The Thinness of Our Emotional SPF

We live in an age of cognitive dissonance. Where things are what we say they are, yet also their polar opposite, and in which we are all the things we call others.

Liberals are simultaneously soft hearted, emotion lead hippies without jobs, yet also mean, non-accepting and media controlling elitists.

Progressives who detested the tea party are eager to act like them. People who supported the Take Back The Night and #stillnotaskingforit attacking a woman for posing nude with no sense or irony. People who are against marital abuse or blaming a victim making jokes about Meliana being held against her will, without ever thinking “but what if we’re making fun of an abused person? An immigrant, married to the most powerful man in the USA, to boot?”.
It should go without saying that attacking a child is beneath any decent human being.
But here I am, saying it.

We live in a time where conservatives boast of being pragmatic and tired of identity politics, yet have voted based on a collective white identity above all other issues in the USA and call liberals “obsessed with fact-checking”.

We live in a time where “triggered” is an insult from the alt-right, and “sheeple” is from alt left, but the same supporters are too mentally fragile to read news sources that contradict their pre-existing opinions, preferring their tiny (fiction filled) pool of naturalnews, breitbart, infowars and self-styled experts who think Birmingham is under Sharia Law and mushroom spores can penetrate the sun.

The alt-right think someone else complaining about a lived-experienced social problem makes them “a special snowflake”, but complaining about the complainer is “edgy”.

The alt-left think criticising the medical establishment is revolutionary and truth speaking, but talking about how a lack of timely vaccines and antibiotics being administered robs people of lives or physical ability (in my case, the latter), is oppression and we should stop to spare their feelings.

Their collective feelings matter more (to them) than -for example- black lives, or my ability to breath and walk at the same time.

What’s ‘snowflakeir’ than asking people not to talk about their lives because your feels can’t handle it? Or expanding your feelings of discomfort into a national “divide”?

It’s all about feelings. We vote for who makes us feel good and respected and smart. We read what does not ask us to change our mental frame of the world. We isolate ourselves from offence in our timelines but claim tiredness of people being offended “for the sake of offence”.

So my question is this: when did people become so thin skinned?

I’m genuinely interested to hear if this thin skinniness is new or if was always there and untested. If what we’re seeing now is like a collective psychological sunburn from too much exposure to news and ideas.

  • Was it when news stopped being hourly and started streaming in our phones in real time?
  • When unpopular opinions weren’t just slipped out in the office occasionally at lunch or by family members at Christmas, thanksgiving, purim, or eid, but posted every morning by all 300+ of our contacts? Did our Emotional-SPF just get overwhelmed?
  • Was it after ratings and click metrics became the gold standard around which content was designed? And click bait titles and non fact-checked stories took centre stage in respected newspapers and news channels?

Or was it developed from the ease of which it is today to connect to the opinion holders who agree with us and isolate ourselves from those who don’t? Before, we just had to sit with our discomfort and develop that thick skin.

For myself, I’m reading The Times and Telegraph more lately. And I find the tone of both less grating than my habitual read, the Guardian. At least when the tone does bother me, I can remind myself they don’t represent or pander to me, so it’s forgivable.

We have to agree on a few things if there is ever to be a discussion and one of them has to be that facts matter and legitimate, high-quality publications are not lies. And that they have more weight that niche interest publications. You don’t see me telling you to get your facts from “Green Haired Parrot Lover Daily” now, do you?

After that, we can agree that everyone’s lives do matter, but that in triage living and dying are a higher priority than living the dream. That people who go unpunished are a bigger threat to the public than the ones caught and put behind bars.

That yes, your feelings matter, whether it’s feelings of discrimination or discomfort or even alienation in your community, but asking someone to suffer discrimination in silence to spare your feelings is oppressive even if that’s not what you meant. I’m Arab. I walk around feeling responsible for everything from slavery, to 911, to the horn of Africa crisis, so I feel ya, brah. But I’m still able to read about those subjects and empathise with the victims, and not like, blame them.

That social healthcare is a real thing in many countries and guess what? They still support chemotherapy because there’s nothing else that works more effectively for the money. If there was, I promise the UK would be on it. This is a country with a government that sanctioned a man with a heart condition from benefits payments for failing to complete a fitness to work test. His reason of failing? Having a heart attack because- guess what? The heat condition clearly described by his doctor on his forms was exactly as described- disabling. This is a government that tells people in mandatory weekly seminars that their attitude is what’s preventing them from getting hired in reception or serving sandwiches despite having 30 years experience in car sales (attitude, not age and gender). This is a government that has proposed an obesity tax for the extra burden the obese will place on the NHS. If they could blame a person for getting cancer or tell them to juice, or think it away, they would.

Phew. Sorry for going off on one. This is extremely hard for me as a cell & molecular biology graduate, former NHS worker, and someone who gets tested for cancer on the regular, to ignore. Back to my point….

That speaking up and calling out stuff is important, but if you don’t agree with a muslim ban, then please don’t similarly generalise with signs about “white people” or “men”. Or even “conservatives”.

I promise to try, ok?