A few years ago, before I was in a wheelchair, I was queueing in a Post Office. As I stood in the queue, patiently waiting, I looked up at the CCTV monitor. There before me was a queue of bored looking people; well, the backs of their heads. I wasn’t quite in shot though, as all I could see was the man at the counter, taking an absolute age and holding us all up. A mother and her child waiting behind him, the child getting impatient. The child was not alone there. Then an old bald guy behind them. The strange thing was when I looked down, the mother and child were in front of me, but no old bald guy. He must have left the queue. I looked back up; he returned as if by magic. I looked down; he’d gone. Now call me very quick witted, I realised that ‘he’ was ‘me.’ But that didn’t make any sense. I look in the mirror every morning and I always saw a good head of hair. The CCTV monitor was lying, it showed a huge bald area on top. I nonchalantly put my hand on my head. Sure, enough I felt the reassuring touch of hair. It was only sometime later I realised that the hair I could feel was too fine and thin to actually be seen. Angles of view can alter your understanding. What felt like a good head of hair to me was virtually invisible on camera and made me look bald from above. How we look at things changes our perception of them.
More than once I have looked at something from a distance and been convinced that what I was seeing was one thing only to realise it was something else once it was closer. Once as a young man I was convinced that I was seeing the end of a beach, with a rock promontory. On reaching it, I found it was just a rock formation sticking out onto the beach part way down with another half mile of beach beyond. What seemed like an ending was only a part way point. I find that many situations can be like this. Limited or distorted information leads us to conclude one thing when a closer, different angled or a more detailed view changes our understanding. The point is that accurate and full information can prevent us from jumping to wrong conclusions. We live in an age of misinformation, half-truths and outright lies. This is more apt now than it has ever been.
They say that history is written by the victors. Not surprising therefore that our view of the history of our own countries is biased. I was watching ‘The Last Kingdom’ and I was struck by one theme in it. That Alfred wrote down the ‘history’ or at least his interpretation of it, for his times. We form our opinion of him and his times based on things largely written at his command. There are other sources, but a lot came from him.
If the ‘history’ of the times we live in now were mainly recorded by our government and those in power (I deliberately separate those) how would they differ from the masses of opposing views recorded in the press, the media and online? How does your opinion and the governments vary? The less ‘viewpoints’ there are, the narrower the focus, the more one sided the interpretation.
With all the false information on social media how do we find truth? Surely, we have to look at many sources and weigh them? Common sense would say that the more different and widespread sources agree the more likely that is truth. If something is widely reported but ‘does not ring true’ we probably are wise to treat it with scepticism. We seem to have an inbuilt sense of truth. That may sound like nonsense, but think about it. When you hear news items some things just don’t sound right. Others seem to chime within you. It’s that I am talking about. The reason we throw out conspiracy theories isn’t because we think the pedlars of them are unhinged, or because we hold to the ‘incompetence theory of history’ but because they just don’t chime with us, they don’t feel right. But if we hear about corruption of people in power, that rings true. If we hear about hidden torture or people being imprisoned for their beliefs, that rings true. We just seem to know when we are hearing truth.
Obviously, I just knew I wasn’t bald; hang on that disproves my own theory. There are always a few glitches in any idea; but you see where I am coming from? The main point I am really making is to be wise in your processing of news and information. Remember that perspective effects our understanding. Look for different sources. If it doesn’t sound true, maybe it isn’t. Check and cross check. Look at things from wider and different angles. In an age of misinformation, we can still find the truth.
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