Saturday, August 27, 2016

"...and You Believe That?" Skepticism vs. Cynicism

                         Image result for bullshit detector
by Vol-E

I can recall many days during my school years when I would rush home and eagerly share some new information with my mother. I'd tell her about a classmate who said her father was the president of General Motors, or a teacher who claimed to have been in the profession for 20 years but was still only 30 years old. Mom fancied herself as my protector. She wasn't going to let anyone make a fool out of me if she could help it. I got so used to her responding to any such report with "And you believe that?!" that I finally did learn to filter information in a quest for truth.

Our last name was so unusual (an Ellis Island original, I believe, where some multi-consonant moniker from Ukraine or Latvia was simplified in order not to strain the intellect of immigration officials) so as to be virtually unique in the U.S. And yet, a friend insisted, when I was eight, that she shared that surname. Damn, she was convincing! But Mom held firm, and once she began threatening to "have a talk with" the girl's mother, she finally relented and admitted that her name was her name, and not mine. Amazingly, I'm still close friends with this person. We know all each other's secrets, because honesty has proven to be the most entertaining policy.

But my gullibility got me into trouble plenty of times. It seemed to attract a certain type of kid, who would work on finding out just how much they could get away with.
My father took a friend and me to the beach once. Hiroko (and yes, I'm using HER real name because I don't respect her enough to care --this is called Blogger's Revenge) claimed that down at the edge of the surf, there were clams. You just had to dig for them. So I started digging. With my bare hands. As the tide came in and small bubbles showed through the porous sand, she'd pretend to be excited that yes, there were definitely clams down there. I just needed to dig a little more. By then, the hole was almost deep enough for me to stand in. My father called a halt to it because he was tired of the beach and wanted to get home. Otherwise, who knows how long it would have gone on. And Hiroko, unlike my other friend, never came clean. She just arrogantly looked out the window with her arms crossed and said "Oh, well...you can buy clams at the store, but they won't be fresh!"

I wanted to believe everything I was told, but also didn't want to be taken advantage of or lied to. I imagine most people feel that way.

It's a relief to be at an age where one has seen almost everything at least once, and can recognize the familiar patterns that set off one's Bullshit Detector. Yes, I firmly believe certain politicians in the headlines are buffoons, and probably capable of wreaking unimaginable havoc, should they ever assume high office, but I still stop, during a perusal of Facebook, and think twice before clicking "Like" or "Share." Did that person REALLY make such an outrageous statement? My friends and I mostly feel pretty much the same about these extremist politicos ... like, wouldn't it be nice if they suddenly decided to move to another country, or better yet, another planet? I'd certainly chip in at their GoFundMe page for that. It's gotten so that when a story of their latest outrage fills me with unmitigated glee, that is the cue for me to take a minute and look for it on snopes.com. And when a story comes up False, I scurry on back to my newsfeed and let my closest friends know that they fell for it.

Friends don't let friends dig for clams at Jones Beach.

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