The sad truth is that you cannot subdivide the human problem. If you want to find The Enemy, you will end up like Hitler, murdering Jews while he should have been out-maneuvering the Russians.
If you pretend there is no enemy, you end up like John Lennon, shot to death by an obsessed fan.
For those of us who care more about results than how our efforts look to others, the only important issue is fixing the problem. We are not interested in whether we are victims or oppressors. The Zen master slaps you sharply: what do those have anything to do with your problem?
People will use your fears and concerns to try to make you embittered. They need to make you react emotionally instead of think clearly. They want you to become addicted to their message, which is what bloggers and 1980s teen movies have in common: you are the victim, join together and smash the bad guy.
Unfortunately, it’s an incoherent message. It blames effects, instead of causes, and by trying to make you fix those effects, launches you on a pointless and futile mission. No matter how many times you pump out the basement, until you find the source of the leak, you’re going to be wet.
If you have bad leaders, replace the leaders. If you have bad laws, fix the laws. If you have too many unhealthy or stupid people around, don’t let them vote.
We have a bad leader, so the concept of leaders itself is bad; anarchy now! We have a bad law, so the concept of laws is bad; we’re all criminals! This last election went to a demagogue and criminal; he must have manipulated the voters, so kill him and the problem is solved!
People are looking for easy ways around the problems of society. And they are embittered for the wrong reasons.
Be embittered for these:
Boring, functional existence. We must tolerate the equal morons, and since they are the largest demographic, our industry and government sway toward them. As a result, your media is bite-sized pieces in pie-sized presentations, your jobs are connect-the-dots idiocy, your policies reward the clueless, and all commerce is geared toward bypassing the intelligent so it can serve the tenfold surge in morons who don’t notice they are getting ripped off (they will simply blame someone else anyway). You wait in lines forever, sit on freeways for hours waiting for others to learn to drive, pick up the messes of the selfish, and watch your cities rot from within because of stupidity and crime.
Demagoguery. Why spend your time making a pitch to the intelligent, critical thinking voter when you can impress a thousand morons with some simplified image instead? Democracy becomes demagoguery when the vote becomes general because the general audience will only respond to vivid, emotional and visual notions in politics. “They are against freedom” and “They attacked us first” are the most popular, but offering any kind of “free” thing is a perpetual vote winner. Democracies elect to spend money, but rarely to cut it back; they are intensely invested in pleasing the largest group of voters, which is the group with the least ability to think more than two weeks into the future.
Ugly utilitarian cities. Because the morons don’t care, and business wants to be efficient and have as few obligations as possible, we build disposable storefronts, warehouses, businesses and homes; as the events of September 11, 2001 showed us, even our skyscrapers are of suspect construction (a thousand conspiracy theories could be debunked by carefully buried evidence of corners cut in the materials and labor put into the World Trade Center). We view buildings as a means to an end, and that end is us, instead of viewing both buildings and us as means to an end of having a pleasant life. In both Europe and the USA, modernity has brought ugly, square, clonelike buildings.
Rampant crime. People are interesting in prosecuting profitable crimes, meaning ones where they can confiscate goods, get political approval or advance their own careers. They are ignoring millions of daily crimes of a smaller nature including theft and vandalism, and seem to plan for these as if they were a part of the environment like snowfall. Even more, huge areas of our cities are made uninhabitable because crime is rampant there, which we view as a cause in itself and not the result of some kind of dysfunction we can do something about. What the voters don’t notice gets ignored, and so crime rages until periodically a political campaign cuts some of it down.
Massive pollution. When we’re busy selling each other stuff, soliciting votes and trying to be popular, we miss out on the big picture. Like where our society is heading, or what collective damage it leaves behind. For this reason, the real pollution is off the radar. Sure, we can focus on “global warming” because it gives us a good 2 minutes hate about those rich nations and their carbon use. But in the meantime, slash and burn agriculture, abandoned technology, heavy shipping, and thousands of unsupervised manufacturing facilities pour toxic junk into nature. Worse still is that nature does not handle refined chemicals well; its purpose is to spread around chemicals, making each exist in the right proportions. Dumping common chemicals, even oxygen, at the wrong places can create pollution. None of this is recognized because it does not vote, buy products or tell us that scarf makes us look thin.
