by guest blogger Renee James, humorist and blogger
Before I get too far along, let me stipulate a fundamental fact here. There aren’t enough trees left on the planet to manufacture enough paper for me to document the list of things I know nothing about. But let’s assume I have enough hours left in my life to try to capture them in some kind of eternal Word doc and create a summary of the many, many topics I find mystifying. I’d then save the document and maybe one day, my great-, great-grandchildren will read it with some curiosity, and debate how someone so clueless could have survived into the 21st century.
In other words, I know very little. Can we agree on that?
But I’ve always known this—one truth that never disappoints and never abandons me, whatever the circumstance: There is always one more idiot than you counted on. There is always one more person who can take a tragic situation and make it worse. Who can take a happy situation and make you feel foolish or sadly misguided for feeling, well, happy. One more person who can take misery and make those around him or her feel guilty for not feeling guiltier. That one extra idiot seems to have the inside track on how to divide us and pit us against each other using methods that—in happier times—only megalomaniac dictators and mean girls understood.
This is also an unfortunate truth: Tragedy surrounds us. It embraces us on a regular basis; it recognizes no boundaries, nor does it discriminate. And this is where I start to worry we are truly doomed. Billions of us turn to our online “community” to help us endure the pain and move to a more peaceful place. But instead of promoting peace, we seem to take the following paths of reaction instead:
1. Horror and outrage: How could this have happened? (I have no idea—you already knew that.) Be it an A-list celebrity’s suicide, or terrorists beheading a journalist, or a community trying to emerge from turmoil and mayhem, nothing is truly real until social media starts buzzing about it and offering “insight,” God help us.
2. Opinionated information: Here’s what he/she/it has to say; and he/she/it knows the real story. (Note: Choose your sources/pundits carefully. Under no circumstances should you even imagine seeking an opinion that could possibly diverge from your own preconceived notions. That kind of thinking will put a real damper on your horror and outrage.)
3. Blame: It’s her/his/their fault. (“I knew it! This is Reagan’s legacy!” Or this: “I knew it! Obama is a disaster!” Or this perennial favorite catchall: “I knew it! This does nothing but make banks/pharma companies/big oil/the ‘1%’ richer.”)
4. Superiority and smugness: I’m smarter than everyone else, and anyone who defends her/him/it is an idiot. (“Really? There are people in sub-Saharan Africa without clean water, and we’re wasting it to create ‘awareness’ with online videos?” “Really? We created the terrorists and taught them why they should hate us. Who can blame them?” Conclusion: We are despicable and deserve what we get.)
5. Horror and outrage: How can this story keep getting even worse? How could that be happening?
And…we’re back. But the very bad news is that now, instead of that one more idiot (who surfaced and annoyed us in less “connected” times), there are thousands of them.
I have just about had it with everyone who can find something wrong with just about everything. I’m through with Facebook posts or tweets from those who suspect evil, divisive political motives for everything from pizza delivery to ice cream. Do you own a corner store and have FOX News on the television behind your counter? Unenlightened jackass. Do you drive a car with bumper stickers that advocate co-existence and recycling? Hippie-freak peacenik.
Do you want to save elephants, support hunting, stop climate change, or drill for oil? Thank you very much: I know everything I need know about you. I’ve placed you in your tiny, hermetically sealed niche and will refuse to consider that you may be nuanced, introspective, well-read, and open to an honest, fact-filled discussion about your point of view. It’s so much easier to mock you through anonymous online comments or attack your worthless opinions on Facebook or Twitter. I’m right! You’re wrong! Isn’t that obvious to anyone with a brain?
I shouldn’t be surprised. In a year that added the word “selfie” to online dictionaries, can’t we all admit that we’re self-absorbed, egocentric narcissists who are very impressed with ourselves, our lives, and our circle of like-minded friends and/or our communities beyond all reason?
More from the newest dictionaries: WDYT? (What do you think?) After all, YOLO (you only live once). SMH (shaking my head) in disbelief. OK—and one more, from me. WTF happened to us?
Renee A. James works at Rodale Inc. and also wrote an award-winning op-ed column for The Morning Call, the Allentown, PA, newspaper, for almost 10 years. Her essays were included in the humor anthology, 101 Damnations: A Humorists’ Tour of Personal Hells (Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), and are also found online at Jewish World Review and The Daily Caller. She invites you to Like her Facebook page, where she celebrates—and broods about—life on a regular basis, mostly as a voice in the crowd that shouts, “Really? You’re kidding me, right?” (or wants to, anyway), and she welcomes your suggestions, comments, and feedback to the mix.