Has the post-pandemic world made anyone else very cynical/libertarian? Or just me
Curious to hear your guys' thoughts - and if you disagree feel free to point it out, as tbh I feel I am becoming too cynical about the world these days. But in summary I've found myself becoming more and more disillusioned about people in general - I used to think (naively maybe) that whilst humanity wasn't perfect, most people were generally decent and wanted to work together harmoniously in society. Now though it feels as if everyone is just 100% out for themselves, from politicians to everyday people on the street. And it makes me sad frankly.
So my background - early 30s, American-British, in IB now PE - as recently as 2018/19 if you'd asked me how I felt about the state of the world, I would have been relatively positive. It did feel like things became much more politicized in both my countries (US and UK) following the 2016 election + Brexit respectively, but it also still felt like you could still have rational debates on both sides. And back in 2015 it really did seem (to me anyway, perhaps naively) that intelligent political discourse was alive and well.
Fast-forward to 2023 - in both the US and UK, the middle-class are facing ever higher tax burdens with ever poorer public services, with crime significantly on the rise. That wouldn't be the end of the world in itself - except there seems no will to do anything about it (on either side of the political spectrum). Also maybe I spend too much online but I've realized how selfish and hypocritical people really are sadly, let's look at a few examples:
Covid - people of all political persuasions handled this terribly. Either "Covid deniers" or "lockdown fanatics" - and in both cases people's view is influenced solely by how it affects them. E.g. young or wealthy Republicans not caring about the virus because it probably won't affect them - yet if you go on Reddit it's equally toxic the other way, with students from affluent families (which is most of Reddit) happy to prolong lockdown forever basically, as it doesn't impact their livelihoods. Anyone who even remotely questions lockdown is called "a Trump fanatic" or "Republican asshole" or something. And the media certainly amplified the pro-lockdown view massively in both the US and UK, without any type of rigorous analysis of the pros and cons.
Student loans/higher taxes - another blatant case of hypocrisy/selfishness from students, who want everyone else to pay to write off their student loan debt. Whilst I know that in the US college fees are a bit crazy, it's laughable that someone who did some joke major at a no-name school has convinced themselves that they're a "social justice warrior" by protesting/complaining about student loans. Likewise higher taxes - the people who want it are always people not in the middle/upper middle-class. Trying to make a nuanced argument about how these people have worked extremely hard and already pay a lot of tax is completely lost in any type of debate these days. Yet tbh billionaires are just as bad - always finding ways/lobbying so they can pay tax at a lower rate than someone in the middle-class. So everyone is just out for themselves really.
Identity politics - first of all I'm really pro-diversity, grew up in diverse cities and I think it's great. And unlike some posters on WSO I personally have no issues with companies having diversity programmes. Yet America is so focused on identity now - whether it's skin color or being LGBTQ+, it seems like that matters above everything else. Without getting too political, the fawning media coverage of Kamala Harris running up to the 2020 election was laughable - everyone who criticized her was doing it from a place of racism apparently. Equally I know that if hypothetically I ever got mugged on the street by a POC career criminal and fought back too hard and accidentally hurt them badly (they fell into the street and hit by a car for instance) - as a white person who works in PE ("evil rich banker"), I would automatically be the villain in the eyes of the public/media. Never mind the fact that I've never committed a crime, paid a sh*t ton of taxes over the years and am a productive member of society (unlike the career criminal) - people online would be calling for me to lose my job and possibly my liberty, without any rational debate of the facts. The UK thankfully is nowhere near as bad currently but is rapidly heading that same way sadly.
Political entrenchment - people are actually so entrenched now it's insane. For instance whilst I don't particularly like Biden, I personally don't think he's doing a bad job on the whole (not amazing either) - yet in the WSJ comments' section he's constantly criticized regardless of what he does. Equally Trump - whilst I personally don't like him, the economy boomed during his tenure as President and he did enact some positive stuff. Yet on Reddit/in the media he is demonised to the nth degree, and anyone who even says "I don't like Trump but he did do this..." is called a "secret fascist" or "Trump lover." It's insane how people have lost any capacity for critical thinking/debate now.
