On the origin of understanding

Aids HIV Virus

I’ve told this story to several people now (bless them for listening because it’s got to be more annoying in person than it’s about to be here)

Several years ago I wanted to understand AIDS

I mean, I knew it was caused by the retrovirus HIV, I knew it originated in Africa, and I had a basic understanding of its impact and legacy on the gay community

But I wanted to really understand it

So I set out to read as much as I could, to go into as much depth as possible. I got some books from the library. Others I purchased because they were so dense with excruciatingly complex details that it took multiple readings for any of it stick in my mind. I made use of MeLCat to get some more advanced books from Michigan colleges/universities

I was reading about basic virology

I was reading about the impact of colonial urbanization

I was reading about zoonotic disease

I was reading about epidemiology

I was reading about unsafe healthcare practices & developing technologies

I was reading about the politics of healthcare & sexuality in 1980s America

It was 3 months of reading. And in the end what I got from that 3 months is a very basic informed under of the AIDS pandemic. A scratch on the surface of understanding

To think that my understanding was even remotely close to expert is laughable. Learning what I did was valuable and I’m very glad I did it. But what it amounts to is having an informed understanding. Not an expert or specialist or professional understanding

I think there is a key in there to one of the dilemmas we see playing our around us

I invested a significant amount of time in trying to understand a topic. By the time I was finished not only did I trust the experts but had also developed a keen appreciation for how important they are

I had spent a few months. Those experts had spent years, decades in many cases 

Decades devoted to meticulously gathering as much information as possible to draw the most precise conclusions possible

I’m beginning to see that many of us don’t understand that time commitment. The time it takes to become well informed on any level is hours and hours beyond a single google search. And the density of the information itself is well beyond what’s even available for free on the internet

To be informed, you have to either make a long term time investment or trust someone else who has

Instead the ease at which we can reach out and pluck easy info from the internet has tricked our brains into thinking that the world and it’s machinations are simple; easy to discern with a little common sense

It’s a deadly assumption.

I highly recommend using MeLCat if you’re in Michigan and if you’re not, I recommend looking for and/or advocating for a similar program where you live. 

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