Losing Control

I have a theory about why people are so agitated these days. I think it is because our daily lives have become too complicated–because it is increasingly impossible for any one person to truly understand–let alone master– the various social and scientific systems on which we increasingly rely.

Let’s be honest: how many of us really understand how the financial sector works? How government policy affects the Internet? The intricacies of tax or regulatory policies? Reading the current punditry about the Affordable Care Act leads inexorably to one conclusion–no one knows very much about medical practice, the healthcare industry or the ACA. Not to mention the construction of a website.

Technology is an increasingly important part of our everyday lives, but I know I’m not the only person who can’t fix my own car, and whose first and only response to a computer malfunction is to reboot.  Very few of us have the background or expertise to independently evaluate claims about climate change or the loss of biodiversity.

My programmable thermostat says its 69 degrees in my house. It feels colder, but who am I to argue with that sophisticated new piece of technology?

As the world around us gets more complicated, our discomfort over losing personal control of our lives increases. Different people react differently to this perception that we are at the mercy of systems beyond our ken or control: some simply “opt out,” become disengaged. (“My vote/participation makes no difference, so why bother?”) Others retreat into simplification and ideology. (“If government would just get out of the way/ if we lived by biblical principles/if parents would ban video games everything would be better.”)

As we lose control (or the illusion of control) over ever greater portions of our lives, we need to recognize what may be the most pressing issue posed by an ever-more complex modern society: the need to know who to trust.  How do we identify those who are truly expert and honest, those who are not spinning or denying or manufacturing evidence, those who are reliable interpreters of their particular disciplines?

It’s hard enough to find a trustworthy auto mechanic when you don’t really know how your car functions.

Right now, Americans don’t trust anyone. Not the media, not the government, not academics, not businesspeople. As a result, we can’t even agree on what our problems are, let alone agree on solutions.

When you don’t trust anyone, when you don’t know whose description of the world you inhabit is correct, that world becomes a very scary place.

We won’t regain a sense of control until we collectively decide who we can trust. I have no idea how we do that.


  1. Hi Sheila, Don’t lose control, take control! If you need a good auto mechanic ask your friends and colleagues. You will be amazed what people around you know and can do. But be prepared to offer your special talents in return. Nothing in life if free. Is the affordable care act good? Not for me since my premiums are doubling but it may be for someone with a lower paid job and benefits. I weighed the issue by reading two or three quick articles on Yahoo. Investing? I love to do it so come over to my blog (http://guy77money7.wordpress.com) and make up your own mine if I know anything. If you feel cold turn the thermostat up or do a walk around your house and look for leaks. UTUBE has a video for every house problem and ways to fix them. Our your gutters cleaned out and do you have all your vents covered and tight so they don’t leak air. Do you need to find out about computers you would be surprised to know how many people know how to make them sing. So take control and stop complaining the people around you everyday have incredible talents just ask them!

  2. As always I fabulous reflection! Though, startlingly helpless on the surface..Thanks to guy77money for offering ideas to take control when specific issues strike.

    With that said, I know the dangers of getting mired down in the details. I know your intent focuses on the larger issue of who to trust, and I posit the larger issue falls outside of the political and professional and rests close to our most intimate relationships.

    “Faith and fear both demand you believe in something you cannot see. You choose.” -bob proctor

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