Good leadership comes from moving towards a place, an idea, or an ideal where people are willing to follow without coercion or threat. A good leader will take people towards something better, and not just away from something worse.
I’m having a moral struggle and I don’t know how to resolve it. I suspect some of my readers are too.
It’s the first day of December and I’m kicking off my annual blog-every-day-month, an act that is inherently meant to unleash a flood of interactivity, to communicate, to share, and to engage a whole group of people, friends, strangers, and everyone, in an admittedly eccentric and offbeat place on the web for interesting conversation. To bolster that, ideally, I would share the hell out of these posts on social media, tweet the snot out of them, link on facebook and through that bring interested people by this site for a peak at my roadside kiosk of curiosity… eight clicks to the middle of nowhere. (You thought that was a random name for blog, didn’t you?)
I’m not going to post anywhere but directly on this site. Sadly. To my own detriment, of course. But I can’t bring myself to do that anymore. There is something rotten in the land of social media.
I see the the problem as this. Every day the conversation on those (note: privately-owned) public social places grows darker. For the last year we’ve looked at Facebook and Twitter and many others as meeting areas where the conversation has slowly but surely become more hate-filled and driven by politics and writ-large with dark agendas. Yet, in the past month or so what has become increasingly obvious is that either (a) these sites are unwilling to take serious action to balance the need for freedom of speech with the ability to maintain meaning, facts, purpose and reality as a key part of this freedoms, or (b) they are actively complicit in ignoring or possibly enabling these forums to collapse into something that is chipping away at the foundations of our modern society.
As one commentator recently put it, truth is now a moving target, the once-obvious line between fact and fallacy grows fuzzier each day, and there is no sense in having a conversation with someone for whom reality is optional. I am just as interested in the metaphysics of our perceptions as the next eclectic dude you know, but I’ve just been dipping my toes in the water. You can’t have everyone jump into the truth-is-subjective crazy pool with both feet and expect society to continue to function.
Yet the sacking and burning of institutionalized reason is something I think we could manage as a society, because that has always existed. Today the larger threat seems to come from the commodification of attention. You visit social media, social media gets views and clicks and eyeballs, thus social media makes someone buckets of money. The process repeats, a little bit amplified, a little bit snowballed each time. Until… ? Does it end? Can it end?
Crazy makes coin. If it bleeds it leads. Boring is not bankable.
Thus my moral struggle. Everything I post on social media gives someone else a reason to come back and use social media. Participation creates motivation. Participation makes every participant at least a little bit a part of the feeding and nourishing this massive, rumbling, chaos machine that is slowly eating the fabric of our society.
I’m going to keep writing this blog. And I’m not going to tweet about it. I’m not going to brag about it on Facebook. I’m not going to put ads on it. I’m not going to make a single nickle from the effort. Ultimately that won’t matter to much of anyone but me. But it’s my participation in a conversation that needs to happen… just not inside the beast that is eating our words and shitting out the mess that is overwhelming everything else.
November marks a kind of literary interlude near the end of each year.
The brave take on NaNoWriMo and attempt to conquer the writing of a short novel in the span of one month. I’ve tried a total of three times, and as the reminder emails become more and more prevalent in my email inbox as the end of October approaches, the thought occurred that…
Wait. Never mind. I’m way too busy.
So, I’m not doing that.
Instead, in honour of the literary significance of the month, and in recognition of another sad fact, I’m doing something else entirely.
Thus I say: Hi. My name is Brad. And I’m addicted to podcasts.
You all say… Hi Brad!
In a way podcasts are mostly just the modern equivalent of talk radio. Independent talk programming, downloaded to your device, and listened to at your convenience.
They are also filtered bubbles encompassing everything bad, destructive, and narrow-minded about the modern state of personalized media.
A double edged sword. And I’ll never quit them entirely.
But I can step back and for the month of November, in honour of that notion of literature and reading and storytelling in it’s most basic form, take a declared break in favour of a different audio fix: the audiobook. Novels, read aloud into my head while I walk, or run or ride, or even do that kind of work that just requires lots of left brain clicking or right brain abstractions. Stories that have been planned, edited, thought out, pushed through the wringer of clarity and purpose to convey a meaning beyond building an audience or generating ad revenue.
