Discover more from Sound Judgments
When No One Is Allowed To Be Happy
A World of The Perpetually Aggrieved
“They act like nobody should be allowed to live a happy life as long as anything, anywhere, is wrong.”
An insightful observation made by my eighteen-year-old son. By “they,” he meant “activists” and “allies.” Unfortunately, far too many activists are focused on disruption rather than solution, and identifying as “an ally” is a convenient way to fake activism.
“They act like nobody should be allowed to live a happy life
as long as anything, anywhere, is wrong.”
On a recent college application, one question asked, “Which marginalized groups do you identify with?” An answer was required. A friend, only half-joking, said he should answer, “All of them.”
Far beyond simply raising awareness, cries of “grievance” are increasingly shrill, and there are so many examples of this in practice that it’s difficult to hone them down.
Today, people scramble to identify as or with so-called “protected groups.” Designed to appeal to our human desire to appear kind and fair, the concepts are arbitrary in their application:
Sound Judgments is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
An Activist Mindset and The Myth of Increasing Awareness
Today most activism centers on disruptions rather than solutions. They won’t even admit when progress has been made because it destroys their grievance narrative.
One clear example is homelessness. Some misguided activists believe that visibility “increases awareness” of the problem. But rather than incentivizing solutions, it destroys neighborhoods. Businesses shut down, and families move away.
I recently spent time in Lima, Peru, and compared it with my experiences in some major US cities.
“Peru is a country with high economic disparities, yet there are no homeless encampments in city parks or public spaces, no Fentanyl zombies passed out in building entryways, no tents lining the streets.”
These things are choices we make as a society. Allowing and enabling people to live on our streets is inhumane.
Another example is “climate anxiety.” We are scaring our children into mental disorders. Pretending this is a good thing by claiming “we are merely teaching kids to care about the planet” is dangerous.
Accentuate The Positive - The Scientific Case Against Grievance
There is behavioral scientific reasoning that illustrates why we shouldn’t focus on highlighting “grievances.” Human brains are wired for negative bias. Research has shown that achieving a positive-negative balance requires five times more positive reinforcement to offset the negative.
Research has shown that achieving a positive-negative balance requires
five times more positive reinforcement to offset the negative.
“That magic ratio is five to one.” - Psychology Today
A Negative Bias
How we teach and the example we set matters. “Critical consciousness” is not critical thinking, and teaching through a lens of “grievance” isn’t a healthy path.
For example, whether teaching about Thomas Jefferson or Frederick Douglass, the focus and priority should be on the positives. Living as a slave wasn’t Douglass’s sole defining characteristic. In an elementary-level US history class, the fact that Jefferson owned slaves would be primarily irrelevant and is usually brought up to discredit or diminish the moral authority of his contributions to the country and its founding ideals. That debate belongs in higher-grade history classes.
Calls for “Reparations” and “Land Acknowledgements” are far more arbitrary than activists will admit. When honestly examined at face value, reality doesn’t support the narratives.
Life Isn’t Fair
Constantly seeking out “grievance” and chasing “fairness” is an exercise in futility. There will always be an endless supply of “grievance.” Despite the narratives, disparities in outcomes do not usually result from injustice. People are individuals, each with different strengths, weaknesses, ambitions, and adversity.
Disparities in outcome are not usually a result of injustice.
Perceptions of “fairness” are often not reality. The solution isn’t “just make everything fair” because that can never happen. Advantages and disadvantages will always exist, and resilience will always be a far more critical quality than grievance.
Raise The Bar
What we choose to celebrate and promote matters. Disruption cannot be our desired norm. Instilling optimism and ambition in our children is more important than ever before.
It is an objective fact that humanity is far better off than ever. Incentivizing “grievance” and rewarding “victimhood” encourages false kindness and abdicates personal responsibility.
Lead by example. Teach your children to live a happy life. Raise the bar, don’t lower it.
Anything less than the five-to-one positive/negative ratio sets us on a harmful path.