Why does disinhibited cruelty still abound despite the urgent need for compassion, conversation, and comforting words? With less than a month to go until the US presidential election, the orgy of schadenfreude that passes for content online reads as portentous.
Lowest common denominator culture loves nothing more than fallen celebrities, and Trump getting the ‘rona is the jackpot. Never mind using the moment to strong-arm politicians into committing to universal health care, we’re too busy rubbing our hands with glee at Trump’s comeuppance to worry about our own, that of a nation, of a society, of a democracy.
Unfortunately, this kind of content buttresses entire platforms it helped build, drowning out everything else, including common sense, decency, and creativity. Rants take no time to write, Facebook taught an internet how to.
Before it became real life.
If rejoicing at the misfortunes of others is the best we can do then Trump has already won, and with him greed and grift. The internet democratized self-expression and instead of investing in our future, we may well have written our downfall.
Everyone is trying to get paid before the wind changes. The race to the bottom is all elbows. Profiteers are cashing in, fully aware of what they enabled, encouraged, and empowered. Some are trying to rebrand and pivot in the nick of time, others are carrying on as usual, cranking out as much zeitgeist-servicing bumf as they possibly can before the final countdown.
Sooner or later, we will once again discuss the banality of evil, taking stock of what happened in the last four years. Perhaps we’ll spare a thought for those who tirelessly held the line for decency and tried to warn us about all this.
Before it became real life.
We don’t have to like or even respect people to have compassion, we only need the intellectual honesty to acknowledge their humanness is the same as ours. There really is only one human race. Unless lockdown life has turned us all into cats, we’re still part of it.
Compassion is counterintuitive in a culture that reduces human worth to a dollar figure and value to a bottom line. On social media, we put the self center stage, never the group. But what’s a country if not a collective of citizens and residents? What’s an internet if not a collective of coders and users? What’s a language if not a collective of speakers and learners?
So this is us, together on individual screens yet divided by the pursuit of fame and fortune over safety for all. Where can we possibly go from here but toward each other?
There is only one “We, the people.”
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.