So, in November, for all of November, I’m going on a self-imposed hiatus from listening to anything pod-based. No pod comedy. No pod pop culture shows. No pod political commentary. No pod nothin…
Instead, I’ll be delving into a few new audiobooks in my queue. And for whatever it’s worth, I invite others to do the same. Let’s make November into more than a month to madly scramble to just write, and instead use it to purge our minds of the raw media of podcasts, twenty-four hour news cycles, and youtube gibberish, and instead read more, listen more, think more.
My 2 cents.
Your anger is priceless.
Well, actually that’s not entirely correct. Your anger has a very specific value, almost certainly and without a shadow of doubt calculated to a fraction of a cent in a market of digital ideas, clicks, advertisements, and crafty book deals.
Not to me. I’m not buying. But… well… let me start again.
You probably didn’t notice but I’ve been avoiding posting much on social media these days. Why? Because after a few initial and what I considered at the time to be tactical outbursts of my own in the wake of the blossoming crazyness around the world in 2017, I –aiming for a personal target of rational, clear, level-and-balanced, hardheaded thinking that is markedly rare online these days– realized that I was not a player but instead just another pawn.
So I retracted to redefine my own personal approach…
…via a tangential upsight…
…in the form of a novel.
My favourite book for nearly the last decade, without question, is a massive science fiction tome by Neal Stephenson called Anathem. I’ve read it at least a dozen times. Without spoiling it, I will say that it is stuffed to overflowing with rich ideas paralleling the conflict in our modern society between intellectual pursuits versus populist sentimentality. The society in the story which exists in a kind of literal parallel to our own is flipped on it’s head: science is a kind demonized pursuit where the robed monk-like protagonist is cloistered with his fellow cerebral-minded outcasts into one of many technologically barren convents to ponder the deep questions of the universe while keeping their dangerous thinking physically walled off from the sport-casino-consumer-gadget culture that has evolved outside the gates.
The story is long and complex, but it has many branching ideas that are often followed to a purpose in the story, and one of those branches is the idea of information purity on (their version of) the internet.
See where this is going?
Eight years before manufactured outrage stoked by false information spawned political movements strong enough to begin the dismantling of at least two world super-powers, Stephenson had written about the notion of the market value of fake information online. It was little more than a plot aside, a point directed at a completely different notion in the novel, but the sentiment (and the backstory that bolstered it in the narrative) was almost eerily accurate having read it again a couple weeks ago. False information created so much noise and generated so much anger that, as a side effect of minimal importance to the story other than as historical backdrop, the anger broke society by fueling those who would use it in nefarious ways to enrich themselves.
The simple point being: Your anger is priceless.
…and getting mad is making the crazy people more powerful.
But perhaps you prefer a more accessible analogy than an obscure novel you probably haven’t read?
Fine: Monsters Inc.
You’ve seen that movie, right?
A bunch of fun-loving monsters live in a parallel dimension (that seems to be a theme here, too) and fuel their society off of the fear of children. They have an economy and a technological backbone built upon the notion of opening portals to the bedrooms of sleeping human kids for the sole purpose of scaring them and milking their screams for their energy.
In this analogy, the internet trolls are the monsters, and every time you (yes… YOU!)
scream click and type an angry response when they jump out of your closet iPhone screen, someone makes electricity money.
…or builds the potential to make money from the dribble of fame you’ve added to their troll buckets.
(This is straying a bit, so… analogy switch number three: go.)
Now this is the tough part… What do we do?
See, the trolls are already kinda in charge. They’ve won the battle. They’ve stormed the castle and are chewing on the walls as they throw rocks down on we townsfolk below. They still need our anger, true, but they know how to trigger it with efficiency and accuracy. They are milking our screams for their fame and riches. And every time they trigger that outrage we, all of us who click and rant and rage against the falsehoods get a tiny little gush of oh-so-addictive brain-gush from the experience.
It feeds us with the good-feels feel-goods that a good outrageburst can have… which inevitably fades in a few short minutes. It feeds the trolls with money and fame and clicks and power… which lasts a lot longer.
