Let me paint you a scene:
A man wakes up somewhere in America. It’s Monday morning, six a.m. Slightly groggy and irate at the alarm, he reaches over and shuts his phone. Like most of us, the man’s mobile device doubles as his alarm clock (and his camera, and his music player, and his calendar, and his notebook, and his television remote, and…)
He sits upright, rubs his eyes, yawns mightily. At some point he stands up, maybe puts on a short, and walks quietly out of his bedroom.
What’s the first thing this man does? Make the coffee? Brush his teeth? Relieve himself?
None of these. This man is a creature of the 21st century. He looks at his phone, fires up one of the myriad news or social media sites, and starts scrolling.
He reads mostly just the headlines, letting the ideas of others whizz by him and cast their hooks in his consciousness. A few bits stick, but not the specifics.
What he’s retaining is something different. It’s an idea, a zeitgeist, a narrative.
As the man scrolls, perhaps while brushing his teeth, he gets idea about what the day’s topic of conversation is supposed to be. What he’s supposed to care about today.
But the template is sinking in.
Maybe now he starts the coffee.
It’s a morning just like any other. Now the man truly wakes up, hazy gray slumber giving way to full-color alertness. Stomach rumbling, e wonders what to make for breakfast, thinks about what traffic might be like, goes over the workday’s tasks in his mind.
And then he sees it. It could be a tweet, or it could be a story, or it could be a blogpost.
Somebody somewhere, some politician or pundit or even a private citizen, said something. Something so wrong, so egregious, that the man can think of nothing else.
His mood is ruined. His focus is shattered and reconstructed, centered only on this one thing.
Someone was wrong.
Suddenly, his morning doesn’t seem so good.
This is not right.
This person must be answered.
He hits “Reply” and begins to write.
And if his mother, or his girlfriend, or his co-workers could read what he writes, they’d wonder how it could come from the sane, rational, decent man they thought they knew.
Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like anyone you know?
What is it about the world that makes people melt down? Why is everybody so angry? Have they always been this way, or are we just more aware of it now?
I just see people of supposedly high intellect freaking out everywhere I turn, mostly online. Is it just an Internet phenomenon?
But think about this: What we write is a reflection of our inner thoughts. So if hallucinatory scenarios and angry fever dreams divorced from reality are what is going on in so many peoples’ heads, isn’t that a reflection of reality?
Of course, I’m referring to politics. It’s getting ridiculous. I know people take this stuff seriously, as they should, but you’d think it’s the macro issues we should be discussing, not who to punch or why we’re all going to die.
Think about pundits and their predictions: How often have they been right? So few have hit the mark, even vaunted pollsters and the so-called intelligentsia.
Why should we start believing them now?
The most accurate predictor of things this past year-and-a-half has been a cartoonist with a background in hypnosis. Think about that.
I’m not trying to be “above it all,” since I think that’s a pretty weak attitude to have as well. But I marvel at this hysteria.
This has to be a mental health crisis of epic proportions, doesn’t it? Or maybe some people don’t have enough going on in their lives? I don’t know.
But if this stuff is affecting your day-to-day living and your relationships, if reading something you disagree with spurs you to write an expletive-laden tirade, something is up.
So what is it? I ponder this and I come back to that old standby, cognitive dissonance.
People have an identity they create for themselves, and when something challenges this, when they can no longer see their view as 100 percent good, noble, true, just, and pure, they lash out against reality in order to prove that it’s reality that’s wrong, and not them.
Self-reflection is replaced by self-deception.
We all do it, but in different degrees. And it’s not pleasant. But having an objective standard and seeing if your viewpoint or philosophy achieves your desired outcome helps temper the more emotional aspect of things.
Be sober in your assessments and temperate with your emotions.
Be consistent with your framework and standards and how you measure results against them.
Be cognizant is the fact that it’s not about you. No one cares if you feel good about yourself, only what the end result of your philosophy, or policy, or plan is.
Be aware that intentions aren’t all that matter. At some point results trump your personal feelings.
You don’t bend reality to conform to your worldview. You can’t make 2 + 2 = 5.
And for God’s sake, whatever you do, watch out what you put online. It lives forever.
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