By Milan Vodicka, P.h.D.
Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, potential nuclear wars… What else do we have to deal with, day in and day out? Yes, the “infodemic” – avalanche of information, disinformation, conspiracy theories, lies and truth.
I have to admit, at the time of this writing – about one month prior to the Election Day – I am feeling fatigue. Keeping in mind that the median age in the US is 38.2 years (meaning half are younger and the other half are older) and that my age is exactly twice that, being tired is no surprise. The round the clock coverage of mostly trivia is not helping.
However, the experience of my aging provided me with an opportunity to accumulate some knowledge of how things work in general, and how “information” works in particular. In many respects it is deja vu (french for “already seen”). I am on the “back to the future” trip.
To start with, I (still) remember growing up as a child in the then Czechoslovakia. In a village where “news” was disseminated by a drummer, who, after his drumming act, read the news to whoever gathered to listen. Yes, (sigh) I talked to the man whose Grandpa fought in the Napoleonic wars! My own Grandpa fought in the First World War for the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, as a “dragoner,” on a horse, in a uniform consisting of a blue coat with red pants. He received some medals for that.
I also remember times when there was no television, no electronic calculators, no phones, no copy machines, and just one car owner in that village. No running water in houses. You might say a “primitive life,” yet my ancestors were living it and it was worthy for them.
Why am I reminiscing about all of that? Fast forward in time. What characterizes the three real and/or potential catastrophes I listed – pandemic, climate change, nuclear disasters – is their ever presence. There is no way to escape this.
And yet, there is a way. The Infodemic does that. Start believing that what is happening is not happening. When what “some say,” or “many say,” is “a hoax” becomes the believed truth… you have it. Problem solved! For you, I might add. And only temporarily. Refer to the illuminating story of the Covid-19 presidential denial and illness.
This life – everyone’s life – is a story of causes, conditions, and consequences. In philosophy and science it is called “causality.” Note that viruses, gradual environment temperature changes, and nuclear or other radiation have generally invisible, imperceivable, and time delayed effects on human beings. Therefore, within the initial time interval, based on exclusively subjective perceptions, “they are not.” This is the “reality” in the world of subjective ignorance.
It is truly disheartening to see this ignorance manifested by and within the highest levels of governance, here in the United States and elsewhere. It is even more discouraging to see mature adults succumbing to the wishful domain of fairy tales – again, subjectively – the fairy tales becoming “real.”
What to do?
Life is a sequence of events. The individual life of each of us is a series of “individualized” events, as registered by and in our consciousness. Those events travel through our perceptions – inherently subjective and selective. Affected by “we are who we are, depending on where we were, and when.”
We are becoming “who we are” not just by what we eat, but also by what we consume as “information.” We need to diminish “poisoning our souls” by seeking and choosing credible information; affirming this credibility by our own experience. We must stand firmly against all forms of disinformation coming our way via “infodemic” means. I know, it is “easier said than done.”
Yet, the posture I described determines where we are and where we are going, mentally. The opposing polarity is apathy. Apathy was a prevailing attitude of just about everyone in the “Czechoslovak Socialist Republic,” under the communist “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
When I decided to emigrate, rather than “to fight” the consequences of the Soviet Union led occupation of my native country in 1968, I could not imagine the fall of the Soviet Union. I can imagine today the fall of the United States of America. The first happened and the second?
It is quite possible that you are reading my writing with the elections already passed. Even if not – and regardless of the elections results if yes – life goes on. We need to pay attention to it.