A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice.
- Edgar Watson Howe, novelist and editor (1853-1937)
This quirk of human nature ranks among those for which we have the most evidence. But why?
Advice may come at us from various sources. Some of those sources, such as strangers or those we know little about, we consider suspect because the other person has not built up a track record of truthfulness and dependability on which we can base our trust.
Some non-trustworthy sources include the many people we see frequently, but we know base their conclusions more on feelings and a minimum of facts than well studied research. A man who has always bought the same brand of car and whose father may also have always bought that brand will almost certainly advise you to buy that brand because he believes it's the best. To that man, the most familiar is the best.
Most of us know many people who will offer advice at the drop of a hat, whether those people themselves even consider their advice worthy. Some may be strong supporters or opponents of one political party at one time because of some news they heard or read that they especially liked or disliked. When asked (some volunteer), they will give that opinion of the day about which party is best or worst. A few days or weeks later their opinion could change because of different information.
Even advice from a reputable source such as a medical doctor may be disregarded if it means inconvenience or a change of lifestyle. "Lose weight? Why? I'm perfectly healthy."
That kind of attitude is a continuation of what some call the invincibility of youth, their belief that they will never die.
If they have a heart attack or receive a diagnosis of diabetes where their life must change or end, a new lifestyle, diet change or exercise takes on new importance and new meaning as an adaptation worth making.
This human characteristic is so well known that scientists, among others, have adopted the strategy of making proclamations in threatening terms in order to get public attention and grant money for study.
The number of studies of climate change (aka global warming) underway in the world today are too numerous to count. We always hear reports about evidence that supports the climate change theory of warming because that evidence tilts politicians and universities more in favour of giving grants. Evidence that contradicts the warming theory receives little attention because non-scare tactics don't work.
Today science wants to scare people, just like the movies, because it gets them money. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth used the power of film and the evidence of science to make a political statement.
Between advice that no one will take and threats that are real or propagandized theory is reason. Reason, however, depends on the conveyor of information to communicate considered facts and theory well and thoroughly and listeners who can think and are prepared to consider evidence on all sides before reaching a conclusion.
As hard as our education systems try to teach our young people to think and to consider all alternatives and evidence, the world outside the classroom works tirelesly and feverishly to teach them that thinking is not necessary if they will only listen to the message presented to them. The messages are devised by mass communication experts who get paid to twist people's minds in favour of their boss's product or service.
Television and movies, the ultimate thought-stoppers, remain active for many hours each day in most homes. Now corporations put their soda machines in schools and pay for exercise equipment with their corporate logos emblazoned on them so that students don't have to move far away from their teacher to get a message that they don't really have to think.
Before we become a society of knee-jerkers who react better to threats and propaganda than to reason, we should teach the skills of reason and effective communication of arguments to young adults.
Will our whole economic system collapse if people think about what they do, what they eat and what they buy before they do it?
That's what the threat is.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put some reason back into society before we become atomatons.
Learn more at http://billallin.com