Friday, June 2, 2017

But What About.....? (Whataboutism)

There are things you have some control over in your world, such as your actions and decisions.  Then there are things you don't have control over - and knowing the difference between the two is the key.

A reader writes that I should not be "upset" by things like mortgage fraud or the other cons that go on the in world.  I have to stop here and make an observation.  One technique people like to use when making an argument is to tell you what your emotions are.   You make a point about something, and they say, "Well, I'm sorry you are so upset about this, clearly it has you rattled!"

You see where this is going.  They are trying to characterize you as a whack-job who is bent out of shape about things.  When you reply, "I'm not upset!" they say, "Well, you don't have to shout!" and it goes downhill from there.  No matter what you say, you are the one who is "upset" and they are the calm, rational actor.  It is a classic passive-aggressive move, and it avoids talking about the issues at hand in favor of attacking the opponent as unhinged.  It's also a pretty shitty move, too.

The other technique that uses this same strategy is the reverse apology.  Someone says or does something odious, and instead of apologizing, they say, "I am sorry you are so upset about this!" - which is not only not an apology but again is telling you what your emotions are and making you seem like the irrational actor in the deal - not them.   Very clever, but stupid.

This is how baiting works on the Internet.   If someone says something, for example, against Donald Trump (as an example) a Trump supporter, if they are a clever troll, will say, "Well, clearly he has gotten under your skin!  I wonder why he bothers you so much?" and the topic is changed from Donald Trump to YOU - and that is a pretty neat (and underhanded trick).   I use Donald Trump as an example - insert the name of any politician or issue in its place.  Same shit, different day.

Anyway, the reader uses the classic "Butwhatabout" argument that Communist countries loved to make whenever they faced criticism.  "Sure, we have breadlines and people are starving and we put political prisoners in the gulag, butwhatabout the lynchings in your South back in the day, or even the racial strife in your cities?"

If you can't win the argument.... change the subject!

Again, classic passive-aggressive move.   You completely ignore the argument (because let's face it, communism is indefensible) and turn the tables on the opponent.   Trump loves do to this sort of thing.  "I'm a birther?  No, you're the birther!" - and Hillary gets all flustered trying to prove something that we all already know - that Donald Trump was the biggest birther conspiracy theorist of all time.

In this instance, the reader butwhatabouts all the evil people in the world who do rotten things.  Why be worried about some con artist when big corporations or governments do evil things?   Why indeed?

Well, the short answer is this: Short of voting (which I do) and contributing to political campaigns (which I can afford to do), there is little I can do to directly change government actions.   And no, screaming at elected officials and having protests really doesn't accomplish much.   But not giving my hard-earned money to a con artist is something I do have control over in my life.   Railing about the greater injustices in the world rarely results in anything happening - in fact never results in anything happening other than to make the person railing just a little more insane.

And if railing against injustice is done at the expense of taking care of your own life, well, you lose twice.  Because not only does the railing not accomplish anything, when you neglect your own business and fall down the economic ladder, you are doubly screwed.

Sadly, it seems most people in the world have strong opinions about governments, banks, corporations, religions, or political movements.  These same folks have no idea what the balance is in their bank account or where all their money is going.

Yup.  Externalizing rears its ugly head once again.   People fail at life and then blame all their problems on the government or some other faceless powerful entity that they cannot have any effect upon.  This gives them carte blanche to fail at life, because, why bother trying?  The Big Banks/Wall Street/Illuminati/Republicans/Democrats/Whatever will prevent you from succeeding!

Yet, a funny thing, a lot of people succeed in life despite these alleged nefarious actors.   

You have two choices - to be an actor in life, or a member of the audience.  To take action and take control of your life and think about what decisions you make and how they affect your life, or be passive and blame all your misfortune on others and be helpless.   They have a term for this - "learned helplessness".

And it ain't hard to acquire.   Just watch the news or the Internet - a lot - and soak it all in.  Horrific things are happening, the world is spinning out of control, massive conspiracies are taking place - it is all so horrible and rotten!

Or is it?   Maybe people have been preaching doom-and-gloom since time began.  When I was a kid, we practiced drills every week for "the big one" because the Rooskies were going to "drop the bomb" on us any day now.   By the 1970's, that seemed kind of passe.   We had new things to worry about - Arabs and their oil embargos, and plane hijackings.   New issues, new bad guys to obsess about.  Today it is just a different set of Arabs who are the bad guys, or maybe the Chinese - or maybe the Russians again!   It never really ends, does it?

And if you live in another part of the world, odds are it is the same deal with different actors.   Every 3rd world country blames their problems on the United States.   Why not?  It is so convenient and people readily believe it.  Or you blame your problems also on those pesky people with different religious beliefs, or people from different tribes or colors.   It is a game that anyone can play - and they all do.

And yes, you have a choice whether to play the game or not.   You can believe in all these bogeymen that are supposedly running your life or ruining your life, depending on your point of view.   Or you can look at things and think, "Hmmm... maybe I am just being baited here.  Maybe I need to concentrate my energies on my own life".

For a lot of people overseas, this means "getting the hell out of this dirt-poor country and emigrating to the West" - which is why a lot of people want to move here, and not many from here want to move there.

It kind of freaks me out that Americans, of all people, will bend your ears for hours about how rotten things are and how bad they have it.  Americans!   People with too much money, too many cars, and too many calories.   They are living the easy life, by planetary standards, yet they bitch the loudest about what a raw deal they got in life.  No wonder everyone hates us.

You see, it never ends.  No matter how much money you make or how well-off you are, you can always complain that it could be better but for the government, the big banks, or the big evil corporations, or terrorists, or whatever.

Or, you could make a different choice, realize how lucky you are and how your own choices in life have a far greater effect on your outcome than the "larger issues" in the world.

And then take action and make better choices!