"Poltics is suffering."
In 2006 I came to a set of personal experiential realizations that changed much about how I view myself, how I approach the world, and how I view and try to conduct my interactions with others. Among those realizations are some of the basic Buddhist principles that many people have heard trundled out from time to time: we are actually "all one" in a very fundamental but generally hard to experientially reach sense; it is an illusion that there is a separate, permanent, persistent Self that can be pointed to, named, much less satisfied; that this separate-Self illusion is the core source of our ignorance, and attempting to preserve that illusion of self results in cravings and aversions which are the root of all of our suffering; that our perceptions of being separate from other "Selves" results in even wider suffering.
Another realization a short hop away from these was something I stated as, "politics is suffering".
Not that it would not be possible to act as a group of reasonable or "enlightened" folks working together to improve the world, which could be called "politics". Rather, that pretty much everything we have these days, and especially everything anyone in this country over the past few+ decades (centuries?) has called "politics" is primarily based in and perpetuates suffering: separating ourselves from others, applying false concepts to identify others and their beliefs, working actively against each other, squelching empathy and compassion, climbing the ladder of angry thoughts, violent speech, hateful actions, violence against each other, etc.
Not only is this true, still, but things have gotten worse. Moving from the television era, into the news cycle era, into the talk radio era, into the "blogosphere" era, into the social media era, a set of perverse incentives have promoted the creation of machinery, mechanisms, and social habit cycles that have deeply harmful properties.
The ubiquity and malleability of information streams means that a story can be presented to a person in such a way that their emotions can be manipulated by reading it; narratives about other people and groups can be reinforced; a sense of helplessness can be bolstered; facts can be muddied, twisted, fabricated, etc.
On facebook, YEARS ago... I mean YEARS: prior to the "Cambridge Analytica" (etc.) problems, the labeling of "fake news", and so on. ... It got to be the case that if I (and presumably most anyone) posted a picture, a joke, a thought about a hot dog picnic, a reminiscence, a wild idea, a dream snippet, etc., usually within less than a day, somehow the comments that might appear on that post would ultimately attract someone who found a way to generate an angry discussion about "politics", personal attacks would erupt between the people viewing the comments, and things would degenerate into a flamewar, largely unrelated to the post or most of the commentary that came before.
This evolved to the point where people would navigate to my personal facebook "page" (the place where folks write things like "happy birthday!" out of the blue), and start comment threads, a propos of nothing, that were the beginnings of continuations of brand-new political flame wars. I presume this was because (a) the people continuing fights expected the same audience to be around in that same general virtual locale, and maybe (b) if they posted to their own page no one was really coming by on a regular basis to see what they would be newly angry about? It's not actually clear, but it was definitely a thing.
In a world where it is clear to me that "politics is suffering", this was basically me, by the act of any expression I ever made here, creating an open forum for people who wanted to wallow in suffering, to drag other souls into that suffering, and to multiply the suffering as much as possible to have free reign. I even noticed that occasionally folks would look to me, in their comments, to see if I disapproved or approved of whatever anger was being cast about -- that, essentially, I was somehow the moderator of a forum I neither wanted nor felt I had created.
So, years ago I turned off the ability for anyone but me to post to my facebook "page". This means if you wanted to wish me a "happy birthday" or any other such well-intentioned thoughts, you couldn't. Sorry about that. I mean, or not -- it was a tradeoff I made given what options I felt I had.
Of course, if I posted a picture of a cute dog at the county fair I was still hanging out a forum for one and all to come battle at the Rick Bradley Dog Picture Thunderdome™.
I have friends who have made entire separate groups with private mailing lists and posts and photos and forums, etc., just to get away from the suffering that happens in the same way it's happened with me.
Instead, I created a facebook list of people, and every time I found the name of a real-life friend who on facebook had started playing the role of suffering political battle lord / lady, I added them to the list. And then, for every post I made, for years, I made the "visibility settings" be "everyone, EXCEPT the people on this list".
Eventually, by doing this, at least my instance of the problem subsided. All the political suffering addicts intent on making everyone around them suffer were no longer seeing any posts from me, so they had no place to incite suffering among everyone in reach, and they presumably went elsewhere, or maybe they stopped suffering so much and things are better now.
