art by Sarah Walker
There’s something of a trend right now to identify various things that only the rich seem capable of these days and calling those luxuries. Some examples include: boredom, creativity, caring about the environment, philanthropy, etc.
They’re things that, as it turns out, have a lot of prerequisites—most important among them being time and money.
It’s not easy to be bored and creative when you work multiple jobs trying to pay for food, shelter, and healthcare. And in that state of mind the environment isn’t likely near the top of the concern list. Now add to that all manner of things that come with free time and spending money.
So one way to see these things is as luxuries. Another way to see them is as major advantages. And I thought of another one.
Everyone is talking about how bad our information sources are, and how it’s impossible to know what to believe and what not to believe. I get it. If you’re not educated, if you’re being bombarded with multiple attractive narratives that explain the hardship in your life, and if you have no way to detect deception—sure, that’s a problem.
But it’s not a problem for me, or for most people I spend time with.
Why? Because we went to college. Because we were taught about how media influences the world. We were taught about bias, and perspective, and nuance, and context, and all the common pitfalls of interpreting information. That doesn’t mean we’re immune to bias, but at least we know it’s there—both in what we read and in ourselves.
I think one big problem we have is too many top 10% types thinking everyone has the ability to tell good information from bad.
I don’t think most do. I think it’s probably very rare. I think to the majority of Americans, all the news and media looks the same. They can’t tell the difference between an expert and a con, a spin job and solid journalism, etc. So they do what makes sense to them and pick a source that resonates with their emotions.
So, just like philanthropy and activism and creativity—knowing the difference between good and bad information turns out to be an advantage for the rich. And not a minor one, either.
Being able to know what’s actually happening in the world vs. not—that’s foundational. If you’re misguided about how the world works then you’re less likely to get a good job, to raise your kids well, to live a healthy life, etc. It’s a near guarantee of hardship anywhere in a modern society.
I’m not sure of a solution yet, but I do know it’s giving me pause. It’s making me think a bit more before looking down on the idiot who can’t tell fact from fiction. They simply might not have the tools.