American Exceptionalism Killed Curiosity
Susceptibility, echo chambers, and solipsism are normalizing evil
An open mind is the greatest asset a human can have.
But keeping it that way requires conscious effort and the willingness to audit our respective prejudices on a regular basis.
We all have them but that doesn’t mean we can’t get rid of them by educating ourselves a little more, listening to others, and being curious. The antidote to most ills, curiosity is a powerful catalyst for societal change and self-improvement.
Without it, solipsism can soon turn us into impenetrable fortresses of self-righteousness. Look no further than America for an illustration of what can happen when you despise the rest of the world and alienate your neighbors and allies.
Our capacity to take offense at the slightest hint of feedback or constructive criticism is problematic.
In a competitive society like America’s, everyone wants to be right all the time and dialogue is fraught with hurdles and booby traps. As a result, many of us are now proficient in the art of circumlocution, a way of communicating that spares the sensibilities of our interlocutors.
When bluntness is frowned upon, communication becomes all about double-entendres and reading between the lines.
In turn, this increases the likelihood of our words and the intentions behind them getting misconstrued.
At this point, it’s not even communication anymore but humans dancing around one another making vaguely pleasant mouth noises.
Or writing inoffensive fluff on the assumption readers want to be comforted in their opinions.
Groupthink and echo chambers are comfortable and maintaining them can be quite lucrative. Take a look at US media and the roaring success of certain so-called news outlets that have aligned themselves with the Trump regime, for example.
But when rehashing what we think others want to hear and read, we don’t add anything of value to the global conversation. This isn’t even a partisan issue as both sides do it; it’s a failure of curiosity and a complete lack of care about anyone who isn’t us.
We don’t contribute to furthering human knowledge that might help us understand one another better so we learn nothing and stagnate intellectually.
Worse, the inability to entertain feedback or constructive criticism means we’ve become quite incapable of having a conversation or thinking aloud together.
Women shouting at men shouting at women and everyone who doesn’t identify as either cast to the wayside and ignored would be one way to sum it up.
How does that help anyone?
And how can we hear one another when everyone is shouting at the same time?
No human can never assume they know the reality of another human who isn’t them.
In the US, men legislating about women’s rights and how to make use of reproductive organs they do not possess shows how dangerous ignorance can be.
Never mind that they can never know what life as a woman is like, hubris makes up for knowledge.
In the writing world, writers writing about topics they have neither expertise in nor experience of is another. These are hot topics and the appealing prospect of low-hanging editorial fruit and clicks galore is often hard to resist, even when it comes to opinion pieces.
Rather than ask the people concerned about their reality, writers assume they know what it is and turn to the internet to confirm their bias to make a piece look like it has been researched and contains source material. And readers who may have come looking for information end up none the wiser.
The fix is nevertheless a simple one but calls for an ability we seem to be collectively losing, that of asking questions.
Often, we refrain from asking them because we don’t want to offend; sometimes asking questions wouldn’t occur to us because we simply don’t care.
Instead, we operate under the erroneous assumption that if it’s not happening to us, it doesn’t concern us.
Failure to recognize someone else’s humanity erodes our own a little more every time.
Eventually, there’ll be no society anymore but a collection of people living side by side, unable to connect.
Meanwhile, evil is becoming the new normal.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.