Write Stuff – Quinoa and Critical Thinking

The digital age and its avalanche of content have turned us all into lazy thinkers who’ve lost the capacity for independent thought. Sound familiar? It should, because It’s a theme that plenty of people moan about. But a quick look at the comments of major publications reveals a different story?one that shows our collective critical thinking skills are alive and well.

The main argument is that, because It’s so easy to post our every thought to the world, quality has given way to quantity. We simply can’t keep up with the flow of information, never mind taking the time to ponder it, so we take the easy way out. We skim headlines, never question anything deeply, and would rather fritter away hours on funny cat videos.

To some degree, That’s true. And then there are the folks who commented on a recent Guardian article about quinoa. Hardly the stuff of political drama?unless You’re talking about its role in the global food supply chain. When the author wrote that ?Bolivians can no longer afford their staple grain, due to western demand raising prices,? she skewed the piece heavily on the ethical ills of ?the meat avoider’s larder.?

Which prompted several astute questions, like this one: ?Do you have any statistics to back up your claim that ?the shopping baskets of vegetarians and vegans swiftly clocks up the food miles? relative to the ?shopping baskets? of non-vegetarians? How do the foods eaten primarily by the latter compare in this regard?? Several similar comments pointed out facts that had been glossed over or completely ignored by the journalist, and those remarks offered a far more informative take on the topic than the original article had.

And in The Globe and Mail, a recent article on the death of Aaron Swartz stirred an interesting debate among commenters, including one thread with various references to the theories of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and the Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakunin.

Are most of these articulate discussions still littered with posts that are little better than a three-year-old’s tantrum? Of course, and That’s no different than any other facet of society. we’re an incredibly mixed bag of humanity, for better or worse.

Yet for every puerile or inflammatory rant, there’s a reasoned, thoughtful commenter who raises the collective bar. Indeed, to overlook that fact plays into the very assumption we’re talking about: that we’re hopelessly unable to look at the public conversation in anything more than a shallow, passing way.
Now I think I’ll go read the comments section while I eat my quinoa.

S.D. Livingston is the author of several books, including the new suspense novel Kings of Providence. Visit her website for information on her writing (and for more musings on the literary world!).

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