Thoughts on the ‘Second Man’ – the problem of listening to information blindly

Way back in the 90’s I started to speak of what I called the ‘second man’.  Basically, it refers to someone who to jumps to conclusions on a seconds notice.  It originates from the name Minute Man, who were soldiers in the American Revolutionary War.  They were supposed to be ready to fight in a minutes notice.  I thought it was an American trait and still do, as I’ve seldom seen it in foreignors.

It originates from my conversations with people.  I found that many Americans come to conclusions too quickly.  There was a time when people would come to conclusions about what I was saying before I even finished stating the idea!  At one time, this was a big problem.  I found that once they had their conclusions I often could not change it.  I’d also see people hear something on the radio, say, and lasting just a few sentences, and they’d have conclusions as to what it meant, what it was about, and had all sorts of opinions about it.  This was usually over stuff they knew nothing about.

I always thought that the ‘second man’ originates from mass media, TV, and radio.  Everyone sits like vegetables and get spoon fed information.  Oftentimes, the information they get is a matter of a sentence or two long.  Most news people get is less than half a minute long, it seems.  From this condition people get in the habit of concluding whats being said with the most minimal information possible.  I’ve often joked that it is almost like that game show ‘Name That Tune’:  “I can guess whats being spoken about in three syllables Bob”.  That may sound silly but that’s about what I was seeing.

What this means is that there is a tendency to look at things simply, too simply, by the ‘second man’.  They seldom inquire or research things, as their opinions are as if ready made and complete. 

Most of their opinions and reactions are based not on any thought, knowledge or wisdom, but by their character and temperament.  Typically, there is very little thought in their reactions.

The ‘second man’ tendency often makes people very over reactive, I’ve found.  They hear something and react.  Hear something and react.  There is a lack of consideration and reflection.  As a result, they often do stupid and dumb things.  In addition, they are often wrong in their interpretation of things.

Common statements I’ve found myself saying to the ‘second man’ are, “well, we don’t know the full story” or “there is probably stuff we don’t know anything about” or “they’re probably not telling the full story”.  I continually mention that what is being said is often leaving all sorts of stuff out, and that behind the short explanation they are giving is hundreds or thousands time more information than what you’re hearing.  I also often warn about the distortion and bias of the media and how they tend to leave things out for various reasons. 

In general, I’ve found that hearing information is often an illusion.  Hearing something is not always as accurate or clear as it seems.  In short, I found that a person must learn how to listen to information and how to interpret it.  It’s not good to take information as ‘gospel’ regardless of where you hear it, I’ve found.  This includes the news, radio, TV, documentaries, books, school, and other people.  And I should also mention even yourself.  The ‘second man’ is someone who blindly listens and reacts to the information he hears, usually without thought. 

Learning to listen to and the ‘digesting’ of information is not as easy as it sounds, I think.  Some thoughts about it are:

–  Learn which information is important and what isn’t important to you.  In general, its best to disregard and forget what is not important to you.  In other words, don’t waste your energy on unimportant things.

–  Allow time for any information to ‘digest’ before reacting to it.   Let it ‘sink in’. 

–  Keep in mind that you may not know all the facts, perspectives, and details relating to the information.  In addition, you may not know all the different perspectives and point of views that may revolve around it.  I’ve found that its always good to assume something is missing.

–  Try to put any information into a greater context of lifes situation.  Take any information and fit it into a ‘world view’ or ‘world conception’.  Don’t treat any information as an independent entity.  The purpose, and greatness, of knowledge is in creating a greater world conception, not in just ‘knowing’. 

Dealing with information in the ‘information era’ is not easy, as we are bombarded with it.  Everywhere we go we’re slammed with it.  Sometimes, it can be maddening and confusing.  Other times, its just too much.  Some of us become ‘numb’ to it.  Some of us over react to it.

I have always felt that the information bombardment is a far bigger problem than people realize.  Learning to manage information is now a very good ability to develop nowadays.

This entry was posted in Modern life and society, Philosophy, Psychology and psychoanalysis, The U.S. and American society and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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