In the mega-increasingly fraught discourse people are having on websites, blogs and social media, distractions form endless pathways away from topics that matter. We are easily distracted away from matters that could be solved, as we did do when faced with the existential threat of our current pandemic. A laser-focused response created remarkable scientific and technical achievements within a previously unimaginable timeframe.

When not laser-focused, distractions take us off into the boonies. For instance, asking an acquaintance, “Are you well?” is often taken as either a “scotch-egging” query, or one which may be viewed through the tinted glasses of tribalism. Tim Harford recently explained the concept where your acquaintance was “…treating a scotch egg as a ‘substantial meal’ with your drink in a pub”, thereby, in the mind of the listener, placing such an assertion into the column of self-delusion: https://timharford.com/2021/02/were-living-in-a-golden-age-of-ignorance/. The distraction of scotch-egging equals self-delusion.

Harford adds that our general ignorance is also made worse by political tribalism: “In a polarised environment, every factual claim becomes a weapon in an argument. When people encounter a claim that challenges their cultural identity, don’t be surprised if they disbelieve it.” Or storm the Capitol.

A further component of our “golden age of ignorance” is the acceptance of epithets that quickly lose real meaning. Media writers and mouthers of endless breathless BREAKING NEWS blithely pronounce things such as, “The overdose crisis claims a record number of lives this month…” Such a statement places the blame of each death on the very victims themselves. Meanwhile, the neutered epithet becomes a convenient way of washing one’s hands of any action that might be done. We ignore the very complicated set of circumstances that are different for each tragic death.

Were we to parse out some of the complications, however, we might find that meaningful actions could be accomplished. The victim was not a “drug addict”. The victim was somebody’s son or daughter with a personal history. Further, there was, in most cases, no “overdose”. The street drug was deliberately poisoned with something that the drug dealer found to be cheaper and yet more addictive. The BC Coroners Service correctly terms this as Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths. And so on.

Another issue with a lack of specificity in general discourse is “the social media”. A globally recognized expert stated, “…that the internet, especially social media, is having an increasingly toxic influence on our lives.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=006GMXEtoHI

In asking for specificity, in this case, I am not looking to atomize all the types of social media, then join the rants against Placebook or Flitter.

My focus would be on the use of this epithet for a complex collection of disparate actors. If a commentator uses the term “social media”, then proceeds with a wide brush to attribute nasty actions to the whole field, what is the point?

Saying that “social media” exerts a toxic influence is, in effect, throwing up one’s hands and walking away from any action. If we were to outline a cause-and-effect situation, then the discussion could come back to the possibility of control and change.

For instance, it was noted recently that the way Rush Limbaugh was able to take over the lucrative sphere of misogynist loudmouths was due to Ronald Reagan: ”In 1987, the FCC abolished the decades-old Fairness Doctrine which mandated that TV and radio broadcasters present both sides of controversial issues.” https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/rush-limbaugh-talk-radio-dies_n_5fe4e082c5b66809cb30ad57?ri18n=true

Limbaugh’s success allowed Breitbart News and Steve Bannon’s success, along with Fox News. All of which led to Trump.

Specifically, one can trace the odious and toxic elements found in a portion of “social media” to these and other roots. That finding can lead to actions that would offer a path to mitigation of said odious toxicity. Admittedly, once Pandora’s Box is flung open, the task becomes infinitely more difficult.

Lastly, there is The Virus. We lay at the feet of covid-19/20/21 an array of negative situations. Knowing people who have been seriously and even fatally infected during this pandemic, I would be among the last to minimize it. But, may I politely point out that h. sapiens can be found to have treated its elders better, before, than they have been treated in “long term care” facilities, in a few instances. If we dig deeply. Over the past 200,000 years.

Blaming the disproportionate number of seniors’ deaths solely on covid-19 is like blaming deaths of (hypothetical) babies to cars, if the babies were left in rows along the shoulder of busy highways. We would never do that to babies.

So why do we cram our elders into the least costly facilities, cared for by the least-paid workers? And when the pandemic comes along, why do we callously remove from our elders the only thing that might contribute some joy to their last days on this planet: seeing their children and grandchildren?

Of course, we do not want them to be given covid-19! But what accommodation was done to allow such visits? What lengths have been gone to, to allow sports teams to continue playing during the pandemic? May I ask which sports team built our country through lifetimes of effort?

The Virus did not kill all those seniors, with or without comorbidities. Not all these deaths were in for-profit facilities.

If better, specific questions are asked, perhaps we could take effective mitigation measures. As a society.

It is about time to stop hiding behind epithets, memes, and as Harford calls them, bionic duckweed: https://timharford.com/2021/02/miracle-tech-that-is-anything-but-a-taxonomy-of-bionic-duckweed/

One thought on “Specificity

  1. And I was remembering how uncomplicated life once was. … “Send ’em to the workhouse.” … “Lock ’em all up.” How do we dispose of those we no longer deem “useful”? Too busy to look after Mom and Dad. Hey! I’ve still got a few sparks in the old lighter. Maybe I could start a blaze or two.


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