Shut Up, Be Happy

Remember when independent thought, tolerance, non-conformity and distrust of big business were commonly viewed as cornerstones of liberalism? Remember when censorship was bad?

I remember. I also remember viewing conservatism as a stodgy, closed-minded ideology that favored corporations over public interest and demonstrated a complete lack of tolerance for anything new or different.

Conservatives were usually the ones complaining about “messages” in music, film and TV while liberals insisted entertainment had no power of influence over people’s thinking. Tipper Gore’s PMRC is one of the few exceptions I can think of, besides Joseph Lieberman going on a tear about violent video games in an era where the graphics were still so basic and far removed from reality that his assertions seemed comical.

In 2021, though, conformity is king and big business knows best, according to liberal Twitterverse. Censorship is cool. Question nothing. Root out and expose dissenters and practitioners of independent thought. Entertainment must adhere to a rigid set of PC criteria and be infused with a certain amount of “message”, like fluoride added to drinking water.

What happened? I don’t know, but I haven’t changed, and I won’t. Obviously I can’t call myself a liberal, because I engage in critical thinking, which is bad now.

Reminds me of the Shut up, be happy intro from Ice-T’s(One of my favorite practitioners of independent thought)1989 Iceberg album, in which Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys sarcastically rants about conformity to the government over a Black Sabbath loop.

What on earth is going on here? The left has shifted from free-spirited hippiedom to conformity and complacency.

Clearly, that’s not my scene. And neither is modern-day conservatism with its “own the libs” mentality and the whataboutist deflections it constantly employs to justify its own horrendous practices.

I don’t keep track of who it’s been deemed acceptable for me to associate with, or what I’m allowed to like. I like who and what I like, and that’s it. That’s all there is to it. I have friends and acquaintances of all major political persuasions–some are passionate about it and some couldn’t care less. Conversely, there are a lot of people I can’t stand. I don’t waste energy talking or thinking much about them. We simply don’t connect and that’s fine. Live and let live.

Neither the left nor the right as whole possess any sense of nuance or discernment. It’s all rhetoric now. Discussing politics with someone in 2021 is about as productive as a conversation with Dr. Sbaitso, so why bother? All you’ll get is scripted responses from a preprogrammed answer bank. And those answers are usually ugly and hate-filled.

So where on the spectrum does that leave me? Answer: right where I want it to. All over it. I don’t fit in anywhere, and that suits me just fine.

I will continue to be who I am, and to strive to empathize with people and understand perspectives and ideas that are foreign to me. I will not close my mind in order to adhere to any set of rules that tell me how I should be thinking or speaking. I will never march in lockstep with either of these soul-stifling ideologies that have people at each other’s throats.

I know I’m not the only one.

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