Fascinating discussion being had today as part of my Intro to Sociology course taught by a Princeton professor (www.coursera.org). It’s bringing up some concepts I’ve been meditating on recently, namely freedom, complicated environments, and probabilities.
Pavel, a student from Siberia noted the Stalin quote: “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” Pavel asked, “Why doesn’t our government, when communicating with its people, tell the story of one woman and her tragedies, rather than quoting statistics?”
I thought, Barack Obama did this very well. He understands that most people lead simple lives and are more touched emotionally by drama than by statistics! This is also what CNN understands and the rest of the media, entertainment businesses, cable TV, advertising, etc. DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA!! People are very comfortable/familiar with drama. This is also where Kerry went wrong. Once you become very educated, you can lose touch with the emotional side and the drama of life. I feel I have the best of both worlds. I feel very educated, but it leads me to a place of reverence, poetry and beauty, as if I get to attend a private studio session with God and watch him work on a great work of art. That to me is sociology. Those less emotionally inclined (or I might argue, emotionally repressed) would say that information would lead you to a place of dry statistics.
The essay we read said that people feel trapped by their circumstances until they develop a sociological imagination. Until we can have an understanding of the environment which brought about our circumstances, we can feel that we are victimized, or have fewer options.
The flip side of entrapment, of course, would be freedom, and empowerment.
It was nice to see the entire spectrum covered. It seems, the less you know, the more drama you experience in your life, the more fearful you will be of the unknown forces that are rocking your little boat on the big ocean. However, on the other end of the spectrum, when you fully understand all the reasons for interplay in your environment, you can become an unbiased observer, free from the confusion of emotional entanglements (but I would argue that emotions are another source of information to be understood).
The professor noted that it is necessary to learn more about your environment so that you can decipher truth from illusion. Some of the other students later brought up the question of how much of society is illusion and how much is truth. So if we agree that illusions are mostly conceived in fear, traps, and ignorance, then truth can be found in the domain of courage, freedom, and education.
That’s about all I have energy for today :-)