Once upon a time there was a suburbanite, born and raised, who needed to go into the big city nearby on a research assignment for a book project being worked on. This suburbanite entered a neighborhood of tightly packed row houses near the library where the research materials were housed. The suburbanite grew nervous. This neighborhood looked a whole lot like the neighborhoods the suburbanite had seen so often on the news as scenes of violent murder and despair. The suburbanite drove slower, on guard for trouble. The suburbanite locked the car doors as the shadows seem to grow darker and the houses loom larger. This neighborhood also seemed to be populated largely by peoples of an ethnic group not the suburbanite's own. Nervousness crept toward fear ... until, the suburbanite remembered the teachings of the family in which the suburbanite was raised. The family had taught the suburbanite to think independently and to judge no one on the basis of prejudice or preconceived notions. The suburbanite took a deep breath and decided to really look at this neighborhood to capture some of the truth of the situation. As the suburbanite did so, the shadows and threatening, looming structures receded and took on their actual proportions. The suburbanite discovered the houses to be well maintained row houses. The suburbanite looked at the people of that different ethnicity and actually saw them for who they were, not who the local news had made them out to be. There walking up the far end of the street were three men, three well dressed businessmen carrying briefcases. On the other side of the street were three women on a stoop ... mothers waiting for their children to come home for lunch from school. Sure enough, there came the children from the opposite end of the street. The truth of the situation embarrassed and unnerved the suburbanite. The suburbanite laughed at the fearful self who had not seen what was in front of its own face. The suburbanite was disturbed by how reality had been bent before the suburbanite's own eyes by what had been said, seen, and heard from distant sources, sources concerned with ratings and the darker side of life, sources unconcerned with creating a balanced picture as that was not their job.
So ends the tale, based on truth and lived experience.
We are living in an amazing age of high technology and rapid communication. It is amazing technology that could be used to bind us all together. Instead, however, what has been created for dissemination has been material generated to support one point of view or another, liberal or conservative, Tea Party or PETA, the list could go on and on. Now I come from a different age in another millennia where we called this hand tailored "truth" propaganda and tried to avoid it. Back then reporters worked hard to remain impartial ... and sometimes managed to do so while at other times failing spectacularly.
But, let's get to the point. As in the parable above, our view of reality is becoming increasingly distorted as we seek out more and more frequently those sources of information that agree with our particular bias or biases. We associate mostly with people who agree with us. We use our cell phones to maintain a tribe electronically with those people we know best while ignoring those right in front of our faces while we stumble off curbs or collide with lamp posts ... the number of injuries while walking and driving distracted by these little devices is on the rise ... or so my sources tell me. In doing so, we are catering to our more ancient minds, which are happiest in small tribal groups that no longer exist, groups of no more than 150 souls because that is how many we can really know and our more primitive minds like that.
In seeking those sources that agree with us and hanging out mostly with a tribe that agrees with us, we become increasingly like the suburbanite before that epiphany. Our view of reality is completely distorted by the information we have taken in that has been tailored for us by people we don't really know for purposes of turning a profit more often than serving the truth or the common good. I suggest that the current situation in Washington, D.C., amongst our elected officials who seem to have back slid into kindergarten playground behavior rather than governing, may be highly influenced by this tailored version of reality ... along with heavy influxes of cash from special interest groups operating under some distortion of reality not intended to promote the common good. Increasingly our society is becoming a black and while, yes or no, you're with us or again' us mentality that is truly helpful to no one.
It's past time we worked hard to shake off our preconceived, tailor made, bias supporting views of reality and saw the world as it truly is, in all its complexities and colors and shades of gray. It's past time we put aside childish things, realized we are big enough and mature enough to actually listen to and entertain other points of view. It is way past time we admitted we might be wrong about some issue or other and rather than just fall back on "facts" we heard from one source or another supporting our biases, actually worked together to come to some more sensible, less emotionally driven view of our common reality. The world is too small and we have grown too powerful through our technologies to do otherwise.
Shake off perceived truth and seek the actual truth of the matter together.