If you can’t say something nice

Our blog is intentionally non-political and I will persist in keeping it that way. Unfortunately though, there are times in which certain forces and pressures push each one of us towards some measure of introspection. Some of us are even capable of keeping our feelings and opinions to ourselves long enough to query additional sources in order to make a logical summation of current events. Others, well, they seem to be less able to store a single byte of information within the massive storage device we are all born with. Lest one thinks I am pointing a finger at any particular group, it is clear that this malady affects people on all sides of a dilemma, myself included at times.

 I certainly don’t pretend that I am immune to the fray or even innocent of bias, opinion or even a few rash words bantered here or there. What strikes my funny bone however is that all of this hullaballo since the election seems to have taken many people by surprise. Without a doubt there were surprises in the entire process, no denying that. What has impressed my observing eyes and ears though is how quickly and irrationally conversations today seem to explode into discord. In fact, words don’t even have to be used to elicit hatred and anger from one side or another. A simple picture of a person or icon appears enough today to meet the hand of friendly discourse with gnawing, gnashing claws and teeth.

 As an amateur student of history, all I can do is sit somewhat in the background and chuckle at the outrage (both real and pretend) as well as the new fervor of patriotism (both real and pretend). I have spent much time over the course of my life looking into the mysteries of history to try and discover this so-called time of utopia when “times were good.” To my dismay I have found no such time to have existed in the past, nor likely to exist in the future.

 Perhaps, or perhaps not, it was purely by chance that during this tumultuous time that I happened to pick up a book that has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for a long, long time. The title is “1775 Another Part of the Field,” by Ivor Noel Hume. It is an interesting look at the dispatches, news articles, personal correspondence, and government records from various sources leading up to the American Revolution. What I have noted in this introspection is similar to what I find nearly every time I read an historical account that includes more than a single point of view. Here is my simple conclusion:

We humans are a fickle bunch and we are all too eager to latch on to even the slightest offense, whether real or perceived, in order to enjoin ourselves to some real or arbitrary cause so that we can then relish in ecstasy as we welcome the burn of dopamine which courses through our brains.

 To bolster my conclusion, here’s a simple quote from Mr. Hume: “Thus, on both sides of the Atlantic, rumors both true and fake, and often a little of both, were served to the public pages of their newspapers, and the readers, being then no less gullible than they are today, generally accepted them as facts. For some extraordinary reason the public still possesses the same faith in the printed word that it has exhibited for centuries, being prepared to accept the most outrageous nonsense as the gospel truth, providing it is served on a printed page.”

 This was written in the early 1960’s about a population 200 years removed, and yet nothing really has changed. Although our cumulative acceptance now spreads to the digital screen that did not exist in Hume’s time, I could not agree more with his assumption. I cannot personally attest to how many times I have read or heard and over-the-top response to a headline only to discover that the content within the article has nothing at all to do with the outrage, slander, or otherwise vicious response.

 If anyone is really looking to find a solution to the incredible divide in our collective consciousness, all I can say to my fellow humans is something very, very profound:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

I know, that doesn’t really help with our addiction to dopamine, but I’m pretty sure it would benefit our species nonetheless.

Advertisements