Discover more from Evening Post and Mail
The agonists, the terrified, and the cheery
On thought contagions, bad influences, and why it's on everyone to be cheered by the successes of others
Even putting aside all questions of content, opinion, or ideology, there are two classes of people who make themselves both obnoxious and impossible to ignore, whether in daily life or in media (social or otherwise). One is the class of professional agonists, who are happy only in their own unhappiness and discontent. The other is the class of the congenitally fearful, who regard everything new or unfamiliar as an existential threat.
■ Both classes have always been among us. Human nature is steady like that. But human conditions do change, and both groups are able to act more quickly and more relentlessly than any of their forebears ever could. Activating themselves via memes, group chats, cable television, podcasts, Facebook groups, Snapchat subscriptions, and email chains, they can spread thought contagions faster than wildfire.
■ There is nothing wrong with rejecting them prejudicially. Any one of us has only so long to walk the Earth, and it's not a good idea to spend much of that time swatting down bad influences that haven't been thought-out anyway. The agonists and the terrified aren't spreading well-examined ideas; they're just spreading bad feelings.
■ It's good for the human soul to take pleasure in the happiness of others. We ought to be cheered when others succeed, and to feel good when others flourish. A person can't do that when all they see is decay or threats. And they do even worse when all they contribute is rain to others' parades.
■ Life will always contain messes, errors, and wrongs. One doesn't have to be a Pollyanna about it; what goes badly is usually quite evident in short order. But it really does confound the long uphill climb of our species to fixate on the bad.