I have started all of my Writings of Minimal Distraction with this preface, this disclaimer, this admission. And I have never thought of it as a statement of humility, or a way of saying that I am any less worthy of writing the words that followed. It was a way to at once, clearly state that I was not in any way proclaiming myself an expert and pat myself on the back for being a thinker, a noun that I honestly deserves a capital “T”. So from here on I will do just that. And this all brings me to what I want to talk about, the ability – dare I say the right – to share my thinkings, my musings, my opinions, my two-cents (or whatever inflation has rendered that amount in today’s rate of exchange). And not just my right – and your right – to share these, but our right to do so without intimidation or condescension or marginalizing.
I could go on and on about the world economy, the prevalence and convenience of the internet, social media and even self-publishing ebooks. But we all know about these things. We all use these things. So what’s my issue?
It is becoming more and more common to see (which usually means read) people express their opinions and then self-identified “experts” swoop in and, there’s no better way to put it, be rudely dismissive. And if these contradictory interlopers aren’t the “experts” themselves, they have internet links at the ready to post to places, organizations, websites, institutions, polls, fact-checkers, etc. where “experts” there have issued forth their tenets and edicts and these shall in every way render your opinions and experiences and points of view irrelevant and reprehensibly unfortunate. At which point you must cease and desist. Should you attempt to discount or otherwise address their irrefutable sources, you are engaging in at least heresy, probably hypocrisy and definitely “ad hominem attacks”. What? When? Why? And most importantly, so the f**k what?
It’s all knowledge. No, knowledge is not ONLY facts. And it’s not always truths. What am I saying? I’m sure the Ivory Tower Intelligentsia and their Agents are readying link after link to encyclopedia and dictionary entries to slap upon me that say that knowledge is ONLY “facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition”. How could I possibly refute the authority of the dictionary? To hell with dictionaries, that’s how. What is this blasphemy, coming from a writer and someone who says how important words are? I have a better question. Who decides what gets in the dictionary in the first place and what doesn’t? Is it a large body of super smart people, mixed with a bunch of regular Joes and Janes who then present to everyone and we all get to vote? Sort of an American Idol for our language? Uh, no. Not nearly. Just a handful of people decide what is acceptable to say and write for the six billion plus rest of us. And guess what, that same formula – a tiny few decide what goes for the VAST rest of us – is the same formula used for what we get as news, how we are educated in schools, who is worthy of government appropriated and redistributed wealth, who are celebrity, who runs our governments, what laws are written and how they’re enforced, science and so much more. I’m not promoting anarchy or mob rule or any other such extreme form of civilization (so put away your links). What I am saying is that everyone’s voice, everyone’s input, everyone’s subjective take, everyone’s personal repository of knowledge is equally important and equally useful and should therefore be afforded no less respect and acceptance. Because the term knowledge covers not just facts, but experience and opinions too. All shared information is knowledge. Because it is all a part of an ever-increasing data set which as a species we can use to cross-reference, cross-check and cross-pollinate how we evolve. Even lies, bullcrap and scams are knowledge.
And if you ever think you have all the right answers and your answers are the only answers and anyone else’s answers are in any way invalid or irrelevant or worthy of your disdain or dismissal I want to just remind of a few events and instances in history that throw that mentally manky and myopic stance out like rancid rubbish. In no particular order and as a bulleted list. If you don’t understand something, Google it:
The Earth is flat
Weapons of Mass Destruction
The universe revolves around the earth
Ain’t, aint a word
A 24-hour news channel will never make it
Pharaohs control the weather
World War One, the “war to end all wars”
“No new taxes”
Any financial meltdown of any country in history
The League of Nations
The Jetsons (where’s my flying car in a briefcase?!)
Eggs are bad for you eggs are good for you
The list could go on and on. We were told, promised cajoled, coerced and “educated” on these things. They were facts. They were absolutes. Standing against these things often had dire repercussions. Even the minor ones, if you said you believed something counter to the prevailing, preached and pressed “knowledge” you were chastised and berated as an idiot and/or uninformed. And anything you said afterwards was to be at least held in derision and probably thrown out. You dared go against the “experts”!
Guess what? With all our liberties and conveniences and easy access to knowledge and mass communication, we’re entering a new era of the same. It’s uber-easy for you to post on your Facebook page that you just had two fried eggs and a Diet Coke as part of your breakfast. And within seconds, the comments cascading below them might go something like this:
Expert #1: You shouldn’t eat fried eggs. They have carcinogens in them and they give you the bad sort of cholesterol.
Expert #2: Diet Coke has aspartame. UR killing yourself drinking that. U should stop.
Expert #3: [some sort of link]
Expert #4: [some link to a Snopes.com article]
Expert #5: You’re killing the environment drinking Diet Coke from an aluminum can
You: I never said I the Diet Coke was from a can. The Diet Coke came from a bottle.
Expert #5: Plastic is even worse. [provides some link]
You: It came from a glass bottle.
Expert #1: Glass production creates carcinogens too. It’s people like you that just don’t care about kids with cancer!!! SO DISAPPOINTED IN YOU!!!
You: My grandmother lived to 105 and she ate fried eggs everyday
Expert #2: [link to some study from some university somewhere about life expectancy]
Experts. All of them. Or they know experts. Or they have links to experts. The problem is wrapped up like this:
It is becoming “wrong” for you to have an opinion. It is becoming acceptable and “helpful” to correct everyone at any time over anything for any reason. And it is then “wrong” if you, as the person “corrected”, refute or argue your position. Mercy if you have the unmitigated gall and heathen tendencies to refute any of the modern organized religions – and they don’t all have a god or gods like we’re used to thinking of them. If you try to stand up to one of these “isms”, you are asking for the wrath of incredulity and the bony finger of indignation that makes the Inquisition look like a neighborhood watch program.
In closing let me say this: “Shut up”, in whatever form, phrase, dialect, synonym, euphemism or any other disguise, is unacceptable and WRONG. There are NO experts on this planet. I don’t give a soaring rodent’s rectum what you think, what you claim, where you went to school, what study you reference, who you know, how many PHDs you have, or what the dictionary or Wiki-damn-pedia says. You will listen/read whatever I offer as opinion, experience and in any other form, knowledge and you will absorb it and you will like it and be better for it.