What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can Jon Stewart Change America?

You can fall in love with your own idea of common sense. Maybe the nice thing about being a comedian is never having a full belief in yourself to know the answer. So you can say all this stuff, but underneath, you’re going, ‘But of course, I’m fucking idiotic.’ It’s why we don’t lead a lot of marches.

Jon Stewart

You know how someone will say something so profound and yet, obvious at the same time? I've always been a big fan of the Daily Show and of Stewart and this is a prime example of why. He gets people and the tendencies of people and recognizes most of it to be bullshit. Because it is.

I've been thinking a lot lately about belief and why people believe what they believe. Also, what is believing? Politics, religion, education and just about any other topic under the sun (except for Math, I guess) is subject to interpretation and "belief." But, what is belief in something other than the way you see and interpret the world? If I believe in Jesus that is not to say that I saw him with my own two eyes resurrect from the grave. Just like I cannot claim to have tested the Polar Ice Caps to determine through factual study that global warming is real.

But we look at the world and we make a decision. Am I going to believe in global warming based on what I do know to be true? Am I going to believe that Jesus was God and therefore the true Messiah that the Bible says that he is? My decision to believe these things or not is based on my experiences and my attitudes as well as the facts that I can see and touch.

As Jon Stewart has wisely stated, though, problems arrise when we forget how we arrived at these decisions. They were perhaps logical, but perhaps emotional choices, primarily and not quantitative conclusions that were arrived at through mathematic reasoning, such as "1+1=2." We fall in love with our own ideas of what is logical and what is "common sense," as he puts it and we start to regard anyone who thinks or concludes differently as idiots or evil.

Stewart attributes the ability to laugh and doubt one's own common sense as being an idiot. But, the ability to step back and see the possibility of fault, even if we cannot see the fault itself, is wisdom, not idiocy. And, it's not an attribute reserved for clowns and comedians. We all have the capability to recognize the possibility of wrong thinking.

As I stated in an earlier post, however, people (particularly those who are "in love with their own idea of common sense") will view my admission of doubt in my believes as a weakness or evidence of flakiness. So, sure, I guess we want to be careful who go around revealing our inner-most doubts to. I wouldn't bring it up in a job interview, for example. But, we are currently living in an America that has people burning Qurans, going to war on false pretense, bombing buildings, bombing themselves, protesting the freedoms that we hold dear as Americans to worship where and how we like. We are living the most intolerant times of my lifetime from the perspective of respect for other views, on a very large scale. And the worst part is that our political sphere seems to be locked in a pendulum swing of inneffectiveness. How can we fix our problems if we're not willing to work together? Legislators need to legislate. Reporters need to report. Journalists should keep politicians honest and accountable. I think this is Stewart's primary objective when he targets the media and politicians. And, if Stewart's masterful execution of the pointed satire is of no effect, I'm not sure what else will do. Hopefully, it can act as a spark that ignites a flame that lights a larger target and can possibly set in motion a chain of events that leads to cooperation, understanding, and maybe we'll finally move forward and be a nation that leads again.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Bertrand Russell has a great quote:

"The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment."

I have become a big evangelist of this perspective, to Liberals, Conservatives, and political agnostics alike. I think it's very important for us to remember that our character, not our beliefs, make us who we are. When the support of our beliefs begins to harm relationships and cause a change in our character, that's when we know we're taking our beliefs too seriously.

I love what Stewart and TDS do because they recognize the absurd lengths that we will often go to advocate/defend our beliefs, often going to even greater lengths to rationalize beliefs that are purely emotional. Emotions are fine. Even basing some decisions on emotions can be okay in the right context. But we have to recognize that no decision is completely devoid of emotion, and no belief requires dogmatism.