“What is truth?”Pontius Pilate
I think part of the problem in our culture and countless subcultures is that we are wired to ask what is fashionable rather than what is true (by conditioning and by Evolutionary Psychology).
But when we invert those questions, things get super weird and super interesting very fast. You will also inevitably become very isolated from both “sides” on any complex question (and we humans are addicted to reducing complex issues to “sides” and “teams,” to false binaries and all-or-nothing ultimatums).
I think it is true politically as it is true in many scientific circles (from the historical resistance to Einstein’s Relativity to Plate Tectonics or the germ theory of disease; from resistance to early quantum theory to recent studies on things like UAP and Psi phenomena). Basically anywhere a group of people are hanging out, you see some weird stuff start to happen.
And yes, bizarre to observe it, but the rigid orthodoxy and thought policing that was the domain of the right-wing, anti-science, and ultra-religious circles of my childhood have, ineluctably and increasingly, become mainstays of the “Pop-Left” in America as well (or the thing that calls itself the Left, as the Machine merrily grinds on while we its cattle fight among ourselves over questions of ‘Doctrine’).
Shortly before his death, Bertrand Russell was asked what his one piece of advice for young people would be, and he said that in any area of inquiry, you should learn to ask “what is true?” and only that question. Which, of course, is something that our mushy primate brains are not always wired to do naturally. And certainly under the barrage of operant conditioning that typifies the blatant experiment called “social media,” it is harder still.
I care about learning about the world and treating people like human beings. I believe in the Growth Mindset – we can learn and grow every day, and nobody has “arrived.” I believe that most people have the divine spark of goodness inside, and we would be shocked at the growth we can see when we approach each other with goodwill instead of attacking each other like little Chihuahuas. It doesn’t mean we have to like or agree with each other (I hate the fluffy bullshit notion that we must all feel fuzzy for each other, which is belied when its adherents proceed to act like assholes to even their own friends and allies). It just means we are committed to Universal Human Rights, to treating each other and ourselves with dignity, and so on. And yes, you can call out genuine assholes and even get into fights sometimes – but that shouldn’t be the day to day norm. That’s just unhealthy.
The hell of it is, I constantly fight these negative impulses too. And I have missed my goal more than once.
I use social media for good vibes, which are hard to come by. To feel less alone. And I’m grateful for when people have helped with that. And I have to say that I’m getting tired of the constant barrage of negative energy, “if you don’t think exactly X like me then you’re a heretic and I hate you,” and more that I see ever more of in ostensibly “liberal, loving” circles. I’m not talking about human rights stuff, I’m talking about perspectives on a range of infinitely complex, evolving issues. And I’m as guilty as the next guy of doing it myself. But it doesn’t make things better or change minds, it just shuts people down and makes them adversaries while making the ego feel righteous.
I guess it boils down to energy. I’m seeing a lot of dark energy, negative energy, hate energy, fight energy suffusing my once beloved circles. The entire point of the “Left,” going back to the Enlightenment, was to promote being more smart and being more kind. And that is why the movement initially moved mountains. And I think on a grand cosmological scale, energy is what makes or breaks this Consciousness experiment. (Cf. Sheldon Vanauken on the ruinous shift from love in the 60’s to hate and greed in the 70’s as the Machine successfully infiltrated and shattered most of the major progressive movements).
But for some goddamn, iscrutable reason, we seem to have started looking over Fox News’ shoulder and taking notes on THEIR methods and habits.
I’m grateful for the good vibes and lifesaving laughter after a personal loss and Covid brought me back from a long social media hiatus. But Zuckertown is feeling a little cramped right now. I don’t know how I feel about the vibe. Might be time for another vacation.
Image: Shutterstock (Used Under License)