What strikes us older folks today is the extraordinary lack of “common sense” in American thought and behavior, and the staggering negative effect that the loss of this “social facilitator” has had on the smooth running of everyday life.
We often hear people say that “common sense” isn’t common after all, but this is a mistaken meaning of “common” in the concept. What’s missing is, “knowledge or ways of doing things that are held in common by members of a culture or group.”
This common knowledge base used to be learned fairly easily, just by existing in a group; things like balancing a checking account, budgeting for reality, handling credit, how to operate a vehicle safely, what to eat, what tools to use for household repairs – how to solve practical problems. “Common sense” was simply the established ways of doing things; conventional methods held in common by many people; a ground of behavior that simplified tasks. Why waste time reinventing how to go about mundane work? Efficiency is part of common sense; also the recognition that to “earn” a paycheck, one must do something useful in exchange.
The social environment has changed radically over the last several decades and with it has come a passive lifestyle: one comes across college graduates (working as cashiers) who can’t make change for a cash purchase, even though the register shows them the amount due in change, not because they are “stupid” – they didn’t grow up handling cash, but swipe cards for transactions. Mom & Dad pay the bills.
One must assume that a body of “common sense” will arise in our remotely-operated digital society, but what will it contain?