My Own Private Reality
The country is divided. I hear that all the time. And although it has been true for a while, it feels like it's been getting worse, especially over the last four years. The reason it feels worse isn't just due to an increased volume of vitriol or the mysterious evaporation of any semblance of common ground. It feels worse to me because the folks on either side of the great divide are increasingly living in completely separate realities.
There are millions of people who believe the 2020 election was rife with fraud, even though the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told us all it was the “most secure in US history.” There are humans who believe the earth is flat, even though science settled that a long time ago. There are folks that believe climate change is a hoax, even as year after year brings worsening conditions.
Meanwhile, crises persist in the real world in the form of racism, economic inequality, pandemic, and very real global climate change. Millions of people don’t have jobs, homes, or enough food to eat. Police continue to be unaccountable for their many abuses of power. Fake news is everywhere, and people are believing it.
This is fueled in part by social media, of course. Which was cleverly designed to provide an experience tailored to each user’s preferences and interests. Unfortunately, the content filtering algorithms lead to intense and un-checked confirmation bias. The resulting echo-chamber effect would take significant effort for the user to overcome, so now there coexist two very separate realities on social media.
Sometimes it’s fine to live in your own world. Imagination is a beautiful thing to cultivate. And we all need a break from the worry and drama of the external world from time to time. I encourage all humans to practice some kind of internal self-exploration because the more completely I know myself, the more fully I can show up for the world.
And showing up for the world is important to me. I want to solve problems, help people, and make the world a better place. But before I can solve problems, I have to be aware of what’s actually happening. Before I can help anyone, I have to find out what folks need. Not just what I think they need, but what support they are requesting.
That means I can’t exist only in my own private version of reality. If I do, I’m just solving my problems, helping me, and making my world a better place. At the very least, that doesn’t help anyone else. And at most, it could be extremely problematic. All depending on the impact my own private reality has on other people and world around me. Just like the current White House occupant, who spends every moment of every day living in a reality of his own fabrication.
I would love to just ignore the antics of people who live in that skewed version of reality. I would be completely content to let them exist in their own private world and not bother with them while the rest of us fix things out here. And that might actually be possible if their world didn’t affect so many other people. When one person's version of reality spills out into the world and harms someone else, that's a problem for everyone.
Last week Dr. Scott Atlas resigned as the special coronavirus adviser to the President. He also lives primarily in a reality separate from the rest of us. Unfortunately, he was in a position of great power and influence, so his refusal to acknowledge the facts of how Covid spreads and what measures are effective to contain it lead to misinformed policy for the entire country.
Listening to him during a BBC interview was simultaneously infuriating and painful. Despite the overwhelming evidence the Covid19 outbreak is worsening in the US, he insisted he made no mistakes in his four months on the job. He refused any reality other than his own and claimed his advice had “always focused on minimizing all the harms from both the pandemic and the structural policies themselves, especially to the working class and poor."
As if saying it would make it true.
In the same way Donald Trump has insisted Covid will just go away. Too bad for the rest of us living in actual reality the virus doesn’t work like that.
And too bad for those of us who want to actually solve the mounting problems of the modern world. I want to make the world a better place for everyone. Including the humans who constantly work against their own self-interest because the people in power convince them the status quo is better than any alternative. We can’t gaslight our way out of climate change, economic collapse, or racism. We all have to face reality.
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Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.