WARNING: This article is over 1,500 words. If you’re used to absorbing information in sound-bites, this article is probably not for you, but I ask that you make an exception.
I’m Outraged About Outrage
In the immortal words of Cheech and Chong, “I’m sick up and fed.” About what? I’m outraged with controversy and hatred and I am going to do my small part in trying to end it. Now that most of us are embroiled in social and other forms of media, we’ve become addicted the outrage-of-the-day. If you glance back through the last twelve months, you’ll begin to see how we are all being manipulated. We’re getting sucked in to debates about things we cannot hope to change. I’m not claiming it’s a conspiracy. No, it’s really a matter of money. It begins with the media – both mainstream and alternative. They throw things at the media wall, typically some injustice or another, and hope it sticks. When some of it inevitably does, they drill it into our psyche’s to the point of near insanity and it goes viral.
They are nearly always turned into a political battle of some sort. Lifelong friendships and even families have been destroyed, all over a single issue that within a month’s time, will likely be forgotten, only to be overcome with the next outrage. I recently made the mistake of weighing in on the Kavanaugh nomination process. I hurt someone close to me and regardless of who was right, it caused me to reevaluate what I care about most, which is my family. It didn’t matter which of us was right, because neither of our opinions would have the slightest impact on the outcome, but it did cause harm to my family.
While nearly all of it is political, no rational person can lay the blame on any single political party. Usually one throws the line in the water and the other takes the bait. It’s a constant regurgitation of verbal vomit. Remember when David Hogg was all you could see on the news? When was the last time you thought about him or saw his face on television or social media? Now it’s Kavanaugh and Ford. Does anyone believe these issues will remain at the forefront of our minds? Hardly. Tomorrow, something else will pop up and the SCOTUS debate will be in the dustbin of news history until the next justice dies. And to think, it’s been issues like this that turned friends and family against each other, sometimes causing irreparable harm. The only ones that benefit from them are the politicians who use them to raise money for their next campaign and the media earning more money from the clickfest.
Why Do We Fall For It?
I’ve asked myself why I’ve been tempted to weigh in on every controversy that comes along. Perhaps its my inner mean-girl, that juvenile instinct to stir up drama. It could be that those of us who engage in social media debates have just a little bit of troll in us. But more than anything, it’s likely we’re looking for validation from others. Unfortunately, we get it because of the echo chamber tribes to which we belong. Maybe its because I believe I can make a difference and change people’s minds. I could be a little of all this. It doesn’t matter though because nearly all of it is fruitless at best and harmful at worst. Negativity is a sickness that can eat you from the inside. We choose to continue in our addictive behavior because that’s how addictions work. I’ve spent that last year, avoiding my temptations, although in some cases I have relapsed. I’m still in recover though.
I used to be critical of those who refrain from engaging in political debates. I used to think they don’t care. I used to wonder how they can sit idly by and watch as our cherished institutions crumble before our very eyes. I used to wonder why everyone else could not see that the sky is falling. For me, staying out of the debate was the height of ambivalence that would surely be the ruin of us all. Then I began reading a book about the philosophy of stoicism. It was a life changing exercise. An aha moment. An epiphany. Now I fully appreciate those who refrain from online debates. It’s not all due to ambivalence. It’s also likely they instinctively know to avoid it for their own sanity. Good on those of you who have known this all along. I tip my hat to you all.
My Evil Plan to Take Over the World
That, my friends is collective insanity and if we are to heal this ever-growing and pervasive divisiveness, it has to stop. I am now making a commitment to begin sharing positive news every day for an entire year. I want to infect you with a different kind of virus. I challenge others to do the same. It will be my new activism. This is my evil plan. To help people get along better. No, I don’t have any delusions of changing the world, but I can do my small part. The vast majority of things we get so upset about are things about which we have no influence and no reasonable chance of changing.
Why waste our energy and risk destroying our families, friends, and civility for something that will likely not affect us personally? No amount of screaming “the sky is falling” will change that. And make no mistake about it, each of these outrages are a form of shouting that the sky is falling. By the way, if you haven’t discovered that you aren’t changing anyone’s mind by pounding away at your keyboard, you’re not paying attention. It may give us a short-term dopamine boost, but in the end, it accomplishes nothing.
Time for Rehab
All this outrage results in little more than ancient tribalism. That is not a good trend, but alas, the sky is not falling. We can fix this and I predict we will. But first we must acknowledge our addictions and pledge to ourselves and others to end them. Keep in mind, once an addict, always an addict, so it won’t be easy. Perhaps someone should come up with a twelve-step plan for this. Hmm. Maybe a subject for a future article.
You see, despite what we see plastered over our screens every day, the world is an amazing place and we’ve made enormous progress toward reducing, and in many cases, eliminating, the suffering that has plagued humans for nearly all of our history. It’s time we began showing a little gratitude and humility for achieving what we have. We’ve all heard the cliche that laughter is the best medicine, right? It’s a good analogy because it can change how we view our life in an instant. We’ve become so over-sensitized that we turn everything into a political debate and believe the worst of intentions of those with whom we disagree. I dream of the day when we can sit across the table or share a cup of coffee with our political opposites and recognize each other’s humanity. Let’s get back to being able to give a playful verbal jab at someone for their beliefs instead of wanting to actually punch them in the throat.
We’re all humans and we share many common beliefs. Let’s stop caring about what is the right or wrong solution to problems that don’t even affect us and just enjoy one another in our common humanity.
Day 1 of 365 of Positive Immersion
Yesterday, I shared a post on Facebook that was positive–something about how the middle class is growing, not slowing and it’s the result of people rising out of poverty. That was my first post of many to come. I’m not suggesting I won’t occasionally take the bait to weigh in on things I shouldn’t, but I’m pledging to do a lot less of it. I got the idea of posting something each day on a particular subject from a libertarian philosopher I like. H/T to The Pholoshoper (misspelling intentional).
From yesterday forward, I will do my best to post something positive, encouraging, or helpful. I hope to immunize you with the positivity vaccination. It’s the only cure for this evil and pernicious outrage virus. Surround yourself with positive things and avoid the negative ones. Yes, I know this all sounds sappy and something right out of Pollyanna, but I don’t care. I’ll risk the ridicule both for my own sanity and yours. I hope to be a better person for it. Maybe you can too.
P.S. I’m not suggesting people avoid debate entirely, but I would encourage you to do so in a civil manner. The moment you’re tempted to use an ad hominem or question someone’s motive, it’s time to question if you’re doing it for the right reasons. I’ve personally found a great deal of pleasure and knowledge by carefully listening to those who oppose my own views, but I’ve been careful about who I listen to. It’s hard to find civil debates. I found them though on the Intellectual Dark Web (IDW). I highly recommend you do the same. It takes time though. You won’t find any sound-bite debates there. There is no screaming, no name calling, and no questioning of motives. They’re typically debates that last from one to three hours. Set aside some time and tune in. There are those of every political persuasion there and I admire them all. I also highly recommend tuning in to Quillete, an internet based journal of opinion, exclusively done using reason and ration in their articles.