Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When opinion and perspective clash with fact and truth


"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."
Marcus Aurelius


Forgive my presumptuousness at second guessing the good emperor or adding to his philosophy but fact and truth have a nasty habit of smacking unsuspecting fools caught up in their own little worlds up side the head. And if ever there was a time fact and truth crashed in on Americans it was the sight of massive walls of water slamming into the Japanese coast and pushing aside the best efforts of humanity like a petulant child tossing toys in a fit of anger. Add the tragic follow up images of people wandering around decimated towns and villages looking for lost loved ones or some scrap of the life that existed the day before and you have a situation that is enough to startle the most jaded and self-absorbed among us

In a way it is beyond forgiveness that it takes such an event to shake Americans out of their delusion that the world and its peoples revolve around them. As a country that in some ways rightly prides itself on its charity and willingness to help others maybe its best that we do not examine our generosity too closely. Recent disasters that hit both Chile and New Zealand were quickly forgotten in the light of our insipid political battles and the latest antics by the Hollywood elite. Only the plight of Chilean miners trapped deep underground caught our attention long enough to muscle out our dear elected leaders calling each other nasty names while questioning the patriotism of those that oppose them. Of course, such behavior can always be justified by the conveniently rented pundits who find numerous ways to count the angels dancing on the heads of pins just the way the people who sign their paychecks want.

But such is life in this day and age, in the coming days scores of private relief agencies will have their fifteen minutes of news cycle fame as tons of emergency aid is collected, loaded, and sent off to those desperate people in Japan. Bright eyed and smiling reporters will record for the evening news all the good people shedding tears of joy at the outpouring of compassion and generosity meant for that battered nation. This is all fantastic and very much the right thing to do but as always our collective attention span is short and before long the high paid Hollywood publicists and well groomed politicians will find ways dominate the news again.

The shame in this, as far as I am concerned, is that the same people appalled at the human suffering in Japan many times ignore the deep suffering right here at home or in nations that do not serve our vital interests. Sure, the usual fair and balanced commentators will spout off reasons why those less fortunate in this country need an incentive to make them work harder and that those living in third-world countries probably deserve what happens to them. This will satisfy those believers in American Exceptionalism and they will either return to their fears about the current boogieman hiding under the bed out to destroy the Republic or to the latest deranged, attention-seeking celebrity waiting for him or her to wrap their expensive car around a telephone pole.

Neither is a behavior that any sane people would celebrate but none of us have a choice in what era we live and our only course of action is to make the best of the time we have hoping it leads the way to a more enlighten and rational age for us all. Because nothing is going to change until we set aside our petty pursuits and prejudices and the bulk of humanity learns that we are all in this together and that in the end all we truly have is each other.

18 comments:

Infidel753 said...

To the extent that the fixation on trivia is a trait of Americans and not just of the MSM coverage of things, I don't think the Japanese earthquake will make any permanent difference. The MSM are focusing on it so much, for now, because it produces a lot of dramatic pictures and video. The equally-large tsunami a few years ago in Sumatra, which killed dozens of times more people, didn't produce any permanent change in how Americans or the MSM deal with the world. The Rwandan genocide didn't. 9/11 didn't very much, and that was within our own country.

The MSM flit from issue to issue, always focusing on just one thing and forgetting what they were focusing on yesterday. So right now their focus is on Japan, because of the visual spectacle, even though Japan is a rich and well-organized country and can handle the problem as well as humanly possible by itself.

The civil war in Libya, where we could actually do something to make a difference and save vast numbers of lives, as rebels against a brutal dictatorship scream for military help from the West -- that's still going on. The MSM have flitted away from it -- so I read al-Jazeera instead.

Meanwhile, most liberal blogs I read are sticking with another important (if not visually spectacular) story where ordinary Americans can make a difference -- Wisconsin. Never mind that the MSM have flitted away from that, too.

The MSM are increasingly for people who care more about what Lindsey Lohan is doing or about who won some football game than about the actual news. It's no wonder their circulation and viewership figures are dropping toward extinction. I don't think they represent the interests or attention span of most people.

Liberality said...

just the way the people who sign their paychecks want

which is why I don't watch the news or read many news magazines. I don't give two figs about Charlie Sheen or Lindsey Lohan--whoever these people are--I don't watch television.

I think Infidel753 has a point that a lot of people are getting sick and tired of our bought and paid for "liberal" (ha!) MSM. And that includes NPR for me as well. Democracy Now and al-Jazeera, and blogs of course, are the better alternative any day of the week.

Akelamalu said...

nothing is going to change until we set aside our petty pursuits and prejudices and the bulk of humanity learns that we are all in this together and that in the end all we truly have is each other.

Ain't that the truth!

Ranch Chimp said...

