What makes humans different from monkeys?
At least if you use it.
I do not think that people are using their neurons anymore, letting social media feel for them. This is sad, but it does not surprise me. We use our brains less than before. Is this “evolution” or “involution”? (1)
So why is the evolution of our society forcing us to use it less and less? When I listen to people aged 20 to 40, I often find myself lost. What happened to reasoning, knowing, analysising, or having culture? In less than ten years, the rise of social media has changed our behaviours and our vision of the world. People do not think any more; they take everything at face value. People have become superficial, their life ruled by news anchors, deep fakes, and conspiracy theories.
People do not use their brains anymore. They take every piece of information as “truth” and do not dig further to check the validity of what they see or read. We can blame the internet for that. Do not get me wrong. If I love the many possibilities offered by the internet. It is faster than an encyclopedia but still requires a large dose of critical sense and judgement. And often the problem does not stems from the answer but from the quality of the question. Today asking the “good question” does not seem to have more value. It was not like that in the past. In Plato’s books, I love how Socrates develops his argumentation with his listeners. It is always pure logic. (2)
Today the beauty of reasoning does not attract anymore. By focusing too much on practicality, our education system failed us.
Education does not train us to think, so we cannot learn. Everything today has to be black or white. Enforced Manicheism kills our capacity for judgment. In the past, our elders were the ones knowing, and the youngsters would listen to them. Today, companies fire employees when they get old. They get older, so we send them to nursing homes. That is how we interrupt inter-generational transmission. When the young do not respect parents, elders, or teachers, this is the beginning of anarchy (Plato again). (3)
To replace wisdom, experience, and knowledge, we now have a new type of elders. These “Elders 2.0” are social media, and they are not as wise as version 1.0.
Besides, as everything is fast, it is easier to let your phone give the answer than for you to think by yourself. The fast-food society has generated the fast-thought society. People are getting dumber. Today, a sad consequence is that as we cannot ask the “good question.” It is therefore quasi impossible to solve a given problem. One night I was on the road to see my parents for the weekend. I left my Business School in the middle of the night. When you drive alone at night, your brain often switches on automatic mode. It was à three-hour drive. Then, without any reason, I began to wonder why the last four months of the year had a wrong number? We know that September is the ninth month of the year. But “sept” means the seventh month. “Octo”, means is eight, “Nove” is nine and “Dec” is ten. Why was that?
When I got home at 3 am, I couldn’t sleep and I jumped on the Encyclopaedia to find the answer (the internet did not exist at that time). And I did. (4)
I was aware the explanation would not change my life, but I had to know out of sheer curiosity. Today, curiosity seems to have disappear. Without curiosity, answers are useless and lead humanity to its downfall. When you are not curious anymore, you accept things the way they are presented to you. You no longer think for yourself. You live like sheep.
When you do not study history, you cannot learn from the past or from your elders. Many criticize the loss of freedom being the consequence of the pandemic. But few try to understand why it is happening. Losing our free will momentarily is no big deal if it is for the greater good. I follow the news in many countries. No one has any clue on how to solve it. Governments probably make mistakes, but they are doing their best, whether you like it or not. The problem is that pandemics last for a long time, and that we have à very short memory.
The Spanish flu that killed around 50 million stayed a few years. And their society reacted in the same way as we are today. There is an interesting article in the footnotes. It shows the similarities in people’s reaction to the flu in 1918. One century later, we forgot the lessons learnt by our ancestors. (5)(6)
Our evolution in budō comes training a lot, learning a lot and above all, remembering. Like in budō, life has an Omote and an Ura side. Information is a two-sided reality, with visible aspects and hidden ones. When you only concentrate on the visible parts, you miss the real size of the iceberg.
That is why fake news spread over social media like a wick on fire on a keg of gunpowder. The “sharers” don’t read what they see. They share the Omote. They focus more on spreading the info the fastest possible. They don’t think or analyze what they send to their “friends.”
Authentic or Fake, they want to be the first to share the information. That gives them a feeling of superiority. This is so ridiculous. Some people on the internet rush to share any information that has a catchy title. And they do not read the article, only the title. Sometimes what they send to their thread is in contradiction with their beliefs. Titles are click baits supposedly to force readers to dive into the article. The writers of these texts are not even interested in the truth; their goal is to collect as many clicks as possible. Today society values your importance by the number of clicks you make. Or to how many virtual friends you have on social media. This is not how you learn and improve.
It doesn’t work like that on the mats. It doesn’t work like that in life.
You cannot remember something you never learned. Learning is the key to critical thinking. Without the capacity to learn, we are dumb clickbait hunters. With a good quality of learning, we digest the techniques and make them ours. Learning teaches how to adapt our actions and our thoughts to a chaotic situation.
This is how it works on the mats, as well as out of the hall. Sensei says that the Dōjō is 10 hours per week when life is 24 hours a day. Every day is a day to learn something. What you discover doesn’t matter as long as you keep the process alive. The word student in Japanese is “gakusei,” which means “life of learning.”(7)
Every night before going to bed, ask yourself, “What did I learn today?”
1 Involution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Involution_(philosophy)#:~:text=In%20philosophy%2C%20involution%20occurs%20when,%22turned%20in%22%20upon%20itself.
2 Plato on education: https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/education/platos-theory-of-education/40135
3 In “The Republic,” book 7
4 Names of the months: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September
7 学生, gakusei: Student; 学: earning; scholarship; study; erudition; knowledge; education + 生: life; living