These are difficult times we live in, not the worst, but still difficult. Our parents, grand parents or even great grand parents lived through world war 2 or maybe even the depression. They may have had to deal with issues difficult to explain, never mind navigate. Even still our times have very peculiar dangers.
North America is in a civil war, not with guns and bullets but with words, ideologies, health/safety and politics. The dangers of these circumstances may be just as devastating to our lives as bullets. Workplace circumstances can be a social landmine, and even a family gathering can be intensely divisive.
One of the first casualties in any war is the truth. Mark Twain said “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”. That was almost a century before the internet. I think a lie can now travel ten times faster than the truth did a century ago while simultaneously becoming ten times more prolific. Lies (fake news) is not the exclusive domain of only one side of a hotly disputed national topic. I have personally investigated an issue from both perspectives and found gross misrepresentations and lies peddled by BOTH sides. When I confronted one origin they simply said their counterpart lies constantly, in order to balance out perspectives you have to “create passion” in the other direction. So, Lies justify lying? Is this what will reconcile division? Of course not! We must accept that some people are lost in their passions and fear and will not return on their own accord.
I read a fare amount of books. I like catchy titles. One of my favorite titles is Andy Grove’s book “Only the Paranoid Survive”. In summary, its a management book that tells his story of surviving in an environment of continuous change. My all time favorite book title is from Harvey Mackay “Beware of the Naked Man who offers you his Shirt”. There is a story for everyone in the title alone. Though I don’t read as many books as some, I keep my library focused on what I call “classics”. Books that are not time sensitive or “faddish”. They hold wisdom for decades and centuries to come. Someone can read them a hundred years from now and still learn something applicable.
In the high conflict media environment (social and main stream+) there is much more opinion and outright lies (fake news) than there is truth. If there is truth out there, it is being drowned out by dis-information. On a pleasant note, less and less are listening to all forms of lies. People are becoming overloaded with information and dis-information, tuning out the yelling masses, preferring to walk their dog than to listen/watch the news. There is hope for the wise.
One of my most ardent personal policies is… “never believe anyone more than 95%”. Five percent of our minds must be set aside for a skeptics opinion, no matter who the origin is. Admittedly there are about four people in my life that I have not found anything I disagree with… yet. However, I always reserve the right to know they are wrong… somewhere. The 95% policy comes from Andy Grove’s title, though admittedly there are probably more perfect origins to defend it. The rule is universal… in fact I only believe 95% of what I say. Many things I believe are and will be subject to revision… maybe not immediately, but given sufficient facts I will concede just about any issue. It may save me from joining a cult. I just want to make sure I’m not drinking someone else’s Kool-Aid (Jonestown Massacre)… or making sure I’m not leaning my ladder against the wrong wall (Stephen Covey).
Harvey Mackay’s book title alone harbors a wealth of wisdom. A naked man can offer you whatever he thinks you would want in order to garner your support. However, he is naked! He does not have the power to give you anything… he has nothing to offer. When listening to people I always ask… what are they selling? What is their benefit to having me agree with them? Are they seeking the truth or are they there just to gain my support? Why would a naked man offer someone a shirt? What is the naked man benefiting?
I hope I am a healthy skeptic. I hope I can survive this civil war without becoming a civilian casualty. My plan is simple… stay out of the line of fire. Restrict listening to all forms of media to 1 hour a week maximum. Stay publicly opinion-less, acknowledging that sometimes not siding with someone automatically marks you as an enemy. If so then take the mark, but take it with grace and humility. Retain a gentile, compassionate and generous attitude when all those around you are loosing their minds. It will eventually bode you well. It may become your life saver.
When the world zigs… learn to zag. When cruelty abounds, reach out with compassion and generosity. Let your goodness show when others ugliness seems to dominate. Change your environment to the one you want our society to emulate. It will be what separates the good from the evil, the right from the wrong, the Canadian from the Anti-Canadian.