compassion, respect, dignity

In these times of fear, worry, and stress, it is really more important than ever that we demonstrate compassion, respect, and dignity. It helps us all if we can do that.

So it makes me sad when I read or hear vehement rhetoric concerning various issues that only serves to alienate and to shut down meaningful dialogue.  Yesterday, once again, I ran into a diatribe in which folks holding minority opinions on vaccines were written off as “anti-vaxxers” and in a very negative way. In the typical step further, too, they were dismissed as stupid.

It’s a pretty basic phenomenon that intolerance does not win hearts and minds. Nor are censorship, thought policing, and shunning markers of a healthy society.

The people being written off this way are just like anyone else finding their way through these difficult times. They have families and friends they deeply care about. 

There are a multitude of reasons why they may hold the position they do.  It’s not outlandish to consider them just because media, government, corporations, and the people around you espouse and promote a single point of view. The skeptics are just as much entitled to their opinions as anyone else, and sometimes well-buttressed with research too.

I can’t help but wonder if the folks doing the dismissing aren’t subconsciously and fearfully questioning the security of their own position. Such a person “doth protest too much, methinks,” borrowing from Shakespeare. Or, perhaps, there is simply a very strong need to put their virtue or their presumed intelligence on display. Or maybe it’s just groupthink.

And if you want to complain that the vaccine hesitant folks (or those with other similarly marginalized opinions) are the ones who are trolls, perhaps give some consideration to the notion that some of them are noisy because they are never given a real hearing. Vaccine skeptics have been vilified for decades with support from corporate media and government.

The skeptic’s position is perfectly legitimate in the context of “science.” Science necessarily involves skepticism, questions, doubts. It drives ever-closer looks at things. Science is not good science without it. The person who insists “the science is settled” especially in the midst of a huge, long-term experiment apparently does not understand science.

Regardless, whatever side of the fence a person is on relative to any issue, let us move past all the righteousness and approach each other with fundamental respect and compassion. We all have to get through this thing, through life indeed, together. We will be a healthier and stronger society if we can do that on this issue and others.

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fourth estate

I don’t know about you, but, for me, the news, even as it dominates our daily lives, has become absolutely worthless. It’s become nonstop coverage of government, government figures, government data, government posturing, government restrictions, government policing, government cover-ups, government blah-blah-blah. Oh, and, still, a whole lot of sports. 

I’m really sick and tired of government 24-7. I have no use for glorified sports. And it all looks like propaganda to me.

Remember what news used to be? 

Good old-fashioned newspapers used to have a local, community focus. Yes, you could read what your local government was up to, but you could also read about businesses, about community programs, about social events, about local concerns. There used to be whole sections devoted to features — glimpses into what cool things people in your community were into, along with what churches were up to, what was going on in the schools (actual education, not just controls and sports), art, music, books, movies, cooking, and more. Columnists were local people writing about the community, or about how big issues impacted the local community. 

These newspapers actually served to connect us with our communities and society and ideas.

Now, there isn’t much community to be had — in newspapers or elsewhere. Most community newspapers were swallowed up by national media entities which reduced them to a local story or two surrounded by a wealth of wire stories on the usual government and sports crap. They might still include some local crime information because that’s useful, divisive propaganda. They might throw in a dose of a generic wire feature to give the illusion there’s real people out there — somewhere.

I look at the last vestiges we have of local news, and it’s all pretty much worthless whether online or in print. It’s just garbage. 

The big news outlets, obviously, amount to garbage, serving only to remind us on a daily basis how extremely propagandized we are. 

Hence, there’s the usual sorting through of blogs and social media, much of which is now conveniently censored. 

It all serves to erode and oppress community and agency, and, God forbid, ideas. And it’s no accident. Nevertheless…

seems like an opportunity.

yup, and science is real

We are hearing “science” every day. Our lives have been torn asunder the last few months because “science.” 

Except it hasn’t really been science we’ve been hearing. We’ve been hearing selected pieces of science accompanied by some mixed up data that serves a specific narrative.

As we all know, if what someone has to say does not agree with the selected science of the World Health Organization, it is likely to be censored on platforms like Facebook or YouTube or Twitter. When you’re doing that, it’s not science anymore, it’s dogma.

