It's not always about being funny.

My experience seeing Jack Johnson which then turns into discussion about whether or not I’m a sociopath

Tonight (Tuesday), I went to see Jack Johnson in concert with a friend. I was pinch hitting for her sister, who got sick, and even though I’d never even heard of him, I was looking forward to it.

Live music is always fun, so it was nice to be in the midst of an audience that loved every note he played. Unfortunately, that type of low-key, if the Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews, and one of those homeless guys who plays guitar for cash in the subway all fucked and had a baby and that baby grew up in Hawaii, music is not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience and the fourth row seats that gave us a great view of the show.

One thing that I found amusing during the night was the tendency of the two opening acts to toss “Orlando” into their patter in the most awkward and obvious ways. It was hysterical. They were all like “You know who rocks the hardest? Orlando!” or “I don’t care what those people in Miami say, Orlando has the best people in Florida!” And the crowd would go absolutely wild, cheering and stomping and screaming.

I’ve never felt the urge to cheer when the city where I currently live is announced. I guess that’s not true – maybe after a highly turbulent flight where I thought I was going to die, when the flight attendant announces that we’ve landed in Orlando, I might let loose with a hoarse cheer. Other than that, though? It doesn’t do anything for me. This is one reason that I don’t care about sports at all. Cheering on a team because they’re in a geographic area I used to live? I don’t get it. I don’t look down on it or think someone is stupid for doing it. I just don’t understand it.

I have no loyalty to a specific area or even to a group of people who have a geographic area in common. This extends beyond local and regional, all the way to national. I don’t have any sense of genuine nationalism. Whenever I hear people talk about “America” (or as I say it, with a George W. Bush accent, “Amurrikuh”), as this element that fills them with pride, I don’t get it. I support the people that join the military even if I don’t agree with the actions the military orders them to take, but I don’t feel a sense of pride about “our boys over there”. It’s not my war, and I don’t fucking care.

I’d like to think that for some reason, this lack of passion or loyalty was a result of a higher level of perception, maybe a subconscious striving for a truly global community, but I don’t think it is. If we had a global community, I’d be just as uninterested in the Earth v. Mars debates. I think that I just don’t care. I’ve talked before about how I don’t care about 9/11, and that is still true. It’s not that I don’t have compassion – I do, sometimes too much – but the fact that Americans died instead of people from another country doesn’t make me feel more passionate or angrier or anything “more” because the victims were from the country where I was born.

Today, when I was at the barber’s for my weekly shave, two men came into the shop. One was dressed in a suit and looked like Louis Farrakhan if he had eaten Don King. The other carried a news camera. They were interested in finding out what Joe Q. Public thought about the local election. The reporter asked me what I thought, and I was blunt. “I don’t care about local politics. I only pay attention to national politics and only once every four years.” And I realized how true that is and how few things I really do care about.

I’m fiercely loyal to my friends. For the people I love, I will do absolutely anything. But once it gets beyond that small group, that fiefdom, I feel a huge disconnect and sense of pure indifference. I can’t even fake it. Sometimes, I watch other people and listen to what they say and hear them on the news or Twitter or in person, and I wonder what it must be like. What is it like to care about things like who a local judge is or whether a team from your hometown wins or loses or if America wins the World Cup or a war in a foreign country? What is it like to feel ties to a community or a hometown or a school? What is it that makes someone feel pride in anything other than their own immediate actions?

Sometimes I ask myself these questions and I have no idea what that feels like. And I’m okay with not knowing – I’m indifferent about that, too – but it also makes me wonder if maybe, I’m just broken.

77 thoughts on “My experience seeing Jack Johnson which then turns into discussion about whether or not I’m a sociopath”

  1. Nah I’m like that most of the time, too. I agree with you about the way, and 9/11, and America, and all that jazz. So what? Shit happens.

    I love when bands do that. They’ll be like “Man, the Cardinals are a great team!” and people go fucking nuts. I like to to laugh at them. I wonder if they realize how obvious of a ploy it is, or if they’re genuinely excited about the Cardinals or the City or whatever.

    1. @Amanda, these guys were obviously trying to remember what city they were in, so they just kept repeating the city name over and over again. “So, Orlando, it’s good to be here in Orlando again, because I love Orlando!”

  2. You are definitely not the only one who feels this way. I care far more about what’s happening in my bubble of a world than the world at large, which irks a certain person we will call My Husband. But the way I see it, if I can’t be content and happy in my own little bubble, how can I be content and happy with the world at large?

  3. It’s awkward, and I’m probably going to offend someone, but I think it’s selfish to only care about the people you like or that like you back. I’m not saying follow people around like a puppy, I’m just saying there’s more meaning in, at least to some degree, valuing the collective above the individual.

    I think you’re this way because you don’t like history. If you read more history, you’d find out what a difference (positive and negative) it makes when people care about causes that are higher than their own personal circle of influence.

