Sunday, June 24, 2018

When Facebook Becomes Blogging

So this article is not good, but it basically arrives at the crux of where we all are as a country. America's despair, perhaps the world's in general, is not a result of finding too little meaning in life, there's evidence all around us every day that we find too much meaning in our activities - everything is weighed in the balance of whether or not this or that activity of ours serves this or that cause. Our despair is not a problem of too little meaning, but a problem of too much expectation. Belief in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness teaches us that we should be able to achieve, or at least do, what we want. But the evidence is everywhere, our lives are not going to be what we hoped they were. Everybody has to, at some point or in some way, make their peace with that. The belief that we, as individuals, are important enough that we can and should have the opportunities we never got is what leads many people to political radicalism. Ironically, millions of people everywhere, in the pursuit of being able to create a sense of self that fits better with our hopes of what life can one day be, renounce an enormous swath of their personalities to this or that cause, and the only words which escape their mouths are the ones which a particular party line wishes for them to say. This party line doesn't have to be political either, it can be a corporate line or a religious line too, but all of them make the same promise: if you give up the most essential part of yourself to our group, the self you get back from your investment in us will be much better than you could ever get if you just were content to be yourself. It's inevitably a lie, but billions of people fall for it. The human soul is resilient enough that it can live with a stunning amount of despair, even if the despair is not worth putting up with, but the despair many fewer people can live with is the moment when they realize that everything they believed in until this moment is a lie, and they have nothing to fall back on. There's a lot of tragedy in life, and there's no way of shielding yourself from it completely. The better you feel, the more distance you can fall, and in this historical moment when we are so particularly in between existential triumph and tragedy, the anxiety is particularly acute. Thee moment when science is nearly able to conquer aging may be the same moment when they no longer can produce antibiotics that work. The moment we can 3-D print every material we need to survive may be the moment when our material goods wipe the planet into extinction. The moment all manner of oppressed groups can emerge from the darkness to take the opportunities denied them so long is the moment a vast authoritarian backlash makes this era particularly dangerous for them. The moment the internet brings the entire world together is the moment the entire world decides to kill each other. Every achievement and opportunity has its dark side, and we can ultimately transcend every problem except the condition of existence itself, which is that there are so many trillions of variables that we cannot ever expect to have true control over the direction of our fates. In Vienna, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where World War I began, suicide was so prevalent among intellectuals that it was talked of almost like an art form. An uptick in suicides is like a seismograph of mass irrationality. The more you demand the world to be rational, the more irrational acts you'll be willing to countenance when it becomes clear that the world will not cede to your demands.
This does not mean that people near suicide are anything but deserving of compassion, but it does mean that we are all creating the circumstances through which many people decide that the world is too difficult to cope with. By creating expectations of what life is supposed to be that are too high to ever be met, the shame people feel from the distance between who we are and whom we think we should be becomes unbearable to live with. This, rather than meaning, is what makes the world too difficult to bear.

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