“The simple step of a courageous individual is not to take part in the lie. One word of truth outweighs the world.” ― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
I like to watch people. People are interesting, even people that don’t agree with me. And twenty years of customer service experience has given me a lot of practice at it. As a CNA you learn to recognize when people feel good or bad or are drugged up. Doing construction, you learn how people react to strangers entering their homes to do work and how they react to a good or bad job. From food service, you learn how to recognize when someone is looking down on you and the subtle signs of being hungry. You learn how people react over money, both when receiving and when forced to pay it back, when doing check advances. When doing delivery work, you learn how to recognize the minute body language that could signify a threat and when competitive co-workers are edgy and looking for an advantage or are up to no good. While taking phone calls in service centers, you learn to operate without the vast well of information that body language provides about a person and to pay attention to phrasing and tone. As I tell people, and most people jump when told this to their face which creates an even larger reaction to read, I can read muscle twitches you don’t even know you’ve made. But as well as I can read people, which has allowed me to disarm many bad situations while in the infant stage, I’m unable to properly isolate the source of the mentality that has been projected into the US political environment starting just before the ’16 presidential election, which is the mentality the compels people to resort to personal attacks such as Hillary’s now infamous ‘deplorable’ brain fart that lost her the election and the accusations of ‘racist’, ‘misogynist’, and ‘extremist’ that are regular fodder in any dialog in which those part of the far Left doesn’t agree with which has led to a likewise response from people in the middle and on the Right. This isn’t to suggest that insults haven’t always been thrown back and forth between groups of people, but the rhetoric picked up serious steam after Hillary decided to label anyone that disagreed with her as ‘deplorables’ and pushed the idea that anyone disagreeing with her were ‘deserving strong condemnation’ per the definition of ‘deplorable’. Of course, some people just shout insults in return, but others write stories and essays, using the poison thrown back and forth (and at themselves) as social fodder to put the dysfunction of the political and social climate on display. It’s been a lot of fodder for people watchers and interesting fodder in a horror show kind of way.
Before getting into the possible sources of the poison that has bubbled up, I’m going to state where it didn’t come from. It’s not from the country being more divided than before, because the voter party affiliation has remained relatively constant between the major two political parties for some time. It’s not because Hillary was attacked first, because she was winning the ’16 Presidential election when the ‘deplorables’ comment was made that resulted in her losing. It’s not from the general conflict between Liberals and Conservatives, because that conflict is ages old. And it’s not because some group was suddenly downtrodden, because the overall US society has remained reasonably stable since the civil rights movements in the 60’s other than some riots caused by police violence. The source is nothing so simple. But what is the source? I have a few ideas, but since the truth is messy, I think it’s a bit of all of them in various degrees, plus more I’ve not considered.
The first suspect is social media. For the first time in history, people are able to easily hide behind fake accounts and mask their identity. This allows people to say stuff they wouldn’t otherwise say due to no consequences being attached to those words. Don’t like a politician but don’t want your name known? Make a fake account. Want to support odious ideological concepts but don’t want your name known? Make a fake account. Blocked or banned? Make a fake account. Want to harass a person or group? Make a fake account. The worst in people comes out when they can hide behind a fake name. No matter how harsh you can be when your name is attached to the words, you can be a million times worse when knowing the real you isn’t on display to be criticized. This emboldens people that would never say what they do otherwise. Mob mentality also seems to be part of what happens on social media. Causing a ruckus and getting someone banned from some platform is no different than a group of people with torches and pitchforks forcing someone out of a neighborhood.
Identity politics is the second suspect. Identity politics seems to have caused a great number of people to forget something important: you’re a citizen of the country you’re in first and foremost. Man? Woman? Teenager? Student? Gay? Poor? Rich? Christian? Liberal? Conservative? Libertarian? Irrelevant. Meaningless. To anyone but you the individual, that is. You’re not a citizen of any of that, you’re a citizen of the country and of the state you reside in. Your ideological group does not look after your social security. It does not attend to your civil rights. It does not pass laws. It does not declare disaster relief. It does not deposit your disability payments. It does not provide you with Medicaid. The country does as a cooperative collective of states that has agreed to work together to do so. Identity politics puts emphasis on individuals and appears to create a mental state in which people stare intently at a single tree without seeing the forest around them, and, in some cases, deny the forest even exists. It’s a compartmentalized state of being in which the box the person is locked inside is their ideological group that they perceive to be an entire world.