    In short, yes, you’re a sociopath.

    1. @Faiqa, I’m not saying that I don’t care about those people. I care just as much about people in another country who die as I do about the ones here. It’s the feeling about “our Americans” dying that I don’t get. Why should that mean I should care more?


  4. It may not be “your” war, but the consequences of it ultimately affect you as it affects all of us. You may not choose to care, but you should. People should always have a vested interest in the things being done in their name, whether they agree with them or not.

    As an American, this means you.

  5. Sociopaths have a total lack of empathy and understanding of the human condition and emotions. You’re absolutely not broken or a sociopath. What you said about 9/11 and the military and lack of a feeling of nationalism…I feel pretty much the same way. Sports I do care cause I’m from Pittsburgh and I love the Steelers and the Penguins, and my hometown, but not in a crazy psycho way.

    Also? Bands that try to psych towns up by plugging their name in are idiotic. I went to a festival in a small town called Lokeren last summer and Buffalo Tom was playing. They got to the mic and yelled “I hear Antwerp can cheer soooo much louder than Amsterdam!”
    And everyone there just gave a blank stare cause we weren’t in fucking Antwerp. the guy just obviously had no clue what town he was in and Antwerp was the biggest nearby city.

  6. I’m the least civicly-minded person I know. I don’t know local politics. I’m not into team sports, even the local teams. My sense of hometown comes from my family being here, it has nothing to do with the actual town. I care about wars and new legislation as much as I can, but I think a feeling of being powerless to stop the things that make my head want to explode has infiltrated to a point where my caring seems detached. Government seems so far removed from regular society, especially in these times when it seems everyone is affected in some way by the economy BUT the politicians, that it becomes hard to relate.

    In short, I don’t think you’re broken. And trying to get crowds riled up by shouting the city name is kind of cheap. Thrill them with your music instead.

  7. To me, it sounds more snobbish than anything. It’s like people who have old money who only care about and associate with old money types…..and who cares about anyone else. It doesn’t have anything to do with nationalism or sports favoritism or anything like that – I don’t think those feelings even come into play. You only care about the people in your bubble and that’s it.

    I personally can’t live like that, but if that’s what makes you happy, then so be it.

    1. @Robin, you misunderstand what I am saying. Just because I’m not loyal to anyone outside my circle doesn’t mean I don’t care.

      What I am saying is that I don’t care MORE about someone dying just because they’re American vs. another nationality, and I don’t understand why the very fact that they’re American should mean that their death is worth more.

      1. @Avitable,
        “What I am saying is that I donโ€™t care MORE about someone dying just because theyโ€™re American vs. another nationality, and I donโ€™t understand why the very fact that theyโ€™re American should mean that their death is worth more.”

        With this, you are absolutely correct. Death is death. People are people and no one is more superior than another…in my eyes, anyway. But you did say that you feel a huge disconnect and sense of pure indifference about people not in your circle. That, to me, sounds snobby. The difference for me is that it’s not that you feel nothing, but that you feel indifferent. To me, feeling indifferent is a choice, and that’s where the snobbery for me comes in.

        It’s what makes you YOU, so for those who don’t like it, they can accept that about you or keep it moving. Know what I mean?

      2. @Avitable, Oh yeah – and when bands play concerts and they say “New York City is the best city in the world,” I always think they are full of it, especially if I went to a show in Philly the night before and they said the same thing. Schmucks.

  8. Selfish did come to mind, yes. But if your antipathy comes out of a feeling of frustration and/or the general impotence we can all feel about making a difference in those bigger issues, then I’d say it’s fairly usual. However you might want to think about it a little more because, basically, if the Tea Party down there gets into office you’re basically fucked. You’ll have kids all around you being taught that dinosaurs and humans lived together on a planet that is only 6000 years old and because the speed of light therefore has to be wrong the Moon is only a few thousand kilometers away and oh by the way we’ve just declared war against Iran and Cuba. But that’s up to you.

    The sports thing is just entertainment. I am a dyed-in-the-wool Chicago sports fan. But what’s sociopathic are the people who live and die “the team”, decorate their basements with team colors and logos, wear sports team merchandise when NOT going to a game and basically walk around depressed for three months when their team loses the Big Game. If sports goes beyond being entertainment or a past-time there could be issues and I don’t buy this crap about how playing sports teaches you Amurikun valyoos. Like what, like steroids? But it’s basically an extension of your school team and is just fun to watch like you would a play or a concert.

    Plus I remember a time when you viewed alcohol as questionable and thought people who didn’t have a degree were practically useless, so we’ll hold on for the metamorphosis to finish up there.

    1. @RW, it’s more of an antipathy towards expressing loyalty for a specific group and caring more about that group instead of the rest. I don’t consider that selfish. And I do vote nationally, so I do care about what happens in that arena.

