Monday, January 30, 2017

Living at One Minute to Midnight: A How-To Guide for the Whelmed

I haven't posted much of anything about politics, for a whole tiresome list of reasons. But I am foremost a student of humans and human emotions, and I'm seeing a *lot* of my favorite humans getting fried by the bug-zapper that is our news right now. So if you are feeling burnt and crispy, here is something to think about.

Whenever you are involved in something significantly larger than yourself - a club or group, a company, a family, a nation - it is essential to understand your role. If your job with your company is to get and keep clients, then that is what you do. You pay attention to marketing and budgets insofar as they touch your own work, but you don't stay up all night worrying about the 401ks. That's someone else's job.

The problem with the intersection of politics and social media is that nobody is handing you a clearly-defined role. And without that, it's easy to think you are supposed to do everything. Every outrage that comes across your virtual desk is somehow your responsibility. Every worthy call to action has to be acted on, every objectionable comment replied to, every feed fed. And that is too much, y'all. No wonder we are getting overwhelmed and dropping out.

But nobody is going to come over to your desk and dump half your virtual inbox in the trash on your behalf. You are going to have to decide for yourself what is and isn't your responsibility. Right now, I can see two ways of organizing your give-a-damns:

1. Filter by cause. Let's say you are all about minority rights, healthcare, and gun control. Those aren't just issues you have opinions about - they are the three hills you are willing to die on. So you go to the mat for *those causes specifically* - you call, you march, you research, you debate - and let everything else pass you by. Climate change is somebody else's job. Economic issues are somebody else's job. You are fighting in the Pacific theater, and you can not worry about Europe.

2. Filter by role. You know, a medic does not do the job of a sniper. If somebody needs some killing, don't call the medic. Conversely, the medic does not sign on to treat only a certain kind of soldier. They will use their specific skillset on *everyone* they can, to the absolute best of their ability. Maybe that's you. Maybe you have zero stomach for Facebook arguments, but you will gladly call your representatives and give them hell at the town hall meetings. Good! Appoint yourself the legislative muscle of the movement, and leave the diplomacy and debate to someone else. Or maybe you can't blow up phones and streets, but you are a rational, persuasive *boss*. Good! Be an outpost of reason and kindness here on the virtual frontier - help people understand each other, dig up the facts and figures that are getting buried under the hyperpartisan headlines, and add to the ranks of the thoughtful and enlightened. (God knows we need it.)

Regardless, y'all: it is essential, now more than ever, that we tap our individual talents and strengths, and trust our fellow-humans to do likewise. Don't do the things that hurt you. Don't let yourself get so tired and frazzled that you pass on the hurt to other people. This may be a war, but you are not the only soldier - and nothing proves that you have smart, sustainable passion for a cause like a list of ten other things you gave up to pursue it.

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