I really do appreciate the seeming irony of writing about this is a way that might evoke your precious anger. But I don’t know either… what do we do?
What do we, the townsfolk who are aiming for a that target of rational, clear, level-and-balanced, hardheaded thinking… what do we do?
It won’t necessarily go away if we ignore it.
But neither do we want to feed it.
In the movie Monsters Inc, the monsters themselves found a more valuable fuel in the form of children’s laughter. I don’t think that’s an option, even metaphorically, for us.
In the novel Anathem, the implication was that the battle was never really won, but that better tools were built to filter and attack the false information. That sounds lovely, but that idea takes the responsibility away from most of us.
I’m not done writing about this, but I think what is starting to come into focus for me after a few weeks of deliberately withholding my outrage from the trolls, what I’m going to be writing about more in the coming weeks, months, or years, is that all of us need to act, no matter what so-called side you are on: it’s in all of our best interest to sour the source and taint the fuel.
It’s up to all of us to make our anger a lot less valuable.
Posting a graph like this probably puts me in the “asshole” zone.
But so be it…
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about politics lately — we all have, I think — and I’ve been trying to sort out in my own head what bugs me about the state of discourse online these days. And while I could write a whole rant about the bane of internet trolls and the various perceptions of what it means to be a good person in twenty-first century society, I’d rather just do it this way.
None of us are perfect. What makes us good is what we do, how we do it, and the degree to which it affects others. Which is worse: A bad parent or a corrupt politician? Who does more good in doing their job well: a civil servant or farmer? It’s a qualitative judgement with loosely quantifiable factors.
See, we all know what it means to be a good person, but sometimes how our behaviors rank doesn’t quite become clear until we map them out. For example, in Fig. 1 above note that my assholery in drawing and publishing this chart fits somewhere on the scale of taking a medium sized group (say, the readership of this blog) and pushing them down (say, by implying that our behaviors are not as perfect as we think they are!)
I should really know better.
What this all means is that while you can probably figure out if the things you say or do (or write) make you a good (or bad) person, and while you can probably do this on your own, it’s real simple to forget that all of this lays on a basic spectrum of behavior.
Question 1: Is your behaviour or interaction lifting someone up or pushing them down?
Question 2: How many people is your behaviour or interaction affecting?
Alternatively, figure out where you want to live on a chart like this one and behave the way that can make it happen. You can shout and scream all you want that life doesn’t treat you fairly, and you’re right: life isn’t. But you are and forever will be judged by how you treat life (and all the people in it) in return.
It’s that time again. Every three hundred years or so the human race collectively decides that the order and structure it has carefully created for itself is looking, well, a little shabby to be honest, and needs to go. As it turns out we’re not a fixer-upper sort of species.
We like new and shiny things. We tell ourselves that we all work so hard and deserve the best of the best: New shoes. A better phone. Smarter friends. A government that listens to just us.
Out with the old and in with the new. After all why patch a hole or mend a seam when a brand new pair of pants is just hanging there on the rack at the shop?
But I digress. You are, after all, here to read about how to to overthrow a democratic society. I don’t need to know your reasons. I suppose you could always comment below if I haven’t covered something that is important to you, but generally folks like you are interested in world-crumbling chaos because you (a) crave power/revenge/fame or (b) feel disenchanted by a system of government that didn’t give you what you felt you deserved from it… usually just a lighter version of power/revenge/fame. Or money. People sure like money. We do too, but we’re not here to judge, so… y’know, down to business.
I mean, the current iteration of society has worked out pretty well for a lot of people. We went to space, extended our lifespans, figured out how to travel around this little rock of ours with a speed that would blow the minds of the last guys, put instantaneous communication in nearly everyone’s pockets, and some of our music was pretty good too… but hey, who doesn’t want an extra scoop of ice cream on their sundae, amiright?
So, how do we get rid of it? How do we quietly purge this thing so we can put something new in its place. I mean… hypothetically. We’re just idea people here. Implementation is up to our clients. After it’s done things will be better… perhaps. Probably worse though — we don’t know. And we’re not going to be around to help you after this is all over. Folks like us don’t really pull through this kind of transition. Part of the job.
