The summer of 2015 is going to go down in history as the summer of outrage. Something awful happens, and people get outraged. People get so outraged that other people take offense, and then THEY get outraged. Other people get offended at what they feel is a disproportionate amount of outrage for their pet cause, so then they get outraged. On top of that we have people creating fraudulent stories so that they can provoke misdirected outrage and get a piece of that juicy outrage action.
The country, collectively, needs to to calm the hell down.
Yes, there are horrible things happening, and yes, they do need to be condemned, but when you pile outrage on top of outrage, and when some are not even remotely genuine, all you wind up doing is desensitizing the masses to the very concept that some behavior is simply not to be tolerated. People get trapped in a cycle of continual outrage and simply stay pissed-off all the time.
This week my personal outrage was the murder of Cecil the lion. As I grow older, I have noticed that I have less acceptance for animal cruelty than I used to. I don’t mean that I ever thought it was cool. It’s just that my views on life, shaped by my own experiences, have brought me to a place where I am damn nearly an activist. Even before the CNN “Blackfish” documentary, I was disgusted by SeaWorld and similar animal parks. I have become well aware that those who perform acts of cruelty on animals are often just a tiny leap away from doing the same to humans.
Even as a kid, I thought that trophy hunting was moronic, and was deservedly the butt of jokes in cartoons. As I grew older and learned of such things I realized that it was a way for pathetic people to try and make up for their physical or sexual shortcomings. Now, living in a world where animals are going extinct at a record pace, it just makes me angry…really angry.
Yes, I would like to see the whack-job Dentist suffer the full penalty of the law, and I’d like to see the practice of hunting tourism stopped. I realize that some of the money that these wealthy, impotent sadists pay for the right to kill goes to help preserve wildlife refuges, but I also know that most of it goes to bribe corrupt government officials. The idea of taking money from hunters to pay for conservation efforts strikes me as being as sensible as using the money from whoring out orphans to pay for abstinence programs.
I’m not against hunting. God knows we need our deer hunters here in West Virginia, if only to keep our interstates from being overrun by stray hooved critters. But the idea of paying tens of thousands of dollars to fly half-way ’round the world so you can bring home the head of an endangered species disgusts me. Dr. Walter J. Palmer disgusts me.
You have to wonder how much he’s overcharged his patients all these years to have the kind of money he throws away to go on thrillkill vacations. As much as I’d like to see him shot in the leg with an arrow and turned loose in a lion habitat, I think a better punishment would be to confiscate all his wealth and trophies and make him spend the rest of his life providing dental care to low-income people in an inner-city area where they really need that sort of thing. Make him live on minimum wage. Maybe he’ll gain a new perspective on life.
So that was the big story Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday people were complaining that the people who were outraged over the butchering of Cecil the lion didn’t care about the death of Sandra Bland. They almost have a point, but their anger is misplaced. Sandra Bland, of course, was last week’s big outrage, in the early part of the week.
Most of the same people who were upset over Cecil the lion were also very upset over Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail under suspicious circumstances. Sadly, our nation has become desensitized to the very real and common occurrence of young Black people, many of them innocent of any wrongdoing, dying in police custody. That is also a horrible thing, and of course, it’s deserving of outrage too, a sustained outrage.
What makes this sadly notable is that people feel like they can do more to bring justice to Cecil the lion than they can for Sandra Bland. It’s easier to solve the problem of poachers in Africa than it is to solve the problem of institutionalized racism and mistrust between the police and a large segment of our population here at home.
I’ve even seen memes on Facebook complaining that people are upset over Cecil the lion more than they are over the bogus smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The anti-meat crowd is jumping on the dead lion carcass bandwagon, too. When we get to this point, it’s just a matter of people trying to score political points by hopping on a trend. It’s cheap and petty. The pettiness leads to boredom and apathy. Then nothing happens. Things never change.
There are people who are envious of the attention that the death of Cecil is getting, and they are parading their butthurt around in petulant display of childish whining and crying. They are outraged that other people dare to be outraged over something that they don’t care about. This would be amusing if it weren’t so pathetic.
This has been going on all summer. Nine people were murdered in an historic Black church, and the circus sideshow that followed distracted people enough that they barely noticed the seven Black churches that were burned down in the month after the shooting.
The simple act of human decency of removing the Confederate Battle Flag from government buildings, where it had been installed as a protest against equal rights for Black folks, turned into a huge cultural war that mainly served to expose the alarmingly large number of people who still buy into the “Lost Cause Religion” that re-writes history to say that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War.
I have to admit, it was disheartening to discover how many of my friends believe that propagandistic garbage. The butthurt is strong in these ones.
Before that controversy had time to simmer down, a mentally-ill, drug-addicted man who happened to be Muslim, shot up two recruiting centers, killing four Marines and a Naval Officer. The result of that was the sight of armed citizens showing up to “protect” recruiting centers while blaming the president for an order banning sidearms that was handed down nine years before he was elected.
