Since returning from a short vacation, I feel as if a shift has occurred in the world. Or maybe not necessarily the world, it feels like there has been a shift in the town of which I live. Maybe it is all the planets that are currently in retrograde affecting the energy flow or maybe there was a shift within myself or maybe we are all just losing it. I think it is a combination of all three plus many other factors, but there has definitely been a surge in aggressive energy and actions of late that I am not just feeling, I am seeing.
I recently read an article that spoke toward ‘this feeling’ that the world is spinning out of control. So much of ‘this feeling’ is due to the barrage of stories flying at us of shootings and attacks and rage and the constant stream of awfulness happening out the world that is desensitizing us and making us feel that we are existing in this highly unsafe world. But the truth is, we are not living in a world that is as unsafe and worse than ever before. It is just that we are more aware of all of the bad things than ever before. As Ta-Nehisi Coates put it: “The violence is not new; it’s the cameras that are new.”
For me this was not new information. I am well aware of the fact that we are living in an attention economy that rewards extremism. People are rewarded for indulging their worst biases and stoking other people’s worst fears. They are rewarded for portraying a world that is full of depravity and baseness, whether it’s because of gay marriage, or more diversity in books, or Islamic terrorism, or low interest rates. As Mark Manson wrote, “The internet has generated a platform where apocalyptic beliefs are celebrated and spread, and moderation and reason is something that becomes to arduous and boring to stand.” This unending awareness of every fault and flaw of our humanity that is commandeering the attention space is what has caused the feeling of chaos and, in turn, ignited chaos. We are losing it. Drowning in tsunami wave after tsunami wave of negativity, we are ready to burn down the very structures in which the most successful civilizations in human history have been built.
Even though I have personally removed myself from that attention economy as much as I can and seek my information through long-form journalism that has been thoroughly researched and vetted, always knowing that information may have been missed, my return from vacation made me realize that I have been failing to take in the very real feelings of outrage that are coursing through my backyard and mobilizing like minds. Everywhere I turn, I am struggling to find the thread of love that lies within every living being. That piece of humanity that exists within each of us that just wants to connect, be treated with kindness and feel supported during the struggle that is living. All I am seeing and feeling is hate.
There is this pervading belief that we must protect our freedoms from some external, evil threat. While at some moments in time, that is the case, I find that people have forgotten that freedom is also earned through internal sacrifice. I would say that it is mostly earned in this way. As Mark Manson so aptly writes it, “Freedom can only exist when you are willing to tolerate views that oppose your own, when you’re willing to give up some of your desires for the sake of a safe and healthy community, when you’re willing to compromise and accept that sometimes things don’t go your way and that’s fine. The only way for human rights to persist is for everyone to collectively agree to accept that things [will not] go their way 100% of the time.”
The truth is that if we truly say we stand for freedom – freedom of speech, intellectual freedom, freedom of religion, etc. – we all must be willing to sustain discomfort and tolerate dissatisfaction. We must “be able to be charitable and forgiving of groups whose views stand in contrast to one’s own, and most importantly, remain unswayed in the face of some violent threat.” This is a truth that I have accepted, though it is challenging to keep in mind at times. This truth is what lies at the heart of the Public Library - is the foundation that it is built on - and is one of the reasons that I feel so connected to the institution that employees me. But the consequence of living and working in this truth is that it can blind me to the aggression fueled by confusion and hate. I suppose we all need to have an awakening every once in a to that which makes us different from one another, but I think we are allowing it to go about in the wrong way. As The Rolling Stones remind us, “You can’t always get what you want”, but The Beatles will not let us forget that “all you need is love”.
-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing + Outreach Coordinator
*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.