December 26, 2002

Comments on "How to separate the wheat from the chaff"

See December 25, 2002 entry in Starz Light's blog. Starz's text is in green, mine in black.

I have just spent several hours surfing web sites full of unsettling information. I could cite site after site, but how does one determine the veracity of these sources? I am sure I wish I knew, Starz. I, too, have seen web sites full of unsettling information. I don't know whether it is true that concentration camps already built in various parts of the country are ready to accommodate the first dissenters and other "undesirables". I do wish I had the answers. When I find one of those unsettling web sites, do I ignore it as the work of kooks or do I forward it to everyone I know? When rumors about Nazi atrocities started to circulate outside Germany many people dismissed them as the products of deranged minds, because they thought it was not possible such horrible things were actually happening, it was obvious that the rumors were just gross exaggerations. The reality turned out to be worse than any rumors that had circulated. People walked into the gas chambers still not believing that what they had heard could possibly be true.

Do you feel that blogging raises the consciousness of anyone? Definitely yes: first and foremost the blogger's own, and second her/his readers, though that is out of the blogger's control. I have learned much from reading my fellow bloggers; the blogosphere is a churning cauldron of ideas; it much enhances the dialog that always goes on between writers and readers. Thanks to the net we all can be both. Of course this does make for a tremendous volume of material in which it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the mud. But it is a matter of degree: it was already difficult when all we had was publications on paper. And as the volume of material has increased so have the means to communicate recommendations, reviews, etc.

Or are we just preaching to the choir? Or even just enjoying the sound of our voices without caring if anyone listens? Nothing wrong with enjoying the sound of one's own voice :-) but I think all bloggers care to some extent about being read - yes, even those who claim not to - otherwise why publish on the web at all? We could just write in our own journals, to be read by no one other than ourselves. And many of us do have private journals in addition to our blogs. But we also aspire to communicate and find out how others react to what we have to say, and to stimulate each other to greater insight and understanding.

It is true that perhaps the greatest things that have been written were written with quill pens on scarce and expensive parchment. Now we have computers and the web, but where is the genius to create masterpieces? Maybe masterpieces are being created among us; we just don't know about them yet.

Does the sharing of our questions, concerns, or support for the issues of the day constitute activism on any level? In my opinion yes; writing has always been an important form of activism. We speak - or write - our truths and put them out there in the universe; who or how many might read them - let alone be influenced by them - is neither our business nor anything that we can do anything about (other than honest efforts to increase "the circulation" of our blogs,
like submitting them to search engines, web rings and the like).

Do you ever follow the links down paths that show opinions in opposition to yours? Sometimes I read some educated, civilized conservatives like The Leibman Theory; but the Neanderthals - with respect for the original Neanderthals - I cannot stand.

Do you have information sources that you believe to be giving a complete and honest picture? And if so, I'd love to know what they are. I tend to trust sources on the left much more than those on the right (which I don't trust at all). Jeanne d'Arc has a list under the title "Good Guys" (right-wing publications she appropriately calls "The Opposition", and has a list of those, too), and also links to The Lefty Directory, which contains, among many other things and links to left-wing blogs, an interesting interview with Jeanne d'Arc. Liberal Oasis is another aptly-named site. There are many others. But, as you say very well, I'm sure both sides spin the stories; however, we much prefer the spin on the left.

I thought about taking this question to e-mail, but then felt it might make interesting dialog here. I'm glad you did; the wider the possibilities of dialog are set the higher the probability that someone will come up with bright ideas that might promote insight and understanding.

I never cease to be intrigued that two very intelligent, well-read, highly educated people can come to diametrically opposed positions. It seems there is no Truth (with a capital "T") Is everything relative? I believe it is very likely that "there is no Truth (with a capital 'T')", and those who believe there is - and "they" have It, of course - are horribly dangerous to the rest of us and likely to want to burn us at the stake to make us see the error of our ways and accept their One and Only Truth. In my opinion the reason "two very intelligent, well-read, highly educated people" sometimes "come to diametrically opposed positions" is that they perceive things differently, and don't give the same weights to the same components. It is known to law-enforcement personnel that two witnesses of the same event can give wildly different accounts thereof and both believe they are being absolutely truthful. The sages tell us that unless one has reached the fourth state of consciousness known as enlightenment one only perceives shadows, projections, "spectra" of "reality", and obviously shadows of one object can be different depending on the angle of illumination. We unenlightened ones don't perceive reality but a picture, a map thereof. A picture can be darker or lighter, or have various kinds of distortions. Iowa can be pink in one map and green in another; it is still the same Iowa, just different maps.

Another image I like is that reality is a mountain; we are all climbing the same mountain from different sides; the views we see are different and the degrees of difficulty of the climbing are different too, depending on whether we're climbing a steep or a gentle slope. When we reach the top we'll all be in the same place and our views will be similar - though still dependent on the direction we're looking... - but while we're climbing it doesn't make any sense to despise a fellow climber because her/his path is different from ours.

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