Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Pursuit of Common Sense

Modern technology has removed us from the natural arena, and placed us in an artificial environment of our own creation. This has added a new and unique twist to the way we interact, and is possibly one of the greatest changes we have ever faced. This new world created by technology seems to have endless possibilities. It is a place where forward planning and automation increases the gap between actions and consequences, where the gray areas between what is said and what is done have expanded to a point where the connection is often almost untraceable.

The twentieth century was an era of excess, not only of drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll, but also of monster trucks, giant mansions, and celebrity worship. Ours was a disposable society where consumption was necessary to keep the gears of our market economy turning. Industrial pollutants threatened our environment, while poverty and ghetto violence isolated and segregated us behind our televisions and jobs. Our only alternatives were totalitarian systems where opportunity was essentially removed. We found ourselves living in global conflict between these two extremes. The world's super powers engaged in a cold war rivalry based on competing economic philosophies, where the people of the third world were often used as pawns. Hovering above this conflict was the very real threat of nuclear war and the destruction of life as we know it. Among the first lessons we learned was how destructive technology can be. Once released from its bottle, the nuclear genie could not be put back. It was as if we could not go forward, nor could we retreat.

During these times, it seems that the principles which guided our society for generations, had been scattered and tangled by the machinations of our modern world. Electronics and combustion engines reshaped the world between generations. Maybe even more rapid technological expansion awaits us in the future, but in this era, people in developed countries escaped from the daily struggle for survival, into an age where we mainly ponder how much is enough.

In the past, parents worked at home, either on the farm or in the cottage, working the family trade. The influence of parents over their children was far greater than it is in these modern times, where parents work outside of the home, and children are more influenced by media than their own parents. Combined with the advance of technology, and the rapid change in how people live their lives from one generation to next, it seems that all too consistently, our traditional roles have failed us.

Jet age travel has resulted in the cultures of world being thrown together in a stew. Your neighbors and coworkers could be from anywhere on the planet. Music, food, beliefs, and practices were tossed into the pot. We know first, the ways of the land and the people where we were raised, and that shapes our perspective of the world and all that is in it. In this stew we discover that the differences are not so great, although they certainly exist. We began to ponder who and why we are, and the stirrings of old gods raise their heads. It is good that we should ponder the fate of our immortal souls, but the universality of why we choose how we live goes beyond all of this. 

The ways of the past have lead us to this new place, where we must now find a new way forward. Yes, we should take into consideration all that we have learned from the past. We don't have to abandon the old ways, just add the lessons we are learning from this new place. New age religions and philosophies have sprouted up everywhere, seeking to find a new way forward. The old gods must now learn to live amongst each other in peace, and we must come to grips with the new gods we now face. Not only must we learn how to deal with the nuclear genie we have released, we must learn to deal with all of the repercussions that come from technologically advanced world. 

Beyond all schools of thought, exists common sense, inherent truths that can be seen from all perspectives, looking directly at the reasons why we live our lives the way that we do. We need a perspective of the truth, respective of beliefs, culture, religion, science, coming from a shared common sense understanding, if we are ever going to close the large gaps between actions and consequences, what is said, and what is done. Our multicultural communities need to find a common ground, an understanding of truth and morality to forge better role models, for this rapidly evolving new world. I have tried to find and define what I feel are critical truths of this modern era, and to write them down so that I have them available when I need them, to help me navigate through life. Hopefully, others might find these useful as well.