No need to be coy here, I’ll admit it. There is something viscerally gratifying about putting people in their place. Nothing feeds the ego more and satiates the id as much as clapping back at people who try to shine at our expense. I’m sure even the most enlightened among us have a hard time returning slights with smiles. It’s just human nature to get defensive and lash back when others say something offensive and lash at us. Yet this habit of retorting with scorn against those who try to invert our happiness with their cynicism has become toxic and is poisoning the public airwaves—we have become a society of spite and snark.
Nowhere is this contemptuous conniption of ours more evident than when we are discussing politics and governance. Egged on by a corporate media that has monetized injustice and a political class that turned outrage into a business model to get elected and grab more power, we are devolving into the abyss of pejoratives and ad hominem. Matching wits is passe, we now just throw match sticks at our opponents and hope they catch on rhetorical fire. Aided by technology, we have become a Balkanized society where people seek out like minded thinkers and lambaste anyone who dares to think differently.
Social media once promised to Democratize information and connect people who would otherwise never talk to one another. Sadly, it a norm for social media to be used to terrorize each other with information. Algorithms and group think condition us to fortify what we already know and disregard as “fake news” anything that runs counter to the dogmas we adore. Wisdom is a tree that needs to be continually nourished by the water of new knowledge. If we are not being challenged to think differently and instead only gather with people who feed into our preconceived notions, we let the tree of wisdom wither as our minds atrophy. Public discourse is being drowned by the monsoon of infantile tantrums.
I write this article in light of the GIF above that I saw this morning on Gab. It was a meme meant to disparage liberals in the most mean spirited way possible. It has become acceptable to malign people who struggle with cognitive disorders and use mental health issues as bazookas to blast political opponents. All sides engage in this level of juvenile behavior (see the picture blow); slurs like “libtards” and “rethugs” are freely tossed about to lampoon “the other side”. This is the problem with accepting an ideology or a label; the minute you frame your outlook through the prism of a particular philosophy, by extension you have to view those who don’t belong in your camp as enemies who need to be either converted or conquered. Invectives have become the lingua franca of America.
Politics is tribalism on steroids. This is why our nation is crumbling at the seams and why we get pillaged by the two equally bankrupt political parties in the District of Caligula (what I now call our nation’s capital). Both parties pay lip service to change only to work in tandem behind the scenes to screw all of us. Tragically, too many people are blinded by partisan hoods to realize how they are getting hoodwinked by their political idols. With each passing day, the temperature keeps getting turned up as some of the most odious insults are hurled back and forth between grown adults. The days of elders teaching the youth are long gone; we have some septuagenarians who revert to taunts that make teenagers blush—Donald Trump is just a reflection of what society has become.
As I was writing this article, I was labeled a “Russian bot” because I dared to compare the mendacity of Obama’s monetary policies to the insidious Republican tax cut [read The First Bank President]. We live in a paradigm where taking a nuanced position and calling out the hypocrisy of a party or an ideology is paid back with sledgehammers and blow torches. Instead of encouraging a free exchange of ideas, thought policing and guilt by association is aiming to silence debate and originality. As we blame others of being sheep, we only want to stay with our herd as we bleat to the ideologies and talking points of the establishment. The status quo has figured out the most brilliant way to quell a public uprising; they get us to monitor ourselves and to invalidate our voices by using rhetorical violence as weapons of mass nullification.
The Soviets used to call unthinking loyalists who let themselves be used “useful idiots”. The Democrats and Republicans use a veiled yet more insulting label as they call their most loyal followers their “base”—as in the beneath of the parties. Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, was partaking in this exact form of malicious paternalism today on C-SPAN as he took to the podium to say how Democrats should not seek corporate contributions if they don’t cater to their base first. The crowd was eating it up as they clapped for talking points that were most likely written by speech writers who vote for Republicans. This is what too many of us don’t see, the political infighting in DC and the back and forth we see between Republicans and Democrats is nothing but staged drama. Once the cameras are turned off and the klieg lights are dimmed, the DNC and RNC stop screaming at each other and congratulate one another for a con job well done.
Both sides of the partisan and ideological divide get paid by their plutocratic masters and their corporate patrons to foist this never ending political slug fest upon the rest of us. Instead of saying enough and reclaiming our government, we eat up the anthrax laced red meat both parties throw at us. Like Pavlov’s dog, we salivate when the next political controversy is ginned up and attack one another the minute Fox News or MSNBC broadcast the latest and breaking outrage narrative. In short order, we glom on to the “news” of the day and sprint to social media to vilify and maul each other. All fire and no light, as we burn each other to a crisp, behind the scenes bureaucrats and think tanks cook up new policies that transfers yet more wealth away from the vast majority of us into the pockets of the establishment and their aristocratic chieftains. From a hustler who promised hope and change to an ogre who lies about making America great again, identity politics is preventing us from seeing the true source of injustice that is fleecing all of us.For the record, I’m not saying that there is not a place for condemnation nor am I saying that we should be singing Kumbaya. There is a reason why people are up in arms. We are led by millionaires in Congress and a petulant billionaire in the White House who are all puppets of the American oligarchy. We should be focused like a laser on the policies both immoral parties keep enacting and the legislation that they pass that is turning America into Qatar for the top 1% and a developing nation for the rest of us. Instead of uniting to say no to the malfeasance of both parties, we misdirect our anger, wage crusades on fellow victims and loosen pestilences on those who struggle just like us. What the ruling class and their robber barons masters fear the most is the children of once cotton pickers and the descendants of coal miners, for the impoverished masses on all sides, coming together as one to defend our common interests. This is why they keep splintering us with separable grievances. It’s like we are back in the Roman empire where the gentry are watching gladiators fight—they are laughing at all of us as we bloody one another with the cudgels of ideologies and politics.
Perhaps we are going about this all wrong. Too many of us are demanding change and protesting one injustice or another. But we keep looking outwardly to fight for equality while we ignore the bigger battle inside. Mahatma Gandhi once said that we must be the change we want to see in the world. If our objective is to prove ourselves right and to elevate our egos, we will just keep feeding into the machine of hubris and pride that is the source of conflict throughout the world. It might sound trite to say this, but love really is the only way we can hope to bend the arc of history towards justice. So we must fill up our hearts with love and heal from within if we are to change the world as we want. Unless we mend within ourselves, we will continue to get what we have.
Heal within; love without. Instead of bashing each other, imagine if we actually shared each other’s struggles. I’m trying to lead by example instead of preaching from the pulpit by sharing my story and two year dance with indigence in the video below. What if we all made it our purpose to share our travels and how we overcame obstacles so that others who struggle can know that they are not alone in this journey called life. Why not use social media to overcome injustice instead of spreading yet more strife. Martin Luther King once said that hate can’t drive out hate and that darkness can’t drive out darkness—only love can mend this world. Let us not fight for justice but unite be love for the sake of it. Or else the zeitgeist of animus that is consuming our planet will only get worse. America has been turned into a barrel and the bottom 99% are the crabs caged in it. Instead of uniting to claw at the barrel that is oppressing us, we claw at each other and then wonder why nothing gets done by our leaders. Our leaders are getting paid handsomely to incite our emotions and then sit back and watch as we unleash torpedoes upon each other. Neighbor against neighbor, siblings against siblings; politics is tearing us, our families and our nation apart. Until we learn to disagree without being disagreeable and until we can be more loyal to ideas than to ideologies, we will keep getting the government we deserve—Trump is the man in the mirror who is a projection of US. #LibtardAndRethug
“If the machine of government is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Henry” ~ David Thoreau
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.