Watching America’s social justice spasms this weekend, I am feeling outrage, angst, and horror about the state of the world that I haven’t felt so sharply in at least thirty years. In my teens, when I first realized how disappointing and tragic civilization was, my outrage was so intense it was like an illness. I had no coping skills then, and there were some close calls with self-destruction.
In my 20s, my skin got thicker and I settled into seething cynicism and spasms of passionate activism, but I was too messed up to be effective.
In my 30s, I distracted myself by getting my shit together and finally earning a decent living.
And my 40s, the last decade: numb, exhausted, distracted by major personal challenges and misfortunes, I became emotionally complacent about the endlessly abstract, far-away Big Problems of our world. Injustice and tragedy had turned into white noise.
And then along comes 2020, and the big problems don’t seem so abstract now, and I am despairing like a teenager again. All this feels quite alien to the man I have been for a long time.
I am also very angry indeed, and angry gets things done. For the first time since the 90s, I am seriously wondering what I might be able to get done.
And I feel really old and weary. Which is not ideal.