Selfishness Is Killing the World

Those of you who’ve been with me for years know that I’m not usually one to get overly political, but with the way current events are unfolding, I can’t stay silent. I see so much hurt and pain in the world, and particularly in the United States where I live, and the longer I think about it, the more I can only come to the conclusion that this is the result of jealousy, greed, and selfishness.

Let me explain why.

COVID-19

Let’s start with what the world started 2020 with: COVID-19. As news about a novel, highly infectious and deadly virus spread, so did a lot of fear about exactly how to deal with this new disease. Later, rather than sooner, the United States chose to shut down to try and limit the spread of the virus, and millions of people found themselves without work, income, insurance, and possibly even without homes.

This isn’t an easy decision to make, of course. Being laid off by something invisible, something intangible, that you can’t see or feel, might well feel like a personal attack, and I can understand the resistance, the frustration, and the anger that would likely arise in these scenarios.

But those with the loudest voices against the shutdown have not been those who are suffering. It hasn’t been those who are without a job. It hasn’t even been those who are critically ill and dying of this new disease. It’s those who think that no one should be allowed to tell them what to do, how to work, and how to interact with their fellow human beings.

What infuriates me about this is that the mandate to wear masks, to stay home, to not go out to enjoy yourself, is about protecting other people. The biggest argument I hear against these precautions is that ‘it won’t affect me’, or ‘I need to get a haircut’, or ‘I lost my job’. How freaking selfish can a human being be? It was never about you! It was about keeping people you don’t know, people you’ve never met, from dying.

People have chosen to ignore these restrictions, have protested, have taken up arms and defended businesses from law enforcement to show that they aren’t going to be pushed around. For fuck’s sake – no one was trying to! We were trying to stop millions of human beings from dying, you selfish pricks!

Sorry for ranting there. But the point is that the spread of COVID-19 has been largely propagated by pure, utter selfishness, a complete absence of basic sense and care for our fellow humans. In countries where it is endemic to care for each other, where people actually look out for one another even if they don’t know them, the spread of COVID-19 was reduced significantly sooner, and significantly faster. Nowhere is perfect, but in the United States, it is simply appalling to consider that we have such disregard for other people’s lives.

Moving on.

Karens and the Age of Self-Entitlement

A recent meme that has been popularized across the internet is the concept of a ‘Karen’ – a middle-aged, self-entitled white woman who believes that the world should revolve around her. I think this is a grossly unfair assessment of this demographic, but the concept – that of someone who truly just doesn’t understand that there are other points of view in the world – is becoming increasingly pervasive across the country.

I also don’t believe this to be a generational device; I’ve seen Millennials, Gen Xs, Baby Boomers, all equally guilty of this sort of behavior. It’s at the root of everything I wrote about COVID-19, frankly – the idea that your personal wishes, desires and needs are somehow more important than those of anyone else. It’s easy to mock and make fun of the genders, the haircuts, the look and feel of a ‘Karen’, but the truth is that this sickening attitude is visible at all levels.

Perhaps one of the reasons that it’s become focused on the middle-aged white woman is because of the stereotypes involved; when a man pushes forward his own agenda without regard for others, he’s usually considered ‘strong’, or a ‘leader’ (look at our leader today). When a woman does it, she’s a ‘bitch’.

Regardless, the belief that is at the root of this behavior seems to be that if you want something, no one is allowed to stop you from getting it. I want that double-mocha frappucino; I want that haircut; I want that man to leave me alone.

I think this stems from a deep misrepresentation of what it means to live in a ‘free’ country. Freedom does not mean freedom to act like a selfish toddler; it does not mean ‘me first’; it does not mean I’m more important than others. In fact, I think a great deal of this behavior stems from a bizarre jealousy of the attention given to those who, ironically, don’t enjoy those same freedoms.

Think of it this way: when a parent favors one sibling over another, the other will often act out – not maliciously, but out of a desire for equal attention. This happens when the siblings are on equal footing, of course, but if one genuinely requires additional attention – perhaps they are ill, injured, or have special needs – the remaining sibling can begin to actually blame the other for their own deficit in attention. If allowed to continue, that sibling can eventually come to believe that they are the marginalized party – even though they have literally every option open to them, when their brother or sister may not.