So where to start.
Step 1 – Distract Everyone
This is the key to getting things rolling. See, people notice things. People don’t really like change, as much as they claim they do. So you need to distract everyone. No single tactic is going to work here. Past clients have had success with either of two approaches.
On one side there is the fun stuff: give a society enough toys and it will happily play while you work through the rest of your plan. Professional sports worked for the Romans. We see great potential in this thing called “reality television”… we don’t watch much of it ourselves, but it seems like it could really work for this purpose. Definitely set up a lottery because it’s super-fun and gives people lots of false hope (which is very useful later on) so… doubletap!
On the other side there is fear: this is more difficult to pull off, but if you can take advantage of growing instances and random acts of crime and terror (you can’t control these, but they just happen everywhere so keep your eyes open to opportunity) to reinforce the notion that everyone should be afraid to go outside, eventually no one will… and then they can stay inside and watch reality television. The advantage to fear is that it’s like the gift that keeps on giving: eventually you can milk it (in later steps) and keep building on it to…
Step 2 – Stir Up Arguments About Things No One Actually Controls
Want to start a pointless fight? Talk about the economy. Or jobs. Everyone has an opinion but even the so-called experts are just making guesses. (Though to be fair, their guesses are generally more accurate than the rest of ours.) But people will bicker about these things as if there is room somewhere with a bunch of buttons and levers and if THEY were in charge, then…
There are actually quite a lot of these topics that conveniently act as ideas that are vague enough and enough misunderstood that everyone thinks that (a) they are an expert and that (b) everyone else is wrong about it. Usually these topics come in the form of abstractions: measures of something virtually intangible that no one actually controls, but everyone watches to gauge how healthy the society is. It matters, sure, but it’s just an indication of which way everyone is collectively thinking about things, and acting on stuff as individuals making a bigger picture of all the people together that we all try too hard to read into.
If it helps, think of it like trying to predict where a school of fish will swim, or a flock of birds will fly. And then think how silly it would be to blame a single fish or a single bird for controlling that movement. Yeah… we know. Pretty crazy huh?
But these ideas are useful. They stir up distrust and resentment. Friends argue with friends about political correctness while families bicker over the abstractions rather than things they can actually control and understand. Parents fight with children over concepts like gender equality and then don’t speak for months because of some idea none of them can even comprehend why.
All of these are abstractions that are not things, but powerful ideas that work stage your next step in the process which is to…
Step 3 – Reset the Meter On Tribalism
It would be nearly impossible to collapse a society if everyone was working together. How many films have you seen on the indomitable strength of the collective human spirit? We’ve seen a bunch, and they all end the same way: humanity prevails… and we can’t have that if our plan is going to work, can we?
There are countless ways to stoke tribalism. The simplest work well and have been tested by the efforts of time immortal: for example, you can make gaping generalizations about segments of your population based on things like the geographic coordinates of where they emerged from their mother’s womb, or whether or not their DNA contains a slight code deviation from another group (which usually results in a trivial difference in how much pigment their skin cells produce or the way their strands of their hair reflect light producing the effect of colour.) These are obvious, and many people will object.
On the other hand, tribalism comes in many other convenient and subtle forms: you can sow division based on what part of the landmass your nation claims it controls that people live: were they born in the west part or the middle, did they arrive inside the area after they were born or did previous generations make that trek? Do they live stacked on top of each other in cities or spread out on agricultural land? How about the minor differences in how they’ve decided to interpret their ideological textbooks: there is a bunch of potential there and this method has proven successful for many past clients. And don’t forget politics: using the tiny differences in how people think the current society should be slowly nudged forward using the rules of the current system, the one that you are trying to destroy, these can cause incredible levels of tribalism and name calling and ultimately support you when you…
Step 4 – Destroy Dissenting Ideas
There was some famous thinker from some previously collapsed society who said something about “he who controls the facts controls the truth…”
Or maybe not. See what we did there? We pretty much made that up that “fact”, but it sounds about right… right? In fact, it sounds like your new best friend: common sense. Common sense is the automatic fallback when people no longer trust all those pesky foundations that will prevent the thorough destruction of your democracy: the media, science, and objective truth.
