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What are you mad about?

October 7, 2018

According to a swath of the punditocracy we are now entering the post-partisan age of tribalism. Since I’m hearing this idea advanced from pundits on both the left and right with roughly equal vigor it must be true, right? Well if so I have a simple question for everyone so disposed. What the heck is wrong with you?

By any objective standard we live in the best of times. Yep, it’s true. So in all of this big, beautiful world what is so disturbing about your corner of it that you feel compelled to hide there while griping about and plotting ruin on everyone else? Or, worse, commit acts of war, murder and violence.

I happen to think that we are indeed, alas and alack, headed deeply into tribalism. But there’s a relatively easy innoculation against it — just don’t you go there. Take a deep breath, take a look around, and wrap your mind around all of the things you ought to feel really too good about to retreat into a corner and ruminate with a bunch of miscreants.

I spend a lot of time on dirt bikes attached to sketchy trails in the wilds of Idaho. Whenever I’m feeling tired or in any way concerned about how hard or scary or hot or cold it is I remind myself of the fact that the people who established many of these trails did so on foot or with a wagon and oxen. They didn’t have Gore Tex®, or 50 horsepower, or a Personal Locator Beacon, or a GPS unit, or a 220 lb vehicle capable of doing 60 mph. Their means were downright primitive compared to what I enjoy less than 150 years later. I need get some perspective and get over myself.

I think that’s good advice for a lot of us.

You name the human endeavor and I’ll show you how it’s almost certainly better now than it was even a generation ago. Just because there are some bad things out there doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. It’s not. And if all that you can see is the bad stuff someone would be doing you a great favor with a brisk dope slap. Snap out of it!

Most of us are likely to live a long, relatively comfortable life aided greatly by modern technology in our home, work and recreation. We have access to inexpensive, high-quality food, clean water, health care that is a miracle, affordable housing and lots of information at our fingertips. Even our very modest homes would likely be like mansions to our grandparents.

Everyone that I know has a smart phone and some form of personal transportation. We all live in bloody luxury, relatively speaking. And when the end of our fortunate existance finally comes we are probably not going to die horribly but in a bed surrounded by our children and grandchildren. If this isn’t the basic infrastructure for a pretty darned good life I’m scratching my head as to what’s missing.

Yet at the very time we should most be thanking our lucky stars a number of us are so miserable with what we don’t have or are not getting (usually our way) that all we can do is gripe, moan and complain — sometimes worse. It boggles the mind.

So how does one get their hands on the cure? Start by turning off your damned screen device and getting outside. The real world is much less depressing than that represented in the realm of electronic information. The best thing available on TV or the Interwebs pales in comparison to what’s available on the other side of your front door. Meet people, read books, travel, learn new things, have some fun. And if you have any idea what’s good for you get a hobby that makes you feel good.

Along that line I’m willing to bet more than I can afford to lose that if you could figure out a way to take jihad-obsessed denizens of the Interwebs (and others of their ilk) out of their tribal electronic reinforcement loop you could solve a lot of problems.

I’d hand the wretches an electric guitar along with a practice amp, a tuner, a metronome and show them that if you can learn to play the damned thing well enough you stand a really good chance of getting your maidens in this world. And you can do so without having to be handsome, foolishly brave or suffer the inconvenience of blowing yourself up. I modestly submit that such a simple realization of the possibilities available in this great life would solve some problems and make the world a better place.

It’s just a thought.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time happily raising three children, llama farming, and riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.

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