Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just tell me what to think

It's hard to think for yourself. It's hard to gather all of the evidence and form your own opinion. It's time-consuming and complex and usually involves sorting through political agendas and stripping away personal vendettas. It requires that you ask the difficult questions and be prepared to hear the uncomfortable answers.

Can't you just tell me what the answer is? Can't you make it easy for me, simplify all the issues, deliver it to me in sound bytes?

The problem with allowing other people to think for you is that you absolve yourself of personal responsibility. If you vote based solely on political party, if you buy because of advertising and brand names and celebrities, if you choose to live in a way that your parents lived and your parents' parents lived and everyone you know lives, then you get what you get. You can then turn around when things crumble apart or the country goes to crap because no one wants to do anything, and say, "Well, I only did that because of him" or "Don't blame me, I didn't know anything."

More people take time to understand both sides of an argument when they are personally invested. If you have health care issues, you're going to want to know what Democrats and Republicans and the pharmaceutical companies are pitching. If you have a kid in school, you'll investigate where the tax dollars are being spent. But if you think none of this has anything to do with you, then you won't.

But it does. Everything has to do with you. You live in this society. You benefit when it's successful and you lose when it's not.

I laugh sometimes at people who deliberately play Devil's advocate, questioning the general populace, wondering why everyone loves a particular movie or book or Presidential candidate, rather than simply going along with the crowd. That's because a part of me wants to believe in the American public; I want to believe that people have taken the time to thoughtfully consider issues and are going with their conscience. But in truth, those Devil's advocates are right to question the masses. We should be able to defend our positions on issues but in reality, most of us are not. We simply repeat what has come before - clever sound bytes from commercials even if they're flat-out wrong.

Question authority. Question the crowd. Decide for yourself.