My Turn: What will we bear witness to as truth as we head into 2021?

  • JOHN BOS JOHN BOS

Published: 12/27/2020 9:02:08 AM

What will we witness in 2021?

      In a startling Tweet that went viral, Jodi Doering, RN, a nurse in         South Dakota, described caring for COVID-19 deniers, patients who believed the coronavirus was a hoax. During a rare night off, she lamented on Twitter: “I can’t help but think of the COVID patients the last few days. The ones that stick out are those who still don’t believe the virus is real. The ones who scream at you for a magic medicine. They tell you there must be another reason they are sick,” she tweeted. “They call you names and ask why you have to wear all that ‘stuff’ because they don’t have COVID because it’s not real. Yes. This really happens. … Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening; this isn’t real.’... It just made me really sad.”

For expressing her feelings publicly Doering has since suffered backlash — including death threats. Such can be the risk of challenging someone’s strongly held beliefs in America today. You can hold onto a belief more tightly than to the facts that challenge that belief. You can hold on to it until your dying day.

The baffling question for many of us is why do humans instinctively reject evidence contrary to their beliefs? Do we understand why and how people might change their minds, for example, about the pandemic? Or climate change? Or those who deny the Holocaust or that the earth is round?

We understand the world and our role in it by creating narratives that have explanatory power, make sense of the complexity of our lives and give us a sense of purpose and place. These narratives can be political, social, religious, scientific or cultural and help define our sense of identity and belonging.

Narratives are not trivial things to mess with. They help us form stable cognitive and emotional patterns that are resistant to change and potentially antagonistic to agents of change (like people trying to make us change our mind about something we believe). It’s the mechanism that helps us to “make sense” of the world around us.

Societies are founded, cohere, develop, degenerate and die based on their belief systems. Reason cannot prove the beliefs they are based upon. It’s pretty much agreed that belief systems are a part of our environmental experience. We accumulate thousands of beliefs throughout our lifetime, about every aspect of our life. We gain these beliefs through things that people say to us, things we hear on the news, things we read, or any other external influences that we may be exposed to.

What was your experience as a child? Was your family poor, middle class or wealthy? Was your skin color black or white? Or somewhere in between? Did you live in the South or New England or California? What is your religious preference? Which media outlets do you get your “news” from?

These factors, together with other factors such as our personality, our genetic make-up and our habits form our belief system which becomes one of the strongest influences affecting any decision that we make. The way we interact with others. The ways in which we react to any of the things that happen in our lives.

Following is a chilling example of a widely held belief that denies history and promulgates anti-Semitism. A recent 50-state survey found that a disturbing number of young Americans have bought into the Holocaust denial conspiracy that has spread like wildfire on social media. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said on CNBC that he believed that social media platforms need to face stronger regulation in the U.S. to help manage the spread of false information.

False information (fake news) is shaped inadvertently or intentionally. We have all witnessed intentional political propaganda (the “stolen election”) and corporate propaganda (U. S. Tobacco and Oil industries).

Contrast Holocaust denial with the truth witnessed by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower when the allies liberated the Ohrdruf concentration camp in April 1945. “The things I saw beggar description. … In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. … I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the near future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’”

As we escape from 2020, the question before each of us is what will we bear witness to as truth as we head into the near future of 2021?

Greenfield resident John Bos is a contributing writer for Citizen Truth, Green Energy Times and other journals. He invites comments and questions at john01370@gmail.com.


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