the power of obligation

Last month, I was contacted by three people I would rather not have engaged with, but I did so anyway. Why?

 

An obligation, I suppose you could say. All three of these people were folks I’d had a habit of chatting with quite frequently and excitedly at some point in the past. At a later date, all three made me feel not OK in major ways for reasons that I’ll refrain from getting into detail here.

Somehow, I felt that I would or could make things worse by not saying anything in response to their contact, in case they didn’t understand why I didn’t want to be contacted (even though I communicated to each of them what was amiss). Our past interactions inspired me to respond, too.

 

 

There’s a sense of finality in breaking ties with people, whether it’s speaking to them less, or going your own way, online, offline or both. It can make things uncomfortable if you have friends in common, and/or frequent similar social circles. It can cast a shadow over anyone’s day.

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Not breaking ties is tempting. It’s an ‘engage anyway’ button that a good chunk of folks tend to push perhaps without fully realising it, and it almost always comes at a cost to the one pushing it.

 

 

When folks do something wrong, there can be an assumption in play that we should just carry on as though nothing has happened, and move on. That it’s not worth the bother. I’m trying fiercely to break this habit, at least in the sense that I don’t speak up when something’s not quite right.

Part of moving on for me involves dealing with the thing, if it’s within my ability to. At the very least, I want those around me to acknowledge they’re aware of it. I would want to know if I mucked something up so I could fix it, if possible. (I am very aware not everyone shares this feeling.)

At best, the problem lies within a simple miscommunication that can be smoothed out if and when all parties involved are receptive to talking about it. At worst, one side shuts down when such news is being relayed, which usually leads to resentment, questioning safety, and other negatives.

 

 

Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but it should make better in a number of cases.

It’s rough finding ways to let people know you’re not OK, especially if you’re seen by others as a person who is relatively strong of will and/or are used to going a lot of things alone. Keep this in mind: even strong people can break when you think that they’re merely bending.

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August ’07, Indianapolis

Please consider being receptive to constructive criticism, even if it’s just to allow the person giving the criticism space, and to give you space to mull the information over awhile. Even if they’re parting words, and even if it hurts. Within that hurt is the opportunity to learn. We’re works in progress, and it’d be foolhardy to assume we’ve got it all figured out.

Please also tell yourself – maybe more than once – that it’s alright to disengage when you feel it necessary, nostalgia be damned. Holding onto memories of the good times serves little purpose if it’s being invoked during repeats of harmful behaviour, whether said behaviour is intended or not.

 

One obligation we have and often forget is the obligation to ourselves, to our hearts and to our well-being. Those obligations are simply not possible to fulfill if we keep offensive actions in our lives.

Part III in a personal blog series about interactions on the internet.

Part II: https://kungfulasers.com/2014/04/03/possession/

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social justice warriors

I must say, I am on team ‘social justice warrior is actually very cool-sounding’.

That probably was not the intention, but the creator of this term has likely failed terribly if their intention was to do harm against activists/social justice folk.

I got to humming in the shower a little theme for SJWs, to the tune of Sailor Moon’s theme, which sort of makes sense. I’m afraid that if I see this term being used online in the future, I may not be able to help myself from breaking into song. Sorry not sorry.

 

boundaries

image from Social Justice Anime Macros

 

fighting evil by retweet
building MRA defeat
calling out abuse on the street
they’re social justice warriors

they will never give support to a TERF
’cause every woman has her worth
respect benefits the whole earth
and social justice works for …

no rape culture!
and no sexism!
no phobias!
and no racism!
feminism is for her and him
our social justice warriors

fighting evil by retweet
building MRA defeat
accountability is pretty sweet
for social justice warriors
social justice warriors!

lolcats and ink splats

‘If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.’

Lately I’ve noticed folks taking variations of this quote and using it on their journey to go barrel rolling round the internet at 11.

I’ve had an issue with this quote (which is very likely misquoted) for a while for the above reason and much more, and haven’t felt strong enough to voice it until now.

I seem to have developed some sort of fear of expressing myself online as often as I used to due to this rise in ‘with us or against us’ culture, and also perhaps because of feeling guilty that I am slowly losing the time and energy to actively contribute to any possible stated ‘solution’, vague or not.

This leaves me confused and out of the loop, sometimes unable to get on board with things due to simply lacking the information. Am I now problematic?

