“The real world is much smaller than the imaginary”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
I have been, probably like some other million or let’s say billion people on this planet, watching the U.S. elections minutely. It is the first election I follow so closely, not just in terms of announcements made by politicians or high-profile figures, but also in terms of data, fueling my mind with constant information and communicating with people implicated in it. Some of my friends work for Republicans, others for Democrats. They shared with me their feelings, thoughts, and frustrations. I already knew how important it was, but I felt it this time, unlike any other election.
Since my field is foreign policy, being caught up in what might or might not happen was essential to assess possible scenarios. It was a different kind of wargaming. We are talking here about the President of the most powerful country on earth, his positions will be crucial for the future of countries, regions, prospects of peace deals, and his stances will profoundly change not just political debates but how we even conceive our world. For instance, President Harry S. Truman, by implementing the Marshall Plan, and NATO, shaped how we think about isolationist approaches by highlighting the benefits of international cooperations to encounter security threats.
As I was scrolling, constantly checking news about votes in each county and state, I found from time to time some little information here and there about the terrorist attacks in Kabul, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and a new law that would enable China’s coast guard use weapons in the South China Sea. I instantly felt guilty. Not that I did something wrong, not that U.S. elections were not important. But because I decided for two months that it was the most important thing on earth. I made myself mentally, emotionally, and psychologically paralyzed. I became unreceptive to any information unrelated to it. Maybe it is just the consequences of my “social media” behavior, that I have put myself in an echo chamber, but one thing for sure: it reminded me of the Hierarchy of Death.
Behavioral scientists and psychologists concluded that media coverage, disaster fatigue, the collapse of empathy, and psychic numbing, could make us mourn deaths more than others. It does not make us evil. It is just how human nature and psychological treatment of information work.
Many like to think that we are what we eat, and I would maybe add that we are what we read. I apologize to myself for losing the great picture and not giving myself the necessary time to retreat, meditate, and have sincere compassion for people who are daily fighting for their lives.
Special acknowledgement to my friend Saeda Najafizada.