Change, Randoms

A Somewhat Subdued Rant

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Uncle Ben’s quote may have been triggered by someone or some persons whose excuses really pissed him off. Now, I’m surely not pissed off enough to say that an expert excuse creator cannot gain expertise in any other useful areas, but I’m just sufficiently pissed to want to write a blog post about excuses. 

WhatsApp! What would we do without it? Virtually everyone I know who has a smartphone uses the app. It is this nice app that has provided a source for today’s rant. Before Jan and Brian develop anxiety wondering what their app has done to me, let me allay their fears. It’s some users, not the innocent app, that have annoyed me.

I recently came across a WhatsApp group message broadcasting a supposed free heart surgery. On pointing out that the message was a hoax, the poster offered the defence of not having free time to verify whether a message is true. This made me to reflect on the numerous times I have come across similar messages on WhatsApp. Almost every day, we come across broadcast messages either sent privately to us, or in group forums. Some of these messages sound too good (or too bad) to be true, while some others tend to use emotional blackmail to get us to forward such messages. For many of us, “life is too short to be too serious”, so we would rather simply forward such messages, than pause to think whether the messages were true, misleading, expired, or even deliberately designed to cause conflict.

The example I have used above may seem tricky as some would say the “free surgery” message is actually a good one if it were true. I would concede that when it appears that we are offering help by forwarding a message or saving lives by forwarding a message that warns of ongoing violence somewhere, we may not feel any inclination to verify the veracity of the message. However, I think this is something we need to learn to do.

I grew up being ridiculed for asking “too many questions”, so I truly understand why people would be unwilling to ask questions about things they don’t understand. However, in a time of Google, Bing, Snopes, and other services that can be used to verify information, the fear of ridicule shouldn’t hold anyone back. Another factor that holds people back is cultural indoctrination, especially in a society like Nigeria where either religion or culture programs people to hold no doubts. For an illiterate, I would empathise if such person doesn’t care to ask questions or criticise notions or statements. However, for anyone who has supposedly been educated in a tertiary institution, whether fully baked or half-baked, I think such a person does a disservice to the society if s/he willingly suspends reasoning faculties.

Politicians in Nigeria are wont to tell sugar-coated lies because they know most of the population “don’t have the spare energy” to verify their claims or promises. I am using Nigeria here, but I have seen the same thing in British and American societies, although maybe the percentage occurrence may be a bit less. A politician tells you he would pay 25 million poor families ₦5,000 monthly, and you accept the promise and forward it to others, without even pausing to figure out the amount of funds involved. Another one says leaving the EU would save £350 million per week and it gets broadcasted without any fact-checking. That’s how we let down ourselves and the less-educated ones who look up to us.

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