Learning things. (Two.)

(This is the second part of my rantings and ravings (occasionally little better than the manifesto about the evils of money, complete with photocopied copies and pencil sketches of the Messiah, that we regularly receive at the cinema). Part One is here.)

We seem to be reaching critical mass on gists. I hate that TL;DR is acceptable (in some circles) as a reply to items of fewer than a hundred words. It’s one of the most arrogant things a person can say/type: I can’t be bothered to fully understand what you are writing, but I must make my mark. It’s so fucking POINTLESS and sums up exactly what I hate about the hypertext age.

(I still love it too, as it is wonderful to go straight to a reference, or get a video demonstration of something alongside an explanation of how it works, or a million other marvellous things that makes the internet so interesting and useful.)

There are too many words and not enough reading with understanding. The wilful underliteracy combined with the non-ability, and the unwillingness to learn anything in-depth that a squillion people share in this ‘Information Age’ is staggering.

A: Hey, did you hear about the Red Bull guy’s son?
B: Oh, yeah, he died in a car crash in Thailand.
A: No…
B: He almost died in a car crash?
A: Not quite.
B: Motorcycle accident?
A: No, he was in a car accident that killed a Thai police officer.
B: Oh, I only saw a headline this morning. Maybe it was still a breaking story? I’m not sure.

Which one am I in the conversation? The dingbat who half-read something on Twitter and pretended to understand the article to which it linked, which was never read. It was the verbal equivalent of TL;DR.

Here’s a thought, self, and everyone else, you don’t have to comment on everything, especially stuff you don’t know anything about. Nor do you have to know everything. But, really, you should know some things. I know a little bit about a lot of things, which is both beneficial and detrimental. Some people know almost everything* about a few things. Ditto. But don’t revel or subsist on knowing very little about everything. Be curious, ask questions, and learn something. Don’t just parrot celebrities either – contribute thoughtful thoughts to discussions after learning those things. No one gives a shit should be basing their vote on what Kim Kardashian thinks about Romney.

I think just relying on getting the gist of things is having a crippling effect, particularly on how we are governed, and who gets elected. Knowing things, having the capacity to follow logic, and empathy have been replaced by sound bites (often terrible ones) and lack of critical rhetoric, particularly from certain news networks and from people in government. This is controversial, but I don’t think that politicians or journalists should be allowed to pursue either of those careers without demonstrating actual knowledge about actual issues, in an in-depth fashion, and preferably backed up with a solid education and/or working history. You should be curious, thoughtful, and more concerned with with accuracy and problem-solving than getting on television. You should NOT be able to bumble your way in because you’ve whitened your teeth and like to talk a lot, but have no interest in understanding anything.

Fox News’ll never go for that, though.

* I would prefer to be an expert in SOMETHING, but I suspect I’m not wired that way.

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