Sunday, November 3, 2019

Teacher, I Have A Question!

Help me out here. I'm serious. I look around, I'm on Facebook, I read the papers (well, one “paper,” the New York Times on the Internet) and the news aggregator sites. I visit Breitbart and the Daily Caller sometimes to step out of my echo chamber. I read the good magazines for more details. The reports from every continent are uniformly terrible. Most of the people in the overwhelming majority of countries around the world are behaving very, very badly, and the behavior of almost all of the people in authority is only encouraging them to greater heights of idiocy. My question, my puzzlement, my conundrum, is: what the fuck is going on?

I accept that the world has always been substantially fucked up, but I believe, and I think that most people will agree, that it has generally been different countries taking turns being really, really fucked up. What we are looking at now is a world gone mad. This is not a World War II situation, where a couple of countries, a handful, really, went terribly wrong and started some serious cross-border wrongdoing, which initiated a general melee involving the wrongdoers being put in their place by a coalition of unwilling but surprisingly competent murderers. Oh, excuse me, the wrongdoers were not murdered, they were “killed.” Murder is a crime. Killings accomplished in wars of self-defense are privileged, they are mere homicides. Whatever. The point is that WWII was initiated by a relatively small number of people in a relatively small number of countries. The rest of the world, almost all of it, was dragged in somehow. Today we see most of the world's nations simultaneously poking around seeking to make trouble in their own countries, and in neighboring countries, and in some cases all over the place. I believe that this is an aberration unique in human history.

I would suggest a reason for all of this, but your guess is as good as mine, and in fact, your guess is almost certainly the same as mine. So let's just cant our heads to one side, raise our eyebrows, and nod gently in agreement. The most terrible aspect of all of this is that we all know what the problems are, and we all know that the problems are irremediable. We all, like a bunch of Sarah Connors, clearly see the end in the not-so-distant future, but we, like poor Sarah, can only wait for it to happen. This acceptance of mortality is considered a normal part of a long and happy life, because we can all see where life will take us, and pretty quickly too. Seeing the mortality of our entire way of life is not normal. We may even be sensing the mortality of our very species, and that would not be normal at all. These are not normal times.

So what the fuck is going on? There is nothing unique about my quandary. I wouldn't bring it up if I thought that it was only me. We can all see it panning out before us in real-time. We now have access to numerous public opinion polls masquerading as social media on a daily basis. We have hundreds, in some cases thousands, of “friends” or “followers” on one or more of the many social media platforms. Our Facebook Friends probably include some mix of family members, real long-term friends, old or new acquaintances, and current or former work-mates. The list will be expanded along the way by friends-of-friends, and in my case by a few friends-of-friends-of-friends. These last are like people that we met at a party and got along with well enough to keep in touch. These individuals, through their comments and their shares, are our windows onto the pulse of American culture. (If you are lucky, you have friends from other countries where the people are not reticent to share their true feelings in the spotlight glare of Facebook. I myself am so blessed, but I also have many friends from countries where people are forbidden by tradition or current laws from sharing their true feelings about anything at all.) These digital contacts, along with what we get of the news itself, betray the nature and extent of the problems that face us. These problems are daunting.

There are, of course, many reasonable people on social media, and they say reasonable things daily. I would say that the reasonable people have been mostly polite about it, although by now many of the reasonable people have become strident due to the growing proportions of the emergencies that we face. Some have become shrill, even, as the terror grows.

On a strictly numerical basis, most of the posts on Facebook are unreasonable. These range from the simple “do-nothing Democrats” posts, to the “violent liberal anti-Christian, anti-democracy” posts, up through the “traitorous Demon-Rats” posts, and reaching hyperbolic pathology with expressions of the “Godly-Trump” mythology. All of these examples of unreasonable posts are based on lies. Damned lies, actually, many of which are potentially libelous. Personally, I'm getting sick and tired of being accused of “hating America” by friends that I have known since we were teenagers. Or accused of “hating” them, because they say “Merry Christmas!” These dream-world inventions now suggest that half of America, the “Demon-Rat” half, one would guess, now believe that it is wrong to call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree, mandating in their legislatures that it now be called, “a Holiday tree.” These things are foolish on their face, of course. No one has ever called a Christmas tree a Holiday tree.

