Honesty and consistency are two of the rarest qualities in a human except for, I suppose, a consistent tendency for laziness. It takes effort to actually follow through with something you’ve said and telling the truth can be scary especially when you’re unsure what the truth is.
I think I know a thing or two about laziness being an incredibly lazy person myself. I often attempt to justify my laziness through my lack of physical coordination and proclivities against any sort of athletic activities (ironic given my height). However; humans did not evolve for stationary movement, it is a sign of our modern prosperity that so many humans have the luxury of remaining in their homes communicating on our various electronic computing devices. Many of us in developed countries now need reminders to stand up and move. We also need to remind ourselves to go out and interact with people in-person – in the physical space.
It can be difficult to transmit a sense of empathy over electronic screens through text communications. Even across video-sharing platforms there are still barriers between people – you have an incredibly limited view of what you see around the other person, you cannot smell their environment (your sense of smell is most closely connected to memory), and you cannot touch the other the person (an incredibly important factor in forging connections). The ease at which we can “block” people from our lives is also problematic regarding community-building and maintaining lasting connections. One cannot block a person in real life. IRL, you must deal with a person and all their flaws. Fortunately, the fun part about flaws is that everybody has some; no one is alone in that regard. Perhaps our flaws can be a point of connection in the physical space – let’s all get together and talk about our flaws! 🙂
I value honesty and authenticity above anything else in another person but it seems like, the further we go into a more digital environment, the more rare those qualities become in people. On the world wide web, everyone is crafting an image – a façade – to project to whatever sub-community of which they’re a part. The people putting their real selves out their for the world are drowned out by the people wearing masks and trying to fit into something.
If you want to understand other people, first you must understand yourself, both of which can be a great undertaking.
Today, members of the Capitol Police give testimony (Live Coverage: House Panel Holds First Hearing on Jan. 6 Probe, The Hill Staff, 7/27/2021) in the House of Representatives regarding their experience during the insurrection that occurred on January sixth of this year. Their recollections from that day are vivid and horrifying, they even describe the insurrectionists as domestic terrorists (which I think is an honest description). I think any reasonable person would describe the events of January 6, 2021, as nothing short of a rebellion against the United States government. However, there are still people who would describe the rebels as American patriots while describing the police officers as traitors.
How did Americans become this polarized?
The two majority political parties have seen growing polarization over the past two decades with over a third of voters from each of the parties showing stark (Staff Report, Pew Research, 2021) differences in political opinions. The linked article above shows differences in opinions on voting rights, an arguably staple issue. Only 38% of Republican Party voters favor automatic voter registration of American adults compared to 82% of Democratic Party voters; the same percentage of Republican Party voters are in favor of early voting compared to 84% of Democratic Party voters. Support for differing positions is growing more and more stark within each party.
I think this polarization is tied to two different phenomena in 21st century America. First, the balkanized news media ecosystem in which we find ourselves swimming amid the many electronics screens that dominate our households. We have so many choices of news and commentary channels that we are increasingly retreating into our own ideological bubbles and shutting out any opposing view points. It’s imperative that individuals make efforts to search for sources of information outside of their own ideology (assuming self-awareness of one’s own ideology which can also be difficult to achieve).
The elimination of the Fairness Doctrine (WikiPedia, accessed 7/27/2021) is another contributing factor to political polarization. Repealed in 1987, the Fairness Doctrine (Victor Pickard, The Washington Post, 2021) mandated radio and television broadcasters to present opposing views of allegedly controversial issues to the American public operating under the justification that, because there were so few news broadcasters, a mandate was required to maintain a diversity of opinions (correctly assuming that news media has an significant impact on the political opinions of American voters). The conservative argument to this in the era of digital media is that there are so many outlets for news & commentary today that a government mandate on media organizations is no longer necessary. However, this assumption fails to explain how a handful of companies control (Ashley Lutz, Business Insider, 2012) the legacy media (established news sources like CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, etc.). The fact that more Americans are capable of accessing a plethora of news stations today is beside the point of contention regarding who owns most of those news stations. The digital era presents Americans with more opportunities in news but most of the money still resides with legacy media (not to mention the political parties that influence respective news stations with their war chests). In other words, the laissez faire argument falls flat as usual – Americans cannot rely on private organizations to police themselves or forgo opportunities for profit in pursuit of a public interest. There is also the issue surrounding the advent of digital social media. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook have become primary players in so-called alternative news media but they are technically not broadcaster themselves, not subject to traditional regulations over periodic content.
