Committing to staying sane

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 24, 2016 – 12:00am

I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way.

Many people I know in the Philippines and in many parts of the world feel a collective letdown at how the world has been running lately. I am talking about the challenges hurled at the values and beliefs humankind holds dear. Things most of us believe in — like human rights, fairness, tolerance, freedom and justice, openness, science, logic, diplomacy, the unifying aspects of religion, the equality of all people and races — are now being questioned.

Racism, bigotry, terrorism, intolerance and an utter disbelief in science and logic have built up to an all-time high in the past 30 years. People seem to be fact-resistant, unable to analyze fairly. Nor do they have a wide enough grasp of history to understand what is happening. Many people I have met recently have no clear idea of events that transpired in the world in the past 40 years. These seem to be beyond the limit of their comprehension, too ancient to be analyzed, much less understood or valued.

Many easily buy into memes, lies and manipulation created to convince them to rally behind wrong causes. Serious reading of anything beyond a few paragraphs is a dying practice.

Ironically, at this moment when technology, the Internet and Google allow us practically unlimited access to knowledge, wisdom and data, more people seem to be ignorant about what has transpired that has shaped our societies and the entire direction of mankind itself. With so little knowledge and even less wisdom, many people have become absolutists, dogmatic and thus easily gullible.

I have often wondered why this is so.

Perhaps the array of knowledge on the net is too overwhelming, intimidating and complex to be understood or even bothered with. It is way too challenging for people who want things simple.

More and more, I see people turning to oversimplified positions that quickly deteriorate into insults, threats and shaming, in place of listening and arguing politely and — yes — rationally.

For example, the fight against addiction and drugs in our society through summary killings seems to be accepted by the majority. When the dangers of abuse are brought up, these are airily dismissed and instead the question is posed: “Why are you afraid?” They posit that one should only be fearful if one is a drug addict or supports drug use. And anyway, the rich and privileged would never be affected by the drug menace (unless, of course, their kids happen to become addicts). They take aim at the questioner personally so that no intelligent conversation or investigation of the issue is possible.

The Brexit vote happened because many older people in England are afraid of diversity and multiculturalism. They are not comfortable with certain foreigners. Not surprisingly, that may be the only issue many of them knew about the EU when they voted. Then there is ISIS and its cruelties and barbarism, which is a big scourge to mankind, especially to the great majority of Muslims who view Islam as a religion of peace. The world seems to be in serious turmoil.

Most people are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid to evolve, to think larger. Many easily believe the rhetoric that blames immigrants for all the problems in their countries. And so their allegiance to the values of tolerance, openness, and even democracy are easily suspended.

How did this happen? Who let the dogs out and the riff-raff in? There is no simple answer. I notice, though, that ever since people have had easy access to the Internet, many have felt the power to express their views, but not own the responsibility that goes with the power. There is much hate and ignorance in social media. The world is going mad. There is too much mistrust, too much heat generated but too little light produced, too much negativity and hostility. I worry that the deteriorating discourse in social media may be the new norm and direction.

The imperative challenge to every thinking person or for anyone who cares about mankind is to remain sane amid the ignorance, racism, intolerance and viciousness spreading in the world today.

Recently, I was with a group of people whom I respect, and after a long talk about the state of our country and the world, we held each other in a tight hug and vowed to stay sane in a world that seems to have stopped thinking and has turned its back on the values that promote equality, human rights, and decency.

I cannot help being fearful that the direction of human evolution will be the result of this epic battle between the forces of light and darkness. We must believe that, in the end, the sane will outsmart the negative and ignorant. Each one of us must therefore choose the side of good. This means choosing democracy over dictatorship, education over ignorance, moral values over values that dehumanize us.

Mankind paid a lot to overcome the Dark Ages and experience the Age of Enlightenment. It was a huge evolutionary step that made societies kinder and more egalitarian, offering greater opportunities for everyone. Admittedly, more of this has to happen. I trust that a more evolved humanity can make life on this planet better for everyone.

In the face of the strong dark forces that fuel the present deterioration in civility, it is my fervent hope that more people commit to being sane and civil. Reason, logic, goodwill, understanding, tolerance, patience and collective action to move higher up the evolutionary ladder are what we need. This is the only way to prevent mankind from going whole-hog crazy.

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4 years ago

Well Jim, this article pretty much nailed it for me. This is what I’m telling everyone I know, and I appreciate how your article eloquently summed up my exact same sentiments point by point. There is really a systemic dumbing down of the whole populace…not just in the Philippines, but in other countries as well. And yes, the internet and social media played a big part on this. With people having attention spans like that of a fish, it’s no surprise that people easily buy into memes and gobble up strong rhetoric. Not the kind of world I want my kids to grow up in. Yet,still hoping for a saner, enlightened future.

Marito Lazo Platon
Marito Lazo Platon
4 years ago

As Confucius said “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” When one realizes this, it will help him keep his sanity.