I think the media is certainly complicit in this - for instance the movie "Don't Look Up" - which I thought was absolutely terrible Netflix garbage. Yes I think climate change is a real issue we need to deal with, but I didn't need Leo di Caprio (who got paid $30m for the movie and flies around on a private jet!) to literally shout at me from the tv and call me an idiot. Yet it seems like younger people lapped it up - of course these are always people who don't work in the oil industry or areas that would be affected by sudden aggressive climate legislation, so their "woke" views cost them nothing. So driven by selfishness again.
- Crime - again, impossible to have a debate on. I'm not advocating going back to the "three strikes" and "broken glass" era (which I can understand may have targeted minorities unfairly) but equally, California decriminalising any thefts under $1000 is surely madness? And NYC is rapidly becoming very unsafe compared to a few years ago (at least that's my impression). Yet again anyone who criticizes it is called an evil Republican etc, yet ironically the people espousing those views tend to be Hollywood celebrities or affluent kids on Reddit/social media - who don't have to experience the effects of inadequate policing in their safe communities. So just pure selfishness again (and hypocrisy - as they would change their views instantly if they suddenly had to live in a crime-ridden neighbourhood).
Apologies for the rant/stream of consciousness - these are just a few examples I can think of, but in summary it seems like most people now sadly lack any capacity for critical thought and just think about themselves/want what other people have. And not just people in the street - this extends up to our politicians on all sides sadly. And this has either got a lot worse during the pandemic, or it was always there and Covid just highlighted it. So I never thought of myself as a libertarian but now I think the less government intervention the better. And it's made me really cynical in other areas - even with my friends and girls I date, I think to myself is this just a mutually-beneficial relationship and nothing more? Not because of any of their actions, but rather just my increasingly cynical mindset on humanity.
So yeah curious to see what you guys think? Am I just too cynical or is this the state of the world today? Tbh I'd love for you guys to disagree with me and say the former, as it really isn't this fun being so cynical nowadays (and this is from someone who had a pretty optimistic view of humanity/the world only 5-7 years ago!)
Good thread. I never understood why some people think that humanity is "basically good". Normal, non-sociopathic people are capable of doing terrible things, such as what you listed. In elementary school, we are led to believe that we can become anything, and that's where narcissism starts to take over. We are then told that everything should be fair in life, and life would be perfect if material constraints did not bind us. Because of this, we eventually begin to have a society that prioritizes "virtue" over values. It's no longer the neighbor that goes to church every Sunday and runs all the community events that are respected, now it is the neighbor who posts a black square on Instagram or wears 7 masks or puts a "Science is real" sign on their front lawn.
I haven't necessarily become cynical, because it's never a good thing to be pessimistic. I also disagree with the libertarian thing, because a libertarian society would probably perpetuate this type of narcissistic culture, in my opinion.
I think the solution to this problem would be to focus on oneself, and fix oneself, and perhaps maybe after that, one could fix the world and its problems.
Sounds like the Jordan Peterson approach. I like it.
go make your bed
The one thing I'm reminded of in all of this is that "the mercies of the wicked are cruel."
People are deeply flawed, and in their attempts to do something merciful for other people, they end up bringing sorrow in the end. People who call for "defunding the police" or decriminalizing theft think they are being merciful to people who have historically been disproportionately incarcerated, but this only leads to surges in crime which disproportionately hit those exact same communities and result in higher consumer prices and store closures because of retail losses.
You may think you're being merciful by telling your university endowment to "divest from oil," but fail to realize that petroleum powers the fertilizer industry which feeds literally billions of people. You're trying to be merciful, but if the advice were followed to the letter, it would be genocide.
Again, our world is full of deeply flawed people who generally only look at the first-order impacts of their political beliefs, which results in people espousing "merciful" or compassionate resolutions to the world's problems which would be disastrous if implemented.
I personally think that we are just becoming more and more online, and COVID amplified that 100%. The thing to remember when you are online is you aren't talking to a human being in any meaningful capacity. It is dangerous to think of any person on the internet as a human being IMO (myself included, think of me as an automaton with the agency and feelings of cattle and its much easier).
