I’ll be honest: I’m exhausted. There have been many years of different situations wearing me down in an ebb and flow but I’d mostly figured out how to manage that stress. The last several months have been far more exhausting for various reasons, though. In addition to personal circumstances that are stressing or tiring me, I’m also continually disappointed by humanity and the state of the world.
I don’t mean that as a dramatic statement, it’s just… as I’ve always said, I believe in humanity’s capability of change. I believe people all have the chance to choose positivity or empathy or at least not jump to hate or hurt, all of this of course very dependent on their specific circumstances at any given time. But that possibility regardless of its plausibility, I feel, is always there.
Being positive or kind or caring is not something that is always inherent. It’s a choice to try to see the best in people, it’s a choice to try to understand or try to reach out, just as it’s a choice to dismiss or distance other people, to belittle other’s opinions or belief systems or how they were born. It can be tiring sometimes to choose something more empathetic or positive, but I think it’s more important to try that than to take the easy route of hatred, which itself is a slippery slope downward.
I’ve always been used to feeling like an outsider to society, and I’ve been used to not always fully agreeing with other people on almost anything. That’s normal, really, to not see eye to eye on everything. It would be a boring world if we all did. But as the last few years have developed, I’ve grown increasingly disappointed by all sides of so many issues. I feel like so many people have become convinced they are in the right, morally superior to the Other they have designated in their mind, without recognizing that they are an Other to that person. And if they don’t like the way they are treated as an Other, why would they treat anyone else as an Other as well? If you believe in equality, for example, why is your loudest and most lasting message that of inequality?
The best way I can describe it is I feel like what I’m seeing in reality is becoming more and more Janus-like and I don’t think that’s a good thing. I don’t think this idea of reckless “RESIST” is good. Nor do I think it’s good to stay silent and complacent.
There’s a balance and frankly I don’t fully know what it is yet, which is why I haven’t been saying much because I think words have power. I do think it’s really important to fact check, fact check, fact check, because our “news” organizations for years have become entertainment bent on making money with little regard for actual journalism or truth, and yet at the same time that doesn’t mean they should all be disregarded with a broad stroke or even that a disreputable organization tells only lies or manipulated information. There could be phenomenal and fair, unbiased journalists in even the most biased of publications, and biased information put in allegedly neutral sources.
The trouble, I feel, is that more and more people are trying to turn everything into extremes. It’s black or it’s white. It’s good or it’s evil. It’s right or it’s wrong. Simultaneously, people seem to be blowing things up to be so much larger than they sometimes need to be, and other times ignoring things which should be looked at more closely. The fickleness of the public eye has become its own beast, where I fully believe you could have the exact same incident with the exact same things happening, but just flip one or two details of it and that will swing public outroar from one extreme to another. The hatred laid on this commercial or that brand or that person or that situation would easily have the exact opposite reaction if this or that part of it hadn’t already been deemed “good” or “evil” by the public eye–based, in part, on money, and based, in part, on convenience. What is a cute and funny meme can become an object of extreme disgust if only one or two pieces are different, and vice versa. The same words could be seen as sassy and endearing, or outrageously inappropriate, dependent on the bias the person reading it has toward the company or person saying it.
This idea of unified hatred speaking louder than anything else is incredibly distressing and disturbing to me. And yes, I do think the way people are constantly getting offended by things in massive waves is an outlier of hatred, because it seems more and more disconnected from a normal reaction to the instigating force. Therefore, my personal belief is that it’s a result of other anger or negativity being suppressed on individual levels, and then exploding out elsewhere disproportionate to the catalyst, feeding into a greater whole. Creating a mob mentality of swinging this way and that on the pendulum of public disgust.
I’m not saying that there could be no reason for a feeling of frustration or negativity for some of these catalysts–I’m simply saying that I feel the unified public outroar is a symptom of something far darker. A psychological feeling that it’s perfectly fine to react or act a certain way because, well, everyone else is doing it. So why not go with the flow?
