Many of us are concerned with issues of torture, mass surveillance, over-militaristic policing, and maybe social justice and income inequality. My heart is also breaking for so many of the migrants facing such dangers just to escape a terrible situation.
I also think that we look at these issues and try to act sometimes in even small ways. But I wonder if we often miss some of the underlying causes of which these are just symptoms. We apply "band-aids" but don't go deeper.
I believe one of the root causes is that we are being treated as commodities; i.e., worth only what we can buy or what value our data will have. The endless ad pitches, the skewing of the justice system in favor of the economically favored/well-connected, the mining of our data by corporations(and by the gov’t as there is too much seamlessness now) to which we all are often too eager to allow. I have written about mainly television advertising (which just seems to keep getting worse) in this blog post. There is also the matter of the ubiquitous internet ads. You know, the annoying ones that almost take over a page or start playing videos or animation automatically. And some sites are so littered with ads (static and/or video) it's sometimes difficult to find the content. Having an adblocker at least can help here. But there's also the matter of public space ads. Here is a great article about that subject spotlighting a recent book and the idea that our attention is too often commodified And much has been written about digital surveillance and data mining... so I won't go into that here, except to say don't get me started on Windows 10!
I think another root cause is that we believe that violence is the way to settle problems. This is shown in many ways from domestic violence to street violence to torture to terrorism to war. We also can't forget the violence portrayed in our media entertainment: television, movies, video games, etc.. There's a lot of debate about the effect such media have, but I do believe that they at least desensitize us somewhat to violence.
I think a third root cause, semi-related to the other two, is that we fail to recognize certain other humans as – well – HUMANS. I think this is usually because of some kind of training or propaganda (as the song from “South Pacific” says – “You’ve got to be carefully taught…to hate”). This quote from Melville’s novel, mentioned in BenjaminAP’s recent link posted to The Intercept, is on point: “Still, there is something in us, somehow, that, in the most degraded condition, we snatch at a chance to deceive ourselves into a fancied superiority to others, whom we suppose lower in the scale than ourselves.” So much truth in that, I think. So, if we really saw our fellows as fellow human beings, would we hate or torture them?
I’ll even go for a fourth root cause: there seems to be less and less critical thinking and also too much blind following of authoritarian constructs. Look at the entertainment so many “watch”; look at school curricula which seem to have really downplayed critical thinking; look at the defenders of authoritarianism who seem to come out of the woodwork on discussion boards online (some may be trolls, but I don’t think they all are). We need to encourage questioning, independent thought, and the critical evaluation of "official explanations."
I submit that, as well as addressing the symptoms, we need to really start addressing the ROOT CAUSES of some of our current problems.