I’m having a tough year; damn near everything pisses me off these days. I’ve never been angrier at the human race than I am lately. My disdain for people is at an all-time high, and that’s a sick way to be; it’s not at all natural for me.
In fact, retirement brought me a long-time-coming epiphany of sorts. I’ve long been known as one of those angry, critical types. A high school friend once named me “the angry young man” (so this has been going on a while). I’ve always accepted it as true. What I finally realized is that it isn’t me…
When I ignore the world and just do my own thing, I’m generally happy as the proverbial clam.
But every time I read the news… Or go online (oof, comment sections)… Often: Or go for a drive… Sometimes: Or interact with people at all.
Why do people seem to addicted to stupid pills?
It seems to be getting worse. Or maybe I’ve just had a lifetime full of it; a belly-full.
Perhaps exposure to an irritant has increased my sensitivity to dangerously allergic heights.
That can happen with things (a friend of mine became allergic to his contact lenses).
Stupidity isn’t new. People have been stupid about things since stupid was invented (along with dirt; sliced bread came later).
I came across a 1988 newspaper clipping I’d saved. It referenced a hot news story of the day: the one about three whales trapped in an ice hole and how $500,000 (1988) dollars were spent freeing them (with President Reagan cheering them on).
The clipping was an editorial in reply to the response to an earlier editorial by the paper. That first opinion piece suggested that whales die all the time in ice holes (thus providing food for polar bears), and perhaps our efforts were better spent in more productive ways.
Of course readers lost their shit over that. Of course they did.
The reply to the shit storm pointed out the dynamic of whales in the wild and suggested that it wasn’t our responsibility — or even a particularly good idea — to redress nature, which is famously ‘red in tooth and claw.’
A little girl down a well — another big news story of the day — we expend every effort; she’s a little girl! Further, little girls down wells aren’t normal, natural occurrences. Cry me a river, but they are for whales.
The point of the story being that when you approach a topic with ignorance and emotion, there’s a good chance your opinion turns out to be stupid. By which I mean clearly and definitely wrong.
One doesn’t need 1988 whales; one finds massive human stupidity — along with massive commentary about said stupidity — consistently throughout history. (And I’m not wrong about the stupidity. I’m just another in a long chain of observers, many of whom are far wiser than I.)
For instance, recently I read how Florida officials are concerned about people painting (endangered!) wild turtles. The paint can poison them, and it makes them more visible to predators. WTF? Painting wildlife? Really? Definitely stupid.
As I’ve said many times before, people haven’t changed much, but society has and in huge, sweeping, profound ways. (We’re only beginning to understand just how profoundly.)
One of the more crucial ways society has changed is that, by connecting us so much, our actions and behaviors no longer occur in the relative isolation they once did.
And by the way, this goes beyond social media to economics, travel, and government. The global village that Marshall McLuhan predicted in the early 1960s is pretty much here. It began with television when we started seeing the world in real-time.
Social media has accelerated the process enormously. We went from just watching to participating!
I’ll spare you the Leon Wieseltier quote about the importance of citizens in a free democracy making quality decisions. (If they want to keep that democracy free.) But I do think there is a crux point:
Highly connected technological modern society requires we approach it rationally and with at least a modicum of knowledge. The irony is that technological modern society makes vast quantities of knowledge readily available.
Bottom line: While people are no more or less stupid than they ever were, that general traditional human stupidity is causing a lot more damage these days.
Case in point: Trump and Brexit.
Stupidity made the latter a done deal. I hope and pray it doesn’t happen here in the USA. But when I read the news… I very much fear it will.
It’s very popular today to say, “I’m entitled to my opinion!”
Yes, you are.
But feeling, or even believing, something is true doesn’t make it true.
Tragically, the very people most in need of learning this are the very people least likely to do it. Something called the Dunning-Kruger effect generates, in some people, a force shield Captains Kirk and Picard would both envy.
The research that led to discovery of the D-K effect was inspired by an unmasked bank robber who rubbed lemon juice on his face (it stung!) thinking it would render his face invisible to security cameras. Because lemon juice can be used as a (crude) invisible ink.
Yep. That actually happened.
But don’t take my word for it. Take his:
So stupid is self-perpetuating. As he says, it requires knowing something to know whether you’re good at it or not! The D-K effect shows why stupid is so hard to eradicate as well as why even trying is such a challenge.
This was back and forth post for me, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. The intent made clear is: No more Mr. Nice guy! I’ve formally given myself permission to rant at will (and everyone else). Yet I find myself reining back, trying to find a more balanced perspective.
I urge myself to ignore the readers; I got rid of most of them, anyway (over 2,000). Why do I care? Spew that spleen and venom! Release the Anger Kraken!
Apparently, in this case, it’s not you. It’s me.
Apparently I really am more balanced even though so much of society frustrates and outrages me. I do see the Yin enough to be personally uncomfortable expressing just the Yang. Go figure. Surprised the shit outta me, let me tell ya!
[Doesn’t mean I won’t stop complaining about the Yang, though!]
Turns out a lot of this is on me (both in the usual sense of owning it and in some other senses as well). Ultimately, it’s not clear whether it could realistically be much better, which leaves me in a bit of a Weltschmerz pickle.
About all I can do is express my pain — what might be dismissed as “ranting” (and so it is). But there are psychological studies that suggest venting is good for your mental health. Standing up and giving voice to what you believe is a Good Thing.
And to paraphrase Lesley Gore, “It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to!”
After all, it might be therapeutic! Or at least cathartic.
Or maybe some other tic…