      And the alcohol issue was a control issue on my part, not a superiority thing. But maybe it is a metamorphosis.

      1. @Avitable, that doesn’t make any sense.

        You expressed a loyalty to your personal circle above and beyond a wider group / but you view expressing loyalty beyond that as somehow wrong?

        Or maybe not *wrong* per se but not within your paradigm? Or is it just a value judgment? Clearly the act of loyalty isn’t at issue because you have some to a degree, but I guess what I need clarification on is just when does loyalty become “je suis contre” and what is the argument for that position.

        In other words it isn’t loyalty itself that is the issue, it is what one is loyal to – which is understandable. But you can’t actually say “itโ€™s more of an antipathy towards expressing loyalty for a specific group and caring more about that group instead of the rest” because you’re actually doing that anyway.

  9. I’m with ya on the the local government thing. Even though “they” all say that local government is where it’s all happening, and “they” are never wrong. And I feel less pride as an American seeing what we are doing or not doing around the world, or just messing up the planet in general. But I still feel some pride.

    RW had the sports thing right on. It’s entertainment. You enjoy comic books and movies. Sports is just like that. There are grand story lines and heros and villains and achievement and loss. It’s not for everyone, obviously, but I find a great deal of entertainment in all of it. I will agree that it is probably a little unhealthy to get as depressed as I do when the Yankees lose in the playoffs or when Notre Dame* loses a football game on a Saturday. But it’s all so glorious when they do.

    *Yeah…I’m one of those assholes that roots for the Yankees AND Notre Dame. I’m constantly defending that little corner of my soul.

      1. @Avitable, Well the diehard loyalty is a big part of the entertainment. It allows me to make fun of RW’s White Sox and him to make fun of my Yankees. Even though making fun of the Yankees is difficult, because they fucking rule! So it’s more of a jealousy thing there. See? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. I’ve always found the city name games silly and stupid. I’m pretty shocked at how many people actually fall for it and aren’t smart enough to know they will say the same thing the next night.

    As for the sports team thing, I cheer for teams in areas I used to live. Not because I liked it there better, but because that’s where I grew up and those are the teams I supported by going to games and becoming a fan of them. My loyalty will always remain with those teams. I pull for the local teams when its important because I know how much fun it is when your local team wins, but I will not change my allegiance just because I moved.

    I don’t think your broken, I think you just haven’t found that right connection to local things. Like I didn’t care much about my neighborhood schools until my daughter started attending them. Now I pay close attention. I certainly don’t care about the high school I went to, but I still keep up with anything big happening with it. It’s all about what and how you connect with it.

  11. I think you’re fucked up and incapable of empathy. I think I told you that the night we met in person in Orland0 (the city with which you identify; the town you love like you love your dog and your pretend friends from the internets). As I said then, if you identify with characters on film (and you obviously love movies), then you’re able to empathize. You have a problem with sports because you didn’t go to schools with nationally competitive football teams. You don’t get fired up about anything Orlando because you’d rather be in L.A.

    Regarding the loss of American lives or the war, etc., the explanation is simple: you love Hitler. You shared ice cream with him. Therefore, you can’t identify with, or sympathize with, anyone who’s not a Nazi, and admitted, open Nazis are a bit hard to come by these days where you live. I think you need to move to Oxford, MS. That way you’ll have good college football AND a close proximity to KKK members who sympathize with the Neo Nazi movement.

  12. You’re not automatically a sociopath because you feel a disconnect with the greater world at large. A lot of people feel that way, and having loyalty to a geographic place and their sports teams doesn’t make them better people than you. I also think you likely DO care about the war (and other things), but maybe not in the way of someone wrapping ribbons around trees and putting up signs in every available space. That’s the way they connect with it, you likely do in a different way. Different does not automatically = sociopath. You don’t have to shed blood and tears over every issue.

  13. When I go to a concert and the person performing blathers on and on about how great it is to be back in Chicago because Chicago is the most bad ass town in America, I totally scream like a crazy person. Because it’s fucking true. Chicago is a place of pure bad-assery. If, ya know, you forget that we are the home of the Cubs; are located in the most corrupt county in the nation; and, let’s not forget, our very own President began his climb up the political ladder here.

    You know what I hate though? When I’m at a suburban venue and the group/artist/whatever talks about how great Chicago is. Dude – we’re in Tinley Park. Tinley Park, while slated as “the number one spot to raise a family” by some magazine or something, is *not* a place of bad-assery. Except when I go there. Then it obviously is.

    P.S. You may not be broken but you’re totally a douche.

      1. @Avitable, I may very well be a douche but I’m pretty sure if we went all democratic and took a vote, you’d win for being the bigger douche of our duo. Of course, I’d stuff the ballot box so it wouldn’t be an accurate count but hey, whatever works, right?