It only gets worse if I try to point out that I don't hate them, I love them! And how could anyone come to the conclusion that I hate America? I also love America, which would be obvious to anyone who knew the first thing about me, or had spoken with me for seven minutes, or had spent an hour or two reading this blog's back-catalog of over three thousand posts. But no. I post one actual news article from an actual newspaper describing how Bill Barr is traveling the globe trying to coerce various governments from Italy to Australia to work with him and Trump to discredit America's own intelligence community in the service of Trump's anti-impeachment efforts and all of a sudden I hate America. If I try to defend myself, my erstwhile friends bring out their trump-card, my status as an ex-pat. “If you love America so much, why don't you live here?”

Where I live has nothing to do with my feelings for my country. It has nothing to do with politics. I don't live in America because I can't afford it. It's as simple as that.

More disturbing even than those unreasonable voices on social media are the reasonable people who remain silent on any issue that could be considered remotely controversial. I enjoy their company, and the photos of their new grandchildren, really I do, and I very much enjoy the occasional “like” for a reasonable political post of mine. I respect what they are doing by remaining quiet in the current political wars. It's fine with me. I even have some friends who are now almost invisible on Facebook. They are staying away entirely, or limiting their involvement to reading only. They couldn't take all of the drama, all of the hateful rhetoric. I'm saying that I love them and I understand their position, but I did use the word, “disturbing.” Their reticence is disturbing because it renders the discourse one-sided. Facebook is top-heavy with false warnings of the Democratic Party's intentions to arrest and imprison Christians or conservatives, or put Christians in insane asylums, or maybe concentration camps. FEMA camps! There are warnings of an impending civil war, started by liberals killing conservatives and assassinating Republican leaders. This stuff is largely unanswered, and the people who believe all of it are becoming dangerously agitated. I have begun to notice that comments on my gentle political Facebook shares and posts are becoming increasingly personal and angry. Those ridiculous posts about murderous liberal scum are pure agitprop. (Agitation propaganda: false and hyperbolic images and rhetoric that is meant to stir-up the mostly uneducated or under-educated of society against a particular person or group.) That kind of thing has historically been very effective, where it has been allowed, and it is having the desired effect now.

I say, “where it has been allowed,” advisedly. That is part of the key to our futures, dear reader. We don't have to allow it. Twitter has already banned the worst kinds of untrue, inflammatory political posts. Facebook has so far insisted that it allows such things on Constitutional grounds, calling it a Free Speech issue, which is more than a little bit stupid and deeply disingenuous. Facebook is paid to run a lot of those untrue, inflammatory posts, paid a fortune. If Facebook has a financial interest that is at odds with the good of the country, one which it refuses to give up voluntarily, wouldn't it make sense for our government to force them to give it up? I'd be on the “yes” side of that argument. Free Speech my ass.

Hey, teacher! Give us a hand here! What the fuck is going on?

Well, Freddy, please try to control your language. This is not a baseball game at the park. What we are seeing now is very clearly the end of society as we have known it. Technological advances have altered the very fabric of society, even that of human life itself. Do not mourn what is past, for it is gone as completely as the dinosaurs. Do not struggle against the change, because the one thing in the world that is truly irresistible is modernity. If modernity wishes to destroy all life on earth for some reason, or for no reason at all, our role in that great drama will be small. The universe turns by the force of wheels much greater than we can begin to imagine, and for reasons that we are laughably ill equipped to appreciate. Leave the machinery of fate to its own devices, Freddy. To consider such things only brings unhappiness.”

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