Whatever Happened to Common Sense?

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A lesson in truth on the Internet that I’ll explain next time.

I originally started this blog to promote my book Ringing True. As is the case with most independently published books, hardly anyone bothered to read it. After a while I got bored waiting for Hollywood to offer me a movie deal and the blog became a spot in cyberspace where I blathered on about books I’d read or shared some of my worst poetry.

Sorry about that.

Finally I said “fuck it” and stopped feeding the blog. I kept paying my annual dues to WordPress in the hope that one day the light bulb would illuminate and I’d come up with a viable reason for a restart. I sensed that the phrase “ringing true” had possibilities beyond the title of a failed book but I couldn’t come up with a workable concept.

Meanwhile, back in the so-called real world, I spent almost six years working for a nonprofit in the Seattle metro area.  Unfortunately, the organization was highly dysfunctional and the people who ran the place were perfectly comfortable with that dysfunction because the confusion they generated kept them in power. Those who weren’t comfortable with the toxic environment pissed away a whole lot of energy trying to change things but it eventually dawned on them that they were wasting their time trying to revive a terminal patient and moved on.

I eventually gave up too. I left on New Year’s Eve, 2019 and found myself without a job and no burning desire to find one. The problem I really wanted to solve was getting rid of Trump and every last trace of the current manifestation of the Republican Party, so I sketched out a plan to travel across the USA campaigning against all that racist, authoritarian, climate-change denying, woman-hating, truth-twisting, evangelical Christian bullshit.

Please note that I did not say that my goal was to elect Democrats. At best, I’m a Democrat-by-Default, as our two-party system doesn’t leave us with much in the way of desirable choices. I know the Democrats won’t actively destroy the environment or engage in blatant racism but I’ve lived long enough to know that Democrats are 95% talk and 5% action—and when they do take action, they’re not very good at implementation. My choice to support Democrats is really nothing more than a holding action, an accidental outcome of my disgust with fascist pretenders.

Alas, COVID-19 eliminated the possibility of traveling safely across the American landscape, so like everyone else, I’ve been hunkered down, spending most of my time playing music and transforming 3000 square feet of weeds and Himalayan blackberries into a lavender-and-flower garden. I’d never gardened before in my life and knew absolutely nothing about gardening, but I like learning new things (and with the gyms closed, I needed the exercise).

While gardening, I listened to music on my headphones and did a lot of thinking about the state of our world. My conclusion can be summed up in the pithy phrase, “We’re in deep shit, people.” I could waste a lot of space listing all the serious problems facing humanity, but for the sake of economy, let’s go straight to the root causes of all our current difficulties:

  1. There are too many stupid people in the world.
  2. There are too many fearful people in the world. Note that many are fearful because they are stupid. Fearful and stupid go hand-in-hand.
  3. Most of the people who hold power prioritize fulfillment of personal ambition and protection of their privileged status over the needs of humanity.

In a world filled with stupid, fearful people led by people who don’t give a shit about anyone except themselves, discerning the truth about anything is a Herculean task. “Everybody lies” isn’t just a catchphrase from House, M.D. It’s our reality. Stupid people lie to themselves and to everyone around them because they’re clueless when it comes to truth. Fearful people make shit up to protect whatever it is they’re trying to protect. People in power lie because they can count on all the stupid, fearful people to keep them in power by feeding them the lies they want to hear. Whenever a few of the stupid-and-fearful wake up for a moment and appear ready to challenge the powers-that-be, the powerful have plenty of tricks they can pull out of the fear bag (immigrants, terrorists, job eliminations, socialism, government control, liberals, conservatives, etc.) to put the sheep back to sleep.

Please note that by “stupid” I don’t mean “uneducated.” Some of the most intelligent people I know never came close to getting a college degree, and because our educational systems are no longer oriented towards learning but feeding the economy with qualified job seekers, I’ve found many highly-educated people to be phenomenally stupid . . . because they lack a gift that seems to have gone the way of cigarette vending machines, Clorets and the Oldsmobile Cutlass.

Common sense.

Common sense is the result of a healthy skepticism that allows a person to use their basic intelligence to figure out whether or not what one reads or hears “rings true.” Your bullshit meter will hit red when you hear or read something that just doesn’t sound “right.” According to the dictionary definition, everyone has access to common sense because it is “not necessarily based on specialized knowledge.”

The main enemies of common sense are gullibility, personal bias and the refusal to learn new things. People who believe anything they read on the Internet lack common sense. People who believe nothing they read on the Internet lack common sense. People who only get their information from “liberal” or “conservative” sources lack common sense. People who believe someone because they have a PhD. lack common sense, as do people who refuse to believe anyone with a degree. Refusing to believe something just because you’re too lazy to take the time to learn more the subject at hand reveals a profound lack of common sense.

I miss common sense, so I’m going to take on the Herculean task of attempting to make it fashionable again. This blog will feature essays on a wide range of subject matter; my goal is to take a common sense approach to each topic and find answers that “ring true.”

Wish me luck!


3 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Common Sense?”

  1. Robert, it’s great to see you back in the writing saddle! Agree, the world is broken. Gardening and writing seem like sane responses — look forward to reading more.

    1. Hey, Mary! Nice to hear from you! Hope all is well in NC.

      While I’m 100% committed to mask-wearing and vaccinations, I’m sure I wouldn’t have survived the pandemic if it weren’t for the garden.

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