You do not actually have a generic right to impinge on the rights of others.
If someone is trying to convince you that you do — they are peddling you Happy Talk Lies and trying either:
- to make a buck or gain power by playing to your “angels” — and not the better ones — or,
- trying to destroy our civil society.
Let’s consider just a few common examples. You can go into your house and play music. And you can play music not at all, or you can play it 24 x 7. You can listen only to Mozart or only to Philip Glass or leave the radio on all day or play CD’s. You have a huge range of freedoms. This huge range of freedoms that you enjoy, by the way, depends partly on government; it also depends on science. Without science, you would, as a practical matter be far more limited in your freedom.
What you cannot do is play your music so loud that it disturbs others. How loud is too loud? It depends on context. If you are living in a thin-walled apartment complex, you might start to disturb others even when the music is played softly. On the other hand, if you live in the middle of nowhere, you can crank your amps up so far you’ll destroy your own hearing. In some cases, there may be some objective standard about noise levels, but generally it’s a question of having people complain. If one person complains about the noise, the police generally don’t do anything. But if several people complain, they will come and tell people to stop partying so loud. This isn’t “communism” or “socialism” or “Big Bad Government” — this is just people getting along with each other. You don’t have the freedom to impinge on others just because you feel like it.
That may seem like a pain in the neck. But you have to realize that other people don’t have the right to impinge on your rights either. And, that is much more valuable to you than whatever inconvenience you have from not being able to impinge on the rights of others. Why? Because there are many more others than there are of you. And, regardless of laws, regulations, customs, power, eventually, if you try to impinge on the rights of others, they will eventually get together and impinge on yours — big time. Guillotine sized big time.
The area of what you can do without infringing on the rights of others typically gets smaller as population becomes more dense. I suspect this may be one reason why people from the wide open spaces feel more as though wearing a mask is an unnecessary inconvenience as compared to city dwellers. City dwellers are much more used to curtailing their rights so as not to infringe on the rights of others than are people in the rural areas. You literally cannot even walk down the sidewalk in a busy city without “negotiating space” with all those around you.
I believe there is also a difference in the quality of how people in rural and urban areas see rights interacting and potentially infringing. To city folks, it makes a lot of sense to enforce speed limits, noise ordinances and mandatory mask wearing. On the other hand, it generally makes no sense to urbanites to try to enforce restrictions on other people’s sexual preferences. Why would you want to massively restrict the freedom of others to avoid a temporary feeling of discomfort in yourself? Who cares whether Bob Jones in Des Moines marries Maria Santos or Mario Santos? That’s the sentiment I agree with. I think people from small towns view it much more personally.
Let’s posit that any hint of homosexuality in certain communities has always been viewed with shame and suspicion. Of course, a large part of this probably stems from people repressing the complexity of their own feelings. They feel safe when homosexuality is criminalized because that way they know they themselves won’t be tempted (or at least, as tempted). Now, if the Federal Government mandates that you cannot any longer be wantonly cruel to people or fire them because they’re gay, what do such people think?
Some of them are in a real panic. Felix thinks, maybe my male friend Oscar, whom I dearly love, secretly has a crush on me and wants to have sex? Worse, what if I … the government shouldn’t be forcing us to adopt this gay lifestyle! That’s what I think! Have them mind their own business and if they want to fill up New York and San Francisco and DC with gays, let them have at it. But not out here in our town. Since gays have always been ostracized here, they believe, in a strange way, that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it! The government, is in effect, forcing them to face the fact that homosexuality actually does exist.
Looked at from this perspective, there’s a commonality with the dangerous idea that testing causes COVID19 rather than reveals it. Not testing is a close cousin to the Happy Talk Lies that Trump has peddled since day one of the pandemic. He doesn’t care whether he actually kills Americans. What he wants is for his base to feel better because he talks to them and gives a lame excuse for his actions which are actually killing them. They don’t want to think about the economic devastation or the likelihood that they or someone they love is going to die. Trump acts, for them, as a kind of “anti-therapist.” Instead of attempting to show someone the benefits of taking a more honest look at life, the Anti-Therapist colludes in the fantasies of the Id. Since he talks to the infant in the base, it isn’t necessary to provide an adult rationale. In fact, doing so would be counter-productive. Such a move would “wake up” the adult in the heads of his audience and they might start asking themselves questions such as —
Is this guy telling the truth? Is there any evidence for that? Does that really correspond with what I already know about the world? Doesn’t this directly contradict what he just said ten minutes ago? Is this making any sense at all?
Why would Trump want his audience to ask any of those questions? He wouldn’t. Instead, he wants to keep their inner infant enthralled. He will play “Patty-Cake” with his audience. (Trump is not the first politician to do this). Leading them in hate chants is essentially playing Patty-Cake. The words can’t be complex. And they don’t have to relate to reality. When he says, “Who’s going to pay for the wall?” and the audience all chants, “Mexico!” it doesn’t mean that they are going to keep tabs on whether that turns out to be true. But the infant does want reassurance. So, Trump will give some idiotic lie or excuse that no rational person would buy. But he’s not talking to the adult in these people. He’s talking to the infant. And the infant (or Id, or inner child) in all of us is superficial and hungry for something right now!
