What’s wrong with ev­ery­one?

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

What is wrong with this world? It is the ques­tion I get most of­ten from read­ers and view­ers; even more so than “Are your eyes re­ally two dif­fer­ent colors?” The an­swer to the sec­ond ques­tion is yes. As to the first, that’s a bit more com­pli­cated. A good po­lice de­tec­tive would tell you when you are try­ing to solve a crime don’t over­think it. Of­ten the most ob­vi­ous an­swer is the an­swer. I’m a 54-year-old man and I’ve seen two big changes in my life­time — the ad­vance of tech­nol­ogy and the aban­don­ment of God. By the sec­ond I mean when it comes to faith more and more peo­ple check the box marked “none” when asked which re­li­gion they as­cribe to. Many ei­ther don’t be­lieve in God or if they do they give him about as much thought as, “I won­der how the cast of the orig­i­nal ‘Bay­watch’ is do­ing these days?” So not much. Which is cer­tainly their pre­rog­a­tive.

Per­haps they weren’t taken to church as kids grow­ing up and even if their par­ents wanted to send them to Catholic school they couldn’t af­ford it, so the child was left in the wilder­ness that is so­ci­ety to sort things out for them­selves. I know many ap­plaud that ap­proach and per­haps there’s some merit to it. I’m not here to tell you peo­ple who be­lieve in God are good and those who don’t are bad. That would be stupid and wrong as there are plenty of good and bad on both sides of that fence. I would only point out that when peo­ple be­lieve there will be a judge for their ac­tions they tend to weigh them a bit more. Re­move the judge from the court­room and peo­ple act with­out worry of the con­se­quences. Do I think the shoot­ing in Ve­gas doesn’t hap­pen if that nut job had at­tended 9 a.m. Mass in Reno faith­fully? No I don’t. I’m just point­ing out that at the same time fewer peo­ple be­lieve in heaven the more I see the world go­ing to hell. It could be com­pletely un­re­lated or a co­in­ci­dence but I thought it was worth point­ing out.

I men­tioned tech­nol­ogy too. I don’t think your smart­phone makes you a bad per­son ei­ther and I don’t ex­pect us to go back to May­berry to hang out with Andy and Aunt Bee but have you no­ticed how cold we have be­come since we placed those warm lit­tle de­vices at the cen­ter of our lives? The in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia al­low us to com­mu­ni­cate with a bil­lion peo­ple if we choose to yet what do we see? Peo­ple sit­ting at Ap­ple­bee’s, not talk­ing to each other, head down and thumbs busy typ­ing away a mes­sage to some­one who is not at the ta­ble. You want to scream across the restau­rant, “Hey dummy if you want hu­man con­tact LOOK UP there’s a per­son sit­ting three feet across from you.”

I’ll say some­thing com­pletely in­sane now and backed by ab­so­lutely no re­search or data. I think one of the rea­sons we have so much de­pres­sion in this coun­try (be­sides the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies run­ning end­less com­mer­cials telling you you’re de­pressed and they have a pill for it) is so­cial me­dia which is quite unso­cial. See if this de­scribes what you see on your Facebook feed. Oh there’s my friend on an­other fab­u­lous va­ca­tion. I can’t af­ford to go to Lake Ge­orge for the week­end but there they are in Italy, again. Oh there’s an­other friend out to eat for the fourth time this week and I know this be­cause they have taken photos of their very fancy food. I’m eat­ing left­overs I just heated up in the mi­crowave. Oh there’s my friend with their fam­ily and in ev­ery photo ev­ery­one looks amaz­ingly happy. My fam­ily is kind of a mess right now. I’m not say­ing peo­ple shouldn’t share their lives but so­cial me­dia is of­ten a lie show­ing us only the best ver­sions of other peo­ple’s lives. We don’t see the blem­ishes do we? Those fil­ters are amaz­ing.

I’ve also no­ticed we live in echo cham­bers and lost our abil­ity to de­bate the mer­its of any­thing. It’s all, “I’m right and if you dis­agree you’re ei­ther a racist, xeno­phobe or you’re com­ing for all my guns.” There’s a fancy word I re­mem­ber from col­lege — pseu­dospe­ci­a­tion. It ba­si­cally means sep­a­rat­ing peo­ple into classes and declar­ing one su­pe­rior to the other. Once you do that you are morally free to treat them like crap be­cause they aren’t of your species. It’s a fal­lacy of course but it makes it eas­ier to shoot peo­ple from the 32nd floor of a ho­tel. As we cling to iden­tity pol­i­tics and seg­re­gate our­selves into “us “and “them” we should be care­ful. When you stop be­liev­ing oth­ers have value, that’s when peo­ple get hurt.

So what’s wrong with us? A lot of things I sup­pose. There’s no easy fix but we could start by lis­ten­ing to each other more. We could put down the damn phones and look at each other once in a while. And what­ever your spir­i­tual be­liefs, send­ing up a prayer now and again cer­tainly can’t hurt.

John Gray is a news an­chor on WXXA-Fox TV 23 and ABC’S WTEN News Chan­nel 10. His col­umn is pub­lished ev­ery Wed­nes­day. Email him at johngray@fox23news.com.

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