There’s a crude but effective saying in the country I hail from, and the variation I heard most often was this: “Opinions are like arseholes, everybody’s got one”. I liked to add to it by saying “But most of them are full of shit”. The thing is, back when I lived in that part of the world, they weren’t particularly important, and only the most narcissistic and hated of people were particularly married to them – as a teenager, I was sometimes said narcissist. You had your views, were generally less afraid of offending people (for better or worse, I say both), and the ability to speak freely was a right with consequences, as opposed to an entitlement of the highest order, fed and fed upon by shady vested interests.
Of course, this meant you’d hear ignorant bigotry or systemic disinformation in person far too often, but in a far less extreme fashion than today. You also generally had most of your pious, privileged, morally condescending types squarely on the right wing, where the majority of extremism lay, so you only had to defend yourself from one flank, regardless of your politics. That is unless you maintained a position of total neutrality on heated issues, which rendered you either clever or a coward depending on the other party. Your silence or lack of commitment would be respected however, as the right to speak also entails the right not to. That itself is a point many would do well in the cacophony of today, an era defined by white noise and cultural excess despite the muted nature of pandemic life and the inherent recession.
Despite the long dead, naïve fantasy of the internet becoming a great equalizer and unifier of mankind, we’re somehow more tribalistic than we’ve been in decades, maybe centuries even. This is owing largely to the ability to have your views digitally supported or opposed within seconds by both peers and strangers, regardless of their veracity and intensity. There will always be someone to back you up no matter how outlandish the claim, or to oppose you even if the perspective is supported by hard data, irrefutable experience, and basic pattern recognition. By that, I don’t mean the kind used by today’s cringeworthy ‘influencers’ of pathetic herd mentality, but those the true individual uses to form their own unique take on the world, and to hopefully ensure survival in it.
Within the last decade, it seems as though conservatives and liberals have swapped their absolute worst traits, blaming each other for the exact characteristics they were defined by not two decades ago. On the right, you have the somewhat overblown dread of ‘Cancel Culture’, invented in modern terms by paranoid Christians picketing Kiss and Black Sabbath shows, all the way through the laughable War On Drugs and into the mid 2000’s, before being adopted in the last decade by left wing interests. You could argue that ‘cancelling’ goes as far back as any religious or political text condemning homosexuality, multiracialism or gender bias. Realistically, what the right wing experiences now is a drop in the ocean compared to the tidal waves they’ve historically landed upon beaches they had no business spoiling.
The idea that somebody else’s consensual sexuality, gender identity or alternative cultural tastes pose a threat to oneself and their belief system proves two uncomfortable truths: That the self is weak and lacks true identity, and that the belief system is too easily undermined, thus likely outmoded. I laugh at the notion that the pentagrams and inverted crosses of my youth could be so offensive to those who grew up in religions that stole their own iconography from the faiths of conquered peoples, while said religions endorsed everything from homophobia and holy war to wife beating etiquette. All this, in the name of some nebulous, unseen entity whose interests clearly oppose the very nature and wellbeing of the alleged faithful, based on texts written centuries ago which are somehow meant to retain relevance.
Meanwhile on the left side, the idea that anyone can ‘cancel’ just anyone is absurd, and while Cancel Culture has brought some awful realities and the people behind them to light, the notion that a body of work and a lifetime of change and growth can be voided by differences of opinion is utterly pathetic. Of course, it’s long overdue that the likes of a Harvey Weinstein or a Marilyn Manson are being exposed as the monsters they truly are. I fully endorse that, and it’s fantastic that the accusations are now being listened to by a society that used to just dismiss abusive behaviour as inherently male, or a symptom of industry. See, men will never learn to be men if they can always get away with ‘boys being boys’.
Nonetheless, the idea that an athlete, artist, or any other person can be cancelled by internet trolls for disagreeable views or minor, non-violent indiscretions in their youth is laughable. If that was the case, just about everyone I ever knew growing up would be cancelled – almost all of us had skeletons in the closet, because we were allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, instead of being held to false standards of perfection based on taking absolutely no risks, ever. I was an idiot in my youth, and said and did both things in person and online that would see me skewered now. I also HEAVILY paid for and grew from these mistakes in real time and in person, seeing their true negative impact on myself and others. As such, I became a better man than I ever could have been by simply adopting my ethics based on peer pressure. Consequence and failure are always far better teachers than blogs and threads.
How much value does the opinion of the cancelling crowd have when they are yet to achieve anything beyond bleating like the cattle they are, as lambs to corporate cultural slaughter? I laugh at the double standards of those who oppose the past abusive behaviour of legendary rockers while listening to a womanizing mumble rapper who openly courts and dates minors. Better yet, how about the male pop megastar who openly opposed abortion even in cases of rape, yet seems to have the hearts of millions of ‘woke’ women (and men) worldwide? Funny how, when you bring these facts up to their fanbase, you are met with blank looks and shrugs, while old rockers with embarrassingly naïve and conservative views are raked over the coals, condemned with a ferocity befitting actual hate crimes.
