Aug 1, 2021 • 11M

Part 2: Is America Self-Sabotaging?

Our Wounding Hijacks Our Thinking

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America has PTSD and needs healing.
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This is a story in three parts. I recommend you start with Part 1:

As I began healing from my brain injury and trauma, I noticed that America was collectively perpetuating similar versions of the same familiar self-sabotage patterns.

That makes sense. We’ve lived through a collective trauma, and the microcosm and macrocosm inform one another. COVID-19 perfectly illustrates the interconnectedness of all beings.

But 2021 has felt surreal in part because we’re all trying really hard to carry on like normal. We're "building back better!" Except we aren't.

@TheeAlexLawson on Twitter

During last week’s Jan. 6 insurrection hearing, Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn said something profound and true:

“Everything is different and nothing has changed.”

Photo credit: WAMU

As I Heal My Own Mind, I Wonder - How are we Treating the Collective Mind?

I think we both know the answer to that question.

Last week as the GOP backflipped on vaccines, COVID-19 case counts accelerated, and McCarthy & Co obfuscated on the Jan. 6 insurrection probe, I pondered how we got ourselves in so deep on misinformation.

I came across this WIRED opinion piece from October 2016 by Cathy O’Neal about big data and psychological manipulation. This line pierced me in the gut:

“Smart money armed with big data continually searches for opportunities to exploit dumb money---increasingly, individuals, swing voters, and even democracy itself.”

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Isn’t that one of our most pressing problems?

A few at the top are sabotaging democracy, the economy, and the planet for the rest of us in the bald pursuit of more short-term money and power. At what point are we simply cannibalizing ourselves?

Dogs > Disinformation (This handsome boy is Halford)
Dogs > Disinformation (This handsome boy is Seamus)

It’s reductive to call anti-vaxxers or Jan. 6 deniers ‘dumb.’ Shitposts deriding other peoples’ brainwashing isn’t helping to solve the problem.

Spoiler alert: you’re brainwashed too. We all are to some degree.

According to scientist and researcher Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk in his book The Body Keeps the Score, the emotional & logical brains combine to form a response to information and stimuli. But when aroused by fear, the logical brain can go offline.

This is why some people can watch the Jan. 6 insurrection on television and deny it with their own eyes. It’s why we are more easily manipulated by a potential new lover right after a breakup. It’s why we eat junk when we know better, or why we spend money we don’t have.

Our wounding hijacks our thinking.

Elites have been emotionally manipulating us for decades.

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The 1954 book How To Lie With Statistics taught marketers how to mislead and manipulate people into believing just about anything with the right graphic and a well-placed statistic. But today, big data and social media are turbocharging the shadiness.

I know a little something about marketing manipulation.

I spent a decade working in communication in the federal government and public relations (PR) in the private sector, primarily in tech and energy. I’m embarrassed to admit that I unknowingly spread misinformation during that time because I trusted my clients’ data and framing. I cringe now when I look back at stories I wrote and promoted about natural gas being good for the environment. Oof. 

We have no choice but to do and be better. It is urgent. The future of humanity is at stake.  

We’re Killing Ourselves Because We Can No Longer Agree on a Shared Reality

Facts and truth are meaningless for many.

Yes, I’m talking about Trumpers and anti-vaxxers, but this is true on a more pervasive level.  

For example, our government and media apparatus has, for years, shrugged away very real threats of authoritarianism and sectarian violence despite mounting evidence.

The reality of what’s actually happening is too divorced from the worldview we’ve spent generations cultivating.

It’s much easier to twist the narrative in denial than it is to face the truth of who we have become and how far we have fallen, and then be forced to change.

Insurrectionists fomented a coup on the United States Capitol and the former president incited it. We have it on tape. Trump, enabled by the GOP, has been following the dictator’s playbook for years. Deep divisions are splitting our country in two, which is a gift on a silver platter for Putin and Xi and terrible for the rest of the world.

The fact that we’re still even debating these things on the Sunday shows is insane.

We’re too close to it. Too subjective. The facts demand we act more urgently.

While we can’t get our heads out of our asses fast enough to patch holes in Democracy, the seditionists are working to disenfranchise our votes, our voices, and our planet at warp speed.

They’re playing a new game, and we’re still playing the old one. And the clock is ticking.

Updating our Brains’ ‘Software’ Should be a Top Priority

We must resist the temptation toward intellectual and emotional shallowness that defines our popular culture today.

We must question the premise more often, seek broader viewpoints, and reject binaries.

We must develop media literacy, exercise our discernment, and sharpen critical thinking skills.

It’s time to think bigger.

Read my opinion, but form your own.

Even the shrewdest among us must be vigilant, especially in our acute collective trauma where we dissociate by staring at our phone screens all day…. giving even more big data fuel to the entities which gain everything from our exploitation.

This is just one of many topics I’ve been pondering as I heal from my brain injury and trauma.

As America contends with its own trauma, I’m sharing my reflections here.

To Be Continued in Part 3: My Pivot

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BONUS: August 2021 Tunes