Don’t Be a “Good Student”—Talk Back, Question Everything, Don’t Ask Permission to Go Pee, Don’t Stay in Line

Okay, kids, we’re gonna take a stroll down memory lane—a quick look at just a few key stories in US history:

  • Christopher Columbus discovering America
  • The first Thanksgiving
  • The threat Japanese Americans posed during WWII
  • The assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, Jr.
  • 9-11-2001 and the subsequent War on Terror

As we now know, it turns out that none of those are exactly what we thought they were after all. Or, rather, what we were told.

Ye olden days in the classroom

I grew up in the 1960s and 70s, and based on what I learned in school, I could tell you for a fact that Christopher Columbus brought his fleet of three little ol’ ships across the Atlantic Ocean in search of India but ran into “America” instead. He was not displeased, as it turned out to be a happy accident indeed, what with all the natural beauty, friendly “Indians,” and delicious agricultural products he discovered when he came up on the wrong continent altogether.

I could also tell you without a doubt in my mind that the Pilgrims and Indians sat down together in the 1600s to have a tasty, neighborly meal together, and to give thanks for the bounty of riches they shared over their potluck feast.

More somberly, we also learned in ye olden school days that Japanese Americans were a threat to national security following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The US government relocated over 100K of these particular American citizens—you know, for national security.

Common knowledge plus crowd support

As well, it was no secret that President Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. were each killed by a lone, crazed, deranged man with a gun.

And that the terrorists who attacked the US on September 11, 2001 did so because of Iraq wanting to kill us all with their Weapons of Mass Destruction—which meant we had to go kill them first.

Yeah, obviously I’m being a smart ass here. None of this is funny, not even in a black humor sort of way.

But I’m making a point, which you’re smart enough to pick up on.

So here’s the deal

We now know full well that though we’re all really glad to be sharing this land with Italian Americans, Christopher Columbus, as it turns out, didn’t “discover” a damned thing, nor was he even a very nice person.

We know the Pilgrims and Indians most likely didn’t bring their crockpots and green bean casserole to dinner in or around November of 1620.

Nor do many people nowadays fully accept that lone, crazed, deranged gunmen were solely responsible for the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, Jr. I mean, it’s now safe to at least want to know more without your friends, family, and peers thinking you’ve lost your mind. Or are paranoid. Or have become a conspiracist.

Just as it’s now (somewhat, at least? I hope?) acceptable to want to know more about what happened on September 11, 2001.

And why.

Especially after the whole WMD motivation got turned on its head when good ol’ George W admitted straight-out that there were no WMDs in Iraq after all.

So under the guise of revenge on the terrorists who attacked the US on 9-11-01 the US invaded not one but two entire countries and killed tens of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the same time leaving nearly 3,000 American troops dead and at least 20,000 American troops wounded—many severely, irreparably wounded, as we all know.

Never mind that we played cowboys-and-Indians instead of playing “genocide”

So let’s talk for a sec about the native peoples of North America, about half of which is now called the United States of America. 

Before being “discovered,” these native people had the entire continent to themselves, but now here we are, all civilized and shit, while the people who were here when the US was a young upstart are relegated to scraps of their former home, not to mention living in poverty and undergoing untold humiliations (even to this day!) over the last couple hundred years.

But do you remember being taught in school that the genocide, torture, and abuse of the native people of this continent was horrific on the scale of what happened to Jews under the Nazis?

Do you remember hearing that we forced the native people to dress like we did and abandon their native languages? Do you remember being told we violated their human rights, to put it mildly?

Nope, neither do I. And that’s obviously because we weren’t told all this.

We weren’t told the whole story.

The history we were told either contained just a nugget of truth, or was so skewed as to give us the wrong story altogether. A lie, you might even say.

Or, more accurately, many lies.

Those are just a few glaring examples of the lies we’ve been told and sold on in history class and in our culture.

Weird how we thought we knew everything

I dunno, maybe you can guess where I’m going with this.

I’m telling you to look alllllll around you right this hot second and ask questions. I’m advising you—yes, unsolicite-ly advising you—to question the hell out of every damn thing that’s happening.

And that’s already happened.

And what happens next.

In other words, question what you see and what you hear.

Most especially, question what you’re shown and what you’re told

  • Question the sources, the motives, and who profits and/or benefits from what you’re shown and told.
  • Question the answers you turn up.
  • Look at who or what publication is giving you the information you’re taking in.
  • Go way, way past your usual sources of information.
  • Dig until you find the original, primary source of that information.
  • Then ask who paid for the publication of that information. Ask who funded that information, that study, that story.
  • Again, look for original sources of the information you’re finding, reading, hearing, and watching.
  • Ask who gets paid for the publication of that information in the form of advertisers, station and publication owners, backroom deals, etc.

