When I log onto Facebook these days, I see a lot of people agreeing with each other. Everyone seems to agree that Beyoncé is flawless, that Congress is dumb, and Jon Stewart and Elizabeth Warren are always right. Most of the time, these things leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling; they make me optimistic about the future and happy to be a member of my generation.
But in the back of my mind, I know that Jon Stewart’s wit and Upworthy’s inspirational videos haven’t neutralized the opposition to today’s progressive causes. People with racist, sexist and homophobic proclivities still win elections in many parts of the country and shamelessly profess their beliefs to their own cheering constituencies. This makes me wonder whether all of the agreeable headlines on my newsfeed are preaching to a similarly giant, idealistic choir that includes me and most of my friends. When I consider this possibility, it frustrates me to think that the primary weapon in the rhetorical arsenal of today’s most popular progressive personalities is to simply make the opposition look stupid, rather than engaging with the ideas that motivate its actions and beliefs. I often see this trend mimicked by students, who win applause from their friends by quoting offensive statements uttered by politicians or media personalities and concluding a smug line like, “I can’t believe there are still people who think that way in 2014.” This disbelief seems to be a sign of complacency that masks the necessity of critical thought.
There are people of all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs in 2014, and refusing to understand them is probably not the best way to win over hearts and minds. Rather than participating in this festival of progressive self-pleasure, I’ve decided to spice up my intellectual life by acquainting myself better with beliefs I find distasteful. I’ve speckled my Facebook with headlines from media outlets other than those that make me smile. I try to watch documentaries that complicate my understanding of the world and American society. It’s not often that I involve myself in debates about how America needs to change or stay the same, but when I do, I hope that I’ll be equipped with something more than just an over-sized helping of self-confidence.
So my question is this: What makes you feel complacent? How and why do you try to disrupt that feeling?
Post submitted by Jacob.