Uncategorized · April 3, 2024 12

Selfish People

Carole Levine        April 3, 2024

I seem to get angry very often these days.  The focus of my anger is most often toward people I don’t know or “famous” people. These are people that I will never meet to discuss why they are making me so angry. But I often encounter their followers – those who take positions that I think may do harm to others or only serve a small, often privileged, group.  I get frustrated with the way in which leaders are handling (or ignoring) a situation that is begging for their intervention.  But what angers me the most is when I see folks make decisions that are selfish and in doing so, cause harm and hurt to others. I believe that we all see this a lot, from our neighbors who choose to not vaccinate their children, and yet send them to play with others in public spaces; to our mega-wealthy billionaires who invest their wealth in their own foundations that never give any of it away to those in need; to our elected officials who spend time sparing with each other rather than passing needed legislation to keep our local, state and national governments running.  I could go on, but I would only become angrier!

The question for me is what to do with my anger?

As an activist, the answer to the above question should be simple… I should be directing my anger into positive actions that will bring positive change to the issues I care about. But the “catch” in all of this is the “I” in that statement.  If doing what I care about will satisfy my activist anger, will it then not reflect the same self-centered, self-interested selfishness that I see in others?  Only in my case is it OK because it’s about me. And how can that be wrong?

Perhaps the answer lies in finding what is our shared reality, if such a thing exists.  Could I have something in common with the Proud Boys who stormed the Capitol on January 6th?  Can I find common ground with an anti-vaxer parent? If I believe that these people truly care about their families and their future in this country, perhaps we have a starting place. 

Just a few days ago, political commentator and writer Molly Jong-Fast said in an interview with Joyce Vance:

We need to model normal political discourse. George Conway and I don’t agree on anything, but we agree on American democracy.  I don’t agree with Liz Cheney on anything at all, but we do agree on American democracy. This is team democracy, once again trying to remind people that it’s not worth it for the tax cuts and that Trump’s crony capitalism isn’t the same as real capitalism.

If we say this to “true believers” it may not be accepted as true, but then again, it might push a few people to assess some aspects of their thinking.  It might even begin a civil conversation as opposed to a shouting match. I have never liked shouting matches.

I think that we are tottering on the brink of tyranny in a number of areas these days. And I believe that trust in and support for the systems we have, as we look for ways to strengthen and change them with the times, will build and reinforce our American democracy.  But I also believe that we cannot dismiss all of those who disagree with us without even an attempt at trying to understand what drives them to their positions.  The parent who does not vaccinate their child does not love their child less than the parent who does. But that parent’s beliefs about how to best protect her child are not based on the same science that I trust and believe in.  Hopefully, there is room for sharing and conversation.  The same is true of those with ample funds to support good causes who continuously re-fund their own foundations.  Is there room here for conversations about where great need aligns with the values of their communities and their families? Finding ways and finding the people to begin these conversations will be hard… but perhaps rewarding for everyone involved.

There is a challenge here. It involves much more than just how I will channel my anger.  I know that I can do that by taking on the issues and doing the advocacy to try to change outcomes for what I believe is the greater good.  But, perhaps, in doing this, I may also look for ways to learn more from those with whom I disagree.  I am not sure I will change their minds and I know, for sure, they will not change mine.  But I also know that I may become a better advocate if I have greater understanding of those who disagree with me.  And, who knows, I might even become less angry.