This is one thing to expect this in children; however, to see this in grown-ass adults is, frankly, sickening. When a man complains that women are taking all the good jobs because of ‘egalitarianism’, he’s ignoring the thousands of years of marginalization and inequality that women have only begun to crawl out of – often with little to no help from men at all. When a white person argues that ‘nobody cares about the whites’, and that ‘all lives matter’ (god how I hate that phrase), they are willfully dismissing the centuries of slavery, persecution and cultural destruction that black people have suffered – and, clearly, have not yet escaped.

George Floyd and Black Lives Matter

This is where things get truly, devastatingly enraging for me – and should for you too. This sense of jealousy, this cultural selfishness and retaliation that is at the heart of phrases such as ‘blue lives matter’ and ‘all lives matter’ is like poison injected straight to the heart of society. Let me break it down for you:

All lives do not matter equally in the eyes of society.

If they did, Black Lives Matter would not be a thing. If all lives were truly held equal, from the streets to the highest level of government, no one would have to argue that their own lives matter. This problem would not exist.

When I see someone reply on Facebook to a Black Lives Matter comment with ‘all lives matter’, what I see is someone who is willfully or ignorantly blind to their own racism. You just don’t get it, do you? Claiming ‘all lives matter’ in response to Black Lives Matter is literally minimizing the horrific injustices that black people suffer every single day.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the most recent egregious act of police brutality that killed George Floyd. An unarmed, unresistant black suspect was pinned by the neck for over eight minutes by a white cop until he passed out and died. Anyone who can wholeheartedly argue this didn’t happen because of race is at best an utter fucking ignoramus, and at worst a cruel, evil-hearted outright racist. If George Floyd was white, he would still be alive.

What makes this worse is the fallout from the act itself. Rightly so, black people the country – and world – over took to the streets, in some cases with fully-justified rage in their hearts – to protest. To say ‘enough is enough’ (isn’t is sad how often we hear these words – racism, school shootings, police brutality – it never ends), to make their voices heard, to demand justice, not just for George Floyd, but for black people everywhere.

And then, just as these people step forward with their earned right to rage and anger, white people appropriate the protests. White people begin riots. White people step in and say hey – you’re not allowed to protest without us. ‘What about the whites?

Jesus Christ – shut the fuck up! This isn’t your day. This isn’t your time in the spotlight, it’s not your fifteen minutes of fame. The president of the country calls the original protestors – the black ones, mind you – thugs. I’ve heard no equal condemnation from anyone over the white rioters, the ones who are arguably causing the most damage – both physically and societally.

For fuck’s sake, white people – can’t anybody else have something without us coming in and sabotaging it? Can’t black people have a moment – just one fucking moment – to have their voices heard uninterrupted?

This is the time for white people the world over to shut their mouths, silence their complaining, and just listen. Listen to what we’re being told. Listen to black people about the injustices they suffer. Listen to the fear they live with daily – to how when they’re pulled over by a cop, they fear they won’t see their family for dinner. Just. Fucking. Listen.

And yet, I just know we won’t. When Trump called Floyd’s brother, he spoke. He spoke, and spoke – and didn’t give the man even a moment to speak in return. The highest power in the country isn’t listening – how can we expect anyone else to?

This really isn’t hard, people. Please – for the sake of George Floyd, for the sake of black people, for the sake of gay people and women and minorities the world over – just shut the fuck up and listen. I know it’s going to be hard to hear – no one wants to learn they’re an intrinsic part of a cultural system that abuses power and privilege, where being born white gives you a real, tangible advantage.

But if we don’t take even just a moment to hear others out – and take to heart what they say – this world can never heal from the damage that has been wrought to it over decades, centuries, and millennia. This isn’t about apologizing; it isn’t about making things right. There is no making things right. The past will never be changed, and nothing could ever be done to atone for the centuries of persecution and violence done to so many.

This is about moving forward in peace. And that peace can only come through an acknowledgement of what we have done – every one of us. Don’t sit there and think your exempt because you’ve ‘never had a racist thought’, or because you ‘have black friends’; this starts with you. It starts by every single one of us privileged whites, us privileged men – we who run the world – taking a knee, a step back, a seat, and saying: speak, and I will listen. I will not judge you, but myself. I will answer for the sins of my forebears, and I will give you the spotlight, because you deserve it.

So please, I implore you – shut up. Just … shut up. For once in your life, listen to what’s being said, to what’s being asked for. I think you’ll find that, once you get past the fear and the violence and the hate, you’ll find that actually giving black people an equal voice isn’t so hard.

Why must we foist our beliefs on others?

Let me preface this by acknowledging the hypocrisy of writing a post asking people to stop asking people to believe what they believe, but even my normally liberal, cat-friendly Facebook feed is slowly being infected by the belligerent views of the political right-wing, and I can’t stand it any longer.