The second phenomenon that has fueled polarization is the growing influence of money in political processes. American elections have been growing more expensive through our history. Since the start of this century, every national congressional and presidential election has topped (OpenSecrets, accessed 7/27/2021) billions of dollars. A specific Supreme Court case (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Oyez, accessed July 27, 2021) has only exacerbated the issue with election spending growing exponentially since 2010. Concern over large financial interests in elections is nothing new. The first attempt to regulate financial expenditures on elections was the Tillman Act of 1907 (WikiPedia, accessed 7/27/2021). The act, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt prohibited corporations from spending money from their own treasuries on specific election campaigns. Obviously, the Supreme Court of the United States has taken the nation in a different direction since then. Today, independent organizations can spend unlimited amounts of money advocating for a specific political candidate which ensures that people with more money are able to crowd the media air waves with advertisements, effectively shutting out less fortunate voices. I think advocacy for limits on campaign spending by independent organizations could be argued for using the Equal Protection Clause as justification but I’m not a lawyer.
The corrupting influence (OpenSecrets, accessed 7/27/2021) of capitalism on democratic-republicanism is obvious at this point in our history. Donations of $2,500 or more from individual people (large donations) make up the bulk of expenditures to political candidates, donations $200 or less (small donations) make up barely over 10% of all political expenditures. Health insurance companies, for instance, donate (OpenSecrets, accessed 7/27/2021) millions of dollars every cycle to political campaigns. This fact could be one factor in why the United States is the only industrialized country on the planet that does not guarantee a universal healthcare policy to its citizens despite a majority (Bradley Jones, Pew Research, 2020) of Americans supporting universal healthcare.
Oligarchic Intrusion, Apathy, Polarization
The high costs of elections coupled with the overwhelming influence of money in politics has led to a majority of Americans abdicating the civic responsibility of voting (Drew Desilver, Pew Research, 2020) under the justification that votes do not matter as much as in past generations, leaving the democratic to the more ideologically charged activists who are less likely to make strategic compromises with their political opponents. The 2016 elections saw 56% of the voting population turning up on Election Day – that percentage was a slight increase from 2012 but lower than the record year of 2008 when 58% of voters cast a ballot. It’s easy to cast blame onto these apathetic citizens, shrugging them off as lazy and irresponsible, but I think the more significant question is why these citizens feel so disconnected from their own government – from their democratic process. Half the nation feels so disconnected from democracy – from the republic – they don’t know where to turn to make their voice heard and, when large groups of people feel disenchanted, disaffected, and desperate, violence is more common.
I spent five years in a university under the assumption that a college degree was all I needed for a decent life as an adult but I feel as if I gained more life experience in the work force outside of the official academia sphere. This general feeling of dissatisfaction is not uncommon among college graduates and it doesn’t help that the cost of college tuition has more than doubled in the last thirty years (Bill McCarthy, PolitiFact, 2019). 58% of Americans say that college is worth current costs and 72% of Americans are in support of free tuition at public colleges and universities (Staff Report, American Public Media-Research Lab, 2019). So about half of Americans do not think college degrees are worth their price and a super majority of Americans are in support of making colleges cheaper in some capacity. I’m with the super majority who wants cheaper college.
Thinking back on my time in American schools, it’s difficult to credit any of that time with any practical knowledge of adult life. Perhaps the biggest contribution schools made to my professional development was knowledge of how to research information and how to distinguish between different sources of information. Practical specifics like job applications, tax documents, and rental agreements I learned on my own after I left the public school system. I think this is an issue worthy of our collective attention. Schools need to place more emphasis on the practical specifics of life especially junior high & high schools. A high school student should be able to navigate the fundamentals of independent living the day that he/she graduates. Basically, high school should be what college is now.
