I woke this morning feeling more defeated than usual. I can’t tell if I’ve finally succumbed to the mounting evidence that I am a representative of the world’s most contemptible demographic, pushing a toxic culture which is responsible for nearly all of the pain and suffering throughout history, or if it's just that I feel fat today.
Yet another sexual misconduct scandal involving one of my heroes dominated the news cycle yesterday. I can’t tell if the pain in my heart has to do with the shame I feel for my initial reaction to the story, in which I downplayed, dismissed, and outright disbelieved the allegations, probably because I refused to accept anything negative about a famous person whom I admire . . . or if it’s just simple heartburn from that Family-Sized Microwave Stouffer’s Lasagna that I wolfed down by myself last night.
My feelings about this Louis CK mess are complicated. They're much more complicated than the vast majority of my social media contacts would ever approve. My own powers of articulation have never been top notch anyway, so I don't feel confident that I could ever persuade anyone to seeing my point of view anyhow. And, as it has also been pointed out to me time and time again, as a straight white cis-gendered male, my voice has been the dominant perspective disseminated throughout history, causing untold amounts of pain and suffering to those with points of view less represented, so maybe it would be best for me to keep quiet and just listen to what others have to say for the remainder of my life. Prudent though this advice may be, this line of thinking has me feeling constipated with self-expression . . . or it could just be actual constipation. I can’t even remember the last time I ate a vegetable. Do extra mushrooms and olives on a meat-lover’s supreme count? God, I hope so.
I also don’t want to just fall completely in line with what the popular culture dictates. I have serious misgivings about how identity politics, social media, and our increasingly polarized political landscape have affected our ability to accurately see and hear each other. These misgivings I have are shared with a great number of my friends, many of whom are members of the communities that the social justice crowd purports to want to help. These friends have also expressed their hesitation in expressing anything publicly about any hot-button topic for fear that no matter how articulated their opinion, how well-researched their facts, or how good their intentions, they will be branded a traitor to the cause. No one wants to risk being sent out to pasture in that desolate void somewhere between “social ostracization” and “total annihilation of life and career.” Is it possible that everyone who feels this way also happened to down two pints of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Ice Cream, like I did, within the last ten hours and is now paying the price? Ugh...
I think this is the root of why I’m feeling such bitter alienation toward the world. I am afraid that we care more about belonging to the right team and using our political ideologies as social capital than we care about testing our beliefs against their strongest antagonists to either improve upon them or to find a closer approximation to the truth. I feel like we may never find common ground with anyone ever again. We may therefore fail to solve or improve upon any more problems going forward. We may well just keep bickering and silently judging each other, retreating to our mutual echo-chambers for the warm light of unchallenging validation while we plough through an entire bag of Double Stuffed Oreos and a jug of whole milk until we die. I'm afraid that my entire generation lacks the empathy, compassion, courage, honesty, and intellectual fortitude it takes to hear out and understand a contrary opinion beyond the point of sacrificial straw-man because, in our hearts, our desire to feel smart and righteous far outweighs our desire to build a better world... I'm also afraid that I might be pre-diabetic.
I don't know. Maybe this feeling in my stomach is a natural response to the realization that our species is approaching an existential, spiritual, moral, and intellectual crisis. Or it could be that I haven't had a really good poop in, like, a month.
It really could be either one. It’s impossible to tell.