Friday, January 6, 2017

That shouldn't matter.

I want a T-shirt with a picture of Abed from Community and my favourite quote "That shouldn't matter."

Or another great choice is "I prefer the term homage."

In a way those two sayings represent the boundaries of Abed's worldview; on one side are the things he chooses to dismiss as objectively pointless, and on the other are the objectively pointless things that he chooses to invest his life into.

We can make better decisions when we understand how our decisions affect the world. But the world is fucking complicated. Nobody can be expected to understand all of it. What people need is "shortcuts" that skip the boring details that would only waste space in our brains.

When someone tells us something that we don't understand to the point of self-evidency we are forced to make a choice; either to elucidate our lack of understanding, or to make a shortcut by simply accepting it as true based on the authority of the speaker.

When someone presents as an authority and what they are saying doesn't seem obviously wrong, people will accept their "truth shortcuts" without feeling the need to question them too thoroughly. And so when the world isn't understandable we accept conspiracy theories and media narratives and the obfuscation of inconvenient facts and Donald Trump becomes president.

People need shortcuts to understanding. The media's obligation as an authority should be to make sure that its narrative shortcuts are as true as possible. Which brings me to Russell Brand.

In The Trews (a portmanteau of True and News) on Youtube, Russell Brand presents his own narrative of what's going on in the world, in what I perceive as simple and self-evident language. I feel comfortable accepting his truths because he has impressed on me again and again how keenly he is able to understand the complexities of our society, while maintaining an optimistic and empathetic worldview. We need more people who can chop up difficult-to-understand truths into simpler self-evident ideas.

But what about the people who have an excuse to disbelieve everything Russell Brand says? He is after all, a filthy hippie lefty, prattling on about peace and love while everyone already knows that it's really other people to blame for the world sucking so much.

Honestly if I knew how to communicate with that kind of archetype I'd be out there doing it instead of sitting at home typing at my computer.

Truth isn't enough to convince people; this is the hardest lesson to be learned by the hippie generation. "All you need is love" is not enough. Plenty of us can and will choose to reject anything which challenges our worldview. We need to go further; we need to find ways to make our truth accessible to the many different ways that ordinary people understand the world.

I also think it's interesting to notice how consistently our comedians have taken the lead in advancing social narratives in a positive direction. I've understood for a while now that humour is a function of social intelligence. It's a medium that relies very heavily on effective communication, and is by definition alienating when it fails.