Camp is at a book event in Whistler, which gives me a chance to air some of my grievances. We live in troubled times, probably always did, but unlike yesteryear when radio, TV, newspapers and tabloids were the sources of information, today we are inundated with up-to-the-minute newsflashes coming from every political, social and media driven internet platform, as well as cable TV and national broadcasters. Who can keep up with this barrage?
The best of friends and family can be torn apart and separated by betrayals and divorce but these days also by big events like a terrorist attack, a presidential election or a pandemic. There is a point in time when there appears a crossroad. As the song goes: one path leads to perdition and one leads to sanity. It’s what Portugal’s Rear Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo offered his country: Two roads, both with snipers on them. One road for the unvaccinated where the shooter will be able to take out one of 500, on the other road, the vaccinated path, he will only be able to take out one of 500’000. Which road do you choose?’
Some people veered off and chose to join a cult like following who eschew science, common sense, good ethical reporting and fact checking. Instead, they started believing and sharing conspiracy theories, listening to prophets of doom, substantiated by anecdotal stories, social media posts and pushed by charlatans and pseudo scientists. Once down that rabbit hole they could not turn back and their whole life now is dictated by those cult-like beliefs, most notably centered on the self and the preservation of so called personal ‘freedoms’. Friends and family are scuttled in the process and suddenly life is full of evil cabals and nefarious schemes and designs. None of which are a lot of fun or offer any kind of humorous perspective. It leaves these believers ostracized, isolated and estranged, all to their own detriment and due to their harebrained misanthropy.
It is above all sad that we’ve lost friends – that we knew for decades and seen their kids grow up – to the dark side. Can I tolerate their unsubstantiated and misinformed beliefs and convictions and should I ignore their scary views and beliefs and their new found religion? They wear their creed like a badge of honour which results them being angry and bitter about the world, the governments, even their neighbours and friends and members of their family. They cannot see their way out of their predicament, which would render everything they believe as a lie and a construct. They argue that this is exactly what keeps us from seeing the ‘truth’: Our faith and beliefs in science and scientists, hailed by the mainstream media. They disregard the simple fact that most journalists, editors and publishers are educated and peer reviewed and by their training are held to high ethical and professional standards. I’m not talking about FOX News and a plethora of social media pundits who have their own nefarious agenda and twist the facts and invent their own self-serving truth. And I’m also not talking about propagandist like the Chinese blogger Sima Nan or the Russian TV moderator Olga Skabejewa who are not reporting but regurgitating the official line from their respective governments in Beijing and Moscow.
My sanity and outlook depend a lot on my faith in community and my own cognitive ability to separate fact from fiction, science from nonsense. I’m also wary of politicians, simply because I think that politics don’t necessarily attract the best and the brightest but the most ambitious and concerned about implementing change, not always for the better of society but often for their own hubris and self-interests.
When friends and family disagree and drift apart because of very differing views, even though we’re looking at the same world but through different lenses, then we have reached a moment of reckoning. We either accept their views or disengage and ignore the cult-like conspiracies they believe in which do not follow scientific methods and models and disregard imperial facts and statistics.
The earth is not flat, the moon landing happened, the twin towers collapsed because of two planes hitting them and the Covid-19 pandemic can be held in check by vaccines. I have no difficulty believing these fact-based outcomes. Any other theory lacks not just a scientific method, evidence and proof but a sense of humour. Conspiracies, after all, make good movie and thriller plots.
I blame social media for the ‘big lie’. It has absolutely nothing to do with the truth but instead is a vehicle to make mountains of money from ads and subscriptions selling people stuff they don’t need. The terrible by-product of that is giving a global soapbox and platform to the absolute worst elements of society: Pseudo scientists, charlatans, snake-oil salesmen, extremists, history deniers etc. The result of that is that the lie becomes the truth or whatever these pundits can convince people of what it is. We have to admit that George Orwell had it exactly right when he wrote 1984 in 1949.
I cannot ignore the elephant in the room and agree to disagree. It goes deeper than just a difference of opinion. This is when I remind myself of Benjamin Franklin’s point about conspiracies. He said something like: ‘Three men can keep a secret when two of them are dead.’