Part 3: And how do we get out of it?
One of the reasons we are forced to narrow our view of the world in order to make it a more comfortable place to live, is that our minds and bodies have not kept up with the massive changes we have exposed them to, especially over the past century.
As a result, features such as our fight/flight reaction and other physiological attributes are no longer ways of keeping us healthy and alive. Instead, they are making many of us sick, by causing toxic levels of anxiety over issues that are not life threatening, and may not even be all that dangerous. And that is because we are still reacting to a world that no longer exists, and in ways our tribal ancestors would have – ways that were often created to help preserve the safety and integrity of the tribe.
Meanwhile we live in a world that is far too complex to function within the such simplistic and tribal political confines.
Those tribal ways of looking at our world have become totally obsolete.
As my main character Charlie Wyatt explains, those tribal/nationalistic ways of looking at ourselves, our relationships, and our world, have become totally obsolete:
“After all, how can we continue to think that way, when we can no longer live our entire lives within our own little world, with each of our tribes in its own little valley? We now live in a global age – with a global economy and a global climate and a global culture, creating a single solitary global world.”
That is why we feel our political institutions are failing us.
That reality is likely why many of us now feel that our political and other institutions are failing us. Which itself points to one more aspect of our world which Trump has not only exposed, but exploited – and in a very big way.
Because it seems pretty clear the Republican party is no longer the party it once was. It is now Trump’s party. And Trump, as a political actor, has become a force unto himself. As a result, the kinds of issues Americans face in the political realm are not so much about border security or COVID-19 or any other external threat to the nation. The issue is Trump. And the partisan dividing line is Trump. So it is not so much one party versus another, or one point of view versus another. It is Trump versus anti-Trump.
Which means the institutions we once relied upon for resolving our political disputes are no longer in a position to do that, certainly not in the way they might have a few decades ago. And they may never be in that position again – not when you consider the direction the country and the world have been heading in recent years.
Politics as we now know it is primarily being practiced on the platforms of social media.
In part that is because politics as we now know it is not being practiced in the halls of congress. Instead, it is being practiced on the platforms of social media.
That is where the so-called arguments are being laid out and opinions formed, because that is where the most influential debate is taking place. And as a result, that is where even our politicians look to determine their thinking on the issues – if not their approach to politics as a whole.
Which means it is mainly the nature of those platforms and the tenor of the discussions they generate, that have created the no-compromise, no-deal-making kind of politics that now dominates congress, and increasingly parliaments and other political forums around the world.
If the medium is the message, the message of our social media is anger, hatred, chaos and dysfunction.
That is what our technology has done to us. That is how it has shaped, and is shaping our world. As Marshall McLuhan put it a half century ago, “The medium is the message.” And the message of our social media is anger, hatred, chaos and dysfunction.
And that is just one more reason we feel so totally at sea in the world in which we live. It is a world that is threatening us in whole new ways, and in ways we do not have the capacity to deal with, or even fully comprehend. As a result, our natural reactions are letting us down. Our physiology is letting us down. Our common sense and intuition are letting us down. And fact-based, rational, scientific thinking seems to be no help at all.
Which seems to suggest that bringing some semblance of order and functionality, if not comradery to our world, means we can not continue to beat each other over the head with facts and counter-facts – let alone factoids, alternative facts and pseudo-facts. Instead, we need to find a way to interact with each other in ways that no longer trigger the kinds of responses that are making us sick, and even killing us.
So how do we do that? How do we get ourselves out of this mess?
We need to take a good long look at the effects of social media.
The first thing we need to do is to take a good long look at the one aspect of our world that is doing more than any other to create the kinds of socio-political problems that now dominate our world. And that means taking a look at the effects of social media. And we need to do that in a way that will allow us to discover what we can do to make those platforms less vitriolic, partisan and corrosive – in other words, less destructive of ourselves and our world.
And while there has been a lot of discussion around that very subject in recent years, that only serves to point out the seriousness with which we see the problem, as well as the ineffectiveness with which we have been dealing with that problem. If our solutions were so effective, then why do those problems still persist?
Because the truth is, none of what has been tried has had the effect we are looking for, and the effect we need to see if the world is once again going to be a healthy place in which to live.
There are ways to solve the problems of social media that would create maximum benefit with minimum disruption.
Yet there are ways to do what needs to be done, ways that have never been tried or even much discussed – ways that have a chance to work better than anything now being tried. Because these approaches give us the opportunity to solve the problems of social media in a manner which would firstly; be acceptable and beneficial to us all, and secondly; generate the maximum benefit, while causing minimal disruption of our world and our lives.
So that is the next direction we need to look in order to find ways to create a healthy and more functionally perfect world. We will take a long look at that social media juggernaut, and how we can make it less of a threat to our health and well being, both for us as individuals, and for our world as a whole.