How things hurt shows us what is going on more than any other "sign" we may discern.
Most people want to know what is going on in their societies, communities, and cultures. The worst way to do this is a poll. Polls, unless crafted very carefully and subjected to considerable interpretation, make remarkable assumptions about the way that human beings perceive themselves. First, polls (as opposed to extended interviews and observations) presume that I, when taking a poll, am transparent to myself. We hardly are aware of all of our motivations and the various ways in which our self-reflective observations are self-deceptions and half-truths. We need help to understand ourselves and our families and situations. The short account we give of ourselves in a poll does not disclose much.
Second, polls threaten religious claims directly because they skew what people think is true based upon their situation, no matter whether they are conscious of it or not. Polls are sometimes thought to generate or reveal what is generally plausible or believable in a society. They are thought to present to us what are called "plausibility structures." A person usually appeals to what is plausible by appealing to a general sense of what a society accepts as true. For instance, many Americans can imagine environmental disaster. What they cannot imagine is a world governed otherwise than by a free-market capitalist economy. The German theologian Johann Baptist Metz exposes this well by pointing out another suspicion of polls:
Metz points forward as should anyone who follows Martin Luther's famous definition that a theologian of the cross finds the things of God in suffering and in death. Where should we look to see what is going on in the world? The bright lights? The doings of the powerful? Rather than give into despair and claim that what is going on is inaccessible to us, there is another way to get at what the signs of the time.
The better way to determine what is making up these complex social relations is injury. A social structure is hardly reducible to either the society or the individual people and material features that make it up. Neither alone can get us a picture of what is going on. We have to shuttle back and forth to open up what is going on. This lever is most visible when social systems and people together reject people or cause harm. Theodor Adorno points out that society makes itself visible in injury. What is going on today is visible when there is pain.
[S]ociety becomes directly perceptible where it hurts. For example, [...] someone who is looking for a job and 'runs into a brick wall' has the feeling that all doors are shutting automatically in his face; or someone who has to borrow money [...] who meets with a 'No" ten or twenty times, and is told he is just an example of a widespread law [on who is a credit risk], all these, I would say, are direct indices of the phenomenon of society.
The splinter in your eye is the best magnifying glass