So here we are, 11 March, 2018 8:42 am (feels like 7:42 am). Flat Earthers are on the rise and drinking coffee will extend your life. With regard to the Flat Earther’s, Neil Degrasse Tyson blames free speech and a failed educational system  . With regard to coffee, apparently, even if you smoke, you get the beneficial effects of a lower mortality rate by drinking coffee daily . Don’t mind if I do...
OK, in these two ideas we have a perfect example of the twisted life we lead inside current social media spheres. The flat earth belief is widely ridiculed but nevertheless promulgated, specifically, perhaps, because of its worthiness to be ridiculed. Yet some still really do believe and the number grows. And the other tidbit concerning coffee is music to our ears. Specifically, since so many of us drink coffee and eschew the criticism of caffeine addiction brazenly because it’s one of the very few indulgences that is politically acceptable to both the left and right. And now it may be good for us. It’s less clear that we have the same views politically on a failed educational system, but certainly, criticizing education is less a third rail in polite society then is gun control for example. Of course it’s not the parents fault...it’s not the parents who have failed (read with deep sarcasm). So it must be the dumbing down of society and our long fall from Biblical principles that has eroded our moral base and directly precipitated the necessity to arm teachers inside our failed public schools. After all, guns don’t kill people...let’s say it together everyone...people do. Thus the 2nd Amendment remains good and inviolate.
So is Neil Degrasse Tyson actually suggesting that the 1st Amendment is bad? I like Tyson and I don’t like Flat Earthers (FYI I don’t know any Flat Earthers). I definitely believe something is wrong with our educational system (and our parents). But I disagree with Tyson as I don’t think it’s our educational system that is producing Flat Earthers. And I have a lot of trouble believing it’s our 1st Amendment that is producing them either. I don’t see many 1st Amendment speeches about the right to believe in a flat earth. I do see a lot of speeches about other weird things...thus I have concluded that weirdo’s really do exist. But haven’t they always, even without Twitter? Just ask someone from 13th Century about the Cathars and who the weirdos were at that time. And they didn’t have a 1st Amendment to hind behind or the excuse of a failed public education system to complain about. Yet they existed--past tense “existed” because the Catholic Church was both ruthless and successful in their extermination. About all that remains as household knowledge of the Cathars is the famous line from the siege of Béziers, “Kill them all, God knows his own” . And of course they did...kill them all. Every single weirdo. But the question remains, where did these weirdos come from? Those that would be different. Those that dared to think outside the normalcy of society. They must be the product of something...perhaps a flipped gene, or better yet, a left over gene from the Neanderthal. Part of the DNA we all share if you happen to believe that it was ever possible for a homosapien Capulet and a Neanderthal Montague to successfully copulated.
So where do weirdos come from? I write this blog freely acknowledging that there will be a cult of weird that I am insulting. I fully anticipate a backlash of hurt feelings from both the clans “Weir” and “Doe” asking me to cease my assault on their 1st Amendment protections and right to exist in society. Should they appear to protest I apologize in advance and expressly state that I do not mean “you” specifically, and will say snowflake under my breath. This is nothing new and weird has been around for a long time. Long before the Flat Earthers, long before the Cathars, and long before the Neanderthal. Unfortunately the Neanderthal boyfriend was just a little too weird for the homosapien father who couldn’t stand idly by and watch it happen. Thus, in an act of fatherly rage (and ownership of both a .45 and a shovel) dad put the hairy boyfriend with elongated forehead to the stone. Alas his protection of the family tree was a little too late to avert the preservation of the Neanderthal gene and so here we are with a little Neanderthal in all of us. Weird isn’t new. We, as homosapiens, are a pretty weird lot since the beginning. We’ve managed to survive and move to the top of the food chain, a place we don’t actually belong if you’ve ever spent some time with a lion, a tiger, or bear in the wild. Oh my, it’s weird that we are even here. Isn’t it an abomination to the natural order of things? Thankfully, the natural order has a way of adjusting for things out of balance. Just look around. Call it God. Call it the Anthropic Principle (either weak or strong), or call it evolution. Balance is maintained. Yet imbalance is still necessary. In chemistry the equivalence point is when the ratio of acid to base is 1:1. Rarely do you find this ratio. Most of the time things are reacting with one another. So too are humans reacting to other humans. Some violently. Some less so. We react more violently to the weird...or is it the different. Maybe we are just a bunch of acidic chemicals with an approximated street value of $4.50  reacting the the base chemicals around us?