Way back when, Galileo was censored by the Pope because of his belief in a heliocentric system. He was finally hauled up before the Inquisition and condemned to life imprisonment for “heresy.” Hmm.

Or how about the somewhat less well known Ignaz Semmelweis who made the observation back in the mid-19th century that hand-washing could positively impact mortality rates in the hospital where he worked as an obstetrician? Others in his profession did not appreciate the inference that they were ‘dirty’ and it didn’t end well for him.

Even Einstein’s theory of relativity was largely dismissed by many for a good long while.

My point is simple. I believe in keeping an open mind and being fully informed. We need to hear it all. We need to discuss all of it.

We don’t need Big Brother-style fact checkers out there filtering what we can and can’t read or consider. We need to recognize that science has limitations, and that it can be politicized, subverted for particular purposes, or handled incorrectly.

We need to hear about all of the research, not just some of it. We need to hear about more than the industry-funded, cherry-picked studies. We need to entertain opposing points of view rather than rejecting them out of hand with scorn and labels of quackery. And, as always, we need to follow the money.

I do not believe the WHO is the final arbiter of TRUTH. Nor is Anthony Fauci or Deborah Birx. Or Gavin Newsom or Gretchen Whitmer or Andrew Cuomo.

There is so much money and power involved in the current life-impacting decision-making, that we cannot afford to settle for dogma.

We want science. And we want it in the context of objectivity and freedom.

speak against censorship

Each morning, after some time of my own quiet reflection, I eventually face up to the news.

Now, more than ever, there is a lot of sorting out to do. Trying to find the truth of things is a job. And it doesn’t help things one little bit when someone somewhere decides for me what information or opinion I can or cannot access.

Censorship is damaging and disempowering – which is the intent. And I am alarmed at how rampant it is becoming.

There is so much we don’t know. Scientists don’t know everything. Doctors don’t know everything. One political party or another does not know everything. The CIA does not know everything. Fact checkers don’t know everything. 

And all of them have biases.

Investigation of both facts and ideas is a healthy thing. Discourse is a healthy thing. Awareness and education are fundamental. Critical thinking is – ahem – critical.

Even without outright censorship, the information made available to us already suffers from a lot of control and manipulation. There are the stories that rise to the front page, and the stories that don’t. 

There’s been plenty of censorship relative to the Coronavirus. This is a situation that should allow more information and viewpoints, not less. Still, viewpoints from certain perspectives, expert or otherwise, are routinely disappeared, suppressed, or disparaged.

As the protesting going on around the country progresses, one has to consider how censorship has played a role in both producing the situation and covering it. We often see in the news the police account of a given incident, with little to no input from individuals involved and with a complete lack of context. At the very least, this can easily create a bias towards certain people, or classes of people. And, as we have seen in far too many instances, it may not even be the truth at all. During the current crisis, we are repeatedly seeing journalists roughed up and arrested. Now, what would be the point of that?

On an entirely different matter, Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore’s documentary, Planet of the Humans, was taken down for an alleged copyright violation. It was available free for viewing until the movie’s criticism culminated in this allegation which apparently concerns 4 seconds of footage that Moore alleges was “fair use.” Rather than pursue the matter through appropriate legal channels, the aggrieved party appealed to YouTube which settled the matter by taking the movie down. So much for legal process. 

I did watch the movie before it went away. It is a disturbing and thought-provoking work which leaves the viewer with questions. That is the point. To ask questions. To wonder about the truth. To evaluate the path we’ve been on and see where we might be headed. I have been very disappointed to see people in the environmental movement just pile on against this film rather than to seize the opportunity for dialogue.

With such a constant barrage of information coming at us 24 hours a day, it is more important than ever to allow free thought and discourse. When we acquiesce to allowing “someone” to control what we are allowed to view or read, this is dangerous and dark. It is counter to a healthy and free society. 

The masks we now routinely see covering people’s mouths are emblematic. It is hard to see them and not think what censorship and control of information is doing to our society. 

Today marks the sad anniversary of the crackdown in Tiananmen Square. In the context of the ongoing protests we are seeing now, coupled with the aggressive stance the president has articulated, it is more important than ever to speak up – to be able to speak up.

Say NO to censorship.

Update 6-6-20: Planet of the Humans is now back up on YouTube, free viewing.