Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Information Age

To be informed means to have relevant knowledge of current events, past events, and the implications of these events. Relevant knowledge is knowledge that matters to more than just a few people. The latest events in Paris Hilton’s life are not knowledge that I would consider to be relevant. Sure, is might be of importance to her family, but to the general public, it has little value and virtually no implications. The passing of a new law by legislature does affect the American people and that is relevant knowledge. It is in everyone’s best interest to know the laws so we can act accordingly. One can say the Iraq war is bad or good but, if they cannot defend their position, then this person is not properly informed. To be informed is essentially an accumulation of knowledge. Being informed does not pertain purely to world events. One could be informed on the bioluminescence of fireflies and be able to explain it in great detail; this is also being informed. An well informed person has relevant knowledge that they are able to defend, they debate the issues, and seek the truth.

Although many people take the time to inform themselves of many things, particularly world events, what is done with that information is often small. When I heard of a cyclone barging through Bangladesh, I did nothing. When I heard of the assassination of Benizir Bhutto in Pakistan, once again, I did nothing. However, when I hear that traffic is going to be bad, I might take a different route to work. If I was a banker, I would pay particular attention to Wall Street news, then, based upon the information accumulated, I might make educated decisions. In that way news also will cause people to act. What humans do with most of the news they acquire is generally nothing, unless it pertains directly to them. Oh sure, we might shed a tear for the mass killings in Darfur, but very few of us actually take action. The most that the gum-chewing individual is going to do is spend a few hours researching a candidate who has plans to take action and then proudly casting their vote. After that, this individual will go about town wearing their sticker that says “I voted.”

I would consider myself to be relatively informed. There is so much to know, even about a single event; I simply do not have the time to understand it all. I first began taking interest in world events when I was eighteen, after I had taken a vacation to Europe for the first time. Although, I spent most of my time in England, a country with many similarities to the United States, I learned that the world is so much larger than my little plot. I wanted to know what the people of England cared about. What were their concerns? What was news to them? From that point on I began reading the news. The affect reading the news has had on me is that is has expanded my mind, opened me up to new ideas and perspectives and given me a well-rounded world view.

In my experience in reading the news, which is my primary way of informing myself, I’ve found that it is almost like a puzzle. Certain world events are connected to another event; history plays a huge role in what is happening today. For example, one could learn much from going back into the history of Iran to find out why there is a negative attitude towards Americans from Iranians. Simply reading the news is not enough to be considered informed; one has to find out the history behind what is happening today in order to develop a true understanding. Discussing the issues is a great method of seeking the truth; one might find that their opinion is actually quite narrow-minded. It is healthy to debate issues and open the mind up to new perspectives and ideas. That is seeking the truth, a vital part of being informed. When one seeks the truth through research and debate they are then able to defend their position much more easily.

In conclusion I would like to say that being informed constitutes primarily of the accumulation of relevant knowledge. What is done with that knowledge is not necessarily applicable but nonetheless noteworthy. To inform oneself of relevant knowledge, debate the issues, and ultimately seek the truth is to be informed.

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