I haven’t written much about politics lately, because inevitably any post ends in a stream of invectives. So, so blue.
It’s become quite clear that horrible people get more attention than decent people. Liars get more press than truth-tellers. Diatribes and conspiracy-laden memes get more likes than reasoned arguments. It’s clear that short blurts and bumper sticker sentiments resonate more with people than logical and balanced discussions.
And I’m no better. I can’t read the news without feeling the hostility rising. I’ve found myself streaming too much television for escape from the fears and anxieties and the desolation of feeling out of step and place. It’s made me less intelligent, less rational, less active, less thoughtful.
I hadn’t been writing much lately, because everything was coming out raw and angry and emotional. This is not the person I wish to move towards. If all the world is dying, I still get to make some choices about who I am. It’s really the only power we have. With or without money, under duress or at the height of luxury, it’s the only real power we have – to choose what kind of person we are going to be.
There are some humans who are dirty bombs. Dirty bombs are weapons of mass disruption. While many people think the reality television celebrity who is our president has done a good deed in disrupting the political routine, disruption in and of itself is not a positive or negative thing. It’s just disruption. Only the fallout matters. And thus far, the fallout has not been positive, regardless of your political ideology.
Dirty bombs are valuable in that the effects are not immediately known. Long term health issues and cleanup of the affected area have great economic consequences, but the immediate result of a dirty bomb is the fear it inspires. Psychologically, it can keep a population in the thrall of fear and anxiety, leading them to support measures that are politically expedient, but which also carry long term and ill-predicted outcomes.
How does one counter a dirty bomb? For starters, detection of materials needed to make the bomb – conspiracy theories, false statistics and statements, emotional appeals, simplified memes from complex issues, repeating information without verification, choosing partisanship over rationalism, and not verifying sources. It means improving critical thinking skills and using a bullshit detector.
The next step is to maintain protective gear. Protective gear involves learning about issues in-depth, filtering out misinformation, listening more than talking, learning how to parse and construct rational arguments, and weighing the source of information. Protective gear must also have a palliative affect – it must provide comfort. It means taking a break from the news, finding the beauty in art, music, and literature. It means being quiet to keep the inner life rich and productive.
Lastly, and the step I often forget to do, actively recognize those humans around you who are not dirty bombs – who leave the world, wherever they are, a better place. Raise their profile, send thank you notes, shake their hands, call out their good deeds. Look for people who set examples worth following and emulate the hell out of them. It puts attention where it should be and reminds you that love and kindness are truly radioactive and a little goes a long, long way.
I am finding my way back in writing this and have decided that my action to follow is that I will take back my time from some distractions. I’m giving up any television, streaming, videos, etc. for the next 30 days. Breaking the habit of distraction is a tough one, but this might be a good first step.
If you would like to join me in this experiment, send me a note via my contact page. We can check in with each other periodically and at the end of the thirty days, you’ll be invited to write a guest post about your experience and what you learned (or didn’t).
What I’ve Been Reading Lately:
Proof: A Play by David Auburn
Reading play scripts is a fantastic way to help with writing dialogue.
Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to The Work that Reconnects by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown
Not always on board with New Age-y concepts, but there are a lot of useful approaches to dealing with the feeling of powerlessness that I’ve been experiencing lately.
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
Still struggling to get through this work of fiction. The writing is so wondrously dense and well-done that I have to keep taking breaks just to take it in.
Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson
After following George Lakoff’s blog and enjoying his linguistic take on issues, I bought this book. Admittedly, it’s a little above my pay grade in terms of intellect, but I’d rather read up, than down.
What are you reading?