There’s a story from eons ago that was written by Plato called The Apology. It tells the true story of his teacher and mentor who went on trial for speaking out and having an opinion that was shut down by people who thought they knew better than him. In the end, even though he brought up good arguments to what he believed, he was still executed. Similarly, Galileo believed the Earth to be a sphere that rotated and explained why there’s gravity due to the gravitational pull. His idea was scoffed, laughed at and then he too was also arrested and his ideas denounced. Back then most people believed the Earth was flat and some people still think that today despite having enough technological advancements to have discovered the edge by this point, but I digress.
Why am I bringing up those two stories and what do they have to do with today’s cancel culture? Ultimately, cancel culture and witch hunts have existed long before Twitter and Instagram, but nowadays because the easy access in to some many people’s thoughts, it’s become more saturated and more apparent that so many people operate from the need to be right and to feel superior rather than wanting to admit the simple truth, we don’t know everything.
Socrates was called the smartest person in Greece by the Gods, but when he pressed why he was named this, they simply said because he knew from his own mouth that the more he knows, the more he knows nothing. He was more enlightened because he had the self- actualization that the word is so infinite. The universe exists therefore we are just a small speck of it and have yet to even grasp even 5 percent of it, however to admit this would be to remove ego and to be fully aware that we are completely insignificant, and that last bit is very hard for many people to grasp.
We try hard to build legacies through family, through our art, through things we’re passionate about and invest a lot of time in. At the end of the day we will die and eventually anyone that knew us will also die. Most of our essence will be a fleeting memory and/or hearsay at most. We fight against this idea because it’s morbid so we try so hard to be kings and queens of our kingdoms. Or even prophets as some delusional rappers claim to be. We read about Gods like Hercules or Achilles and try to emulate them and are enamored with super heroes like Spider-Man and Batman. We’re so overly consumed with the idea that we can be more and most of us strive for it everyday. We want perfection, but we’re never going to get it. Yet as humans, we stil try to be, no HAVE to be better than other people.
Where did this need to be more significant come from? It all relates back to what we all have in common as human beings: needing to have a purpose and awareness of mortality. We have all or will all at some point have that existential crisis and ask ourselves why am I here and what should I do here with the time I have? And because time is of an essence, there’s an emergence to what we do and the need to excel becomes greater because if we don’t what are we leaving behind?
To backtrack a bit, I went to Utah recently to take photos and I was in awe with how massive the pillars were and seeing stars knowing there’s more out there than just Earth. It made me realize once again how small we are in the grand scheme of things. My photography friend I went with Bill Nash, was like, “Well yeah we’re insignificant. We’re like stars. A bunch of energy that eventually dims and fades.”
If you told younger me this I would’ve been lik, “How dare you. I’m a special snowflake and so is everyone else. We’re special and significant.” This is what we’re taught since grade school. We’re awarded for every minimal thing we accomplish with gold stars and told that we’re so unique and individualistic. Not saying it’s a bad idea to have confidence and an identity, but it’s also a good idea to be taught actual humility, but in saying that I don’t think major successes in the would have happened without ego and arrogance. I don’t think humility and success can actually truly coexist because a part of accomplishing amazing feats means you need to believe that you’ll be able to do it and do it better than anyone else, otherwise why would you invest that much time?
So I fight between my intrinsic want to have a purpose and be the sun, the central nucleus if you will to the solar system, to humiliating myself to know I am nothing and I will know very little at best; something that’s true for everyone. I have a friend who uses the word “nobody” a lot to refer to people that he deems have not done enough in life to stand out or be significant. It bugs me because I’m always annoyed with people who don’t humiliate themselves enough to realize how insignificant they are as well.
And I’m not saying this to say you can’t make a difference or be impactful. Of course you can; I’m just being fatalistic. Most people are able to leave a scratch or even a dent in the world, however we all have the opportunity to do so in many different ways even if it means influencing one person which in truth, everyone has probably done to some extent. When I say insignificant it’s to get us to a point to understand that we will never know everything or even a little about this world we live in. We haven’t even discovered most of the ocean on Earth let alone the galaxies and universe! Which is why I don’t think many things in black and white anymore to revert back to my previous entry.
Whenever I go to a social outing for networking I’m always excited because I know there’s a chance I can speak with someone and learn something new. Every single person can teach us something and even though we may know more about X doesn’t mean we overall are more superior to the person or even know more than them and it also doesn’t mean we’re more significant or insigficant than them. Even if I don’t agree with them entirely I know there’s a chance through conversation they can teach me something about myself, about other people, or about a thing, but it’s important to open your mind to different perspectives ESPECIALLY if they differ from yours.
So you may be like, okay you spent a lot of paragraphs talking about insignificance and humility, where does the idea of cancel culture come in to play? I’ve been noticing lately on Twitter in particular that Chris Rock, Brother Nature, and various other people are coming under fire for things that were published 10 or so years ago. They say something foul and the witch hunt begins without fully grasping intent, context, period of time, or empathy to them as human beings who inevitably fail and make mistakes all the time. We latch on to it and go after them. We dehumanize them as “trash” or “garbage” and essentially write them off not as people we enjoyed, but objects that we discard. It’s so easy to toss stones and act like we too haven’t said dumb things or made mistakes. It’s so easy to forget that even in making mistakes we have learned and grown. It’s so easy to forget that though we are complex, we’re also humans because we try really hard to be more than that (again we want to be Gods).
We get on this moral superiority kick and we tell people how wrong they are on the internet and how right we are. Because we know more about this subject than they do right? We know more about the world than they do right? We’re better than them, smarter than them, and we have the right to dismiss them if we don’t agree with what they’re saying because some where along the way we decided that we WERE morally superior and this all goes back to why it’s so important for people to know how insignificant they are. I have seen countless amount of debates on FB, Twitter, YouTube and recently on Twitch where it’s two or more people thinking they have all the answers to everything and dismissing anything that goes against it. A perfect example of this was a debate I listened to parts of with Destiny and a few other equally combative streamers.
We think we can’t learn from other people even people who may not be entirely right in their thinking for certain things and that’s just silly to me. I will always think the dismissive person in an argument is the losing person, because they’re closed-minded and haven’t fully grasped the idea of their own ignorance and unwillingness to see a different point of view. More importantly most of what will be discussed has already been formulated and ingrained in their mind. Many people are immobile in mindset, but yet also capable of change. Yet that only comes with time and not that one debate you both have on your Facebook. You’re really just expounding energy in a meaningless things that’s generating more negative energy than positive energy in to the universe. And that’s why I don’t debate anymore on Twitter or FB. I don’t know everything. I won’t know everything. I just know that I’m trying to figure out what I can to be the best version of me and hopefully in doing so I can help another person do the same.