Similarly, when Trump tells his base that COVID19 is a liberal hoax or that it’s all going away in the warm weather, it makes the base feel good for a moment. But, there’s a catch. They can only feel better if they believe his lies. If they hear his pronouncement that the virus is going away in the warm weather and think:
“Really? That’s weird. Because all the scientists are saying they don’t know. And some places where it is already warm weather, the pandemic is growing uncontrollably.”
No. That’s no good. That doesn’t make the person feel better at that moment. Indeed, it makes them feel worse. Not only is COVID19 possibly going to kill them, the President of the United States is lying! So, we must understand, it’s much more comfortable to believe everything he says. His lies are always designed to make his audience feel better at that moment if and only if they believe his lies. Like many other drugs — heroine, cocaine, alcohol — it will take more and more over time to get the same high.
Believing the Happy Talk Lies is addictive. And, from Trump’s point of view, it’s much better than telling the truth. Telling the truth would take work and he feels work is beneath him. So, there’s that. In addition, he can always say something that will make the base feel better — not just when there actually is good news. And — understand — when the actual news is bad news — a pandemic that’s killed 125,000 Americans, most of them needlessly; or the worst economic downturn in history; or Trump’s own evident treason — guess what? When the actual news is bad news, his lies are even more effective as an addictive drug.
Imagine for a moment that you are a Trump fan. You have believed almost everything he’s said up to this point. Robert Mueller comes out with a report that shows how the Russians interfered with our election to help Donald Trump. How does it make you feel to think that Donald Trump is a traitor and that our country is now beholden to Putin!? Good? I think not! You will feel terrible! You voted for the man, for God’s sake! Now it turns out he’s a traitor! That’s a horrible thing to bear. But wait — Trump himself — or Bilious Barr can provide a Happy Talk Lie instead. “The report shows there was no collusion. It’s no big deal.” Whew! Thank you! That was close! For a moment there, it looked as though I was going to be extremely uncomfortable. Thank goodness Trump and his spokes-liars gave an alternative view. Now I feel better again.
The reason for Trump’s tweeting is not so much the chance to spew forth fear and hate and best of all — redemption for the believers in the lies — though, that is useful and fun. More importantly, it seeds a community of like-minded believers. Heroine alleys, opium dens, local bars where the cheap drinks are plentiful share the same purpose as on-line groups based on reinforcing each other for addictive behavior. If you’re high all the time, “ordinary people” begin to give you grief. “Have you thought about what this is doing to your life and the lives of those around you?” If everyone in your life said that, you might well have to confront the fact that the addiction was not good for you. Instead, it’s so much nicer to have a group who understands; that is to say, they’ve made the same decision to forgo their life and responsibilities in order to satisfy their momentary pleasures that you have. So, you agree not to challenge them. And, they agree not to challenge you. Instead, you will work together to repeat and spread the lies of the addicted. In the case of support groups for Trump, people repeat and spread the lies of “Der Fooler” and doing so gives another nice little hit of endorphins.
Now, in June of 2020, these little hits of endorphins are not just coming from hearing “Happy Talk” lies, or repeating them. Now, the base are all being encouraged to go out and spread the coronavirus. And they are. And, I have to guess that they feel good doing it even though they themselves could sicken and die; even though they could be the cause of their best friend dying, or their child, or their parent. Because they feel as though they are part of a “feel good” movement and everyone else is just a party pooper. Everyone who thinks 125,000 dead Americans is a horrible tragedy is just trying to rain on the parade, a real Debbie Downer, Eeyore, Sad Sack, a wallflower.
What do you do in a society when perhaps one third of the voting age population is addicted to Happy Talk Lies? Maybe a few of them will spontaneously quit. Perhaps some will take up tennis and become addicted to that instead. What else? An addiction is always hard to break — and that’s even if the person wants to.
It may seem hopeless, but I don’t think it is. As a society, we used to have many more people addicted to nicotine than we do today. And the tobacco companies fought like a wounded warthog to keep enough people addicted to keep the tobacco barons rolling in dough. So, I”m still hopeful that we can evolve beyond Happy Talk Addiction. If we do, then, we have a real shot at keeping the American death total below a million, not to mention keeping us away from the abyss of Nazism. People will be willing to not only look at the truth but take actions that are consistent with the truth such as only going out when necessary and using a mask. People will reject the notion that they have and should exercise unlimited license to do what they feel like regardless of the impact on others. In other words, people will grow up and fulfill their responsibility to vote as an adult, not as a small child might.
But it won’t be easy. Because it means giving up the addiction to Happy Talk Lies.
Wednesday (Cognitive Dissonance discussion)