REFLECTION: Politics: Everything is bad, right?

Scott+Rainey

Scott Rainey

Scott Rainey

Last year, I realized that my entire personality started to become all about politics and everything that was wrong with it. This began during the 2016 election and continued throughout the majority of 2017.

I used to look for the problems in every incident I heard about. I had pride in my ability to analyze every situation to find out exactly what was wrong with it or who was hurt by it. I felt I was one of the proud few who were truly “woke.”

Food consumption and production is a common example of this. You can be the most politically aware person regarding the ethics of eating, but no matter what you eat, you’re hurting someone else. That’s the nature of the game. However, if you’re stuck in these mindsets, it’s time to let them go because you’ll inevitably feel guilty for the actions you take.

I’m not saying that everyone who studies systems of oppression and hierarchies of power should discontinue their interest in it. It’s important to understand what forces are at play when you interact with people and our system of government. This should make you more aware of your role within them, and should give you more compassion for those who don’t benefit. It should be about compassion and not about impressing others in your own echo chamber.

Why do we care about politics in the first place? Why do we bother looking into problems like food insecurity, mass incarceration or the military industrial complex? It’s because we care about the livelihood of our citizens and the citizens of the world. This is important and fundamental to being a human. Caring for others is what helps us get along and get ahead.

Once I realized this, it became much easier to talk about politics and to explain my point of view.

I let go of the need to be correct all the time. Operating from this mindset allowed me to let go of my ego, to some extent, and become a student of life again. Yes, I want to discover ways of governing that are just. Yes, I understand that there are serious problems with the military, prison system, etc. No, I don’t need to continuously find evidence to support something I already understand.

This freed me from constantly running negative thought patterns about everything. I no longer worry about how the beans used to make my coffee were harvested. I’m not worried about the negative effects of drinking out of a paper cup or a plastic water bottle. I am aware of it, and I do my best not to contribute to it, but I don’t let it eat at me every day.

Instead, I think of it like this: This cup of coffee I’m drinking helps someone pay their bills. Every time I drink out of a mug or a reusable water bottle, I’m contributing to the health of the globe. Every time I walk, I’m improving my health and preventing my car’s fumes from polluting the atmosphere. Yes, I sometimes think about the implications of these actions, but I don’t constantly ruminate on them.

I don’t want to waste my life constantly harping on the problems of the world. I won’t let it bother me. I understand my place in the world, the problems that actually benefit me and how to limit my contribution to them. I don’t want to correct everyone anymore. I don’t need to explain to someone why they shouldn’t like something. I want to connect with people, learn from them, understand their values and talk to them about what they find valuable.

Scott Rainey is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected]