Humans are a creature of duality. Our understanding of the world is binary; we simply cannot accept anything without understanding its opposite. This is ingrained in our very nature. Even our definitions often require a description of the opposite. We don’t understand dark without light. We can’t have good without evil. Dry requires wet. There are very few things that can stand alone without influence from its opposite. The result of this necessity for binary in human thought is that EVERYTHING has a positive side and a negative side. The more part of our life it is, whatever IT may be, the stronger the extremes.
Enter technology. Especially that technology that has allowed the internet to become such a powerful force. The internet is capable of bringing the world together in a way that was at one time not even conceivable. We can share information instantaneously, which has major benefits for all aspects of life, whether it be business or saving a life. People can experience cultures and parts of the world they never dreamed of, without even leaving their house. These are some of the wonders such technology has given us. But these wonders have their flip side. Enmity can be shared just as quickly. Hatred, misinformation, manipulation … all are also much easier through the use of the same technology.
A magician masterfully guides the focus of people where ever he or she chooses, thus ensuring that the audience sees the intended illusion. This is the art of misdirection. Guiding the senses, or blocking that which will reveal too much. It is a powerful tool. Technology allows us to use media devices in the same way, and with editing software and name dropping, we can create memes and other media that get people thinking exactly what we want them to think. This is a danger we ALL face, no matter how smart or aware one might be. In these insecure days, when the media is controlled by corporate agendas, and most people find their information about the world through social networking, it becomes a truly scary method of spreading information. Just because the news says it; just because it LOOKS fancy and legitimate; just because someone famous may or may not be saying it; plain and simply does not make it true. It is an even more difficult trap to avoid when you are already willing to believe, or better yet want it to be true.
It is this kind of misdirection that is causing so much tension in the world. It has always been so, even before the technology. Once we simply accepted the words of our supposed betters, the ones in power, or the allegedly more educated, because we trusted them. This still happens today, but add the abundance of additional information out there, and the truth is often well hidden in pretty colors. Say something online, many will believe it simply because it was said online. Add a celebrity voice to it, and it is even more believed. Add a picture and now we all “know” it is fact. Especially if it is a fact we want to know. This is why hatred and intolerance not only survives in the world, but thrives.
So how do we combat misdirection? Think! Educate ourselves. Educate our children. Don’t limit ourselves with tunnel vision. It may sound cynical, but every time we encounter something that is intended to fire us up against another group, QUESTION IT! I am not saying nothing is ever true, but one convincing sounding argument does NOT the truth make. Let’s try assuming the best about others for a change, instead of the worst, and see where THAT kind of thinking takes us.