Sunday Check In

This week I’m thinking a lot about people and isolation, in particular the idea of isolationism.

I don’t get it and I think if anything dooms us, it will be this idea of radical individualism without self knowledge.

In the parlance of the meme, we live in a society.

Societies are interdependent, complex, and messy but the underlying premise is that we’re more likely to survive in a team than on our own. I believe that. And taking that to some logical conclusions is what forms my sense of justice, ethics, politics, and rightness.

I think that the reason I’m so deeply turned off by hyperisolationist views is that I’ve never come across a single one that isn’t founded on some sense of what I feel to be deeply entrenched privilege and selfishness at its core. White supremacy and nativism both posit that the “in group” is good and pure and what’s bringing it down is the “out group.” And could we but rid ourselves of them, we’d all be living on easy street. Almost to a man, every single person I know who espouses “libertarian” views is – without irony – a landed white male. And again almost to a man, all of them are convinced that their success is based wholly on merit and would have been replicated if they had been born in a dramatically different demographic. They shouldn’t be obligated to enable others’ success because “no one enabled theirs.” I have tried to understand this worldview but must confess I lack sufficient imagination. I’m equally annoyed by the doom and gloom contingent of internet shitlords who proclaim they want to “burn everything down,” because as Natalie Wynn put it, “You only get to watch the world burn if you have the privilege of not being on fire.”

Why are some people so angry and offended at the notion of being obligated to care for or prioritize others? How has this been turned into a notion of theft rather than collective investment from which we all benefit? How did mild inconvenience become repackaged as tyranny? I don’t understand the performative selfishness and defiance that has been twisted into some sense of virtue. My best working theory is that wealth, security, health and power are so out of reach for so many people that we’re all just sort of trying to cling to whatever we’ve got, or snatch away from others what we can. Which sort of makes sense as an emotional short term reaction but is horrific as a long term strategy.

I am delighted to pay taxes that fund elementary schools even though I don’t have children because, I know I benefit from living in an educated society. I am GRATEFUL to live in a country where my taxes fund the NHS because my right to health is not dependent on my job – as if basic health must be earned and those who can’t or don’t are somehow expendable (which is just eugenics, but with more steps). I change my shopping and eating habits because I don’t want to lose Indonesia, Miami, Venice and Greenland to the ocean, even though I live none of the those places. I am happy to stay inside on a glorious spring weekend because if I don’t someone who I don’t know and have no connection to may be endangered.

No man is an island, wrote John Donne.

One thought on “Sunday Check In”

  1. High five from across the pond.

    Well said and…I have no useful reply to this ugly behavior. Like you, I’m happy to pay taxes and know they help others live better….one of the real challenges in the U.S. (of many) is that the taxes we pay are used for shit like defense (sorry, as this is not personal to your military family!) but billions on weapons — and none (Oh LOOK a pandemic) for basics like a public health system.

    One place to look is the lack of unions, the lowest membership now in American history. When people have (and choose to have) NO collective economic or political power, their individual “needs” take outsize precedence. If no one else is fighting for me (and God knows they are not!)…I have to fight for myself….and the zero-sum game starts early.

    I dislike it, to put it mildly.

    I don’t regret choosing the U.S. over my native Canada but the longer I stay the more I see the nasty selfishness, especially now. I have had it with the fantasy that “defiance” and “rebellion” are anything but puerile bullshit when the collective is harmed — KILLED — by the fetish for individual rights over any form of collective responsibilty for the common good.

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