Wednesday, 7 May 2014

A Polite Request For Your Attention

As you know, I am pretty scathing of the vast majority of conspiracy theories, and in an earlier post I mentioned how these are the modern version of superstition, a statement I stand by. Along with these are a long list of things people are convinced are "bad for you" with zero evidence to prove it. We all have our little soapbox issues among these, and this is mine.

Just to the right of centre you can see a wind turbine.

That is the view from my front porch. That's how close we are. Three are actually visible from my property. In total there are several hundred of them. So when I talk about this, I'm not talking about something over the hills and far away.

Before they were built, there were signs up all around the countryside opposing them, including some demanding safety studies. Well, now it's one great big safety study - we are living it. And the data is in. The only harm done is to nearsighted birds. I have nothing against nearsighted birds, obviously, but in the great scheme of things these fatalities are a drop in the ocean compared to how many birds die flying into windows. So, unless you are planning on banning windows, I suggest you let that one go.

In fact very careful studies have been done, repeatedly, to see if there is any danger to health from them, and there isn't. How can there be? The last time I wrote about this I went into quite a bit of detail about it and offered a link to even more scientific data and explanations:

We fear what we don't understand.

It's a survival instinct left over from waaaay back, and served us well then. But along with distrust of "other" from our tribal days, there usually  isn't actually any need for it now. Today, we don't need to fear people just because they are different to us, for example, we can learn about them, and this knowledge is a choice. And I propose that lack of knowledge, which ends up being lack of understanding, is the biggest problem we face in the modern world.

If you are scared of wind turbines because you don't understand them, that's one thing. If you are scared of people because you don't understand them, that's quite another. It can lead to some very bad things happening to those people.

I am not a professional historian, but I have taken an interest in history far beyond what we were taught in school, and I'm glad that I did, because it has helped me to understand why things are the way they are. When history was taught in school there were a lot of names, dates, and places. And some very simplistic explanations of the cause of events. But the problem with history is that it has no beginning. Every event that happens was preceeded by, and generally speaking caused by, another event. For example, every child learns that World War One began because Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo. But that tends to be as much as they are ever told. In fact, if you trace it back, these events can actually be linked directly to the American Civil War. Which of course had its own convoluted causes, which in turn had a history behind them, and so we go back, back.

Nothing ever happens without reason. It may not be a good reason. A single individual can change the course of history, and so can a storm, so there are "random" events thrown into the mix. But they are never the sole cause of what comes next.

However, some of this is a matter of opinion. While 4 separate events may have obviously led up to a fifth, historians differ on which was the more important. Not only that, there are different reports of what happened. Who fired the first shot? Who made the decision? Where did the epidemic come from? How many died? Were they refugees or spies? As time passes, answers to these questions sometimes become impossible to answer for sure.

And the problem with history is that some facts get conveniently set aside for propaganda purposes. Terrorists become heroes and vice versa. Whole generations are deliberately and systematically taught lies. Ask any Turk about Ataturk. Chances are they don't even know the dark side of their national hero's career. The world remembers him as a great statesman, the atrocities forgotten.

So, in any conflict there are three stories, those of either side, and the truth. The truth is really hard to pin down, and it's rare that one side is wholly innocent. The media feeds us whatever suits its purposes, and unbiased news reports are hard to come by. Official statements are inevitably inaccurate, and the further we are from an event the harder it is to get our facts straight. A minority of people have the time and resources, and make the effort to try and pick this all apart and understand what's really going on.

Most don't. Frankly, I don't blame anyone for despairing of really knowing the truth behind event X, considering the huge efforts made by those involved to make this difficult. But I have great respect for those who admit to not understanding, and, as a result, not taking sides. The wisest people of all are those who realise there are two (or more, usually more) sides to every story and approach the situation with that knowledge. Because it's far too easy to lay the blame at the feet of one side. Without considering what went before.

If it doesn't affect you, there are only so many hours in the day, and I don't blame you for going about your busineess and leaving it for others to worry about. It is absolutely not a requirement for every citizen of the planet to be an expert on every matter happening on it.

But before you offer an opinion, especially before you offer it publically (and yes, that includes Facebook), or within the earshot of a young, impressionable mind, or in such a way that it could impact the welfare or livelihood of a member of the group of people connected to the issue, GET YOUR FUCKING FACTS STRAIGHT.

We have enough problems in this world without ignorance being shared.

Thank you.


  1. I love wind turbines. A few years ago we drove past and then stopped at a wind farm. I was standing right there and there were these giant wind turbines all around and I have to say it wasn't very noisy at all. I could hear the wild life much more clearly than the wind turbines. I would love to have a small one for us. But they aren't allowed at residential places in my area. The reasoning is that planes might hit them. The kind I want if a plane hit it the plane would be having more troubles than just hitting a wind turbine as residential ones aren't that tall.
    And about the birds: Just the other day I had a bird fly up and hit my van while I was driving. Some birds are stupid and they tend to not last too long.

  2. I do wish people who insist on sharing those Internet hoaxes would read this. I no longer respond to them.