Engineering Cynicism

Writerly Rant #32

Graffitiby Mikael Carlson, Author.

The United States of America has always been a nation of people possessing the ability to engineer great things. The Hoover Dam, Mount Rushmore, the Manhattan Project, Apollo moon landings, the Internet… the list goes on. Regardless of how we may view these (you can argue the merits of developing the atomic bomb, for example), the US is a country of doers. Well, we were, anyway.

Major achievements are hard to come by these days. We can argue that rebuilding the World Trade Center, formally the Liberty Tower if you chose to keep track of the name and design changes, may be one. Unfortunately, a nation responsible for wondrous inventions and feats of engineering epic in scale can only claim one brilliant accomplishment in the past decade – we have built a nation of cynics.

The Information Age is in full bloom, and the amount of data we are expected to process in a day far outweighs our human ability to do so. The quantity of information available to the world is so vast that it cannot even be absorbed, let alone analyzed. Take the news, for example. There are countless 24-hour news organizations competing for viewership, all inundating us with information regardless of its accuracy. We get our digest of the day’s events and issues from television, radio, the Internet, social media, and newspapers. We can access them on the move from mobile devices like our smartphones, tablet computers, and laptops. The deluge starts when we wake up and does not end until we go to sleep at night.

With our brains desperately trying to keep up with events in a rapidly changing world, it is no surprise that we don’t have the time to think about what we are reading, seeing, and hearing. We accept what we are told as truth without any critical examination of the source. We become subjugated by organizations presenting slanted opinions as news in an effort to advance an agenda. Whether we accept what they are saying comes down more to our ideological predisposition than a result of critical analysis.

The result is a war between purveyors of information. Blogs, special interest groups, news organizations, and even the government often present us with conflicting facts about any host of important issues we face today. With so little time to digest what we read, hear and see, we now default to being cynical about anything not agreeing with our ideology without any reflective thought about the merit of the facts. We simply do not know who or what to believe anymore, so we reflexively don’t believe anything or anyone.

The result is modern day life: gridlock in government, issues with no solutions, politicians with low approval ratings, divisive and bitter partisan bickering, and an America with no sense of direction or urgency. Worst of all, we, as citizens, feel powerless to do anything about it. As the Information Age continues to spray data at us through a fire hose, we are using the bricks of cynicism to build an impregnable wall around us for protection from the world outside. Collectively, these individual efforts are about the only national engineering achievement in the past decade.

Mikael CarlsonMikael Carlson is the author of the political fiction novels The iCandidate and The iCongressman. He is an eighteen-year veteran of the armed forces, served as a U.S. Army Paratrooper, and earned a Master of Arts in American History. Mikael currently lives in Connecticut.

Categories: Rants, Writerly Rants

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