I’ve been distracted lately by this sense of a world I can’t quite get my head around: we live, as it turns out, in an era of intolerance, an era of fear, an era of hate.
Online. In the media. In politics. Everywhere.
And the thing that bothers me the most, I think, is that we seem to continue to play along with this act of normalizing it all. We’re collectively moving the measuring post into deeper waters… and wading in after it.
That should be what scares you too.
I’ve been dabbling in the news media more. It’s a broken little world we’ve got here, at least if you read the stories that bubble to the surface. I try to keep my focus on the horizon. I try to look off in the distance and see the bigger picture. Sometimes it tough. Sometimes it requires a machete to clear out the weeds and see that long view. But it’s there.
I know what you’re thinking right now. You think this is about Trump. You’re half right. But only half.
I’ve been watching this game in which I have minimal skin and trying to be objective about it. I care, but at the same time I don’t need to care as much as many others. I’m sheltered by a layer of geopolitics that will probably keep me more isolated than I really deserve. That said, I tend to judge people by their passion: his seems to be himself, so I as you can imagine I don’t judge him highly. But at the end of this game, whatever it is, and whatever comes of it, what is more interesting to me is that he is a symptom of something so much bigger.
Trump isn’t the problem. He’s a self-serving fool, but still just a guy. What is bigger than him, bigger even than his ego however, is that he is a symptom of this era in which we are living: an era of hate and intolerance and fear.
An era when we no longer debate, we lash out.
An era when we don’t converse with those whom we don’t agree, we threaten.
An era when we fold our rage not into productive and positive change, but into acts of hateful glory and abstract violence.
There was this span of time in the eighties, and reaching back into a time before I have clear memories in the seventies, when we felt like we were moving towards a world with less of this. I don’t want to romanticise then. The eighties was a shithole of punk angst, gleeful intolerance, and cold war fear mongering… but at least the trendline seemed to be on the up. Then. And even in retrospect. We were trying to be better, I think. It felt that way.
In 2016, given Brexit and US Politics, and the Twitterverse of Hate, and the hundreds of millions of angry people voicing their indignant rage at this thing we call political correctness through votes, violence, or whatever, I see two scenarios:
First, this might be a new normal. I fear this is the likely scenario. I fear it in that it keeps me awake at night, in that I’ll need to prepare my daughter for a world that will judge her and hate her and spurn her for simply being her: a thinker and a do-er and a girl and a kid with a nuclear family. I fear that we’ve let loose a rage that will snowball. I fear that we’ve hit a critical mass of communication, and that the rage will overpower the good and when the act of tweeting fails, and the act of voting fails and the act of shouting in the streets fails, the angry and the desperate will cling to their last recourse, which will be to rise up and tear apart this frail little society we’ve built.
Or that second scenario is that I’m misinterpreting this act. Maybe we’re not normalizing it at all. Maybe this is spurn of rage at the end of a dark night. Maybe this is the death rattle of a most terrible bit of humanity. It’s often darkest before the dawn, it is said. Perhaps there is something to hope for when the sun comes up again.