Sunday, November 5, 2023

A Surprising Number Of People...

...have no ideas of their own.

You hear it all the time.  "I watch Joe Rogan's podcast!" they cry.  "I never miss Tucker Carlson!" another says.  "That Andrew Tate knows something about women!" another blubbers.  "Who is your favorite influencer?" a girl asks.  "That Bill Maher is one smart guy!" another opines, quoting a favorite line.  And of course, even dead folks get in on this game - George Carlin's every comment is repeated religiously (!) today.

It seems people have no ideas of their own.  And I am not just talking about listening to these gurus occasionally, but faithfully (!) and regularly - and following their "advice" on how to live, often with disastrous results.

I wrote about this before - how it seems a lot of people are like sheep, particularly the kind who accuse other people of being "sheeple" which is a unique phrase they came up with on their own.  People crave advice and validation.  I noted earlier that one of the most popular "subs" on Reddit is "AITA?" or "Am I The Asshole?" where people beg for advice as to whether they did something wrong by offending their niece's step-father's sister-in-law.

Advice columns have been around since the printing press was invented.  Gutenberg, after publishing the Bible, published an "advice for the love-lorn" column which was pasted up on fences all over town.  Just kidding, of course, but then again, it wouldn't surprise me.

I guess religion was the first advice-giver or "influencer."   Catholics religiously go to the confession booth and ask for forgiveness and advice on what to do.  Somehow, the answer always involves saying Hail Marys.   Religion literally has all the answers, even if the answers are different depending on which religion you consult.  The vast majority of people on this planet willingly give over their free will to a religion, substituting belief for reasoning.  Just hand over 10% of your gross income to the church - or more! - and you'll be just fine.

People make a religion out of pop stars or politicians.  Young "Swifties" in South America are camped out for five months waiting to get tickets to a show (it better be a good show!).  They literally hand over their lives to some distant superstar on stage.  Others want to overthrow our government and abolish democracy and install Donald Trump as dictator for life as, well, you know, you can't trust people to make their own decisions in life and Donnie knows what is best for all of us, as evidenced by his track record.  You can't make this shit up!

It seems we crave advice.  Some people even ask me for advice, and I try not to give it - I am not an advice column.

To me, it is an anathema.  I guess I am too independent to just hand my life over to an "influencer" or guru.  I would ask too many pointed questions and be an irritant in the cult.  Unless I could be the guru, not interested - thanks!

Of course, this is not to say I am never "influenced" ever.  We all are, usually subconsciously.  We listen to the news or the opinions of our friends and co-workers and are subtly "nudged" in one way or another.  Those of us who believe in the "one true religion!" tend to believe in the religion of their parents and childhood, or a religion they have been exposed to in their home country.  It is rare that anyone adopts a religion from across the planet, unless it is some bastardized new-age version of that religion, being pushed by a local guru.

We adopt the belief systems of our parents, family, and community, except in some rare instances.  Some people revolt at the belief system of their parents, because they don't get along with their parents, who may be abusive.  Or, they see, firsthand, the horrors of the cult their family has been indoctrinated into.  But for every reformed Cath-aholic or dis-fellowshipped Witness or Ex-Scientologist, there are ten, nay a hundred, who follow the religion of their upbringing.  Belief is very powerful and thus very evil.  And most people struggle to think for themselves.

And don't get me started on "crypto" - the whole thing is based on faith, and if you ask pointed questions about it, the faithful barf up dogma better than a Catholic!  Faith-based investing always ends up badly, except for the guy setting up the scheme - and even then... some go to jail.

Some argue that you have to at least listen to these types of "influencers" in life to judge whether what they are saying is true or not.  A neat argument, but there are literally not enough hours in the day to listen to all of them.  And a surprising (or not so surprising) number of people watch television all day long, basically programming their brains with things like Fox News.   "This is important," they think, "The television said so!"