This one is tough, but if you keep pushing and provide many alternative forms of the truth — ahem, your truth– to the various tribal-type groups you’ve created, eventually this will become a self-sustaining feedback loop, no one really knowing what is a fact and what is a feeling, many people believing that we can no longer, never could, measure reality with our tools, and definitely, absolutely no one trusting the people who have crafted their jobs around the notion of gossiping about people who do noteworthy things. Up will become down, day will become night, cold will become hot. And even the sanest people will think they are becoming crazy as decisions based on measurable facts are replaced with things that make everyone feel good and seem like common sense.
This is about where things start to spiral out of control (for your now failing democracy) and our services are no longer required. All that is left for you is to wait and…
Step 5 – Surround Yourself With a Personal Army
Because bickering will turn into fighting and fighting will eventually devolve into killing and killing will turn into battles and wars and the guy with the most friends is the guy who will win it all.
Please refer to our follow up article, So Now You’re A Warlord: Six Simple Steps to Establish a Dystopian Dictatorship coming next month… if we’re still around to write it.
Yes, I hate the carbon tax, too. Am I happy that our society has reached this point where we need to put a price on our own wastefulness? Hardly. Is it the best option? No. Is it going to hurt? Yeah. Will it disrupt the way our lives go forward for here? That’s kinda the point. Will that be uncomfortable? No shit, Sherlock. But is it the right thing to do? Probably. Am I willing to chip in a little bit more on that gamble if it’s really meant to improve the future of our society? Well, until someone comes up with a better idea, and since I don’t qualify for the rebate, I suppose I’m going to do just that. Everything has a cost to something, someone, somewhere. You may not feel that cost. You may never pay it. But someone, somewhere pays for your cheap gas, your plastic toys, and your discount t-shirts. That cost may be money, time, or the health of people or our environment. And we’ve been deferring, offsetting, skipping out on the bill as it grows and looms and grows some more over future generations. You don’t have to understand it or agree with it: but pretending that it’s a lie or a conspiracy makes you into the fool. So, drive a 4% less, eat a few less calories, put on a sweater and some cozy wool socks and turn the heat down a degree or two, and maybe stop buying so much junk: we’ve been trying that for years, and it isn’t as painful as you imagine. Really.
If you don’t see me posting on the socials for a while, don’t be too alarmed. We’ve had a falling out, social media and I. I don’t want to be one of those guys who stomps his feet, picks up the ball and storms off saying that I don’t want to play anymore. (I guess one can’t help appearing that way.) But as I slouch into my 40s I get that feeling like Facebook and Twitter and all their ilk are like great lumbering beasts sharting out great hypnotizing clouds of faux news and belching giant isolating thought bubbles and that every time I visit, every time I post, every interaction I have with one of those services I’m feeding that damn beast, shoving bits of undeserved food into their maws while the world suffers through misinformation and sinks deeper into that brave new world, a soma-coma of rot, of feelings overtaking truths, perceptions overpowering evidence. It’s left me feeling sad and overwhelmed, like trying to hold back a tsunami with a little plastic pail on the beach. So, my little vacations over and lacking anything more interesting to share with you there for a while, instead I’m going to focus on a social media thought machine I can control: this blog. I’ll lurk on the other sites, a little, but don’t expect much else more me for a while.
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.
June 24 – Something You Want To See
aka. Post 24 of Those 30 Posts in June Blog-Every-Day Posts
It’s the year of the rule benders… or so I have decided. Decreed. Hung my head in frustration.
I’m starting to get a strong little tiny knot of pent up anger about these little things that brush up against my days more and more frequently. Everywhere I turn, or so it seems as of late, people are bending the rules. Not utterly scoff-lawing. Not even cheating, really. Just nudging things unfairly in their own favour. Not bothering to ask first. Finding loopholes for piss-poor behaviour. Tilting the scales with a stray pinky finger while eyes are cast elsewhere. Pushing limits. Overstepping agreements. Actively forgetting that with every right comes a responsibility, an ownership of this little society in which we live, and a duty to not be an asshole.
