Content warning: discusses US abortion debate

If you’re on the internet, you’ve probably noticed it has effectively split into two camps. One believes the internet should be a place where people get treated with respect, where disagreement is handled properly and where people are generally held to the standards of decency you’d expect in real life. The other group believes the internet’s power is that you can say whatever you like, even if that is awful or has no purpose beyond trying to hurt others.

I see a lot of people outraged, and then people outraged about people being outraged. The solution, however, is “simple”: fix the social imbalance or issue at the heart of the anger, and the anger goes away.

One of the clearest examples to me is the pro-choice versus anti-abortion debate in the US. In the United States, there’s an almost unbelievable discussion about whether abortion should be allowed at all. In the Netherlands, that topic has been cleared since 1984. Guess what happened? The anger and outrage, the protests and discussions? They went away. It turned out the women who wanted abortion to be a right were being held back by unfair laws, and the opponents were speaking on behalf of embryo’s, fetuses, and God.

The other day, a US pro-choice group was extremely critical of a Doritos commercial.

To someone from the Netherlands, getting upset over this commercial feels ridiculous – but we haven’t lived with the requirements of debate, and the oppression of laws regarding abortion for over 30 years now. To most people in the Netherlands, that discussion is not part of their life. In the US, hundreds of millions of people are directly affected by the outcome of that debate, and the slow progress of freedom. What is and isn’t important to get upset about is so dependent on perspective, that my golden rule has become to check what side I’m on: those arguing their personal freedom, or those upset on behalf of something else. Am I arguing that I’m upset, or am I upset that others are? One is valuable. The other is a waste of time. Freedom isn’t one big thing. It’s lot of little things.