It is now easier than ever before to gain knowledge about the world around us. The Internet is filled with information that rivals the greatest libraries of all time. With a quick search it is possible to find and read books of every sort and academic tracts and studies from the most enlightened minds of history. Ignorance is steadily on the decline as more and more of the world’s people learn to read, understand the scientific world and use numbers. The ability to use our minds is our most precious human gift and yet sadly far too many are still kept from reaching their highest potential due to cultural barriers, poverty, wars, and political indifference. Even among the educated there is often a tendency to blindly accept ideas without researching and critically analyzing them. Sometimes it is also true that there is such an abundance of knowledge that it is virtually impossible to know everything.
We tend to get tiny slices of information during our youth. There is only time to expose our students to the very basics of science, mathematics, literature, philosophy, history. Unless a person continues to pursue learning after high school and dig deeply into a particular aspect of interest he/she misses so many remarkable ideas. Lifelong learning should be our goal but life itself often gets in the way of being able to continue our education. We get busy, set aside our books, lose interest in anything other than surviving from one day to the next. We close the windows of our minds and rely on others to keep us informed on an as needed basis. We often believe what we hear without taking the time to verify. We become more and more susceptible to manipulation because what we know is dreadfully incomplete.
History is long and filled with contradictions. In the grand scheme of things our current situation is but a blip. The arc will continue after we are gone and it won’t take long for those left on this earth to move forward and forget the past. Sadly it is human nature to measure the merit of traditions based on the present rather than an understanding of history. Few of us know or care to know how things came to be, what prompted changes, why we are where we are. Yet sometimes deeply understanding the past allows us to make proper decisions in the present. If we learn what was really happening in the times before us we are able to critically assess the actions that have led us to where we now are. Unfortunately most of us have only a tiny slice of historical knowledge that is often sugar coated for presentation to the young. The truth is sometimes difficult to bear.
Humans like to be happy. Life is difficult enough without stewing over former transgressions. We tend to want to ignore such things, just keep moving forward. We don’t want to worry too much about the future either. It feels better to just enjoy each day and muddle through any problems that appear along the way. The quicker we can shove difficulties out sight, the better. Life seems too short to spend time lamenting and yet there are moments when we humans cannot ignore what is happening around us. There are times when we know that we have to roll up our sleeves and become involved in the global connections that we all share as people whether we wish to or not.
We appear to be in such a moment. We are facing two epidemics and if we are to survive either one we need leadership to unite us, not purposely pull us apart. We must accept that Covid-19 is a threat to all of us and that if we are to defeat it we need honesty and a united effort. As long as any of us are being falsely lead to believe that there is no danger, no need for precautions, everyone of us is at risk as well as the foundations of our economic and educational institutions. Wise leaders would tell us the truth and demonstrate a concern for both our physical and economic health. They would understand the need for unity and a willingness to sacrifice. They would work together, not with disdain. History has demonstrated time and again that ineffective leadership in a time of upheaval leads to unspeakable horrors. It is up to us to demand that our elected officials think first about the well being of the citizenry and do what is right with total transparency.
We also have much civil unrest in our society. In truth our journey from a nation that embraced slavery to one in which justice for all is a given is not yet complete. We are still wandering in a desert of sometimes overt and sometimes subtle racism. Even when we feel certain that we have never judged any other person on the basis of skin color or nationality or religious affiliation our indifference to their cries is an indication that we have not yet completed our obligation to set that original sin of our nation right. When hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens tell us that they are still hurting, our response should be to believe them instead of attempting to silence them. We cannot and should not just turn out backs in righteous indignation. If we truly care about law and order then we should want to make it equitable for all. Instead so many shake their heads and click their tongues while our president daily attempts to make us fearful of those exercising their right to speak of their concerns.
We are living in a modern day version of Alice in Wonderland. We are being led to believe that we need not fear Covid-19 when we should indeed be taking strict precautions. We are being told that rioters and looters are coming to destroy our nation and our neighborhoods when we have yet to truly learn what they need and we should not fear them. We are so busy attempting to drown out reality that we barely even take note of fires destroying people’s lives and hurricanes that level cities. We have enough real problems that we cannot afford to live in a land of make believe. People matter and many, including our president, are making things worse. None of us can afford to cower inside our homes quietly ignoring what we see happening before our very eyes. We have to speak up no matter how painful that may be. History demonstrates that the future depends on us. Do some research. Think without prejudice or self interest about what you are seeing unfold then use your voice, cast your vote.