We live in an age of randomness…an expectation that things don’t have to make sense. And the more we celebrate it, the more it distorts our frame of reference. From Flo the Progressive agent to Jan the Toyota receptionist to Aaron Rodgers’ discount double-check, it’s almost a competition of mindlessness, pushing us to the point where things not only don’t make sense, they don’t matter. It’s randumb…a mindset without context.
What started as a fad of ironic detachment has become a shift from substance to style: if it looks good and sounds good, then that’s good enough. There’s no actual vetting of ideas or working to find the facts. If it feels good, go with it. If enough people buy it, believe it. We actually purchase status via brand identification…self-identifying with corporate mythologies…and losing ourselves in the process.
To be randumb is to be intellectually lazy. If nothing matters, then anything goes…flocking as birds of a feather around opinions that conveniently support biases and beliefs. As long as we feel good about it, we can discount anyone who questions us, insulating our thinking. It escalates from randumb to randumber…like Lloyd and Harry playing out their magical, farcical thinking to its ridiculous-yet-logical conclusions…
It’s so much easier to laugh at self-constructed chaos that defies any sense of responsibility. Want to poke a jab at reality? Post a meme! Want to counter someone else’s jab? Post another meme! None of it matters. We like and share and post and comment, and none of it has any impact on reality. Idiocracy is not just a bizarre cult comedy; it is a cautionary tale.
This escapist anthem is as old as Mick Jagger’s scowling “get off of my cloud” and as recent as Aloe Blacc’s smarmy, “I didn’t know I was lost.” What was supposed to make us more communal has driven us underground into exclusive randumb bunkers…and we can wait anything out, so long as it doesn’t impact us. What could possibly go wrong?
While it is quirky and fun, randumbness isn’t reality resistant. I can create my own little insulated existence, but right outside lies real world contexts: disease, hunger, injustice, ignorance, hate…and it is in these contexts we can make a real difference…impacting the real world as profoundly as it impacts us.
As educators, this is especially true, because it is on our classrooms and communities that all of these very real challenges manifest themselves as we work with children and their families. Our charge is to help them reach their full potential by making school a place where they can be healthy and safe and engaged and supported and challenged. There is no smug, aloof, irony-embracing mindset for dealing with reality. We have to be immersed in it to impact it…and there’s nothing randumb about that.
The pendulum will swing back again, and this age of randumbness will be a faint memory. That’s how reality rolls. But after we’re done looking back, shaking our heads, wondering what we ever saw in it, where will we be? Where will our children be? What is the impact of this current no-context culture on our future?
Should we form a bubble to discuss and come to agreement on what makes us feel good…or hunker down and get to the hard work in front of us, immersing ourselves in contexts that are not relative nor negotiable, being responsible for forging our own legacy as educators?
I hope so.