The REAL Way to Combat Toxic Politics?

If you follow me at all, you likely know that I’m not a fan of click-bait titles, which is why I’m prefacing this article with an explanation for what sounds like a click-bait title. Today’s topic is based on logical reasoning, but can’t be definitively stated as the magic solution to all our political problems today. The reality is that our modern societal systems are so complex that no one solution is enough to put things right again. However, I believe that this one concept may be a key part of turning back the tide of insanity we’re experiencing today.

In the past, inaction has caused serious problems as certain powers around the world decided they wanted to grab as much as they could. The most obvious example of this was Nazi Germany under Hitler and Neville Chamberlain’s refusal to stand up to an obvious threat. His lack of courage and inability to make a decision gave an evil man the opening to plunge the world into a devastating war. If our goal is to learn from history, it seems to make sense that we should tackle our problems head on to stop them from growing too big to quash.

However, times change and the solutions to our problems must inevitably change with them. What worked a century ago doesn’t necessarily work in today’s fractured and highly complex social structure. In the days of the World Wars, individual countries were unified under common principles, mostly because those people only ever experienced ideas inherent to their geography. In today’s vast information marketplace, this just simply isn’t the case. The myriad ideas floating amongst the “cloud” has created an environment where even next door neighbors might have radically differing ideas about how the world should be.

How do you confront major issues in such a landscape? You can certainly band together in common cause, attempting to subdue the opposing viewpoints with the power of numbers, but the crazy thing about our society today is that there are so many varied positions on even broad, general ideas that gathering enough people who completely agree on a topic is nearly impossible. Even our largest political institutions are highly partitioned into subgroups who each disagree on many of the most important sticking points. Use of force in the face of this kind of discourse seems fruitless. It certainly hasn’t worked in the last several decades.

If force isn’t a viable option, then the natural assumption is to take a look at the opposing method. Obviously, laying down and simply accepting the other side’s way of doing things doesn’t accomplish our goals. We don’t want to avoid a struggle; we want to find a method that stops the advance of the opposing ideology or, even better, advances our own. With the decentralization of ideas that we have today, what method can we turn to in order to at least stop the rising tide of progressivism?

The most logical idea that forms in my mind is an analogy to a non-violent way of dealing with a bully. For many children, fighting back just isn’t in the cards. The antagonist is simply too big to effectively combat, and any attempts to do so simply stoke the fire that fuels a bully’s entertainment. For a bully, the goal is personal satisfaction by negatively affecting the state of mind of the other person. There’s an effect that results from his causation, and that feeling of control gives him a sense of power. Power can be a highly addicting drug.

One way to combat this kind of behavior is to simply not give the bully what he wants. Sure, he can push you around or call you names or maybe even shove you into a locker, and while those experiences are certainly unpleasant, they don’t rise to the level of criminal behavior. In the end, the bully has to satisfy himself with what he can get away with, and usually that’s low level harassment. If the target chooses to simply ignore the harsh words or not resist and give the desired reaction to the physical abuse, the bully has only two options left: either escalate things until he gets the desired reaction, or give up and move on to someone else who might be better entertainment. He will eventually realize he’s wasting his time with his current tactics.

His most likely option will be to simply give up and move on. The risks of escalating things past a certain point become untenable for him, the consequences being far higher than anything he’s willing to risk. A bully has far less courage than his own puffed-up sense of self importance convinces him he has, and most will only go so far to satisfy their desires. At some point, they learn to accept that being a bully no longer fills that void they’re hoping to fill and they finally decide to turn their attention to more productive things.

The current political climate is much the same as this scenario. There are small but very vocal minority groups running around trying to bully the quiet majority of people who just want to live their lives. Much like the bullies of our youth, their methods are to try to force us to capitulate to what they want so they can have the satisfaction of having what they want at the expense of everyone else. They care little about how their methods might be hurting someone else; it’s all about satisfying their perceived needs. If you get run over in the process…well, the ends sometimes justify the means.

In reality, these groups only have the power that we allow them to have. Sure, they can run around pushing and prodding and harassing, but the only way they can get the results they want is if we give in to them. Perhaps the best way to combat these crazy times we live in isn’t to fight back with all our might; maybe the best way is to just see them for what they are and ignore them. If enough people stop taking them seriously, the likely result is they’ll realize their energy is being wasted and maybe they’ll turn their attention to more productive pursuits.

Obviously this isn’t a cure all solution. There are many situations and variables to be considered, not the least of which is the current trend of violent behavior that seems to have become acceptable in our society. What I’m really saying here is that, while we can’t really commit to completely ignoring political insanity until it goes away, the mental thought process should be there in our minds while we continue to navigate these treacherous waters. If we can adopt this anti-bully mentality and face the world in a calm and collected frame of mind, perhaps we’ll find that these political bullies run off to find something more fun to do.

What do you think about political bullying? Can we turn back the tide of insanity in which we currently live? What methods can we use to combat this sort of negative behavior on such a major level? Sometimes the solutions to our problems are very complex, while other times they can be quite simple. Many times we overthink things to the point that the obvious answer simply eludes us. Maybe the resolution is right there in front of us.

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2 Comments

  1. Good piece, with relevant and timely questions raised.

    Certainly, the existence of complex and opposing worldviews is the essence of democratic society.

    But at the same time, there is paradox of tolerance: wherein you must question whether it is right (or consider how to go about doing it) to tolerate even the intolerant within society!

    When it comes to politics and persuasion, it always comes down force (violence, coercion, control) vs. non-force (conversation, communication, compassion). From my perspective, there is only one viable way and it’s the latter.

    As hard as it may be, we have to be able to talk to bullies, try to find common ground, appeal to their humanity, and change their minds however we can through non-violent means. All real change comes from the heart and cannot be forced or “given.”

    My two cents. Thank you for you words ✌️

    Liked by 2 people

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