The world at arm's length

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 6, 2022, 2:00 PM | comments: 0

In the last few weeks, I have largely disengaged from much of the world via the Internet. I don't watch news on TV, I've largely dropped into a "post-only" mode on social media. I read a lot of the headlines on the NYT, and I read a lot of stuff from Ars Technica. That's about as deep as I can go.

The result is that my mental health is better than it has been in some time. Part of my bupropion journey is the recovery of joy, and with it, sadness to some degree. My emotional self is no longer dull, and it has been fantastic. I feel music and movies again. I notice sunsets. I want to see people (in small numbers). I'm very driven to do things I enjoy. Despite some objectively shitty years, for everyone, I am optimistic and content often.

That doesn't mean that I don't know what's going on. I'm just trying to avoid getting sucked into the whirling vortex of shit. One of my friends and I had a conversation about this a couple of weeks ago, on a day when our tourist endeavors were not going to plan. At one point we resolved to just stop and people watch. We recognized that we're fortunate to be able to do that, among other things that would be considered a luxury to some. And indeed I have the additional advantage of being a straight white guy. For as much as the world isn't right, I'm likely least affected by the ugly parts.

Let me be clear that I don't feel guilty for having such privilege. I don't want anyone else to feel that way either. That's the part that unfortunately a lot of white, straight, middle-class Americans don't seem to be getting. No one wants you to feel bad or guilty about where or who you are, despite the asshats on cable "news" who insist that's what "they" want you to feel. But what you should do is recognize the inequities of society and commit to resolving them in whatever way possible, because that's what decent human beings do.

It sounds like I'm describing an impossible duality here, but I don't think that I am. There are a lot of upsetting things going on in the world, but I can keep them at arm's length and find ways to change them. At the very least, basic civic engagement is a start, as is voting for people who aren't white nationalists, racists, anti-Semites, homophobes, fascists or otherwise horrible people. I mean, for some reason they can come right out and declare how terrible they are, so they're not hard to spot. Maybe they're not in the right party, but at some point you have to send a message to them that trying to subvert democracy and squish all of the folks not like them isn't a great look for the nation.

We can donate time and money to things that advance us toward an equitable world. Don't confuse equity with socialism or whatever you think it is. We can all have constructive conversations about the merits of government paying for certain things or not, but these are not the same issues as those that cause some people to be less than others due to policy, past or present.

So yes, I'm learning to do what I can to improve the world, and understand my scope of influence. I can find ways to empower others who have even greater influence. I can keep a distance without burying my head in the sand. What I will do less of is worry.


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