The photo that opens this post succinctly and aptly illustrates how we Americans overreact to political happenings on an almost daily basis and on a national scale.
This phenomenon is not new. Political overreaction in this country, and in the western world as a whole, is as old as the world itself. So what exactly is “political overreaction”?
Simply described, political overreaction happens when misinformation meets sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Unfortunately, most people in the western world have a fundamental misunderstanding about how their own governments work. In the United States, this leads to distrust of government by the people. The overreaction to this mistrust manifests itself in the form of either apathy or susceptibility to political chicanery and demagoguery.
This is not limited to any one party or ideology. The political left is just as bamboozled by this sort of idiocy as the political right. There are a number of reasons why it seems the western world in general and the United States in particular is more bifurcated than ever before (even though it is not as divided as we are led to believe), but I see three principal causes that are easily rectified on an individual level, but far harder to fix on a societal level.
Firstly, most people choose to be woefully uneducated. Critical thinking is not an integral part of our education system at any level. Critical thinking is not something that really can be taught in a classroom at the primary level and isn’t encouraged to the degree it should be at the secondary and even the post-secondary level. Critical thought is mostly self-taught. It is byproduct of actual thinking. Something most people don’t do.
Many people don’t read books. They often don’t question what they see on social media or on television. I could post something completely false on Facebook and it will be believed or taken at face value with no fact checking. People are ready to believe their own government is capable of doing anything. Far too many people confuse conformity within their ideology and with like-minded people for being informed and engaged.
Secondly, many people take their freedoms for granted. They perpetually live in prisons of their own making because they limit themselves by the choices they make. They passively wait for opportunity to come to them, little realizing that “luck” only favors the prepared and luck only happens when that preparedness meets opportunity and opportunity is always around.
I know too many people waiting for a politician to come along and make their lives better. Making one’s life better cannot and will not happen without active participation in the effort. Freedom is only preserved through active participation.
Additionally, nothing is ever as bad as it seems. 92% of the things most people fret about are the result of needless worry. Needless worry is how we create the mental prisons so many of us live in.
To quote Earl Nightingale:
40% of the things we worry about never happen.
30% are things that already happened in the past and cannot change.
12% are needless worries about our health.
10% are petty and miscellaneous.
8% are real and legitimate.
92% are pure bunk not worthy of your attention.
Lastly, we Americans bifurcate ourselves because we need to have an “inferior other” to make us feel better about ourselves and assuage our anxiety and paranoia.
Trump supporters love “when liberals cry” and those who oppose the president or his party/ideology think he and his supporters are evil incarnate.
Neither side ever bothers to look at things objectively. They are unwilling to free themselves from the self-imposed shackles of their own minds. This is why victimhood and conformity to identity politics is so comforting to them. The familiarity of the mundane is preferable to the crucible of thinking outside of a prescribed paradigm. And therein lies the crux of the problem…
The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that the successful people define their own paths in life. Successful people think, they don’t react and they certainly don’t overreact.
Our own worst enemy is always ourselves and the hardest prison to escape from is the prison of our minds.
-The Rational Ram