I took a philosophy class in high school. That’s not a boast, yet neither am I ashamed of the fact. I won’t tell you why I took it; that’s not especially germane, really, except that I didn’t particularly want to take it. Or maybe I did, I don’t know. What do any of us know, really?
One of the most memorable, yet mostly useless, tidbits I learned in that class is how rats behave in overpopulation situations. The textbook writer who thought to include this treatise on rats doing what rats would do if crammed into a shoebox with one hundred other rats thought to challenge our young impressionable minds by extrapolating rat overpopulation behavior into human behavior. We’re mammals just like rats, after all, so isn’t it logical that when humans overpopulate the planet we too will kill each other for one another’s wheels, eat each other’s babies, and poop in wood shavings?
I might have missed the real points of that thought exercise, but I have wondered lately if this explains why everyone is so angry nowadays. You’ve noticed it, haven’t you, that everyone seems angry? It’s not just Trump supporters and disgruntled Democrats and Islamic terrorists and sewer-bound clowns that are angry, it’s everyone.
Don’t believe me? Post an opinion on Facebook concerning almost any topic and you are likely to get blasted in a torrent of all caps and streams of exclamation marks and red-faced emojis and memes of ridicule. “I love ginger kittens,” you might profess, but you’ll be admonished for not loving black or white kitties, or worse: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, YOU PUPPY HATING MONSTER, EAT A FURBALL AND DIEEEEE!!!!! (or similar).
And as seasoned travelers, I can assure you it’s not an entirely American phenomena. (Please note: language sensitive readers may wish to skip to the next paragraph.) Our last visit to Amsterdam two years ago, I didn’t realize I was walking in the bike lane: as a biker in a business suit zoomed passed me, I heard them mutter, “Fuck you,” albeit in a disconcertingly calm, polite, and professional manner. Obviously he had latent anger issues, only slightly unlike the runner in DC, who—disgruntled that I was walking on the sidewalk (which, I might point out, is the actual purpose of the sideWALK) upon which they preferred to run—yelled that I was an asshole and told me to get the hell out of his way. I guess the Dutch are angrier in a nicer, better-dressed sort of way.
Are we approaching overpopulation? Do humans subconsciously know that we are exhausting the planet’s resources and we’re none too happy about it? Are our metaphorical wood shavings in need of a cleaning?
Perhaps. But I have two simpler solutions, so listen up fans of Occam’s Razor. First is that we’re just too damn well-connected. We know what everyone in the world is doing at all times, news breaks instantly and we suck it up, our noses buried in our phones. And we’re just not mentally wired for this level of interpersonal connectedness. Put it this way: think of how many people there are in the world that you don’t like and realize that social media just makes it that much easier for them to annoy you in real time. Everyone now has a voice, whether they deserve one or not, and we are all unfortunately subjected to listening to them, whether we want to or not.
Put another way, perhaps all this social technology just tends to magnify the worst in us.
As Benjamin Franklin said, We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. I don’t know that this is relevant at this point, but it sounds good.
Anyway, the second reason I believe people are so damn angry is that they just aren’t getting enough sleep. We’re too busy, too hurried, too higgledy-piggledy and in a rush (noses buried in our phones) to get a good night’s sleep or enjoy the sublime benefits of an afternoon nap. You want to put an end to terrorism in the Middle East? Send them some Thanksgiving tryptophan. Got an all-caps, exclamation mark wielding Trump-supporting or still-disgruntled liberal family member? Buy them a big bottle of melatonin.
Sleep in every now and then. Put down the phone and take a nap for crying out loud.
That having been said, I’m going to bed before things get ugly.