Everyone has an opinion and people view things so differently from each other that conversations can often become very heated when particular matters are discussed. In the throes of this Presidential Election Cycle I have come to ponder how often we seem to live our lives on Auto Pilot.
Some things I’ve noticed when loitering a bit too long on the pages of Facebook. People you thought you knew, can get really ugly toward others with whom they disagree, especially on a semi-anonymous place like Facebook where you can slap a bumper sticker type attack on your page without addressing it to this or that particular friend or family member.
I’ve noticed that many people who show evidence of perfectly useful brains, and who are able to weigh evidence in their particular field of interest or expertise, seem to be on Auto Pilot with regards to matters political, to the point of having blinders on.
They voted Democratic or Republican for a lifetime worth of elections and so naturally they will this election as well. There is nothing to think about. They have always voted this way. Their family, their friends, their kind of people have always voted this way. People who share their values vote this way.
Have they read anything that would challenge their position? Have they had conversations with anyone they otherwise trust, who disagrees on this particular issue, to find out why they disagree? Have they done any research into the people that surround their chosen party or candidate? Have they investigated the veracity of the dirt thrown up to sully the reputation of their candidate? Not likely. They are on Auto Pilot. Obviously that party has our candidate.
Alas, it doesn’t seem to end with politics. It seems to crop up in our relationships, our religious life, our working lives, our leisure time. How many days, or months, or years, have we lived in a haze of Auto Pilot without inquiring whether we are headed in a good direction? Do we pause to consider whether the organizations to which we belong still embrace the values which drew us to them originally? Do we bother to notice our friends, family, and colleagues, and see what they need or concern ourselves with their interests so that we interact helpfully with them, or are we just filling time, doing what we always do, for no particular reason except we’ve always done it?
Do we ever ponder whether history is repeating itself? Do we consider whether there might be a new agenda before us? Do we think about that contradictory fact or worrisome puzzle piece that doesn’t seem to fit the nice tidy picture as we’ve always interpreted it? Do we ever play devil’s advocate, just for the hell of it, and follow the money, power, or influence trail to see who is benefiting from this or that event, law, protest, attack, or fad?
I must confess that this phenomenon leaves me stunned at times. It is not that I am a brainiac. Far from it. But I am by training a researcher. I am amazed by people I count as dear friends who are incredibly talented and who would not tolerate shoddy or slovenly scholarship in their field; but will take as undeniable truth a docudrama that has been debunked; or rumor, innuendo, social media posturing, or revisionist history in another discipline or area without batting an eye. I am not without faults, and have been called on statements I have made which upon fact checking have been shown to me to be untrue. But I want to know that!
What I don’t understand is why we seem content to live on Auto Pilot when we could actually have a life, engage each other in conversation, examine our beliefs, and those of the various organizations, political or religious or social groups to which we belong, and see whether they are in truth, what they say they are, and whether, knowing that, we are content to place our vote in their column, or our name on their membership list.