In real life, which is sometimes less believable than the internet, I tend to dispense with formalities and grandiose declarations. If I have a goal, it gets written on a scrap of paper, which will ultimately be shredded or burnt, because the vehicle itself is unimportant. What matters is my personal drive to complete the requisite objective, not how ceremoniously it was announced. This may be the fault of seeing far too many people over the years making bombastic commitments about changing their lives, only to abandon the cause after life gets in the way. Nevertheless, it works.
Except this year is different. No, I still refuse to outline some progressive scheme of self-betterment which can hopefully satisfy the local bar’s social circle long enough to sound relevant. The thought of such a process remains toxic to my senses. Instead, I am determined to continue forging a path based more on empathy for others. It is almost certain that the word elicits a clichéd eye roll from readers, yet I advise taking a pause. What I mean by empathy is challenging oneself to sincerely understand the position and life experiences of others, as opposed to either dismissing outright or mindlessly groveling before their interests.
The mere prospect of this path does not come easy to me. As a child, I concluded early on that the world had no respect for exhibitions of emotion or vulnerability, particularly from a man. Even the souls who claimed to have sympathy for such expressions would be quick to document and use them against others, typically in pursuit of personal aggrandizement. Tearing up as a boy was social suicide, just like recognizing the innate injustice of a system made you a pathetic victim. A superior approach meant being unmoved, resolute, and condescending, all traits of the “real” man.
Satisfying as these proclivities might be in the short-term, they are immensely destructive when applied across the span of life, and even more so in society. Resorting to hazing and mockery of others serves to mask genuine corruption infecting a system, whether between individuals or behind an organization’s doors. Complaining about a serious problem like manipulation or even abuse becomes the basis for a counterattack which labels the honest observer as a poisonous barnacle likely to destroy the ship. “Shut up and do what you’re told” begins to prevail, and anything else tastes of crime.
On a macro level, the mentality of refusing to comprehend other outlooks produces disastrous outcomes in national policy. Some years back, I would have giddily jumped on the bandwagon to condemn welfare users without even considering their individual status or backgrounds, which are less disdainful than many would believe. I did so because to defend them would indicate weakness or laziness, both threats to the meritocratic order we all subconsciously adhere to. Providing those people were a blurry monolith of greed offered up by shock jocks and politicians, they were incredibly easy to write-off as entirely worthless from a social standpoint.
We can see a similar dynamic inherent to issues like migration. Liberals clamor for acceptance of higher numbers in the name of human rights or decency, while seldom stopping to seriously consider how their own consumerist habits and social polices destroy traditional communities once operating on subsistence practices, if with less progressiveness than the leftist desires. Conservatives on the opposite agitate for walls and moratoriums, while also ignoring the unpleasant facts of U.S. involvement in destabilizing southern countries through the drug war and anti-leftist warfare. Unfortunately, the way we go about swiftly cordoning and demonizing rational analysis of any situation allows these illogical placeholders to not only remain, but grow stronger than before. Fighting back requires an open mind, something hardly valued in the days of now.
Much as I may not have control over the world, nothing prevents me from demanding higher personal standards in this regard. Thus my continuing mission for 2021 will be to examine more of what I disagree with, and strive to at least know where and why others have formulated their own biases or grievances, even if my initial reaction would normally be to wave them off. It stands to be a fascinating adventure.
Will you join?