Echo Chamber?

On social media, I am now breaking ties with some people. Some of these are people I have “known” for years. Online, of course. I have cheered for them, been cheered on by them, encouraged and been encouraged by, felt badly and congratulated one another.

However, there can come a time that one has to part ways with toxic and damaging people. That is true online and in real life. Ever broken from a toxic relationship? An abusive relationship? Abuse does not have to be physical or overt, it can mean a manipulative relationship where the other person tries to shame you, use false information or gather a group to oppose you. The goal is not to convince you but to exhaust you, wear you down, leave you with no strength to raise your own voice, leave you with no pride or self respect and ultimately surrender to their will.

The need to separate myself from toxic relationships becomes even more true in my own case. For one thing, like I recently wrote, the influence of certain cultists and extremists has led to extreme stress, resulting in chronic anxiety. Personally, this is harmful to me, seeing that I have ulcerative colitis, making stress my worst enemy (after specific foods and medicines).

On a larger scale, the same people are harmful to all of us. These are the people who do more harm than good. They are unwilling to part from their own echo chambers, prejudices, preexisting biases, the dictates of others thinking for them from religion to political party elitists to corporate “reporting” and corporate-friendly “fact checkers”.

Interestingly, these are the same people who will accuse you and I of retreating to our own echo chambers when we are ultimately forced to ignore their voices as they insist that you must be part of their cults or you are not informed. You can strictly oppose parties, religions, all forms of elitism, promote the demand for answers to reasonable questions, offer all forms of evidence available and adamantly defend equality across all boundaries. Yet if you do not believe (worship) as they do, you are not a “true believer” and must be shamed, attacked, invalidated and ultimately sacrificed on their altar.

Sorry, folks. I refuse to be your martyr, sacrifice or tied to your whipping post. You will never break me.

I have made clear what it would take to “recruit” me. Chief among the criteria is opposing war and corporate influence in all forms. These in addition to religion are the greatest influences we face in the fight for social progress. Anyone who does not oppose these first and foremost is offering only platitudes, bandages on gaping wounds, promises they cannot deliver. Those bandages are not progress, they are roughly the same as donating to a food bank rather than fixing the source of widespread hunger.

If we want true progress, we have to address the root causes of our problems. Those who sow dissent and use ad hominem, swallowed and regurgitated advertising tropes do nothing to solve actual problems.

So, fine. I have gone through the weeding out and expulsion of Fauxgressives from my friends lists on numerous occasions. Guess it’s time for another round of it. Some people, especially writers, try and gain large followings and boosted numbers. I don’t do that. In real life, I have always kept a small social circle of those whom I trusted. Online I’m the same way. I’d rather have a list of people whom I trust, respect and can converse with rationally, as opposed to some impressive digits next to my name representing strangers I don’t know and who show no respect to me or anyone they cannot recruit to their cult.

Call it an echo chamber. I prefer an echo chamber with many voices, all working toward permanent solutions. Real voices with no auto-tune. I can always hope those voices form a choir open to an ever-expanding list of voluntary members until the chamber must be expanded and ultimately outgrow any structure. All languages, ages and genders singing the same song. A song of healing, of strength, of trust, of sharing, of caring, of sorrow for the past, of hope and plans for the future.

The Marketing Of America: Pt IV, Competition

As Americans, we are constantly sold and most believe in the concept of competition. “We’re Number One!”

We’re not number one in much. Besides, who is “we”? Does that mean we all benefit or profit from being number one? Rarely if ever.

We are sold sports to distract us. Because that’s all sports are for, aside from gambling. If you gamble, I can understand you having an emotional stake in one team/horse/whatever being first. Otherwise, what difference does it make in your life?

I can understand the camaraderie of cheering for your favorite team together. However, people can cheer and gain cohesion through far more constructive, community-beneficial ways than sports.

However, it’s not only sports on which we are sold competition. We are sold a mindset of competition about basically everything. Being the best salesperson. Being the most productive at our jobs to make profits for corporate masters. Being the tallest, most muscular, strongest, most attractive, having the most offers for dates, having the most money/possessions, most expensive vehicle, largest (most gas guzzling) vehicle, who can drink the most alcohol, drive the fastest, take the biggest risks and survive..

Some competition is good, I agree. When it actually offers benefit to yourself and your family/community/country. That’s not how competition is presented, though. It is presented as the greatest hording of resources by the fewest individuals, superficial non-achievements, often damaging to oneself or others. As a society, we place little value on academics, knowledge, humanism, compassion, sharing, peace, honesty.

I’m not necessarily against sports per se. I have no interest in them, personally. I find them frivolous, artificial and wasteful. I detest the many billions spent on sports annually in this country while schools, teachers, students struggle for resources. While children go hungry. While the sick lack medical care. While people die of exposure from homelessness.

Keep cheering for “your” team.

Then we have competition in politics. People pay no attention to policies. They vote against one name and for another name. Mention a third party like the Green Party having much better policies and an ethical, effective, well-constructed platform and you hear words like, “Well, I won’t vote for them because they can’t win.”

Keep cheering for “your” team.

What, exactly do you think you’re “winning”? Trump promised lots of “winning” and his supporters still think they are “winning” as the rich get richer, farmers go broke, international tensions rise to fever pitch and workers get laid off. No, he is not the sole cause of this by a long shot but he’s not making anything better. To think he is the only cause of it is a sign you have bought the competition between two parties.

Yay, winning.

We’re not voting for anything any more. Even if we do, we are willing to make sacrifices which are nothing short of dangerous. War with Russia, invasion of Venezuela, escalating corporate power, censorship of the media, arrest of whistle blowers and journalists.

Keep cheering for “your” team.

Have you ever considered that sexism is competition? So is racism, religious prejudice, homophobia, all of capitalism.

Keep cheering for “your” team.

We’re told we need the largest military on earth. No, we don’t. We comprise 5% of the earth’s population, yet spend more on “defense” than every other country on earth combined. We cheer for our massive military force while they invade and bomb countries that are no threat to us. Meanwhile veterans die in waiting rooms, come home addicted to drugs and commit suicide from PTSD. These are our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters we inflict this upon. We pay for all of it with money ripped from our social support systems and debt that accounts for over 1/3 of all global debt.

Keep cheering for “your” team.

We pay more in cost of medical care, debt per capita and the highest consumer debt the world has ever seen and have over 1300 Superfund sites we cannot afford to clean up. We have more gun deaths per capita than any developed country, more guns (civilian, police and military) than any country in history. More violent crime than any developed country, use 80% of the global production of opiates and more people on antidepressants than the rest of the planet. We have the largest prison population making profits for corporations running them at our expense.

We’re number one.

We’re told we need “unity” yet are sold anything, everything but unity. We are sold divisiveness on a daily basis. Our country is “better” but falls behind on every measure of quality of life, falling behind further by the hour. We’re told that one party or another is “evil” while they vote in the most damaging policies with bipartisan majorities. We go through cycles of one or another of two parties dragging us deeper into debt, destroying our rights as human beings, back and forth between parties every few years, never learning. We point fingers but don’t look for actual solutions. We reject actual solutions because even the ideas “can’t win”. Pay no attention to what you, yourself are losing.

Go ahead. Distract yourself with pay-per-view, Sunday/Monday Night Football, go into debt to go to the Super Bowl, the World Series or what have you. Keep up with the sports scores but ignore your children’s grades/fears/depression/drug use. Walk past the homeless mother on the corner.

Just keep cheering for “your team”. That will make it all go away.

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