I think there are two primary strategies for reforming American education. The first strategy is to increase funding for public schools allowing for more opportunities for a wider variety of students as well as mandating free tuition for all citizen applicants and increasing pay for teachers. Taking the emphasis off test-taking and giving each student a more hands-on approach with a more personalized curriculum. The second strategy is basically the opposite approach, to decrease funding for public education forcing schools to re-organize and reallocate their budgets and strip down their curriculums with the intention of rebuilding public schools from necessities. Whereas the former strategy is a more Keynesian approach to public education, the latter strategy is a more laissez faire approach to public education.
A separate issue with American education is not the schools themselves but the civil society in which they exist. I think a particular attitude has developed in the American consciousness around educational institutions: that the institutions are beyond criticism with the belief that a college degree is the only way to to make one’s life “successful.” While I agree that more education can only be an improvement to a person’s life, I do not believe that institutions should hold a monopoly on education; a school and an education are two different things. A good education begins with parents and/or family fostering an inquisitive mindset into children. One idea my mother drilled into me in childhood was to never be afraid to ask a question. I think this invoked a curious nature within me about what kinds of questions to ask which people. Curiosity towards the world around you as well as curiosity regarding how the world has been is necessary for an informed populace. Parents need to be more active in their children’s development and push them to ask questions, perhaps even challenge their teachers.
I do not believe that any one institution (be it educational, governmental, etc.) deserves a people’s absolute and unwavering trust. Any person is susceptible to corruption and, by extension, any institution is susceptible to corruption. It is healthy to question any decision especially if it comes from a position of authority. Wirelessly connected computers and the world wide web have increased access to information on a scale never before seen in human history but despite that, I fear humans are becoming even more ideologically reclusive. It’s as if too many choices in news media is causing people to retreat into their own comforts and biases further balkanizing the political landscape. There must be ways for communities (and the broader society) to foster curiosity and encourage people to step out of their comfort zones. My advice for now, to anyone reading this, is simply to watch less and read more.
“Have you ever thought about what it means to be a god? It means you give up your mortal existence to become a meme: something that lives forever in people’s minds. You barely have your own identity anymore. Instead, you’re a thousand aspects of what people need you to be. And everyone wants something different of you. Nothing is fixed, nothing is stable (Neil Gaiman, American Gods, 2001).”
Humans are very visual with communication often using images to supplement the narrative power of written words. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” says the old phrase and pictures dominate the modern world of digital communications.
The news industry is undergoing a transformation through digital communications and I think the most successful news organizations to come out on top of that transformation will be the organizations that are fully embracing the web, not the organizations that are trying to keep one foot online and the other foot in physical print. As much as I hate to admit it, printed paper is becoming less and less practical and digital platforms are becoming more and more relevant as web culture is slowly expanding through its various influencers, conquering the media landscape. Mobile phones, touch-screen music players, and tablets are the new remote controls of our society.
The ability to search for specific information has become just as important as knowing information and that is a powerful thing for the average person with no defining, exceptional skills. Technology is an amazing equalizer that not only improves your own life but your ability to help others. Of course, technology also has a dystopian element. The so-called gatekeepers – the internet service providers, the search engines, and the speech platforms – now hold immense influence over the decisions of individual people. I think the solution to that is more market choices for consumers as well as effective anti-monopoly laws from governments, but that leads us into a more specific political discussion.
There is no doubt that technology has improved lives for people all over the globe and internet access is a huge part of connecting people with products and services beneficial to altruistic endeavors. Even comedians are utilizing the Web to spread short messages for quick laughs – “memes” as they have been coined. Imagine how a person from the pre-industrial age would spread his idea to a million eyes and ears across just his own country let alone the world. Today, one just has to post on Twitter and, if enough people see it and share it, instant pseudo-celebrity status (for about five minutes).
