That’s a problem.
He currently runs the most popular show on Spotify, and he’s arguably one of the most influential people in the world. Before going exclusive, his show earned nearly 200 million downloads per month. His reach is massive, dwarfing most cable news personalities. After all, he embodies almost everything most men hope to achieve. He’s rich and respected. He’s fit. He sounds smart but humble at the same time. He hangs out in a man cave with guys like Elon Musk for a living. In terms of personality, Joe Rogan appeals to almost everyone. He even appeals to me.
I love his debate with Candace Owens over climate change. This is a fairly typical Joe Rogan Experience.
So when Joe publicly decides he’s not going to get vaccinated in order to help the world achieve herd immunity, it’s alarming. This recent problem with soft-core anti-vaxxers reveals a much deeper set of problems we’re going to face over the next decade.
Here they are:
We have a staggering empathy gap.
Even rats display more empathy than we’ve seen in a lot of humans lately. Researchers at the University of Chicago conducted experiments that showed most rats would let another rat out of a cage and share a piece of chocolate, rather than leave each other to starve. By contrast, tell me how much empathy you see in these tweets:
Medical experts have been telling us the same thing for a year now: the ultimate goal of masks, vaccines, and social distancing isn’t simply to prevent our own illness, but to prevent other people from getting sick.
The anti-medicine crowd doesn’t seem to get it.
Maybe the reason they’re still healthy isn’t just because of their diets. Maybe it’s because everywhere they went, a slim majority of us were protecting them. Instead of being grateful and returning the favor, they choose to snub medicine and attribute their survival to their special lifestyle or fitness routines. There’s a callous and fact-free logic at work here, that everyone who gets incredibly sick or dies deserves it.
This is like the rats eating the chocolate by themselves, and blaming the other rats for letting humans trap them, then talking about how much time they spin running on their wheels.
Everyone wants to escape what they call “the rat race,” but it turns out we’ve just been projecting our own selfishness the whole time.
Rats help each other.
So should we.
We think we’re invincible.
Millions of Americans still think nothing bad will ever happen to them if they exercise and take vitamins. They feel qualified to assess the state of their own health based on how they feel in the morning.
We see this attitude everywhere. It’s even reflected in Joe Rogan’s more machismo moments when he says things like, “Masks are for bitches” while smoking a cigar, then apologizes only after a backlash. The problem goes beyond the pandemic. It explains why we don’t have universal healthcare. Everyone thinks they’re strong.
This narrative drives most of our poor decisions.
We vastly overestimate our skills and intelligence. Our imagined invincibility doesn’t mix well with a reckless disregard for other people’s well being. Again, we don’t seem to get it. Everyone eventually winds up trapped like a rat, waiting for another rat to help them out.
Joe Rogan isn’t invincible.
Neither are you.
We think we’re the best country in the world.
Americans are watching the collapse of India’s healthcare system. They’re thinking, “That can’t happen here.”
Except it almost did.
Right now people are dying in India because hospitals have filled. Front desks don’t answer the phone anymore. Patients aren’t just sharing rooms. They’re sharing beds. Hundreds more are turned away. Crematoriums are melting from overuse. This same catastrophe unfolded in Britain last year, and it happened in parts of the U.S. It wasn’t as apocalyptic, but it could be if the coronavirus continues to mutate.
Americans keep thinking we’re exempt from the world. And yet, we don’t lead the world in anything now except incarceration rates and cost of living increases. We’re not first in education or healthcare. We’re actually 27th. We’re not first in technology or innovation. We don’t live in Elysium. What happens in other parts of the world happens here.
It’s time for us to wake up.
We don’t really think about the future.
U.S. Intelligence released a depressing report about what we can expect over the next 20 years. They offer different scenarios:
In the best case, the world gets its act together right now, and we stave off the worst consequences of climate change and global social upheaval. The other scenarios all look grim. They envision a world with massive refugee populations, displaced by climate disasters. They predict food shortages, staggering poverty, and splintering societies — and violence. The past year could just be a preview of things to come.
We don’t like thinking about this.
We think there’s no use in “dwelling on the negative,” when the entire point is to take a hard look at our behavior and do better, and then encourage each other to do the same.
We have to.
We think we can’t change anything.
Beneath our toxic positivity and individualism, there’s a deep fatalism. We secretly think if the world is on a downward spiral, there’s no reason to alter our behavior. We might as well save ourselves.
The truth is, there’s still a chance. It requires us to think about things other than what’s convenient, and admit that we’re all vulnerable.
We have to start sharing the chocolate.
Nobody escapes the future.
We need to embrace collectivism.
Empathy is the ultimate survival skill. Throughout history, it has enabled us to cooperate to overcome a harsh, indifferent world. It also helps us overcome our worst enemy — ourselves. That’s true in an individual sense, but also a collective one. If we can’t overcome our own smallness and selfishness, then nobody’s going to make it through the next two decades except the current slate of billionaires and their families.
We need to get over ourselves.