Manila Bulletin

What do you think?


Do you know that the constant flapping of a butterfly’s wings can cause a powerful typhoon elsewhere? According to chaos theory, seemingly insignific­ant and random happenings can have earthshaki­ng effects. If the theory is correct, then even our most randomly stupid decisions may have caused all the maladies afflicting us and our country today.

History has shown that the destiny of individual­s and nations was sometimes determined, not by elaborate plans and decisions, but by little acts of stupidity, like Adam and Eve eating a forbidden fruit, Judas selling Christ for 30 pieces of silver, or Mary Antoinette telling her people to eat cake instead of bread.

In an age where the Internet reigns supreme, stupidity has risen to the level of an epidemic because of our diminishin­g desire to think. Millions of people today use the computer to do the thinking for them. If they want to learn about something, they do not retreat into a quiet corner to speculate about it. They Google and, in millisecon­ds, harvest a bounty of informatio­n. But since the computer cannot teach us how to systematiz­e, analyze, and synthesize these data into a meaningful whole, the result of this operation is not knowledge or understand­ing, but data overload.

The pandemic has worsened this situation. Face-to-face teaching has been replaced by online lectures. A teacher transmits lessons from her gadget to that of her student. Ideally, such lessons should pass through the student's brain before these are saved in the latter's laptop. But what usually happens is, teachers tend to act like fax machines. They evaluate their students based on the latter's ability to repeat, word-for-word, everything the teacher says. Instead of encouragin­g students to think, this system suppresses creativity and logical thought.

Television also contribute­s greatly to the gradual demise of serious thinking. Do you know that less than 5 percent of the adult population read books? A great number derive their knowledge from the Internet, radio, and newspapers, but the rest rely heavily on television, an entertainm­ent medium and a boredom-killing machine. Ask young people how they came to know a particular idea. Their predictabl­e answer is: “I saw it on TV.” Many people believe that television can verify, falsify, justify, or nullify, any notion, rumor, or issue.

We are often told: “Keep an open mind,” and we follow the advice literally. Every day we allow news programs to flood our mind with crimes, disasters, and human misery. Instead of helping us think, they push us to worry about problems that are too big for us to handle, generating needless anxiety and anger.

The thinking individual is fast disappeari­ng. The world is inhabited by two billion cabled, cellphoned, and earphoned couch potatoes who are mere statistics in the latest TV survey for higher ratings.

What separates us from the brutes is our God-given ability to think. Through this human software, we come to know reality, understand its meaning, and arrange its varying aspects according to a well-establishe­d hierachy of values. The neglect of thinking leads to irrational­ity and social chaos.

So, wake up, couch potatoes, computer slaves, and cell phone addicts! A truly free person is one who has the freedom to think, not the freedom FROM thinking.

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