It was a big shock wave that went around the world this week: from unbelieving amazement, to stunned despair, to angry denial, there was a bit of everything — and even many of those who’ve fought for this outcome of the U.S. elections probably didn’t really believe that it could come true.
Now that we’ve all had a bit of time to take a deep breath, now that the victory celebrations and the hangover feelings are winding up, one very simple question remains: What do we do now?
I have to admit that personally, I have a hard time accepting this outcome of the elections. That is partially due to the character of the winner. I just can’t (and don’t want to) imagine him in such a position of power, after all that has happened in the past months and years.
But on a more general level, this U.S. election just fits into a series of other recent events and developments :
Complete demarcation and walling-off. Unjustified hatred. Personal aggression instead of factual communication. Violence, both in threats and in actions.
And behind all this: Fear. Fear of change, of loss, of frustration, of challenge, of everything “different”.
I really get some of these fears, to a certain degree, just like I think most other people do. Some things cause fear in me, too. And I guess humankind is just not ready yet for a completely free and open world.
Fears, whatever they are, are legitimate, they need to be recognized and might be expressed.
What I really don’t get, though, is the way some people express their fears. With aggression. With intimidation. With slander or abuse.
To some extent, the possibilites of our current time are to blame: With a few clicks of my mouse, I could post an ugly comment about another human being, and have potentially hundreds or thousands of people read it. Whenever in the history of mankind has it been that simple to take center stage?
On the other hand, the same possibilities strengthen our age-old fears: The more I see and notice of “the other”, e.g. in social networks, the more prominent is this “other” in my mind, and the more I might have to separate myself from it.
And the media do what they can to re-enforce this vicious circle of attention, confrontation and bad news. After all, it raises their own importance.
On top of that, paradoxically, it’s just the modern technology which makes it even easier for us to hide in our own hole. I don’t have to leave the house anymore to be in contact with the whole world. But this digital world of search engines and social sites increasingly uses “intelligent” algorithms to show me just the opinions and “friends” who re-enforce my own opinion, and who fit my own social and cultural environment. Anything different is systematically being suppressed and pushed away.
Instead of intellectual stimulation, instead of grappling with the “other”, we only see it from afar, as a threat to our little bubble. Instead, we wallow in an environment which consistently re-enforces our own opinion.
So… What to do, after this election?
- Think. Let yourself be challenged. Also read the uncomfortable stuff.
- Get out more, into the real world. Switch off your screen. Get together with real people, not just with digital quotes and likes. Even if those real people have a different opinion than you.
- Do your thing. Add your contribution. The world needs people who make it a bit better, step by step, no matter what happens around us. In these strange times, you’re needed more than ever.