I’ll let you in on a little secret. You’re not changing anyone’s mind. Not theirs, not mine, not anyone’s. I’d have thought we’d all know this by now, but Covid-19 has exposed an enduring ignorance of this fact. You. Are. Not. Changing. Minds.
Armchair proselytizers have flooded social media feeds with incessant badgering about correct pandemic behaviour while their insubordinate counterparts preach tinfoil-worthy defiance. As the pandemic evolves, so too does the rhetoric, frequency, and volume, none of it accomplishing anything beyond numbing the senses of curious passersby checking in on their community or hoping to catch a glimpse of your kitty destroying a priceless roll of toilet paper.
Nowhere is the impotence of these online barrages more obvious than when two opposing tribes engage in “debate”. The only thing hard in such skirmishes is the effort required to keep my eyes from rolling into my skull.
The Guilty Parties
Look, if some nattering busybody openly states that Covid-19 is part of some devious plot hatched by your regional health authority to, well I don’t know what, really, turn everyone into communist abortion fetishists, I guess, your Nurse Ratchet routine is not going to change their mind. Ever. Doubly so if you’re using, gasp, mainstream media articles to support your stance.
Same goes for the pompous, anti-elite pseudo-intellectual coldly asserting we should lock up those at higher risk and let the masses return to their consumption orgy, lest we destroy the global economy for the sake of a few thousand lives with already suspect value.
At best, this person simply views life differently than you do. Especially when it’s not their life at risk. Sure, it’s not pleasant, but it’s hardly a crime. Nor should it be a shock. Sanctity of life hasn’t figured prominently in our history despite much professing to the contrary. Besides, there’s eight billion of us; a few tens of thousands fewer won’t exactly jeopardize the genetic viability of the species.
At worst, this person is a genuine narcissist whose only worry is wealth accumulation and self-aggrandization. Do you think such a person gives two rounded shits about their own grandparents, let alone yours? Honestly, they already think the pre-Covid economy was an altruistic utopia of unmanipulated, capitalist rapture. Their successful accumulation of trinkets and baubles affirming their bastardized Darwinian fitness for survival superiority. Imploring them to join hands, errr … not join hands, in some grand, society-saving kumbaya moment is futile.
You’re only bringing these people deviant joy with your engagement and increasingly impassioned pleas to heed authority. Delusion loves to think they’re the only ones who “get it.” They’ll double down and solidify their defiance, all the more confident than they’ve bested yet another hopeless sheep.
The opposite of the above is true too. That angelic parent whose Facebook feed is filled with pics of their kids from vaginal exit to present day coupled with endless results of non-sensical internet quizzes like “Which breakfast cereal mascot are you?” isn’t going to read that one dissenting opinion by a – insert impressive sounding institution here – doctor you shared from Rebel Media and suddenly decide we should all go out and lick each other.
And don’t get me started on self-righteous, thesaurus-obsessed bloggers with no sense of irony.
If I Had a Superpower
This latest bombardment of collective browbeating has convinced me of one important, personal truth. If I could have any superpower, any at all, it would be the ability to change people’s minds with my writing.
That’s all we’re trying to do, right? With all these posts and appeals and memes. The goal is to convince others, the naysayers in particular, to agree with us. To think like us. Because, diversity be damned, there’s comfort in sameness. A blissful, anxiety-free dreamworld, void of any and all conflict. Sign me up!
Oh, I agree it’s not a glamorous superpower. It doesn’t have the magical appeal of a Jedi mind trick. Marvel won’t be conjuring a muscled, spandex-clad keyboard warrior with pen nib nipple armour named Quill, anytime soon. But don’t underestimate the power of such a, umm, superpower.
Though the pen may struggle to outwit the sword these days, it flawlessly abets stupidity and assholery. If Spiderman’s abilities conferred great responsibility, mine would demand saintly virtue. Which is why there needs to be some restrictions to my superpower. Even I don’t trust myself enough.
For starters, this isn’t something preschool me should be given. Or toddler me. Or even newborn me. The ramifications of an illiterate being with limited brain development having the power to change minds with crayon scribbles is, frankly, terrifying.
Similarly, school age me is no less dicey, despite my ability to write words. And my pubescent years were far too chaotic, so forget any romantic notion of me getting a paper cut from an enchanted book on a school field trip to the new central library giving me this superpower.
In grade nine I fell hopelessly in lust with a girl. Like all good, shy boys, I refused to talk to her, preferring to haphazardly pursue a relationship using the time-honoured tradition of exchanging gossip and encoded messages through mutual friends. My trump card, or so I thought thanks to myriad successful examples in popular culture, was a poem I wrote her.
It was not a good poem. At least I doubt it was. Thankfully, it has been lost to the recycle bin of time. More importantly, it did not work, crushing though this was at the time. Imagine if I’d harboured such a superpower then? What literary horrors would a hormonal teenager, emboldened by conquest, have unleashed on the fair maidens of southwestern Ontario? No, wait, think bigger. Alyssa Milano. She’d have never had a chance! Who’s the boss now, hmmm?
There’s also the unsettling prospect of us all driving around in orange muscle cars with Confederate flags adorning their roofs, eagerly awaiting the final installment of the third Smokey and the Bandit trilogy. The world will never be ready for Boar’s Nest burger empires and Burt Reynolds theme parks. Much as I dislike Disney, I don’t think Deliverance is an ideal platform from which to create family amusement rides. And honestly, is anyone prepared for Honeymoon Suite being The Beatles of my perfect planet?
Making a Better World
No, it’s obvious, for the betterment of all humanity, that I do not develop this superpower until at least middle age. A late-blooming superhero, as it were. One with some hard-earned wisdom under their belt and whose testosterone has lightened up on the accelerator. I’m not saying right now is the perfect time to give me this power, but I’m in the right ballpark.
Still, dangers remain. For starters, the economy would collapse. Yes, even worse than now. I’m impressively cheap and you all buy a LOT of stupid shit. Seriously, it’s pathological. A few passive-aggressive tweets and, poof, huge swaths of the economy would disappear in a Thanosian snap. Not great for social cohesion but a boon for the environment. Tip – go long chocolate.
Is that too big a price to pay for a better world? Would it be one, for that matter. My ego presumes so, but even it hesitates. I’m not exactly brimming with joy most days. Quite the opposite, in fact. And I’m certainly no role model for fulfilled living. Would eight billion people frolicking in my echo chamber make me, or any of us, happy?
So, maybe my superpower needs additional caveats. Perhaps it only works once a month? Or the effects wear off annually? Or maybe it’d be like a video game and after I use my superpower, I am drained and must seek hidden caches to replenish it before using again? I’d wander the earth in search of my ambrosia and write the sacred texts that make our collective utopia possible.
Is that too big a price for me to pay to shut everyone the hell up? Oops, I meant for everyone to get along. And world peace. And no horribleness. Oh, and no suffering. Or unfairness. Or hypocrisy. Dialing back the stupid would be nice. Ditto the delusion. And paranoia. But also, the shutting up.