Read the Bills Act Coalition

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Guiding Light or Golden Calf - Why we Follow Instead of Lead the Debate

This is part 1 in a 5 part series about why we would rather follow then lead in the debate for our country's future.....

Part 1 The Intro to our Demise - Repeating what we hear without knowing what we're saying

Recently, I have been having a lot of conversations with people who seem only to regurgitate sound bites and talking points that come from celebrities or personalities instead of from the convictions or own self education of the person that I’m talking with about a given topic. When you take the conversation down a level to the actual meaning of what these peoples believe, their arguments tend to break down and they are left with no reply or that of attack or “because so and so said it so it has to be true” infantile grumbling that serves no purpose but to inflame a divide in this country. I have written in the past that the biggest shame of the last 30 years has been the breakdown of public debate and that the divisive nature of this country is growing exponentially with each passing year. This divide is further fueled by those that listen to the talking heads of our society and don’t research those points to know if they are: 1.) Valid and accurate, 2.) well thought out 3.) hold up to one’s internal sense of right and wrong and 4.) Is not slanted to fit an ideology (rather than a core fact that bolsters the ideology), 5) on the surface sounds good but is inapplicable in a real world setting.

The biggest culprit of this is obviously talk radio, TV political round table shows and blogs, since no one reads the paper any longer. These shows attract many listeners and viewers each and every week, inspiring them to go out and repeat the latest nuggetof wisdom that they have heard (or read ) with no real ingestion of what has been said and the context of those statements. Whether it be Rush, Beck, Randi Rhodes, Alan Colmes or Katie Couric, these talking heads all have disciples that spew what they hear with no reverence to why their sources are saying the things that they say; a dangerous path to journey. Just like a customer that doesn’t read the fine print on a contract and then is surprised when they are taken for a ride, so too must we be weary of follow men (and women) on what they say when we don’t know what they actually believe. Putting your trust in someone you don’t know, whether it is a Presidential candidate, talk show host or celebrity, and letting what they say mold what you believe without vetting it for yourself has proven out mixed results at best. As history proves,  that the outcome of blindly following a leader is mostly dependant on the leader’s intention and actions and not the words they use to explain their actions...this dichotomy can lead the follower to perform extreme acts of evil or acts of good in the name of those leaders…the problem is, most of us won’t know which it is until after the acts are committed.

Now before everyone starts to think that I believe that Glen Beck will start a cult and then suggest all his followers have a little Kool-Aid drink or President Obama will round up conservatives and put them in interment camps, rest assured I do not believe these things will happen….yet. There may be great leaders out there now (maybe not) that have the best of intentions but the shear nature that the populous doesn’t question these leaders is the problem that needs to be addressed. The non-questioning is the issue (not the leaders) and when we begin to blindly follow those in charge because they are skilled in saying the "buzz" words we want to hear but may or may not have our best interest at heart we then will end up in bad places we never dreamed of nor can wakeup from. Going along with what someone says, with out vetting out, leads to misinformation which leads to bad decisions that will lead to even more misinformation and bad decisions which leads to more misinformation and bad decisions and so on until, as with dominoes put on their sides one after another and given a push, can lead to something not foreseen before the first domino was tilted over. The power we give these “talking heads” takes away the power we all have to decide for ourselves what to believe and what not to believe and then to act on those beliefs accordingly.

As I grow older, I am constantly intrigued by what is believed and what is actually true with a little research (wives tales, urban legends, community misinformation etc.) and the resistance of some people to challenge what they “know” to what is true. Most of this is due to the mindset that no one wants to look like the village idiot so they believe what they are told because “everyone else” believes it as well. The problem with that theory is that when everyone believes inaccurate information then instead of one village idiot, you end up with an idiot village. Politics seems to have been spawned from this theory, since each side wants to paint the other with perceived ills that may or may not be true. These groups, to be honest with you, seem to really not even care if the inaccuracies are found out since at least one person will believe it if repeated enough times and propagate it to others. We must, as voters and citizens, take up the mantle and research for ourselves what works and what doesn’t, engage in substantive debate about those ideas and then act on them accordingly. When we make idols out of others, especially those that make a living espousing a particular viewpoint, we must be wearying of not doing our own due diligence first, lest we be taken as fools when the intentions of these flawed deities see the light of day.

- Jody Wilcox

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