I like to give the general public the benefit of the doubt – that they’re kind and informed and enlightened more than most cynical satire portrays. But much like “friends” on Facebook display, average people encountered in common daily life reveal evidence to the contrary.
It shows in election results, with the citizens of multiple nations voting for parties that show no intent of abiding by the principles of democracy or progressing their country in the direction the public demands. It shows in how easily swayed the opinions of a “not insignificant” (any good writer or editor would likely cross out the double negative, but political jargon loves oh so much to be indirect and redundant) portion of the population are, jumping onto the make-shift bandwagon of the latest irrational fad in public discourse.
It shows in daily conversation, in which people virtually, if not directly, start statements with “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic, but…” to justify complaining about their ill-informed perceptions of how various institutions in society have developed differently around different groups of people. It shows when chit-chat flows to the topic of the taxes people pay and how outrageous it is that THEIR money goes towards things that don’t apply directly to them…like if they don’t have school-aged children but pay property taxes that go to the school district of their community. (If the Ghosts of Society Past, Present, and Future could show them the consequences of essentially removing the public element of public schools, perhaps they would change their minds.)
I have reminded myself that I don’t have control over the opinions of others, but I do have control over mine. I have control over the level of my reaction to these things, and whether or not I verbally respond. I have control over my opinion of the general public as well, meaning I can choose to continue believing they’re generally good people or I can revert back to my angsty adolescent view that people are stupid and society sucks. Nobody’s perfect, but when people with the same ignorance and prejudices get in the right conversation together they tend to move toward thinking they are.