The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time – Brooke Gladstone

(Reviewed by JD Jung)


“American history is picked with ferment, battles and brawls over with is true. But at this moment, the nation seems to waging Civil War over reality itself. It is thrilling to watch, and tough to sit out, because the stakes are so high. But how will it end?”

I am so perplexed on why so many people refuse to accept facts as reality. This has been eating away at me since the day after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. And why all of a sudden do Donald Trump’s “alternative facts” carry more weight than real facts? Am I the one who’s crazy?

Journalist Brooke Gladstone is just as puzzled as I am, so she decided to explore the problem. The results are in her book, The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time . Through research of scientific studies, prominent people in the philosophical and psychological fields, as well as her interviews, she sheds some light on the dilemma.

She advises us that facts do not constitute reality. Reality is personal; it is what we filter out, what we perceive to be true. We rely on stereotypes for our reality, and any disruption of our stereotypes is “an attack upon the foundations of our universe.” This has been proven in neurological studies.

Our politicians certainly can’t agree on basic facts either, so compromise is impossible and according to Ned Resnikoff of “…politics reverts back to its natural state as a raw power struggle in which the week are dominated by the strong.”

At fewer than 100 pages, this analysis offers a multitude of opinions and thoughts on how we can begin to understand how others perceive their reality. Some opinions are so compelling that I plan to look further into their work. I especially valued cognitive linguist George Lakoff’s “Taxonomy of Trump Tweets”.

Americans aren’t the only ones who have trouble accepting facts; it seems to be a universal condition. That is why I think this book will have global appeal.

The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time may not answer all of your concerns regarding our current situation, but it’s a great start. At least you’ll know you’re not alone.

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