Opinion: False impressions

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We live in an age of swift and irreversible judgement. Accusation, if acutely leveraged, has the effect of judge, jury and executioner. Our prejudices lead us to the warm corners of our own confirmation bias – we find, and digest, only that which agrees with that with which we already agree. The circular logic of it all is dizzying. Ordinarily, inconsequential or naïve utterances are used as blunt instruments to destroy decades-long careers, family relationships and trusted institutions. The English Bard, William Shakespeare, reminded us that “suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.” But he might have added note of the corrosive effect it has on us all, individually and collectively, as a society. 

Like the eroding result of the irresistible forces of nature — wind, temperature and rain — have on the seemingly impenetrable ancient stone fortresses, the constant aspersion of the detractors amongst us debase our trust in each other and in our communal organizations. Seeming truisms – trust no one – become false demigods. Can we live in the complete absence of trust? Should we? Is it even right to imagine that not one human can be trusted – ever, in any circumstance?

Regardless, we plod on, wary of the motive and intention of others. We isolate ourselves in eternally smaller identity groups, eager to exclude any who fail to conform to our increasingly doctrinaire vetting of their likely natures. “We know who you are! Even if you don’t know, we do!” Perhaps. The 1930s radio show character, The Shadow, claimed such insight in his byline: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?The Shadow knows!” Yet, given his almost supernatural deductive powers, The Shadow still had to discern between actual guilt and its mere perception. Appearances deceive us. Motives are often complicated, and things are routinely not as they seem.

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