Do we change?
I recently listened to a podcast with Joe Rogan and Sam Harris – they talk a lot about redemption and change. One of the questions is with regards to Liam Neeson and his recent confession about how he once stood outside a bar waiting to kill a black man – any black man for the rape of his friend. A completely unnecessary confession from a man that has a lot to lose. Without actually reading the confession or hearing the dialogue for myself, just from the quoted aspects of that interview with Liam Neeson it was obvious that the man thought it was abhorrent how he felt at that time. Obviously, I don’t think anybody actually read his interview and thought “Liam Neeson is a racist and needs to be banned from the world..” If there is somebody who thinks that, they probably have the intellect of a 10-year-old.
But Joe Rogan and Sam Harris spent a lot of time discussing the “outrage culture” that exists today in the media. Which I agree there is a ridiculous amount of “outrage” being spewed all over the place. We see it constantly on the internet – the main reason for the outrage culture, in my opinion, and its effects on modern journalism is because it creates clicks. Journalism today is more about creating headlines and getting clicks than it is about an actual story. It’s not unusual to click on an article only to realize that the content of that article is completely different from the clickbait title.
A lot of discussions and mental space is given to the likes of Twitter and Facebook – and my own idea is that we give too much weight to youtube and twitter comments. Are twitter comments a good gauge in how outraged somebody really is? Most of the time I think of twitter and youtube comments to be an exercise in verbal diarrhea. Yet entire news articles are written, complete with perceived opinion polls, based purely on how the Twitterverse reacts to the news. On top of this, any crowd, digital or not, are going to sink to the lowest common denominator – in other words, the crowd will always sink to the level of a festering pile of shit if given enough time and big enough platform.
I also get the impression that Sam Harris and Joe Rogan give too much weight to this. Maybe I am wrong, which I probably am, but I think people use social media as an outlet to spew their shit lives in. I don’t think somebody read that article with Liam Neeson and thinks “Liam is a racist and he needs to be removed from public life” rather what is really happening is this; “fuck my life sucks, school is too expensive, I have a shit job, my future reaks, my tax bill is too high.. so I’m just going to vomit this comment here and let somebody else experience my own shit life for an instant and become somebody else, somebody important”
Still the same person?
Now back to the title of this article: Do we change? There seems to be a movement on, again, social media about destroying peoples lives for shit they did 20 years ago, or posted on twitter 10 years ago. At what point do we just admit that the people digging up old skeletons and trying to make it an issue, are in essence, rotten and at the least, suspect with a very clear objective. I’m not talking about Bill Cosby skeletons, or R. Kelly style skeletons – those can never be forgotten.
I’m talking about the teenager who wrote something stupid on twitter 10 years ago and now as a young adult are running for Congress. Or being a film producer or any of the above. The stupid teenager now as an adult – yet still being judged by past fuck ups.
So am I the same person I was when I was 20? In some ways yes.. I considered myself an intellectual then as I do now. I wrote articles, even a few books that are on my hard drive still, I listened to a lot more music, my general politics have changed, but I still believe in the good of people. Looking through my own eyes I can barely see a difference, but when I take an outside looking in approach, I see a massive difference.
There is so little of the 20-year-old me left, the insecurities, the blind ideologies, the black and white view of issues and politics, my transgressions with women, drugs, and debauchery. I was a 20-year-old American house DJ living in Sweden. Of course I did stupid shit, an unending, relentless stream of bad ideas followed by more bad ideas. My life has changed so profoundly, my mind and mental state are years beyond the 20-year-old me.
I imagine I am not alone in this progression? I imagine most of us learn, grow and strive to become better people with each waking moment. At age 20 I thought I owned the world, and in my own little way, I did. But it didn’t make me happier, so with time, I vowed to change, to progress, to be thoughtful and thankful for the life I have. I dreamed of creating a better life and mind for myself. It’s something I strive for every day, to be better than the day I was before.
Jordan b. Peterson has a quote that I think fits good here:
“These kids want to change the world economic system, rebuild earth and create a new society. Yet they can’t even make their own beds. Start small, start with yourself and move up from there.”
Yet, today there are literal movements to destroy people who did stupid shit when they were younger. My guess is that like most things, this movement is powered by people who wish not themselves be judged. I wouldn’t trust somebody who hasn’t done stupid shit in their lives and have grown up and moved on. Life is about experiences and if you haven’t done something incredibly stupid in your life, then you haven’t lived and you sure as hell can’t be a judge of others. Your fuck up’s simply haven’t come to pass yet, they will. And the truth about fucks up’s is that the older you get, the bigger your fuck-ups become. So fuck up when you’re young, because when you get older your fuck-ups affect a lot more people and tend to be a hell of a lot more expensive.
So do we judge negatively on Liam Neeson for the stupid shit he did at a younger age, or do we give a pat on the back for admitting his own stupidity and moving on? At what point do we accept an apology as sincere? And who are we to judge if an apology is sincere?
Start with yourself
In the end, the life we have is the life we have created for ourselves. The society we have is the society we have created. Do we really want to be a society built on outrage culture? Is banning speakers from universities a proper path forward? Virtue signaling, fake outrage, twitterrage, whatever.
Start with yourself, the next time you want to unleash a shitty comment on Twitter or vomit your ideas on Facebook, take a step back, breath and try imagining that the person on Twitter is real. The comment you are about to leave will be read by a real person. Interact with social media the way you would in real life. And remember that being angry or pissed off at somebody and carrying that around on your shoulders, is about the equivalent of drinking poison and waiting for that person to die.