Within the constant flak of the media and culture wars, it is hard to imagine that random acts of kindness still exists. Yet, it does. I experience it every day from strangers: the person who lets me go before them in the supermarket line because I have fewer items. People who are quick to wish me a good day while holding the door for me. And even people who allow me space to merge into their traffic lane.
The experience of kindness pierces the veil of our projections that often dichotomizes our thinking into “us vs them:” it has the authenticity of being one-to-one, calling upon our basic human instincts to bond and to trust.
Our antagonistic projections are created when we retreat to our TV or internet screens where our emotional reactions become malignant. We perceive our world -— in fact, our own society — as threatening and we seek to retreat into a tribalistic mindset.
The communications theorist Marshall McCluhan said in 1964 “the medium is the message.” He had no idea how prescient he was. In movies and in the news of that era, information and stories were conveyed in a linear experience. We digested the news or storyline within the context of our daily routines. Contrast that to the vortex of today’s 24/7 media onslaught. On a website, information is rarely passed to the user as a linear experience, real-time responses and links are added to keep us hooked into the endless flow of information usually biased to our point-of-view. Everything we read is algorithmically programmed to appeal to our proclivities and prejudices. Media is designed for our personal consumption, like designer jeans or personalized vodka. And like vodka we get drunk on it and act irrationally.
Within this rabbit hole of information, our fears are often stirred up internally by our own heuristics and externally by media marketers and pundits, who, not for any other reason, make gobs of money separating us into our tribal camps while raging at the other.
Most humans are reactionary. In the absence of Stoicism or the practice of authentic Christianity, most take offense easily. The formula is this : Render us fearful and separate us into our tribes, then have an “expert” reinforce and justify our feelings to create a self satisfying loop. Fear and anger produces stress and in that state, we look for people to side with us. There is safety in numbers. Most controversy is contrived and a way to get keep us pissed off at the other. The media in all its forms — Facebook, Twitter, Radio and TV — stoke our fears and emotions while they capitalize prodigiously.
Within this “take no prisoner” prism, the art of the compromise has become anathema. They would have you think there is no common ground between the left and the right, which means common sense and truth are the first casualties of this political war. If King Solomon were alive today, his sword would be dull from dividing so many babies.
Sure there are legitimate issues on we are dealing with — immigration, what should our children be learning, abortion. But on either side of these issues is not the enemy: they are you and me. Politicians and pundits would like you to believe the culture wars are worth fighting, because it empowers and enriches them. But we are the foot soldiers in these battles.
We are divided as a nation, but not as a people. People want to connect and not alienate. We do it every day in the streets, stores and sidewalks. That’s where real life is. Not on the screens.
We have the capacity for love and kindness. Politics has become an artificial and arbitrary wall between you and me to keep us angry and fearful and looking for cover. Don’t buy into it any longer.
Turn off Hannity, Acosta, Carlson, Maddow and others of their ilk. Tune in to the people around you. Your friends and and your apolitical community. You’ll be surprised just how decent many people are.