Saturday, September 6, 2008

Not All Things Are Believable

The title probably just about says it all for the skeptic, but some things would be NICE to be able to believe. Rose C. sent me an e-mail with pictures of a mass re-enlistment that took place in Baghdad on the Fourth of July of this year. The captions did not mention the number of men/women re-enlisting, but some pizzeria in Chicago shipped over 2,000 frozen pizzas to be served that day to the troops. The pictures in the e-mail were inspiring, but a non-techie like me could not get them into the correct format for blogger. Let's just say it was wall to wall troops.

Why don't we hear more about good stuff like this? Why do we have to turn on the news and hear only garbage and grief? It's ok to learn about what is going on in the world no matter if it is good or bad, but do we really need to know who is pregnant and who the baby daddy is? It used to be that I could look up the news on AOL without feeling as if I had slipped into the checkout line at the supermarket between the tabloids telling about the latest bust up or booze out among the celebrity couples. Someone must read those things or they wouldn't still be around, but intelligence never stood still for that kind of daily reading! I would just about rather gag on statistics than on tabloid gossip!

Anyway, Randy T. sent an e-mail with an Australian skit in it that was about the environment and a ship losing its front. Snopes--that ever handy little lie detector--and a quick-witted friend set me straight that it was, indeed, a joke. That joke was one I could have enjoyed believing. It isn't like the gunslinging teachers of Harrell District--a truth and true-to-Texas scenario.

Now speculation is not the same thing as telling tall tales, but it seems that every commentator (as opposed to un-common tators) has his or her favorite bit of speculation that soon becomes the belief of most of the viewing or listening audience. Say anything enough times, loudly enough, and convincingly enough and folks just have to believe it--or have a very good reason NOT to believe it. NOT believing the generally accepted theory or speculation of a commentator somehow earns one a label as either partisan or ignorant. In my estimation, this tendency to accept the views of commentators has changed the entire political and social fabric of our country. Who determines WHAT we hear about our troops and their movements and work in different countries? Who determines what we learn about political figures and their pasts or what has gone on in their bedrooms? For that matter, who determines innocence or guilt when the press decides to "convict"--or exonerate--someone?

Ok, let's take it closer to home. We all used to trust the corner grocery store to charge fairly and to give back the correct change. After all, the man who owned the store was our neighbor. Well, obviously that has changed in most cities. Even so, we usually just watch as the cashier rings up our purchases at Wally World or wherever. We feel we can trust the cashiers to do their best to get things right. Some stores even have a policy of letting you have an item free if you can show them a mistake made by their employee. But what about our friendly neighborhood utility company? My parents had--stress HAD--an account with a company called First Choice Power. They got an electric bill for $408 plus odd cents this month. Oh, the company doesn't do the reading of the meters, by the way. But they look at the numbers and send a bill based on the kilowatt hours used. The company also didn't answer its phone for several days until I found a number online that actually was connected to a real person. Real person or otherwise, because my name was not on the parents' account so that I could speak for them, I could not even request that the meter be read again. I understand the necessity to protect their customers from tacky people who might have someone's power turned off just to be spiteful, but let's face it, the company is ultimately the one who sends out the bills. Does it make sense that two little old people in their 80s are going to jump up and use 1692 kilowatt hours as opposed to 623 the month before? That's more juice than our two households could use--with the air conditioning running 24/7! Whoever read that meter needs glasses--and the company who does the billing needs a reality check! Numbers DO lie!

Whether it is a concerted shaking of our heads over "tabloid-type" newscasts or simply a desire to be able to be believed when we ask a company to check for errors, something needs to change in our collective attitude. HIPPA was put in place so that no one could obtain personal medical information that was basically private. IF a person chooses to put out information about his or her health or the children's health, that is one thing. But as a nation we need turn away from gossip and gossipers. HOW we hear of things does make a difference--just as WHY we listen makes a difference. I just wish that someone could start a good rumor that would spread and make a difference in our lives--something like Congress has repealed the income tax, or better yet, daylight savings time has been ABOLISHED! Wheeee!

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