The world is going to Hell, or: Intellectual Dishonesty

Through me pass into the Painful City,

Through me pass into Eternal Grief,

Through me pass along the Lost People.

-Commedia, Inferno, Canto III

I’ve probably lost some of you. Translation:

Tonight! At 11! Could YOU be the victim of a Terrorist attack! Also, is air travel safe enough for you and your family? Stay tuned!

The abundance of news has brought a terrible ill unto the world: Information. It’s entirely possible that ignorance is not only bliss, it is wise. I think of the interview Barbara Walters did with the Dalai Llama and asked him how in the world he can be happy with “all that’s going on”. I could say that we exist in a state of information paralysis, but that would be forcing a metaphor. I think more accurately I take umbrage at the intellectual dishonesty that is making an analysis of complex issues. You take umbrage at me using the word umbrage, I’m sure because I’m using it incorrectly.

I’m sure you’ve heard “The world is going to Hell” or one of its cousins, such as “I don’t know what the world is coming to” or, “Things are getting worse”. You may have heard these words coming out of your own mouth. I happen to believe that you’re right, its just your reasoning thats wrong.

See, the universe runs on chaos and order. The universe could not have been born without chaos, could not have progressed without chaos forcing energy and matter to disassociate and spread…however the universe could not have been born without the order dictating the interactions of quarks, or order dictating that scattered matter must coalesce if there is a center of gravity. Whether the effect is merely perception or not, we find microcosms of this in our common experiences. I’d argue that chaos and order interact in a wax and wane fashion throughout any given day, but I have no supporting evidence.

I’m being boring by using quarter sized words. Forgive me, and allow me to come to my point: I’m sick of the phrase “The world is going to Hell”. I’m also sick of cable news that overanalyzes information and attempts to draw trends. It’s not their fault, it all goes back to the stock market, and you can thank those idiots for driving up your gas price. The problem originates with the assumption that a human being is capable of complex analysis of processes which are driven by multiple factors. This is a demonstrably false assumption. Only a severely focused mind could attempt such a thing, such as mentally handicapped savant. Data collection is impossible for the processes which we love to discuss: politics, the economy, morality. How does one track morality? How does one track the economy? The job data? The closest one could come to a reasonable judgement of the economy is to have everyone call one person within the time span of a single hour. Everyone in the world, mind you, would have to call this single person. Could that single person handle the CEO giving him the revenue numbers along with the vice president calling to admit he fudged those numbers a little to meet his targets this quarter? The shop owner selling carpets in Kazhakstan and the owner of the pizzeria down the street? Obviously not. To solve this issue people earn salaries for tracking indicators. They cannot show that these indicators represent the actual population.

Here’s the real question: What does this mean to you? Really, the economy doing poorly or well doesn’t matter at all if it doesn’t matter to you. If it does matter, here’s how you find out how the economy is doing: Whether you’re happy with your financial status, present and future, what you’ve heard on the news, your stress level, anyone else’s financial status that would concern you emotionally, what you had for breakfast, whether you’re in a healthy relationship…the list of factors continues. Now let’s say you work on Wall Street and its your job to issue some sort of opinion based on the tracking data. Now take what you had for breakfast plus the rest of it, plus this tracking data. An opinion comes out the other end.

So the next time a reporter asks you whether you think World War III has started, tell them, there’s no way to get the information necessary to make that decision, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. The next time someone says the world is going to Hell, call them intellectually dishonest and walk away. You’ll know that what you meant is that they couldn’t possibly have the information to analyze whether the world is going to hell, that they don’t have a logical structure for processing that data, and that they’re opinion is heavily based on whether their toast was burnt this morning. It only matters that you know.

Oh, and yes you’re in extreme danger in your home. The flouride in the drinking water is slowly killing you. Panic. Tonight at 11.