Rags of Light

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Pandemic fallout: The Triumph of the Scold, paper-cutout relationships

From a thoughtful essay by Mo Perry, discovered thanks to @patrickrhone.

For most of my life, liberals were the anti-shame party. They wanted people to be able to live out loud… We’ll do our best to make sure you can make the choices you feel are right for you. We want you to feel joy. We want you to feel pleasure.

Now my social media feed is full of people scolding others who have the audacity to try to salvage a shred of joy and pleasure from their lives. The lens seems largely political: as if anyone experiencing pleasure or expressing joy while Trump is president is tacitly endorsing Trump. The communally encouraged state of being is dread and misery and rage. People who eat at restaurants, people who let their kids play on playgrounds, people who walk around the lake without a mask — all condemnable, contemptible. Selfish. How dare they?

I worry that in the absence of the real, nourishing pleasure of togetherness, we’re increasingly turning to the more toxic, shallow pleasure of judgement and moral superiority.

And the lack of real-life togetherness is making it easier to reduce each other to cardboard cutouts, the way driving cars makes us prone to irritation and rage at other drivers. When we can’t see each other as humans — only as avatars or cars — we lose so much of our softness toward each other. We lose that thread of embodied energy connecting my spirit to yours.