The Curious Commodity of Common Sense
You may not know how you know, and that’s the problem.
American patriot Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet a few hundred years ago, that curiously says quite a bit about where we stand today as a country.
About seven years ago, I heard the saying that you didn’t get a user manual for life. The evidence since then has been mounting higher and higher, and with Mt. Everest once again in the news, there may be another deadly peak worth peeking at. A few hundred years ago, one of the most straightforward arguments for independence from Britain was penned by Paine; The title of the piece, a pamphlet, was Common Sense. As a term today, it’s as subjective as the individual, yet in the whole, a commodity, that defines and defies us.
I could never watch Martha Stewart when she started out her television empire. It wasn’t the part about her condescending and snide tone, it was the things she was trying to sell; Those things that my mother taught me, taught all of us kids about sewing, cooking, and all things homemaker. These were just common sense things! I would scream at the TV, while my wife rolled her eyes at the twentieth time she heard it that week. That was a big eye opener for me at that stage of my life, didn’t people know this? In examining this then, and now, I have to say I didn’t own a lion’s share of common sense either. Common Sense, from the name given to a pamphlet citing independence to a matronly woman selling hers on live TV, covers a lot of ground.
The truth of the matter is, the phrase is used in the background, to inform and to codify. It is used to unite us and divide us, and like Mt. Everest deserves a passion of exploration. This enigma we call communication is an amazing frontier, one that may need a better mapping of if we are going to get anywhere in the not so distant future. Since we didn’t come with user manuals, the poking of miscellaneous buttons seems too close to Homer Simpson in the Nuclear Plant at times for my liking. The damages can spread faster than a nuclear explosion and reach the ends of the Earth in minutes. Common sense is a necessity, a discertion of events and environs. It is also pliable and manipulative, as streams of social consciousness, tribes of beliefs, and idealistic martyrdom, eat away at the very definition of those words.
Common sense, in a pamphlet espousing freedom, in a handing down of traditions, and in the societal fabric of information, requires a general degree of commonality, or common bonds. That small, but important combination of knowing the same things, the same events, the same cause and effect. This is the point in which the trail leads off into the darkness and sense is just another blown out torch. We have lost much of our commonalities, sans country of residence, in this binary botulism, the canned goods are making us ill. The climate change of the human condition is also well upon us, the race to become islands, far away from the maddening policies and peoples is in mass migration mode. The commonalities that would bind us into one great nation whittled down into gossamer zip lines.
This became more apparent as communications online prospered and grew into its own behemoth. The social stances and political pick axes that have been undertaken have been filled with the all knowing, the persuasive, and sheer lying personalities from all over the world. The conversations and flame wars convinced me that it was not a matter of information, or that they just need to know this, or that. The penchant for the thinking that I could possibly change anyone’s mind with information instead became; I wonder what they believe? With that step, a little higher I moved up this current expedition of this peek.
All those years ago, Paine’s version of Britain could very well be the voice of the commoners today.
by Thomas Paine
Introduction to the Third Edition:
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour; a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason. As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in his OWN RIGHT, to support the Parliament in what he calls THEIRS, and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either. In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise, and the worthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose sentiments are injudicious, or unfriendly, will cease of themselves unless too much pains are bestowed upon their conversion. The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is the AUTHOR
I believe I have read about those very same issues just this morning in the local newspaper. The nature of Paine’s Britain must have felt eerily similar to today’s climate of national angst. I too would be on the first boat under those conditions, I am steadfast in my hopes of some form of spacecraft in the near future for that undiscovered country. Even though the colonies were governed by the Crown, just getting far away from the royals would clear the mind a bit. I can get that part too. The common bonds of independence, and nation building, infighting and relations, lasted into the third century of this construction. It is almost as hard to watch as a bad movie, with too much ketchup for blood, and sex for love. I wonder what they believe? Did they not understand what happened? Don’t they have any common sense?
Yes, no, it’s complicated… The things that are common to someone in one part of the country, is very uncommon in others. Therefore the sense of the matters become differences, instead of commonalities. That is just as it happens across the bigger spectrum. What happens in the micro-spectrum is similar, but this is where the nuances and dark trails with unlit torches come in. Like I said, I wonder what they believe? In trying to be empathic towards the plights of others. there is certainly a line at which the act becomes judgmental, and rife for error more than empathetic. The old line of not knowing what it means to be me kind of thing. So in examining this Mt. Everest of society, simply as an uneducated observer, these things repeat in our communications, our belief systems, and effect our unity.
In the smallness of our efforts to convey, and be conveyed to; The communication facades that bring about information to be discerned by those seeking sense, play the part of the kaleidoscope. The thoughts that color our worldviews and communal experience are inspired, and directed to elicit, a plethora of on cue commands and streams of consciousness. How do you think we all are falling into our own digital tribes, domains of less offence? It is the human algorithm showing up in the digital one. A tracking of beliefs, and sites, largely based on experiences and commonalities that are subjectively directed. The thin veneer of thought that is occurring on the surface makes it appear there is much activity in the thinking business going on. In truth though, the depth of thought needed, is barely being touched, poked at, or even known of. In other words, the nice patina that looks like it was painstakingly thought out isn’t going to change the core material.