A computer (including a smart phone, a digital tablet, etc.) is a powerful tool. It should be used to a society’s benefit rather than to dumb down a populace but perhaps I’m writing optimistically.
When I was a child, I did not have a concept of sexual intercourse. I began learning about it around the junior high school age range but, even when I was introduced to the concept, I struggled to understand it and I didn’t really want to understand it. I was more concerned with building some fantasy castle with my LEGO blocks. So, when I see a kid today like 10-year-old Desmond Napoles (“Desmond is Amazing“) making a youthful career out of dressing like a drag queen, I start to wonder about the parenting methods raising that kid. Have these so-called “drag kids” even gone through puberty yet? Do they understand what it means to be sexually attracted to another person? Do they understand how their own sexual development will mature through their teenage years? What is motivating these kids to become drag queens?
Perhaps I have a more traditional attitude regarding sex in media, displaying children in such a sexualized manner seems weird.
I think this commentary from Roaming Millennial covers how I feel about this phenomenon:
The “LGBT” phenomenon seems like a sex cult determined to destroy any boundaries around the intimate activity without thinking about why those boundaries are in place. Maybe sexual expression should be kept between small groups of people who love one another rather than flaunted throughout media like a public event.
Has American politics grown more divisive throughout our history or has it always been bad? How can a person initiate a discourse with their ideological opposite without the discussion morphing into a monster of insults and character assassinations?
Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in his book, The Prince, that a primary goal of any national leader is to avoid a civil within his own country. Based on that pragmatic view, has the United States of America failed as a nation because it could not avoid a civil war?
The Democratic Party is moving further to the political Left, embracing more collectivist modes of ideology and doubling down on their identitarian activism. Today’s typical “Progressive” is now a caricature of my generation (Generation Y, the millennial generation) and it’s embarrassing; from screaming at Republican senators in the nation’s capital, to banging on the door of the Supreme Court of the United States after the confirmation of a new conservative-leaning Justice, to forcefully shutting down academic events hosting conservative speakers, it is apparent that Leftists (not liberals) are becoming more radicalized in this strange post-truth era.
How did we get here?
I think it started with internet connections and the World Wide Web which dramatically increased access to information for the general public. Greater access combined with more diversity is a double-edged sword in media because, with more choices of programs, confirmation bias becomes more prevalent; individuals will naturally gravitate toward programs that confirm what they already believe. This is why it is so important to make an effort to seek out points of view alternate to your own. The American public is currently experiencing the negative, balkanizing effects of confirmation bias.
What’s the solution?
I think the solution to our wide-spread confirmation bias ironically involves the very tools that encouraged this virus of the mind, although it also requires a change in mindset in each individual. We need to consider different sources, the motivations behind particular narratives, and power bases behind specific media companies. The ideological leanings of a journalist or commentator affects their news coverage as does the primary financing of an organization. In short, we need to be more skeptical.
Skepticism requires curiosity and acting on curiosity requires initiative. Journalist Tim Pool points out one the most stark differences between the political Left and Right today: the Left generally has no qualms with alienating individuals whom disagree with their mainstream narratives while the Right is constantly seeking out disagreements for the sake of discourse – the Left pushes people away with their dislike for nuance while the Right is actively recruiting people. This new inclusiveness on the Right will likely lead to a new conservative movement among younger Americans. We’re already seeing rising conservative media outlets catapulting young and energetic talking heads to national fame – figures like Ben Shapiro, Tomi Lahren, Roaming Millennial, and Dave Rubin are immensely popular with young people partly because they don’t condescend young people about how “oppressed” they are by forces beyond one’s control. A general narrative on the Right is one of an individualistic spirit of exploration and invention endemic in American history.
