But we live in a society where moving away is no longer an option. We’ve been pushed into a small world, where we can either get along or create our own ecosystems, which, as many observers have noted, have come to resemble insular “bubbles.” Unable to compromise, we’ve chosen to draw into ourselves until we can no longer live in a community.
When a society starts to behave like this, people like Bass or the student at University of Michigan’s actions become plausible. They’re not crazy; they’re just protecting their self-contained world against the supposed hatred of the outside. Self-preservation becomes paramount. And if that means getting rid of their neighbors by blaming them for the poison they threw on their own plants, then so be it. In a world of one, the only integrity worth maintaining is autonomy.
The tendency for humans to build self-centered worlds is as old as pride itself. Especially since the Trump election—an unpleasant reality for many Americans—half of the country seems to be terrified of anything that might threaten their personal Xanadus. Cries of “Fake news!” and “Resist!” and “Not my president!” are oddly reassuring to those who make them, of course, giving them a sense of camaraderie and purpose, but they also highlight how displaced from each other we have become.
Dislocating ourselves won’t work in the long run—we’re made to love each other, not ourselves. As this rash of fake hate crimes shows, the more we try to double-down on identity politics and protect ourselves strictly as individuals, the less capable we will be of functioning as a society.