Here's a virtue that doesn't get talked about enough: resilience. The kind of thing that people had back when the Dust Bowl covered half the country in drought, or during the Great Depression, or World War II. Resilience may be one of the defining qualities of kids who "make it" out of horrible childhoods, whether because of abuse or neglect or poverty.
Despite all our national woes, I really think it's worth noting that for most of us, we're tremendously privileged. I am, anyway. When I have the ability to qualify my privilege (Well, yeah, I have a house decorated to my tastes, but it's a small one), there's no denying my outsize fortune. Because of my fortune, the specific manifestations of true resilience will look different.
At the Top of Maslow's Hierarchy
Let's set aside social problems for two seconds. As an individual, I live at the top of Maslow's triangle. My problems are "first world" ones: matters of esteem and self-actualization. My basic needs of life, and some of the advanced ones, are met. We millenial Americans may only be about the second or so generation in history who largely fall into this category.
So we don't know how to be resilient in our own way, because there are so few examples from those who have come before.
The majority of my daily problems, for instance, have to do with the lack of wish fulfillment. I wake up in my warm, comfortable bed in my attractive, safe home and feel miffed because I wanted more sleep. My main adversary in life is grass growing in the front flower bed because of all the rain we've gotten this summer. Ugh, too much water!! lol amiright? This abundance of flora is stifling!
And so on.
Facebook: The Next Frontier
Okay so most of us have few actual frontiers to face anymore. The West has been won—and is now the No. 1 worldwide manufacturer of superhero franchise movies. Elon Musk is handling the space stuff for us.
Now, our arena is Facebook. Social media could be the new agora, the place where minds can meet to discuss and solve world problems. At the moment, it's mostly cat videos. With a heavy dose of outrage. Instead of being deep people, as John Pavlovitz recently wrote, we're combustible people.
Outrage: the Grown-up's Tantrum
Some smart people attribute the culture of outrage to the coddling of American minds, mostly in college. The rampancy of poor cognitive hygiene is making us far less resilient. I kind of agree. Especially after the Yale debacle, in which a professor resigned after hundreds of students excoriated her for daring to send an email saying adults at one of the finest academic institutions in the world could probably handle their own...Halloween costumes. You guys, that happened.
We've got more information at our literal fingertips than ever in history. Did you know there are books stored on DNA now? DNA!
But many of us are spending our time squabbling over misinformation and dumb jokes.
Like the time Ellen tweeted a poorly Photoshopped image of herself clinging to Usain Bolt's back with the caption "This is how I'm going to run all my errands now." Or something. Usain Bolt, the fastest man in history, thought it was funny enough to retweet. The Social Media Mob, though, demanded a blood sacrifice from Ellen.
A woman in Glendale, Arizona, angrily called the mayor "childish, pathetic and disrespectful" for not wanting to spend $8 million a year on the Coyotes hockey arena. She later got to Taser him on television, "for charity."
It gets more insidious than that. Leslie Jones has been harassed and threatened and her privacy compromised horribly on social media. So has Noma Dumezweni, who had the audacity to play the role of Hermione Granger onstage while simultaneously being black! The list goes on and on. Don't even get me started on the election. (You can read about it in my previous post, The Right Questions: How to Find Facts in Our Insane Political Season.)
Misplaced outrage is the leading cause of stupidity in America. Outrage is fair-weather-fandom in The Upside Down: bad-weather trolldom. Outrage is the new world order. And it's exhausting.
The Right Question
Is this the hill I want to die on?
Next time you're offended by something, ask yourself that question. Next time you take a deep inhale to shout into the echo chamber of social media, slow your roll and ask yourself that question. Next time you find yourself in the Feedback Loop from Hell, ask yourself that question.
Part of resilience is picking the right battles to fight. Letting go of the petty infractions—even some that aren't so petty, but would suck out your soul Dementor-style if you hang on to them.
Resilience at the top of Maslow's Hierarchy is letting go of victimhood. Victim blaming is attributed to misogyny and prejudice, but I think we could throw the Outrage Culture on the dog pile as well. When folks with the privilege of wrestling with esteem and self-actualization go around feeling victimized by everything from bad jokes to movie casting choices, it's hard to believe there are actual victims of actual crimes out there.
So here's a plea to those of us at the top of the triangle: let's make resilience a personal priority.