The Earth is currently suffering from the largest pandemic ever to afflict mankind. The disease is so deadly that millions have already died, however the WHO has not acknowledged it. The news media rarely discusses it, the President has not addressed it and, indeed, both entities suffer from the ailment themselves. What is this catastrophic illness? It is called Value Specific Myopia (VSM), and I’m not talking about anything that can be fixed with contacts. The entire world suffers from a severe case of, “I refuse to see things from any other perspective but my own,” and it is killing us slowly, by degrees.
The most obvious example of this illness lies in the ideology of the terrorist. Put simply, their thinking is, if you don’t believe exactly what I believe, you deserve to die. Not since the crusades has this malignant thought process been so widespread or so dangerous. Then, it was dangerous because it infected people with power: the nobility, the clergy. Now the danger lies in the fact that anyone espousing a narrow eyed scapegoat philosophy can obtain the materials necessary to champion their manifesto in ways more vile and bloody than the Crusaders ever imagined. So certain are terrorists of their ideology that mass murder is seen by them, not as a necessary evil, but as a legitimate tool in any well stocked arsenal.
Sadly, terrorists are not the only ones who need cultural glasses. In fact, it is safe to assume that most of us do. And no, I’m not suggesting that everyone from Granny to Ghandi is a bomb toting fanatic, or even a potential bomb toting fanatic. It is, however, undeniable that the vast majority of individuals, from the politician in Washington to the working mother on Main Street, thinks their way is the only way and that anyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but possibly an enemy. It doesn’t take much of a mental leap to figure out why that is dangerous.
Republicans fight with Democrats, who run smear campaigns against their Red rivals, focusing not on the issues, but on personality and past mistakes. Both sides are equally guilty, which is ironic considering that, ostensibly, they both want the same things: 1)happy, healthy constituents who will 2) vote them back into office in the next election. The dirty little secret: the true goal of both sides is restricted to the latter half of their purported objective. This is a special strain of VSM called Personal Gain VSM or PGVSM. Instead of thinking how best to run the country, these partisan behemoths spend their time worrying about which Party will hold the majority in the Legislature after the next election. It’s about power, plain and simple. If the contest were about how best to run the country for the benefit of all citizens, it would make sense for the antagonists to get together, get a prescription for their shortsighted attitudes, and create a plan that provides the most benefit for the largest portion of the citizenry. However, since the actual issue is, “who has the most control,” the politicians feel no need to work together. In fact, it would be counter- productive to do so; rather like a political version of Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy.
Both wings of the modern News Media are equally afflicted by VSM. However, in the media strain of the illness the patient is both victim and carrier, hence the term, “-VSM2”. Giving people the facts and letting them draw their own conclusions was, at one tiny point in history, the goal of the News. Prior to that point, the goal was to sell soap flakes or whatever product was backing the show that week. Now the goal has returned to maintaining and increasing market share for multiple sponsors. Like the Roman Senate, who spent thousands of denarii on spectacles aimed at appeasing the masses, the current powers that be (PGVSM sufferers all) have deduced that the best way to improve VSM aV*h (VSM afflicted viewers per hour or Market Share) is to cater to the watchers in the dark. In effect, “tell them what they want to hear and they’ll keep buying.” This vicious circle strengthens the audience’s VSM while also reinforcing the newscaster’s –VSM2. Whether a particular station leans left or right is immaterial. All outlets hunt that ever important market share, and Actual Fact is simply one possible resource among many. Oddly enough, most newscasters would be sincerely affronted by the suggestion that they are, in any way, biased. This is the insidious tragedy of all forms of VSM. Not only does it blind you to any view but your own, it hides from you the fact that you are sick.
Human beings have great difficulty acknowledging that other viewpoints exist, assuming instead that all sane people view the world in exactly the same way – their way. But whether the differences come through culture, religion, gender, socio-economic status or political affiliation, differing but equally valid view-points do exist. Instead of valuing the differing perspectives of other cultures, we view them as suspect, and prima facie less valid than our own.
There are some basic values which are held in esteem across cultures: generosity and kindness = good, murder and theft = bad. This universality may be due to the inescapable fact that some actions are so severely disruptive to human life that they cannot be tolerated in any culture that wants to survive. Defining the difference between good and bad human interactions aside from the basics becomes a highly subjective process and it is generally culture that determines acceptability. This subjectivity causes VSM sufferers to perceive a culture which differs significantly from their own as offensive, even evil. Such assumptions easily lead to persecution, violence, even war. That last step might be taken because of perceived moral outrages or simply because the “evil” society has something the “good” society wants. Curiously, multiple strains of VSM may operate in the same person, each type affecting the others as the situation dictates. For instance, heavily afflicted bodies such as the legislature may actually be able to suppress their prevalent VSM symptoms in order to cater to their PGVSM directives. The situation in the Middle East springs to mind as a sterling example.
VSM is deadly to the creative artist. In mediums where the ability to analyze disparate points of view is a vital element of the craft, artists must constantly work to keep the muscles of their inner eye healthy and functioning. Loss of clear sight results in false, obfuscating art in all mediums and so must be guarded against at all costs. Because the best writing, painting, and sculpture encourage Critical Thought and CT is the only known treatment for VSM, artists must use their work to create a reliable supply of this medicine.
The treatment, like the disease, is self inflicted. One can only combat VSM by attempting to see through the eyes of another, while consciously suspending judgmental attitudes. Knowing that every person on the planet is afflicted with some form of this disease and that it has already proven lethal to populations worldwide, artists must step up and use their unique occupation to fight VSM. Be warned: there is no known cure for VSM. Relapses must be constantly guarded against with daily applications of CT. In the end, we are all responsible for our own actions, created out of our own value system. Artists of the world, its up to you; stop this terrible disease before it kills us all.