Time for a new way to behave
By Mike Meyer
As often happens I realize I’ve been talking around a point that is really the immediate point. We, that is America, has been brought down to a level that leaves us at the mercy of the lowest people in our culture. And that must be said with the understanding that we can all be brought to act in ways that we find repulsive. It’s the problem of the wrong friends as we all have told our kids and been told by our parents. Do you want to act like them? Yeah, yeah they say because they know the right answer but don’t want to admit it.
Then, at some point, they see the “friends” do something stupid or hateful and they understand. With luck they aren’t caught up in a tragedy and start being careful about who they follow and who they call friends. We need to start doing this everywhere and that means online, too.
We have a number of major cultural problems and a failed political system but we are not bad people. Much of the staying power of the democratic ideals that have come to govern the majority of people on this planet is the result of decades of American actions around the planet that went high when others went low. That is the part that is being drowned out now and that, too, is a problem.
Underlying these problems, I think, is a century or more of guilt over what we have not done at home. The irony is that we are far too afraid to face the reality of humanity. We insist on the ideal that everyone is good and equal but because we have looked the other way for centuries of racism, bigotry, and misogyny and have allowed a portion of our population to get away with these things as their ‘freedom’, we refuse to see those people as bad people. Those are not freedoms.
People are not all good. There is a percentage of the human population that are just bad people. There is a bigger portion of those that might not be really bad but are just ‘sorry ass people’. As in ‘sorry your ass is here’. They are not criminals or truly hateful but just not the people you want your kids playing with and who are the neighbors you wouldn’t ask to watch your house. In fact they are the ones you would ask your house watchers to keep an eye on.
This has nothing to do with race, ethnicity, gender in any form, or religion. Although the last can be a part of the problem. It’s old human folk knowledge that their are few people less trustworthy than the openly religious.
We know this at the level of our daily lives. But we hold back and refuse to say it in public. That played well in traditional communities because everyone learned fairly quickly and a whispered warning was the best way to avoid problems. Don’t let Preacher John alone with your daughters. Ben talks Jesus but don’t loan him your tools. And we don’t talk about what Uncle Ed does in his barn when he gets a chance.
These are usually not big crimes but ways of avoiding problems and keeping community awareness on potential causes of trouble. In traditional human society that worked. But not in combined virtual societies. We live in a very different world that has never existed before but the old lessons apply now also. We need to learn how to adapt to our new societies.
We live in a planetary mesh of virtual societies that are not like big cities but more like layers of communities. But they give us all power to communicate and find connections, increasingly, planet wide. We know this is very different now because it played a role in the disastrous 2016 election as a critical number of people were fooled in thinking they could follow the old social rules. We are now very worried about how to police these societies that are everywhere and no where. But the old traditions don’t work for these new, virtual communities.
We have allowed the worst, who are often the noisiest, to dominate the new. Let’s put this bluntly. Those who have dominated the new American communal conversations have been the worst of us. They are often the sorry ass and bad people. We see them in the news all the time. They’re the ones who call the police on their neighbors because they aren’t white. They’re the ones who laugh at Trump imprisoning children. Let’s be honest about these people. Folks, with few exceptions, these sorry ass people are not going to get better. They are the ones that make a good neighborhood go bad. They’re the ones that turn a good company into a disaster. They are only a minority but they are everywhere and there are enough of them to cause lots of trouble.
What do the rest of us do? Hold back. The reasons: a) I don’t want to get into those conversations so I just don’t say anything. b) Those people don’t represent me so why should I say anything? c) My mother told me if you can’t say anything good don’t say anything at all.
We need and are starting to get a new etiquette. The silence of decorum is now deadly. We live in a massively social world in which people can and do communicate widely and wildly. This is not small town rules wherever you live. This is the era of planetary social networks with people you never see and may be working to make you do something you wouldn’t want to do if you were being careful.
Look at the people under thirty now and how they deal with social media. They have problems but they don’t shut up. If they have to they shut down an account and start another one. We need to say what we think and we will discover that the great majority of good people don’t like the shit that is going on with Trump and his white supremacists. All the noise is coming from the sorry ass minority. They’ve got the bit in their teeth and are pulling our society into the ditch. The majority are being polite and have gotten a fascist society for their troubles.
In this world you need to drown out the sorry ass people who want the world brought down to their level. They have almost won. They are not anything but a small minority. In a fully open democracy the majority is important. The minority can be heard but they should never be louder than the majority and we must trust that. We’re spooked by the very evil that these sorry ass people are getting away with. We need to change.
You don’t have to shout and swear. You just need to always call out lies and bad attitudes. Let people know where you stand. Bad people can sometimes be helped but mostly they just need to feel the pressure of the majority of people who care about how things really should be with honesty, compassion, and mindfulness. Sorry ass people know it when they are out numbered so they try to fit in.
That’s what we want. We need to force the sorry ass people to feel shame at what they do. If we don’t tell them they will just keep doing things until the world falls on their heads and ours, too. We must speak our minds and our hearts while we still can. Trump and his cronies will make that a crime as soon as they can. We need to try to change this now though we’re almost too late.