Can You Think On Your Own Two Feet?
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Politics and Activism

Can You Think On Your Own Two Feet?

If not, it is time to start.

Can You Think On Your Own Two Feet?

At any given moment a heaving sea of information is begging to be tapped, swiped, and shared by our fingertips and yet many fail to realize that just like the sea is polluted by human waste, so is the internet by human ignorance and bias. It is a cliché saying but as I scroll through Facebook, Instagram, and overhear conversations, I wonder if people truly understand that not everything on the internet is true...and so does Barrack Obama. Whether you support him or not his observation, given in his commencement speech to Rutgers, that, “ ...ironically, the flood of information hasn’t made us more discerning of the truth. In some ways, it’s just made us more confident in our ignorance” hits the nail on the head but also urges us to evaluate what we know as fact as well as fiction.

It is well known that humans are creatures of habits and that aspect of humanity causes individuals to draw from the same websites and news sources again and again for the information that they seek. However, a mindset that is nothing short of provincial will be crafted if only one the watering hole is visited to sustain it, noted by Obama when he says, “We search for sites that just reinforce our own predispositions. Opinions masquerade as facts. The wildest conspiracy theories are taken for gospel.” Instead of meticulously looking for information that validates what we believe, it is time for us to push our intellectual comfort zones and step outside of the well-trodden path of what we know as true. The issues of the world are not black or white but instead vacillating amongst a spectrum of gray where more than one truth resides. Nothing should be “taken for gospel,” no news source can give you the absolute truth, it was written by humans....and even the best journalist is biased, so look at more than once place when you seek knowledge. No past leader should be idolized to the point that they become a mythic figure to which all leaders are measured against. Social circumstances change, the world stage rearranges itself often, so every leader is tasked with the difficulty of making decisions for the world no one has even made decisions for. Therefore, be wary of your criticisms when attacking someone in a position that you will never be able to experience being in. As mentioned by Obama do not believe that the good old days were really that wonderful, the past begs to be romanticized. It is quixotic to believe that the previous eras marked by wars, depression, and civil rights issues were really as wonderful as some make it seem. As with everything, the past held good times and bad times but ultimately the present must be the main focus.

When we will ourselves into a position where we cap the capacity of our mind to reason, a culture of anti-intellectualism is spawned. People become content to happily mimic the opinions of their parents, neighbors, friends and teachers. They latch onto an opinion without understanding why it is theirs and forget about it until it is convenient to use for riling “small talk.” Opinions need facts, reason, and common sense to keep them afloat and valid in debate and everyday use; more attention needs to be given to crafting them. It is so easy to hop onto Facebook and like quick DIY meal videos, or watch a puppy befriend a kitten, but some of that time could be used to research your beliefs and test them against others. Know why you believe something and know it well, do not try to argue against the other side if you are not informed.

At a speech given to scholars of the Phi Betta Kappa chapter in Cambridge, many years before Obama gave his at Rutgers, Ralph Waldo Emerson looked out across a crowd of students and stated about the scholar that, “In the right state, he is, Man Thinking. In the degenerate state, when the victim of society, he tends to become a mere thinker, or, still worse, the parrot of other men's thinking.” Man was given a brain of such superior ability for many purposes, but one being for the benefit of the individual to think for themselves. As a society, we cannot become stagnant in our ideas or “parrot” those of others. We must harness the power of individuality, we must be a flirt with the ideas the repel us, and we must reject absolutes because there is no such thing.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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