Yes, I get it, people on the internet are technically "people", but on forums they aren't regulated by any of the mechanisms that define meaningful interaction with humans. There is complete anonymity, the assumptions are that all interactions are with people who will never refer to you or your reputation ever again, you have complete ability to spout off about whatever bullshit pops into your head (we've all said horribly racist or downright evil stuff in our heads, but its obviously a very different story in public).
People have always had a variety of really really questionable opinions, but it is so much easier to see the best in them when you are regulated with all of the mechanisms of human relationship building and social expectations, rather than just "omg this mongoloid likes "insert politician here" because he thinks hes based, what a fuckwit" which I'll admit Im guilty of on WSO sometimes.
So I am a very positive person and love meeting all walks of life. Yet when I post on WSO I assume I am talking to literal automatons, or at least subhuman retards. I assume at least half this board is an AI cosplaying as my racist uncle, or at least some sort of weird government psy op to target youths who are interesting in a career in investment banking (E.G.: psychopaths). This isn't to demean my fellow posters, but it is to save my own consciousness because it is easier than looking into the collective ignorance that is your average forum poster.
Go into real life and it is suddenly so much easier to relate to every day people and the issues that are actually meaningful. I travel all over and talk to all walks of life and I never get clowned for being a nazi, I never get attacked, I never get pilloried for being a white male or liking guns or any other wedge issue. (For example, I hear a lot of panic about trans people, still never met a trans person at 33 years old. They might as well be crafting policy towards eskimos for all it effects me). This is meaningful because anyone who hangs out with a diverse friend group can tell you that some of these issues are just quite frankly not that divisive (For example trans sports, unless your online all the time pretty much 80-90% of people are in agreement that its a crazy idea).
Theres no doubt that there is a politically fractured country, but I honestly don't buy that's its necessarily worse now than in the past. I mean shit, we had a civil war in the past that was certainly more division than now. Brooks caning sumner on the senate floor would make people absolutely lose their minds nowadays. The 70s were fucking crazy as shit too and everyone was losing there fucking minds because of was crazier inflation, way crazier crime, and way crazier civil rights divisions, imagine if you were watching liveleak vids of the MLK riots or twitter after watergate? I could pick out a million examples of our fractious history and it would apply (My dads mortgage was 19% and he just shrugged and took it on the chin cause he didnt have reddit to complain on - can you fucking imagine that shit?)
The one constant is whether you are online or in person, we are living in history currently. The 70s were a great example of turbulent times in which the pendulum may have swung too far too quick. The 80s were an overreach in the other direction. No matter if your conservative or liberal the pendulum keeps swinging, and that is a pretty good thing to have a system where that dichotomy is baked in. (Example even though im a majority of my life republican, I am what the kids would call a libtard. However, I would hate the idea of any party being in power for too long. Conservatives seek to keep shit the same, liberals seek to change shit. We need both of them or shit would go haywire real quick).
I just want to end it by asking I get that it feels super divided online, but how does it feel on the street? Because that's all that should really matter to you tbh.
You're right, it's not dvided "offline"...for the most part. But when you get your uncle drunk come Easter dinner and then we all know what happens. I agree we came a long way down from the mid 90's and mid-aughts to what's going on today. As for the fractured nature of the country, I think it is. I feel like certain pushers are making active efforts to drive us into it, but I'll shelve that to PM only level discussions. I will say though that there's plenty of us like you and I who are trying to think, talk and walk it out to a reasonable middle. And let's not forget kids, the Civil War was the deadliest one in US history (seriously, look it up. Or watch the great Ken Burns documentary on it). Obviously I wouldn't want it to come to that either.
Wish there was an option above silver banana to give you. Super well said.
