In this golden age of post truth and hyper individuality, the vane which points our direction is pinioned by nothing but our feelings. Our whims act as gusts, swiveling an already uninformed compass of knowledge into inner realms of fear and anxiety where conspiracy and distrust thrive.
At once, we bemoan our lack of community while exalting our individuality into the stratosphere. We cite this lack of community as a precursor to our cultural stagnancy, our collective malaise and dearth of purpose, yet we proudly decry the progress our communal knowledge has left at our feet. Instead, we opt to appeal to our anxieties, hunches, and hopes, in lieu of our rational mind and at the detriment of our health. Today, for some, their sense of self-importance trumps all else, and anti-vaccination is the acropolis on which they are willing to die upon.
Where once we were proud to proclaim our progress in the sciences, now we distrust experts more than ever, using dog whistles of the day to signal our allegiance to false, fake, or otherwise misleading information that calls into question the very bedrock of truth. Some of us hide our conspiratorial view of vaccination behind phrases like “I just don’t know all the facts yet,” “it hasn’t been out long enough,” “I just don’t know what to believe,” or something “they heard.”
This rhetoric would suggest that facts were the guiding principles to their behavior, but these statements are of the same ilk as those employed to deflect exacting blame on perpetrators of police brutality and other forms of obvious systemic abuses of power. It’s another way of saying absolutely nothing while feigning interest and respect for justice, logic, and the health and safety of your neighbor, but upon inspection reeks of arrogance and self-absorption.
Our comforts are a result of progress spurred by systematic inquiry, yet we snub our noses at the process, cherry-picking that which we accept and that which we spurn, acting is if the individual, and only the individual, is responsible for their well-being. We spend our energy chiding the collective knowledge base, which is responsible for our current state of wellness, while basking in our confected ignorance. As individuals, we believe we know better, that we’re the secret keepers of some preternatural knowledge that we’ve somehow ascertained through rigorous sorcery which transcends the scientific method of understanding natural phenomena. Like any paradox, it’s truly beyond all comprehension.
Because the Blackberry or rotary phone is obsolete, it doesn’t mean that they weren’t state of the art technology in their day. These, like any technology, were the advancements of their time on which the current technology rests upon. When new iPhones or Fords are released each year, there aren’t multitudes condemning these new iterations on their favorite toys because of a lack of information or understanding of them. No, we go out and hand over our cash with accompanying drool hanging from our mouths.
Nor is the existence of outdated knowledge of a certain phenomenon, of which has been disproven by further advancements in its respective field, evidence to support the abandoning of scientific inquiry altogether. In fact, that’s precisely how it works and is the very reason to continue the pursuit thereof: Knowledge begets knowledge and, at some point, everything we once thought was explained is eventually replaced by a more exact explanation.
We are expected to respect every opinion, but not every opinion deserves respect, not when it directly impacts the health and safety of others. While I respect all people, not all opinions deserve the same treatment. Much like how anti-fascism is not hypocritical because it’s literally being categorically against those who do not believe you have the right to exist, refusing to entertain every vaccination conspiracy or misleading news item is not disrespectful or shutting down healthy dialogue.
We don’t entertain those promoting the use of exorcism or trepanning as tools to treat mental illness, or alchemy to fabricate gold or elixirs for eternal health, and we are better off for it. So, why is it we find ourselves in a state where all opinions are entertained, granted merit without the slightest inkling of reproducible truth?
Our attention is a finite resource, it’s a waste to spend it on literal nonsense. No one deserves a participation trophy for sponsoring propaganda or encouragement for peddling harmful travesties of the truth.
Editor’s note: Brian is a person who lives and breathes in Athens County, he enjoys sitting in chairs and running.