Information obesity (Relating to activism)

The amount of information that has been collected over the last 100 years would probably take another 100 years or more to sort out into any kind of useful order. The receptors in our brain can only deal with so much of it at the one time. So it is important, like what we eat, the information that we absorb at any one time is relevant to what we are trying to do.

The amount of information about atrocities, human carnage, ecological disasters and government propaganda is fantastic. Sure we need to be aware of these things and sensitive to the effect they have on people. But we also need the kind of information that can be shaped into intelligent tools that can help us to deal with and prioritise these problems.

It is useful to be aware of Dewey’s dictum “It is not what we learn it is how we learn”. The ability to filter what is useful and what is irrelevant are part of the skills that need to be learned. But the next step is important. Does one who is skilled in these things go on to educate those who need to know or just continue to write papers and books which only reach their peers or perhaps lie on dusty bookshelves as part of the information glut? This is the dilemma between academic vanity and social change in the information age.

The intellectual life of the working classes is sustained by the struggle for equality and is an education of survival. This is not learned in universities, but in the street and the meeting rooms where pertinent knowledge is used to build working class institutions. Is this not where the academic, the intellectual should be, rather than absorbed in words? Helping folk to articulate their aims, particularly in times of crisis where the stakes are high for us all?