Monday, March 30, 2015

The Philosophy of Common Sense

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. ~ Francis Bacon

The ability to perceive, understand, and judge situations is believed to be a sign of common sense. But how common is common sense? And why do some beliefs diverge widely from those that belong to others?

I discuss my views on common sense in the following post, previously titled, Snopes Verifies This is True: Common Sense is Dead, which was published on Associated Content / Yahoo Contributor Network in 2010:

An unmarked grave with an invisible headstone sits in the grounds around every government hall and in the back yards of many citizens. The name on the headstone, if you could read it, says, "Common Sense."

Yes, Folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but common sense is dead. Its absence is palpable, most especially in the emails I receive.

Without fail, nearly every single authentic-looking email I receive that spews forth hatred for some government official or some religion or some whatever, proves to be false, partially false, or mostly false when verified on If only the person who sent it had researched the email before sending it to everybody in his or her address book. Even the truth in supposedly "true" emails has been taken out of context, distorted in a perverted fashion, and spread like a virus.

Sadly, people send ridiculous emails every day. Even more sadly, too many people believe everything they read in these emails, especially when what they read supports their already demented belief that the lie is the truth. Whether they were raised by people who slammed their beliefs into their children or whether they have become part of a group of people who don’t allow theses poor spirits to think for themselves, the followers among us adopt whatever belief system they feel they have to believe because they dare not think for themselves.

Informed readers who care about truth, on the other hand, verify the authenticity of the information they receive. They question everything. But they are also not so obtuse that they close their minds to possibilities. 

I am one of those people who is suspicious of every hate-filled email I receive. I corroborate everything, especially when the hatred spewing forth from the email reaches out from my computer, grabs me by my throat, and knocks me senseless.

So should I feel relieved when the person who sent the incendiary email posts a link that verifies its "authenticity"? Should I be grateful that I don't have to verify the accuracy myself? How refreshing.

But wait…was the email sender expecting me to NOT read the link he or she provided? Because when I read the linked text, I find a complete contradiction to the hateful, demeaning, and inappropriate comments that were supposed to support the link in the email.

To be honest, I am weary from the hatred and weary from the lies. I have even gone so far as to beg people to PLEASE STOP filling my email box with hateful diatribes put forth by hate mongers who circulate their pathetic pleas around the planet as they scream for recognition with morsels of truth the author has meticulously fabricated into lies.

And people fall for it. Why?

Because manipulating a lie into appearing as truth is so easy.

Here is an example: suppose I tell you that President Obama was "caught" worshipping at a mosque. I could then tell you that he refuses to worship in the religion YOU would prefer he practiced. Now I’ll use what I just told you to embellish what I'm about to tell you next, and I will craftily pull video segments of Obama's statements, interweave them with actual video footage unrelated to Obama, his philosophy, or his religion, plop in a few unconnected statements of my own, and I will have you believing that President Obama idolizes, emulates, and loves Adolf Hitler.

Pay attention to what I just wrote. Because if you were a manipulator of the truth, you would take the last seven words from the last paragraph, pull it out of context, weave in some Hitlerian statements, and circulate this "truth" through your own emails. Within minutes, people will be drawing Hitlerian mustaches on President Obama and circulating the asinine falsehood across America and around the world. 

Photo and video manipulation has the ability to alter our perceptions, and if we haven’t learned to think for ourselves, we do ourselves a disservice if we believe everything we read or hear, because we haven’t yet learned the art of common sense. 

Add lack of common sense to manipulative practices and you can see how manipulation works. THAT is why some people believe everything they read. THAT is why they blindly follow hate-mongers who want them to believe what the hate-mongers believe. Hate-mongers don't want people thinking for themselves. They want people thinking what they think, and they know that if they're persistent and persuasive enough, they'll have you believing that they are the voices of God and that God speaks through them.

Charles Manson, Jim Jones, and others like them, were gods to their followers, because those "leaders" appealed to their followers' sensibilities (notice I didn't say common sense).

Spreading lies is easy. Spreading the truth is sometimes impossible, because people have already adopted their own belief systems. Another fact is that most people are followers. If the group of people with whom you surround yourself is a die-hard Democrat bunch, NOBODY will convince you that ANY Republican is worthy of your vote. The same works the other way around.

And when we get emails that support our beliefs, we say, "yeah, that's right," without checking the source, because why should we bother? We’ve just found proof that we are right. Most of us don’t care about the truth. We just want somebody in our corner, even if we find ourselves backed up against a wall.

I once read a book entitled, The Death of Common Sense, by Philip K. Howard. I highly recommend reading that book if you believe that our world is beginning to border on the absurd and that common sense, like Elvis, “has left the building." While the book is more about government bureaucratic idiocy, it speaks to the lack of common sense across the spectrum of life itself.

The more emails I receive that concern spreading hateful demeaning lies, the more I believe that common sense truly is dead.

So what do you think? Are you willing to challenge the emails you receive by checking their validity, or will you continue to believe the lies that spread like a virus from your eyes to your brain?

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