Recently, I have been finding it difficult to write about most subjects. Whether it’s subjects that are personal: dating, friendships, family, and work, or subjects that are broader: politics, community, global affairs, the economy… I find myself in a state of partial paranoia and heightened sensitivity.
Maybe it’s because I feel that the orthodoxies are now stronger than ever before. I feel that the extremes of “both” ends, whatever those ends may be and however you choose to define those ends, now have the loudest voices and most power to include and exclude, to make and unmake, and truly, they are creating a world that I don’t care to live in.
It is all rather unsettling.
I am not a person that 1) defines myself based on labels, or 2) thinks of myself in those labels. To provide some shorthand to people that I meet, I could use terms like: “centrist, fiscally conservative, socially liberal” et al., but I’m not truly that and I don’t really care about it. In a way, it’s a dumbing down, an oversimplification for the sake of just being palatable.
In truth, I hold conflicting and conflicted points of view on many issues: birth control, abortion, gun control, capitalism, globalism, foreign policy, sub-sovereign governance and rights, policing, etc. If there is a fundamental, unifying value or truth to what drives those positions, it is this:
- Absolutism / extremism of all kinds is bogus.
- 9 out of 10 times, there is good to be found on all sides.
- Any attempts to live, or to force others to live, in ideological purity will fail.
Now, you could say my fundamental truths are absolutist on their own, sure, if you want to go down that rabbit hole. I’m not going to, but, what I will say is this:
I am tired of the personal being political.
I am tired of feeling attacked for not “choosing a side” as if black and white mentalities ever got anyone, anywhere.
I am tired of being attacked for not aligning with the orthodoxy that I “should.”
I am tired of…
Of all of it.
(Cue the chorus: “That’s because you have privilege!”)
Lastly, I am tired of the shaming and the presumption of shame and shaming as a useful tactic to get what anybody wants. In the history of the world, shaming has never worked and we know it is psychologically damaging, fundamentally destructive on self-esteem, long-term change and happiness, and so why do we live in a world where shame is the first button we press, and press again and again, all the damn time now?!
We never lived in a perfect world; Leave It To Beaver was a television show, as was The Andy Griffiths Show, and The Cosby Show, and The Brady Bunch, and whatever preference you have for your nostalgic, made-up Norman Rockwell point of reference. The specific is immaterial here; the act thereof far more important to parse.
We never lived in a perfect world and we never will, whether you think that means a perfect Marxist state (certainly preceded by a somehow ends-justify-the-means “Great Leap Forward”) or a perfect market-based state, not un-akin to Altered Carbon (spoiler alert: kind of high-tech snuff?). We will always live in the real world, a world of lots of mis-steps, sometimes healthy tension, often unhealthy tension, of where different folks, most of them well-meaning, will have true, valid, and sincerely felt different points of view.
How do we get to a world where we can tolerate that, at least, let alone accept it? How do we make that the standard state of being?
I don’t know. I’ve never known and every time I think I personally have gotten closer to that, I encounter so many people who have not, choose not to, will not accept, cannot live in a world of equal tolerance trending towards acceptance. They don’t want to because it’s just too hard. They don’t want to because it requires looking in the mirror.
They don’t want to because the orthodoxies they have swallowed have poisoned them, have made their eyes incapable of seeing, their ears incapable of hearing, their hearts incapable of opening, and their minds incapable of changing.
I love my life: my friends, my family, my work, and my hobbies. I like it and my way of life feels threatened at all sides now. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel at ease. I don’t want to live in a world where either side lives separately; I don’t want to live in a world where a single orthodoxy triumphs.
I feel like we are headed towards that, full speed, and be careful what you wish for: you just might get it.