Deadpan Glee

I don’t usually watch the news. I find it off-putting to watch stories of the outrageous and tragic presented with an attitude of deadpan glee. In ten minutes I’ve already watched a song and dance about an oil spill, a dead woman in a ditch and a stabbed baby. Nearly all the anchors have been so cosmetically modified that they are beginning to tip over into the uncanny valley. I find the content questionable and the presentation in poor taste with the emphasis on entertainment value instead of informational integrity.

But this is nothing new.

My generation doesn’t trust the media. We don’t trust politicians or government. We don’t trust the market. We don’t trust advertisers. It’s not hard to see why: critical thinking is difficult when you can find a source to support or denigrate any opinion with increasingly sophisticated algorithms learning and prioritizing our preferences. It’s difficult to get a balanced view of anything when we are beset at every turn with our own confirmation bias.

I think, in this world, information had become a game of gladiatorial combat. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my autocorrect tried to suggest “glamorous” and “gratuitous” as alternative words. We drag out every badly behaved opinion, every dirty secret, every impolitic bias into a battle to the death and wonder why no one comes out clean.

“Are there no good people left in the world?!” We lament. “Is there no one worthy of our trust anymore?!”

As if trust is a large and precious thing that we hold fully formed and give only to the worthy to be treasured and preserved forever. We want our trust to be fully formed and perfect and we want the people and institutions that we entrust to be perfect and infallible.

But trust is a little thing and it grows in the dirt. Humans are good with dirt.

I think we sometimes mistake perfection for worthiness: there is a difference, after all, between someone who is perfect because they have never made a mistake and someone who is worthy because they have failed often and grievously but have prevailed in spite of them. Perfection is beautiful but sterile. Worthiness is messy but fertile. I struggle to remind myself of this: that trust is a seed that is best spread widely and that it won’t always flourish but sometimes it might take root in unexpected places.

I guess this post got more philosophical than I expected. I take that as a sign it’s to me to call it a night.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 19, 2015.

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