Humanity, just like science and politics, is a huge field, with lots of room for thinking. It requires work and practice as anything else. The adage about the brain being a muscle is true, the problem is more and more the six pack abs sit squarely atop the untouched flab, the arterial damage belies the busy outer workings. What is amazing to see is the scope on which the programming of common sense has been short circuited, and parlayed. There is no need to work into that fatty layer when all the nutrients of information is hand delivered, and on a silver platter no less. It takes more effort to create a false narrative, and illogical conclusion than it does to ascertain the truth and facts. Contemporary society and culture is filled to the brim with those examples though, The app of intellect, the coffee shop of beliefs, the cults of personalities. All filled with their own versions of common sense, messaging, programming, and testing.
The information pathways of Paine’s era must have felt amazingly similar. The coddled hoards of beliefs, the setting of stakes for grander ideals is a stark portrayal of contemporary America. The almost palpable stances of the world’s powers today all nervously preparing for the next dam to break, the new country to discover. The man-ipulations of ideas, thoughts, and intentions, is in a warlike fervor, the minutiae of it all is a commodity as much as oil, or pork bellies. This, this poking at the keys, this programming of a box, this reading, and the audience, are all part of the supply chain, all part of the process consumption, being parlayed into common sense, the next instant answer. We humans are lazy and self-serving, those instant answers look like six pack abs, while the core work is falling to atrophy. We are already at the whim of artificial intelligence, and it began much earlier than the computer age.
Martha Stewart was just selling her style, her sense of self. But in doing so the consumerism ran into trends, the trends became everyday knowledge, commonalities. The reason I am using Martha is she was national, a TV personality among many things. It is also a small time frame example of how these, among many things, shape the communications, commonalities, and sensibilities in this fabric of society today. The sense that folks in one part of the country felt differently about things than others is a given. The degree to which they felt differently did not hit so close to home as they do now. Opinions are known, a thread of comments could alienate you, a liaison or acquaintance could darken your societal polish. In a world of power and money, the madness to control it all is beyond full tilt, it’s in supernova territory.
In 1983, an overweight and unfit seventeen year old enlisted in the Army. It was to get away from the untenable school situation, the pot and sloth lifestyle that had taken ahold of the teenager. That kid never graduated from training, his feet and knees buckling under poor fitting boots, and an as yet then discovered genetic knee issue. This wasn’t the big thought taken away though, the thought taken was the sheer amount of programming that went into that life. As a young man being able to vote for the first time, the incentives were very clear, you voted Republican because they kept the Army busy with work and money. On the surface that sounded great, but to someone who thinks from the deep end to the shallow, I didn’t exactly care for that line of thinking myself. A busy Army meant dead friends and relatives.
That little life journey left a big impression on how group-think, the ends justify the means, and the selfish island like communities, and groups, work in this culture. Religion seemingly wants your soul, but it places stakes in almost every other aspect of life. Interpersonal relationships want your love and attention, yet that aspect too places stakes in thought streams and behaviors. Politicians want your vote, so they touch bases with everything from religions to interpersonal relationships. They even touch base with how those connections were made, a series of tests to see how well you are inline with the group, or thought. How much are those beliefs and thoughts being played out in your life, in your behaviors? How much anger or happiness, stubborn doggedness and flexibility of mind occurs in your life? All a commodity of one sort or the other, your information has a value, your voice has a value, and the common sense of it all is being chopped up like a bad salad with too much Kale.
So I really did wonder what they believed? What did they think? Often it comes down to one of those instant answers, the ones that people pull from when they just cannot put their own intellect to it. A talk radio reply that is meant to elicit fears, and demeaning speech about this person, or that person, doesn’t fly in this airspace well. A repetitive proclamation of anything does not make it true, but even that common sense has been challenged and apparently there are enough that will believe it. I don’t believe they are even aware of the Dunning-Kruger like appearance they display, or even that they do it out of malice or contempt. I am sure these very descriptions have been used about myself as well, so I am accounting for that too. Their common sensibilities say that things are different, their experiences molded into something else, and this rabid habit of changing the context of the past to accommodate the present is more human than we even realize.
A religion will rewrite their history, sometimes in little snippets, sometimes with inquisitions. A country will rewrite their history, whenever the need arises, and a person will rewrite reality altogether. It has happened in front of me, as an action is occurring, the denial is consistent, even though they witnessed it… What the? Back to common sense, back to that commodity, that is bought and sold, traded for and traded in. The passions that drive us originate in powerful chemical reactions in our brains and bodies. The drugs and their addictive properties do not need to be injected or smoked, they could very well be heard and felt in group-think acceptability, reinforcement of any belief, and the commonalities of comfort that the human mind is most definitely heavily addicted to.
Common sense is a pliable tool, a religion of supposed logic, and something that is just one aspect of this communication mountain to be explored. It is a concept, based on a concept, that is in constant flux. It’s usage in thought, and exercises in communications should well be examined again. It is found in arguments and dialogues on everything from politics to the state of the fairness of sexes. It is a weapon and an inroad to understanding, and in examining it as a tool of thought, it should be understood how much of it is programmed into society, the mechanisms of culture, and the various groups of peoples. It should also be examined how deep our own individual thinking is going. Is it past the standard lines, the social media attitudes and herd mentality?
This commodity that is us humans come with a long list of shares. Common Sense, as it was penned down then, gives us a better picture of the problems that faced the colonists. They are the same in essence as we have now, but we have yet to find a new land. Human communications deserves a giant dose of study or we will run into our own Tower of Babel situation. The automatic answers are no longer fit for a new world, a new sense. The programming of people has run full measure and it has regressed us dearly. The exercise of thought is something that must be released again, beyond the boxy sound bites and six pack abs. It is a point of atrophy in this human condition and the curious commodity of common sense.