The earthquake thing and nuke plant's is something that has concerned me for year's, I wrote past posting's on this as well as comment's on blog's in the past too. Basically, we all know this is going to happen, to some extent, even though we dont talk and think about it, because we refuse to, and this is one of the issue's I had with nuke power, because we need to understand that land's, ocean floor's, etc are "alway's" in motion. As far as how nuke "power" work's ... well ... great ... look at France for instance, but were playing dangerous game's with nature as well , we need to understand. I actually see a future where all our energies can and will come from new tech's, driven and fed by solar, wind, and hydro primarily. But that's also "my opinion" ... heh, heh, heh, heh, heh :)

As far as the BS and the political highsiding and so forth, we ought to know by now we live in a nation full of shit, period, again ... that just my "opinion" heh, heh, heh, heh, heh .... Thanx Guy, decent posting though!

Cloudia said...

Warm Aloha & Gratitude from Honolulu!


Comfort Spiral

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Mr. Charleston said...

It's too late BB. We're past the tipping point. There are now more people than resources and competing for those resources will occupy humankind until something happens that swings the pendulum in the other direction. Who knows, we may live to see Armageddon.

Windsmoke. said...

I agree with AKELAMALU comment. Give it a few months and a lot of people will go back to living in their own little world called dream land until next time another disaster comes along :-).

Beach Bum said...

Infidel and Liberality: I still think NPR does a good job but other than NBC Evening News, just because its convenient, I watch a lot of BBC America.

Akelamalu: Not that I think that will happen anytime soon.

Ranch: Definitely, we are full of shit and take great pains to roll in it.

Cloudia: Hope the clean up is going good.

Mr. Charleston: I figure Mother Earth is going to cull us down soon, we seem more like viruses than mammals.

Windsmoke: Yeah, I figure it will not be long before the Hollywood types start making the news again.

Marja said...

Oh dear beach. I think the name of this desease of lack of empathy is capitalism. In holland there is the same attitude. People are spoiled and want more and are numbed by what they see on TV.
It is all about me. If you never have experienced loss or suffering it is hard to imagen for most people. I've collected for the Red Cross and the funny thing is that in the rich neighbourhoods you hardly got any money but people who don't have much to give, give the most because they understand.
A friend of us is a teacher in agriculture and he wanted to work as a volunteer in a country who needs it. One of the countries he looked at is Cuba and was impressed and gave us a video to look at. These people lost everything but the people there work much better together than anywhere and have advanced agricultural systems and more.
You see here in NZ after the quake people are working better together care about each other etc. I hope people will nog give up on Japan because what happens there is real human suffering.

Beach Bum said...

Marja: I agree completely, one of the things that burns me up is seeing how much people don't care about Americans fighting in wars. They will display a magnetic yellow ribbon someplace on their SUV saying they support the troops but will not talk about pushing their own children to join. Fighting is for other (poorer) families to do, their children have college to attend.

Oh yeah, I've seen the same thing around where I live in rich neighborhoods, they are very tight with their money and look down on most everyone else.

Oso said...

I commiserate,my friend.Some of us feel the pain ( or are numb to it, or too caught up in their own lives).
The sad part is that some not only truly don't care, but that they find ways to enjoy the terrible suffering so many must endure.

thanks for the nice words on the post man.

Beach Bum said...

Oso: You welcome, having one of those phases that makes me want to load up and somehow start living on some deserted island. World's going to hell and most are just worried about superficial crap.

lime said...

i've railed for a long time at the skewed priorities of the news as it relates to covering crap of no importance while real things are happening. it astonished me that with the arab world turning upside down & japan being devastated in so many different ways, much less domestic issues of significance that there is any time for coverage of charlie sheen and his lunacy.

Randal Graves said...

My my my, aren't we a bit pessimistic. Well, look towards Libya as a shining beacon of hope, surely the unwashed masses of the opposition won't be fucked over by whomever emerges in the power vacuum, this time it'll be different, just you watch.

Beach Bum said...

Lime: At times I actually feel like I have fallen down some rabbit hole into a bizarre world filled with utter idiots, but whom know the way that world works leaving be to wonder if it is me that is the idiot.

Randal: Yeah I'm pessimistic, I ran out of beer and all I see down the foreseeable road for weekend activities is wife-enforced yard work. I'll just have to man up and embrace the massive suckage.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The Bush administration (and, yes, sadly, the Obama folks, too) showed that the United States is much better at blowing shit up than it is at reconstructing it.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Double b, Ichiro (the ball-player) just donated 1.2 million to the earthquake relief efforts in Japan. It's good to see that there are still at least a few people out there thinking beyond themselves.

John Myste said...

I liked the quote a lot. It sounded like something I would make up. Based on your virtually unassailable argument, I think it should be revised thus:

"Almost everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Almost everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. If there is a lot of debate about anything, that is a sure sign that it probably fits into the category of almost everything."

Please notify Marcus before it’s too late.