  14. I have firsthand experience of your caring and compassion. I do not fault you for not feeling anything about events that don’t directly affect you. I think it’s an evolutionary strength to not poison your mind with the toxicity of external, non-important-to-you events. At the same time, sometimes I am offended by your mocking of others who care about things you don’t. But that’s on me. You’re free to express your thoughts. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. I am Italian and from New York, which tends to be a deadly combination of unnecessary, unearned pride based solely on ethnicity and geography. There are a bunch of us that have migrated here to Florida and it astounds me how a Yankee cap warrants an immediate kinship, or a doctor’s Italian heritage means he is the best in show. Don’t get me wrong, like the t-shirt says, I love NY, but unless you are talking about pizza or bagels, I don’t high-five it everytime someone makes a mindless reference to it. I do, however, participate in obligatory leg kicks when Sinatra’s NY, NY comes on, but it’s more about Sinatra and alcohol than it is the city that never sleeps.

    PS – I don’t think you are broken. I think others cling to false idols and causes in hopes of it making them more interesting. I am kind of an expert on these things.

  16. Had this big blah, blah reply, history nerd philosophy blah…I even used the word inculcate, but really, much easier to just nod and agree, then tut tut and assure you you aren’t a sociopath. My take on it is they’re all just arbitrary lines on a map.

  17. Oh, man. Did you cut your government class in HS? Or never study history? I realize I don’t know you very well, but your apathy HURTS me. I mean, I don’t give a fuck about sports teams, and I never have. But politics? If you can’t care about local schools and judges and such, you are a lazy and self-absorbed sociopath. And yeah, I’m kind of a fanatic.

    1. @Juli Ryan, I did well in government, and I’ve studied lots of history in the 20 years of education I’ve had.

      I’m not sure where lazy or self-absorbed comes in, though, or how that has any relevance whatsoever.

      1. @Avitable, sorry. Maybe I was a bit harsh. I always have had an overly developed sense of social responsibility. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like not to care so much about local issues, or wars in other countries or whatever.

        But I still really don’t understand how someone such as yourself can be educated and also so apathetic? And it’s not just you. People in my own family are similarly apathetic. There is probably something wrong with me in that I care about things I am powerless to change.

        I still like ya. I just think it’s a cop out to say you are detached from politics. It reeks of entitlement and privilege. xx

        1. @Juli Ryan, see, I am not saying that I don’t have social responsibility. I just don’t feel a higher sense of responsibility to “my” people vs. other people. People dying is always horrible, and the fact that they’re American doesn’t mean that it should be MORE horrible.

          1. @Avitable, I agree. I don’t like the whole “Go U.S.A!” thing either. That kind of “patriotism” scares me. And at times, this has caused people to call me “un-American”.

            It does make me sad when young Americans die fighting pointless wars that I don’t agree with.

  18. I totally agree with the not caring more about “my” people thing… I’ve moved around a hell of a lot in my life and have no real sense of “belonging” to anywhere – I was born near London, but went to 6 different primary schools, university 900 miles from where my parents lived and now live in France. The fallout from the French football team’s catastrophic performances at the World Cup was risible to me (and the same was true for England’s almost equally poor showing) and I can’t get behind a sportsman just because he’s British…can’t get behind sportsmen at all, in fact, as I seem to have an allergy to sport (though certain male swimmers are pretty hot stuff, it has to be said).
    And one of the main reasons I no longer watch the news on TV is because it bugs me shitless when they headline with some French “incident” (like a train derailing in France with a couple of people injured) that is relatively minor (even if I have sympathy for the people involved and wish them no harm) and then gloss over 60 people being killed by a bomb in Baghdad. Or the hundreds of thousands made homeless in Pakistan. Or whatever. It reminds me of one of my favourite (though probably apocryphal) newspaper headlines – an Aberdeen (in Scotland) newspaper is said to have run the headline “Local man drowns at sea” when the Titanic went down…
    At the risk of shocking many Americans, what happened on 9/11 (for me, that will always look like 9 November, but never mind) would have been no less terrible or shocking if it had happened, say, in Kuala Lumpur, it’s just that we would have heard a hell of a lot less about it. And that would have really bugged me.
    I think I’m rambling – maybe you can tell I don’t have much contact with adults!
    PS Love the new site design!

  19. I had this whole, philosophical comment written out and then I deleted it because at the end of the day, maybe I recognized too much of myself in what you wrote and I felt guilty because it didn’t bother me. Then I got all wrapped up in wondering why it didn’t bother me and I eventually said fuck it!

    I’m not a sociopath and neither are you. At some point, due to how our society is shaped and how it operates (now now now! Hurry hurry hurry! Bigger Better Faster!) I honestly think this becomes about self-preservation. It might make me slightly narcissistic, but not a sociopath.

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