Go back to when you were a kid. It doesn’t matter how long ago. I bet you anything that at some point you turned to your mother, or father, or aunt, or whomever was responsible for you, and you said something around these lines:
“Oh, but everybody else is going!”
Or doing. Or getting. Or anything else that meant that a lot of other kids were having a “yes” where you received a “no”. And then, well, I bet, once again, the reply came to you in the form of a phrase kind of like this one:
“Well, if “everybody” jumps out the window will you, too?”
That was code for “this conversation is over”. It also carried a more profound meaning we were all supposed to carry through life: we should be ourselves and make up our own minds. Except for those times when it meant going up against our parents! – but that’s a whole other conversation…
For whatever reason, at different times, we heard that – and we understood what it stood for. We are individuals. So, whenever big, important or dangerous moments show themselves in our lives (and they will, time and time again) we must think, analyse and respond according to our own better judgment – for we will be accountable for our actions.
Pretty simple stuff, right? But then, well, here comes something called the internet, and a 24 hour news-cycle, and WhatsApp and this tiny little thing we keep hearing about: fake news! So it all came and it complicated matters and now everybody is unavoidably caught in this giant net of some dirty word I prefer not to write here.
But… really? Let’s just stop and take a deep breath for a minute.
Pushing aside the new forms of media, the fact remains: it’s the same old human world with a different “look”.
It used to be urban legend spread by “word of mouth”, now it’s absurd lies spread by… well, our nervous fingers pushing the “click” button.
When I was a child, for instance, I witness (and participated in) a period of mass-hysteria in the school I attended at the time. It went on for months, I think. Some story about a “cloaked figure” that kept appearing and terrorising kids in bathrooms, empty corridors and dark corners.
Now… Was it really hard for me to figure out that something like a “man-in-a-black-cloak” made no sense at all – because everyone swearing to have seen it was under twelve years old, had absolutely no concrete proof to back it up and could not formulate a single good explanation as to why the adults of the school would just let the thing go on and not do anything about it?…
Not at all, I have to say. But the funny thing was: as it was pretty quick for me to notice the “fake” drama, a lot of other kids (older and more knowledgeable than I was) kept it up. You know why? As I observed, some of them were having fun with it, and others were addicted to it. While at that time I didn’t understand exactly why, the fact is a lot of people get addicted to being afraid or under pressure, or in a constant battle. It’s a rush. And they feel like they need it.
Fast-Forward to the year of 2019. We live in the era of abundant information. So, as hard as you, or me (or the 12 year-old-kid who started my school urban-legend) want to believe in something, that doesn’t make it true. So, eventually, from the top of my seven or eight long years of experience in life, I had to admit my school was not that interesting and scary. It was just a school. Full of other terrors, of course (as any reader of my novel “Batismo” might have guessed rsrs), but none of them including a “cloaked something-or-other”.
I’m not saying with all of this that spreading “fake whatever” should be ignored and just go on unpunished. On the contrary. I believe the bigger the microphone or the taller the pile of money, the more accountable you should be. It’s bad enough that you would throw trash out in the world because of your irrational beliefs and fears, but to do it in cold-blooded, strategised way as to take advantage of others to achieve your own dark purposes… Well, honestly, “falling into disgrace” comes to mind as a deserved consequence for that.
“Oh, ok, Flávia… So what do you mean?” I mean, we can all do something about it. We are just people, so, naturally, we have our hopes and dreams, our fears, traumas, prejudices (ugly word, right? But yes we do, and the earlier you face that, the faster you improve yourself in that department). And it is pretty tempting to just hear or read or watch STUUUUUUPID stuff all around, that is over there just to blink at you saying “you’re right”.
Tempting. Not unavoidable. For we are all of that I just said before. But we are also creatures of instinct. And we know, deep inside, when something “smells” a little (or A LOT) off… And, well, since we, you know, have a brain, why not wait two minutes and think, and check, and, when in doubt, DO NOT CLICK on “share” or DO NOT VOTE for that guy just because of ONE “fact” that simply doesn’t add up by any rational standard?!
So, though this new world we live in, right now, can strike us as just too complicated to be properly manageable, try to remember that, at it’s core, it remains the same. Because, at the end of the day, the simple truth stands in the old words we all heard as children: we don’t have to jump out that window.