The obedient always think of themselves as virtuous rather than cowardly - Robert A. Wilson
I'll also add that becuase of globalization and internet, people have more options in terms of what to consume. In the past there were social expectations, political expectations, economic expectations, and so on that differed from country to country so generally was a peer pressure to fit those expectations with slight deviations, obviously. The debates started from an idea and then 2 sides took a slight deviation either to the left or to the right. Nowadays, people can literally be in the US and consume 24/7 islamic content or chinese content. So you're getting extremely polarized groups even if they grew up in the same area and went to the same school. Also, internet tends to amplify many things (as what previous comment said about trans). There's 0.00001 case for every 1000000 cases, and people will build an entire philosophy on politics and society based on that event.
Exactly this. Generations ago people were not as connected, so there was a lot more pressure to fit in i.e. if you didn't fit in with your peer group from where you lived you were pretty much a social outcast. Think of during WW1 and WW2 - if you refused to fight you were ostracized socially. Contrast that to nowadays where if you don't fit in or don't have the same interests with people around you, you will 100% find your crowd somewhere on the internet, so there is way less social pressure to fit in. This is amplified by things like tiktok etc as their algorithm gives you content which you like putting you in even more of an echo chamber.
depends how you define this. People were more plugged into their local community, went to community events more, social and fraternity community groups had high membership rates. I agree 100% on your point of those same people now being more connected through the internet, but that has led to a detachment of other forms of connection and an increase in social isolation (this is the thesis of Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone about the decline in American "social capital" since the 60/70s-ish).
Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.
How does any of this make libertarianism good? Examples of 'limousine liberals' acting hypocritical in the hyper-polarized society are not arguments for libertarianism.
I know there are many flavors of libertarianism including some left wing ones, but the core of right wing libertarianism is tax cuts, usually for the wealthy, which are either paid for by cuts to welfare programs/social services or they go straight to the debt. That's what we got with Trump, that's what we got with Bush, that's what we got with Reagan, and even now the Republicans want to cut social security and Medicaid. I don't think you're going to sell me on those policies, I think it's better to use the tax revenues to clean up our shitty healthcare system, higher education system, etc.
Govt aka Fed just bail out rich folks and bank CEOs. Whereas the avg citizen still have to pay taxes. Why can't they print money to help us?
banks collapsing results in a chain reaction that affects normal and even poor people directly (losing deposits) and indirectly (losing jobs during to economic shock), that's why Fed stepped up.
Yes to all of these. As someone getting a phd in physics, I've completely lost faith in the scientific process (hence why I'm now going into finance). Science was bastardized for political points and people lost their jobs and careers for questioning the bastardized science. And when you consider that the public health community actively hid their knowledge of the virus coming from a lab, and meanwhile blacklisted scientists who dared to question the narrative, it's really damning.
How can we trust scientists? How can we trust politicians? How can we trust each other? Reading the news, it eerily felt similar to Russia under Stalin, where people would rat out their neighbors for holding views contrary to the party and the people would be vanish overnight. Maybe we didn't have people getting sent to penal camps, but we certainly had people losing their entire livelihoods. Society has broken down completely.
This world has made many people very sick...including me.
I agree with everything except two points:
1. if you hurt a black guy mugging you, I'm pretty sure people would support you, even on reddit.
2. people who are the most against crime / pro-Republican are usually those who live in safe smaller towns and rural areas. the most dangerous places, big cities and bad neighborhoods, are the most against-police / pro-Democrat, which is pretty crazy actually.
Lot of great points here. I think as a society we're struggling to deal with the rapid growth in technology in the past 20 years. In Neil Postman's "Technopoly" book (written in the 90s btw), he shared a prescient idea that new technology almost takes on a life of its own and evolves the society into something different.
The printing press led to the rift of the largest and oldest institution at the time, the Catholic Church. The steam engine put the world on a path to mass production and transferring the ENTIRE workforce from highly skilled laborers to specialized workers doing one function in one factory. The telegraph led to the fasted financial market panic in history. Etc etc.
The internet is, in my opinion, each of those things combined and then jacked up on steroids. When was the last time you went a day without using the internet in some form? This has fundamentally changed the way we live and we are NOT in the driver's seat. We are struggling to grasp all the implications of a 100% globally connected world, including supply chains, labor forces, economics & labor markets, politics, culture, etc.
