In previous posts I’ve written about the futility of political outrage as well as about the evils of political correctness and how to be free of it. In this essay, I want to approach these topics from a different angle and expound on why both political outrage and the political correctness liberals thrust upon us are not worth anyone’s time, including yours.
Instead of focusing our attention on the true problems in our lives, we tend to distract ourselves with political arguments that provide no net value. I don’t mean discussing political ideas as a hobby, I mean emotional arguments over politics. Our society’s biggest problems are not even on the election ballot, either in the form of a candidate or referendum, so in arguing about politics we are majoring in our minors.
Take two examples: Americans are drowning in debt and unhealthy foods. When was the last time you saw either of those issues on the ballot or heard a candidate address them in a speech? I know in New York they passed a law limiting the size of soda cups a few years ago. Examples like that seem few and far between, though, and they’re generally local issues only. At the national level, our politicians don’t talk about Americans’ personal debt or the obesity epidemic in our country (even though healthcare costs would probably be lower if we were a healthier country).
Debt, health, and even broken relationships are three of the things most likely to keep the average American up at night. But instead of focusing our energy on these problems, we waste it arguing with each other on social media about things that have little to no effect on our everyday lives, sometimes creating more broken relationships in the process. The only reason I can think of that we do this is because it’s far easier to argue on social media than it is to try to fix our problems. It’s as if getting mad about politics is an outlet for our emotions, even while it prevents us from addressing the issues putting us in that emotional state to begin with.
An integral piece of these political fights is the set of political, ideological, and philosophical labels we attach to ourselves and to others. I call these “-isms”—basically any word that ends in -ist or -ism. While an -ism has utility as a way to summarize a set of ideas, we spend a lot of time labeling ourselves with -isms, defending them, or labeling others with -isms and then attacking them. To me, a lot of -isms just boil down to theories about abstract “boogeyman” forces somewhere out there in the ether trying to “get” us. When you take a step back and look at it from a high level view, it looks ridiculous, and the average person simply doesn’t live their life with this kind of unhealthy preoccupation.
For example, I consider myself a capitalist. I believe that capitalism is the most effective economic system available. The only reason I would need to use that word, though, would be to summarize my views in opposition to other views. In reality, most Americans live like capitalists but see no need to publicly identify themselves as such. Now suppose someone tells you they’re a socialist. Socialism has its textbook definition of government ownership of the means of production of goods. But what does them being a socialist actually look like? They vote for far left candidates, argue on social media that socialism is better, go to protests, and engage in other political activities. But what about their enormous student loan balance, the broken relationship(s) in their life, and their health problems? What does their being a socialist, or my being a capitalist, do about those things? Even socialism doesn’t purport to improve medical care, it just purports to make it free or less expensive. And medical care is only one aspect of your health. In reality, all their exertion about being a socialist has done nothing to improve their life (other than maybe meeting like-minded friends). So my point is that it’s basically a huge waste of time to go around touting our chosen -isms or putting labels on others. Why are we doing this when there are much more important things we could be doing with our time, and even other, more effective forms of R&R in case we’re just doing it because we’re bored?
This leads us an inherent flaw of liberalism: It needs perpetual outrage in order to survive. Anger is its lifeblood. That alone shows that liberalism is fundamentally unnatural, because human beings are not designed to live in a state of perpetual outrage. Liberals have devised an entire zodiac of oppressive forces, but if you listen to them explain it, it just sounds like abstract theories about something “out there.” Rarely can they cite a personal experience of oppression at the hands of malevolent forces. In reality, their everyday lives are not much different than anyone else’s except for all the time they spend arguing about their political beliefs. Imagine what they could accomplish if they stopped caring and spent that time and energy solving the problems that keep them up at night, like finances, health, and relationships. And to be fair, there are plenty of conservatives and Trumpists making the exact same mistake by making everything about politics.
Most things in politics can’t hurt us unless we believe they can. That’s practically the definition of an illusion. But in the ivory tower of liberalism’s thought leaders, oppression must be invented and exaggerated in order to generate sufficient emotion among the rank-and-file to keep the movement going…and to continue providing liberal academics with posh positions… and reinforce the self-licking ice-cream cone of liberal media elitism… and funnel money to Democratic politicians. So the ivory tower liberal elites invent or exaggerate oppression, funnel it down to the grassroots level, and eventually it ends up in your News Feed, where the greatest achievement of humanity—Facebook arguments—can then begin making the world a better place…not.
Like I wrote about in my essay on freeing yourself from political correctness, you must learn to care about politics less. For anyone like me who enjoys the intellectual stimulation of politics, you must learn to keep it as a hobby instead of as an overlord. The key is how emotionally invested you are or aren’t. I wrote my recent essay on Singapore and multiculturalism because I enjoyed doing so, not because I was angry. That’s a big difference between politics as a hobby vs. an emotional flashpoint in your life. When I was going to GW, in one of my classes we were making observations about how angry people were getting about the 2016 election. One of my (liberal) classmates complained that this anger was unnecessary and unhelpful. “I get on social media to get mad,” he observed, in a moment of honesty that made us all laugh because we could all relate.
I could get really upset about liberal shenanigans if I really wanted to. I’ve been quite angry about it before. And I really do believe that if Hillary Clinton had won, we’d be well on our way to devolving into a corrupt, quasi-socialist, third-world banana republic. But my political anger has never accomplished anything except elevating my stress level and worsening my mood. It makes no sense to do this to ourselves when we a) already know how we’re going to vote next time, b) have volunteered if we wanted to, and c) have donated money if we wanted to. Voting, volunteering, and giving money are the main ways to affect a political campaign. If we choose not to do those things, great, but it makes no sense to complain if there’s more you could be doing but you aren’t doing it. If you don’t care enough to do those things, why are you complaining? I thought you didn’t care? And if you have done those things, there’s no use getting stressed out then either because you’ve already done all you can do. So you see that it never really makes sense to get stressed out about politics, and the same logic applies to our “-isms” or the “-isms” we affix to others or that they affix to themselves. Our society has a lot of problems and we sort of look ridiculous spending so much time arguing with each other about politics when it’s not the main culprit of our unhappiness. Politics has become a way we distract ourselves—just another form of quick & easy entertainment, and one that reaches across all our devices.
In conclusion, you can live above the “-isms ” by not stressing out about politics and, just as importantly, by not letting others project their “-isms” onto you. Consider “-isms” to be figments of the imagination until proven otherwise. (Although, don’t say that to their adherents.) Just don’t let it affect you and live freely with a free mind. Don’t be a cog in the outrage machine.