I loved the movie “Up”. It’s a lovely little story, as a piece of craft it’s excellent, and it’s pretty funny. One of the best little touches is the way they really nailed the characters of dogs. I can’t even think of the dog Dug without smiling. One of the funniest things was the random interruptions of the dogs suddenly snapping their attention off of whatever was going on to “squirrel!”.
Not so funny, to look around and see the kind of twitching diverted attention of humans that make me think about this as a comparison.
We’ve got ourselves an epidemic of attention problems. A decade into the 21st century, we have a giant stack of complex, big, and often interwoven tangled knots of problems, and failing to get a grip on these is the biggest of all. People are distracted and diverted by all kinds of petty silliness and, often, just plain bullshit, and you get things like, somehow, a whole epic melodrama about Gay Marriage as some sort of Great Issue of Our Time.
No, I’m not even going to talk about that. You can turn on a television any day and find people paired off in the usual team A versus team B chattering.
In the meantime, the real problems hang over us and swirl around us, and a tiny minority of people try to get a serious grasp on what those are and what we might do about them. Really, just get a grip on general comprehension of one of the problems is challenge enough, if people are realistic and honest about it.
I occasionally see somebody who does have a pretty good grasp of some particular problem, or maybe even a more broad comprehensive view of macroscopic level interwoven and interacting problems, and I try to point some of them out.
Most of those people seem to be getting lost in the noise, or worse, badly misunderstood, and/or disregarded and dismissed, or even ridiculed or reviled in some way because they aren’t neatly lined up with some particular neatly defined batch of clichés, platitudes, or “talking points”.
Let’s face it. Too many people just like to believe it’s easier to find a herd to join and let them do their thinking for them, stand there saying “yeah, what those guys said!”, enjoy some reassuring feeling that they’re hanging with the right crowd, and go on with whatever they were doing. Especially if things facing them are complex and difficult, and there seems to be a probability that there might not be some satisfying resolution to the matter at hand before the top of the hour and time for a new show to start after the commercials.
The last time out, the theme was the Great Misallocation. The misallocations have occurred and continue in many things, and time and attention and thought and energy are among them.
Yeah, you might think, sure, pal, you say that, banging away at a computer keyboard into the grand voids of the interwebs.
I’m just trying to pay attention to some of the right things, and hope to nudge a few other people into doing so.
There are people who have enough knowledge, intelligence, sensible perspective, and general honesty to follow where facts of reality and reason lead, and see things as they are and articulate the matters at hand. They have a tough task, breaking through the noise pollution and what we have around us in some kind of mass shared consensus of halluncinations and delusion.
It has to be one of the great tragic ironies of human history that, as we live in an era where there is more available than ever before, in terms of ways to reach people and access knowledge and understanding of almost any subject, it’s completely clogged and polluted with general noise and confusion, and way too often, sheer idiocy or blatant lying. It’s almost biblical, like, Tower of Babel biblical.
If I may make an analogy to past history, it’s like there are people trying to tell the world “you know, it turns out that in fact, the Earth is a spherical body, not flat, and revolves in a path circling around the sun”, but right alongside them in the public square, and far louder, are people shouting “if only you give me money and resources for my research, I will very soon deliver to you a method to transform lead into gold!”. And the crowd ignores the guy making a fundamental point of understanding the universe and focuses on thinking “what? gold from lead you say? tell us more!“.
You know, as I finish typing that thought, I think that analogy might really hit a whole batch of things, in essence. It could apply as a general pattern to a bunch of topics. Somebody is standing up and addressing whomever might listen and explaining some facts of reality about how the universe actually works and… wait… what’s this over here… a way to easy bountiful wealth?