Between Scylla and Charybdis, Social Media Religion, and The Struggle Isn’t Real
In Homer’s Odyssey, our hero and the story’s namesake, after presenting a limited-time offer of a wooden horse to the Trojans with absolutely no strings attached, later finds himself in need of navigating between two political parties. All he wants is to go home, which is all the average Seattle commuter wants as well, but fanatics are doing everything they can to prevent just that. The gods have more or less declared war on Odysseus “getting on with it”, where “it” is whatever Odysseus would like to do with his life. Between irritating all of the gods and trying to wrangle his idiotic crew, he has a rough time of it.
On his odyssey, our mildly murderous hero must sail between two unpleasant alternatives, not unlike the experience of a reasonable individual in voting booths all across the United States every four years, or navigating north/south in Seattle. Presumably, Odysseus has a more moist time of it, but the terror of such an absurd choice is the same. A choice is presented as if one sits in a Soviet diner reading a Soviet menu, with an offer of Democrat or Republican, and regardless of one’s political affiliation it must truthfully be admitted the choice is always terrible. The choice consists of two egotists with the gall to believe they are qualified to represent the entire country despite only receiving half the nation’s vote. Odysseus must navigate between these two nasty alternatives, each representing potential disaster to himself, his personal finances, human decency, and the lives of his dullard crew if he fails.
On the one side, Charybdis is a whirlpool, the kind of thing that just sucks your rickety 11th century B.C. ship straight down and smashes it all up. There is no discrimination here, everyone is equally and equitably slaughtered in the order they are received and there is no bar to entry. Truly, Charybdis is equal opportunity where everyone is served, though the quality of service is largely not satisfactory. The absolute and unfeeling, natural force which destroys all things is presented as as a positive option for moving the nation’s policy forward.
On the other side, Scylla is a multi-headed beast of pure, unadulterated and unapologetic hunger with several mouths to feed. She is described as possessing twelve feet, with none of any apparent use as she just hangs out across the way from Charybdis all day. She has six heads, each with a mouth, and I assume each has something insane to shout, condemning the unlucky and foolish individual mistaking her opinion as valid. Straying too far from Charybdis puts one in reach of Scylla, who is downright nasty, and wants nothing more than to devour the flesh of the fortunate and unfortunate alike. Spoiler, in the story they are run into Charybdis (for killing the wrong cows previously) and everyone but Odysseus dies. This isn’t surprising, since his death would herald the end of the tale.
American politics are like that, these days. I suspect they more or less always have been and a few cursory reads of editorials from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries provide evidence for the eternal and everlasting ignorant malice of Americans. Thomas Jefferson’s presidential campaign in 1800 accused John Adams of being a hermaphrodite, for fuck’s sake. These guys were supposedly friends! But what is unique lately is the reliance on social media in terms of receiving and disseminating information and ideas, rather than Americans simply posting embarrassing photos of their baby’s wang or college girls impersonating botox’d ducks, as Mark Zuckerburg dreamed of back in the days of Ye’ Olde 2004. Social media allows any idiot, including yours truly, to simply spew bullshit into the aether where some equally idiotic and credulous individual will see it and believe it.
Imagine for a moment the denizens of Salem, Massachusetts had access to social media in the 17th century. “Hanging a witch lolwtfidk, only five friends will share this.” Their witch hunting would not have been localized to their own, insular and insane community, it would have spread and created more connected and insane communities. We would be speaking of a broad range of witch trials and not the Salem Witch Trials. Collectivism is a virus which spreads just like any trend, like Tide-Pod challenges and voter-registration initiatives.
Suspecting your neighbors to be witches and acolytes of Satan is of course, unadulterated bat-shittery. Protests to the contrary, on the part of accused witches that is, is precisely what a witch would say. In addition, those defending the accused must also be witches, as no other explanation makes sense to the one determined to find and punish witches. In Salem as in the modern day, the accusation of a stupid child was accepted at face value, because those listening to the stupid and willful child were also stupid. Social media works like this too and it isn’t localized to a small community in Salem anymore. The stupid children are now “grown up” into journalists, statisticians, politicians, and other savage beasts once deservedly derided and who hold too high an opinion of themselves and their positions to ever question their own fanaticism. Their modernized accusations of witchcraft spread speedily, from former-comedians-turned-twats like Bill Maher, former-newspapers-turned-Ministries of Truth like the Washington Post, and former-bartenders-turned-polyps like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is definitely an authority on Nazi concentration camps. One encounters such things as death camps in the course of tending New York bar, of course.
In Salem back in the 17th century, things just sort of petered out. Some would-be academics argue toxic water or bread caused this “temporary insanity” (which was the name of one of my Warcraft guilds, for the record, Kilrogg Horde represent!) but it seems to me folks simply got sick of killing their neighbors and I don’t blame them. After your third murder, punishing innocent people for fabricated fantasies just loses its flavor. One can only recapture the sheer bliss of collective, violently satiated blood-lust by devising new execution methods. But even then, one eventually realizes the thrill is just gone, as one watches a last gasp for air bubble to the surface and turns to thoughts of what’s for dinner that evening.
