Thinking for Ourselves

Several folks have now shared the opinion that we should stop reading the news and “think for ourselves.” And… a few things:

1) The fact that several folks have parroted the almost exact same words about “thinking for ourselves” leads me to believe that they are not actually thinking for themselves, themselves.

2) “Thinking for ourselves” shouldn’t just mean making up “facts” as we go along, or pulling “the truth” out of our kiesters. To really “think for yourself” you have to be informed and knowledgeable.

3) It doesn’t take any special kind of talent to spout off a bunch of opinions – anyone can do that. To really be a thinker, you need to be able to separate opinions from facts. And to separate opinions from facts, you need to have some facts to separate the opinions from. And where do we get our facts? Well… by reading the news, right? And not by reading just one news source (one news source could easily be biased) – but by reading multiple sources. And not just by reading the editorials – which are, by definition, opinion pieces – but by reading actual news stories.

Okay. That’s all I’ve got right now. Carry on then…

“The time for thinkers has come.” –
Mary Baker Eddy

Freedom of the Press and The Christian Science Monitor

For me, the most important passage in the Constitution of the United States is this one:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
– First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

The citizens of the United States need to be informed to be able to carry out their duties and responsibilities. To stay informed we need a press that isn’t owned by corporations or politicians. To stay informed we need members of the press who have the courage to bring the truth to their audience. To stay informed we need a citizenry receptive to what the press has to share, and able to question, for themselves, what they hear, read, and see. 

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, was witness to the yellow journalism of of the late 1800s and, in 1908, at the age of 87,  created her own newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, in response. Eddy wrote that the mission of her paper was “To injure no man, but to bless all mankind.” She wrote:

“It is the pulpit and press, clerical robes and the prohibiting of free speech, that cradles and covers the sins of the world,—all unmitigated systems of crime; and it requires the enlightenment of these worthies, through civil and religious reform, to blot out all inhuman codes.  It was the Southern pulpit and press that influenced the people to wrench from man both human and divine rights, in order to subserve the interests of wealth, religious caste, civil and political power.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings

“When the press is gagged, liberty is besieged; but when the press assumes the liberty to lie, it discounts clemency, mocks morality, outrages humanity, breaks common law, gives impulse to violence, envy, and hate, and prolongs the reign of inordinate, unprincipled clans. At this period, 1888, those quill-drivers whose consciences are in their pockets hold high carnival. When news-dealers shout for class legislation, and decapitated reputations, headless trunks, and quivering hearts are held up before the rabble in exchange for money, place, and power, the vox populi is suffocated, individual rights are trodden under foot, and the car of the modern Inquisition rolls along the streets besmeared with blood.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings

The passages about the press that Mary Baker Eddy wrote 120 years ago seem timely today, too, don’t they?

A month ago I began a subscription to The Christian Science Monitor. According to the Quora website: “The Monitor has a solid reputation in the industry, especially in the field of international reporting. They hold 7 Pulitzer Prizes for their work in journalism.” And according to “The Christian Science Monitor has maintained its reputation within the news industry as a well-run, high quality news organization with minimal bias.”

I suppose there are folks who might see the words “Christian Science” in the title of the newspaper and immediately assume the paper has a religious bias… which… actually shows a bias in the person assuming a bias. Right? 🙂

I have really come to appreciate this newspaper in the last month: It is unbiased and fair; It presents news without sensationalism; It presents at least one “feel good” story in each edition that helps give me hope for the world; and it presents me with the information I need to carry out my duties as a responsible citizen of the United States.

Mary Baker Eddy did a good thing when she started this newspaper. 

Note to Self: Turn off the News and Wake Up

Last night as the family sat around the television watching the evening news, our son Xander suddenly stood up – like he’d just awakened from a dream or something – and, shaking his head to clear it, said, “What the hell just happened there? We went from, like, 20 reports of death and mayhem to winning a prom date with Seth Rogen…”

We all started cracking up, but after we’d stopped laughing, I started thinking about what Xander had said, and it gave me pause.

Lately it’s felt to me like… well, like our society is under some kind of mass hypnotic spell or something – like there’s this sort of slow-boiling rage and fear continually swirling around us now. I’ve felt it in myself when I’m trying to negotiate traffic to get to work on time – this impatience with the drivers around me who aren’t doing what I think they should be doing to allow me to progress in a timely fashion. And I’ve seen this rage and fear played out on the television, too – ads about painful and debilitating diseases that pharmaceutical companies run to try to sell their drugs (which, the ads admit with a soothing-voiced narrator, sometimes bring on worse side effects than the original disease) – political campaigns based solely on the negative traits of the opponent, shootings in our local schools, quarantines of people who aren’t actually sick but happened to have traveled from the wrong continent, horrific accidents involving drunk drivers and texters. And it’s occurred to me that my society is being mass hypnotized – being controlled through fear by folks who want to sell their drugs and their politics. It really stinks.

I’m thinking that maybe it’s time to wake up.

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Lulled by stupefying illusions, the world is asleep in the cradle of infancy, dreaming away the hours.” And “The press,” Eddy writes,  “unwittingly sends forth many sorrows and diseases among the human family. It does this by giving names to diseases and by printing long descriptions which mirror images of disease distinctly in thought. A new name for an ailment affects people like a  Parisian name for a novel garment. Every one hastens to get it.”

I’m thinking it’s time the world wakes up from its “stupefying illusions”, turns off the television, unplugs itself from the nonsense on the internet, too, and takes a stand. In the words of Ma in Grapes of Wrath: “I ain’t never gonna be scared no more. I was though, for a while it looked as though we was beat, good and beat. Looked like we didn’t have nobody in the whole wide world but enemies. Like nobody was friendly no more. Made me feel kind of bad, and scared too. Like we was lost and nobody cared… But we keep a-comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out. They can’t lick us. And we’ll go on forever, Pa… ’cause… we’re the people.”

Right ON, Ma Joad!

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