Ideas and Musings

Riots and Rights in the “Age of Helplessness”

It seems like the world has gone crazy, hasn’t it? And guess what? It has gone crazy. But maybe not in the way we think, the way it seems on the surface, the way we are all yelling about on social media.

I could say it all started with COVID, but that’s not true. It’s been going on for a while now. COVID just pushed it up to the front and pushed people to start acting.

It’s “The Age of Helplessness.”

Helplessness

We all need a sense of agency in our lives. We need to believe that we can affect our lives and our surroundings. That we can make a difference. That we, our lives, matter.

With the coming of social media, it seems like we matter less and less. There are so many things happening in the world, and we can do nothing about it. Many people yell a lot on Crackbook. They think doing that is doing their part. They hope by putting their voice out there, things will change. And they don’t. It’s not enough. And…we are limited in what we can do as individuals.

The feelings of helplessness increase.

Before COVID

Even before COVID, we could see examples of the effects of helplessness. One of the things that happens to people when they feel helpless is that they start to get very fundamentalist about who they are and what they believe. Even if it makes no sense. Maybe especially because it makes no sense.

Here are a few of the things I’ve seen happen even before COVID:

  • The Flat-Earth People
  • People becoming for religious and denying science
  • People becoming scientific to the point of discounting humanity
  • People more likely to join cults (I just got out of a group that became cultish)
  • People becoming political to the point they can’t speak to others with opposing views
  • Assumptions that generalization and stereotypes are true (ie All men…, all immigrants, all Repuplicans…, all Democrats…)

It’s a way of gaining some control over your life. You’ve drawn the proverbial line in the sand. And God help anyone who disturbs that line.

It’s a lifeline. That’s something important to remember. Being helpless is like being adrift in an ocean. If you can find something to hang onto, you might be able to save your own life.

Irrational behavior can end up being quite rational if you feel that helpless. But, to people looking in, it can seem completely crazy.

COVID

COVID added in a bunch of variables that made the helplessness that was already pushing the population to spiral out of control.

Let’s see a few examples:

  • We don’t understand COVID yet so there is a lot of uncertainty
  • We don’t know when we can “get back to normal”, and there’s nothing we can do about it
  • We don’t know if there will ever be a vaccine
  • We don’t know if other corona viruses will pop up and hit us again
  • We don’t know if we’ll have a job tomorrow
  • We don’t know if our business will survive at all
  • We don’t know if we’ll be able to pay for housing, food, or even the vaccine if it comes out
  • We don’t know if we’ll ever see our loved ones again
  • We don’t know who is going to die
  • We don’t know if we’re going to have a future
  • We don’t know if we’re going to be able to protect ourselves and our families
  • We don’t know the history of the virus, what if it’s a conspiracy?

Add to all of these the fact that they are all so complicated it’s impossible to sort out the truths from the falsehoods, even the experts have different opinions, we are swimming in information that may or may not even be useful.

Add to that the government trying to downplay the whole thing. Just so you know, it’s standard to downplay these types of things. They want to keep everyone from panicking, and they know the inability to do anything about it will drive people nuts.

Side note: Think about the day you are going to die. Do you want to know the date? Or would you prefer to be surprised? Knowing the date might help you plan better. You might get your priorities straight. But knowing also adds a sense of helplessness to it. There’s nothing you can do about it. What’s better? The answer may be different for each person.

COVID has taken us to the breaking point. Pretty much everyone has lost their minds and are trying to gain a sense of agency in their lives. For me, I keep bringing things up at work. We were acquired a year ago and it’s been chaos. I feel helpless to do anything about it. So, I keep throwing monkey wrenches into the mix. Shaking things up, admitting I feel helpless, and asking for help with that.

What I would like to talk about next is two groups that have been acting out a lot during this crisis: Liberals and Conservatives.

Liberals

I’m starting with Liberals first because I live in Seattle and they tend to trigger my PTSD.

One thing to realize about Liberals is that they think beyond family, community, nation, and humanity. They are big picture people. They think at the macro level. They care, they care a lot, about everything. And, they like to think they have agency in the big world. They like to think that what they do matters in the long run. They are active in the world.

They worry about racism, sexism, and the environment. The main concept for them is “fairness.” A lot of our world is not fair. People who work the hardest often make less money (due to them not directly affecting the bottom line). Companies often make policies that adversely affect the health of their employees (ie Amazon and telemarketing companies not allowing enough bathroom breaks.) And government officials, like the police, occasionally get away with doing unfair or even evil things.

They have been raising hell about this for a long time, without a lot of success.

