As the creator of an audio drama podcast with a cult following, there are some areas of conversation in the social media realm I tend to avoid. Not because I am afraid of any backlash for having an independent opinion, but because the adage of “pick your battles” is something I have learned the hard way in this life. In fact, I say my opinions all the time without any backlash because I’ve learned it is best to be subtle and poetic in what I write and say in public. Perhaps it’s the years of studying Shakespeare that has prepared me for dealing with people prone to shallow scrutiny, judgmental quips, retaliatory tweets and mob madness. It’s hard enough for many to focus on the words in written lines; damn near impossible for some to read between them. Such as these lines from Othello, “Trifles light as air are to the jealous confirmations strong as proofs as Holy writ.”
It doesn’t take much to set some people off — especially if they are filled with rage and jealousy and venom.
So, as 2019 draws to a close, I (like many) am left wondering if our world will start changing for the better. Will conversations get heavier? Will the new decade deliver an invigoration of common sense? Will the “media mob” start behaving like journalists ought to (you know, being unbiased and stick to reporting)? Will the education system stop force feeding the “college or bust” mentality to kids? And for God’s sake, will people stop bringing up politics and ideological arguments all the time?
In the audio drama I produce, the make-believe world of a future America is filled with violence, dark satire, and an authoritarian king that wants to control everything. But I don’t need to fantasize all that much about a bleak future. All I have to do is log into Twitter or Facebook or watch cable news for chunks at a time and get all the gloom and doom scenarios I could ever dream up on my own. It seems there are loads of people obsessed with destroying happiness, sucking the laughter out of people, ruining good times and criticizing everyone for anything. Sometimes I think the “authoritarian king” is already in our midsts, already trying to control everything right now. Sometimes I think the dystopian world of the future might learn a thing or two about “controlling people” by studying how media and social media drive narratives and crushes dissident voices in today’s world. Which is why I take this short line from Hamlet to heart, “Listen to many, speak to few.”
Looking ahead, I wonder if the decade of 2020–2030 will be any better in terms of our societal outcomes. Simple things like courtesy, manners and mutual respect need to make a serious comeback. Perhaps these were the very things so many of us rebelled against — because we wanted to break from our parents and be different in a better way.
But this isn’t a better way.
I look around, I listen to people in public, I observe the Twitter wars, watch the YouTube rants, and you know what? Our parents did things better. No, they weren’t perfect, and yes it was annoying at times. We wanted to be cooler, we wanted to run the show, we wanted to do things our way and lunge into the future to wrestle the bull by the horns. It’s not just what we wanted, but also what our parents wanted. They wanted us to do it better than they did.
But we didn’t. We screwed up.
Kids are disrespectful, people are more wicked now than ever, bitterness runs rampant on TV and talk shows, more fighting in schools, less learning, less courtesy, less respect, more raunch and nastiness in mainstream music, less musicianship, less talent, less longevity, more griping, more consumption, more trash, more homelessness, more corruption in local governments, more perverts running loose, more crime, more violence, less consequence, less hope, more poverty, more haters, more lies, less truth. Less love. Less tolerance.
More skepticism. More dreaming of planets billions of miles away (as if that will help us right now). I think I understand why many dream of Mars or some other far away celestial place — this one is mired with so much convenience, some people actually look for things to complain about. With so much information in the palms of our hands, one would think it would lead to a surge in intellectual discourse, but quite the opposite happens all too often. Kids should be exceeding expectations with all this technology, but instead they are stifled by it. They aren’t using it to grow their wealth of knowledge, they’re becoming addicted to games and social media and wallowing in loneliness and depression. And growing up way, way too fast.
Kids are much more cynical now than I remember. They know things they shouldn’t and refuse to learn things they should.
Will the next decade be any better than the one we are closing the door on? It’s hard to say. The optimist in me says “yes.” But the pessimist inside reminds me the kids are growing up and soon they will control more of our world. Will those turning 18 in 2020 help direct our world towards a more enlightened, intellectual, respectful and less judgmental society by the time they turn 28? Those that held our fate in decades before progressively narrowed the scope of tolerance and set this stage we are in now. It’s foggy, but there is definitely something up ahead awaiting us all.
I see a brick wall in the near distance.
A tall, thick, graffiti laced brick wall.
I am going to brace myself…