by Roman King | USA
I would like to apologize for the delay on this article. Enjoy this edition of “From the Editor.”
Our society is built on a mutual trust that anybody we come into contact with is, at the very least, somewhat competent at whatever it is they’re doing. Financial transactions are heavily influenced by whether or not both parties are sensible and able to operate on a common ground. Whether it’s buying something, borrowing for a loan, or what-have-you, none of those will happen if all parties aren’t thinking on a similar wavelength. In social situations, we inherently expect other parties to understand social nuance and not make themselves look like a complete idiot. In all walks of life, the expectation of common sense is there, and understanding it is one of the largest bounds a person can make on their quest for information.
Common sense is, in short, the ability to have a basic comprehension and understanding of practical matters. It does not equate with raw intellect; incredibly bright people can completely lack all quantities of common sense, and on the inverse, people considered stupid by empirical standards are capable of having common sense. It has absolutely nothing to do with how objectively smart a person is, although the two often exist side-by-side. It is one of the most important characteristics of a well-rounded individual, and it is the glue that holds us all together. If it is such an important thing, why, then, isn’t it so common anymore?
There’s a problem, however: the ability for rational thinking is at odds with in modern society. The ability to make rational decisions based on solid and common-sense thinking isn’t as common as it should be. Decisions are being made more and more off of impulsive emotions and less on rational critical thinking. Hive-mind mentality, confirmation biases, and the rise of pathos over logos has lead to a society emblazoned by ignorance and incompetence. This is obviously a liability towards the objective of a productive society, so we have to problem solve: why are we trending this way, how is this happening, and what can we do to solve it?
There’s a pretty simple reason as to why common sense and rational decision-making isn’t being as exercised, and it’s doubly problematic because it’s also the backbone of how we get information — it’s the internet and its fostering of partisan communities and echo-chambers. One of the biggest strides towards intellectualism and enlightenment one can make is being informed. This includes being informed on the goings-on of the world, and from multiple perspectives; preferably a perspective from each mainstream political view (CNN, FOX, MSNBC) some of the more extreme ones (Huffington Post, Breitbart, etc.), and the non-partisan factual news organizations (NPR, AP, non-opinion pieces). On the internet, however, the common protocol is to either engage in violent and nonsensical flame wars or to just block or unfollow the viewpoints that they disagree with. Similarly with online communities, which are often times just collectives of people who think the exact same thing, people often just ignore opposing groups or get incredibly hostile towards them, leading to tunnel vision and toxic mob mentality. Common sense in the world can’t be achieved if the only information they are obtaining is not common, but instead partisan flotsam.
How does this hinder the development of common sense in a community? Consider the following — if you are in a group of people that all agree with you, will you ever have your world viewpoint changed? Will you ever have to acknowledge from a logical standpoint other opinions? Will you ever have to come up with a logical argument against the positions you disagree with when all you do is build a strawman of them and knock that down? The answer is a resounding no; social echo chambers are death knells to critical thinking and are serious blows to common sense. Even on a completely non-political level, this can be applied. Consider that you have two people who just don’t like each other. They can’t stand each other, as a matter of fact. The logical thing would be to come together, figure out their differences, and learn from each other, but the common procedure would be to go to their group of friends (that both think like them) and complain about how much the other person is an idiot, or how wrong they are, or whatnot. This is incredibly common, and it blew out of proportion when social media began leaking its way into the tangible universe.
So what do we do now? If you’ve got two brain cells to fire together, you’ve probably experienced this or witnessed this in some form or another. You might have been a victim of it, or you may have participated in it. This is unimportant; the important thing is recognizing it as a problem and applying due diligence to try and fix it. Common sense requires thinking at a more universal and broad wavelength than is commonly seen in modern social groups and councils, and the best way to tune into said wavelength is to detach yourself from intellectually draining communities and worldview-enforcing echo chambers.
I will say it until the day I die: ignorance isn’t an excuse anymore. You have the information; use it.