The ‘yes, buts’ keeping us in the mire

The ‘yes, buts’ keeping us in the mire

The incessant bickering on social media propagates and demonstrates what society, politics and the media have been observing for years: that those who don’t want something to happen invoke some principle, some weighty and often pompous argument to agree with a proposal or initiative but to also express so many reservations as to undermine any change or development. Likewise, those who do not want to help someone else, or want to condemn them, take position behind countless “yes, buts” to hide their cowardice, pettiness or intolerance under an ersatz mantle of “greater knowledge,” “a more informed opinion” or the “big picture.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an act so brutal and unjustified, is exposing the ridiculous smugness and moral poverty of those who insist on equating the aggressors with the victims, ignoring the difference between good and evil, and who always find an excuse to justify their own inertia or tolerance for crime.

The “yes, buts” survive because they have found a way to always defend their position by interpreting their failures as proof of a conspiracy, an injustice or the incompetence they claim to be exposing. They rely on the fluid divisions and destructive choices of the past, picking at old wounds in order to dress their puerility in the pain of national tragedy.

Like the anti-vaxxer who views death by Covid-19 as proof of the crime being committed against him, so today’s supporters of Vladimir Putin in Greece blame those who accuse him rather than the Russian president himself. Some do this because – gripped by the narcissism of their own inconsequentiality – they believe themselves to be guardians of the memory of the victims of the past and others because they do not appreciate the “new order” (which to the rest of us just means the superficial improvisations of the great powers).

Regardless of their ideological leanings, the opinions of the “yes, buts” are defined by the need to draw attention to themselves rather than a level-headed analysis of the facts. Of course it is hard to evaluate facts during the turmoil of war. But it is one thing to seek the truth and empathize with the people being attacked and quite another to impose your interpretation on everything, to the degree that you tolerate, or even justify, crime. Such an interpretation is all about self-praise, impressing a close circle of the like-minded and needing to lash out at our political rivals at any cost. It is a mentality that may bring satisfaction, but it also keeps us in the mire.

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