How To End the Culture of Constant Outrage

There are a lot of things to be outraged about. As the saying goes, “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.”   And yet, we all do have limited attention, and most of us need to spend most of that attention to focus on our work and ourselves, or else our own lives suffer. Outrage directed constantly at different things in the larger world is exhausting and can lead anyone to burn out.

How can we stop this?

Let me start with one example I see starting to change: In my social network, I am already seeing the loudest critics of violent “Muslims” to be real Muslims who say “this is not what the Prophet called for” – these are friends of mine who are Muslim, but outraged at the acts of terror, far more upset than anyone else i see. They are leaders of the 21st century for doing this.

You may think, “Isn’t that the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy?”  You’re right, if it’s one Scotsman defending the group “Scotsmen” from accusations by someone angry at the actions of a different self-identified Scotsman, then the line of argument is ineffective and weak. But if it’s one Scotsman attacking the outside Scotsman, saying “you can’t be part of our group if you act like that” – it’s a powerful argument we need more of.

We’re at a turning point in the 21st century here, where every large group is under attack from the outside from every other large group – because all large groups have problems just like all people have problems. “But we are a good group of good people! You attackers, who are not part of the group, must be the bad ones” is a PR tactic from the 20th century that fails because we all know it’s disingenuous and doesn’t really work.

The way out of this constant bickering and internet anger-mobbing is for every group to publicly exercise the self-criticism necessary to be a good person. Each group must show that it acknowledges its own flaws and works on them. The word corporation just means “body”, and if you think of your body as a collection of diverse drives, wills, goals and aims, all operating the same flesh-covered skeleton, you can focus on strengthening your good side while improving your weaknesses, instead of responding with anger when someone says ‘here is how you can improve.’

Imagine how much better the world is when the loudest critics of violent cops are not their victims, but real cops who put the law above their own lives, who genuinely live to serve and protect.

Imagine when the loudest critics of hurtful “Christians” are real Christians who say “we must serve the marginalized and the downtrodden first, as Jesus calls us to do, above all else.”

Imagine when the loudest critics of the greedy corrupt, banking system are real capitalists who say, “capitalism doesn’t excuse you being an asshole; it’s not in anyone’s self interest for you to rig LIBOR, cheat foreign exchange rates, or launder money for drug lords.”

When you see an outside group doing something horrible,  I suggest that the anger you feel might best be directed inward at self improvement, either on your own corporation (Your Body and Mind, Inc) or else a larger corporation you’re part of, such as a social cause you believe in, that maybe has a few rough edges, but overall is trying to do something good for the world – which is pretty much how every group sees itself.

When all groups start self-criticizing, discerning adults can see whose self criticism is most genuine, and that will help us determine which groups we can trust – even if we don’t agree with them. Of course there’s still plenty of room for groups to criticize each other. But if you aren’t doing at least 1:1, self-critcism:other-criticism, you’ve probably got blind spots, and you’re probably turning other people away.

That’s a much better world.

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