Our news media barons love bad news with an almost sexual intensity. We can ignore good news, if we want, but bad news shocks the part of us that is still a primitive mammal living among giant dinosaurs. Our inner rodent freaks out, and we just have to read it or watch it. If you’re trying to sell newspapers, proof of the apocalypse is your best friend. Even if you die in fire, you’ll die in fire with a fat investment portfolio.
Even better than bad news is vague bad news. Like the threat of an ancient deity punishing us for not leaving crossed chicken bones on the graves of our adversaries, vague and chronologically indeterminate bad news captures our consciousness like nothing else. This is why our newspapers drool, giggle and fart whenever stories like this come out:
Nearly three fifths of voters say that they hardly recognise the country they are living in, while 42 per cent say they would emigrate if they could.
It suggests that 70 per cent believe that society is now broken, echoing a Conservative campaign theme of the past two years, while 68 per cent say people who play by the rules get a raw deal and 82 per cent think it is time for a change.
Overall, 64 per cent think that Britain is going in the wrong direction and just 31 per cent believe it is on the right track.
This is a widely used measure of mood in the United States where 57 per cent of people think America is going wrong and 37 per cent believe it is on the right track. – Rasmussen
Notice how this article gets your blood boiling. The people in office — they’re screwing it up! We the people noticed the screwup and we want change! Everything’s going to hell in a handbasket, which is really convenient for writing it off and heading down to the pub. A divisive and vague article like this cannot fail to force you to take a side and want to cudgel massage the brains of the opposition.
The Americans have their own version of reading the tea leaves, which involves getting on the phones at 10 AM on a Tuesday and calling all the drunks, shut-ins, sociopaths, bored divorcees and welfare cheats and asking them what they think of the direction of the nation. Surprisingly, it’s still fairly accurate, in the same way crashing your car into the grocery store counts as “driving there.” Here’s some patriotic paranoia:
Voters are madder than ever at the current policies of the federal government.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 75% of likely voters now say they are at least somewhat angry at the government’s current policies, up four points from late November and up nine points since September. The overall figures include 45% who are Very Angry, also a nine-point increase since September.
Just 19% now say they’re not very or not at all angry at the government’s policies, down eight points from the previous survey and down 11 from September. That 19% includes only eight percent (8%) who say they’re not angry at all and 11% who are not very angry. – Rasmussen
Unless you have three copies of your 21st chromosome, you probably think asking voters if they’re Happy, Angry or “Very Angry” is a really dumb way to assess a logical question like political outlook. Even more, you’ve got to wonder how many of the winos they called thought they were asking how drunk they were instead of a political quantification. Nonetheless, this worsening mood suggests to us that we in the West are self-hating bastards who can’t seem to fix any problems, even if we’re always claiming victory and going home.
You don’t get this kind of negativity without extreme frustration. This frustration comes of recognizing problems we can’t solve, at least with the assumptions we use to approach them. Unsolved problems are like tumors and they grow faster the longer we leave them around. This is nature’s way of killing off that which is on its way out, and rewarding those who can quickly snap to consciousness and address their problems. In politics, tumors are pairs: issues we can’t fix, and the reasons we cannot fix them.
For the category of reasons we cannot fix our problems, there is really only one leader: we threw out God, culture, religion, aristocracy and common sense so that each one of us could be an autonomous king. We hate the thought that someone might know better and tell us what to do. We hate even more that people might be rising above us.
In a crafty revenge, we as a species have created a prison for ourselves: we demand autonomy of the individual, or equality, and an end to hierarchy so we have as few authorities above us as possible. Since most people then pick what is convenient for them, and fight back against what inconveniences them, we have a problem. Any change we want to make is going to inconvenience or otherwise offend someone, and someone might lose, which is a sure sign of fascism.
Our frustration grows because we cannot fix our problems because we’ve tied one hand behind our backs. We did it with good intentions, so we hope in our stupor that the world will see we’re nice guys and try to help us out. But as anyone who has struggled to get a fire going on a cold night camping can tell you, nature doesn’t care whether we’re nice democratic friendly guys, or vicious bastards. Nature just cares what works. And since we’re paying attention to being nice guys and ignoring what works, nature has a world of frustration to serve us.