Most of the Rusted Compass posts up until this point have been playful for the most part. In this post, it’s time to get a bit more serious to address some of the unrest that I’m witnessing in my own Country, and it’s beginning to weigh on my heart.

Back in the 80’s, there was a movie called Wargames in which a discovered military computer program appears to threaten the imminence nuclear WWIII with Russia. However, at the end of the movie we find out that it’s all just a game being run by the computer. None of it was real, and at the climactic moment at the end of the game all is revealed by the computer which communicates, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” The ironic ending leaves the characters stunned and breathing a sigh of relief. They had been striving and fighting tooth and nail trying to prevent nuclear war, only to find out that there was no way to win because it was just a game, and there was no winning move.

Though just a work of fiction, this theme holds a great amount of wisdom in our contemporary society as we see the news media covering social movements and unrest more everyday. Our human nature responds to these news stories and demands that in order to win something we must fight! It tells us that in order to oppose an injustice, we must fight that injustice directly. There is a sense of noble heroism that we all feel when we directly push back against the threat in protest and petition. What is unfortunate is that this aspect of human nature often blinds us from seeing the more-effective alternatives.

What if by participating as a combatant in the game, we’re actually losing because we’re constraining ourselves to the rules of the game? The rules say: the only winning move is not to play but we’re hellbent on putting forth all of our effort in vain. I see this reality playing out as many Americans become so zeroed-in on the stories pushed by mainstream media, and they get caught up in a fabricated reality. One would think the media is the authoritative voice on the current most important issues in American society, right? That if a story makes its way to the headlines, it must be more important than hundreds of other events competing for the top story. One would think that the media is reactionary to events instead of initiating them. One would think, but none of this is true.

I have witnessed well-meaning Americans getting caught up in the blaze of racist stories pushed by the media. Stories which prove to do more harm, incite more anger, and divide people against their own neighbors! I’ve witnessed the mainstream media driving a wedge between the American people with trivial hot-button partisan issues instead of focusing on the greatest hindrances to individual freedom and happiness. I’ve witnessed ignorance of individualism and content of character, only to be replaced by categorizing and grouping people by their race, gender, sexual preferences, and special interests. How easily we’re being fooled into compromising our individual rights and humanity for special-interest factions!

Why is it that so many Americans have the tendency to faction themselves up with national political and social groups at the expense of their relationship with their own neighbors? Why are communities being destroyed because activist groups feel it’s more important to push the national rhetoric they believe in, than to believe in cultivating their community? Even if it means riots erupt and citizen-police trust is shattered? Is that progress? Can we not see what we’re doing to our communities when we don’t even trust each other, but trust our factions? How are we supposed to make this nation better if we can’t set aside political and social differences for local harmony? That human nature drive to fight and protest and oppose, though it seems noble, is creating results that are dividing us. If the result is division, of what value is the cause? Sometimes in order to connect in our local realms we must set aside furthering national agendas.

Now I’m not saying we should all be passive about what we believe, but we need to pick our battles and not get caught up in these political and social media-driven disputes. Aren’t we better than to let the media capture our minds and use fear to rally us against whatever they choose to cover in their stories? Instead of focusing on what you’re against, focus on what you’re for. The protest mindset expends tremendous amounts of time and energy with little fruit to bear. The problem is that you’re just playing the game, playing into the very cause that you’re against by feeding it with your time and effort. You’ll be left disappointed that your rally to petition a cause falls on deaf ears. Anyone can be against something, but the future is driven by the people that focus on the solution. The first winning move in the game is not to play. Design your own game by thinking critically and deciding what is most important to you, not what the media is telling you.

And as far as effectiveness, we’ve all seen those showy flashy martial-arts movies in which every kick and punch exhibits a dramatic movement. But ask any real martial artist and they’ll tell you that those flashy moves look good but are actually ineffective. Consider a reality of activism that produces actual results instead of that which deceptively seems effective when it truly isn’t. Spend more effort in being pro-something than anti-something. Be creative. Innovate. Make a list of what you value most and choose to live your life that way, putting positive and constructive ideas to work. Life is too short to get caught up in the media mayhem trap.