OPINION — We’ve long understood that a deficiency in certain nutrients and vitamins can have serious consequences on our health. Fortunately, mankind has discovered over time that formerly common diseases can be corrected simply by getting enough of the right vitamins.
Simple things like citrus fruits, sunlight and fresh vegetables have made maladies like scurvy, rickets and pellagra virtually unknown in modern society.
Even so, people who give little thought to what they consume tend to encounter unexpected health consequences more often than those whose diets reflect a conscientious effort to eat wisely.
A similar dynamic can be observed in the effects of what we prefer to consume intellectually.
For example, how many of us know individuals who spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over whatever is leading the current media news cycle? Whether it’s outrage over President Trump, the latest so-called government shutdown or some other event dominating the headlines, we all know folks who live their lives in a constant state of indignation.
What they’re feeling may be real, but they’re allowing themselves to become emotionally invested in things that have little to no tangible effect on their lives. Rather than engaging in the kind of personal actions that could have measurable impact on the world around them, they become passive complainers who simply regurgitate whatever media content they’ve been consuming.
A steady diet of mass media soundbites is not balanced enough to provide us with the kind of mental and spiritual nourishment that allows us to be problem solvers. As a result, many people are suffering from a form of “truth deficiency.”
This does not mean they are stupid or lack character. It simply acknowledges that few people today are in the habit of seeking the truth.
This is somewhat understandable considering the amount of effort and commitment required to obtain truth. Most people aren’t prepared to endure the fatigue of developing their understanding and learning how to think clearly and independently.
It’s much easier to take our cues, in the form of simplified slogans, from highly paid media figures. When they tell us what or whom to fear, what to regard as important and what our attitudes should be, they’re not doing it to help us become informed, active citizens.
They’re spoon-feeding us a form of intellectual gruel, flavored with hype, sensationalism and titillation and garnished with a splash of blood. The long-term effects of consuming this on a daily basis include a higher susceptibility to fear, anger and guilt.
These emotions make us significantly easier to manipulate and to lead along.
If we’re serious about seeing the world as it really is, we must be willing to take ownership of the need to seek after truth at an individual level. This can be difficult for a number of reasons.
Researching, studying and vetting information requires a serious investment of time. That’s a luxury few of us enjoy.
Our leisure time – meaning the discretionary time we have outside of providing for our needs – should encompass more than simply play or rest. People who are making a difference, at any level, are using their leisure time to better themselves and their understanding.
Here are a few suggestions about how to overcome truth deficiency and to keep it at bay.
If you must watch the mass media, pay close attention to stories or issues that elicit strong emotional responses. Knowing how to ask the right questions is of greater value than simply knowing the right answer.
Get in the habit of asking yourself “Does this story genuinely affect my life, or am I giving someone else power over my emotions?”
It may be helpful to consider exactly who stands to benefit from the way a particular story is being presented. You may want to ask “Is the person telling me this information paying a price for speaking truth?”
Typically, the kinds of sources that can be trusted are those who have skin in the game and who are willing to suffer in order to speak the truth. Those who have nothing at stake and who seem to be immune to the consequences of their words are far more likely to engage in deception.
A good rule of thumb is whether the source is more concerned about gaining the approval of others or more concerned about speaking the truth, even when it is unpopular to do so.
Disinformation and fake news are the new normal. Individuals who speak unpopular truths are routinely treated with hostility and distrust.
Also, ask questions like “How much do I really know about this person/issue that hasn’t been told to me by someone else?” If the answer is very little, be careful about hanging your hat on it.
Not everyone prizes truth. However, those who do better be capable of recognizing it, defending it and sharing it freely.
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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