*WARNING: I was wearing my rantypants when I wrote this. Many, many gross overgeneralizations contained herein. Proceed with caution.*
It’s been a rough few weeks to be a person who gives a shit about the world. Every news story seems to be about something horrible, and half the uplifting things I see are, upon further inspection, false. I wonder if we spread the happy stories because we’re too dumb to fact check or because we’re too desperate for positivity to care that we’re believing bullshit. Here at the end of a year of constant turmoil and upheaval, it’s hard to rally anything other than anger towards my fellow man. It all kind of makes me want to bury my head in the sand and ignore the news forever.
But I shan’t. That would be…what? Pitiful? Irresponsible? Certainly despicable. While I’m not as up on my current events as I could be or would like to be, I can’t bring myself to just stop caring altogether. Try as I might. Even if caring, on its own, doesn’t change anything. I’d hate to think I have it in me to become one of those willfully ignorant fucks who can’t be bothered to pick up a newspaper but finds the time and energy to get worked up over American Idol or whatever dumb shit that stupid people waste brain cells and precious hours of their short lives on.
Do I sound angry? I’m feeling a little bit angry.
Thing is, I’m not sure that anger is the appropriate response. I’m a little long in the tooth for idealistic indignation, and I know that being one of those stick-a-flower-in-the-soldier’s-gun type of hippies is often ineffective, anyway. On the other hand, blind rage doesn’t help, after the initial emotional release of smashing things wears off. I do like to smash things on occasion, and agree that it’s therapeutic. Well, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m more likely to set things on fire. I’m a Leo.
I see all these stories about things that seem catastrophic – Ferguson, ISIS, the Eric Garner case, this asshole, Ebola, government corruption, wage slavery, and this one that just breaks my fucking heart all to tiny pieces. They’re all catastrophes to someone, but I’m not directly affected by any of them. There is wiggle room where I could worm my way into not caring. But I’m outraged at how people are treating other human people. I’m outraged that we’ve come so far as an allegedly advanced culture, and these things still happen because we are fundamentally scared shitless of each other. And scared of change. It seems like the world is falling apart.
I have to keep reminding myself that revolution and evolution look a lot like entropy.
We are not falling apart. We are hurtling forward. And we are desperately unprepared.
The real, rock bottom, central problem with us right now? The absolute end of the line reason that I think we fight and hate and war so hard? People are living longer than they ever have before. These old fuckers with their old school worldviews are cranky and confused and want things to just keep going on like they always have. They won’t die and get out of our way like they would have by now, if this were fifty or a hundred years ago. I’m not wishing anyone’s grandpa dead here, guys, don’t send me an email. But grandpa grew up in an era when it was perfectly fine to be a racist homophobe and now that it’s not, he’s mad and he yells a lot. This is not a problem unless you have to, you know, talk to him ever. Or let him teach your children anything about the world. Or if he happens to hold public office.
Change come in waves. This one has a distinctly tsunami-ish feel to it. Maybe it’s the proliferation of technology since our last big cultural growth spurt. In the 1960s and 70s, no one knew about anything until it was over. There were only four channels on tv and if you were in a smaller town the newspaper coverage of big issues was unreliable and probably biased. Can you imagine what the world would be like right now if Dr. King had had Twitter and Instagram? Neither can I.
Also, I feel like there’s too much blah blah going on right now. Too much punditry. Too much getting agro at each other and at heads in boxes on the news. We could be out changing shit, making things better. Frankly, if I’m going to watch people fight, there will be punching and a referee and at the end one guy will get rich. All this infotainment. It’s boring. It lacks class. It’s made us lose our patience with real debate. And it’s dangerous. Because folks would rather stay at home and watch the guy in the red box yell at the guy in the blue box than go out and vote or volunteer. We’re turning into a nation of fat, dumb, angry people. No wonder the rate of heart attacks is going up.
This obsession with the yelling really bothers me. I think it speaks to our general willingness, eagerness even, to watch people be mean to each other. It’s a small scale version of something. Political theater, hate crimes, war. Something. I don’t know. But it makes me feel icky. It makes me feel like people assume that screaming is all you have to do to make a point, that action is unnecessary. That buzzwords are the only vocabulary we need. That you can spout bullshit and unsupported opinion and if you’re red in the face enough some producer will call it “news.” It’s pathetic. Makes me feel like I’m in an abusive relationship with my government.
Which, I suppose, is not that far from the truth. I think we’re getting to the “putting ground glass in his dinner” point in the relationship, though. This wave won’t last forever. This friction has to give. We’re never going to all agree on the big issues. Nor should we. That’s not a culture, it’s a cult. But I think in ten years we’ll be through the worst of it, hopefully with some progress under our belts, some helpful, constructive change. We all just need to mellow out. Not distract ourselves with shallow, mindless bullshit. Not ignore the problems. But take a collective breath, close our eyes and count to five, then start again. Learn how to properly and dispassionately debate. Learn argumentation. Read Aristotle. Fact check. Do not spread buzzword memes on social media. Especially if you’re only doing it to get a rise out of someone (that’s called being a troll, and it’s a whole other category of dickery). Learn how the political system actually functions. Follow your local government as closely as you follow national or global politics. Those folks are getting a lot more done and it could affect your life more immediately. More to the point: stop yelling.
My father rarely yelled at me. Maybe two or three times ever. When he was angry, he got quieter and quieter. I don’t actually know if he planned it or if it just happened that way. But when you have to come close and lean in to hear someone speak, you forget that you’re voluntarily putting yourself within arm’s reach. I learned that lesson very quickly, that when you scream, people back away. They stop listening. I think about that a lot when I talk about the sorts of things that make people want to yell. I keep my voice low and calm. I try to maintain my face and my snarky tone (that’s the really hard bit). I keep them close to me, so as to hang on to both my options: slapping or hugging. Let’s all try to do less screaming. Less backing away from each other. The world is round. You can’t back away forever. Something worse might sneak up from behind and bite you in the ass.