And for the love of the purple mountains’ majesty, do not try to convince me, yourself, or anyone else that backroom deals aren’t happening from sea to shining sea—and haven’t been all along.

It’s okay to question the hell out of everything

It’s okay to un-dig your heels. Loosen your grip. Let go of what you’re sure of. Let go of what feels better to hear than the alternative. Let go of your ego’s insistence that you know who the good guys and bad guys are. Let go of the notion that someone on the news only wants the best for you. Let go of the idea that the US is a big teddy bear of a nation.

Use a private browser like Duck-Duck-Go if you’re worried about Google getting up in your business. Use an incognito browser window if you want to. Or whatever, just do your due diligence—do your own poking around.

Put the internet to work for you

You know how you research the hell out of symptoms when you think you’ve got, say, tennis elbow? You know how you research the hell out of what car to buy when you’re in the market for a new one? You know how you’ve researched the hell out of different types of diets and/or exercise over the years?

Yeah, well the internet is an infinite source of information, of course.

And I trust that you, shiny reader, are smart enough to sort through the chaff and figure out what’s well said, well researched, and well reasoned. All that.

Just like I trust you to be able to discern what looks like a good sofa or car or lawn mower to buy and what doesn’t. Or the difference between tennis elbow and a broken elbow. Or how to find a recipe for a good loaf of bread or a tasty eggplant parmesan instead of just any ol’ recipe. 

You’ve got a good brain—give it some exercise.

Beware the naysayers, the hold-you-backers, the “good students”

There’s lots of people going around—well meaning, I suppose—telling you not to believe “unofficial stuff.”

Like, sure, roam the internet at your leisure for most stuff, but don’t you dare stray from the authorities when it comes to the news?

It’s weird as hell. And it’s insecure as hell, too. As though people are afraid that all of a sudden you’re incapable of thinking for yourself.

They’ll sort of lord over you about it all, telling you not to listen to or watch “unofficial” stuff where “non-experts” are writing, talking, and making videos and so forth. That you should only get your info and news and advice from those qualified to inform and advise you.

As though credentials are what make someone smart?

I think we all know plenty of credentialed people who don’t have a lick of sense.

Hell, there’s loads of people with letters after their name who’re no smarter than your average grocery store checker. And for that matter, maybe the last person who rang you up at the Piggly Wiggly was indeed smart, clever, and altogether sage.

And I don’t think it’s a stretch to assert that “credentialed expert” does not translate directly to “good human.”

No one is the boss of you

You are absolutely free to go a’ searchin’ for your own info. And the internet being far vaster than the big-name news outlets or even your local news, you just nose around all you damn well please because people, including you, can talk about anything they want to all over the internet.

So don’t get all conservative-religious-y about it and act as though you’re “not allowed” to nose around the internet reading a giant variety of thoughts and opinions.

Don’t fall on your knees worshipping a select few venerable holy sites and news sources—because it’s simply not the case that accurate, thoughtful news and info is distilled by a mere handful of sources. 

You’re a grown-up—you’re allowed to wander all you want to in search of news and opinions outside of the mainstream news.

If you’re genuinely curious and not just stuck in your ways you’ll discover some highly intelligent life out there in the internet’s wilderness, or maybe even not that far away after all.

You’ll discover voices that both challenge the stories we’re told and provide answers to things that don’t add up—or, most likely, provide not only answers but yet more questions when things don’t add up.

Lying to us is a national disaster all its own

What I’m getting to here is that we in the US have been erroneously informed by our history books, our teachers, our leaders, and our news sources for a pretty damned long time.

Looking back at a helluva lot of things we’ve experienced in this country, we now have enough perspective to say Hey, wait a minute, that’s not the real story. Or the whole story. 

Yes, of course this is true the world over, but let’s just start this little project right here at home for now.

It’s perfectly acceptable now to question things we grew up hearing and believing.

We now have enough perspective to see that we were misinformed—and in many cases, deliberately misinformed.

So it’s simply not crazy to suspect that we’re being misinformed now. Based on the many blatant contradictions alone in every category of current events, we should be questioning the hell out of pretty much everything that happened in 2020, and what’s happening now in 2021.

But it’s more comfortable to not rock the boat. It may feel responsible and even intelligent to listen to the experts and the news and just believe it all.

And if that’s what someone insists on, I suppose it’s fine—just don’t be shocked or judgmental when someone else says This doesn’t add up… or this doesn’t jibe with that… or … why are they telling us this when they told us that other thing yesterday? 

