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Monday, January 24, 2011


I was going to use Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” to explain a “Self” that you can rely on and have a rational, logical, moral, and ethical faith in its ability to identify and attain all your “worthy” goals.  Notice I did not say, “to assist you in deceiving people into thinking that your goals are worthy” or to “enable you to turn an unworthy goal into a worthy one.”  Then I received the December issue of Time, and its PERSON OF THE YEAR, Facebook’s, Mark Zuckerberg.  I read it.  I changed my column.  It demonstrated so many “foggy, cloudy, dark, wispy under-currents in the “social media. It explained much of the difficulty many Americans have with rejecting sincere falsehoods from seemingly solid staunch hollow fellow men and women.

Let me begin with “Today’s Giving”, Vol. 1, issue 3, University of Mary President, James Shea’s article, entitled, “Guiding our Youth; Are we creating Generation ‘Me’”?  James Shea states “…I offer just a few thoughts about one of the more unsettling trends in the way we tend to think and talk about this age group and their “education: a growing culture of intense individualism.”  {This is a great, great, article.}  Shea continues, “This rising generation is more “connected” than ever before, with technology delivering both entertainment and education directly to individuals in amazing new ways.  But these changes have also left them with a profound experience of social isolation, which then often gives rise to an inchoate yearning to realign the focus and energy of their lives to something greater than themselves.”  Assisting them to do this, to shift the direction of their innate search for meaning from themselves to the greater good, is one of the most critical services a college or university can provide for our students.”  

The 2004-5 (The semester I taught there) University of Mary Student Handbook states, p. 3, “It promotes a setting of freedom and initiative in which each individual may develop those characteristics critical to leadership formation, self-identity, and self-realization.”  Since all minds are individual, and not group, collective, or community, the above statement is a self-evident truth.  It continues, “All students are encouraged to seek the truth, to see themselves as whole and unique individuals responsible to God, and to become leaders in the service of truth.” There is, in 2010 America, a false assumption that the “search for truth” is in fact contained in the quest for “the greater good.”  That is a fallacy because it does not ask the question, “for whom?”  Shea’s statement  “these changes have left them with a profound experience of social isolation” expresses a situation which the “individual student will or must address.  How does one “de-isolate” oneself from the “experience” of “isolation”, and in this context, what is the meaning of “social”?

In December’s “City Magazine,” page 1, Joe Hauer states;  “Each news media caters to a specific group, and each group wants to shout the loudest.  Unfortunately, facts often aren’t true or accurate.  Opinion becomes fact, and the public must decipher what the real facts are and make sense out of the information…information that is not properly processed into knowledge has very little, if any, value.”  “Ten Philosophical Mistakes” p. 83, says, “It is generally understood that those who have knowledge about anything are in the possession of the truth about it.  Individuals may at times be incorrect in their claim that they have knowledge, but if they do, then they have some hold on the truth.

The phrase ‘false knowledge’ is a contradiction in terms; ‘true knowledge’ is manifestly redundant.  That being understood, the line that divides knowledge from opinion should also be clear.  There is nothing self-contradictory in the phrase ‘true opinion’ or redundant in the phrase ‘false opinion.’  Opinions can be true or false, as knowledge cannot be.  When individuals claim to have knowledge about something that turns out not to be knowledge at all because it is false, what they mistook for knowledge was only opinion.”  

When we have “certitude” about anything, we have a hold on truth that is both “incorrigible” and “immutable.”  Finally, “A self-evident truth is one that states something the opposite of which is impossible to think.”  Notice these comments are from a book on philosophy, not rhetoric or logic or debate; and none of this discussion includes imagination.  

From here I’ll go to Time’s Person of the year, which triggered this column. Please read this Time issue, it explains so much about the apparent emptiness of those millions of individuals who feel that in “”recreating their- “selves” on their “friends” page in Facebook, is a “greater good” a fulfillment, a growth.  Page 43  “The way we connect with one another and with the institutions in our lives is evolving. There is an erosion of trust in authority {whose?}, a decentralizing of power, and at the same time, perhaps, a greater faith in one another.  {Really?  On what basis?}  Our sense of identity is more variable, while our sense of privacy is expanding.  What was once considered intimate is now shared among millions with a keystroke.”  {How is “intimacy” shared?  Why?} THEN: “All social media involve a mixture of narcissism and voyeurism.  Most of us  {who is “US”?} display a combination of the two, which is why social media are flourishing faster and penetrating deeper {Deeper? Into where? Or what?}  than any other social development in memory.  Social media play into the parts of human character that don’t change, even while changing the nature of what once seemed immutable.”  Dear reader, look up the definitions of “narcissism” and “voyeurism.”  

Ask, what is this “social media”?  While “our sense of privacy is expanding;” {exposing more of our “private parts}?  What “was once intimate is now shared” {With Whom?  How?  Why?  What for?}  Notice all the narcissistic and voyeuristic terms, words and suggestions.  Read Sheas’s article in Today’s Giving; Mark Zuckererg in Time; search for truth, always check your premises, use logic and reason, and do Critical Thinking.  Never settle for less than the TRUTH about yourself or any “other self.”  Be careful with whom you “share” your “self,” because values equalize at the lowest common denominator, not half-way or 50%.  U of Mary, Spring 2005.


Citizen of ND since 1953, Ruben has BS and BA degrees from Dickinson State University, MA in English from University of Kansas, and was a Mandan High School teacher for 20 years, College faculty member at Dickinson State, Bismarck State, and the University of Mary. Married to wife Lois since 1958 with 5 children.

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