Trouble is, going with the flow and riding with public opinion isn’t always good. It can and has in history led to horrific outcomes across the world, the same way having everyone come together for something positive can be incredibly persuasive.
Ultimately, I don’t personally believe in “good” and “evil.” People are just people. Circumstances are circumstances. Stories are varied, and viewpoints are subjective. There is no singular way to interact with this world that is The One True Way and there is no single human being who Does No Wrong.
But there is positivity and negativity. And there is choice.
These mobs of angry voices screaming their rage at the world, turned furious by whatever the catalyst may be — what does that accomplish? What does anger and hatred bring? How does eviscerating a person or a belief system or a demographic or a profession give credibility to you, or your belief system, your demographic, your profession, your view? If you turn that self-righteous rage back on yourself, viewing it from the outside, would you recognize the wisdom in the words themselves or would you think the person unkind, unknowing, unwilling to listen?
At every point in our lives, we have a choice. When we are in a group of people, we do not lose that choice. We may choose to ignore our capability of choosing. We may go with what’s easy; rely on our echo chambers and our self-righteous knowledge that We Are Right and They Are Wrong and My God Did You Hear What Happened Now? What Are Those Assholes Thinking?? We may go that route, but whether our voices match the screams of the outraged public or not, what we say and how we say it remains a choice.
We don’t stop being human simply because we are surrounded by other humans. We don’t lose our free will simply because we are in the majority.
Everything you do, everything you say, everything you research, everything you willfully ignore, is a choice. There is no way to always make the “right” choice, nor is there necessarily even a “right” choice to begin with. There are different weights of those choices; the choice whether or not to murder someone weighs differently than the choice whether or not to go with nondairy milk in a beverage. Some choices may be more difficult due to circumstances, but the choice itself remains.
There will always be variations, because that’s the point. This world is not founded on the concept of extremes with no in-between. We are all a collection of choices which lead to a greater whole: the concept of our being, our personality, our interactions.
The idea that you could instantly understand another human being based solely on the uniform they wear, or the color of their skin, or the beliefs they have, or the things they like, or any other singular or broken down piece of them, is frankly ludicrous. As is the idea that it makes sense to act with visceral certaintude to pieces of a story, clips of a video or information so removed from its original source that it’s no longer possible to seek any form of verification.
We are also our emotions, I know. We are the chemicals in our bodies and brains. We are the sum of our whole; the lives we led up to this point, the experiences we had, the things we wish hadn’t happened, the things we wish had. We are complex.
Which is why I can’t understand the stronger and stronger public need to see the world in the simplest of views. Good or bad. Right or wrong. Lying or beyond reproach.
In the midst of the chaos that feels like it’s only strengthening, it’s those chaotic voices which give it further strength. What power is there in negativity, if we don’t all choose to feed into it? It has no allure of its own, other than the ease with which one falls into it if they don’t wish to choose a kinder view when they are stressed.
At any given point, we choose what we wish to voice, and those voices create echoes that reverberate. When we make a choice toward negativity or positivity or anything else, we are making it louder. We are saying, “Of all the voices out there, this is the one I want to be heard above all others.” Making that choice should not be taken lightly. We are not simply a quiet voice in a room with no impact; we join others to become a maelstrom of voices, a thundering of words. But the topic of that shout is not enough to determine what message you are giving. It’s the intention of it, as well.
Screaming words soaked in negativity even on a topic which began as positive will not have a positive impact. If I choose to tell you how nice the sun feels warming my skin in the summer by insulting you, belittling and condescending to you, by ignoring anything you reply and by twisting all your words, what message was I truly trying to give? Is it not true that even if I try to tell myself I cared about that sunlight and that’s why I spoke up about it, ultimately I used it solely as an excuse to push my disgust of you to the forefront? In the end, the peace of the sunlight is lost in translation at best, and twisted into something that will never fully be acknowledged and possibly even reviled at worst. Because humans are fickle creatures; quick to choose negative over positive if they feel threatened; quick to hate something for the association of it rather than the merit of those thoughts.
Humans are also capable of great change and great compassion, if only they choose.