While the right wing in the last decade or so rebranded with the edgy, provocative irreverence that once defined left wing movements and subculture, the left have all too easily assumed the old conservative mantle of sanctimonious corporate blandness. With their views becoming more default and less niche, they’ve become all too comfortable with the slight majority they now seem to hold, content to take credit for battles they never had to fight anywhere but online. This smug, presumptive laziness is exactly what enabled the election of ex-President Trump, and what stops the left from progressing at the speed they should be, instead of patting themselves on the back for achievements they should have surpassed long ago. Far too many are lazy pacifists, claiming victories won through violent protest and conflict.
In retaliation, you have conservatives throwing around the term ‘snowflake’ despite being mostly white, fragile, and melting under the slightest sociopolitical heat. The panicky despair of gun-toting Jesus freaks, now experiencing a sliver of the opposition they hurled at every interest group outside their own, shows you just how soft they really are. This idea that the media poisoned the population against Trump in the last decade totally disregards the fact that many, like me, hated him since his reality TV days, and others as far back as his initial rise to power in the 80’s (as a Democratic supporter, no less). Both sides fan the flames of the other, trying to convince idiots of all stripes to either join or cede to their crusades fought more as a matter of groupthink than true individual politics, willing to win at the cost of dignity.
Worst of all are the religious groups of all political persuasions, both Christian and otherwise, expecting preferential treatment to the point of having mass gatherings in defiance of lockdown orders (such as Ontario schools still operating as ‘houses of prayer’). That shows you exactly how much they value their belief systems over the welfare of the public, one which has repeatedly bent over backwards for value systems built on bigotry and bloodshed, formed for simpler and less diverse societies millennia ago.
These groups want political input and cultural bias despite their houses of prayer not paying taxes, and in many cases harbouring serial abusers, yet are all too quick to condemn the ills of modern society. You know, as if religious fanaticism itself isn’t responsible for billions of deaths historically, and millions currently, all under pretenses of charity and compassion. The anxiety of white Christian racists over increased Islamic presence in their cities is laughable when you consider the body counts Christianity has inflicted over the years, or at least it would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic. Everyone’s either a victim or a hero despite nobody owning up to the villainhood, and the reality is most religions have so much blood on their hands that no amount of repentance or holy water could ever wash them clean.
They’re all too content to risk the lives of innocent people in the here and now in favour of a theoretical afterlife that they may not even qualify for. We’re supposed to tolerate this behaviour in the name of peace and equality, yet it’s somehow acceptable for their frequent bigotry and harmful disregard of hard science to threaten those of us just trying to keep our heads down and survive?
Of course, many argue that their forefathers died to protect the right to free speech, but last I checked, that didn’t include hate speech, or the disregard of scientific measures implemented to protect public health. I highly doubt that anyone who died fighting fascism in historical wars was doing so only to protect the ‘freedoms’ of jabbering alt-right idiots decades later. The fact that these groups exist at all represents a pathetic failure on the part of governments, and society in general. We should be decades past this kind of behaviour, and the cowardly inaction of social media corporations isn’t helping.
There comes a point as a society where we have to make some hard decisions, before nature makes them for us. One could argue that the pandemic is already doing so, and while diseases both social and medical don’t actively discriminate, they do prey on ignorance and herd mentality. It’s funny how many tinfoil hat right wingers have been taken down or out by a virus they were so in denial of, and how it seems to almost target people who rely on herd affirmation instead of individual accountability.
As harsh at this may sound, it’s nature giving us a not so subtle warning, and where overpopulation flourishes, ‘conventional’ religion and associated conservatism generally also tends to, preying on the poverty and inequality that enables it by instilling false hope. Do we really still need ‘god’, especially if said ‘god’ is clearly falling asleep at the wheel while drunk driving on the edge of a steep cliff? By all means retain spirituality if necessary, but organized worship is archaic and irrelevant if ‘god’ is truly everywhere, adhering to principles that are frequently in direct opposition to organized religion itself.
The Era Of The Sheep is ending, and we are entering The Age Of Wolves, where self-reliance, critical thinking and rational behaviour, both in terms of logic and sustainability, are key. In a decade where isolation is literally survival, it’s time we forget about large herds and begin to move in small packs or alone, as neither our species nor that of any other sentient being was designed for the scale and scope of such population. People panicking over the latest in a long line of pandemics may wish to consider that, in forest fire terms, this is essentially a controlled burn compared to previous plagues. If we fail to adapt better, I suspect the next major crisis will be something far more sinister, and less avoidable.
The thing about any belief system is that belief itself is merely a compromise between thought and knowledge. To an extent, it’s an admission of ignorance, essentially thinking things hard enough to the point that one treats them with an even greater reverence than verifiable knowledge. I for one refuse to harbor beliefs – I have opinions that I like on paper, but I know don’t really work on a public level. There is what I think, what I know, and what I think I know, the latter being speculation at best, unworthy of sharing. But there is an opportunity in being wrong – as a deep cynic, the more I am wrong, the better things are and the more I learn. I prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and expect the unexpected.