Liberalism was once the champion of individualism and personal liberty but liberalism has been corrupted by its own hubris. Leftists coming to dominate the fields of entertainment became obsessed with the appearance of diversity while ignoring diversity’s most important facet: the intellect. Now, the intellectually lazy neo-liberals are being beaten in the marketplace of ideas by their Right-wing counterparts who still see value in showcasing diverse opinions regardless of appearances and communicating across ideologies. If the Left wants to have a fighting chance in this new media landscape of individualism and curiosity, I think they need to rediscover liberalism and the intellectual traditions of Western civilization – from Hammurabi’s Code, to the oratory of Pericles, to the revelations of the Enlightenment, to the rational populism of Presidents Roosevelt.
The website Poynter, which specializes in journalism news and education, published a selection of excerpts of various editorials curated together from several newspapers across the country. The curation had a theme: opposition to President Trump.
Click the image below to be redirected to the curation.
Newspapers should be oppositional to governments because opposition and dissent is fundamental to the concept of free speech, but opposition should not be the sole purpose of an organization. Standing opposed to something is easy, standing for something is usually more difficult.
Chicago Sun Times: “We are the enemy of societal failings.”
What does that mean? What societal failings? Can newspapers decide what makes a society fail?
I don’t think news organizations should not be proselytizing a particular ideology, they should simply be outlets for truth (facts only).
The “enemy of racism?”
There will always be racism and bigotry in any society, that is a part of human nature. To hate is a part of being human. To fight against racism is to fight against a part of humanity. Ideologues with a utopian vision of a so-called “perfect society” fight against their view of evil by fighting against the darker sides of human nature in an attempt to mold humans into a tool for their utopia. Instead of moralizing about human emotions, we need to accept the positive aspects of our humanity with the more negative aspects and live with a decent balance.
Throughout the United States, the age for sexual consent ranges between 16 years and 18 years. In my state (New Mexico), the age consent in 17 years. Consent laws are reasonable enough – they are a deterrent against adults seeking to take advantage of a child usually in a sexual manner. Prosecutions are carried out under these laws regardless of any defense made by the child (or children) for the predator(s). It is generally understood that if you have sex with a person whom has not come of age, you’ve committed a crime regardless of your under-age partners pleas on your behalf. The case of Roman Polanski (1978) is a famous example of this kind of crime.
Why are the words of the under-aged not taken into account during these kinds of criminal cases? Because it is also generally understood that young humans with under-developed brains lack the full capacity to reason due to the fact that the frontal lobe of the human brain is the last part of the brain to develop in adolescence.
In short, children are (generally) stupid. This is why children must receive their parents’ permission to sign legally binding contracts as well as wait until a specific age to receive a drivers’ license or vote for their representatives in our governments. A child’s under-developed brain combined with their short supply of life experience prevent them from comprehending the long-term consequences of their actions.
All this said, why does there seem to be a growing consensus among the LGBTQ(+ whatever) movement in favor of medical emancipation of children from their parents? Why should a child be able to permanently alter their body because he puts on a dress one day? Children say something one day and say the opposite the next day, may do something one day and do something contradictory the next day, because children rarely think beyond one fleeting moment. Children are notorious for their short-attention spans as well as their fervor in fighting to get what they want in any one moment. So, why don’t we let children live on their own, handling their own money, making important decisions that will impact the rest of their lives? Because children are incapable of thinking a decision through to the rest of their lives. Parents take care of their kids for 18+ years because the kids do not know how to live on their own yet.
If a child is unable to consent to sexual intercourse, why should they be allowed to permanently alter their sexual organs?
“Biological sex is not assigned. Sex is determined at conception by our DNA and is stamped into every cell of our bodies. Human sexuality is binary. You either have a normal Y chromosome, and develop into a male, or you don’t, and you will develop into a female. There are at least 6,500 genetic differences between men and women. Hormones and surgery cannot change this.
An identity is not biological, it is psychological. It has to do with thinking and feeling. Thoughts and feelings are not biologically hardwired. Our thinking and feeling may be factually right or factually wrong (Michelle Cretella, The Daily Signal (2017).”
One more thing on these transgender post-modernists who often make the absurd claim that there is no such thing as biological sex. If sex and and gender are socially constructed, then how can sexism be real?