I think Social Media influencers can be just ignored completely - they are just advertisers hawking products.  Mark has clicked on a number of videos by people who are hawking a product in exchange for cash or by getting a free product.  When we went shopping for a tonneau cover for our truck, it seemed every video we watched for about ten different products, claimed that theirs was the best!  It is akin to finding the one true religion.  After we bought the cover we have, we found out the bald truth - they leak.  And the one video by a guy not paid by anyone showed us that - but only after we had a road to Damascus experience.

Others are hawking books, seminars, or other "how-to" sessions that involve you taking out your wallet and giving them money.  Andrew Tate, who has destroyed the minds and libidos of hundreds of thousands of 7th graders (who will now never get laid in their lifetimes) made money selling books and such, and also from advertisers on his "channel" which I guess will now be streamed from prison.  The rest of the "podcasters" are no different - selling sensationalism to make a buck.  Most have no real moral compass or lodestar - they merely are entertainers and should be treated as such.  Yet so many folks hang on their every word, when what they have to say is as meaningless as what a celebrity has to say when they make their political Oscar speech.

It scares me, really, how so many people are willing to suspend disbelief and disregard their own life experiences to follow a guru.  Right now, the GOP is promising to cut Social Security and Medicare, and one of their largest voting blocs (besides crazy people) is elderly retirees who rely on Social Security and Medicare.  I mean, when will they wake up?  The day they got to the mailbox and find no Social Security check waiting?  Even then, will they blame that on the Democrats?

You bet!

Of course, conservatives have no monopoly on blind faith followers - they just have more of 'em!  There are wacky liberals galore, who latch onto far-left causes without thinking too much.  Things like "guaranteed annual income" or "student loan forgiveness" are taken on faith. When you ask pointed questions about these financial schemes, they get evasive as a Christian does, when you ask them what exactly is the holy ghost.  How does student loan forgiveness tamp down the spiraling cost of education (it doesn't - like any subsidy, it increases prices).  How does this work for future students?  Do all loans get forgiven going forward?  If so, they aren't really "loans" anymore, are they?  If you take away a Senior's $3000-a-month Social Security and replace it with $1200 of "guaranteed annual income" how can they survive on that?  Why would they vote for that?  Well, granted, they will vote to abolish Social Security entirely, provided that it only applied to "those born on 1960 and thereafter."  What do they have against us, anyway?

These sort of "one thing fixes everything" solutions are based on faith and not logic.  Term limits don't solve anything, particularly when the person arguing for them wants term limits for the other guy but not for his guy.  Similarly, flat-tax schemes or national sales taxes are based on faith, not logic - but are appealing to people who like simple mantras.

Speaking of simple mantras - how about "white supremacy" or antisemitism?  Funny thing, the folks who blindly follow that are often the same simpletons who want flat tax, flat earth, and term limits.

Belief is dangerous.  It is evil.  But people do it, because it is fun.  Besides, if you believe in something that doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of ever happening, you can perpetually claim to be "right" and the rest of the world is wrong.  Jesus is coming back any day now, and boy is he pissed!  Any day now... real soon.  Like next week!   Maybe the week after.  Next year?  Let me consult my horological chart.

Of course, all of this is for naught. I am just ranting - shouting against the wind.  You can tell people they need to figure things out for themselves, and they still don't get it.  Like "Tommy" in the "rock opera" by The Who, he tries to tell people they need to find their own path, and people turn away from him in disgust, as he doesn't have the pat answers they wanted.

Yes, we are all individuals!

Monty Python in The Life of Brian spoofed this magnificently.  "You need to think for yourselves!" he shouts.  "We need to think for ourselves" the crowd drones in response.  They never get it and never will.

The upside to all of this - as I discovered far too late in life - is that if you can think for yourself, and think logically and not emotionally, you will soar ahead of your brain-dead compatriots who fall for whatever attractive-sounding con-job that comes down the pike.

But then again, if I say that, someone will surely ask me, "That sounds good, how do I go about doing that?"