Time for another edition of Random Thoughts.
You know, things that aren’t long enough to merit a full article, but that I’d like to mention anyway.
First up: it’s election year in the US!
God help us.
I’m going to try to stay as far away from this one as I can for as long as possible, but I guess by summer it’ll be a whole thing – monopolizing the news cycle even here in faraway Spain.
Maybe I’m even being too optimistic with “by summer” – I guess the Iowa caucas is happening in a couple of days, or maybe even tomorrow… so the 2024 election could be all over the Spanish news by Wednesday.
Anyway, I’m going to avoid politics to the best of my ability.
Why? Well, I don’t actually like either of the US political parties, and I don’t believe that my voting decision is a major part in some epic struggle of good vs evil. (Although I can understand why career politicians would want us to THINK that it is, for fundraising purposes.)
A lot of history happens completely outside of party politics, and it’s going to happen whether you like it or not, no matter who you vote for. A lot of the obsession with polls and such is just spectator sports for the kids who hated the jocks in high school, and bureaucracy is lame.
Anyway, Americans abroad can vote in presidential elections by asking for a ballot from their home state at votefromabroad.org – it’s always worked for me, but I think you have to sign up again each election year.
My plan for improving American politics
Having said all that, I’ve got a few ideas for improving American politics, none of which seem very likely to happen. For example:
- Have six-week election campaigns, rather than a whole year or more. That’s how we do it here in Spain, and miraculously, people still get elected.
- Limit campaign spending and get rid of lobbyists. Big pharma has way too much power. So do a bunch of other lobbies. It’s depressing to think about.
- Put a strict age limit (say, 65 years old) on elected officials. After that, send them all off to a farm in the country.
- Reduce politicians’ salaries to be in line with the salaries of (for example) school teachers.
Now you may be saying that without the high salaries, politics won’t attract all the best people. To which I respond: Does it really appear that we’ve got all the best people in politics now?
Like I said, none of that seems very likely to make it through Congress. So let’s move on to point #2 for today…
Quitting Twitter – or should I say X?
This is related to the first point, in a way: I’ve been off Twitter for a while now.
Actually, about a year and a half.
I didn’t announce “I’m quitting Twitter” or anything. Because who cares? And I didn’t do it because I’m offended by anything Elon Musk said or did. Truth be told, I find Uncle Elon to be pretty hilarious, and I find the outrage he causes in a certain type of person to be even more hilarious.
No, I quit Twitter (or I guess now it’s called X) because it was giving me the wrong idea about what’s going on in the world, and stressing me out about things I can’t impact at all.
See, I spent a long time getting my US news mainly from social media. I hadn’t actually visited the country in more than a decade. And according to – *checks notes* – people who make a living by saying outrageous things on Twitter, we were practically on the verge of a Civil War over there.
When I actually went back to visit in the summer of 2022, and found that it was the same prosperous country full of diverse people getting along far better than could reasonably be expected, I just decided that the pundits were wrong, and hopped off the platform altogether.
(My profile is still up, but I never had a big following or anything. And I don’t miss it at all.)
Anyway, I have thought quite a bit about social media and its influence on people.
Basically, Mike Tyson sums it up with his quote…
“Social media made y’all way too comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the face for it.”Mike Tyson.
Say what you want about Mike, he’s right about social media’s impact on people’s behaviour.
Is social media making you an asshole?
It might be.
The fact is, I’m online a lot. And most of what I say on the blog (or on social) isn’t particularly controversial.
But even so, sometimes people attack me in ways they’d literally never do in a face-to-face conversation, because, well, I might punch them in the face if they did.
Ol’ Elon famously said that Twitter is the de facto public town square, and so failing to protect free speech there “fundamentally undermines democracy”. And I agree.
But it should also be said that if you were walking across the actual town square (in meat space) and you saw a couple of people of questionable intelligence arguing about issues entirely out of their control, you certainly wouldn’t think “Perhaps I’ll chime in here!”
No. You’d walk right the fuck on by, and leave them to their argument.
(What if one party was a C-list actor who’d just claimed to have solved the world’s greatest geopolitical problems, and the other was a journalist from Buzzfeed accusing him or her of apology for genocide? Doesn’t matter, you’d still walk by, because in real life you’d understand it’s NONE OF YOUR GODDAMN BUSINESS.)
Online, as we know, people act very differently, and get all up in other people’s (virtual) faces about whatever they feel like, protected by the fact that most of what you say online has absolutely no real-life consequences.
Occasionally, of course, someone gets fired or cancelled for tweeting the wrong thing. But much more frequently, people act like unhinged lunatics all over social media for years without ever having to face a “cancel mob”. They can even be unhinged lunatics anonymously, if they want.
Anyway, my recent visit confirmed it…
America is great, and y’all need to calm down.
Of course, the US has some obvious problems.
As well as some dark periods in our history we haven’t done much to account for.
But so does everywhere else. The thing is, Americans tend not to know much about the history of everywhere else, so they just assume ours is uniquely terrible.
It’s not. The US didn’t invent racism, or gun violence, or police brutality, or homelessness, or massive economic inequality, or obnoxious populist politicians – those things all exist in other places, too.
So cheer up. “America”, as the kids are calling it, is a pretty great country.
Anybody who says we’re gonna need another Civil War to straighten things out is only saying that because they’ve never opened a history book, or carried a heavy pack uphill for several miles.
Read Rebel Yell by S. C. Gwynne, or the Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant, for example, and see how it went last time Americans decided to slaughter each other over political differences. Then decide if we can maybe just work things out peacefully this time.
Also, take my advice and get the fuck off Twitter if you haven’t already.
The pundits get paid for being outrageous, and the media makes money off your fear and anger.
Don’t play their game.
That’s all I’ve got for today. Hope you’re doing well, wherever you are.
‘Till next time,
Daniel AKA Mr Chorizo.
P.S. The pictures today (except for Mike Tyson) are from a section of the Camino de Santiago right outside Barcelona. Click the link for more about that. Also, while you’re here, check out my other random thoughts articles. Have fun!