society where I come from, might read what I’ve written and possibly benefit from my decades of being oppressed by my own ignorance and the ignorance of those who were my keepers. And if they were to benefit, to learn and grow, as I did, maybe, hopefully, even more than I did, there would be so much less fear in our world, less fear of the unknown, less fear of each other.

Just think where that could lead. It could topple those despots who thrive off our fear, who are empowered by our fear.

Of course, that’s only if people read what I’ve written, what others have written. That’s only if they—we—all of us—are willing to think, and learn, to change and grow, to discuss ideas and then pass on that torch of knowledge to the next person.

But we’re not, are we?

Social media should have been the perfect way to expand our minds and thus, our worlds. So many sites to explore, so many different people from so many different backgrounds and perspectives to talk to and learn from. Something as easy as bonding over a book we’ve both read made me friends with a man in India, something as universal as a recipe made me friends with a girl who ‘speaks’ to me through a translator.

And it goes on. For me and those like me, the quest for more knowledge, new worlds, broader perspectives and, as a result, more and more to embrace, more and more to love, will go on until we die. It’s amazing. For us.

But today was the day when I finally accepted that this philosophy just isn’t true for everyone. In fact, it might be true for very few.

Funny thing, I fought so hard for net neutrality (short definition, without it, government and industry can curtail what we search for and see on the internet) but now I wonder if that was a waste of energy and time. Because people are censoring their world, all by themselves. We’re shutting out everything and everyone who does not have our own precise world view, and we’re doing it with one click:  “Unfriend.” “Delete.” “Hide.”

And if that’s too cowardly or genteel for some, the effective diminishing of a thought or an idea that’s not our own, that we don’t care to mull over the possibilities of, can be accomplished more proactively. In response to a comment we find jarring, we can post a meme that mocks the person or point of view. We can be indignant: “How offensive” or “How wildly hateful.”  We can be mocking: “You drank the Kool-Aid.”  We can laugh behind our hands at people we don’t know. We can tell them to “Shut up.” We can swear.

 Because instead of seeing social media as the door to Narnia—to new worlds, new possibilities—we see it as a place we can sneak around like thieves and be the worst version of ourselves. We can lie. We can frighten. We can spout facts, using them for our own ends and to be authoritarian. We can manipulate. We can disregard and dismiss.

Poor students, all. And even worse teachers.

Today, while on Facebook, we were on the verge of having the most wonderful conversation. I was learning about a perspective I hadn’t considered. People were presenting opposing points of view without arguing with one another. In other words, we exchanged ideas. It made me think. It opened my eyes to something I hadn’t considered.  Some of us on the thread were enjoying that. 

But one of us on the thread decided about another person on the thread, “I don’t like that this person whom I’ve never met, who may have had an experience I haven’t had, who may be hurting, or may be simply so much smarter than I, has a different idea than I do.”

And since that put her out of her comfort zone —my Facebook page did, that is—she hit the “unfriend” button, so she will never have to be disturbed by a new perspective she might accidentally come across on that page again.

Someone might want to tell Ajit Pai that there is no need for him to censor the web. We are doing it ourselves.

And as a lover of learning, that makes me so sad.

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this. You have a wonderful, loving and exploring mind. You will continue to learn and grow, and sadly to see some who cannot accept truths you clearly see. There are so many wonderful people in the world, so little time to meet and appreciate them. Keep looking forward, for those who promote love and acceptance and truthful investigation of our universe. I’m sure you will succeed.

    Regards,
    William

  2. My name is jimmy hart. Are you the step-mom of Greg Davis. I was in a car wreck with him Jan 29, 2002

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