By every measurable standard, the world is improving for its inhabitants. With less war, disease, and famine, over 7 billion humans can survive on a planet using less land for agriculture while producing more. There has never been a safer time to be alive in human history.
So why do we feel like everything is terrible?
It’s due to a concerted effort from demagogues within colleges, media, and politics to make us think things are terrible to create multiple crises. It is easier to control a population when that population is emotional and angry.
“Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorship.” – Noam Chomsky
Why does the left focus on identity politics (and now the Trump wing of the right)?
Given the stability of the world, there aren’t egregious, large-scale societal issues of poverty, injustice, and government oppression in America. I’m not arguing that all of our problems are solved because there are still many societal imbalances in our economy and criminal justice system. They aren’t as apparent as zero registered African-American voters in all of Mississippi or substantial portions of Americans not having access to power and sewage as in the 1950s.
In the absence of evident crises, radicals must create discord to provoke society into action. Take this quote from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (Alinsky was a 1960’s political figure that worked for the mob and decided to translate their tactics to modern politics. Hillary Clinton wrote her senior thesis on his ideas):
“Men don’t like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience; they need a bridge to cross from their own experience to a new way. A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate.”
In other words, manipulate people through propaganda and political action to make regular people believe things are terrible, so they will try to solve the problems you’ve made up by giving you control over their lives. If they don’t become an ally, then ensure they can’t or won’t speak up and oppose you. For more on those tactics, click here.
There are very real imbalances in our society for women and minorities. These realities have been exploited by political opportunists on both sides to galvanize their base and create an “us vs. them” mentality. Instead of using language that brings together the multiple parties to solve an issue like gun violence or the unjust warehousing of the poor under the guise of the drug war, thought leaders at media outlets, think tanks, advocacy groups, political organizations, and universities do what demagogues have done for the whole of human history: protect their interests by dividing the population in an effort to maintain power.
Those biased towards the left must do a better job of examining their language, and the effect that weaponizing intersectionality has had on America.
Those biased more towards the right have to avoid reactionary behavior and turning away from real problems just because they “feel leftist.”
The good news is that while individual humans continue to be their own worst enemy, the expansion of liberty and free markets has allowed the species as a whole to live better lives. We should start getting out of our way and work together to avoid feeling miserable when there’s little reason for it.