A fellow blogger said something very kind the other day. After noting that he was trying to stay offline to avoid “outrage fatigue,” he mentioned that he saw me as somebody who could descend to into that state, then pull myself back up and “return to humanity from perfectly natural, periodic sorties of indignation and disgust.”
It was kind. I think he’s that sort of person, too. But I wish it weren’t true. I wish I never, ever had to go into that place, only to drag my butt (and my brain) back out of it, time and again. I wish he didn’t, either.
But you know how it is. Because you’ve been there, too. You pursue your dreams. You carve out some peaceful little world for yourself, vowing to leave politicians, bureaucrats, the Stasi, and the puppycide brigade behind. Then, no matter how hard you close your eyes, how hard you turn your head away, no matter how often you hug the kids or play with the dog, no matter how much you determine just to cherish your own good life … they strike again. They. FBI. CIA. NSA. DEA. IRS. Congress. The Nazgul. Or maybe just some local Napoleon who loves his power or “the rules” just a little too much. And down you go. Into the depths.
Not just once but again and again. Because, as my correspondent also pointed out the powers that be are relentless. And multifarious in the outrages they can inflict.
You’re just recuperating from the Snowden revelations. When you get hit with Obamacare. And while you don’t mind the 17% government “shutdown” that accompanies it and you’re encouraged, perhaps, by the growing disgust and contempt of the American (and indeed, the world) public toward Our Glorious Government, you wonder if people will ever get the real, core message. Or will they, in their various forms of disgust, instead clamor for things like government-administered medicine and government-financed campaigns?
And that’s just the last couple of months. What’s worse is not knowing what’ll come tomorrow. Or not knowing what’s already upon us that simply hasn’t come out of the shadows yet.
Yeah, you know all that. Been down that road before and will be down that road again.
The absolute worst thing, though (aside from whatever real world horrors might come our way as a result of all this of course), is feeling small. Feeling helpless. As if there’s not one real, solid thing you can do about all this. Maybe I’d better only speak for myself here, because I just know somebody’s going to post a comment about how they never, ever, ever for a moment let outside events bother them. But I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.
How do you stop Obamacare or the national debt (but I repeat myself)? How do you combat the Stasi when you don’t even know all they’re up to?
You know what it feels like to me, sometimes — this onrush of ruination? It feels like being a peasant in Europe in 1348, hearing rumors about this deadly new sickness rampaging upwards from the south, destroying all in its path. For the moment, you really don’t have it so bad. But this plague is coming, black, noisome, hellish, creeping inexorably in your direction. You know it. The stories get darker — and more real and more close to home — every day. And there’s nothing you can do to protect you and yours from the deadly invader.
You feel insignificant. Impotent.
That’s the worst.
Another thing it feels like, or so I imagine, is being dragged underwater by a force so big you can’t even comprehend it.
Although there are millions of individual choices, inwardly there are only two ways to go from here, two different states.
You can sink into the mood and drown in it.
Or you can kick like an SOB until you rise and break the surface again, willing yourself to overcome even when all the odds are against you. (Some may choose to let go and float to the surface rather than kick, but the destination is the same).
Drowners may become depressed and inert. They may decide they care more about whether Miley Cyrus hates Sinead O’Connor than whether the NSA is recording their phone calls, more about what the Seahawks or the Blackhawks are doing than about what the Federal Reserve is doing to the value of their savings. Or they may try to impose order on a chaotic universe by concocting vast, but internally satisfying narratives, about how everything is the fault of lizard-brained aliens, the Jews, or the Illuminati. Then they spend their whole lives spinning in conspiratorial circles, believing they’re accomplishing something important while not achieving a worthwhile thing. Anything to feel in control again.
Then there are the kickers. Where they end up is another thing altogether. A thing for another day. But the kickers have a chance to save themselves. To save more than themselves. To save freedom?
Problem is, though, that even the kickers usually feel like drowners before they throw off the downward-pulling force and get a good paddle going. When outrages drive us into the depths, for some time, long or short, it all feels like drowning — in rage, in sorrow, in despair, in depression.
And at that moment, even if you’ve been there before and gotten out, you don’t know whether, this time, you might just drown in the awfulness, rather than gathering the strength and determination to breathe good air again.
I envy those of you who say you never feel this way. I really do. I’d like to be in your head.
On one hand, helplessness in the face of outrageous fortune is a tyrant’s best friend. “Why bother? There’s nothing I can do about it” is the perfect attitude for the humble subject of a police state.
On the other, for some, the feeling of smallness and helplessness is the opposite. It’s a powerful motivator. It feeds determination. They. Will not. Get. Me. Down. Not in the long run. I will not let anybody do this — to me, to mine, to freedom.
And once again, though I probably sound negative at this point, that’s absolutely not where I’m going with this. Very much the contrary. More than ever, we can look around and seeing other people kick. Some will make it back to clean air. Some won’t. But all around us, people are rising — each individual on his own, but amazingly in synch.
And the forces pulling us down are weakening.