Be less informed, not more. A guide to circles.

One of the unquestioned pillars of modern democratic society is the compulsion for voters to be informed. “Our” democracy is one in which free grade school educationi isn’t just babysitting of could-be-would-be-should-be farm hands but the shaping of tomorrow’s citizens and future champions of freedom. Regular checking-in with Nastian or Zuckerbergian media platforms is a further necessity because school only goes from 8:30am – 4:00pm, leaving way too many hours to fill on either side, and you have a smartphone in your pocket that isn’t buzzing with incoming messages but rather burning a guilty hole in your psyche, one conveniently in the shape of a starving Burmese panda.

But that a volcano just erupted and delayed thousands of flights on the other side of the world, that an earthquake just left millions on another continent without access to clean drinking water, that there’s a recall on bottled water due to mercury contamination somewhere in Asia, or that Manchester United lost in penalty kicks last night, there’s exactly nothing you can do with the knowledge that impacts your personal life, id est what jobs you’re going to apply to next year, whether you’re taking out Mary-Sue or Mary-Ann to prom, or even where you’re going out for lunch. Nor was there anything you could’ve done to prevent it. It happened. Things happen. Shit happens all the time!

The notion that your awareness of anything outside of your Circle of Influence is deeply psychologically damaging and a large part of the reason that you continue to wedged your state into a drug pusher par excellence.ii This unbridled “awareness” is quite simply the reason you’re so bloody depressed, just like everyone else around you.

But before we dig further into the Circles, let’s define themiii :

Circle of Control :
That which you have direct control over. Eg. The colour of socks you wear, the route you drive to work, the type of work you do, the house you live in, the frequency you mow your lawn, the school your kids go to, etc.

Circle of Influence : That which you have indirect control over. Eg. The work done by the charities you donate to, the extracurricular activities your kids do, the type of work your office does, etc.

Circle of Concern : Everything else besides. Eg. When the street outside your house is paved, where the new sports arena is built, the machinations of representative politics and modern democracy in general, starving, raping, pillaging, wars, and natural disasters anywhere outside of your immediate vicinity.

This isn’t to say that areas within the Circle of Concern can’t still be useful. They can. But mostly for the sorts of sick and demented mindsiv that find humour within even the darkest caves of human misfortune. By and large, you’re far better served focusing on the things you can control and influence, leaving the rest to live and let live.

But getting back to your depression. To the extent that you still believe in Santa Claus, which is to say representative democracy, you feel a deeply ingrained obligation to grow your Circle of Concern indefinitely based on the naive presupposition that your Circle of Influence just might be able to nudge the two closer together for as long as you show up at the polls every few years and plead convincingly on social media every few hours. But every day that you fail to narrow this chasm is one in which the grows grows, and one in which you feel increasingly powerless and despondent.v Every day that you learn about another horrific and preventable death is another day of deeper depression.

It’s no wonder that in eight years of Yes We Can, in which your power didn’t grow one iota and bad people continued to do bad things at unprecedented levels, that you’ve come unglued. You’ve spent the last decade getting further from your goals of growing your Influence at a rate at least commensurate with your Concern, when in fact all you’ve done is let your Concern run amok while your Influence stagnated. This is why you protest. This is why you hold vigils and light up bridges in stupid colours. Because you’re still hoping against hope that the formula of shared Concern resulting in shared Influence has merit, quite in spite of all evidence to the contrary. And the impedance mismatch is driving you fucking nuts.

Not that you really need to be told this. The “global village” is on the way out, set to be replaced with stronger brands of nationalism across the board. It’s far from a panacea, this, but as long as you’re not one of the Jews or black organics who will invariably be burned at the stake of national identity and union-by-fire, you’ll certainly be more contented about it all.

___ ___ ___

  1. And sure, free undergrad, because an 18-year-old needs a safe space and a box of weakness tissues to protect him from Herr Trump. After that, free Masters degrees and PhDs are a given, because the labour force is unclean, unbecoming of democratic citizens, and really best left to the coloured folks overseas. Donchaknow. []
  2. It’s because of your substance dependency – just like the last buncha junkie socialists with their Pervitin and Eukodol – that Rumsfeld et al. had to leverage 9/11 specifically into a seizure of Afghani agricultural assets. Too smart to waste a good crisis, The last Evil Donald still didn’t have so many options for how to work it, though his pivot to oil country was more than a little shrewd, even if his cover story could never match that of the mighty fallen Towers. []
  3. Graphically :

    Circles of Control, Influence, and Concern []

  4. Which is to say sane and functioning, but that’s another discussion altogether. []
  5. You have power! It’s just very, very limited. You needn’t be upset about this, just find out where those limits are and keep pushing. You’ll either grow your actual power or die trying. In either case you’ll have done something, which is a hell of a lot more than the depressapotamii can say. []

3 thoughts on “Be less informed, not more. A guide to circles.

  1. mh says:

    You should read Jacques Ellul – Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. What you wrote ties into it, kinda, sorta.. If I could ever recommend a book for Pete to read in a comment, that’d be the one.. So there you go.

  2. […] broader heuristic stands : some of us like to know a bit about everything no matter how outside our circles of control and influence, and some of us like to deep dive into a given subject matter until we’ve explored its […]

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