2016 was one of those years where I looked around at everything that was happening outside of my life, and couldn’t see much of anything I liked. However, when I turned that same gaze inward, I saw plenty to be happy with. 2016 was a dog of a year for plenty of reasons, but my own accomplishments were not where the misery could be found.
I travelled, I wrote, I read, I lived well, and that was my 2016.
Unfortunately, while I was blindly enjoying being alive and seeing all that the world had to offer, that same world seemed to be going to hell. This year was marked with an election that ruined anyone’s faith in an educated populace, democracy, and electability of candidates, while outpourings of violence, celebrity death, and rampant drug epidemics on this side of the world kept everyone nice and afraid and miserable.
It got to be that I needed to turn off most media sources at times, because I simply couldn’t handle everyone’s opinion of what was going on. Most people just seemed to want to join in with the discussion as if they were all an enlightened bunch that knew the facts and had the real answers and solutions to all of the issues that seemed to be raining down upon us. But they weren’t enlightened, and they didn’t have any answers. That goes for the left and right, conservative and liberal, republican and democrat, and every other political stance you can possibly think of.
I’m trying to make a point about how everyone seems to act like the only correct side, while decrying the mainstream media, all other sources of information, and everyone with a differing opinion, or an opinion on other people voicing their opinions. Trying to make that point puts me in the same category as all of the people I’m trying to call out. It is a vicious cycle; It seems impossible to call out those who follow incorrect sources, and wear their own ignorance as if it is peerlessly reviewed fact, without at the same time appearing to those people as exactly the same.
What the fuck do we do about this? If you have any ideas please let me know. A book I read last year by Doris Lessing, The Prisons We Chose To Live Inside, spoke to this issue; about how an individual must find their own level of knowledge and not work at all to try and influence anyone else, but find a happiness in knowing and being aware of the situation and the culture of the world. In a nutshell, it means bunkering down with the books and being comfortable with your superior level of knowledge, while telling nobody else about it, and not reaching out to teach anyone else, because that way lies only disappointment and anger.
By that rationale I should just delete everything I have written already, make a cup of tea, delete facebook, and live happily in a warm cocoon of knowledge.
But where’s the fun in that? Also, what changes if every intellectual does that? What changes in the grand scheme of things if everyone educates themselves only for themselves?
I’ve also been thinking a lot about ideologies. All of this comparison between Donald Trump and Hitler got me thinking about it. One man really is not all that dangerous. He’s just a man. A person as an individual isn’t powerful. The danger and the power comes from whatever ideology that that man uses to motivate and mobilize other people.
Hitler, as a person, is not dangerous; it is the hatred and fury of National Socialism and Fascism that he used to whip a nation into a vicious genocidal fury that presented all of the danger. Mao, as an individual, is just a single human being, and no more dangerous than anyone else, however, Communism and “The Great Leap Forward” in his hands were turned into a force that killed 80 million people.
This is why I’m not afraid of Donald Trump, a lumpy 70 year old who doesn’t seem to know fuck all about running a country, but I am afraid at whatever ideology he’s going to bring to bear, and the people that are going to come out of the woodwork to support it. When the Alt-Right is seig-heiling in conference centers and celebrating the election of this fuckface, all I see is a group of aggressive racists chomping at the bit to see what they will be let loose on in the name of ____________.
The other issue with these dangerous ideologies is that they are insidious, and very convincing. One needs only to look at the masses that voted for Trump to see how easily people can be swayed. Sure, they may still be millions and millions of holdouts and millions and millions of people who never would have voted for Trump in any incarnation. However, all of those people will remain silent and divided as the forces of a powerful government gain power and begin to seize control and oppress anyone in their way. Hitler never held a majority government, and in situations where those who wish to seize true power are motivated to do so, the idea of doing it through elections and gathering public support, is as foolish as getting a baker to fix your car engine.
As a counter point, one could look at the ideology of hope that Obama rode to victory eight years ago. Obama himself was just the figurehead of a movement that took him to victory on a leftist, young-person motivated, and race tolerant ideology. Not every ideology is dangerous, or bad for society as a whole. However, with enough support, all of them are powerful, and with that power, can come danger, fear, and death.
So, going into 2017, my personal goal is not only to keep my eye on the man at the top of the heap, but also to glance behind the heap and see what labels are on the engines that are keeping it running. Because Ideologies are dangerous, and it is only through the study of them, and through knowing how they work to achieve their aims, that we can stop them.