We need to talk about something serious today. This is not entirely alien to this editorial site, but usually my tone is mocking, satirical or even cruel. No, I would like to attempt a discussion about the serious problems that are engaging the world, that are tearing us all apart from one another, and that has helped to reignite such a culture of angry, paranoid hatred, the endless repetition of our collapsing social world.
Of course this is not the first time our limitations have allowed us to point our fingers and attack anyone worthy of attributing the blame for our failures upon, but today is somewhat different, away from the Nazis controlling the message, far apart from the prime of the Communist regime allowing its subjects to hear only one side of the story. No, the here and now is a substantially different time to be wallowing in the same mess that has caused all of our world’s great wars. No, the real place to lay the blame is how we have allowed ourselves to become slaves to communications technology.
I do not wish to specifically attack the internet, nor social media (after all, where would this site be without such innovations, and where would our debates lay if we could not condemn one another for thinking differently than ourselves?) But there is a serious consideration to think on as we sift through the daily events, through whichever version of the news we choose to believe, and it is time to wonder just how destructive the replacement of opinion as fact is to human civilization.
Yes, we all think that the other side is corrupt–that they are criminals attempting to impose whichever most extreme version of whatever immoral idea we have about how to destroy the world. But the trouble with such absolutism is that all such emotionally passionate blather isn’t real. None of this is real. For all the conspiracy theories we believe, and for every crimes and misdemeanor of every individual, ever, who has claimed to be in charge of a nation or society, none of our conjectures are absolutely true. No, we believe these things because for some reason or another such ideas support our vision of the world. None of us, any longer, seeks a fair and judicious world, but only one where we can blame someone else for everything going wrong.
Let us look at Donald Trump (it is inevitable, isn’t it, considering his profound mistrust of everything, certainly even including himself?) Donald Trump likes to point out the crookedness and corruption of previous administrations, of the earlier periods of history he has not bothered to research or even tried to understand. And of course he is right; there are crimes, there are plenty of horrors that all those formerly in his position are guilty of. But somehow he has convinced himself that just because another scumbag got away with their crimes it is now somehow okay to commit them himself. Like a small boy he whines about the unfairness that his big brother was never caught and so why should he be blamed for the same thing? It is the childish nature of modern, technological society, a devolution of morality into the idea that anything you say or that you believe goes, that it is an unanswerable truth and that if you point out the flaws or the lies you are telling to justify your irrational fantasy, then whomever is against you is the true villain.
We do not trust one another and I guess we all understand why. We are a gaggle of aggressive liars, a gang of cackling hens seeking to humiliate someone else because we feel so humiliated by those things out there in the world clearly beyond our control. And we seek solutions–often crazy solutions, trying to condemn large groups of people for the crimes of one or a small group of others. This is the nature of the broad swath of conspiracy theories that have been consuming the United States and a great portion of the rest of the world since the 1990s. Consider the moment when online communications began to explode, with those nasty AOL comments and the later innovations that created such toxic websites like Facebook and Twitter. None of these places find a forum for discussing the seriousness of the world, for challenging dangerous trends or desperate problems, but merely give us an opportunity to insult one another and see how angry we can make other people. We rant and rave and even go so far as to argue hideous ideologies we do not even believe just as the target practice fun of a psychopath before a mass shooting at a gun range. And this is who we have become. This is the violence of our cynical, angry words.
The real problem here (and there are thousands upon thousands of problems with the ways we have recently learned to communicate with one another) is that there is no longer a gauge for truth. Nothing is true unless we believe it, and everything is a lie if it does not align with our momentary desires about how things are meant to be. And even this is a form of violence, most of us any longer seeking not the justice we claim to desire, but the condemnation of all those people we have convinced ourselves are against us.
This is not, specifically, Donald Trump’s fault. Ever the opportunist, this soulless man has merely taken advantage of the fracture to gather around him an angry crowd of followers who will believe anything he say regardless of the fact that every third word out of his mouth is a lie. In the past Presidents said maybe a sentence or two before exaggerating or outright lying. Trump, seeing the fragmentation of reality, has gone hardcore into the myth of his own presumed greatness and has somehow managed to convince enough people that, regardless of his dishonesty, even his lies are preferable to the sincerity of whichever opposition he sets himself against.
People, ultimately, are mostly followers. They seek a king or some other sort of leader (a head coach, a manager, a quarterback, the most popular kid in school) to give them an idea on how to behave if they ever hope to succeed. But it is this selfish callousness that has helped to form the broken world we presently live within. We refuse to trust anything that is outside of our increasingly smaller worldview. It no longer matters what is true or what is intentionally made up. Whichever version that aligns with our momentary reason is the one we select as absolute truth. This is how we are destroying ourselves. This is the world we are making for ourselves and our children and whatever likely horrible future will be imposed upon the earth in the handful of years after all of us are gone. It is something to consider, something to remember, the next time you start mocking some other person for having a different opinion from yourself.