Since I have a boring job and abundant free time, I do a lot of thinking. Recently, I came to the conclusion that a sense of community is so important to your mental health.
I work at a townie liquor store that is visited by a vast assortment of blue collar workers, hipsters, and outlaw bikers who open-carry firearms and have “cop killer” face tattoos. These people, as different as they may seem, all have one thing in common: where they’re from. They all support their community, and the people in it. I’ve had multiple people drop me off food, or slide me some reefer, or coffee, or offer to give me job references, or just shoot the shit with me to pass the time. They all interact with each other, and offer to help each other as needed. I think that’s so neccessary in a world where I can look at YouTube videos of people rioting and killing each other. I have a sick fascination with comment sections: I like to see humanity at its most base. Years of reading hateful comments and watching people get killed on camera have probably made me the jaded asshole I am today, but recently I’ve started to think that I might’ve been wrong. I spend too much time absorbing content online, and not enough time talking to real people.
I get why Stan communities form. Everyone wants to feel like they belong. Everyone wants to feel like their voice matters, even when it doesn’t. The problem with these online communities is that they’re so disconnected from real people and real life that they forget how real life works. If the people who troll Instagram models tried that shit with the bartender at the biker bar down the street, that person would be shot before they finished patting themselves on the back for being “edgy”. That same person would be a hero in their community.
Maybe it’s because I feel like I’ve never belonged anywhere, but I’m surprised on the effect that being part of a community has on me. I offered to help one of my customers do his taxes because he was stressed out about making money in a foreign country, and when I told him that that’s just a quick Foreign Income Exclusion form, he was so thankful, I could literally see the weight lifted off his shoulders. If you’ve read my blog at all, you know I hate people, so this was a surprising revelation for me. I’m not used to feeling good, and helping this guy made me feel good for a change. That same guy came in a few days ago, saw that I needed a coffee, bought me my favorite Italian roast blend from the hipster shop down the street, and when I tried to pay him, he refused. I’m really not used to that kind of thing, so at first I felt awkward, and that turned to anger for a brief moment, but that anger quickly dissipated and turned into gratitude.
I think that most of the people who are involved with these radical movements are just looking for a community to accept them. Sure, they may be awful pieces of shit who deserve to be alone, but deep down, they just want to belong somewhere, and I understand that now. This might seem like an obvious observation of the human experience, but fuck off, I’m still learning how to be a person.