From the publisher: On taking things for granted

joe-WEBby joe courter

There is only so much our brains can pay attention to as we go through our lives. We all develop habits; not only of what we feel we need to be thinking about, but how much we dwell on what we are thinking about. Our minds are active, but under-activity and over-activity can present problems. We all know the situation of over-thinking a situation, reading too much into a situation and actually, by adding needless complexity, making a mess of something that could have been simple and straight forward.

Under-activity of the mind is something we all do by necessity. We tune out what we don’t need or want to think about. This allows us to focus on what is important to us. So we take for granted many things. We trust maps (or our GPS) to be accurate. We trust other drivers to stay in their lanes. We trust our senses.

Regarding information and news, we select from the menu, but take it with a grain of salt. This is called critical thinking. Did that history book present an accurate picture of what went on? From what perspective is that news report coming from? Is this news report actually deserving of the time being devoted to it, and what about the things that have not been given coverage which are going on? There is a great term called “Media Literacy,” which means you understand how news is reported, not just the news itself.

Acceptance of what is, as opposed to working to make things better, has a lot to do with what you take for granted. This came to the fore with the recent visit to the U.S. by the Pope. The heart of “Liberation Theology” is that one should be conscious of and work toward the improvement of the lives of those around us. This tendency toward social justice work is controversial both within the church and outside. Watching the right-wing talking heads freak out about this “socialist Pope” was quite instructive. As a life-long Atheist who grew up in a Catholic family, I found it rather stunning to hear some of the pronouncements of this Pope; way more progressive on many issues but sadly still entrenched in male supremacy. (And what was up with meeting that Kentucky woman?)

I tend not to label my politics, but I do think the basic tenant is right in the first sentence of the U.S. Constitution, where it says “…promote the general welfare….” To me, that is education and healthcare. And healthcare can be broadly interpreted as the health of the ecosystem we all share on this one planet we all share. I don’t need liberation theology to tell me to be an active and informed citizen, but if it motivates that to happen in some people, great. Feminist Flo Kennedy once remarked, “I’m for any movement that’s off its ass.” Apathy, simply taking for granted that organizing and social justice work isn’t important, is the enemy of progress. And progress, that is something some people have been taught to fear. Fear of LGBT advances, fear of immigrants, fear of socialism, etc. They often then become tools of the right wing.

There seems to be less and less we can take for granted, big things like the economy, our electoral system, things we used to trust. All I take for granted is that it will be interesting times ahead.

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