We don’t want to talk about Irene. With the notable exception of those poor folks on Lynwood, it’s pretty much old news. Some branches fell, and there were leaves everywhere, and some windows leaked, and everyone wound up with enough Cheez-Its and bottled water to last until the nuclear holocaust or 2012 or whatever it is we’re supposed to be living in fear of next.
We know all that. Like we said, we don’t want to talk about Irene. And we’re not really going to, so bear with us for, like, thirty seconds. The bottom line, aside from loving each other and remembering what’s really important, and taking time for yourself, is a three-dollar word: “post-factual.” In a time when you can cycle through weather.com and wunderground.com and accuweather.com in a merry-go-round of panicking predictions every thirty seconds and find different information on all three websites, you really have to wonder about the real value of most of our trusted news outlets. Because they’re all, obviously, to a certain extent, lying.
We don’t mean lying in the “wear your tin foil hats so the aliens won’t microwave your brain” sense of the word. We don’t really believe that, though we’d be lying if we said we don’t feel that embarrassing tinge of dread when, say, Family Radio, hands us a pamphlet in a subway station which says that the world is going to end in a week. Sure, they’re crazy, but someone out there is right, and who’s to say it’s not them? Because at any given moment there are at least several thousand conspiracies being broadcast on every network and station from here to Juneau, and all of them are trying to make us afraid of something.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t be afraid of hurricanes. Hurricanes can be devastating. But when, in the hours before the storm makes landfall in Connecticut, CNN runs a commercial during its coverage which features a sad camera moving slowly through a decimated house and ends with the words “State Farm” on a black screen, you have to wonder why we don’t have a well-publicized, impartial broadcast network. Because, duh, CNN has to sell advertising time and, duh, hurricanes spell sales spikes for bottled water and insurance and generators and Cheez-Its.
That’s all to say the obvious, which is that corporations want to make money, and they make money by convincing people they need their product, whether that’s up-to-the-second coverage of Irene or survival kits which come with enough Neosporin to disinfect the dance floor at Toad’s.
But we don’t really want to talk about Irene. Where this becomes dangerous for a bunch of young, smart, college-dwelling chums such as ourselves is when people try to sell us on what kinds of things we need to be knowing. “Now’s the time to invest in German.” “We hear Accounting is the way to go this quarter.”
We don’t want to be sanctimonious or condescending, because we do it, too. We look at Microeconomics while bluebooking and think, “Oh, yeah, we should know about that.” But we don’t fucking LIKE Microeconomics, you guys! And while we’re sure it’s super useful and interesting if you like Microeconomics, we no longer live in a world where you actually need to know as much as, say, your aunt did when she was our age. Because information becomes increasingly accessible literally every day. We’ve heard that in the next year or so, there will be computer chips that you can stick behind your ear that can help you cook like Remy in Ratatouille. Okay not really but you get the point.
We don’t want doctors Googling “how to find the aorta” in the middle of surgery, you guys. But just because we’re smart doesn’t mean there’s some extra burden for us to learn some foundational texts or whatever. Because foundational for what, you guys? Are we on the same page here? The post-factual page we mean, now.
We’re sure CNN was trying to protect us. It’s nice. It’s real nice, CNN. Kudos CNN. But you also really want money, CNN. So do textbook companies. And while a lot of older people don’t want our money and genuinely want the next generation to be awesome and intelligent and well-read, a lot of them probably don’t know what “post-factual” means and don’t believe that you don’t really need that one specific collection of books to be a real person.
The classics are important, you guys. So are doctors. And CNN. Really! But as you’re shopping, be courageous. Because despite what they say in the Situation Room, the future will have its major, dire problems and the future will be fine.