Taking responsibility for our own thinking and actions, nurturing our critical thinking abilities, ensuring we inform ourselves through a variety of perspectives sourced from a wide range of people in our lives, not just from media sources, exploring and challenging our own ideas….all of these are necessary to cultivate a practical and grounded focus on solutions. Ultimately, we are responsible for creating the world we want to see, and we are responsible for challenging conventional wisdom – and not leaving it up to politicians.
For example, do we really need economic growth? In a New Yorker article, author John Cassidy [https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/02/10/can-we-have-prosperity-without-growth] revisits the idea of prosperity without growth. In what natural system do we see continual growth without stopping? A more useful analogy would be that of breathing – we breathe in, and we breathe out; our lungs expand, and they contract, in a continuous cycle. Continuous growth is not sustainable – and this critique, once a fringe position, is gaining widespread attention in the face of the climate crisis.
Another reminder about the importance of critical thinking comes in the area of political interference. Some writers think hacking of campaigns and meddling in elections is the new normal (see https://www.politico.com/interactives/2020/the-new-rules-of-campaigning-in-2020/). To help counteract this, James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies cites American Psychological Association research saying that “fake news and other social media campaigns do not change people’s minds. They confirm existing beliefs and exacerbate existing fears and conflicts.” (https://www.csis.org/analysis/election-interference-and-emperors-new-clothes). Lewis suggests that such interference exposes problems currently being ignored—so we should focus “less on digital policing and more on ourselves” worry less about our computer being hacked, and more about our brain being hijacked.
See Fareed’s Global Briefing, Feb 6, 2020 for more on both of these examples: https://edition.cnn.com/specials/fareeds-global-briefing
Recently I had the opportunity to spend time with some young people in the creative professions, who reminded me that there are many good and positive things happening in the world at the community level. My advice is to find those communities, support them, and nurture them. Cast a critical eye on the media knowing that the information we are fed by them is 1) a tiny fraction of what’s happening in this extraordinary world of ours, 2) both consciously and unconsciously designed to stoke human negativity bias and fear, to stimulate stress hormones which have an addictive quality, so that we will consume more media. What we are told is “news” is someone’s decision about what’s important. Make your own decision.
All of us need to develop, practice, and engage in critical thinking – to analyse and investigate through our own experience. This is how we will “not only take care of ourselves but also to take care of the whole world.”