“You can’t organize a group of victims. If people only see themselves that way, there’s no sense of agency, no sense of power. But when you tell them that we’re fighting injustice or an offense to their dignity, they become angry and involved.”
As Americans, we really feel righteous in anger. We’ve been played by the entertainment industry into thinking that being enraged is equivalent to being informed, and we’ve become too comfortable with laughing at snipes about what is going on around us.
We also have become hypersensitive to slights against us. I am not sure where all our thick-skinned ruggedness went, but it is gone. The perception of disrespect, intentional or not, means the actors go right to the endgame—no middle ground. Full assault.
Social media has enabled this in us, giving us a license to be snarky, so concerned with thumbing out our blaring klaxons instead of being thoughtful in reading and listening to the voices who would differ from our own. That pseudo-anonymity of the web, or the digital screen separating us from those who have wronged us, liberates the inner bumptiousness that we all harbor.
Maybe late-night “news” comedy shows are a little to blame, as well. They make it so easy to pick apart politicians or celebrity foibles with confident laughs. They tell us how to feel, what to think. Who is good and who is not. Are they correct in their character assassinations? Sure, why not. Do we need a late-night laugh? Yes, laughter does our souls good. But the delivery, the one-liners, the zingers, they propagate that culture of snarkiness that feeds our inner righteousness momentarily soothes our anger at the helplessness we feel before such incompetence from our leadership. It’s the delivery system, the routine of it becoming familiar and informing our way of communicating and thinking. See injustice? Something making you angry? Disagree with someone? A one-liner that makes other people laugh will shut them up, break them down, and reinforce your righteous way of seeing the world.
Where are our masses being shown dialogue between differing parties? Where do we see two parties negotiate complicated issues civilly? Who is displaying an alternate method to the hyper prolific win-lose culture that is flooding our shores?
We would all do well to slow down our lives and breathe. Work to be better listeners and respectful of opinions that differ from ours. That means working to understand why others are different, what their context is, how they arrived at their conclusions—and respecting that. And understanding that truly winning means building things together, not breaking things apart. Not belittling or dehumanizing or glibly judging from our armchairs.