Updated: Oct 20, 2020
written by Eric Prince
There you are, just sitting there watching the news when a segment about Trump comes on.
He’s made a disparaging comment about a female politician.
Then you see him tweet about delaying the election.
And then you see him, during the debate no-less, call for conservatives to watch the polls.
The coverage of Trump just goes ON and ON. It's FRIGGING endless. Seriously. It NEVER ends.
Each time he says things like this, you feel that initial burst of outrage. How can ANYONE support him? He’s a FUCKING idiot! (goddamn it feels good to type that out)
But there’s also another feeling bubbling just beneath the surface. It’s difficult to identify, but you know it’s there. It feels strange, almost like the absence of a feeling.
NONE of this absurdity surprises you anymore. And every time you feel outrage toward Trump and our political system, you also feel a little less outrage than the time before. It’s all just so normalized.
And let’s be real, FIVE YEARS of Trump will do that to people. At some point, it’s hard to care about EVERYTHING he says or does. It’s impossible to have the mental capacity. It’s impossible to ALWAYS be outraged.
This mix of diminishing outrage, growing acceptance, and creeping numbness is a feeling many people are experiencing right now. It’s not just you, don’t worry. This is called DESENSITIZATION, and it’s time we talked about it.
SAY 'DESENSITIZATION' THREE TIMES FAST
Desensitization is the process of diminishing emotional responsiveness to a negative, aversive, or positive stimulus after repeated exposure to it.
And desensitization can be a dangerous, dangerous thing.
Because when you start to feel numb to the daily sensory overload, it emboldens the people in charge to continue doing what they’re doing. To continue to push the boundary of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, to blur the line between the OLD normal and the NEW normal.
It happens ALL THE FRIGGING TIME too. Not just in politics - in every aspect of life.
We’ve become desensitized to the number of homeless people all around us. We’ve become desensitized to the excessive advertising we see on a daily basis. We’ve become desensitized to shitty coffee (looking at you Starbucks).
This desensitization is a core part of our human biology. It helps us adapt to our environment. And it helps our bodies adapt to shock and new situations.
A DESENSITIZATION EXAMPLE WITH LIONS
At one point in our evolutionary history desensitization served a useful purpose.
Here’s an example. You’re on the plains of Africa, just having a grand old time.
And you’re attacked by a lion.
Your fight-or-flight instincts kick in and you decide to RUN.
A few days later it happens AGAIN, and you run AGAIN.
For the next few weeks, you and your tribe live in fear of the lions. You’re constantly attacked, and time and time again you enter fight-or-flight mode.
But, over time, you become used to these attacks. And your body stops entering fight-or-flight mode when a lion is near. You begin to think more clearly about things. You’re able to plan a counter-attack. You adapt and overcome the threat of the lions.
Now, this isn’t exactly how desensitization works. It’s obviously a simplification, but you get the idea. In the past, desensitization helped us adapt to our surroundings.
But desensitization these days isn’t like it is in the good-old days. Because seeing advertisements everywhere and drinking shitty coffee don't set off our basic instincts, and they don’t harm us like a lion attack would.
Because our bodies STILL grow numb to this repeated exposure nonetheless. It’s just the way we’re programmed.
But desensitization is more than just advertisements and shitty coffee. Desensitization has the power to change the world and hurt many, many people. Let’s look at an example in history where desensitization has hurt many, many people.
I DID "NAZI" THAT COMING
The rise of Nazi Germany was predicated on desensitization. Before they were fully in power, the Nazis were STILL everywhere. You couldn’t walk a city block without seeing Nazi flags or Nazi supporters.
Even opponents of the Nazi belief-system eventually found themselves numb to the Nazi’s encroaching power. Many people started to internalize and normalize the Nazi's dangerous rhetoric.
Fast forward a few years and the Nazis are committing more and more atrocities against political opponents and minority groups.
At first there were small transgressions. The jailing of outspoken individuals. Small acts of violence committed against certain individuals. The burning of undesirable books. People became used to it. And as MORE things happened, people became MORE used to it. Numb. Accepting.
So when the Nazi military ransacked Jewish business and placed over 30,000 Jewish men into concentration camps in a single night (Kristallnacht), it concerned and outraged a lot of people. But very few people spoke out. The rhetoric and actions had already become normalized years before. Many of them even AGREED with the Nazis at this point.
And when World War 2 broke out, people felt outrage, but this was the natural next step of Hitler’s plan: total domination. He had been talking about it for YEARS.
And when the military pushed the Jewish people into ghettos, people were outraged. But they were also becoming numb. This had become a reality for many people. Just another day.
And when they began taking all Jewish people to concentration camps, people were still outraged. But they were even more