Thinking about life, society, and what it means to be human is essentially all my writing here is about – trying to understand what’s going on, how we got here, and what might matter most going forward.
And, in that, it’s probably clear to say there’s cause for concern (see Notes One). It often seems to me that we’re living within systems we might not fully understand – things like economics, technology, social structures, culture and media realities – and generally being asked to defer to others, to experts, in order to form our ideas and make our decisions.
Which in many ways is understandable: life has been developing so quickly in almost every direction, creating these fields of specialisation that are far beyond the thorough comprehension of ‘most people’. In light of that, it’s fairly obvious the fullest level of understanding rests in the hands of those working in each particular field.
But then there’s the question of to what extent that fragmented understanding creates a state of dependency and necessitates a large degree of trust. Outside all those isolated pockets of intelligence, is there a truly robust overview capable of holding it all in place?
It seems you either need individuals capable of containing that ever-growing wealth of understanding within a workable yet flexible ‘worldview’, or an extremely trustworthy institution able and willing to offer the same. The level to which education, culture and the media can or do offer those things is a challenge to answer.
I mean, how are we supposed to judge things? If every avenue of human endeavour is hurtling at full speed in its own direction with only market forces or relatively slow-moving government regulation to keep it in check, how are we ever to evaluate each course of action as well as the overall picture being created?
It may be reasonably ‘natural’ then that we conceive of our role as one of filtering the information we’re presented and forming some sort of logical assessment of our choices and where we stand. Which clearly raises issues of trust (in others, information and the agendas of those offering it), and draws into focus our capacity for discernment and independence.
Within that, do we become fairly passive ‘consumers’ who entrust themselves to the ultimate wisdom of modern society? Is there more to life than that? Is it possible for humanity to rise above such fragmentation and begin to chart a potentially wiser course? We might resign ourselves to juggling the competing demands of life and generally going with the flow, but who knows where that might lead (Notes Two).
None of these are easy questions, but they’re important ones (Notes Three). As in many of the posts mentioned below, we surely are often placing our trust and our future in the hands of business or the willingness of others to regulate it. If we hope for a future that works from a human perspective, it may be we need to take a different role in bringing that about.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Economy & Humanity
Note 1: The web and the wider world
Note 1: Human nature and community life
Note 1: Nature speaks in many ways, do we listen?
Note 1: Modern media and complex realities
Note 2: What we bring to life
Note 2: Right to question and decide
Note 2: Complexity of life
Note 3: Responsibility in shaping this reality
Note 3: The need for discernment
Note 3: Can we reinvigorate how we’re living?
The idea of what it takes to make changes, and forms that’s taking in our times, were explored a little in Patience with the pace of change.