After at least a couple of accidental weapon discharges, the Pentagon asked these folks to leave–their presence was scaring away potential recruits. I noticed that none of these armed guards showed up to protect any Black churches from being burned down.
Both the Atlanta and Chatanooga shootings stirred up hornets nests, but the endless cycle of outrage in both cases distracted from the unifying threat of terror groups using the internet to radicalize young screwed-up nutjobs.
Hot on the heels of that, the Hulk Hogan sex-tape/”N” word controversy explodes. What the hell? Is 2015 trying to out-crazy 1968?
And the world goes nuts.
That brings us to The Universal Double Standard. This is the one true law of human behavior. Every single one of us, despite our best efforts, holds their own set of prejudices, biases, preferences, distastes and tilted priorities. We all think that we’re right, and people who oppose us are wrong. Even those of us who admit that they don’t know everything hold certain “truths” so near that they are guilty of this. The people who claim to be totally objective are usually the worst offenders.
Part of this is because, in our lifelong pursuit to know the difference between right and wrong, we all find ways to modify our criteria for determining what “right and wrong” is. Every single one of us has deeply-held beliefs that we apply to the behavior of others, but which we do not adhere to personally. This is an unavoidable flaw within us.
It’s part of being human. It is the Universal Double Standard. The Universal Double Standard is a key component of who we are. We can’t eliminate it. It’s what makes us individuals. However, we can recognize it and navigate around it in order to coexist with our fellow humans. It seems of late that we have forgotten how to agree to disagree. Nobody wants to ‘fess up to their own hypocrisies.
For example, people who are opposed to abortion call themselves “pro-life,” but will often support acts of violence that take the lives of abortion providers. People who claim to be appalled by racism, often do not have a single acquaintance of color. People who support the second amendment do not see eye-to-eye with people who support the first, fourth or fourteenth, and vice-versa. Folks will claim to be Christian, but will support the most brazen anti-Christian actions, such as denying healthcare and foodstamps to the poor, refusing to tax the rich, or launching wars against other nations.
It’s messed up because we’re messed up. We’re human.
What makes matters worse is outrage. Humans enjoy being outraged. Outrage is bright and shiny and it keeps us from actually having to do anything. We can stamp our feet and huff and puff and post memes to Facebook to “make (fill in the blank generalized insult) heads explode.” When we do that, we don’t actually have to take any meaningful action or listen to opposing viewpoints or do anything more than roll over on the couch and fart. Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but outrage is the big, gooey, tooth-rotting candy of the masses. They love that stuff.
Even though it’s bad for them.
A few years ago, Former Reagan and GHW Bush aide, William Bennett, wrote a book called “The Death of Outrage.” As with much of what he wrote, the title of the book is completely ass-backward. Outrage is not dead. It’s alive and well, multiplying like rabbits and growing like a cancer. Facebook has enabled outrage to spread faster and farther than ever before. People can now get angry about politics or the news more times in a single day than they used to in a month.
Outrage is easy. It can be a form of chronic mental masturbation. Some people are addicted to it. Other people become numb to it. It’s divisive when over-indulged, and does little to assist meaningful discourse. Outrage can be anti-intellectual. It’s the enemy of diplomacy. It comes from the part of the human brain where speech centers connect to the Lizard Brain. It can be primal and destructive.
That is not to say that outrage is never appropriate. Sometimes it is. Outrage over the shocking number of young Black people dying at the hands of the police is absolutely justified. Outrage over the practice of trophy hunting is justified.
Outrage can be used to fight injustice and make things right. Unfortunately, it can also be used to cry wolf. In recent weeks, the wolf cry of outrage has drowned out all logical thought. Issues are not discussed. Catch phrases are screamed.
Even justifiable outrage has to lead to communication and then to action, or it’s just a waste of energy. Blind outrage gets in the way of dialogue. Outrage is the primal knee-jerk reaction, but what we do with that white-hot flash of emotional epiphany is potentially harmful.
And that’s why everyone should calm down. Look at each other as fellow humans. Accept your differences and figure out a way to share the world. Skip posting the political memes to Facebook. Most of them just tell other people that you have a closed mind anyway.
Talk in a civil manner with people who disagree with you. Listen to them, and explain your viewpoint. Learn to communicate with each other. Paint pictures. Don’t draw battle lines.
Recognize the Universal Double Standard within yourself, and strive to rise above it.
If we don’t do that, very soon we will devolve to the point of throwing feces at one another.
They are back in PopCult. Many thanks to Steve Jones for the assist. Here’s our most recent episode of The RFC MINI SHOW, starring Farnsworth, to celebrate:
Stuff To Do
These are just a few suggestions for Stuff To Do this weekend–the Highlights, if you please. Check the Gazette-Mail Events calendar for more great ideas.
FRIDAY AND SATURDAY
That’s it for this week. Check back every day for all of our regular features. And try not to get outraged over anything.