So what really brings me to my rant today? It’s two movies straight out of Hollywood and popular culture. The first, “Wonder Women”. The second, “The Shape of Water”. Wonder Women brought in close to $400M at the box office last year. The Shape of Water won the Academy Award for Best Picture although with significantly less revenue. Wonder Women didn’t get a single nomination but was widely acclaimed. The movie was packed with the same story we’ve been told for decades, Diana is the daughter of the Queen of the Amazons, etc. Her first telling in 1941 by DC Comics  long before Gal Gadot was cast in the role. The fish story, however, was a bit different, and seemingly new to many people. But not really. Guillermo del Toro was just retelling the story of a lonely creature that has also been around for a long time, since 1954 . This lonely creature, of course, is “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”, and was one of my favorites as a kid back in the 1970’s. All of the monster films back then had a similar theme. The monster always falls in love with the beautiful woman. King Kong, Dracula, etc. Yet whereas Wonder Woman struck a cord of mass appeal, del Toro’s new creature drew aversion is some circles, even though, like Wonder Woman, the creature was portrayed as a deity. And this brings up the familiar theme of hypocrisy. Why are we such hypocrites? It’s ok for Chris Pine to bed a goddess, Princess of the Amazon, but it’s not OK for Sally Hawkins to make her own choice. Even though, at the end (spoiler alert) Hawkins is revealed to have a bit more fish DNA in her then was previously known. That aversion, more than anything else, is what divides us as a nation. Things that are different, things that are weird to us, even though hypocritical to our principles, is what divides us. It is what has always divided us.
We are all hypocrites. Admitting that we are hypocrites is the step one. That’s actually a pretty easy step to take because no further action is necessary. But should we want to take action, what is the next step? Those of us familiar with any “12 Step” program know that Step 2 is to believe a higher power could straighten things out. Well, in this case, our aversion to things different is deeply seated in our DNA. Aversion is an instinct. It keeps us safe from harm. Things more like ourselves are less likely to kill us...even though...history tells us the exact opposite is true. Most murder is committed by someone we know. Not the stranger. Even the school shooter, most of the time, is someone known by or connected to the victim. Is arming more people we know with guns the solution? The right says yes. The left says no. The right is comfortable with guns. The left is not comfortable with guns. Having a gun is normal. Not having a gun is normal. We are at a standoff.
What needs to happen if for both sides to walk a mile in each other’s shoes. Easier said than done. Here on social media some attempt to post things hoping the other side will see their perspective and change their mind. Some conversation ensues. A few thoughtful people try to keep the peace. Ultimately we retreat to a safe corner where a friend with our beliefs will give us a comforting pat on the back. Keep up the good fight and all that...
You should surround yourself with perspective. Not yes men and echo chambers. You should surround yourself with things that make you uncomfortable. Not so that you can eventually feel comfortable but so that you can understand what’s really going on when someone says they believe in a certain way. If someone is doing something repeatedly they are doing it because 1) they like it 2) they have always done it that way 3) they don’t know another way to do it. I am reminded of the story of the young person who left their small town for the first time and went to the big city. They saw a very familiar looking sign in front of a restaurant and explained, “Oh wow! They have a McDonald’s here, just like us!”. Now many of us would laugh, I would laugh, and the young person would probably not know why. To them that sign reminded them of their hometown, their parents, their friends, their first cheese burger, or their first McBreakfast (Pancakes and sausage, Bricktown New Jersey, circa 1975). They would have no way of knowing, or ever seeing the 69 million daily customers or 37,000 other McDonalds signs in front of all the other restaurants in over 100 other countries .
That said, an expanded worldview is not enough. You have to walk a mile in the other person's shoes. Which means to start you have to get out our your own small mind and at a minimum leave the echo chamber. It’s an echo chamber of lies. This goes equally for both sides, it’s a echo chamber of lies. And yes men make it worse. Just because Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity don’t look like you fools you into thinking you’re not looking in the mirror. You are. Just because Rachel Maddow or Bill Maher doesn’t look like you fools you into thinking you’re not looking in the mirror. You are. It’s the same lie, just reflected back to you off the walls of ignorance.
And now the danger, and of course here is where I leave the winding road of independent thought and show a little of my bias and reflection of an echo chamber. You can tell me it’s not true. You can tell me I’m listening to my own reflections on this issue. But I ask you to consider it at least a little bit two things from another persons perspective.
1) In my echo chamber of a mind the National Rifle Association is out of balance. It has become isolated and it’s own source of truth...which of course is self perpetuating. And once truth becomes rooted in it’s own echo chamber, with no input from the surrounding environment, it may deviate from the truth. It’s easy to tell from the external observer, who’s standing in the surrounding environment, why what they say is no longer true. For those standing in the echo chamber, it’s impossible for them to see anything but truth. What’s important here is to simply recognize that the echo chamber exists...to at least question if what you are hearing is an echo and maybe just look for another perspective.
2) In my echo chamber of a mind President Trump is becoming more and more isolated and is now almost completely surrounded with Yes Men? He is now deep within his own echo chamber. Some supporters, very few, have broken ranks. Again, I’m not asking that you believe me, I’m just asking that you consider the possibility that an echo chamber exists and the recognize the dangers of perpetuating echos above truth.
Shared perspective is what we need. Because weird is necessary. Different is necessary. Different perspectives could unify us because they help us survive when the world is changing around us. When the water is rising it's the weirdo who knows how to live in the mountains that will lead the way. But reading a paper doesn’t actually allow you to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. You need to go live in the mountains. Neither does watching the news or going to the movies. You have to actually do the walking. You have to go meet the Creature from the Black Lagoon. And that’s extremely difficult to do inside social media...I suggest, at a minimum, take a mile walk outside of the echo chamber...and when you do, please do not carry an electric cattle prod...