Don Quixote tilting at windmill. (Image: Flickr.com)

Don Quixote tilting at windmill. (Image: Flickr.com)

ZYTARUK: To discern is to learn

We tend to jump to conclusions as we click, click, click away on the Internet

So let it be written…

As George Harrison said, Beware of Darkness.

To say the Internet is a reliable source of darkness is so profoundly and self-evidently obvious a statement I’m half embarrassed to admit I just put it to ink.

But the web is also generous in the opportunities it affords us to hone certain important life skills, such as today’s word for the day, discernment.

Many years ago a philosophy professor of mine advised me to try to have one good idea each day. I’m not always successful but at least I try, and I encourage my sons to do the same.

I was told the other day about this story on the Internet concerning a young woman named Cassidy Boon who was rescued from drowning but returned the favour by suing the fellow who saved her life.

You see, as the story goes, this hero had the audacity to touch her dying body, without her consent, while she was unconscious and he was rescuing her, or, in her terms, exerting his patriarchal power over her.

What an ungrateful twit, I thought of this person who was saved from drowning. Another example of what’s wrong with this world, and, and, and and.

But after huffing and puffing about the idiocracy we are living in here in North America, I learned that this story about Ms. Boon was bogus, a fabrication, a total fiction that appeared on a website that specializes in satire.

No doubt many people took the hook, as did I, and still believe this story to be true. By now it is almost certainly in the realm of urban myth.

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Satire is a great literary genre that holds the mirror to society to remind us how truly ridiculous we can be. It’s important. Don Quixote, Animal Farm, Candide, Gulliver’s Travels are classic examples, although they were published in times when people had, well, had time to mull over the underlying messages these books conveyed. Today, in our world of click-look-and-move-on, people tend to give a cursory, superficial glance, get enraged, rant and charge forward into the next banal story the Internet has to offer.

And repeat.

I like to think satire is not dead. Its utility cannot be denied. But today, more than ever, it has become a challenge to recognize satire because we tend to jump to conclusions as we click, click, click away on the Internet. We don’t seem to have time to think things through. Instead, we get angry, pontificate and move on to the next thing that raises our blood pressure. We foist our two cents on anyone whose eyes land on our comments. Some of us write terrible, hurtful, nasty things to and about strangers. We think we can climb into their heads, and set them straight. And if pain can be inflicted, great.

It’s all a shame, of course. But there is a silver lining in that the steady diet of banality we may encounter on the Internet affords us a bounty of opportunity to improve our abilities of discernment.

And that’s a good thing, of course.

So let it be done.

Tom Zytaruk is a staff reporter with the Now-Leader. Email him at tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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