Unfortunately I don't see how we figure this all out without more pain as a society. We just saw the landscape of the entire financial system essentially change over the course of one weekend (SVB) and now it's spreading.
I wish I knew what the answer was, but I just feel like we can't figure out how to wield the technology we've created responsibly without seeing the type of damage it can cause. It could take a long time given the enormity of the internet's impact.
If any of this resonates with you guys, check out that Neil Postman book Technopoly. It's ~200 pages - you can read it in a weekend and it's highly relevant to the zeitgeist
Great take, I've pondered this many times.
It seems as if the internet and consumption of these resources is not only causing change to how we relate to each other but more poignantly how we relate to ourselves. It's creating confusion, inducing dis-ease. This then reflects outwardly to how we relate to each other and the cycle continues.
The hyper active media lives we all now live seem to be influencing the baseline compassionate morality we have always shared with each other as human beings. It's straining our empathetic psychological response system.
The other big thought to be had about the connected age is that we are essentially all herding ourselves into group think and submission to conformity by existing in this dual reality. Think about that one…
I had a long walk and talk about something similar a friend of mine yesterday, and one of the things we talked about was the general loss of tradition and a community-based social order, and its replacement with a hyper-focus on individualism and self-actualization. Having everything be collectivist is definitely not the answer, but I think, as with most things, it's probably somewhere in the middle. People should be respected as individuals, but they should also know how to act in a society, plain and simple. That being said, I do personally think it is on us to strive to be better overall and not be assholes overall. There are enough bad things going on, we don't need to add anymore.
Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.
I'm not feeling the equivalence. If you read OP's post and count the # of criticisms of the left, and criticisms of the right, it's a lot more on the left. Especially if you consider the weight of them.
Compare billionaires wanting to pay less taxes, vs. insane woke types who want to reduce all of human life to race & gender. Or compare young people who don't want to over-react to Covid (in part because they are at low risk), vs. people on the left who have zero concern about economic productivity and want to defund the police.
These are not the same.
We'd be a lot better off if all the people who proudly claim to be "in the middle" just chose the less crazy of the two sides so the left can finally feel some pressure for the devastation they've visited on our way of life.
Progressives want my culture decimated, me broke, my kids self loathing, and my community flooded with migrants that want to suck America for every penny, absorb none of the culture, give nothing back and make urban centers Babylonesque hellscapes filled with crime, junkies, trash and tents. Yea, no wonder America is fractured.
There was an incredible video making the rounds the last few days. Some woman in SF pleading with her city council for more police presence in her neighborhood because of all the crime. Begging, screaming, whining. And it turns out she was one of the leaders of defund the police. Can't make this stuff up. We're dealing with insanity.
This site is so wild. Like the hard R is at the tip of your tongue lmao. I already know you will pretend not to be a bigot or something.
"Destroy my culture"
"Migrants suck this country dry"
Your 'comparisons' are really just massive strawman arguments.
Someone could just as easily say "Compare people who want more social services to QAnon followers and white nationalists".
Um, no, I'm talking about actual things raised in OP's post. Maybe try reading it.
Very minor but Reddit isn't affluent at all. Quite the opposite.
Now uncross your legs. Take your left hand off your temples, and read on. Not sure about anyone else, but going back and watching old episodes of TV shows (I know, March Madness is on and I'm trying to keep up with that too. I hope Baylor wins, but Gonzaga better beat TCU. Screw the horned frogs), so many of these random episodes from different shows make me reel to the real world of "The Simpsons did it!" if anyone else gets the reference. It definitely makes me even more cynical than I already am. Not sure if they send these episodes out as just actual creativity of "how bad can it possibly get?" Or if it's just foreshadowing what certain groups of people want to do and make us aware before? Some of it is just too spot on it makes me question.
A lot here idk where even to begin. I will say that you coming to the conclusion that people are selfish and that you are now a libertarian is interesting since that belief is is based on people not being selfish and being compassionate people.
Might want to soul search some more idk.
Funny enough, at my T20-T25 program - every economics professor is hardcore libertarian.
That's not funny. That's lucky. But I get your point.
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