The best way to get yourself better educated is to read. Well-researched and elegantly written non-fiction books and long-reads published in reputable media offer an opportunity to consider matters properly, to digest the facts and to form your own opinion in the absence of social media buzz. Recently I came across a number of start-ups which summarise business and self-help books and deliver bullet point digests to those who "don't have time to read". I was astonished that these apps are gaining popularity. Who are these people who want summarised conclusions such as "sugar is bad for you", "meditation is good for you", "it's all about the feedback loop" without understanding why? Who are these authors who have spent years researching, writing and editing books and then agree to have them abridged into sound bites? Apart from getting all the facts right, reading in private (as opposed to social media reading) allows you to hide your ignorance, take time to think and make your own (as opposed to popular) judgement calls.
I recently read Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari , which could well be one of the best books I've ever read. If you haven't read it yet, order it now - you won't regret it. In his book Harari takes readers on a 100,000 year journey from the time when homo sapiens were just one of the homo species (alongside Neanderthals, Denisovans etc.) and to the present day when modern science (bio-engineering, cyborg engineering, nanotechnology, etc.) suggests that soon homo sapiens (us!) may disappear as the new species evolve to replace us. Last time I read about Neanderthals was at school and I was surprised to discover that we didn't evolve from them. Instead, about 50,000 years ago, Sapiens, Neanderthals and Denisovans were almost (but not quite) entirely separate species. Modern anthropology suggests that Sapiens drove other homo species to extinction (because Sapiens had superior social skills and technology - they cooperated, hunted and fought better than other species). Sapiens did the same to animals. It is us who have destroyed much of the the indigenous fauna of Australia and the Americas. I probably would have tried to hide my ignorance at a dinner party but reading a book gave me time to catch up on prehistoric genocide.
It's impossible to take time to think about the role of capitalism in the foundation of the modern society because just merely saying the word makes some people's blood boil. Yet capitalism in its objective sense is nothing but an economic or political system in which means of production and distribution are privately owned (as opposed to owned by the state). Harari is able to explore the merits of capitalism dispassionately as a good academic should (and newspapers never will). The media are unlikely to ever say something like "I don't know", yet Harari examines the proliferation of patriarchy in all medieval cultures of the world, examines its possible causes and finally admits that none of the theories which attempt to explain why is it that men rule the world makes much sense. "If, as is being demonstrated today so clearly, the patriarchal system has been based on unfounded myths rather than on biological facts, what accounts for the universality and stability of this system?"
Much of the book is dedicated to religion. This is the matter we can hardly discuss in depth in a conversation. This is because it is very personal. Yet when Harari compares world's most prominent religions side by side, it becomes clear why Buddhism is today gaining popularity in the West. I would not want to be converted to any religion by some missionary, yet reading about a religion which recognises that human suffering is not caused by devil or relieved by god, makes me pause and listen. Buddhism is based on the idea that suffering is a human condition: "no matter what the mind experiences, it usually reacts with craving, and craving always involves dissatisfaction. When the mind experiences something distasteful, it craves to be rid of irritation. When the mind experiences something pleasant, it craves that the pleasure will remain and will intensify. Therefore, the mind is always dissatisfied and restless." Buddhism teaches to accept things - sadness, pain, joy - as they are, to live in the present and to practise meditation to help us do that. It helps that modern neuroscience confirms the benefits of mindfulness Siddhartha Gautama had been banging on about around 500 BC.
Let's fight the fake news and post-truth, sound bites and click bates by reading books (unabridged). It takes time, attention and dedication to read a book - the opposite is true for the Daily Mail headlines. To say that you don't have time to read is to say that you don't care about the sharpness of your mind or the quality of your judgement. I am convinced that readers (not zealous men of faith or driven entrepreneurs or ambitious politicians) is the one modern tribe that makes this world a better place.