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Have you noticed how often the words “they say” crops up in conversations? Usually when someone is repeating ad hoc something they’ve heard on the news or from someone else around them. And, when they’re asked for more details, they never seem to be able to give any… 
So the question is, who is this mysterious “they” and what are they saying??? 
Well, it’s usually someone perceived to be an authority on a particular subject. And “perceived” is the important word here. Someone who’s considered trustworthy and worth listening to, although this can be rather a moot point... Say a Teacher, Doctor, Priest, Politician (!) or the like. However, just because they wear a suit and project an aura of knowing, doesn’t automatically mean they do. 
If you’re in any doubt about how easily we can be swayed by a sharp dresser with decisive delivery and aura of knowing, there’s some fascinating research showing just how easily we can be hoodwinked. It was deceptively simple. Several actors read out the same few lines in a variety of different ways and clothing. Not surprisingly, those wearing suits and looking authoritative scored highest on the truthfulness and trustworthiness scales, regardless of what they were saying, while those with a more laid back and lackadaisical approach had much lower scores. The message was the same, only the “window dressing”, for want of a better word, was different… 
If you then dig a little further, you’ll often discover that the message – whatever it is – has nothing to do with that person’s understanding or knowledge on the subject. Instead, it comes as a prepared message or agreed response to whatever it is. And, if you’ve watched a Politician in action, you’ll have seen this for yourself, often with hilarious results, when the questioning goes beyond their prepared statement. Suddenly it’s very clear how little knowledge or understanding they really have on the subject. It’s like the King’s new clothes all over again… 
While we’re going down this particular rabbit hole, here’s another little trick that’s all too easy to fall for. It’s that if the same message is repeated in many different places then, again, it must be true. Sadly, the reverse is true. Instead it means that the message is being so tightly controlled and “spun” that no other messages are allowed to get through. If you’re in any doubt about this, just look back over the recent madness with news channels and search engines blocking any stories going against the “agreed line”. How exactly the same message was repeated over and over again, in many different places, while at the same time the airing of a different view on the same subject was blocked or vilified. 
So, what’s the point we’re trying to make today? 
Well, it’s all about balance and open mindedness. Deciding for yourself what resonates with you and what doesn’t. There’s never one single view on any topic, let alone one “truth”, but many. Gaining an understanding on any topic means that a little – or a lot – of research is needed, both on a one off basis and ongoing. 
Equally important is that it covers all the information on that particular topic, both that which corresponds with your particular viewpoint and, just as important, that which goes against it. After all, if you’re only prepared to look at one particular viewpoint on a topic, how on earth can you say you’ve understood it? 
And here’s the most important bit of the process. Being prepared to review your understanding as new information comes in. Clinging on to the same understanding, come what may, is never a sign of steadfastness. More of stupidity and obstinacy in the face of all information and there are no prizes for guessing who’s in charge of this either. The Little Monster in your head. 
As always, the choice is yours. 
Photograph by unknown author 
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