Do we live in an age without self-awareness?

As an author I feel it is my job to pay attention to cultural leanings and norms.  I’ve written before about the politically charged climate we live in.  People have adapted an “us verses them” mentality not just with politics but faith, lack of faith, and even mundane things like movies.  Yes, movies, I’ve seen some impassioned arguments about them on the internet.  With these discussions one primary accusation comes up; the other person or side is a hypocrite.

The truth is, no one likes a hypocrite and we can smell hypocrisy a million miles away in another person or group but struggle to see it in ourselves.  It’s undoubtful that everyone has been a hypocrite before.  I certainly have, everyone I know has been.  That is an inevitable part of being human.  There is a problem when hypocrisy is a pattern or even a lifestyle.

Hypocrisy can evolve to a point where a person is utterly lacking self-awareness.  The problem compounds when such lack of self-awareness spreads throughout a culture like a cancer.  Perhaps I’m cynical but from my perspective this seems to be where we are at in western society.  We see this especially in politics.  If someone from our “team” is guilty of something we look the other way and justify their actions.  However, if the “other side” does the same thing we lose our minds and catastrophize the situation.  The same thing is with religious verses irreligious folks.  The common attitude is that people can have their faith and believe what they will, but they must keep it to themselves.  However, irreligious folks, sometimes flood the internet with comments about how people who believe differently than them are delusional idiots.

There is a surface celebration of diversity in our culture, but rarely are diverse ideas met with approval.  It is the norm to shout down, belittle, and attack those who think differently.  Maybe we should try to understand why someone believes differently instead?  That is much harder.  It also goes against human nature.  It requires an immense amount of empathy, but it is not impossible.  I’m directing these comments as much to myself as anyone reading this.  This is how we become self-aware and do not become what we hate in others.

Open-Minded

We hear about open-mindedness a lot in our culture.  It is often viewed as a good thing, a virtue even.  Those who adhere to traditional values on the other hand are viewed as the antonym of open-minded, and the enemy of diversity.  While that certainly can be true, open-mindedness, like everything else must be tempered.

Being open to ideas, experiences, and other people’s beliefs is a generally a good thing.  In a society that is so divided, a little more of that would do wonders to bring about healing.  Not all ideas are equal.  Some view all religions, political beliefs, and philosophies to be the same.  If only people would understand that, then there would be peace, right?  Not exactly.  Many belief systems are destructive, and because we are human, even the good and true ones often get warped.

A balance should be struck between the hardened skeptic and the hippy that believes anything goes.  Listening to people is always important, but that doesn’t mean their ideas are valid, in fact they might be very toxic to society.  How much toxicity have we allowed into our culture for the sake of being “open-minded?”  That is a question the reader will have to answer for him or herself.  I certainly do not have the answer, but with all the dystopian media I have consumed along with the insane ideas now peddled as truth, I cannot help but wonder if fiction is closer to reality than I had thought.