 

 

On another side of things, for those who do have the time and energy to familiarize themselves, it is very true that people can be resistant to change, and even outright refuse because it means more work to do what is widely seen as right, or simply commonly accepted. This lot can certainly be encouraged, but ultimately it’s their job/choice to take the steps.

 

However, speaking in absolutes where someone else’s feelings are concerned without substantial evidence runs the risk of being eerily impertinent.

Fall ’05, Los Angeles.

 

Does one misstep count as being anti-x? How mild or severe must the mistake be to rule someone completely out as being in your corner? How do we tell what a true apology is, and what a ‘fauxpology’ is when someone is in the wrong? Can we dialogue with those undecided on positions, or is it not worth it?

 

 

In hopes of finding some of these answers, I have been quieter and more observant of exchanges online, where possible.

Sometimes I do not even actively participate in them, save to learn terms that may be foreign/otherwise inaccessible to me, what not to say or do within certain circles to maintain that I respect people and would also like to be respected in turn.

 

Education is often an ongoing lifetime process as people and times change (and hopefully grow).

I don’t always succeed, but I try to exercise empathy for the folks who are going to 11, and to exercise patience for the ones who don’t yet understand something I’ve only just learned.

 

 

In a funny sort way, this rise of ‘barrel roll to 11’ culture has been a good thing for me, as it pushes me to engage in more exchanges offline, moderate exchanges I control online, and seek out one-on-one exchanges in general to further understanding.

 

I am not of the opinion that sharing is impossible in the face of difficulty (even where there are disagreements). 

I feel confident in my determination to create space for myself and others in which to safely speak and dissect, as well as call out where necessary. That in itself takes work, so perhaps I am doing some good, though it might not be observed by all.

 

Part II in a personal blog series about interactions on the internet.

Part I: https://kungfulasers.com/2013/08/01/emotion/

emotion of the ocean

People on their own tend to find time and space with which to form opinions.

In a gathering, people can perhaps present opinions developed by themselves, but there seems to be a need lately to come to a forced consensus in group settings in the name of winning or being declared indisputably right.

What does that mean?

Imagine you’re at a party and someone says something off-base, or simply unexpected. The actions of just one other person can determine the reaction of others, or the party as a whole. The tone may shift as a reaction to the something.

Imagine also that there are 2 individuals in that party of what we’ll assume is 30 people whose body language or attitude becomes negative as a response to the reaction.

One person says, ‘hey, that thing wasn’t actually cool, because X, Y and Z.’

Another responds to this by suggesting they’re talking out of their arse, consciously or subconsciously preserving the overall tone of the party. This is what some call a derail.

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The internet can be a lot like that.

How often have you witnessed a thread on a forum or social networks where one idea forms and from there, through others, begins to take off?

Largely due to the internet, we live in a world where instant gratification is prevalent and is something to be expected, even in some of our daily lives in offline aspects.

Two people who say A is equal to B while another says no you silly persons, A is clearly equal to C hold more power than the one who is presenting an argument by themselves. This behaviour suggests that ‘hey, you’re only one person, no one here agrees with you, how could you possibly know anything of value?’

Granting audience to dissenting opinions is discouraged in certain places, as that takes extra time and energy, drifting apart from the flow of a crowd interaction. We may end up with That Thing, an accord about a behaviour/attitude for the sake of brevity and moving on, which leaves some feeling lost, confused and hurt.

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Why the urge to gang up on one or few?

There could be a number of factors for this. Many people are reticent to acknowledge or accept change, and so resistance to much outside their comfort zones may seem natural to them. Might be as simple as having a bad day.

Justifications seem insufficient for shutting people out of dialogue simply for views being new and strange. It may take practice, and all involved may not agree, but taking a moment to consider another perspective may be worthwhile to the masses.

A great deal of internet arguments are emotionally charged. Competition appears almost immediately, and with it the desire to one-up each other to declare superiority.

shoot

It’s a destructive cycle of attack or be attacked that has gained popularity in shared spaces, but no one really wins anything for that brand of effort long-term.

Folks do have the stuff to collectively decide on something in a productive manner, but there appears to be a rise online of people having knee-jerk sort of reactions to unpopular opinions, and thus thrusting their One Twue Magnanimous Way forth.

Arguments don’t always have to mean that people are enemies, or that one side is absolutely correct while the other has erred. Keep that in mind for the next time you participate in any kind of heated debate, whether on the computer or off.

 

Part I in a personal blog series about interactions on the internet.