There's a personal and cultural inspiration behind this. I’ve come into contact with a gradation of grand (and not so grand) manipulators in my life. From innocuous moments to heart-wrenching ones, they come in all shapes, sizes, and genders.
The self and culture are symbiotic, influencing each other constantly. There is the self who desires perfection and happiness, and then there is a culture that tells us what that perfection and happiness should look like. There is practically a drop-down menu of selves to choose from today, but not all are equal. Culture tells us which versions are accepted, desired, and rewarded. From there, we branch off and find psychological tribes of individuals who are the quote unquote same as us, and we copy. We love to copy and emulate. This is hardwired into us and innate to our humanness.
Interestingly enough, all you have to do to generate prejudice and bias is to divide one group into two. Imagine that in today's culture, where there are endless tribes, causes, sexualities, and identities outpouring from the media, politicians, and tech companies–some of the most intelligent social agencies that rule our culture, who benefit from our division. We click and scroll and retweet, caught in a scam that leaves us mentally empty and tech companies extremely wealthy. We tell ourselves how morally good we are, signaling our virtue to others and showing that we care by sharing a post on Instagram, or putting a flag outside our institution when we all know that if that problem appeared on our doorstep, we would look the other way or say Sorry, here's a check.
When an idea or thought expressed publicly challenges the ideas of the collective culture or steps outside the Overton window, we slap a name on it that ends with -phobic, -ist, -ism, or my personal favorite, conspiracy theorist. Instead of opening ourselves to others’ opinions and viewpoints, and thus growing as individuals, we sit in the comfort of consumption, chowing down on media, drugs, sex, violence, genders, clothes, plastic surgery, tech, oppression, and videos to remotely understand, or even avoid understanding who we are. This bombardment of victimhood, coddle culture, and affirmation culture has become massively narcissistic. Where is the actual empowerment, empathy, critical discourse, gratitude, and nuance? Or is everything about you?
Our thinking in the West has got dangerously simplistic and generalised. This display of victimhood is the same as the display of the body. See your day from every angle and with every detail; we see your body, face, and issues that are so carefully curated by you. We’re in a systematic scam of manufactured rage, confusion, and identity politics that only benefit and put cash in the pockets of the social agencies that run our reality. Instead of going after the corporations, the media, and politicians, who commodify the pain of communities, movements, and hardship, we eat each other. It's a brilliant scheme.
We sincerely desire to feel like we control our lives. The left brain interpreter, according to neuroscientists, concocts and affirms the stories we tell ourselves to make us feel in control. Any inconvenient fact that doesn't fit with our interpreter is cast out and ignored. This happens within ourselves, but then also projects into our personal, online, and familial relationships. Take that concept and apply it to the present. People have lost their livelihoods, families, and jobs over an opinion or bodily choices they have the right to make. Not the media. Not the government. Not the culture. Not your friends. Not your job. You. Topics have become so politicised and polarised that folks don't even realise they are being duped into believing that these choices make up the totality of who they are–they don't. You can exhale.
No one can make a mistake or have a critical discussion. Any slip-ups or diverging ideas and the cult will come for you. It's a dash of communism cut with authoritarianism. Everyone must agree and be perfect in their speech and be affirmed in their thoughts. Can no one be challenged? Does everyone have to agree and be coddled to feel okay? It's chilling. How boring will art become if this is the case? Our absence of discussion around this perpetuates this behaviour and mindset, resulting in a culture that will become a very ugly and boring one indeed. It begs the question, have we forgotten what it means to be human?