If I had been asked the question in early 2020 I would have said that the word of the year would be “COVID” or “Pangolin”. Unfortunately this charming (?) pholidote mammal has since been largely overtaken by “conspiracists “.
Honestly at first I didn’t think it would make such a noise. For me to be able to think that we have confined half the world’s population, destroyed the economy of many countries, plunged people into a situation of moral distress to test the population’s ability to submit, all as part of a program fomented by the global union of mask manufacturers who had stocks to sell off is more a matter for psychiatry than for social issues.
On the other hand, we have seen the use of the term conspiracist extend to all those who in one way or another questioned what they heard, what was being done. And there we enter into the social fact.
Precisely at a time when fakes news is polluting the media and debates, there is only one sustainable and effective way to deal with it: everyone should use their capacity for judgment and critical thinking.
We are talking neither more nor less than, when faced with information, questioning its source, its reliability, the fact that it may have been altered or taken out of context, subject to a bias of interpretation or not etc.. In my opinion, this is a mechanism of intellectual hygiene that we should all learn from school but that no one will ever teach. It seems that too many knowledgeable people doubt their knowledge so much that they are afraid to see it questioned.
For me, critical thinking is not synonymous with criticism. Criticism can be devoid of foundation; the critical mind aims precisely at giving it foundation and, more often than not, at arriving at the conclusion that there is nothing to criticize.
It is the same mechanism that must, at work, always lead us to question ourselves in front of the dysfunctions that we see. I am amazed that in front of a perfectible or really dysfunctional modus operandi everyone is resigned and so few are indignant. That we take things with resignation and fatalism. That no one ever asks “why do we do it this way” or “how could we do it better” and that those who dare to ask the first question usually get only one “we’ve always done it this way” as the only answer. And they are satisfied with it.
It’s the same mechanism that should also allow us to ask ourselves the right questions when a software publisher promises us an astronomical and mechanical ROI simply because of the use of its product, when we are presented with a study coming from wherever that explains to you that if you don’t do this type of project you’re going to die, that your youngest employees are all going to resign or whatever.
That’s another reason why you legitimately ask for guarantees when a service provider announces project deadlines, or tries to convince you that their solution is robust and scalable. You ask for clarifications, explanations on certain points of the budget, ask for references, want to meet other customers. This is not an insult or a criticism towards your provider, it is a logical questioning when talking about major issues or large investments.
In a professional context, it makes (or should make) sense to ask why things are the way they are and, if you couldn’t have done better or otherwise, and generally speaking, never write a blank check. No matter to whom.
Let’s not confuse the behavior of a moron who believes we are all victims of a global conspiracy with the intellectual hygiene of a person who wonders “why did we do it”, “could we do better”, “can we improve”, “was we right”. The first adds to the stupidity of the world, the second makes it progress.
And if today the simple fact of making one’s brain work and trying to understand makes each one of us a conspiracist, let’s all be conspiracist in 2021.