It wouldn’t surprise me if North Korea fires nuclear weapons on some poor, unsuspecting city and the biggest news story in the United States that day is some mean tweet that a celebrity posted.
That’s just where we are.
World War III could literally be triggered, and we’ll still think “that shit has nothing to do with me”. And the news cycles will continue to engage our narcissism by finding stuff to outrage and divide us, like discussing gun control or Melania Trump’s outfits.
Is that just the dark reality after 9/11? Or has it always been that way? Was that fateful day in 2001 so scarring that if something worse happens, we’ll just think: “we’ve seen this before. Let’s go back to watching Grace and Frankie.”?
I don’t know. Are we really that desensitized that we can’t bare to face the darker problems that the world faces? You know, things like hunger, poverty, war, threats of nuclear weapons….just to name a few. Has America been so cooped up in its own conveniences that we’ve forgotten that our problems are mostly bullshit?
Remember that Justin Timberlake movie In Time, where people stop aging past 25 and time becomes currency? Probably not. But there’s a scene where Timberlake gets ahold of a bunch of time and is able to move up several social circles. He finds himself at the highest echelon while those towards the bottom are struggling to find enough time to live. Of course it’s a cliché, but us Americans….we’re in that upper echelon.
Now obviously we’re not mostly in casinos gambling away most of our time, but we have arrived at the point where we have the time to ask ourselves “what do we do with this life?”. Meanwhile, many parts of the world are wondering where they’ll get their next meal.
This doesn’t speak for America and much of the modern Western world entirely. Of course there are MANY parts of the US where poverty and violence is prevalent. I’m simply addressing the luxury that’s afforded to many of us….the luxury of opportunity, of self-exploration. For a lot of people, violence, sickness, and hunger are not a part of everyday life. And because of the lack of these tragedies, we’re allowed to concern ourselves with the mundane.
But because most of our lives are filled with mundane bullshit, the smallest infractions can outrage us. Things like being late to work because of a traffic accident, misplacing your keys, the grocery store being out of extra large condoms, etc. can all appear as great injustices done to our person. And we fail to consider that these are in fact imaginary problems.
I suppose that I shouldn’t bemoan this fact. I guess that this is just the price we pay for living in a (moderately) successful, technologically advanced, democracy. We’ve switched out problems of mere survival for problems of mere inconvenience. If anything, you should be asking the question “what are you complaining about?”
I guess that I’m bitching about our inability to put our lives and problems into perspective. And in doing so, our politics have become seemingly ridiculous. News and opinion has become more about appealing to our narcissistic sense of outrage. There’s a certain feeling of satisfactory justification when we read an article from our favorite source that makes our blood boil.
This isn’t a Left Vs. Right sort of thing. In fact, this is what both sides have in common. There’s nothing we love more than ourselves, and news agencies are put out every cheap shot out there to help maintain our sense of self-righteousness. For them, with all of their competition, that’s what helps keep the lights on. And we’re left believing that some stupid comment by Chris Pratt actually matters.
Case in point is the NFL protest. In a previous post, I mentioned that I don’t even know what this thing is about. I know what it was about. Colin Kaepernick was using his celebrity status to bring attention to police brutality against minorities through the symbolic gesturing of taking a knee during the national anthem. You may disagree with him, but he was trying to make a point and I was fully with him on that. After being blackballed by the league, other players followed Kaepernick in this protest which caught the attention of the US President who started talking shit about them. In an act of defiance, players continue the kneel-down protest and thousands of articles get written about it with no reference to police brutality from either the writers or the players.
They’re seemingly doing it to piss off an idiot and his followers. As a result, millions of people are divided for no reason at all.
“It’s disrespectful to the flag.” on might say.
It’s just a symbolic gesture. It’s literally not doing a lick of harm to anyone. It’s not even doing harm to the flag itself. Symbolic meaning only has the power that you give it. So really, you’re only pissing yourself off. But again, this is not only a problem that the Right has. The Left too puts way too much emphasis on symbolic meaning. Namely by believing that it actually does something. Symbolic gesturing does nothing and is no substitute for real action.
“It starts a conversation”, one might add.
While conversation might prompt action, it’s simply not enough to do a symbolic gesture and call it a day. This is why so many people find Twitter activism (“hashtivism”) so annoying. It’s once again confused with action but only provides instant gratification, thus appealing to the worst side of the user’s ego. And it’s the same way with getting offended or counter-protesting against symbolic gesturing. It creates problems that only exist in our collective imagination, and not as something that exist in the objective world.
I don’t know. That may be neither here nor there.
But this inability to put our political problems into perspective and allowing it to be manipulated corporate news agencies have caused us to dismiss our opponents’ emotions. I’ve never been a fan of that in neither my political views or personal conduct. Scott Van Pelt brought this to my attention when discussing the protests after NFL week 2, by stating “If this offends you, I don’t know what to tell you” (paraphrasing). That’s not helpful at all.
In Van Pelt’s case, as I recall police brutality was never brought up. From the perspective of a conservative, Van Pelt might’ve appeared to simply be content with the protests pissing off the President. Nothing else was needed. If you agreed with the President, your opinions don’t matter by sheer virtue of agreeing with the President!
Ben Shapiro infamously does the same thing with phrase “facts don’t care about your feelings”. And presumably, facts ALWAYS agree with conservative viewpoints. One, fuck you Ben. And two, Ben fails to understand his own emotional connection to the facts.
My own cynical view is that facts have not, nor ever will matter in political discourse. All we have is our own pitiful emotions to guide us. And are our emotions and feelings about matters enough to drive us on a course towards irreparable separation of Americans?
Some person will probably come shit on my point by saying “American politics have always been this way.” And fine, but why continue to let it be so stupid? Especially when all we need to do is put our American lives into perspective?