Philosophy Friday: We Need Less Of This
I am not much on social media. When I do review my feed, I see tempers running high from supporters of candidates in both the NZ and US elections. Name-calling and vilifying of the opposing candidates and their followers is rife. It seems there are few boundaries of decent behaviour that people are not willing to cross.
It’s become an acceptable practice to say almost anything hurtful and demeaning in an anonymous online setting for the sake of scoring a point against the other side.
Would somebody making these statements online repeat them in front of their kids? Then why type them out and post them on social media?
All this is nothing new. Since we lived in tribal communities, humans have always favoured in-groups and shunned out-groups. Philosophers during the Roman Empire were aware of the dangerous polarising effects of partisanship on crowds.
“Not to support this side or that in chariot-racing, this fighter or that in the games. To put up with discomfort and not make demands. To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor & Stoic Philosopher
Their solutions to the problem? To not let our personality get caught up with the passions of the mob. They even went a bit further than that: They believed it was worthwhile to seek to reduce one’s individual identity to the point where we aren’t passionately attached to one side winning. They thought we should be unperturbed never mind who wins the chariot race or becomes a senator. They knew the world would keep revolving and life would go on either way.
Maybe we can know that too. And practice only lightly attaching our identities to one or the other side winning.