I came across this piece by Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post yesterday called Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In. Interestingly enough, the piece echoes a lot of the themes I wrote about in my last blog (TV).
In the piece she says:
"The unknowableness of current circumstances, combined with a lack of trust in our institutions, may partly be to blame for our apparent info-insatiability. People sense that they need to know more in order to understand an increasingly complex world."
I think William Greider, in his book the Soul of Capitalism puts it just as well, when he says:
"One recognizes a deepening dependence on the mysterious new machines and on the complicated organizations of modern economic life, which are operated by distant systems of decision making, themselves opaque and mechanical."
He goes on to say that:
"One paradox of the information age is that, while we are able to find out instantly so many more things than the ancestors could ever know, the anchor of self-knowledge-who we are and where we fit in, what we count for in this new scheme-seems to be weaker."
I have said for awhile that we live in a "Just in Time" world. When all the systems are operating well and in the background, we never think of them. When they start to falter, we suddenly want to know why, and what we can do about it.
I think that people sense that they need to know more as Ms. Parker says. I think it is similar to our ancestors wanting to know more about farming. Or fishing. Or whatever craft they had chosen.
The difference is, they, for the most part found the information. The ones who did not, did not survive. It was really that simple.
We search for the answers, but, I don't think we're going to find them any time soon. ESPECIALLY in the circus that counts for the media. Unfortunately, I think the big organizations who run the JIT system don't WANT you to have too much information on them. In a lot of cases, I have come to believe that the systems have become so complex, that even the "experts" don't fully understand them.
On one side of the political spectrum, we are told that the future of the earth is a dry, waterless, foodless, husk, teeming with too many people and not enough of anything else. On the other side of the spectrum we are told that the future is that of Orwell, Big Brother, Socialism, perhaps even Communism. Terrorists and bad guys behind every tree and mail box waiting to snuff out your life.
The truth MUST be somewhere in the middle. Contrary to a lot of conservative pundits, that is where most of America resides. Some slightly to the left of the middle, some slightly to the right. We must shepherd our resources, and make our industrial systems more environmentally friendly. We also must remain diligent about our security. We didn't in the years leading up to 9/11 and paid the price. But to live in fear all the time of both specters is not at all healthy.
In the very middle of those media poles, we have what is known as the Mainstream Media (although those on the right would debate this and say the MSM are decidedly pushing leftist agendas). For the most part, the Mainstream Media is looked down upon and in some cases vilified by those on the extreme information poles.
For me, they seem to be more worried about filling 24/7 worth of coverage. Most of this coverage vacillates between sappy, human interest stories, and dire coverage of dire situations. For instance, today, the big story was the First Lady touching the Queen of England - was that appropriate? Was that out of protocol? Who cares? A little bit of it is good. 24/7, not so much.
Nothing about their coverage stimulates me into any kind of deeper thought. I simply go there to find out, for the most part, basic information about world events.
As I've said before, one needs to have a balance. Too much information, and you go crazy - it is literally all you think about. Not enough, and you are ignorant, in a world that needs no more ignorance.
So how do we find the answers?
I think that is different for everyone. For some it will be a reading of the classic literature. Others it will be found in discussion and dialogue. Others will be found in a philosophical mood. For others it may be a combination of the three (and in a previous blog, I wrote about Robert Greenleaf's tasks of a competent leader - to be a historian, a contemporary analyst and a prophet all at the same time).
The answers are NOT going to be found on the churn that is 24/7 news cycles though. THAT much I'm sure of.