By Matthew Delaney
Anyone else get the feeling our current moment just doesn’t make sense?
We’re the most badass empire on the planet, yet we forfeited billions of dollars of military equipment to the Taliban and asked them to (pretty please!) not hurt our citizens still stuck there.
A few weeks before that, our self-proclaimed G.O.A.T. of a gymnast Simone Biles essentially dropped out of the Olympics because she had the yips. For that, she was heralded for her stunning courage more than champions like Michael Phelps and Allyson Felix combined.
Moreover, our heroic hospital workers are on the frontline of the “greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes,” but apparently, they’re not so crucial that they’re needed on the job if they refuse to take the Covid vaccine.
The Covid-19 pandemic, of course, has been the nadir of our nation’s commitment to logical consistency. More than “two weeks to slow the spread” or that wearing two masks is “just common sense!” has been the emphasis on forcing surprisingly-Covid-proof children to give up their youth to protect us more Covid-vulnerable adults — while saying it’s for their own safety, because, again, of course they would say that.
It reminded me of a quote that Dr. Kevin Pham from the conservative Heritage Foundation told me back in January (for my newspaper job) on our approach to school closings.
“Normally, it’s going to be the adults who bear the burden of keeping society safe,” Pham said. “But with the case of school closures, we’re sort of saddling our children with the responsibility for keeping us, the adults, safe. And that’s really unjust.”
Nothing seems to add up, and it’s an attitude our politicians prolifically abuse.
President Joe Biden had the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a public health body, extend the eviction moratorium despite the likelihood that it was illegal (spoiler: it is). He also claimed to have carried out a drone strike against the terrorists behind the Kabul airport bombing. So far, however, reports have only confirmed the strike killed innocent civilians, including a few children.
National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke made a brilliant point recently about how we have an “upside down system” of governance. Biden meddles in everything he has no business meddling in — such as obscure school board races in Wyoming — while ignoring his actual, constitutional responsibilities. Responsibilities like defending our nation from foreign threats and ensuring our property rights, to name a few.
Why-oh-why would we be going along with this then? Doesn’t making sense, and following through on the purpose that reasoning uncovers, mean anything to us? It does…unless it steps on the altar of our one true “god” of unending comfort.
You see, maintaining our comfortable lifestyles is something we can all get behind. We drug up our rambunctious children because it’s too damn hard to actively parent them. Similarly, we’re prone to obesity because getting off our ass to go throw heavy weights around is so difficult. As a wise man once said, the ability to read and click things will help you breeze by in this life.
If you agree that politics is downstream from culture, or put differently, the attitudes adopted by our politicians are a reaction to what people demonstrate is important to them, then we can’t shift the blame onto Biden or Trump or whoever. Politicians are simply giving us what we want. Trouble in Kabul doesn’t affect our cushy-ness as much as being able to skip out on rent does, so they act accordingly.
Though they may not be scientifically aware of how comfort affects our brains, on an intuitive level politicians know all about it. Luckily, science has explained the biochemical effects in no uncertain terms.
Inc.com talked about how a group of neuroscientists trained monkeys to hit various targets for a reward. When the scientists associated the reward with a specific target, the regions of the monkeys’ brains associated with learning all but shut down. When they made the target that produced the reward more unpredictable, their learning centers were firing off constantly.
The crux of the article said that stability kills your drive to learn. But calling comfort a sign of stability is misleading. Stability implies a level of health. Comfort is more akin to stagnation, especially in the heavy doses we ingest it in.
Maybe you’ve seen you or your friends’ relationship deteriorate because they get too comfortable with their spouse — such as when the woman no longer dresses up to appear sexy, or the man lacks the ambition he once had during the courting phase.
An even better representation of how damaging comfort can be is visualized in our modern day art of memes.
There’s one where a wolf has a thought bubble, saying “I’m cold and hungry. I see some humans around a bonfire. Maybe I can ask for food. What could possibly go wrong?” The next side of the image is just captioned “30,000 years later” and shows a pug in a ridiculous birthday hat.
Our politicians want to keep us in our soft, pug-y form. It makes us more susceptible to the fear they peddle and nurturing care they provide. That’s why some are arguing to repurpose federal funds to extend unemployment benefits, while others think we should cancel rent and mortgages for the duration of the pandemic. Remember, it’s scary out there, but not when you’re with Uncle Sam!
All we have to do is whatever they want. Considering growing public support for authoritarian vaccine mandates and social media censorship, I’d say we’re pulling our weight.
This treatment has led us to believe a state of unperturbed bliss is the 11th item in the original Bill of Rights. Politicians always keep us in our cozy little cocoons by walling us off from those unvaccinated lepers or those backwards rubes online. Then, they handle all our obligations for us. It creates a kind of Crusades-esque division between those who do and don’t want to bow before the deity of comfort. More so, it gives the political priests a devil to sermonize about to those prostrated before them.
Ironically, being bold and adventurous — and yes, uncomfortable — is what this country is all about. From the Founding Fathers risking their lives by signing the Declaration of Independence to beginning the “American experiment” by creating a constitutional republic, and later, fighting a war to end slavery that insulted that republic’s ideals, our greatest leaps have come during times of high stress and high chance of failure.
This is why my only critique of Cooke isn’t that his point about Biden and our upside-down system is wrong. It’s that it’s way too narrow of a view.
Our entire culture has regressed to worshipping convenience and ease. We’ll gladly forfeit our personal judgment over to Big Brother. We’ll let them determine what information we can consume and what freedoms we can have just so we can feel comfort’s smothering embrace.
When the American Civil Liberties Union is arguing your individual freedoms should be tied to your vaccination status, they’re arguing a supreme sense of safety is more important than the freedom that helped achieve that safety in the first place. How else do you expect politicians to behave considering this?
Our priorities are entirely upside-down. We’re losing our frame of reference for what a challenging life is. It makes me think we’re not even fighting a religion of comfort at this point; it’s bordering on a willful enslavement to it.
I hate to say it, but that stupid sign on your girlboss coworker’s desk is right: Life really does begin at the end of your comfort zone. Our current comfort zone has abetted one of the most needlessly divisive and destructive times in this nation’s history. It does so by equating legitimate problems with our “first world problems” that merely demand us to be somewhat responsible for our own well-being.
So, taking the leap to find out what’s outside of your comfort zone — whatever that may be — might just improve your life in ways you can’t imagine. Who knows, it could even help you gain the kind of infectious (and grateful) perspective that will help save this country, too.
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