In pondering the political football that COVID-19 became and I keep going back to a couple of memories. Both occurred well before COVID or even Trump.
The first was in 1999 or so. We were in the middle of a drought and a co-worker told me he would stop watering his lawn when the reservoir dried out.
The second was in 2012 when a person protested having to rinse out a milk jug before recycling it, complaining how ridiculous it was to have to clean garbage.
Both these cases of people who can’t be bothered with the welfare of others or the planet stuck with me. Your right to have a green lawn is more important than a glass of water for the thirsty? Taking a minute to swish a couple of tablespoons of water in a plastic container is more difficult than worrying about the future?
I shook my head and took it in stride, but today the people screaming, ‘but muh freedoms’, drown out any sensible voices. The thing is, those voices had already been yelling, I just didn’t notice it.
It’s wasn’t the politics of grievance, it was the politics of pettiness and it’s been nurtured for a long time. It’s shrill and, thanks to social networks everywhere, not just the words of some guy in the break room.
All I can share is my experience (which can also deceive you) and almost sixty years turning around the sun. Things come and go, but the undercurrent of selfishness has always been there. All those self-seeking voices being elevated can make you feel helpless.
I hate to be a downer, but things are bad in the good ol’ USA. A bunch of people running around claiming they have the answer because some knucklehead said it in a podcast.1
I could talk about checking for confirmation bias (including my own), finding primary sources, and that sort of thing. The problem is even if you are doing your due diligence, the people screaming the loudest, are not.2
A whole lot of people have been taught that selfishness is patriotism. That their personal rights trump yours. I will be honest, that has broken my heart. There was once a call to the ‘common good’ is now replaced with ‘what’s good for me’.
We are left with people who can’t be bothered to worry about their fellow citizens. People that care only about immediate gratification and not the future. People will keep watering their lawns every day until the reservoir is dry.
Like I said; it breaks my heart.
This is an old trick as pointed out by Garry Kasparov, having watched the rise of Putin in his own country. The point of blanketing the world in shit is to wear you out. That the truth is unknowable, and rather than radicalizing people, it turns them off.
The radicalized carry the message, to be sure, but if a third to half of the population is disengaged? Mischief will be made, every single time.
It is, of course, easier to diagnose a problem than to fix it. But, like a frog in a boiling pot, all those years ago, I should have noticed that they were turning up the fire. Now, we are, well, where we are. An ongoing pandemic and a warming world. I didn’t really listen before and, now? I repeat:
It breaks my heart.
1. I get the irony of me writing this, but to all my fellow boomers; Not everything that comes into your mind is some great truth that you must share with the world. Sometimes (most the time, really), it’s okay to say “I don’t know.”
2. There is a whole conversation that is to be had about overwhelming people with bad, mis, or disinformation. The Trump strategist, Steve Bannon, called it flooding the zone with shit.