I am not here to tell others what to think, what to do, what to support, what to believe. I only wish that more people would recognize the power they are giving negativity if they choose that as their basis for any action or outcry, no matter the topic they are discussing. I only wish that more people would remember that they are choosing this, every step of the way, the same as the other person of an argument or discussion or belief system is making choices as well.
Why that matters is this: if we’re all making choices, that means we can always choose something different. Even those we see as the greatest difference to ourselves have the capability of making choices that bring them more in alignment with us, the same as we have the capability of making choices that bring us more in alignment with them. Homogeneity is not the goal; simply a kinder, broader basis for understanding. A collective decision to take personal responsibility for our actions and words, and expect that responsibility to be taken by others for theirs as well.
We should make the choice to think of others as humans first, as someone just as important as we are, as someone who may have just as strong of reasons for their beliefs as we do even if those beliefs are incredibly different. Because this isn’t about “right” or “wrong” — this isn’t about being able to lord superiority over another for their Less Than choices compared to ours. It’s about taking those choices at face value, trying to understand the reasons, trying to unravel the means and the cause and the implications. And it’s about trying to move forward, together. Not as a single point of view that everyone echoes amongst themselves, feeling more self-satisfied and self-righteous the more they see it reflected back at them, but as a varied voice that undulates with its complexity and its diversity, never fully “right” or “wrong;” simply an indication of the state of humanity at that moment, and the choices we make as a whole for the voices we want to be heard.
Lately, I feel that choice has been toward negativity and hatred and making Other what would or could have been an ally, if only they hadn’t been alienated first. I hope the collective voice changes toward something more constructive — looking not at yelling angrily or resentfully about the problems but searching, instead, for viable solutions. The problems in the world aren’t something any of us can fix on our own, and yet if we all individually chose a more positive and proactive and productive way of interacting with the world and each other, we could together affect that change. Not without hardship or frustration or challenges, but nothing in life is fully without that possibility. Because positivity and productivity toward solutions isn’t something that comes naturally; it’s a choice made even when things seem worst.
I’ve thought about what I can do, realistically, as my own self, and also what voices I want to echo. I don’t have all the solutions, or even very many. I have only what I’ve determined seems best for me.
First, to try my best not to reblog, retweet, etc, anything that I haven’t personally verified to be true through researching credible sources. And to decide what I think about it even once it’s verified; whether I think it’s important to give strength to the voice of what that post is, or whether I think it’s better to let it pass me without comment.
Second, to recognize when I am so frustrated by a topic or event that I know I am not being fair or kind, and to vent that frustration at friends or family who know me well and understand who I am as a person; people who will tell me if I am mistaken. Then, to wait to speak publicly on it until I know I can be as kind and even-minded as possible.
Third, to locate people or sources I trust to be more fair or reliable or open in their research and presentation of a topic.
Fourth, to not go on social media for news or any sort of serious topics which may require complexity beyond the limitations of that medium.
Fifth, to always do my best to see all sides of a situation.
Sixth, as always, to live by the Golden Rule.
Seventh, to step away when I’m overwhelmed or exhausted or distressed; to try to give myself time to breathe and reevaluate and recuperate.
Eighth, to always try to believe in the possibility and capability of other people, even if they don’t believe in all the possibilities themselves.
Ninth, when the stress and chaos and frustration and exhaustion are too much inside me and I feel stymied and voiceless and everything else hasn’t worked to quell that flood, to write out my thoughts like I did in this post so I don’t feel as stifled anymore.
Tenth, to remember I am not infallible and neither is anyone else, so I need to apologize when I’ve misstepped, and stand strong when I feel I haven’t.
This is simply what works for me. The only thing I can truly recommend others do is live their best by the Golden Rule, and find truly unbiased and credible sources of their information to fact check. I have only one source so far I trust the most, but hope to find others in the future.
I hope you find what works for you. And I hope you make choices based in fairness or positivity as much as possible, regardless of the choice you make. Because if you do that, and others do that, together we can be a voice less fickle, less unkind, and more united.