Outrage, despair, and hatred

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Below is a chapter from my upcoming book Humanity Is Beautiful: A New Story For A World On Fire. Paying members can follow along and watch the book emerge and evolve as I write it. View the Table of Contents of this “living draft” here.

Today’s world is deeply divided and polarized. Many of us have worldviews and value systems so distant from one another that we can’t seem to agree on basic facts or fundamental, seemingly uncontroversial, ideals. We seem unable to be in the same room with one another without boiling over into political arguments and bitter name-calling.

The world is on fire. And we all have someone to blame. We are all at each others’ throats.

Yet, even amidst this profound division, we often share the same core emotions: outrage, despair, hatred. The reasons are different, but the feelings and judgments are strikingly similar.

Those on the left are outraged at the right’s denial of the climate crisis, inability to even acknowledge social injustices, and willingness to let greedy corporations take advantage of us without accountability. Those on the right are outraged at the left’s political correctness, cancel culture, “wokeness,” lack of self-reliance, and willingness to let governments take away our freedoms. Others are outraged that they are forced into one of these two narrow, oversimplified boxes.

Some despair that the climate crisis will irrevocably tarnish life on Earth, that we are destroying the very air we breathe and water we drink. Some despair that we’ve lost key values and traditions that have been the bedrock of our societies for centuries or even millennia. Some despair that today’s technology and overwhelming complexity bring us out of connection with one another and make us less present, less human. Some now choose not to have children because they believe it would be irresponsible to bring children into this terrible, hopeless, disgusting world.

Hatred is perhaps the most elusive of the three. Few of us will admit to seriously hating anyone. Few of us are even conscious of our hate. But for those who are the object of our hate, it is as clear as day. Women who seek professional success, people of color, the LGBTQ community, the poor, and others feel hate from those who have traditionally held power and prestige. Men, white people, police officers, CEOs, and others feel the hate of those who haven’t held that power. They feel the utter disgust and resentment directed at them from those claiming to “fight hate.” Most of us sense that those from the other side of the spectrum truly despise who we are and what we value.

Across the great chasms of our cultural and political divisions, many of us still share some version of this outrage, despair, and hatred. We can all seem to agree that the world just isn’t what it should be.

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