Then comes COVID and the killing of George Floyd. I saw the video. I saw the look on that cop’s face. My brother plays basketball with Omaha cops and he’s told me that they are also horrified by what he did. If he goes to jail, even if he’s in isolation, he’ll be dead within a month. If he doesn’t go to jail, someone else will take care of him. That’s the way it works when you cross the big line. Liberals don’t always understand that, but the Conservatives do.

For the Liberals, it triggered all the concern about racism and police violence, and they went into protest mode. Their solution? Defund the Police.

Side note: In January, I was at the bus stop on 3rd in downtown Seattle when all the traffic stopped. When I realized I wasn’t going to be going home any time soon, I walked up 3rd on my way to Biscuit Bitch for dinner. I was following a line of people trying to thread their way through the buses, police cruisers, and ambulances. As I walked by McDonalds on 3rd and Pine, I saw a bunch of lumps on the ground, all covered with grey blankets. It took me a moment to register what I was seeing. I had no idea what had happened and had blundered into the middle of it. I got out of there and found out later that there was a mass shooting at that corner and another one a few blocks away. The piles were dead people.

The protesters have been marching all over the place, had CHOP going on in my old neighborhood of Capitol Hill, and actually went to the home of the major, scaring her family and neighbors, along with other officials homes, if they didn’t immediately agree with the protesters.

There have been riots with burning cars and broken windows. There has been looting. There has been graffiti. People killed and raped in the borders of CHOP. People threatened. Cops have been killed when trying to do their jobs.

LISTEN UP!

They will never defund the police. Never.

WHY?

People, in general are too violent and stupid to be left to their own devices. They need limits and someone to spank them and make them go to their rooms when they violate them.

Everything the protesters do, the destruction, the threats, the killings, and the rapes; proves that defunding the police is not rational. If we needed more proof as it is.

They will never defund the police.

The thing is the police provide a service to the community. If they are not there, then the community has to provide the service. The protesters who were yelling “defund the police” did nothing when the other groups joined them and started rioting. Nothing. If they want to claim that they are peaceful, and they want to defund the police, then they better damn well do the job of the police and put a stop to the rioting.

But they didn’t. They are not capable of monitoring themselves and their own actions. Most people aren’t capable. It takes a special sort of person to be a cop.

And that’s why they will never defund the police.

Black Lives Matter

Racism is a huge issue in this country. Our lack of the ability to truly assimilate disparate groups into our society has been the United States biggest weakness.

The protesters carry signs about “Black Lives Matter.” But that isn’t really what it’s about, is it?

No, it’s just the concept to rally around to justify aggressive behavior. To combat that feeling of helplessness. To feel like they have agency in their lives.

Many people in conservative towns tell me that the rioters and protesters are doing nothing to help the racism situation. In fact, they say it’s hurting the situation.

What happens is that the protesters have tied their irrational behavior to “Black Lives Matter”. Now, when many people hear “Black Lives Matter”, in their mind they see destruction, murder, and insanity.

How does that help deal with racism? It doesn’t. Especially when the fires die down, they will be ultimately unsuccessful in their goal.

Concern for the Protesters, and the Rest of Us

When the “defund the police” mantra started, it seemed to have started in CHAZ before it became CHOP.

Negotiations had begun. But the protesters didn’t understand negotiation. You start out with your irrational demand, and then negotiate to what you really want. CHOP started with “defund the police” and never let it go.

Since it’s an irrational demand, it can never be accommodated. If they keep rioting about it, and it can never be given to them, what do you think is going happen?

I know what will happen. They’ll send in the National Guard to quell it.

Do you want the National Guard to come in? I don’t! They don’t have any skin in the game of the success of Seattle. Remember Kent State? 13 were killed! That was in 1970! It’s 2020 and it’s not only the “Age of Helplessness”, it’s also the “Age of Entitlement”. Since the protesters in Seattle seem to think that they are entitled to destroy property, threaten families, and kill people (many think the ends justify the means), what do you think is going to happen if the National Guard comes here?

https://www.history.com/news/kent-state-shootings-timeline

With the exception of stopping the rioting insanity, NOTHING GOOD!

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who sees this, even though I know that the protesters are not the majority. The majority is sick and tired of them. The only reason they haven’t done anything about it is because Seattle is full of beta dogs.

Before I get to the Conservatives, I want to hit briefly on the Presidential Election.

The Election

Dear protesters, you are scary. You scare a lot of people. You scare me. Many people think that you are irrational and violent.  The destruction you’ve wrought has put them in a very bad position.

Many people here in Seattle think that there is no way Trump will win the election. They thought that way last time, and they were wrong then.