I’m growing increasingly weary of hearing about the insanely fascist policies our president is signing into law, but almost more exhausted of the left’s incessant attempts to prove the right wrong at every turn. It’s like watching an exercise in futility, and it boils down to one thing: confirmation bias.

At this point, it should be clear to anyone—even living under a political rock, like myself—that Donald Trump is essentially bullet-proof. He has said and done things, both leading up to his presidency and beyond, that would have been career suicide for any other politician, and yet it serves only to bolster his popularity with his proponents. And all the while, those calling for his resignation or impeachment are being sidelined, belittled and silenced by the man himself.

… he is enabling people with deep-rooted prejudices to act out their misinformed biases and hatreds.

And under the umbrella of this dictatorial leadership, views and opinions that for decades were slowly being extinguished have been reignited, from misogyny and racism to xenophobia and sexual prejudices. It hardly seems like three years ago that gay marriage was celebrated in New Jersey for the first time in our history. The very notion of federally-funded scientific organizations are being systematically silenced is a hallmark of fascism, but the fact that there are people who believe it’s right is even more terrifying.

But by far the worst of this is not necessarily that our president is pushing right-wing and outright propagandist policies, but that he is enabling people with deep-rooted prejudices to act out their misinformed biases and hatreds. Our entire civilization, which ought to be founded on a base of acceptance and love, is now at risk.

Just today I saw a friend on Facebook like a post about a pro-life march in Washington D.C. The article claimed that our society is the most pro-life since Roe vs. Wade. The fact that this person liked the article didn’t necessarily surprise me, knowing the person for who she is, but the post comments were what got to me. People shouting for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, or that adoption is what not having an abortion looks like.

This is confirmation bias at its strongest. Because Planned Parenthood offers abortions—which is, clearly, something a lot of people think is wrong—it stands to reason that abortion is all they’re good for. As it turns out, roughly 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services are abortions. That’s right: 97% of what they do has nothing to do with ending premature lives.

Even so, considering the issue of abortion, it becomes vital to recognize the social importance of sex in the first place. Many pro-life supporters would argue that abstention is the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but not only is this impractical, it outright contradicts what both physical and mental health professionals have been learning for centuries. Clearly pregnancy is a potential consequence of sex, but in today’s society the social value of sex far outweighs the reproductive value. Education and contraception play their part, but so does the opportunity to correct a mistake.

Perhaps women shouldn’t be given this opportunity. After all, if you made a mistake, surely you should be made to live with it. And while I can understand that point of view to an extent, it’s also dictatorial law at its worst: the personal beliefs of a few are deciding the fate of millions. Consider that the cabinet in power making the decisions to fund or not fund Planned Parenthood comprises entirely white men.

Herein lies the root of the problem: it is intolerably unfair for men to choose the fate of women on an issue that only affects women. This is an arena in which men, by nature, have no experience. Men cannot carry children: what right do they have to decide that women should be forced to?

I’ll give you an analogy. I once had a vegan friend over to the house. Very nice person, if very passionate about her beliefs. We were having a nice time, until we decided to order pizzas. At this point, it came to light that she didn’t want anyone to order meat or cheese on their pizzas—not just her. In other words, she wanted her beliefs to dictate the dinner choice of everyone.

Now, this was only dinner—but the concept extends to religion, to sex, to immigration—to anything you can imagine. People across the world hold, and have always held, strong beliefs about certain issues. But for thousands of years, it’s been in human nature to be unable to leave it at that: our need for self-confirmation has meant that we need to either convince everyone of our beliefs … or eradicate those who won’t be convinced. And if you think this is a modern-day problem, exposited by radical Muslim extremists, consider that a thousand years ago, the Christians of the western world were exterminating Muslims in their own homes, because they didn’t follow their beliefs.

As much as I think Richard Dawkins is a egocentric, intolerant jerk, he once made a very good point: simply because, by sheer happenstance, you were born in the western world and raised as a Christian, you believe that your interpretation of god is the only one. If you were born in India, you would have been raised Hindu, and believed in a polytheistic ideology. By deduction, therefore, god can only be as real as how you were raised … which doesn’t exactly promote the ‘truth’ of deities of any kind.

