Can We Please Talk About How We’re Talking About Stuff?

typewriter-keysWe hear a lot about how narratives are powerful, that if you want to move someone, tell them a story, that we are creatures of story. As a writer, I’d like to eat all that up. But our culture is rapidly composting story into gossip and substance into insincerity. Journalists claim to “go where the story takes them;” what if that story is of a dangerous hate-spitting buffoon who doesn’t even really want to be president but gets himself elected anyway? Is there no moral obligation to do more than repeat ad nauseum atrocious and odious things he does and says, thereby normalizing them and desensitizing the public to them?

I really can’t find any air in this culture. Sincerity is seen as desperation, over-eagerness, or childishness, something you grow out of. If a relational interaction is not for transactional purposes, even *I* have started to feel like I’m doing something wrong. Adults are not supposed to put themselves out there and say what they mean for fear of exposing themselves to ridicule or (what in my mind is even worse), neglect (from other adults).

Anemic and sepia as it is, we at least have a precedent, a model, for grieving the end of romantic relationships. When a friendship ends, we’re quickly brushed off with “get new friends,” as if that was ever an easy thing to do in life. But even in the accepted spaces of mourning, we are given no room to turn around. And if we haven’t gotten over the death of a family member or a breakup within about two weeks, based on the average time that seems to pass before people stop checking in, then you’re diagnosed with a mental-health issue and given pills. Sincerely feeling and expressing emotions isn’t even something we let kids do anymore; we drug them, too.

Where is the air in a culture hell-bent on paving over everything and everyone on the road to…convenience? That’s what we’re destroying our beautiful planet and the beautiful beings put on it with us for? Where is the air in a society where we only ask each other what we do (for work) and what are people who don’t have jobs supposed to say since only things done for money count as “accomplishment?” Where is the air in a community structure that shames people for asking for legitimate needs by insinuating that adults who cannot provide for their every single emotional, mental and spiritual need completely on their own are failures but at the same time tell adults that to get jobs, opportunities, contracts, clients, customers, whatever, we need to network, which is nothing more than transforming relational encounters into self-focused business ones (and they actually have classes on how to do that)?

I can’t find any air or safety or belonging in a world that does not help people identify their gifts and how to use them, offer support for their weaknesses and expects amoral participation in civic life. I don’t know how to live in a world that punishes authenticity even as it touts it with airbrushed models and scripted speeches as a laudable skill. I don’t know how to live in a world that demands shallowness so as to keep everyone comfortable and hurt no one’s feelings. I don’t know how to live in a world that ignores genuine calls for collaboration and participation so that I don’t have to do the things I really want to do alone. Why are using our creative power to tell stories with no substance and our collective will to create a future nobody wants?

Does anyone else feel this way? What do we do about it? Can we talk about it?

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The National Suicide Hotline

December 2, 2016