The Question.

The question I have spent more time thinking about over the course of my life than just about any other question is, “Why are people so fucked up?”

Why are they rude and condescending and controlling and dismissive and disrespectful? Why are they manipulative and dishonest and abusive?

The answer I have come up with is not very helpful because it kind of just circles back to the original question. Insecurity. Why are people so fucked up? Because they’re insecure. Okay then so why are they so insecure? Because they grew up in a fucked-up home. Okay then why were their parents fucked-up? And so on.

One trait I’ve noticed about fucked-up people is the extreme emotional attachment to their beliefs and opinions, but there’s more to it also. It’s almost like an extreme emotional attachment to being “right.” Like there is something so incredibly threatening about being “wrong” sometimes that they have to get all pissed and start calling names. Why is it so hard to admit that you’re wrong or that you might be? Or at least to admit that it’s okay for someone to believe something different than you. The amateur psychologist in me wants to make the amateur diagnosis of narcissism, but being an amateur, take that with several grains of salt.

Before I continue, let me just say that I fully admit to having been the “fucked-up person” in many situations over the course of my life. I think those situations have decreased though, since I’ve become more secure within myself.

And also just let me say that there are extreme situations where this does not really apply. For instance, with white supremacists and Nazis who are very emotionally attached to the opinion that brown people and gay people shouldn’t even exist. One cannot blame anyone for being very emotionally attached to the opinion that white supremacy as an entire phenomenon should not exist and that the people who are white supremacists and Nazis are most definitely, morally, empirically wrong.

But there is plenty of grey area in-between. Like, who are you backing in the Democratic Primary, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren? I’m only using this example because it’s something I’ve seen play out before my very eyes.

On social media, of course. But, still . . .

So, this one dude says that he is backing Elizabeth Warren because her policies are very similar to Bernie’s, because he thinks she can beat Trump, and because she’s a woman. Nothing terribly heightened or emotional about his rhetoric at all.

Almost immediately, there is someone replying to him who does not say anything substantive about policy or even political strategy, but instead calls Warren a “shill for the DNC” and calls the one dude “ignorant” and accuses him of not being a “real progressive.” Although mild by some standards, this is nonetheless an emotionally charged response to a reasoned, logical statement. And of course, the comments devolve from there with the epithets of “neoliberal” and “troll” being bandied about and so everyone just quits the conversation in a huff and goes back to their respective corners all offended. Basically because someone was so threatened by someone else not backing the candidate she was backing that she had to start calling names. We see things like this all the time. We may even participate in such exchanges. But, why? Why is this necessary? And what good does it do us?

Obviously, sometimes, the answer is that one of these people is a legit troll. But not always. And it can be hard to tell.

For the record, I am a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter. I was in 2016, and I still am now. Had I responded to this one dude, which I did not because the comments had already gone so far down the shitter there was no way I was gonna be able to fish them out, but if I had, I would have said that I think Bernie is the better candidate because he is the only one who fundamentally calls into question the philosophical underpinnings of our entire system. Elizabeth Warren does not call herself a “Socialist,” which some seem to think is a smart political move just because everyone has this fucking irrational fear of the word “Socialism,” (which I also happen to think is total bull shit. But, I’ll deal with that in another post.)

But, that’s what Bernie does when he says he’s a “Socialist.” He says that our entire system is built upon a number of false premises that are long overdue for an overhaul and a rethinking. He says that our system is based on false beliefs and false assumptions that have not been borne out in real life and that desperately need to be questioned and looked at. That’s what Bernie manages to do with just that one, little word. By calling herself a “Capitalist,” Elizabeth Warren fails to do this.

I also don’t buy the “we need a woman” thing. First of all, I am a woman, and if I were running for any elected office, I would not want people voting for me just because of my gender. I would want them voting for me because of my vision, my policies, and my honesty. You know, things that have nothing to do with the reproductive organs I was born with. I’ve also noticed that it is often men going around spouting the “we need a woman” thing. Maybe that springs from an insecurity about their feminist cred? I don’t know. What I do know is that I give a shit way more about a candidate advocating for policies that will be the most beneficial for women than I do about whether or not that candidate happens to be a woman. And as far as little girls “needing” to see a female president, I was a little girl once, and I definitely did not “need” to see a woman president to understand that a woman was just as capable of doing the job as any man. The people who I think “need” to see a female president are little boys, actually.

Anyway, this is just one example of people getting way more pissed off at each other than was necessary or helpful.

And I have nothing against anger, either. It’s just an emotion, and it can be very helpful and motivating when used responsibly. The problem, though, is that for some people, including myself, anger is almost addictive. It gets to the point where it controls you instead of the other way around. And this is where it gets really dangerous, because this is where others can use your anger for their benefit. If you get super pissed-off about every meme you see, every opinion piece that expresses the opposite of your opinion, every person who is backing a different candidate, or even every person who calls you a name on social media and so you retaliate and call them names back, that’s when you become super easy to manipulate. So you get all pissed, the conversation ends, and we stop talking to each other like human beings. This is why “our country is so divided.” (I’m really getting sick of hearing that phrase.)

All I can tell you is what I have tried to do so as not to get sucked into bull-shit drama online or in real life. I’ve tried to recognize when someone is trying to piss me off, and to not give them the satisfaction of having succeeded, and also to calmly respond in a way that both de-escalates and calls them out on their emotional manipulation. And I try to save the anger and vitriol for people who really and truly deserve it, like white supremacists, Nazis, and Donald Trump.

Of course, none of this really even begins to answer my essential question, “Why are people so fucked up?” But having control of my own anger has gone a long way toward helping me to no longer be one of those fucked-up people. For whatever that’s worth.

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