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October 9th, 2020
Moods and trends come and go within culture. Periods of hysteria appear to be cyclic across generations. In the late 40’s and 50’s the United States was engulfed by a zeal known as McCarthyism to root out communists, and today supporters of communist thinking are some of the biggest proponents of cancel culture - a modern incarnation of a similar hysteria. And 300 years before that the Salem Witch trials occurred due to a hysteria over people who were thought to be witches.
It’s clear the human mind, especially within a group can be host to some bizarre and nonsensical processes of thought. Concepts can begin to seem like their opposite. In a world of greed, corruption can begin to seem like a virtue, because it’s the way to move up in the world.
In a period of culture when concepts are turns upside down and sewn to their opposites, authenticity begins to shine among the inauthentic - which is to say, we start accepting contradictions as a way to view reality. When this happens, we become vulnerable in ways that are completely at the whim and will of those who foster no qualms about using the channels of those contractions.
One example is when an individual is upfront and honest about how dishonest they can be. While this is not and should not be respectable, the admission gains respect because it masquerades as a form of authenticity. It’s a persona that say, don’t trust me, I’ll turn on you, but when it’s conveyed with confidence and self-assuredness, it becomes intoxicating - not because of the facts at hand and their real world consequences, but simply because confidence and shows of self-assuredness are intoxicating. It’s as if you hand a child who has just learned to read the most beautiful chocolate cake you could ever imagine with icing on top arranged in an exquisite script that says ‘poison’.
A strong and confident public commitment to dishonesty is a bit like email spam. Those emails are written poorly -by design- in order to filter out those who aren’t gullible and filter towards the most vulnerable, who can then be taken advantage of with efficient ease. The strategy works, there are people, indeed perhaps sadly most, who don’t pause to think through the components of a situation, but simply follow blindly the whimsical direction of the emotions they feel.
It’s a mindful act of rebellion to question one’s own feelings on a subject, to challenge them and question deeply whether those feelings are helpful, meaningful, useful, and ultimately, valid.
Is it then any surprise that dishonesty can run so rampant and in the open during a time when every last feeling is prized, coveted and upheld like some sort of divine message?
The better angels of our nature show up, not when we are somehow in tune with the world, but when we constantly challenge the tune of our own hearts, tuning our own being with the tension between feeling and thoughtful consideration.
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