I know. Maybe it’s naive of me to be noticing this. Maybe it’s a little bit of raw innocence poking through the clouds of these rainy first days of this brave new world in which we live.
But then maybe not.
I mean, I get cheaters and I get people who completely ignore the law. I understand that. I don’t condone it, but it makes sense. There are people who just suck and don’t care and will take whatever they want. Those people exist. They are broken or angry or deliberately stepping aside of the social contract. It’s the tail end of a bell curve of behaviour, and it’s so clear you could chart it so.
But then there are people who should know better. Have known better. At one time wouldn’t have pushed boundaries like they seem to be doing. They are smack in the middle of that same bell curve, but the curve’s peak seems to have shifted a little. And the rules get smudged somewhere in there because it’s more convenient, or no one is watching, or… or, I don’t even know.
No one is watching, it seems. No one is there to call them out on it. No one shakes their finger and says “tsk-tsk.” No one gets in trouble. No one answers for their stupid. They bend the rules, ignore responsibility, and are rewarded with a slightly bigger slice of pie.
And the movie goes on, and nobody in the audience has any idea.
Karma would be real. And scored. And displayed in glowing number on your forehead.
June 4 – Something You Have Seen
aka. Post 4 of Those 30 Posts in June Blog-Every-Day Posts
I admit, I tend to avoid being too controversial on this blog.
I don’t have the energy to fight off trolls and beat down haters who are climbing over the walls to rattle their ideological spears in my virtual face if I was. Instead, I read & watch. And I do often shake my fist at the screens in my life, and like everyone else I’ll seethe with frustrated anger at the irrationality of a stupid or a contrary opinion, but I’ve usually found enough reserve energy in my little battery of restraint to keep myself from jumping into the fray, and in particular, writing blathering crap on this blog that I might someday regret.
my apathy is just letting the other guys win
Yet, regret is a two way street: for example, I do regret my wallflower-like position on occasion. After all, there is that old adage (attributed online to Edmund Burke) that says: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Put another way I think it’s saying that yes, disagreeing and fighting against ideas that are [insert adjective here] is uncomfortable, but my apathy is just letting the other guys win.
The saddest thing I see about the modern world is that we’ve made this all so binary: winners and losers. Right versus left. Urban versus rural. Rich versus poor. Us versus them. Ideology has amplified it all into a sport-like system where you are assigned to a team, a shirted-up rookie, even if you like it or not, and then you are slotted into a type, a character, who is rigidly defined by some blocky, single-axis definition. There is no fuzziness. We are not individuals. We are just the city-folk, middle-class, leftie, yuppies. We are truck-driving, right-winger, gun-toting, evangelicals. We are dippers. We are red necks. Whatever. We are so eager to define each other that we don’t realize we are just categorizing ourselves.
rigidly defined by some blocky, single-axis definition
This seems like no big deal. This seems like some sort of Pollyanna rant, a-can’t-we-all-just-get-along bit of blathering. Life is tough, you say. Fight for your rights, you say. Take what you can get. Fuck you all, I’m looking after myself, you say. Well, you say that, maybe until you realize that when all you’ve succeeded in doing is to divide the world into two big contrarian camps. And if we’re playing a big us versus them game here, there is by definition no way we can all win. So, sadly, rather than all of us working together to elevate, well… all of us… more and more it seems like most of us are working to elevate our side while we stomp down the other.
And we entrench.
Both sides, we hold the line we’ve collectively decided to hold.
We dig into our opinions, no matter how stupid or irrational or unnecessarily binary. And I’d like to suggest we are all sticking our heads in the metaphorical sand, like they say ostriches do, to avoid the reality of the world around us. But I think it’s the opposite of that. Our heads are the only thing that are not buried. We see and hear everything, but we’ve stuck ourselves to our necks in the metaphorical sand, made each other unable to move or react or adapt to a new position without a monumental effort of will and energy. And sure, no one is going to move us from where we’re standing buried there five feet into that beach-head, but when something, somewhere, someday comes washing up –and eventually it will, life the universe, or some unstoppable evil– like the tide rolling in, we’re all going to be in big trouble.