They’re going to be wrong again.  Why?

Yes, many conservatives don’t like Trump. But equating this fact to a loss in the election is naïve.

They don’t want Trump, but there are no other compelling candidates. Biden is scary to them. Very scary. Scarier than Trump. Then they watch the protesters destroying everything and realize they don’t want whoever the protesters are voting for either.

What the hell are they supposed to do? Hummm..? I have no idea what to tell them when I get calls.

I know a lot of Conservatives, and I am 95% sure that Trump is going to win. I’m leaving the 5% because maybe I’m the one out of my mind so I need show a bit of humility.

The only way Trump will lose is if every Democrat votes, and they vote for the same person. Since I’ve been getting messages asking me to write in Bernie, and many probably won’t vote at all, the odds are not good.

But I am certain of one thing…

The Election is already over.

In my mind, the election isn’t the danger, it’s this question: Will Trump vacate office after his eight years?

He’s too big, his shadow is too big. He’s scary, very scary. I worry that at the end of eight years, there will be no one strong enough to deny him if he decides to just take over. I’m not the only one worried about this.

Now that the election is over, let’s get to the Conservatives.

Conservatives

I grew up in Omaha Nebraska. My family is mainly Conservative. Deep down, I’m a mix of Conservative and Liberal with, I hope, a healthy dose of sanity thrown in.

The thing to know about Conservatives is that they are already paranoid about the government. They already know there is a lot of corruption and unfairness going on. Why do you think they voted for Trump in the first place? They were hoping he’d be able to eradicate the corruption. They live at the micro level. They are mainly concerned about their families, their communities, and their nation. They live very deep in day to day reality. The dolphins are very far away for them.

The concept that is most important to them is “freedom.” Freedom to choose for themselves, to have agency in their own lives. While they may also be concerned about the same things as the Liberals are, if they have to choose, they’ll choose freedom, every time.

This often comes out as focus on individual liberties. The right to provide and protect their families, and all that implies, from those who seek to strip them of those liberties. The right to choose for themselves.

Now usually, what happens is you end up with Conservatives stockpiling guns and chest beating. It’s the rule of wild. The toughest, and the craziest, always win. Especially when it’s a mask that’s worn, and not the truth. The Liberals laugh at them, but they don’t care.

Then COVID happens.

They get triggered by everyone yelling on social media, being crazy and telling them what to do. I know, because I got triggered too, until Mark Manson put out a newsletter that explained everything in a way that didn’t make me want to punch him in the face.

And like the Liberals, they draw their line in the sand.

They get focused on the idea of “you’re not going to tell me what to do!” And they don’t wear their masks and instead go to the bars or the beach or church or anywhere else they damn well want to go.

Social media gets after them even more forcefully and they get even crazier because of it.

Like the Liberals, they are trying to find some agency in their lives. They want to feel like they are in control.

LISTEN HARD!

I know the stupid masks are annoying, and the people yelling about them are even more annoying, but we need to get through this. I have things I want to do with my life, and I can’t do them until we get this under control. I’m sure you do too!

Instead of thinking of the damn masks as an infringement on your liberties, why not think that you are taking action, taking control of your life, and that as an individual, you are choosing to do all you can to help stop all this nonsense?

You DO have control over your lives. I know it. Deep down you know it. Affect something even bigger than yourself. Protect not only your own family, but the nation.

Ignore the dumbasses yelling at you (you can unfollow people on Crackbook). Decide what you’re going to do about the situation and do it. Do it for yourself, your family, and all of us. And do it on purpose. It’s YOUR choice. I know it’s tempting to do the reverse of what the social media idiots are yelling about but try and resist it. I know you have it in you.

Now, I have plans to go to film school next year in Chicago. I need to get the hell out of Seattle. I’m already organizing and packing. If you force me to stay here any longer than I have to and delay my plans, well, I’m coming after you! Just kiddin’ …Sort of..

Helplessness is a Bitch

A total bitch. But it’s also a big cause of all of this madness.

I’m asking all of you to do something for me, for all of us. Be aware of that feeling of helplessness when you have it. Find something really productive to do with it. It’s an energy. It can be used for pretty much anything.

Be creative! Plant a garden! Write a book! Come up with a real solution to police brutality! Take care of your family! Make a new desk for your grandchild! No matter what, there ARE things you can actually do! I’m learning Photoshop and am taking a funny voices class online at The Second City.

Don’t waste it on actions that feel good in the moment but will hamper us all in the long run.

You can make it through this. We can all make it through this. I know we can. We can make it through the “Age of Helplessness”.

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