Just about any belief or sociopolitical system, applied to a large and diverse enough group of people over a long period of time, will eventually fall apart. There are simply too many unforeseen variables in the equation. When everybody is so married to their viewpoints for so long, and affirmed so quickly and voraciously by others, they lose sight of the fact that they’re just grains of sand on a shore that was there long before us, and will be long after us. Instead of feeling alienated by that fact, we should take comfort in it. Most beings struggle to survive, so why would they crave immortality like humans do?
Even this article I’m writing now, which I’m fairly happy with, is really just some asshole ranting on the internet. I’ve been full of shit before, and may be again. I’m glad not everyone agrees with me, or is like me – I’m pretty sure I’d end up hating myself eventually if they were. Really, having too many friends has caused more problems for me than an excess of enemies, and I’d rather be strongly opposed than meekly appeased by fake friends with hedged bets, who only want to be on the ‘right’ side of history, clinging to perspectives based on public optics than legitimate conviction and reason.
I could care less if people agree with me, because most of the more liberal views that I’ve maintained consistently are now common instead of radical. I honestly wish a lot of the people who share these views didn’t, because the behaviour of many of them is dilutes, arguments and tarnishes a reputation people like me fought for. If friendships and other relationships are based only on common perspective, how much are they worth really? I can understand distancing oneself from hateful bigots, but ditching family members and close friends over certain opinions, as is commonly done now, shows disgraceful disloyalty – if one values their interest groups over their loved ones, I must question if they ever truly loved them. There’s certainly an element of selling out when placing politics above friends and family.
It astounds me that rigidity is so popular in these ‘Unprecedented Times’, which were actually incredibly predictable with a bit of historical analysis and pattern recognition. Fluidity and adaptability have always been at the forefront of evolution and survival, yet pissing and moaning about untested viewpoints on a stupid phone that pins most people to the spot seems to be the order of the day. The world is changing faster and more often, but it seems to me the average person is changing less, coddled by convenience and the warm digital glow of metrics and interest groups that ‘validate’ even the most invalid approach.
Large scale external validation is usually worthless outside of career success, and even then it can be a fickle falsehood. It’s fleeting, ephemeral, and based on pleasing others, which is usually the surest path to individual misery. We’re either walking on eggshells or stepping on toes when we could simply have looked up, and walked around the whole mess entirely. We need to find better common ground to stand on that just shared politics and religion, neither of which are designed for the long term. These constructs punish collectives at the expense of individuals, and vice versa, feeding one another in a cycle of violence, condescension and exploitation unique to our species on this planet.
If everyone thinks they’re special, nobody’s special, and in a society that hands out participation awards far too easily at high levels, it’s hardly surprising that so few are reaching for loftier goals. We make shallow people famous for being famous, and when such mediocrity is venerated, how bad is everything else beneath that? We dislocate shoulders patting ourselves and each other on the back for the most mundane opinions and behaviours, yet as a species forget wisdoms that are inherent to less ‘evolved’ lifeforms with no need of religion, media or politics to justify their approach to the world, or a place in it.
The concept of grace seems to be dying, as human interaction and personal expression is dumbed down to levels unseen since caveman times. The cultural and political decline of the last decade or so is like watching ballet or fire dancing reduced to the level of a Tik Tok routine or a Fortnite victory dance, and the sad part is that far too many now place all of these things on an equal pedestal. Society coos over the most embarrassing and childish presentations and achievements, like proud parents appraising a toddler’s crude finger painting ruining their walls. Digital life was fun when it was aimed mostly at the intelligent and progressive, but now it appeals to the ignorant hordes and has been soiled by excessive advertising and other desperate pandering, ruined like print media and television before it. It seems we simply can’t have nice things, twisting the most beautiful of concepts to mirror our internal ugliness.
Should humanity fail to survive much longer (and I predict we’re closer to our conclusion than our origin), it’ll likely have been because of an avoidable catastrophe, or a combination of them. Should other beings discover our legacy, they may conclude that the internet was the Pandora’s Box that began our ending. It’s certainly accelerated our speed of life, perhaps also our timeline itself. Imagine how the construct of opinion, elevated critically and commercially to godlike heights and often by godly beliefs, could be our undoing. We won’t seem like such ‘civilized’ and ‘enlightened’ beings then, will be?
It’s time to stop worrying about being better than, and just be better. The hell with forming ‘squads’ and ‘teams’ when our species is somehow it’s own prey and predator, and despite levels of convenience and technology never before seen, is somehow on the brink of collapse. Society isn’t working, in truth it hasn’t for a long time, and anyone complaining about dystopian lockdown measures has failed to realize that we’ve been living in a dystopia since at least the turn of the century – one based less on politics than popular culture. It seems we’ve missed the opportunity at a hard reset that covid has presented us, and are all too busy yelling through glass house walls instead of looking at the mirror, except the one we use to take yet another obnoxious selfie of course.