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Condemnation games

From Albert Wenger on his blog Continuations: I am quoting almost half of his fairly short blog post here but you should still go see it in context, click on the links and check out the rest of the blog while you’re at it.

Second, the world is continuing to descend back into tribalism. And it has been exhausting trying to maintain a high rung approach to topics amid an onslaught of low rung bullshit. Whether it is Israel-Gaza, the Climate Crisis or Artificial Intelligence, the online dialog is dominated by the loudest voices. Words have been rendered devoid of meaning and reduced to pledges of allegiance to a tribe. I start reading what people are saying and often wind up feeling isolated and exhausted. I don’t belong to any of the tribes nor would I want to. But the effort required to maintain internally consistent and intellectually honest positions in such an environment is daunting. And it often seems futile.

Tangential to this is a trend, particularly regarding the Capitalized Content above but also about News of the Day on any particular day, is an expectation to condemn of the “if you are not saying something publicly, you are complicit” variety. Show your colors. Plant your flag. Choose your hill or whatnot. To which I can only say: why?

A few years ago I have somehow gotten onto a list of potential democratic donor and am routinely solicited for money, even though as a non-US citizen I can’t vote or donate to a political party. It gave me a window into what declared American democrats are exposed to, and I assume republicans get the same raw deal: a barrage of emails in ALL CAPS declaring whatever is happening on any given day to be The Most Consequential Event of Our Lives, click this link to donate. I can only imagine that, slowly at first and then as a torrent, that language drips drips drips into people’s minds until it’s part of the background mental processing.

So with such a loud background it is no wonder that people feel like they need to yell to get heard, and who cares about whatever small project you’re working on in your provincial unimportant back yard when there is Important Stuff Happening over here. Being social and wanting to get heard, we start yelling out things which we believe people we would want to like us would want to hear. And if you think that sentence is confusing, well, yes it is, but not any more confusing than the predicament we’re in.

Because those things actually are important, and it’s good to have a dialogue about them, around the dinner table, at the water cooler, at the game, with people we know and care about in contexts other than internet screaming matches that, mold-like, spread over constructive online dialogue until it’s rotten to its core. So for this blog and the general and generally wonderful community, I will have thoughts on science, coffee, books, an occasional photo, and come October maybe even some basketball. Not as consequential to the world perhaps, but consequential to me.

(↬Thought Shrapnel)

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