Ahhh - so much in the news...as I flip through pages of magazines, newspapers, online articles, I get that same overwhelming feeling you get when everyone comes to you with their problems at the same time - you have to pick sides, give advice, make sense of it all in your head - while simultaneously clinging to that optimism that's getting the shit kicked out of it by circumstance. Sigh....
Syria, Libya, Pakistan, Israel, Afghanistan - well fuck, the entire Middle East - the economy, 2012 elections and the cast of characters therein, E Coli outbreaks, global warming, radiation - good times.
And these good times are only amplified by right and left hectoring, corporate control, flanked by rising apathy and ignorance. This dangerous concoction is the subject of my post.
I'm feeling too broad minded and general to focus on one particular issue. There are simply too many.
Instead, I'd like to discuss a philosophical and psychological aspect - how we deal with this news, these events, how we filter them - when all this information comes crashing down, our resolve, our power over circumstance.
The first question is of course do we even notice it? These days it seems many people are quite content to entirely avoid news and current events - to pretend that world events only happen to other people. And in part, that's true. Bad things don't happen to us, we do them to other people. We are outwardly offensive in a way that far exceeds the term bullying. We use the same tactics to wage wars as we do to protect ourselves: money and violence. The true reasons and events are masked by the same corporatocracy that pulls the trigger in the first place. It's the same corporatocracy that prefers you not look into things, prefer you wouldn't question or educate yourself - the same corporatocracy that put the White House up for sale, along with our values and morals.
That's a lot of treachery and backstabbing to handle. That's what they bank on. Some of the things that have been tucked into folds of recent history are so extreme, so intensely horrible and unbelievable, the powers-that-be are banking on a) you'll never look to find that information or b) if you do find it, you won't believe it to be true. Well, a) they don't even bother hiding it and b) it is very, very true.
The next question, perhaps the most important, is why do people not educate themselves?
I've asked myself this question for years, and have never liked the answer, but the answer is always the same. It's easy.
It's easy to remain ignorant, apathetic. It's hard to read up on things, to search for truth, it's time consuming and exhausting. And then, why bother? The country isn't perfect but it seems to be trucking along fine.
In the years after the Vietnam war, one might say that the US entered a slump - culturally at least. The summer of love wasn't what it was cracked up to be, the war didn't end so much as implode upon itself, peace didn't triumph, it limped home with the rest of the mentally and physically maimed soldiers.
I take this example because in my opinion this is the last time there was widespread involvement in government and political issues. This was the last time that people took to the streets en masse to march and demand change. The Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War - these were mobilizing agents - art and culture supported this message - the country seemed alive.
But, in my mind, the disillusionment that followed cast a dark shadow that we still live under today. After 9/11 happened, no one marched. The Iraq war protests were a joke. Having organized many myself, I can tell you that the people who did get up on soap boxes to loudly protest, that paraded in front of traffic, were either marked as complete loony tunes or thrown in a cell for a day. The specific ins and outs of how we came from A to B, the crackdown on our rights, would take up entirely too much space and time. I'll save that for a book...
However, the important thing is that we are now in effect, an unthinking majority. And an unthinking majority is the perfect petri dish for extremism.
Although polls show that most Americans think moderately, those are not the loud Americans. They are the quiet, disillusioned ones. The ones that don't vote because they don't see the point, or the ones who choose the lesser of two evils because they know it makes little difference who the face of the presidency is, when corporate strings pull at all the branches of government. They are the ones who don't do anything.
The unthinking majority however, are at the ends of the spectrum - they sit there, ignoring facts, constructing webs of truth on whatever seems to best line up with their proposed ideologies.
For example, the far right. Both religiously and politically resolute, they shove God and country into the barrel of a gun and point it at anyone who disagrees. Facts and truth are mere speed bumps, easily rolled over in a faith driven Hummer. I can recall seeing a video of a line of hundreds of people standing outside a bookstore waiting to see Sarah Palin. A young man was interviewing the patrons as they stood in line, hoping to glean some insight to her supporters. Not one of them could name a political issue she was against or supported. They couldn't explain her platform other than to say that she was a Patriot. One woman said she really loved her "spunk," and that was enough to gain her vote. The God card was played a few times, as was the anti-liberal card. As long as she was those two things, to hell with her political platform.
The unthinking majority.
And same goes for the other side. Many left-leaning centrists or liberals like to think extremism is something meant for the other side. Yet ironically, even by commenting on the "other" side, you separate yourself in such a way that is ripe for fundamentalist thinking.
For in fact, the whole idea behind extremist thinking is that you are right, they are wrong. "They" are evil, you are good. There is a stark separation rooted in the inability to question your own beliefs.
In the end, both sides suffer from the same delusion, both extreme left and extreme right completely miss the mark. Right and left is not progressive - you can not move forward by continuously bouncing back and forth like a drunk pin ball.
A democratic form of government is based on compromise.
Extremists don't compromise, They don't need to - they're right, everyone else is wrong.
The only problem is you can't govern with that mentality. It produces the stalemate we're in right now.
If you look at history, all our groundbreaking legislation - including the civil rights act, new deal - was done from the center. It was done from a place where educated people could look at facts and with an elastic relationship to their ideals, get things done.
They were able to take the facts at face value. They did not shy away from reality because it's too scary, too hard to handle. The Great Depression sucked the life out of this country - here are the images, the stories, the truths. What do we do about it? As opposed to these are my ideals - build legislation around them.
And as a people, if we are to remain the unthinking majority, if we avoid facts, if the tornadoes of truth are too much for us, we deserve every bit of rotten legislation, every blood soaked lie we're fed, every penny we're robbed of. If we don't even take the time and energy to give a shit, why should the powers-that-be give a shit about us?
Instead of seeing the news and cringing, see the news and get pissed off. Not just about the events, but how they're doled out to you - how they're twisted, sugar coated, exaggerated and piece-mealed. Use that information and push forward, don't retreat to a place where the thinking is done for you. Where you walk in, are handed a list of rules and ideologies to follow and you can leave your brain and conscience at the door. Don't do that!
Don't allow your own self to be taken over by a mass minded extremism. Think for yourself, research for yourself. And don't sit in the center and bitch and moan about the ills of society. Think. React. Do Something