There are some lessons that I have to keep learning over and over again. It seems as though those are the life lessons which constantly break my heart.
I’m an idealist at heart. I can’t help it. I want to believe the best of others. There’s an ideal world that I see in my mind. Everybody gets along. Everybody is reasonable. Nobody uses force to get his way. We’re all free individuals, understanding that others should be allowed to make their own voluntary choices.
But ugly reality keeps intruding on my idealistic visions. People don’t understand those who don’t think or look or act like them. They band together in primitive tribal groups to oppose one another. They’re willing to use force — even to kill others — to ensure that others obey what they believe is right.
That idealistic part of me grew up believing that I could use reason and persuasion to show others the value of what I believed. But I was wrong. The tribes hate each other. The last thing they’re interested in is understanding one another.
And I’m broken-hearted each time I realize this — and again when I understand what it means for my future.
Anybody who still believes that reason changes the course of public discourse today hasn’t been paying attention. Political and social discussion is strongly dominated by hateful people who stir up the emotions of those who refuse to think clearly for themselves. Then those angry people go online and repeat the hate and anger they’ve learned from the demagogues.
More and more, I find trolls and idiots indistinguishable on social media. That’s because these angry people repeat the idiocy they’ve been taught — and it’s hard to believe that anyone could be so stupid as to believe what they’re saying. I would actually feel better to learn they were simply trolls stirring up trouble for fun.
But the nightmarish conclusion I have to accept is that these angry people believe what they’re spouting — and they have no ability anymore to think critically or to rationally question what they’ve been taught.
They become mindless mobs online — and they slowly bring their hatred into their real lives as well, as they band together into tribes which believe they have all the answers and deserve to force others to obey them.
One of the biggest disappointments I’ve had in life is the realization that human nature leads every group to ultimately operate on the basis of group conformity. The more people are in the group, the higher the need for conformity seems to become.
And the people in these groups don’t even understand this is happening to them. They become mindless sheep who follow the marching orders of their tribe. And they will allow no dissent.
I made the mistake last night of responding rationally and calmly to some progressives on Reddit who were hooting and hollering about those “stupid people” who don’t like “critical race theory.” They were generally just as rabidly irrational and nasty as Trump populists online have become.
It was depressing.
I haven’t written much that’s political in the last few years, but I recently wrote two political pieces. The first was an indictment of the barbarian left which is taking our society over a cliff with deadly ideas which are going to lead to death and destruction for all as we descend into more identity politics.
The other piece was an indictment of the populist right. It was about how the conservative movement has slowly lost its way, as conservatives turned away from their commitment to individual freedom, especially in their recent insane embrace of the very non-conservative Donald Trump.
I got hate mail about each one of these pieces, but if you did a Venn diagram of the angry writers, there was absolutely no overlap between them. Left-leaning folks wrote me about the first one to call me a Trump-lover — and Trump crazies wrote about the second one to tell me I’m a communist.
Reading comprehension is a lost art, but even more than that, few people are willing to question their own ideas — and to question whether maybe they’ve followed someone who’s leading them to their own destruction. Apparently, If I’m not with them, I must be part of that evil tribe on the other side.
I already know that I can’t bridge the divide between these tribes — or all the many sub-tribes which revolve around those. I’ve known for a long time that this country is going to fall apart in time, but I could never conceive until recently exactly what it would look like.
In the last year or so, I’ve started seeing what it’s going to look like, whenever it gets here. And I understand that there’s nothing I can do to stop it. All I can do is try to escape the mayhem — because so few people are willing to listen to ideas which could allow us to live in peace among each other.
I’ve struggled for a long time with how to describe myself politically these days, because I’m no longer a part of any of the groups. I know better than to join a tribe. I know better than to allow myself to get sucked into being a part of the hatred which consumes more and more of us.
I’m just a pragmatist who no longer has even the slightest bit of faith in any statist system. I’m someone who’s just looking for a plan to save himself when this dysfunctional society collapses into a mass of violent chaos.
All I can do now is to find a few others who will see the same threat — and join me in trying to escape the mass destruction that lies ahead for a country which I used to love dearly.