Looking for the Darkness
I was recently accused of constantly looking for the dark side of life. Apparently all I do is see everything from a negative perspective—I see world events this way, I see the news in the Washington Post this way, I see a negative purpose behind things that are presented as good things, things meant to help people, like digital IDs and bank cards inserted under the skin in our hands, or cameras placed everywhere to stop crime, or even masks—I can’t see the good in them, only the bad, only the potential of being not just bad but really bad.
What could be negative about these wonderful things—these things designed to make our world a better place? Sure, they say, some things (like digital IDs) could be used in bad ways if bad people got a hold of them, but why do I have to always dig around to find something bad that could happen? Why can’t I just be happy and trust that not everyone (in authority) is “out to get me”?
I must be honest; I am not quite sure why I am accused of this. I am typically not an overly suspicious person. In fact, I am quite gullible. I can easily be conned. But if something is obvious, and I happen to be looking directly at it, I usually can see it. I don’t have to look very hard. If I start to look more intently because of what I naturally see, I am then doing research, or gathering for more detail. Doesn’t everyone do this? Apparently not. And those who do, like me, are getting flak for it, and being accused of “making things up” or believing in conspiracy theories—things that supposedly are not clear to anyone else. So then we are accused of fabricating, looking for, some hidden dark agenda. There seems to be a belief that many people hold that says if you don’t know something then it isn’t true, and then you spoil the fun if you actually point something out; you’ve then made something true that didn’t used to be true because it wasn’t known. You are looking for trouble. Bad boy.
Some would say, and I wouldn’t particularly disagree with them, that we, as a culture, have been trained to not look, not see, not hear. We are trained to only listen to what has been conveyed to us by the central source, the voice of authority. This seems to make the most sense because the accusation of “looking for the negative” is typically presented with anger and not curiosity—anger projected at you because you have broken the rules by looking, something you have been taught not to do. When I am told by a friend something negative about something I thought was innocuous, my first response is curiosity, “what did I miss? Oh, really, hmmm, let me think about that.” Not the response I get, “why do you only see the negative?”
A critical thinking person who is not yet brainwashed lines up patterns, connects dots, sees logical consistency, plausibility, and statistical integrity when confronted with new information. All these rather complex processes take place largely unconsciously. If things don’t all fit, the thinker scratches his head or rubs his chin. “Hmmm, why doesn’t that make sense?” Cognitive dissonance is one of the most powerful itches that need scratching that humans must deal with. In caveman days it is the thing that got us through life and away from the jaws of the Sabretooth Tiger. It is what put us where we are today, and any psychological manipulation attempted by an authoritarian government isn’t worth its salt if it is not designed to stop this process of critical thinking.
There are many things that can distract us from seeing the obvious, not just a lack of, or degradation of, the critical mind. There is a very interesting experiment called the “Monkey Business Illusion” or “The Invisible Gorilla” devised by two Harvard alumni, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. Before describing the experiment, which would spoil it for any readers who want to check it out, I will present this link to follow. Follow THIS. When you are finished, come back and I will go into more detail. You can also read more about the experiment HERE and HERE.
Chabris and Simons set out to show that if people were distracted you could place almost anything in their field of vision, and they will miss it. Apparently, the brain is not all that good at multitasking and sorting out everything that it is looking at. If this happens with visual phenomena it certainly will happen in nearly any situation—through the physical senses or through the intellect. We generally can focus on only one thing at a time. If we focus on the positive, for example, we will only see the positive. And, conversely, if we focus on the negative, we will only see the negative. However, this conclusion only works within certain boundaries. If we are just casually observing, without choosing a particular thing to focus on, we will, through a sort of common-sense perception, pick up on a large diverse array of data. These data are then processed through, as described above, and conclusions about the data are made—conclusions or confusions. This is where the intentional manipulation comes in—present something to focus on and if you are successful the observer may miss some rather important elements outside the periphery of the focus.
We all know what happened with the Ukraine/Russia conflict. Suddenly the mainstream media shifted their focus radically to Europe and war. Covid news disappeared overnight as quickly as it appeared two and a half years ago.
Again, for some mysterious reasons, many of us are not so easily distracted. And, according to what I am driving home here in this article, we don’t have to necessarily look for the darkness to see it plain and simply. We don’t have to be negative people in general to distrust information that simply does not make sense to a critical eye. Humans are supposed to be slightly suspicious and curious about the world about them, and it doesn’t take much observation to see that the world is a complex place, and it isn’t all pretty. Governments, as well as the wealthy elite, historically have presented a lot of selfish manipulation in the world. There has been a global share of corruption, evil, and inflicted suffering. In reality, very little that has been handed down to the average person has been helpful, or even benevolent. This is a very unfortunate truth, but a truth, nonetheless. It is not wholly accurate to say everything is evil in disguise, but it is safe to say the majority of what the powerful, privileged, ruling classes of the global community has inflicted on the lower echelons of the population has done more harm than good for those people. Some might say this has changed for the positive in recent years. I think the evidence proves it has not.
In my opinion it is our moral, and civic, duty to be on our toes to be certain whatever powerful factions above us walk the straight and narrow. Not only governments and leaders, but the wealthy elite, and the wealthy corporations and institutions. One common denominator I’ve noticed in the current shrew class is their unusual familiarity with world history. The many I have met know something about the past, about corrupt governments, the historic world’s penchant for enslaving the masses, in privileged control over the weak and less fortunate, and the insatiable thirst for power, money, and control. These are obvious things to see, you do not have to look for them. We should all be aware of them, all of us. In relatively good times (and believe me, the term “good times” is relative to your station in the global scheme of things) we do not need to dwell on the negative (although there is good argument that all of us privileged folks should dwell on such issues as world hunger, human rights, the abuse of women and children, among other global atrocities much more than we do) but we need to constantly watch our back, and when we clearly see things going in a very suspicious direction, to take note, speak out, and make every effort to alter its course.