Ecocide. Much like pollution, ecocide goes unnoticed because it is not a popular topic to discuss. Briefly: more people -> more land use -> not enough unbroken land for animals and plants to interact, breed, hunt, etc. and so they drop below safe breeding levels and become extinct. Since this doesn’t happen quickly, like a plane flying into a tower, and it does not involve political intrigue, no one wants to notice. Their goal then becomes one of inertia, or demanding that we not interrupt what we’ve been doing so far; the result is that ecocide continues unabated, and in the absence of some “proof” like a house being built next to a rare species and all of them instantly going up in flames, people are unwilling to face ecocide as an issue.
Loss of sacred role. I think this one kills us the most. In healthy societies, there is a sense of collective goal derived from values shared in common. It is no different than kids forming a friend group and working all day to build a tree house. This is the essence of cooperation, and it is a better social model than the anarchic-totalitarian one, in which everyone does what they want and then a strong central government forces them to obey the generic, universal laws. When we have a sacred role to our society, meaning that it is based in values and has leadership toward that end, we like ourselves. We are working toward something. When we abdicate leadership in favor of whatever is popular, we have no goal and hate ourselves for being such selfish cowards living meaningless lives in ugly polluted crime-ridden cities.
We are embittered because of these causes; the things we claim to be embittered about are equal parts effects of these causes and symbolic issues that we do not hope to solve. The best public issue has no solution: you cannot fail, and you’ll always have a job.
Our society makes a habit of not understanding the effects of causes. We call them “indirect effects” but they are nonetheless effects. We make up theories like “the butterfly effect” to imply that cause-effect logic is unfathomable (the butterfly flapping its wings correlates with the storm, and was simply an expected intermediate step).
In other words, we make ourselves both helpless and victims, so that we have an excuse to take no action, and a justification for doing whatever it is we want to do anyway.
This kind of situation only arises when we let the great unwashed decide for themselves (meaning: for whoever impresses them right before the moment of decision) what kind of government they want. The answer is that they want a fantasy: lots of free things, no accountability, and no future past the next pay-period.
In turn, they decide they are victims, which makes them afraid to take effective action. If you feel you are a victim, you assume you will be victimized if government, society or common sense get stronger. As a result, you sabotage them by directing them toward expensive but pointless endeavors, and demand more rights for yourself when those endeavors create social chaos.
The problem is that our society does not lead, but follows itself, because individuals want to be kings of their own tiny realms, and have society pander to their desires. They do not realize or care that by doing so, they create a society that sabotages itself.
If every person can say NO to any kind of collective standard, having a collective standard is impossible; this includes values, culture and ideals. That in turn means that society is both anarchic, or ruled by the whims of individuals, and totalitarian, or entirely composed of the rule of commerce and government.
All civilizations destroy themselves this way. After they are founded, they use less competent people as a source of labor, then as a source of wealth (consumers/taxation), and then become dependent on these masses of less competent people. That in turn leads to pitying these people, giving them political power, and then watching as their short-sighted, selfish, delusional and simple reasoning leads to social chaos.
That social chaos in turn requires a totalitarian response. Business is ready; it will force people into jobs, strap them into mortgages, sell products that then become mandatory because everyone uses them, and pass on costs like crime, violence and dysfunction through insurance and higher rates. Business becomes a predator when it is unleashed upon the stupid by those who should know better.
Government just does its job, which is to prevent bad headlines. That means more laws, more cops, and more intrusion. If they can prevent a bad headline, they win. Your problems are a secondary concern.
The masses are oblivious to everything but themselves during the time up until their next paycheck. They destroy a society by making stupidity the norm, and encouraging it in leadership, which makes such a mess that tyranny is required to fix it.
If you want to be embittered, instead of finding a blog awash in your personal drama, look toward these causes and consider how your time would be better spent. You can still be embittered, and feel the rush of righteous indignation at victimhood, but to be anything but a coward you need to direct that bitterness toward its actual source.