Look behind The Wizard’s curtain

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I think the most responsible thing to do is to tear that curtain open, to peel back the layers, to look beneath the surface.

Use your divinely granted smarts to see the patterns of, well, deceit we’ve been repeating throughout US history.

Ask yourself some questions. Nose around the internet. Question everything that comes out of your mouth or braincells—ask if that is indeed your very own thought, or is it something you’re simply repeating?

At the very least, put together a fresh, un-canned version of what you’re saying and believing—put your well rehearsed answers into new words. See if you can explain yourself without relying on side-taking and the knee-jerk phrases you’ve used before.

Oh, and learn to recognize when you fall back on blaming “the other side” or when you use knee-jerk phrases. 

Don’t feel bad—we all use knee-jerk, canned, overused phrases, reasoning, and words. But you can commit to looking for, recognizing, and changing that.

Here are some ideas—starter questions, I suppose—

First of all, though, a rule: no answering any of these with a knee-jerk answer (such as “because of Republicans”). Investigate. None of these are simplistic partisan questions that put the blame on one side or the other. 

Ask why we have military bases all over the world—at least 800, with some estimates at as many as a thousand.

Ask why pharmaceutical companies advertise directly to the public—and so vigorously, at that.

Ask why we can’t all just eat organic food without having to pay extra for it.

Ask why DDT was legal in the US long after other countries banned it.

Ask why high-fructose corn syrup is every-damn-where in our food, even in our bread, wth.

Ask why hogs that are born and raised in the US go to China to be processed.

Ask why we thought the Crime Bill in 1994 was okay and why we now think it wasn’t.

Ask why we deregulated trade in the 80s and 90s, and why it’s okay that the US now manufactures so very little of what we purchase and use.

Ask what “deregulation” is.

Ask why we’re able to securely deposit checks on our telephones(!) but still have rickety-ass voting machines.

Ask why it’s necessary for the US government to still spy on citizens when that action was supposed to be temporary back in Sept. 2001 following “9-11.”

Ask why we’re about to allow even more of that spying on US citizens. (Didn’t know about that? Better look into it.)

Ask why Bill Gates owns 242,000 acres of US farmland, over 69,000 of those acres in Louisiana alone.

Ask why Americans in the path of planned pipelines have the annoying habit of vehemently opposing them.

Ask why the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” in response to the Warren Report in 1964 (almost 900 pages confirming that yes indeed, JFK was killed by a lone gunman).

And while you’re at it, ask what actual, real-life conspiracies you’ve seen in your lifetime, ’cause I know you have.

Question every-damn-thing

Ask questions, talk back, utterly reject the push to choose a side or call your neighbor your enemy.

(As they say in business, always complain up, not down. Sometimes people actually say to “punch up, not down,” but maybe that’s a little violent for my taste.)

Just as it’s okay to ask questions about God and religion and all that gobbly goop, it’s okay to ask questions about society, about the news, about politics, and about everything you’ve ever been taught and anything that doesn’t feel right.

Don’t be a good student right now.

Don’t stand in line and raise your hand to be called on.

Don’t ask for permission to go pee.

Don’t comply with an arbitrary teacher who says These are the rules, and you must obey them.

Disobey the thought police.

Be ready to call out contradictions and lies. (But I’m not saying to pick fights, alright? Because that’s just not cool.)

Ask for more information.

Get familiar with the use of deliberately misleading arguments, also known as the common fallacies.

Be bold in your quest for information and answers.

Be the kid who pushes the teacher’s buttons when the rules seem arbitrary.

Don’t stand there in line just because the rest of the crowd is doing it.

Like your mama always said—If everyone jumped off a cliff would you do it, too?

Listen, shiny reader, it’s okay to question everything in your orbit right now and to question the hell out of everything you’ve ever been taught, told, shown, and commanded.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say you absolutely should be questioning every damn thing you’re told and shown—and commanded—every damn day.

Why?

Because no one should be the boss of you, your brain, and your very being, that’s why. You are a sovereign human being, whether you know it or not.

Because being true to yourself instead of consenting to being a managed, scared, cowering, obeying, not-rocking-the-boat “good student” is the most generous and loving thing you can do for the good of all humankind.

That’s why.

 

 

 

4 Comments

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Coco,
Just wears me out to be thinking of questioning everything, but I do get your point! I don’t care about everything, so let some things go? Will question more things that me thinks are important?
Thanks for the advice!
PS: Have you read Geoffrey Boccia’s stuff? Another local with a refreshing viewpoint!

Hi Dan,

You make a good point as well… perhaps just let some things lie without another thought about it. Sounds like this could be a solid approach at times. Thank you.

(Haven’t run across Boccia—I’ll go a’ lookin’.)

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