But that optimistic last part is totally not true, as I learned recently.
I went away from facebook, and only recently did I spend a bit more time on this site, finding some joy in seeing what other people were creating (babies, marriages, houses, art, families, jokes, etc.), with, thankfully, much less angry and pained screaming about the suffering of "politics". I realize this is something about facebook's algorithm, and whom I have chosen to seek out of late.
When I started looking around I also posted a few things over the past few months, things that I found interesting, and some things I found sad -- because there is still actual suffering in the world, and even if the stories about it are painted with politics (which is suffering, if you're still keeping score), maybe sometimes we can be compassionate together, and also, hey, maybe there's a way to do that with out it being "politics" as we know it, as a pure expression of our difference and opposition and Othering and suffering; but rather as, let's agree that this is suffering and maybe we can make this one thing a little better, somehow -- or at least have a moment of compassion for those involved.
BUT... I forgot that I had once used techniques to not support, foster, a world where suffering people rushed in to share their suffering with everyone else. I posted things to "Everyone", forgetting about my list. And here we are.
People are angry at one another.
People are applying angry made up concepts to themselves about Who They Are, and to others based on untruths about Who They Are, and painting in stories between the lines about What They Believe, and being angry and threatening Them about What They Need to Know and What They Have to Do.
People are looking at a story of suffering, or even something simple that's not about suffering, and finding a way to avoid actually looking at the thing itself and finding ways to say This Is All About Them and The Scheme to Make Us Feel Like This But It's Really All Just That And This Is All Lies And Let's Never Actually Experience What Is Here In The World.
It's all so many layers of even deeper, heart-felt, attached and averse suffering, squelching empathy and compassion, feverishly and maddeningly protecting the ultimate delusion of the sacred and inviolate real SELF, spinning around shooting suffering at everyone anywhere nearby to keep this crazy cycle going at all costs.
Oh, and insults and threats.
And, irony of ironies, I get asked still about my opinion about what crazy suffering thing someone said by someone else mired in crazy suffering things from the outside, at least some of which is perpetuated in the crazy suffering maelstrom of "politics".
The people caught up this way are my people. They are people I have known and loved in real life, and ironically in real life we often just know and love each other the same way. I'm not a newb, I'm not inexperienced with how digital life works and differs, I get it, and I'm not really even surprised. But, that also means that if being connected to a person here in the Fake Matrix of Suffering only makes me suffer, and leads to others suffering, and doesn't ultimately really affect any of us out in the actual world, then why allow that to continue?
All of which is me saying: STOP.
I mean, in the annual and immortal words of The Onion: "Report: Make it Stop." https://www.theonion.com/report-make-it-stop-1822874962
But seriously, stop for just a second.
Maybe stop for an hour.
Or, how about trying to stop FOREVER with finding ways to make everyone spin around and be angry or sad about whatever unreal things are supposedly dividing us all? How about drop all the concepts around how important you feel about your self and your identity and the concepts around What Is Happening supposedly, and the various flavors of Us and Them (libs, dems, brexiters, cucks, alt-right, antifa, snowflakes, etc., etc., etc.) and what Beliefs supposedly folks have, and how This is just a strategy to screw Us over because They in their infinite machinations something something.
None of this shit is actually real. It's a false consensus made of unreal concepts applying actually to no one, and at its heart it's just delusion and suffering.
Hey, KIDS ARE IN PRISON WITHOUT THE REST OF THEIR FAMILIES AFTER THEY LEFT THEIR DANGEROUS LIVES TO GO TO A PLACE WHERE SOME PEOPLE SUFFER SO MUCH THEY EVIDENTLY HATE THOSE KIDS TOO.
If a thought like that makes you want to go into a rage battle with people who feel sad for those kids, then this is exactly the suffering I'm talking about, and I won't engage in the idiot compassion of helping you by letting you attack the people around you.
I'mma probably unfriend you on facebook. Big deal. I still love you, and I feel your suffering. Just not going to let you live with me like that. Put down the keyboard, go take a hike, go see a good therapist, maybe try meditation, here, check out one of these books: