Today I saw a movie with a friend at the Vancouver International Film Festival called Adoration, directed by Atom Egoyan. I'm not sure how, but it seemed to express exactly everything that's been going through my mind through the past few months, and the conversations I've been seeing and hearing for the past few weeks. Adoration now ranks among my favourite movies for sure.
How do we feel, how do we feel
My generation is aching for real
Dyin' for love, cryin' for truth
My generation is aching for you
~ Starfield: My Generation
I won't try to describe the plot here. Plot is a strong word, as the director himself explained in the post-screening Q&A that he finds plots too restrictive in movies where he did try focusing on the plot. I will say that the movie deals with a variety of themes, including the cultural and ethnic tensions that exist in our increasingly polarized world, societal prejudices, the difficulty of making ends meet in difficult times, the different kind of life kids growing up experience today, the way they try to make their voices heard, and the difficulty of discerning truth among the maelstrom of voices heard through the media, web, educational institutions, familial traditions, and other social constructs. Ultimately, it leaves me very troubled because I fear for where our world is headed, and our ability (or lack thereof) to progress positively as a society. Well, I've already feared my fears for a while, but this movie really hit it home.
The Internet has been a fantastic boon for our lives and economy, through its ability to make asymmetric information a bit more accessible, knowledge a bit easier to disseminate, and dialogue easier in which to engage. One of the many corresponding unintended negative consequences is of course the ability to easily disseminate misinformation. And with our increasingly busy world, it's become apparent that our world likes speed and quantity, not quality, when it comes to information and knowledge. Despite the initial euphoria I experienced through the concept of an encyclopedia that anyone can edit, and how the wisdom of crowds can contribute excellently to our society, Wikipedia cannot be taken as the final word on most subjects; and yet it is. At least, it's considered a final authority on many matters by many people in my generation, and the generation following mine, without considering what other sources have to say. Except for maybe whatever's on Page 1 of a Google search query. Take my word for it. I am of this generation and dialogue with it regularly. In fact, I am guilty of it as well.
But with a culture that so easily accepts statements without thinking about them, do not truth and knowledge die? I always had a problem with post-modernism in that the whole concept ignores reality and contradicts itself. It is not possible for everything to be true. We may not be able to determine what is true, but that does not mean that we should be willing to accept all opinions as valid and true. If this were the case, then there is no need for debate, and therefore no need for even dialoguing on the matter. If you dialogue because you want "better" truths, what does that say about the "truth" you were believing before? Just believe what you want, when you want, how you want.
I've seen that subconscious attitude for everything from climate change to war to the current global credit crisis to the US presidential election. It's a perfect storm, yeah. People seem to be taking one side or the other because of rhetoric, not logic. And for those who say they've done their research, how am I supposed to know what research to believe? There is too much information out there to analyze; sifting out the misinformation and then making sense of what's left is a full-time endeavour that I simply don't have the time to do. So instead, I find myself increasingly indifferent to the issues, but rather annoyed that the people participating in the debates spout conclusions and supposed factoids without examining the cogency of their own arguments, nor the hypocrisy of their own statements.
I've heard plenty of people that want to save the planet from global warming (which I would argue is a fairly unimportant and even invalid environmental issue compared to resource sustainability), but they don't want to give up the convenience of their own carbon consumption. Still more people tell me about their disdain for Palin for slamming Obama's experience as a community organizer, but then they themselves go and slam "stupid redneck states" for always voting Republican. And perhaps there is a possibly correct stigma that these "stupid redneck states" don't think about who they're voting for and just vote based on backwards ideologies. But it seems to me that this is just a case of the pot calling the kettle black. We are increasingly living in a society where truth is difficult to find and understand, so members of society fall back on ideologies more and more. It's just easier that way. Just take the facts that support your position, don't even bother examining the evidence since you can't find most of it anyway, and you have your answer.
The core of the whole issue seems to be comprised of our society's tendency towards impatience and instant gratification. The lifestyle that's been ingrained into our mindsets through countless years of fast food, excess material wealth, and lack of respect for what hardship entails. Except now, the newer generations have a stronger sense of entitlement because the stuff that catches their attention is free and easy on the web. Free e-mail, free instant messaging, free knowledge, free music, free movies, easy friends, and easy money. Why should we have to pay for anything, when it's readily available? It's the laws that are backwards, not me.
OK, it's true that legal systems in general can have difficulty keeping up with society, especially in areas affected by technology. The law is reactive by nature, not proactive. However, my point is not that the laws are outdated for many areas of our society (and I'd say that's an invalid overarching statement in most cases). Rather, it's that we've somehow bred this mindset that whatever we want is right, whatever someone else says to the contrary is wrong, and everyone should be able to get whatever we want. And I see this mindset in the People want to stand up for the rights and welfare of others, but they don't want to share or admit their own fallacies.