DebateThe music of my personal reality

The music of my personal reality

Previous articleBillionaires are policy failures
Next articleHazel

Reading time: 3:45 | As we look around the political landscape today, we keep asking how come so many regular Janes and Joes, friendly people like you and me support unfriendly, bigot and anti-democratic ideas?

Why do some people push aside scientific findings, follow absurd chains of lies and carry them forward? Are they an evil people at the bottom of their hearts? Or are they just simple, misguided spirits? And do I, fighting for humanity and freedom, have to distance myself and consider them enemies and fight them?

As is well known, we all perceive our surroundings in a weighted way. For example, we know that an object is heavier, but we cannot assess if it’s twice as heavy. This phenomenon is even more apparent when we try to determine brightness. If we are in twilight, we can judge relatively well whether a specific object is illuminated twice as brightly as the surroundings. However, this is impossible in bright sunlight, even for the experienced photographer because there we perceive double brightness as only a tiny bit lighter. We are similarly unable to assess measured sound levels. But we have a strong opinion about their perceived loudness.

Perceived loudness is a psychoacoustic term for a perceived volume level and is not necessarily related to measured loudness. In the world of music, perceived loudness is the measure of all things. When a piece of music or the soundtrack of a film is mixed in a recording studio, perceived loudness is at the forefront. If the music piece is loud enough, it will be present to our ears and has a chance on the market. That’s why there are now remastered versions of old pop songs.

For this purpose, specific frequency ranges are compressed and featured. In the end, the piece of music seems much louder to our ears, often twice as loud as the same tune without this optimisation at the same measured volume level. We also experience something similar with pictures, although not quite as striking. A photo, colour-corrected and contrast-optimised by every trick of the book, shows a bigger punch than the original, even though the luminance is the same (which depends on the light source illuminating the picture). These optimisations do not reflect objective physical rules but are procedures derived through trial and error and scientific findings from research on human perception. Today they are the professional standard in media creation (cf. Weber-Fechner law). They are not linear amplifications, such as turning up the volume control on a hi-fi amplifier or switching on another lamp at home but have a weighted effect on our perceptual apparatus, e.g. in logarithmic curves.

However, we do not recognise these manipulations in the composition of environmental experiences but insert them unrecognised into our linear understanding of the world. For example, the music is louder, and the image is much more present, although physically measured the volume and luminance are only barely or not modified. Reality is, therefore, a perceived idea of a true reality. Manipulated non-truths can thus be integrated into perceived reality as facts.

Therefore, in political discourse, issues are brought to the fore that do not deserve this exposed position in the overall context but occupy it in people’s minds. A typical example is the refugee crisis of 2015. The perception of reality by parts of the population and the measured significance on the economy and society met with a significant discrepancy. In the process, a newly defined self-image emerged among many people, which would be inconceivable without a recently adjusted understanding of their reality.

Which brings us to the question of how to deal with people whose worldview, perceived by them as truth, hardly reflects reality. One could, as is common in radio and television advertising, respond with equal loudness while also simplifying and distorting reality in its granular differentiation (only in a different direction), and wage a war of noise in which we are already somewhat engaged.

Or we strive for a more linear approach that labels things as they appear. In the political sphere, we call this the voice of reason. After all, reason is not weighted in a manipulative direction but is balanced with facts and arguments that can later lead to sensible measures. That stands in stark contrast to the concept of ideology, that is by its very nature a consequence of an idea and has a heavily biased view of an assumed reality and can therefore never be reasonable.

Since we humans are all slaves to our perceptions (which makes it challenging to see objective reality), we should show some understanding to people who push aside scientific knowledge and follow absurd chains of lies when those have become part of their perceived reality. They don’t have to be evil or just plain stupid. They just listen incredibly loudly to a specific form of music.

I am confident that many of these people would be receptive to different music if it could be well integrated into their personal reality. We just have to find out what those issues are and then convince them. In the end, we humans are rational beings (who, according to Oscar Wild, always lose our temper when we are called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason).