A look at how Buddhism can encourage the circumstances that help give rise to wisdom.
"... After you’ve examined all of that and sorted through the likely possibilities and applied your super-set of mental faculties; intellect, deep thought, foresight, humility, humour, learnedness, philanthropy, historical perspective and humanitarian point of view, you can make a wise choice. Once you set aside your biases, bigotry, preferences, delusions and pre-conceived notions, you can, at least start, to make a wise choice about whether or not Donald Trump is a scientific genius ..."
The Opening Salvo
We are living in a time that is more divisive, more polarized, more unreasonable and therefore more dangerous than at any other time in the history of man. This is not to suggest that past times have not been without their perils and challenges. Those have been only too well demonstrated, but today we have the motives, means and opportunity to kill one another on a scale that is, literally, unprecedented. We have at our disposal, news and propaganda machinery that reaches into the most remote regions of the world and with that we broadcast, alongside fully researched and documented news stories, dubious ‘alternative facts,’ ‘fake news,’ and all manner of self-serving reportage.
We’ve become so interested in telling our own version of a story that we can no longer even tolerate hearing that of another. This behaviour is encouraged, when, for example, we are on Facebook or Twitter and click on a story, we get not only that one upon which we clicked, but also a few other stories that are related in temper and topic. The search algorithms recognize we might want to read or research material that is critical of a celebrity. It then finds more stories that criticize the particular luminary and suggests those articles. What the algorithms don’t do is run out and look for stories that are in support of the celebrity. Facebook and Google, to name only two, shape and reinforce our existing ideas by offering more of what we believe and rarely offer contra opinion stories.
Our news media has become politically fragmented. Network news is all too often delivered with a specific point of view, be it Republican, Democrat in the US or Conservative, Liberal in Canada. Entire news networks and the related news gathering apparatus is geared towards collecting and relating the news with a not-at-all disguised partisan view point. CNN, The New Yorker, the Washing Post deliver us the news from a Democratic point of view, while Breitbart, Fox and NewsMax deliver the news from a conservative, establishment POV in the US. In Canada the National Post gives us the establishment, vested interest news and we rely on Toronto Star (or usually just, The Star) to deliver and opine on all things liberal. The sheep must be separated from the goats.
It’s not like this partisan view by news media is anything new. It’s been around since Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c. began publishing their weekly broadsheets. What is new is the sheer vastness and volume of the news being delivered. Everything a president or despot says in some far away corner of the world is amplified, retold, twisted and massaged to suit the agenda of any given news outlet, be it Liberal, Conservative, Alt Right, or something else.
The point of all this, of course, is that unless we agree with something, we’re not going to take it in. If the Star doesn’t agree with our conservative view on immigration, then we stop reading it and take up a newspaper or website that does agree with us. We become very self-selecting in what we read, much to our detriment.
We have become contemptuous of each other. It’s become commonplace, for even leaders of countries to hurl verbal and deeply personal insults at one another, via the internet and broadcast over the airwaves for all the world to hear. We Tweet out contempt and vitriol on a vast scale. Inconsiderate tweets and ill-conceived Facebook posts. We act as if our words are hollow. We’ve come to accept denial, deflection and deceit from our leaders – it seems we’ve even come to expect it.
Sadly, reasoned thought, reasoned words, reasoned discussion and actions rarely seem to take place anymore. We have become so unwise in our dealings with each other, indeed even in dealing with ourselves, that we no longer seem to recognize wisdom when we see it.