Whatever happened to minding your own business?

(AP Photo/Russ Bynum)

Some of us who have to keep a finger on the pulse of current events and cover a variety of stories related to the government and its relationship with society can sometimes get bogged down in the minutia that fills the daily news cycle. While most of these stories are important and can directly impact people’s lives, it’s also worth pulling back the lens every once in a while and taking in the bigger picture. How did we all wind up on this bus and precisely where is it going?

When it comes to the types of laws being passed at the federal and state level in the 2020s, not to mention the increasingly caustic approach that so many people take toward each other, it’s not hard for those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth to notice that the United States has undergone some significant changes in the past couple of decades. Some remarkable advancements have been made to be sure, but many other changes have been far less than positive. Just as a general observation, the world, along with many of us occupying it, seems to have become a lot more intrusive.

The government has a vested interest in protecting people from those who would do them harm. We’ve always had laws in place protecting citizens from bad actors who might seek to harm them physically, financially, or in some other measurable manner. But today, we are seeing a shift toward regulating how people speak or even think, based on the bizarre idea that hearing speech you disagree with might actually cause you “harm.” We saw the federal government briefly attempt to set up what would have literally amounted to a Ministry of Truth, straight out of the mind of George Orwell.

The tech giants have waded into the fray with abandon, filtering speech on social media that progressives disagree with while allowing coverage of other atrocities to flourish. Our own fellow citizens will frequently accost people in public if they are suspected of holding unapproved points of view. Even worse, we see blistering criticism of people who fail to preach the same tune quickly or loudly enough. This is commonly lumped into the category of “silence is violence.”

This just seems like a different world today. To introduce the question found in the title of this piece, whatever happened to minding your own business? Those of you of a certain age probably remember your parents delivering that precise instruction when you were growing up. Whatever other people are saying or doing at any given moment, why would you feel compelled to interfere with them if they aren’t harming anyone else? And I mean actual harm. Not “hurting your feelings.”

Obviously, if you see someone being physically attacked you should immediately alert the authorities. (Or potentially intervene yourself if you are capable and of that disposition.) A lawful society operates best when the law-abiding participate in it as fully as possible. But beyond that? When did we begin producing generations of people who somehow feel entitled to stick their nose in anything and everything that anyone else happens to be doing or saying?

If you meet people who you feel an affinity toward and they seem to welcome the opportunity to interact with you, great. Similarly, some people with differing opinions might express an interest in a civil debate if you are of a mind to do so. But beyond that, everyone is making their way in the same world as you. If they aren’t looking to actively engage you, why would you feel entitled to get up in their faces?

I believe that a lot of this unrest can be ascribed to the advent of the internet and the rise of social media. It has often been observed that people speaking anonymously from behind a keyboard will say things online that they would never say to the face of someone in person. I’m sure that remains true in many if not most cases, but that too has begun to change. We have increasingly seen public figures challenged and hounded in public for sins as grievous as going out for a meal in a restaurant. In those cases, it’s generally more than one person, of course, since there is strength in numbers.

I would suggest that you ask yourself if you really think that’s acceptable. They are out with their friends or family and minding their own business. Is it really so much to ask that you mind your own as well? For too many today, apparently it is.