Answers for Society’s Most Uncomfortable Questions

5 Helpful Answers To Society’s Most Uncomfortable Questions | Cracked.com.

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You’re not a person.

This is going to sound like some real Rust Cohle shit, but bear with me because deep down you already know all of this.

For instance, you already know that you are, to a certain degree, a product of your genes — they go a long way toward determining if you would be physically imposing or weak, smart or stupid, calm or anxious, energetic or lazy, and fat or thin. What your genes left undecided, your upbringing mostly took care of — how you were raised determined your values, your attitudes, and your religious beliefs. And what your genes and upbringing left undecided, your environment rounded into shape — what culture you were raised in, where you went to school, and who you were friends with growing up. If you had been born and raised in Saudi Arabia, you would be a different person today. If the Nazis had won World War II, you would be a different person, still.

So, even when personal choices finally come into play, you’re still choosing within that framework — you can choose between becoming a poet or a software engineer, but only because you were raised in a world in which other people had already invented both poetry and computers. That means every single little part of your life — every action, every choice, every thought, every emotion, every plan for the future, everything that you are and do and can potentially be — is the result ofthings other people did in the past.

These mostly dead people shaped every little molecule of you and the world you inhabit. You are the product of what they did, just as they were the product of those who came before them. You are, therefore, not a person any more than a leaf is a tree. It makes far more sense to think of yourself as one part of a whole (the “whole” being every human who has ever lived) than as an individual — you benefit from the whole’s successes, and you pay for its mistakes as if they were your own — whether you want to or not.

This is not abstract philosophy, this is not something you can choose to believe or not believe — this is a statement of physical fact. Refusing to acknowledge it will only leave you endlessly confused and frustrated. For instance, when you show up at a job interview, or a trial, or the set of a porno, that whole context will walk in the door with you. Everyone in that room will be making certain assumptions about you and will hold certain expectations, based on the greater whole of which you are a part.

That means you can’t think of your life as a story. You have to think of it as one sentence in a much longer story … a sentence that doesn’t make any sense out of context

…….

McEvedy and Jones, Penguin Reference Books

That’s a world population graph dating back over the last 2,000 years. Just look at it! Around 200 years ago, a freaking switch got flipped, and shit exploded. There is no comparing humanity over the last couple of centuries with anything that came before. It’s like if you were driving home one day and saw that while you were gone, your goldfish had grown large enough to flatten the entire neighborhood.

But make no mistake: What you’re seeing on the graph is humanity winning. Winning so hard that we’re not even sure how to handle it. That up there is what every single species only wishes it could do. That kind of success requires utter mastery of the environment, food, health, and predators — humanity just absolutely dunking over all we survey.

You and I were born right in the middle of this unprecedented and unfathomable winning streak, during a series of changes that are whipping by at light speed, rendering what we think of as a “normal human life” utterly unrecognizable to someone living just 200 years ago. And change is terrifying. Lots of the old rules have gone out the window — they were written for a different time, with different problems in mind. Lots of the timeless advice you hear was spoken by people who never anticipated the world you’re living in. If you find all of the shit grown-ups say to you to be contradictory and confusing, that would be why.

…………

The big flaw in humanity is that we always cling to short-term comfort over long-term prosperity (because we see ourselves as individuals, instead of part of a whole), and certain classes of people were benefiting from doing things the old way, even if humanity as a whole was not.

……………

There is a difference between being “to blame” for something and being “responsible” for it. 

This is confusing because, as kids, we were taught that you clean up your own messes, and it’s easy to accidentally expand that to: “You only clean up your own messes.”

If they try to teach this in the classroom, critics will scream that they’re making white kids “feel guilty for being white.” But, there’s that confusion again — telling those kids they’re guilty (that is, “to blame”) for being white would be wrong. Telling those kids that, as white people, they areresponsible for fixing inequality is just a statement of fact. The entire concept of civilization is that things are supposed to always be getting better — each link in the chain is hopefully a little smarter, richer, and healthier than the one before….But, improving means fixing things that are broken. That is, things that other people broke.

Helping to rectify that situation is one of the many, many things you’re tasked with due to having been born in a fairly high place in the world. It’s not “fair,” but that’s a meaningless word when referencing things you have no control over. You didn’t ask to be born half-way up a mountain, but you were, and I need you to look down and realize that mountain is really a pile of bones.

……….

In other words, why can’t we start treating each other like individuals based on our position in life, and just drop all of this race/gender stuff that just clouds the issue? Wouldn’t that be the fastest way to make things better for everyone?

Sure, and we could totally do that, if we were merely people. The problem is that we can’t just collectively agree to make the context of history go away, any more than a bunch of leaves can get together and decide that there is no tree; the roots of history are still feeding us.

….

Changing that doesn’t mean they’re winning, and you’re losing. This isn’t about you. There is no “you” at all, outside of this larger context. It’s about continuing this winning streak humanity has been on, and trying to build a world in which everybody — from the poor white dude in the trailer park to the black trans woman in Russia — has the best possible chance to make something with their lives. We can disagree about how exactly to do that, but as for those people talking about the “good old days” and getting back to “traditional” values? The best thing I can say about them is that they can’t possibly know what they’re asking for.

[David Wong]