The react impulse

Joseph Torres, Contributing Writer

Lately, I have been feeling more and more estranged from society. Not in an existential way. More so as if I no longer wish to participate in the ridiculous games that manifest themselves. The world appears to be a never-ending sequence of bidding for attention. If I had to classify my perception of the games I see into a movie genre, it would most certainly be classified as a psychological thriller. Who said what? Who offended whom? Who is right? Is this news or opinion? What is trending? Who was canceled? It is an endless, dizzying rhetoric that has been demanding attention for some time now. Is this how the world has always been? Am I just too naïve and unwilling to give up my own preconceived notions of how the world ought to be? Is there any path forward that embraces humanity instead of vehemently trying to tear it down? These are the questions that plague my mind constantly. I cannot be the only one.

There is a common saying that most people are aware of: life is what you make it. It appears to me that we are making it a living hell. Why? A productive society must have a respectable arena where civil discourse can play out. The very ground we walk — the one built by our culture — is eroding beneath our feet. Actually, we are complicit in its excavation. We are emboldening people to pick sides, to divide our houses, to close our ears and ignore different views. This is not conducive to a properly functioning society. I can no longer sit idle and watch us tear each other apart. We need to get ahead of this current trend of a reactive culture, which is not proactive in its intentions but is for the sake of winning arguments. 

When was the last time we had a conversation that was not triggered by some hot topic propagated via some media source? I know that I do not speak for everyone when I say we are addicted to outrage, but navigating any online platform will affirm this observation. We are contentious by nature for a variety of reasons; however, it seems that we do it strictly for pleasure and amusement today. We react, we watch others react, we wait for the next thing to react to, we talk about these reactions and the cycle continues. It is iterative, it is annoying and I am over it. What is the point in working up our emotions without reflecting on the very behaviors that drive us to do so? Can we feel emotions any other way? Reacting to life is not the same as living life. There are instances in which reacting cannot be avoided, but it seems to be a major driving force directing the attention of people these days.

By now it is obvious that this is a reaction piece itself. I am aware and that is my intention. The method of being outraged works, so I want to exploit this tactic to remind people of a famous idea: be the change you want to see in the world. These very words reverberate through each generation as an inspirational quote to live by. Yet, we only reference it in moments of despair and fail to truly embody the inherent call to action it demands. I am no better than anyone reading this, for I include myself in “we” and “people” and the rest of the hyperbolic language I am using. Again, this is intentional. I do not complain for pleasure. I do not gripe for amusement. I just want people to see that they themselves are not above the faults of others. We are imperfect beings and we were all thrown into this life with no say about the cards we are dealt. Please try to remember that the next time a reactive moment presents itself. Take care of yourself and take care of those around you. At the end of the day, we are the only ones whom we can depend on to progress collectively towards a better future for all of humanity. It is past time that we act like it. Be the change.