Letter 0001 – Everybody Knows…
Letter 1 – Everybody Knows…
Topics: Fear, Groupthink
Fear of the unknown drives men to act in the most absurd ways. Conveniently, we are often able to judge their actions as absurd once we have obtained the knowledge they lacked, and can see that these actions were driven by ignorance. In the moment, however, fear of the unknown takes on many forms, and even masquerades itself as positive enthusiasm. Be careful, my friend, that you understand the chain of facts before being swept away in the repetitive groupthink that drives the masses.
You’ve heard the refrains before, and they are generally effective enough that you don’t recognize their nature. They’re intoxicating and require no thought but your passing affirmation before you parrot it to someone else. Some are commonplace on a society-wide basis like: “They don’t make ‘em like they used to” generally said after breaking something new, “That food is soo processed and disgusting” implying that it is bad for you or “Everyone knows that Macs are better” when a college freshman purchased their bubbly, plastic iMac.
So, what is wrong with these quick examples? What harm can there be in just making friendly conversation, and nodding your head? Maybe, being 30 years old, you never had that old Ford Truck that ran for 25 years… yet you still nod your head or say “yeah” in agreement. I certainly never found the appeal of the Apple/Macintosh cult-following, though I’ve often shaken my head in agreement back in the early 2000’s when iMacs were semi-popular. And food? Everyone likes to at least pretend they know what healthy is, so why not jump on the dogpile when someone points out the “obviously” unhealthy, plastic-wrapped snack that fat guy is munching on?
The answer is simple, my friend, and it is that you condition yourself to blindly accepting new information as fact without any filter, effort, or critique. When another person, be they stranger or friend, makes an idle assertion like this and you offer even token agreement, they feel validation in their evangelizing act, and you dodge confrontation with one of many fears in doing so: Fear that disagreement will negatively affect your relationship with that person, fear that you are admitting yourself to be less knowledgeable than your counterpart (and hence, less powerful in a knowledge=power standpoint), and often it can simply be fear that some other awkward social situation may develop if you don’t maintain the current tone and flow of conversation.
My advice, friend, is not to stop and challenge every occurrence like an insufferable, infallible, and annoying counterpuncher. From a utilitarian standpoint, it can be far more beneficial to take a mental note and look into the subject at hand when time permits. What DOES “processed” even mean? Is that always bad? Why are cars made differently now? What performance tradeoffs were made when reliability was sacrificed? Further, WAS reliability sacrificed? In what ways are Macs superior to PCs?
It can be valuable to spend your time examining these things that are brought up in passing, and to prevent yourself from adding your voice to the droning masses. Hearing these phrases absently tossed about can be a flag that people are hanging hope on this “fact” to shield themselves from some fear. Simultaneously, these statements establish that the speaker is knowledgeable and shifts the focus from the validity of their statement to something else in a “Given ‘x’, let’s discuss ‘y’” format.
When time permits, do not accept givens. This is especially true if action is urged shortly thereafter. Dare to validate the proof of the assertions you hear, and save yourself from later embarrassment, or worse, moral bankruptcy. There are no shortages of terrible acts that have been perpetuated throughout human history because, “everyone was doing it” or “everyone thought…”
Don’t be everyone. Be you.