So, everyone is mad.
Because they are.
No matter how much nuance I can read into a situation of which I am not a part, tragic events are very real and very raw to those on the inside. I cannot be dismissive of other people’s perspectives and experiences.
But it is difficult to sort through what I should be angry about because of the platforms used to spread the messages that follow these kinds of events. Anger is a confusing and dangerous enough emotion on it’s own. I’ve had to practice mindfulness activities to overcome some stress and anger issues recently. “Thoughts are not things,” I tell myself.
When people became angry with Starbucks for calling the police on two men, #BoycottStarbucks began trending on Twitter, and of course, there were instantly memes, GIFs, and snide remarks aimed at making fun of the political opposition. As a side note, it is both interesting and entertaining to watch one side of the political spectrum collapse in on itself. For years, right-leaning conservatives have been championing a boycott of the well-known, liberal leaning coffee giant, and liberals mocked. Now, left-leaning liberals are calling for a boycott of the same company. The hashtag that accompanies any boycott is met with a fury of responses, both for and against the cause.
But therein lies the problem. The cause. When a cause is not carefully guided, thoughtful, righteous, and purposeful, it gets lost in the sea of everyone else’s outrage. When anger is not wielded in a thoughtful, righteous, and purposeful manner, it is just seen as complaining.
David Hogg, the outspoken teen that was a witness to the shooting at Stoneman Douglas highschool in Florida, has a right to be angry. Sadly, I feel his message is going to get lost in his delivery, and the fact that there is such an over-saturation of outrage on the internet today. On the political spectrum, it is my humble opinion that when you go far enough right, you turn left. And vice versa. So, David Hogg and Alex Jones are basically the same person – just different sides of the same coin. In fact, Hogg could probably have his own version of InfoWars in the future.
When Job, Zophar, Eliphaz, and Bidad were done arguing, the young Elihu steps in and offers his two cents. He begins chapter 32 of Job by saying, “I am young in years, and you are old, that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know” (New International Version). Typically, I think we as a society would still do ourselves a favor by listening to our elders. There is a strong traditional, cultural, and religious element to this concept in the book of Job. But this is not always the case, as evidenced by the rest of Elihu’s opening statements. In 32.7, we read, “I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right.”
While wise people are often in the latter stages of their life, age is not necessarily the only precursor for wisdom. There are wise young people. And there are causes, championed by young people, that are worth getting behind. But much like the conversation between Job and his friends, the retweets, quoted tweets, GIFs, and memes, simply come across as snide remarks rather than argumentative complaints full of nuance and texture. I love hyperbolic satire as much as anyone, but when a serious issue arises, context is key. And younger people don’t seem to understand that staying power is crucial. There is a whole host of things about which to be angry, and young people seem to jump from cause to cause without hesitation, which is why they are sometimes dismissed as insincere and flighty and met with fierce opposition.
I like that the elder Job is put in his place by a young man here. I do not like that young people today are seemingly so dismissive and ignorant of wisdom beyond their years. Social media is an extremely useful tool for spreading a message, but when that message is not focused, it’s easy for it to get lost in a sea of hashtags. Sadly, Job’s complaints were lost in an arguably justifiable sea of irrationality and emotion, much like the causes of today.