If you were in the USA this past week, you probably noticed that the air around you felt like it was being set on fire. The social atmosphere seemed to speed up, as if every conversation was accelerating into a state of abject delirium. Even calm family conversations became tinged with a feverish pitch of obsessiveness, phone calls became excited shouting matches, and your phone blew up with tens, maybe hundreds of messages from people, all of whom are convinced that what they have to say about the matter is uniquely deserving of attention and thought.
It isn’t unusual for elections to make people feel something like this, because in any democracy, a national election is of course supposed to be important. It’s normal for people to get excited, overwhelmed with joy, or even filled with grief, depending on whether the candidate they backed wins or loses. My experience visiting the bookies to collect the winnings I had gambled after a football match was largely the same – some people are cheerful, others are morose, yet life goes on. The problem with this week’s election isn’t necessarily the fact that these normal modalities of both positive and negative emotion seemed to be supercharged, as it were. Instead, the problem is that no-one seems to have noticed that it’s time to return to normality.
This week I chain-smoked the equivalent of hundreds of cigarettes, I drank ungodly amounts of coffee, and slept barely at all while stumbling through drunken election parties and rambunctious hangouts while getting barely anything done. And I’m not alone. A number of my friends and colleagues have attested to skipping out on sleep, work, or even their laundry while giving their attention singlemindedly to a political process that will not repay their temporal or emotional investment in kind. While many of us continue to spend time talking about the election, or chiming in with our own statistical observations, clickbaiting journalists are making more money – and more clicks – than ever before, selling speculations packaged as facts to a citizenry that is missing out on the events of real life that, ultimately, will matter more over the long haul.
Consider that among your friends and family, there is likely at least someone who had a birthday this last week. There may even be someone who had their first child, or suffered from the tragedy of bereavement or a deeply demoralizing life setback. All of these things should matter – and they do – but it seems for many of us that this election and its aftermath continues to hungrily consume all of our time and attention, as if this were not a standard democratic procedure but rather the new 9/11. With the legal challenges filed by the Trump campaign over the contested results and allegations of fraud in some states, we are now entering the second phase of this 9/11, or something like the political equivalent to the Iraq War. I have no intention of being a footsoldier in this war, and if you know what’s good for you, you won’t either.
Democracy, at its core, is nothing more than one of many political systems which aims to provide the solution to the following question: how should people live their lives in order for the best and most desirable outcomes to be achieved? Elections, being nothing but the means by which this process is conducted, must not become so disruptive that they actually detract from our quality of life and bring us further away from our own ambitions, hopes, dreams, and career successes. If we all continued to live our lives in the same manner as we’ve been living for the past week, then within half a year the United States would resemble the dystopian future Australia portrayed within Mad Max much more than it would any America we’d like to live in.
Admittedly, some of you reading this will find the advice herein does not apply to you. You are probably a journalist, or a political campaigner, or someone else whose career successes are fueled by unjustly stealing the attention and time of people whose unhealthy umbrage or delirious derangement means nothing to you but ‘profit’. For the rest of you, it might be a good idea to calibrate your daily activities in order to serve your own interests, not those of power hungry elites or parasitic journalists.
That doesn’t mean you need to become a hermit, or check out of social life completely. By all means, continue to connect with people at the end of a busy and productive workday, so you don’t lose contact with those who matter most. Continue to check the news to see what important things are happening in the world right now, both within and outside of the United States. Use your phone to check the weather, set your morning alarm, and listen to music while you’re on your way to work or at the gym, getting in some (probably much-needed) exercise. Anyone who cares about themselves more than an unrelated political process should be doing exactly that.
But if you’re not doing these things, and if you do continue to obsess over the election even at this point in time well after your ability to influence the outcome of events via voting has concluded, then you are demonstrating that you care less about yourself than you do a simple process. And if you let yourself become a tool of that process, or those who profit on it, at the expense of your wellbeing, then you are not being ‘politically aware’ or ‘informed’. You are being a cuck. And that is not something that most of us want to become.