The third suspect is drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. Everyone knows about the opiate epidemic unless they live under a rock in the middle of the desert 500 miles from anyone else. Fewer people realize that nearly every mass shooter in the last two decades has been on some sort of anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, or anti-psychotic medication. Sometimes multiple ones. Nearly all of these types of drugs have suicidal thoughts and personality changes as side effects mixed with other things like anxiety, agitation, depression, and insomnia, causing a corresponding increase in mental illness as their use increases. Some have side effects associated with compulsive gambling, sleep suicide, and sleep driving. Some even have ‘sudden death’ as side effects. (But don’t expect your doctor to tell you about them since the over prescription of opiates that caused the opiate epidemic is evidence they’re in pharm company pockets and are willing to push a poisoned product.) And these things are being handed out like candy. Commonly used medications, including widely used anti-psychotic medication Seroquel, have been discovered to cause dementia like symptoms when used in conjunction with each other. Meanwhile, the average number of prescriptions used by people in the US was an average of 12.3 per person in 2013, with the lowest age group of 0-18 having an average of 4.2, and has only risen since, which doesn’t include OTC drugs like Zantac, which is currently being recalled due to cancer risk. The number of prescriptions per individual is far higher since these are averages and a lot of people like me and most people I know take a grand total of zero. That’s a lot of drug interactions that can cause all matter of physical and mental issues in the people taking them, and since those people are on the inside looking out, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be the ones to notice themselves acting odd since it merges with their reality. As someone that’s essentially ‘gone nuts’ twice in my life, once from an out of control thyroid and the second due to inhaling unknown chemicals in a workplace for months, I’ve personally seen that no matter how much you’re aware of yourself, you can’t properly examine what happened in your head until emerging from the darkness that type of thing creates. It’s like being in a tunnel but not knowing you’re in a tunnel until you stumble out one end and can look back on things.
The fourth suspect is that we’re growing into a nation of bullies. That wouldn’t be too surprising, considering our international diplomacy has been on the level of a school ground bully for decades now by threatening war and sanctions on those that disagree. But which is a consequence of the other is open to debate. It’s a chicken and egg argument. What is less of a debate is that no bully only tells someone to hand over their money or to step off a cliff. They don’t simply say do ‘X’. That just doesn’t work on a psychological level, and depending on the person, it doesn’t even work then and can have the opposite effect. Some people like to oppose bullies just because they’re bullies, no matter who they’re defending. What bullies say is do ‘X’ or I’ll do ‘Y’. This isn’t limited to physical violence. The mental version of it is do ‘X’ or you’re ‘Y’. But the psychology behind both is the same since they can be reduced to ‘to treat in an overbearing or intimidating manner’ which is the definition of ‘bullying’. This suspect in particular could be related to drug use and environmental contamination since bullying is something that originates in the mind, making it susceptible to external chemical manipulation.
The fifth suspect is environmental contamination. Pharmaceuticals, illegal drugs, industrial chemicals, and plastics have entered the ecosystem at every level. Research showed long ago that hormonal changes caused by chemicals can cause tadpoles to turn into hermaphrodites. To think that these things don’t enter human bodies and have some effect would be nearsighted, however, this issue hasn’t been taken seriously except when certain pockets of chemicals cause serious health issues in an area and the government is forced to examine the problem. These chemicals have been linked to lower testosterone levels in men in some studies, making what they do to everyone else open to a debate that few want to have since the majority may figure out something they don’t want to know, so little of the research has been followed up on.
The sixth suspect is the growing economic gap. People have the common view that the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 that killed ~1 million people was purely ethnic violence because that is the story presented. The Tutsi, ethnic minority, ruled the country and were overthrown in 1959 by the ethnic majority Hutus. Many Tutsi escaped to Uganda and formed a rebel army that then invaded Rwanda and fought a civil war from 1990-93 before a peace deal was brokered. On April 6th, 1994, the Presidential plane was downed, killing the Hutu President, Juvenal Habyarimana, initiating the methodical slaughter of Tutsi with machetes in which husbands killed wives, neighbor killed neighbor, and students killed their teachers. Calling it ethnic violence is the obvious option and the one most observers took. However, Jared Diamond presents a different outlook in his book ‘Collapse’. His research reveals a country that was massively overpopulated for available farmland and had a huge economic gap. Adult children were unable to make their way into the world and stayed in the household, which caused friction by breaking down the traditional ways the people had followed due to lack of income and available land. The poor farmers got poorer and possessed less land as the richer farmers were able to better their positions by buying land from the others and securing additional jobs for more income. The situation right before violence erupted in 1994 was one in which a great number of people were starving and desperate for something to give. As a surviving Tutsi school teacher said when interviewed, ‘The people whose children had to walk barefoot to school killed the people who could buy shoes for theirs’. Currently, the situation isn’t so that the majority of the US is starving, but the relative economic gap is widening. The fact that many of those complaining they don’t have enough money because they spend the money they have on expensive cell phones they ‘need’ along with other trinkets pushed by corporations and are weighed down by $1.6 trillion in student loans for useless degrees they never should have been loaned money for is irrelevant. What’s relevant is that the economic gap between the haves and have nots is growing and that produces resentment in people that feel they got the short end of the stick.. Resentment breeds discontent and violence over the long run within any group of people it takes hold of, and dialog about ‘universal income’ boils down to resentment and wanting more, which is a symptom of the economic gap.
Anyone that tries to claim that any single cause is leading to what we see in the US as a whole hasn’t thought the problem through. Anyone that claims the solution is simple hasn’t thought the problem through. Even if looked at in a conservative manner, we’re a minimum of two decades into the darkness, and probably closer to three or four. Due to the scope of the issues and the number of people in the country, it would take just as long to fix these issues in a civil manner. Politicians have to be removed from office that are paid off by large corporations. Lobbyists need banned. Stringent laws need put in place that say when and how doctors can prescribe certain scripts since powerful, mind altering drugs are being handed out for simple things such as weight control and sleep aids that they were never meant to be used for. The ‘education’ system and its corresponding student loan system needs a total revamp so they can’t prey on naive people and lock them into lifelong servitude for degrees that are the economic equivalent of underwater basket weaving. The environment needs cleaned up. The toxicity that is hate speech being masqueraded as ‘free speech’ needs addressed on social media. It’s not normal for people to be confused about their gender. It’s not normal for people to wish death on others simply because of an opinion that differs from their own, no matter how heated. It’s not normal for personal attacks to dominate the political landscape. It’s not normal to throw human life away for a buck. It’s not normal to tie people down in lifelong debt. Even though these things show up in societies all the time, they are always aberrant, caused by external stimuli, and get pushed aside once people come to their senses. Sometimes it happens because of a single work by a single person, such as when ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ultimately led to the fall of far Left Socialism in Russia. The political spectrum is a circle, with both ends terminating at a form of totalitarianism, which is why all far Left and far Right ideologies have failed until people had to relearn forgotten, harsh lessons by reinvigorating them or by reawakening them.
These are Americans’ favorite insults, by political affiliation: https://qz.com/291533/this-is-how-liberals-and-conservatives-insult-each-other/
Party Affiliation: https://news.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx
Clinton’s ‘deplorables’ remark sums up a deplorable election season: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/clintons-deplorables-remark-sums-up-a-deplorable-election-season/2016/09/10/78977694-777b-11e6-be4f-3f42f2e5a49e_story.html
Conservatives, Moderates, Liberals, and Progressives:
6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/#41bc812c2e5a
The Positive and Negative Effects of Identity Politics and the Privilege Lens on Academic Discourse: The Positive and Negative Effects of Identity Politics and the “Privilege” Lens on Academic Discourse
National Survey on Drug Use and Health: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/data-we-collect/nsduh-national-survey-drug-use-and-health
2018 Prescription Drug Abuse Statistics You Need To Know:
Zantac Is Voluntarily Recalled After Cancer-Causing Chemical Detected: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/fda-warns-zantac-may-have-carcinogen
Common Medications Can Masquerade as Dementia in Seniors:
Prescription per capita in the United States by age group 2013: https://www.statista.com/statistics/315476/prescriptions-in-us-per-capita-by-age-group/
The Psychology of Bullying:
US: History of U.S. sanctions shows most haven’t worked: https://corpwatch.org/article/us-history-us-sanctions-shows-most-havent-worked
US’s history of sanctions worldwide and how Zimbabwe is affected:
Pesticide ’causes frogs to change sex’: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1930658.stm
Environmental exposure to metals and male reproductive hormones: Circulating testosterone is inversely associated with blood molybdenum: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2823119/
PFOA and PFOS Cause Lower Sperm Counts and Smaller Penises, Study Finds: https://theintercept.com/2018/11/30/pfoa-and-pfos-cause-lower-sperm-counts-and-smaller-penises-study-finds/
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/475.Collapse
The Widening Gap Between the Super-Rich and Other Americans:
Rwanda genocide: 100 days of slaughter: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26875506
Paying Back Student Loans? It’s Hardest for People in These 8 Industries: https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/paying-back-student-loans-its-hardest-for-people-in-these-industries.html/
The Gulag Archipelago and The Wisdom of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn:
The Rise of the Far Right