Social media tend to skew our attention and distort reality. I know that’s a pretty broad statement but I’ve been thinking about how we complain about things we really aren’t prepared to do anything to correct. I know it’s had me spending less and less time on Facebook and I never fell in love with Twitter or most of the other social media.
In recent weeks the expression “the dark web” has come into greater use and as a result I’ve been thinking a lot about the hypocrisy involved with social media. There’s ever so much complaining and pointing of fingers but not a lot of action. Oh sure, on some levels Prez45 has mobilized a more vocal resistance than I’ve seen in recent years but thus far not a lot has changed other than the volume of the resistors.
I’ve been rethinking where I’m going with my retirement and looking for different avenues to invest energy; perhaps some of these thoughts might encourage others to think about bigger questions and further reaching problems.
Not long ago I was reading an article in which the racial biases of white privileged society have permeated the software that judges and prosecutors use to predict recidivism. It seems that the people designing intelligent software have built into it the preconceptions of the builders about race and income and behavior. It’s funny the way our attitudes come out in our living even when we think they don’t. And it’s not just software designers who fall prey to their own preconceptions.
There is nothing new about the idea that rich people want to be richer and that they don’t really care about poor people. I’d like to see how much of their charitable giving would occur if there were no tax benefits to giving money to charity, but that’s not the issue. Oh yeah, you can tell me about the 1%. But never forget that in the past we had kings, queens, and emperors and they were the 1% of their day. Today we just renamed them, and call them hedge fund managers and software tycoons and politicians.
There is nothing new about bullying. Our children are being bullied, true. But big businesses have bullied small businesses, big countries like the U.S. bully small countries. Why does anyone think we keep a humongous military in this country, if not in part to deter other nations from what we think is our business. Our children learn from their parents first of all, and the beginnings of bullying happen long before kids turn up on school playgrounds. Bullying has been going on for centuries only now we have a place to complain about it and make it sound like news.
We are rightfully offended by spousal abuse. But we don’t choose to acknowledge that men have been abusing women for centuries. Prostitution still flourishes and women are still objectified. We appear to be shocked by human trafficking but seem immune to the walls of children’s faces in retails stores that have disappeared never to be heard from again. There are corners of the porn web so dark and perverted that light is sucked in never to be seen again. One thing the Internet has done for depravity is to convince a lot of people that they aren’t the only ones to have such thoughts — and to find conviction in numbers.
My point is simply that there are a lot of problems in this world that have existed for a long time and that are easy to complain about but which most of the time we (as a society) conveniently ignore. Until they affect us personally in some way.
Living in South Texas these last months I have become more aware of border issues. We are only 12 miles from the border; we normally see or hear nothing beyond what’s in the local media about border issues. However, in recent weeks two people with some connection to the RV park have been injured/killed in Mexico. One was a pipeline worker who went into Mexico at one of the not-so-safe border crossings (by that I mean crossings that do not cater to visiting U.S. tourists where things are usually pretty safe). He became involved in an attempted theft of his car and lost his life. The other was the young man who does maintenance here at the park. He rarely goes into Mexico but on a recent weekend he told his wife he felt like a adventure while she was working and he was going across the border to look around. He was beaten and barely made it back to the border and has spent a few days in Intensive Care. We hope to have him back at the park working soon. On top of these two isolated incidents which happened miles away from us, there was the recent story about a semi-truck full of people who had been smuggled across the border and were found overheated, several of them deceased, in San Antonio — some 275 miles away.
The facts of life are that the world is not a civilized place. The veneer of civilization is quite thin and evil is ever ready to surge up through the unprotected skin of society with corruption and destruction. We can sound the alarm about opiod addiction as if it is a brand new battlefield but the fact of the matter is that society now values a life that is pain free — at whatever the cost. We don’t want to have to deal with the realities of aging, of illness, accident; if we had our way as a society all those things would cease to exist and we would be free to spend our times as happy consumers of goods.
In a large world we don’t all play the same parts. Workers, builders, theoreticians, strategic planners, demolition experts — there are places for us all and those positions change for all of us from time to time as life changes us, and as we change life.
We can obsess about what two politicians, or two hundred politicians. are doing to our society, but we can also find ways of impacting society — or if nothing else the people you regularly rub shoulders with every day. We don’t all have to obsess, although it’s an easy thing to do — to give over acting for good for the sake of complaining about the bad.
I know how my life is changing. For me, I’m done with big, huge, the best ever plans. I’ve never been the sort of guy who really wanted to live life large. It’s always been about more time with fewer people for me. That’s where I know I am the most effective. And I don’t need to talk about many of the things I do; “let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing” — I think that biblical concept has a lot of merit. I don’t need public affirmation of my do’s and don’ts.
But that doesn’t mean I’m done trying to have an impact, or that I’m done looking for new avenues or causes. No one can fight an entire war, but we can all fight the battles that mean the most to us. Without a doubt our time in South Texas has opened my eyes to challenges I may be able to address in my little way. Will I change the world as significantly as a millionaire might? That’s not for me to judge. Nor is it my job to judge whether a millionaire is using their wealth wisely, or appropriately, or selfishly. They have the same judge that I do and they will answer the same questions as I come Judgment Day. All I can do is pay attention to what’s going on around me, realize that what is visible is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg, and to be the best citizen of this world I can. My path may take me in another direction than you, and that’s fine. It’s a big world. Be the change you wish to see in the world.