Will the same happen in the modern day? I don’t think so, people are arguably more stupid and more connected today than they were then. Individuals of an insane character and ideology will come and go just as they always have, but the damage they inflict on real people just trying to get on with it will be more lasting and intense, sort of like tantric sex, but way suckier. Your family will be trying to get on with Thanksgiving dinner, but your insane cousin from Eugene, Oregon (interestingly not Salem, Oregon, though they have visited and they love their progressive politics) keeps going on in a spittle-flecked diatribe regarding ICE detention centers and their similarities to Nazi death camps. Appetites are diminished in relation to conversation and not in gluttonous relations with the Thanksgiving tofurkey. When asked to share the differences between an ICE detention center and a Nazi death camp, one is called a fascist in response. You know, one of those multi-cultural, socially liberal, open-society advocating, and pacifist fascists with an aversion to violence and state authority. Your drunk uncle of course, sees nothing wrong with conditions at ICE detention camps and genuinely seems pleased families are separated from each other.
Neither of these idiots are tolerable as neither of these idiots are interested in reform of any sort, as the fever-fueled phantoms of their minds don’t allow the idea in the first place. They are fanatics on opposite sides of the issue, Charybdis and Scylla. Calling something a “concentration camp” is not the kind of shit someone interested in reforming an institution does; calling something a concentration camp is what one does when they want to burn it to the ground and replace it with nothing. One does not improve the conditions for people in a fucking death camp, one abolishes the death camp and hangs the people responsible for putting the atrocity together in the first place. On the other side, defending without compromise the separation of families pending some bureaucratic stamp from some lazy and faceless bureaucrat who refuses to get a real job, is also absurd. Your drunk uncle doesn’t know the first thing about the byzantine processes regarding American immigration enforcement and yet, he is absolutely onboard with individuals being held there suffering a squalid environment which resembles his own humanity, or lack thereof.
Fanaticism has been laid down as follows, in a satirical compilation I shall treat as absolute truth, which cuts straight to the political humorist boner of the thing; “The fanatic is one who redoubles their efforts after having forgotten their aim.” Or, “One who can’t change their opinion and won’t change the subject.” If the fanatics among us won’t shut the fuck up about the mental apparitions dominating their minds and what passes for their thoughts, and they cannot be convinced these things aren’t real in the first place, what the hell are real people to do about it?
Step one, after throwing your cousin and drunk uncle out the window obviously, is to tune it out. One cannot control the behaviors of others, so one must start with themselves. This includes the type of company one keeps. “Be the change you want to see,” is only a cliche to one lacking self-control and self-respect. The Stoics all knew this, so very long ago, and it is something the modern man is encouraged to forget. We are encouraged to believe we can convince people with this or that argument by barking at them just right; that we can somehow control the forces of nature if we just tax corporations; that we can cure cancer if we ostracize the correct parasite to the oval office. But we can’t. The best we can do is make fun of fanatics and deprive them of oxygen and our company. A perk we enjoy in the modern day is to simply ignore them, as moderates (ironically) seized control of the American colonies during the Enlightenment. They mostly determined making fun of fanatics was jolly good fun, so they made it a right of every American citizen in the form of the first amendment. Fanatics can speak, but no one has to listen, and voting fanatics out of office is its own reward.
Step two, is turn it all off, or at least tune out the majority of it. Throughout the history of mankind, so long as there has been a medium to inflict thoughts and ideas on others, this medium has also brought along with it a brand of misery divorced from reality. Thomas Jefferson, condemning the social media of his time in between boning slave girls he wished he could (but somehow wouldn’t) free, asserted, “I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid; and I find myself much the happier.” In our own day, you will see individuals fleeing social media, though perhaps not for Tacitus and Thucydides or in favor of boning slave girls. As an aside, Tacitus is the pimpinest historian ever, who drops such bombs as the following with hilarious frequency, “The more corrupt the State, the more numerous the laws.” Everyone should read Tacitus, especially your drunk uncle and your idiot cousin from Eugene, Oregon.
The idea one must follow “thinkers” on social media and breathlessly click every New York Times (or for the particularly obtuse, Vox and Breitbart) article is absurd. These journalists-turned-fanatic tools don’t know anything more than we do about affairs of state, despite supposedly dedicating their professional lives to covering such things; and yet, their livelihoods depend on them demonstrating this lack of knowledge and insight in five-hundred words, day in, day out. The old adage of Who, What, When, and Where is a good one and one can identify excellent journalists based on their adherence to it. Unfortunately, 99% of fanatics masquerading as journalists also add the Why into the alchemical concoction, as the homonculi in their minds dictate it. Since they don’t know anything more than the rest of us, the Why is simply fabricated; the more absurd the better. Preferably something simple, shocking, and stupid, fitting within a headline. Something like, “Salem hangs witch, crisis averted, grateful townsfolk return to their lives. Rain on Sunday, bring offerings.”
One wonders why the absurdity of this isn’t readily obvious, but then, one is more familiar with the story of Charybdis and Scylla than the absurdly-somehow-more-fabricated stories of modern politics.