Yet people continue to believe that their god is the only one; their beliefs about abortion are the right ones; their views on animal cruelty put them above others. And this would be just fine—if they didn’t try to foist those beliefs on everyone around them. This is, perhaps, my only strong belief: that no one has the right to force their beliefs on others. That isn’t the basis of a free and tolerant society, and I have no desire to live in a society that is neither of these things.

Hate me if you like; disagree with me all you want. I don’t have to listen to you, and you don’t have to listen to me. But the moment you think that you have the right to dictate what I think is right and wrong, you’ve crossed a line. That is my belief; that is what I hold dear.

I don’t ask that you believe the same—but nor do I have to listen to you if you don’t.

We Can Still Strive For Better

Apologies: strong language ahead.

I rarely, if ever, post about politics, my friends. I usually don’t have much opinion on the matter, and since I don’t often read about these things, I’m not usually terribly informed.

But what the fuck.

What the living fuck just happened to the United States of America?

Let me start by pointing out that I am about as far from nationalist as it’s possible to get. I don’t much care for the notion of patriotism or even countries in general—I don’t subscribe to the idea of national pride, or that one country is somehow better than another. I prefer to think of the world as a global community of people, all equal in worth, with the ability to communicate freely with each other in open dialogue.

But yesterday’s events just showed me how atypical my point of view must really be. Sixty million people just declared in one voice their pride for the very worst of what the United States has to offer. Another sixty million—of which I am one—declared a modicum of sanity by trying their hardest to elect one of the most competent and qualified women in the world to the most powerful position in the world: but it wasn’t enough.

Sixty million. It’s a number that’s hard to comprehend. Sixty million people think the United States needs to be made ‘great again’. Sixty million people think eight years of peace and prosperity under Obama was worth throwing away, right into the fucking toilet.

Sixty million people think they just got a carte blanche to act out the very, very worst of humanity. Bigotry, hatred, racism, sexism, and a blatant disregard for human decency have just won the day. Never have I seen so many reports of people being despicable to other people under the guise of supporting a political leader. Where are the Clinton supporters telling immigrants to get the fuck out?

‘Make America great again.’ I refuse to refer to the United States as America, because it is outrageously offensive to the wonderful people of Canada and Mexico. What, exactly, is this greatness you’re striving for? White supremacy? Religious indoctrination? Tell me, please—how will Trump make the United States great again?

Speaking of religious indoctrination, I have a message directly for those of you on Facebook posting ‘Bring God Back to the White House’: fuck you. Seriously, fuck you. How dare you claim your faith has as place in my government? I don’t hold your religion against you in any way, but you have absolutely no right to impose it on anyone else, especially through the force of government. Do you want to know what happens when government and religion are combined? Iran. Saudi Arabia. Sudan. Yemen. Places where speaking your mind can lead directly to your death. Is that what will make the United States great again?

In theory—though I recognize it will vary locally—one in two people that I’m likely to meet every day voted for Trump, or support him. This terrifies me. I have never before judged a person by their choice of political leader, but this is different. I can’t look at another person walking down the street now without wondering, was it you? Are you personally responsible for this political disaster? And do you really think it’s so wonderful?

I fear for myself, and I fear for my friends. Many, many of the people I care for are already subject to the persecution that Trump’s supporters have been proudly touting, and now that persecution is—in their eyes—legalized. I have a dear friend from Canada, who is currently suffering from cancer. The United States is providing him with first-class healthcare at the moment. But no: deport him to die. Perhaps a third of my workplace is latin, but no—deport them, too, send them back to Mexico. (Very few of them are actually Mexican.) Hang the blacks.

Too harsh? I have seen this level of hatred flooding social media, despite the liberal channels I tend to focus on. I understand that not all of Trump’s supporters are as vitriolic as this, but you are condoning it nonetheless. You have aligned yourself with the new Nazi party.

Ultimately, of course, there is nothing left to be done about it. We voted. We spoke our minds. And we got what we deserved. I will be keeping a close eye on Trump for the next four years, however, and I can promise you that I will support anyone and everyone who is subject to even the slightest discrimination as a result of his policies.

This is a giant leap backward for the United States, and due to this country’s political and economic influence, to the world as a whole. But the deed is done. And I call out to the rest of you: the nationalists, the liberals, the people who believe that this country is already great: don’t abandon it. Don’t leave it to fester in its own social waste. There are sixty million good people in this country, too, and if we work together we can resist. We can protest. We can deny Trump the control over us that he desires.

Don’t give up. Don’t allow persecution. Stand up for what you believe in, and stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. Show the world, the global community that can communicate freely, that you are better than this.

It isn’t over yet.