I think everyone should have a few things in life they let themselves get riled up about.
A close friend and I were chatting about the innate productivity of anger VS sadness. She and I have separately spent far too much time in the echo chamber of depression, sinking slower and slower into that shadowy muck that clings to the very fiber of your being.
The one thing we both agreed on is there is an almost ‘meta’ moment of ‘being sick of being sick’ where anger surges, and then change is able to be made. I realized that every significant change in my life has been powered by that distinct primal surge of annoyance that comes from ‘being sick of being sick.’
We are here, not just as individuals, but as a society. I’m sure there are a few (looking the f*ck up at you 1%) who are content with the status quo, but the rest of us are sick of being sick – tired of watching our humanity rise and fall on Wall Street – exhausted by the anxiety and fear incurred from life in a society that places no value on the human experience.
What Does it Mean To Be Human
Where this is a historically loaded question, I feel like every human being instinctively knows the answer. We feel it when our humanity is affirmed and when it is violated.
We know it when our children are born. We know it when we fall in love. We know it when we come home. We know it when someone shows us respect. We know it when we are praised.
We know it when someone tries to physically hurt us. We know it when we have to make a choice to either buy food or go see a doctor. We know it when our rent is increased, and salaries decrease. We know it when we’re so exhausted that we no longer care about our well being. We know it when we shun the opportunity to talk openly about of dissatisfaction because we are just so tired that it’s easier to go along with than to stick up for ourselves.
It’s called Moral Philosophy, or Ethics.
Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy
that involves systematizing, defending, and
recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.
The warmth in your body when you help someone in a time of need – that’s ethics.
Any time you’ve thought or said “THIS IS NOT RIGHT!” – that’s ethics.
When that pit in your stomach burns after you’ve heard about or read something – that’s ethics.
Immanuel Kant (a ethics philosopher in 1724 – 1804) talks about this thing called Formula of Humanity or the Categorical Imperative where he discusses what happens when we treat each other, and the world around us as means.
For example: You’re going to meet your dear friend for a game of tennis. You’re excited about beating your friend at this game more than you are about seeing them. You are treating your friend, not as a friend, but as a way to feel better about yourself, therefore as a means to an ego boost.
It’s not about your friend. It’s about your need for validation.
We see this a lot in American politics and usually it’s kept pretty locked up tight under the hood. COVID-19 has, to our detriment, and also to our enlightenment brought it up to the surface like a volcanic explosion and at present, like hot lava, it is causing us all great pain. Some of us just don’t know it yet because we’re all still in shock.
Our real lives (in which the opposite is death) are a means for the current regime in power in America. Lives turn into money. Money turns into profit. Profit turns to power. Power turns to rule.
We are the other person at the tennis match who showed up looking forward to a fair game, excited to see our friend, and nothing more.
Except the tennis match is everyday life.
And the current government is desperate to win.
We are the means to a game I cannot quite figure out.
I like to think we’re at that tipping point. The one where sadness and apathy are turning to anger and we’re letting ourselves get riled up about the way things are in this country.
It’s terrifying, but embracing our collective anger and dissatisfaction will help everyone rise up and ride the wave of the change we so desperately need.
Interested in learning more about Kantian Ethics? Check out a few links to sources below!