Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Think Again

We no longer have news. We have springboards for commentary. We have cues for Tweets.
Something happens, and before the facts are even settled, the morals are deduced and the lessons drawn. The story is absorbed into agendas. Everyone has a preferred take on it, a particular use for it. And as one person after another posits its real significance, the discussion travels so far from what set it in motion that the truth — the knowable, verifiable truth — is left in the dust. . .
It’s motivated by Elliot Rodger’s rampage in Southern California, by Jill Abramson’s exit from The Times, even by Cliven Bundy’s antics in the Nevada outback. Utterly different stories, yes. But they share a dynamic: Each event was overtaken by the jeremiads about it; impassioned interpretations eclipsed actual information. Why slow down and wait for clarity when there’s an angle to promote, a grievance to air? Damn the torpedoes and full screed ahead.
This article ("Full Screed Ahead" by Frank Bruni) is from May, so there are new "crises" since then in current media, but the premise is the same. 
News has always been paired with analysis, and a certain degree of assumption and conjecture rightly enters into the laudable attempt to make sense of things. What has changed over recent years are the platforms and the metabolism of the process. Twitter and other social media coax rapid-fire reactions from a broad audience, whose individual members stand out by readily divining something that nobody else has divined, by fleetly declaring something that nobody else has dared to, by bringing the most strident or sauciest attitude to bear.
And for every journalist peeling away at the layers that Auletta mentioned, there are many more of us pontificating about what’s been revealed so far, no matter how little of it there is, no matter how shakily it’s been established. Americans have seemingly grown accustomed to this. They may even hunger for it. With just a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the remote, they find something to confirm their prejudices, to validate their perspectives. And the gratification is almost instant.
We have our own pet "crises." Flipping through a Jewish periodical is enough to make one scream. Since this one tends to get thrown in my face a lot, like "the shidduch crisis." I can't rail against it enough. 

"Everything's bashert, until it isn't" is, in essence, its tagline. Despite the fact that onlysimchas.com is swamped in engagement announcements, OMG, OMG, we're all going to die alone.

Pat answers (such as the overused "everyone's picky, I married someone mediocre and I'm happy, no offense to my spouse") are flung unhelpfully in response, but words words words, I'm so sick of words, to quote Eliza Doolittle (ironic, coming from a wannabe "writer").


Our world is not immune to outside influences, including the contemporary methods of thought. Think again. Get more information. Just because everyone is bugging out doesn't mean it's important, or even true. 


Daniel Saunders said...

I've heard a lot about "the shidduch crisis" over the years, mostly online, but I've rarely seen serious analysis, certainly not with statistics or even a large amount of anecdotal evidence. No one even seems particularly interested in researching the topic, just in delivering pat answers to a possibly imaginary problem.

I'm not entirely sure how there is supposed to be a crisis, unless significantly more men than women (or vice versa) leave Orthodoxy (or join it).

Daniel Saunders said...

I suppose I should add the caveat that, being Modern Orthodox, and not knowing people in the shidduch system (although researching it in the awareness that I probably will be in it one day) I could be missing something really obvious that someone will now point out to me...

Princess Lea said...

That's us Americans for you, making mountains out of molehills.

I operate under the premise that it is all hooey. If I know about it, what can I do about it, and if I don't know about it, then I can continue in blissful ignorance. Or is it emunah?

Daniel Saunders said...

Thinking about this more (too much...), I recall my Dad saying some time back that his friends were saying to him that their children weren't able to meet people to date, but these were mostly Modern Orthodox people who were not shidduch dating (the complaint was a lack of social events and singles events). So perhaps it is just part of life for people to worry about getting married/marrying off their children and to look to blame someone else for the problem.

As you say, there isn't a lot we can do even if it is true, except for having bitachon.

Princess Lea said...

Let's play the BLAME GAME! C'mon down!

In all seriousness, that's what upsetting: We need someone to blame, and then we can sleep at night.