(1) Do I think science is the be-all, end-all?
No. I trust science (which is different from the politics of science). I think science (the scientific method) is a good vehicle to make sense of the unknown, but it has its limitations . I think reality is riddled with mystery, uncertainty, and enigma. During times of uncertainty, I look to science, but I tend to cling to art, music, literature, the humanities for comfort. I shared this quote in a post the other day that I think captures my perception of science (far better than I would ever be able to capture it) via words: “Yet the paradox is that scientific methodology is the product of human hands and thus cannot reach some permanent truth. We build scientific theories to organize and manipulate the world, to reduce phenomena into manageable units. Science is based on reproducibility and manufactured objectivity. As strong as that makes its ability to generate claims about matter and energy, it also makes scientific knowledge inapplicable to the existential, visceral nature of human life, which is unique and subjective and unpredictable. Science may provide the most useful way to organize empirical, reproducible data, but its power to do so is predicated on its inability to grasp the most central aspects of human life: hope, fear, love, hate, beauty, envy, honor, weakness, striving, suffering, virtue.” (Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air)
(2) Do I think the United States (US) is the “best country in the world”?
I’ve actually never thought the US is/was the best country in the world. I think a lot of good (and evil) can come from all countries. I’m not particularly interested in knowing which is the “best” country in the world. Besides, how do you define “best”? I’m more interested in countries respecting human rights. I’m more interested in cross-country collaborations. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to create a life here (in the US), but in my gratitude I never forger that this is a country that has flourished on a foundation of slave labor, imperialism, colonialism, inequality (racial/economic), and the exploitation of labor. This isn’t to say that each of us that reside in this country support these notions. When I refer to the “foundation”, I’m talking about the values and beliefs that served to create our systems. The systems we have created in this country (the US) are inherently flawed because they’re not representative nor inclusive of the general population. I think most Americans are waking up to the fact that the “status quo” isn’t working. I think as we move forward in building a better future, we have to recognize the ways in we have failed in the past.
(3) What did I mean by the use of the term ‘exploitation of labor’ in #2?
Let’s make this one interactive. Look around the place where you’re currently living. Look at the objects or material goods that surround you. Your phone/electronics, your clothes/shoes, your appliances, your fixtures, the foods that you eat, <insert something else here>. Chances are that most of the things that you own are mass produced. For those items that are mass produced, have you ever thought to ask yourself: What country was this made in? What are the labor laws in that country? What are the working conditions of the folks that help in the process of bringing this <insert thing here> to my marketplace? Are the folks producing this labor protected by those laws (in many countries, undocumented laborers are not protected by their laws)? How are they paid? Do they have the minimum of human dignity as work benefits? Where do these workers live? What are their living conditions? No matter how “hard” anyone whom has “built” an empire “works”, they would not have been able to do so without a large workforce to mass produce. There are times, when companies in countries like the United States, will start producing their products “offshore” – in other countries. This is because the cost of labor (including the amount of money paid to the production work force) might be cheaper outside of this country. The cheaper the labor, the higher the profit. While that’s logical – is it ethical? I personally don’t think so. And my not thinking so just leads me to a ton more other questions: (1) Why can’t we keep jobs in our country? Why have them offshore? I need something more than “we’re creating jobs in XYZ place” – what about creating jobs here? (2) Why are workers in other countries “worth less” than workers in this one? Why are undocumented workers worth less than documented ones? Is there a difference in their humanity – where one is more special than the other? Who decides which lives are of more value than others? I need an answer that extends beyond the “cost of living in country AB is XY”. An answer of that nature will also require an analysis of wealth inequality in countries with a “lower cost of living”.
*Insert something here about automation. Insert something here about how automation will leave many folks without work. Insert something here about Universal Basic Income (UBI). But what is a living UBI (as in a living wage)? Who’ll decide what an appropriate UBI is?*
(4) People or profits?
I’m a humanist. So, I believe that the welfare of the people (and the planet the people are part of) should be valued above all. Do I think money is evil? Do I think making money is evil? No. Not at all. I think what’s evil lies in how money is made. Refer to #3.
(5) Do I believe in any conspiracy theories?
No, I don’t. But listen, I fall down plenty of conspiracy theory investigation rabbit holes often. Meaning that I will hear about a theory and will start reading/watching anything about it. Because I’m curious – I want to understand the logic and reasoning behind it. What is it trying to explain? Where does it originate? Who came up with it? Why? Here’s what I’ve concluded from my conspiracy theory escapades: I think at the end of the day, conspiracy theories are another form of storytelling. Another way to look at reality. As humans, I think most of us are concerned with finding “the truth”. We just all go about it in different ways. Do I trust conspiracy theories more than science? No. For views on science, refer to #1. I think conspiracy theories become dangerous when thousands or even millions of human lives are at stake.
(6) Is the media over-sensationalized?
It can be. However, there are a lot of incredible journalists, reporters, and media/public relations folks out there. It all comes down to using discernment. A willingness to ask challenging questions from a place of reason rather than from a place of panic or ideological alignment can help keep us informed rather than paralyzed. When seeing something on the news, it doesn’t hurt to do additional research, to ask additional questions, to look for multiple sources. And if there is contradicting information in these sources, there might be a reason for it: agendas, not enough known information about the issue, etc. In those cases, asking an expert you personally know or relying on the sources that mostly report accurately can be very helpful. I only consume media in small doses (aka I place limits on how much I consume). I limit rather the remove my media consumption in order to remain informed while also taking care of my mental health. I think I like to look at this question through a different lens/framework. Rather than asking “Is the media over-sensationalized?”, I like to look at is as: “Where do you get your information?” For example, as an individual, I certainly get some information from the media (as in the news and news outlets), but I also look to reputable organizations/institutions, doctors, scientists, researchers, policy makers, etc.