I get push back every time I say this, but I’m going to say it again.
You’re better off focusing on your goals, your immediate environment, your family, your tribe, and your local community to the exclusion of everything else the majority of the time.
The push back I get when I say this is always the same:
I have no choice but to be acutely aware of the problems in society. I’m a writer. Part of my job involves being aware of these problems. But unlike many people I see in today’s society, I’m not obsessed with these problems.
I see the problems, but I’m detached from them. I don’t take every negative situation I see in the world and absorb it into my psyche. I don’t carry the entire weight of my race or other groups I belong to on my back. And I definitely don’t put any stake in politicians or the institutions of society.
Instead, I focus on myself and the people I can reach.
You are one of these people.
You should be informed, engaged, and understand what’s going on in our world, but it’s the extent of your involvement that matters.
Are you more attached to your immediate environment or the world?
Who do you spend more time trying to save, yourself, your family, your tribe, or the world?
What do you have more control over, yourself, or the world?
It seems that society has spawned an entire population of economists, epidemiologists, and social scientists. Everyone has their opinion on how to deconstruct the complex situation we’re currently experiencing.
But they’re mismanaging their own lives.
I’ve always chuckled a bit at this phenomenon — someone working a job they hate, barely getting by, totally unproductive throughout their day, yet believes they have the answers to geopolitical issues.
Why do people think they can save the world when they can’t save themselves?
Well, deep down, they don’t think they can save the world. They’re coping. Everyone I see getting into debates on Facebook about masks — coping. People who obsess over politics to the point they view politicians as saviors — coping.
The good thing about focusing on the world? The problems are so vague and complex you feel like you’re doing something. Since the problems are so vague and complex you trick yourself into thinking you have to engage a lot to finally solve the problem, even though you never will.
You can play the ‘save the world’ game forever because problems will persist forever. You get to enjoy the illusion of progress and feel like you’re a part of a movement when you’re really not.
“But what about the movements of the past?” The first and second waves of most civil rights movements were dire and necessary. I no longer believe we’re at that point. I believe the playing field is level enough. At this point, it’s not the field that’s the problem, but the players in the game.
The people we want to solve the problems are the ones causing them. They want to continue injustice, not solve it. Why? Because it’s profitable politically and financially. This is obvious when you understand incentives.
The societal overlords and their media minions are drumming up controversy wherever they can find it. And we’re falling for it. Enough. Yes, there are many issues left to resolve — deep-seated, evil, bad ones. But this idea that we haven’t moved forward culturally in the past few centuries? Nonsense.
You can play that game. Or you can play your own game.
I have this saying. You can wait for the scales of justice to tip perfectly even, but then you’ll have died before they do. I don’t believe in utopia. But if I did, I’d bet it wouldn’t happen in my lifetime.
Think about everything you have going on in your life already.
Do you really need the weight of the entire world on your back in addition to it?
You have bills to pay. You have relationships to manage — friends, family, romantic. Also, you want to find meaning in your life. And you don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.
You’re going to die.
You’re so worried about the election, but who says you’re going to make it to November? Every person that died before their time didn’t see it coming. Neither will you.
You could die quickly, but imagine watching your life slip away in a series of days, weeks, or months, knowing you spent your time doing, what exactly — sharing CNN articles every day?
Up to you. If politics and the culture war is the hill you’re willing to literally die on, that’s fine. Not me. And if you’re still reading this at this point you don’t want to live that life either.
I get sucked into the mess just as easily as you do. I have to pull myself out of the mess constantly.
And I do it by weighing the pros and cons of my actions. Every time I binge on current events I ask myself — what did I gain and what did I lose? Did spending three hours on Twitter change the world in any shape or fashion? Or did I just waste my time?
I wonder why.
I know you can’t be fully detached. Neither can I. In fact, I’m not. I’m on Twitter way too much.
I have a podcast with friends where we do talk about complex issues in society. The state of society is such that these things have to be on my mind somewhat. Hell, I’m talking about them right now aren’t I?
So what’s the solution?
Learn how to walk and chew gum at the same time. Don’t let informed turned to obsess. Also, you can engage in the cultural conversation and exercise your civic duty while, you know, doing other things.
I’m being extreme, but you get the point. I saw a great Tweet the other day that captures what’s going on:
The goal of all mainstream news is to convince you it’s irresponsible to not be terrified and angry 24/7. Wonder why.
Observe the discourse through that lens so that you can engage instead of falling for their game.
You already know how to detach yourself from the issues of the world because there are several issues in the world you don’t care about or pay attention to at all.
You don’t care that some pseudo slaves in Africa mined the resources to make your iPhone. When it comes to geopolitical events, you don’t care about the ones you don’t see on the news because you don’t know they exist.
If someone were to ask you to redistribute your wealth to the rest of the world, given that making $30,000 a year puts you in the top one percent of it, you’d say no. Why? Because you’re self-interested and suffer from the fact that you anchor your wellbeing relative to what you know, not relative to everything.
You stop short at taking your detachment to the next level. Maybe it’s because you feel guilty about your privilege of living in the West so you have to at least fight for equality here. But it’s probably because detachment leaves you with, you.
You’re scared to be with yourself, confront what’s really going on in your life, and make a plan to do something about it. How do I know? Because I’m scared, too. Being with yourself without the noise of the world to keep you distracted is uncomfortable.
But that discomfort creates growth. And you don’t need to stay detached all the time, just long enough to change your life so that you’re able to make an impact on the world. I’d argue a better one.
Since I’ve created more financial flexibility for myself, I’ve been able to do things like donate money and engage in commerce with marginalized groups. I’m able to think clearly about the ills of society because I have complete control over my time.
Trust me. You’re going yourself and the world a favor by first freeing yourself from the shackles of the system in the first place. Without shackles, you can make real moves.
Again, I care about the issues in society, deeply, I do. But I understand where to best direct my energy.
Figure it out.