We are flooded with information. We are flooded with misinformation. The media landscape has become saturated with news, statistics, opinions and personal stories (my own included) of nearly every form concerning racism, immigration and identity politics. Politicians and leaders everywhere have cleverly forged these heavy topics into sturdy oars in their unscrupulous battles for power. Certainly, they have always done so, but now they have even greater reach and drive, the ripples of their strokes spreading far out across the globe. Some say the landscape has become oversaturated, while others say the time has finally come for these deeply submerged issues to surface, to be examined in full light, and debated in a scale the world has never seen before—that is, before the internet made it possible.
Wherever you stand on these issues, it is extremely difficult to escape the undertow and crush of powerful waves stirred up by anger, hate and controversy, ceaseless and overflowing. That is, unless you disengage.
One way to disengage is to unplug all your devices, but that is quite drastic. Another way to disengage is to turn off all but the most basic notifications and apply stronger filters to your various feeds. Technology has given us the amazing and rather frightening ability to make our personal bubbles even more impenetrable, so there is very little possibility for new information to challenge us in any way.
However, social media has found some creative ways to circumvent that, beneficially and detrimentally: dispersing provocative content enticingly, “popular” opinions exponentially multiplied by bots, or worst, they have given shady provocateurs access to your personal information. With this maddening array of choices (and their chaotic outcomes), by far the surest and quickest way to disengage is to simply do so mentally—to simply wash your hands of it by letting it wash over you unprocessed, unfiltered, unknown. We are fatigued. Exasperated. Then we become inured, numbed.
Unfortunately, this also plays well in the strategies of those who strive to manipulate us for personal gain. If you can’t move people with any type of information, fact, or statistic, you can render them harmless with bombardment and repetition. A sea of dissonance harbors disillusionment.
There are also ways to make a person or a topic seem important that do not depend on the content of their character or any intrinsic value, rather, the amount of focus placed on them and the group they represent. This has worked out very well for many politicians, who severely lacking in crucial aspects of character, are more interested in bending the truth, in rewriting reality itself than searching for it or championing it.
The question of reality is the ultimate one. It is the common denominator in this sea roiling with contradictory stories and arguments unceasing. What is reality? A solid answer seems aggravatingly unattainable. The force of multitudes of opinions clashing, the cacophony of voices debating, insulting, insisting on their truths all at once have rendered it shape-shifting, malleable. Has reality become fluid or was it always so? Are we drowning in an ocean of realities? Have we nothing to guide us but only the most bombastic and fervent of lighthouses?
It seems we cannot decide on a reality. At the very least, a shared one. One that does not diminish anyone’s humanity. We feel threatened, opposed, endangered. Some want to erect stronger walls to keep those away who yearn for the relative stability within those borders, tenuous and fragile it may well be. Some want to be separated from those who do not share in their beliefs, or values, or race. And yet the cry of divisiveness is the most common accusation from everyone on every side. They are dividing the country. They are dividing us. We are divided.
It is a bit of a misnomer to divide the sea. Water is composed of the same primary elements. It does not seek to be distinct unless there is an active agent or an impermeable barrier. It flows to reach equilibrium. That is the way of things. Nature moves towards balance. Our universe expands until it reaches a symmetry of critical mass. Then it rapidly contracts until it reaches singularity. And then it begins again.
Take a deep breath.
Text and images by M.P. Baecker © 2018.