010 Culture Problem: the death of common sense?
are we witnesses the rise of a self-erasing culture?
This a tragic story.
A couple of years ago, a young man in Connecticut came to believe that drinking lots of water would purify his body.
He drank a great deal of water.
Too much water.
His parents found him lying lifeless in the living room.
It turns out that too much water causes cells in the body to swell. This can create pressure in the brain, confusion, drowsiness and sometimes hyponatremia.
Over hydration can cause death.
This is profoundly discouraging.
This young man was smart. He was raised by parents who loved and cared for him, in schools that educated him, in communities that looked out for him.
No one told him that too much water was dangerous.
So he started drinking and he kept drinking through the discomfort it must have caused. Because, for some reason, he believed, this was a good idea.
What caused him to embrace an essentially implausible idea?
What caused someone to drum up this specious idea and a young man to embrace it?
Normally, we share a pool of common sense.
It contains all those things that “go without saying.” These are understandings built up over generations. Simple truths that we can all agree upon and act upon.
If drinking water is no longer governed by common sense, we are in a world of trouble. How many other things no longer “go without saying.” Must we now “say” everything. If even water can be made dangerous, how many things can be turned into a stupid idea and tragic outcome.
How does this happen?
On the production side, there’s trouble.
So many people are gunning for startup riches.
This means a constant search for miracle ideas.
Beets! The new secret of good nutrition!
Wheat belly! Here’s what to do! More carbs! No, fewer carbs!
The advice is relentless. Cleanse your body! Clear your mind! Forget everything you know about nutrition and try our supplement!
Snake oil salespeople are now armed with late night infomercials, YouTube videos and influencers on line.
They are getting better at flimflam.
These people are happy to be a wrecking crew that puts our culture at risk.
Thanks to their ministrations, the pool of common sense is increasingly one of those above-ground contraption that was unsteady at the best of times, and now, several years past it’s best-by date, is leaning and leaking.
On the consumer side, there’s still more trouble.
Flimflam artists have been with us always.
But these days the recipients of their messages are newly susceptible.
And that’s because we are newly credulous. We are more inclined to believe even inherently dubious things.
We are prepared to believe things that stand outside the pool of common sense.
And here’s the scary part.
The further something stands outside the pool of common sense, the more credible it will seem to some of us.
Implausibility is for some people a condition of knowledge, the way they identify what they want to believe next.
Our world view is charged with skepticism. We just know that dark forces are trying to keep the truth from us.
Our demonology is well developed.
The medical profession. The expert class. Scientists. Professors. Politicians. Corporations. These people have a vested interest in the status quo. We must learn to distrust them!
So anything is possible. Even for smart, educated people.
Take the case of Burning Man.
There aren’t many rules at Burning Man. That’s kind of the point. This mirage in the desert is supposed to self-regulate through the application of a few good ideas.
One of these is “piss clear.”
Burning Man wants people to avoid burdening their bodies with toxins.
But guess what? “Pissing clear” is dangerous nonsense.
Here’s what they say on WebMD.
What are the signs that you’re drinking too much water?
The color of your urine. One of the best ways to determine if you’re drinking enough water is to monitor the color of your urine. It usually ranges from pale yellow to tea-colored due to the combination of the pigment urochrome and the water level in your body. If the pee is often clear, that's a sure sign you're drinking too much water in a short span.
Healthy cultures are sticky cultures.
Healthy cultures are sticky cultures. They achieve understandings of the world and then they hoard these understandings, passing them along from generation to generation.
This means individuals do not need to test every article of common sense. Culture does this work for them. Certain things are found to be true, and these pass into “common sense,” there to shape our daily lives.
We’re losing this. People who live conventional lives are now prepared to think wildly unconventional things. Common sense is in peril.
It’s a frightening scenario. Are we burning through our common sense? Are we acting like a dying star, the ones that consume themselves and then collapse?
Is that where we’re headed?
Our world is now fraught with instability and confusion. Some of this comes from our culture, as I suggest in the opening post.
Today’s post suggests just how compromised our culture has become. Simple truths are no longer simple. Obvious things are no longer obvious. Common sense is being emptied out.
001 Culture Problem: the “Failure to Launch” people
002 Culture Problem: vibe shifts in decline
003 Culture Solution: fluidity as an adaptation
004 Culture Problem: decline of the water cooler
005 Culture Solution: big pictures
006 Culture Problem: bad food
007: Culture Solution: good food
008: Culture Problem: celebrities
009: Culture Solution: the Denzel Washington School for Drama
010: Culture Problem: the death of common sense
Here’s how the argument here is shaping up.
We have covered six culture problems:
001 Culture Problem: the “Failure to Launch” people, a generation is stalled waiting for adulthood
002 Culture Problem: vibe shifts in decline: evidence that culture is not cohering
004 Culture Problem: decline of the water cooler: our ability to calibrate is failing
006 Culture Problem: bad food: something as fundamental as food was corrupted
008: Culture Problem: celebrities are sometimes a bad influence, colonizing our kids
010: Culture Problem: common sense is being emptied out
We have suggested four culture solutions:
003 Culture Solution: fluidity can serve us as an adaptation
005 Culture Solution: big pictures are available and improving
007: Culture Solution: good food and a massive revolution, proof of our power to repair
009: Culture Solution: The Denzel Washington School for Drama can help us use culture to fix culture
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