Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Who Lives Under the Bridge NOW?!

I have a sad, and slightly embarrassing, confession to make.
It took me about 30 years of life to finally start to see people as something more than the flesh and bone that they walked around it.
In my defense, please remember that I am an introvert and so I tend to avoid interacting with people like an introvert avoids interacting with people.
There isn’t any particular event that I recall as an educating factor, it was just a threshold amount of life, I think. Finally enough experience in the world to “see the light” as they say. It just sort of evolved. But what the hell am I talking about? Basically I attributed prejudicial characteristics to people based on visual cues.
Let’s give examples!
When I was a teenager, I really liked to think of myself as enlightened and open minded. However, some things I could not mentally tolerate. I was put off by behaviors and characteristics of others, such as the implicit intimidation I would feel in the presence of people with tattoos (keep in mind they were neither as popular nor as artistic in my day as they are now).
I did not like to see people with their mouths just hanging open (fish mouth = stupid person).
People who wore religious icons of any sort irritated me (religion = closed minded, ignorant, and uneducated). I really had no interest in being around or interacting with them (naively believing that if I left THEM alone, they would leave ME alone).
Really really really tall people freaked me out since they violated my made-up rules of what defines a human (tall = freak of nature and not to be trusted since they could spaz out for no reason at any time… and they were bigger than me).
Fat people made me think they had a poor work ethic. I genuinely thought they were lazy people since they had so much extra time to lie around eating rather than riding bikes, playing, working, and so on (fat = lazy and part of me envied them because I wasn’t allowed to do the same).
Other miscellaneous things affected my judgment of people such as the accents they spoke with, facial hair, too long or too short hair, people who drank alcohol, people who used the wrong (or mispronounced) words (“new-que-ler” for nuclear, seriously?!), the type of job a person had, mentally unstable people (the “crazies”), whether a person had a new vs. old car, whether they did their shopping at retail stores or thrift stores, homeless people, attractiveness vs. unattractiveness, age (old people are scary… almost as scary as really really really tall people), smokers, and so on.
Of course my judgments were exponentially more negative whenever I might meet a person who combined multiple elements. Imagine my view of a really really really tall, fat, religious, smoker wearing thrift clothes!
Basically, at some point it occurred to me that (for the most part) these were things that had no direct effect on me whatsoever. So why care about that? The person behind that superficial cue or behavior has a rich history of life experiences, beliefs, ideas, humor, pain, struggle, hopes, goals, losses. JUST LIKE ME. My fortune relative to them is merely that I rarely have to see myself. I just have to live in this skin-wrapped package of slowly dying meat.
Ok, admittedly, some exceptions still exist, such as the religious people who judge and treat me a certain way while trying to “convert” me or force me to live by their rules and standards directly or by pressuring lawmakers (they can righteously fuck the fuck off please); people under the influence of alcohol bug me because I get to see smart people instantly turned into stupid people (LITERALLY). Smokers still bug me because they force me to “smoke” with them… in fact the ONLY reason I don’t want to see marijuana legalized is because I don’t want to have to smell that shit everywhere. But these exceptions are relatively rare (and hopefully becoming more rare in most cases).
So it is with fish-mouthed disbelief that I see the internet trolls who trash-talk other people for the way they act, look, feel, or believe. This isn’t a local (USA) phenomenon. Other countries gleefully like to “insult” Americans for being fat or not being able to speak multiple languages or for behaving “like Americans” in other countries.
To some extent there is benefit to critical analysis, but nowhere near a benefit that would justify the amount of energy expended on the trash-talking that is taking place in the world.
When so shallowly insulted by others, as with, “You’re as ugly as a thing that is so ugly it doesn’t have a name except the name you have been given by your parents which is shared by others who aren’t as ugly so that wouldn’t be a good name for how ugly you are!”* Isn’t the best response simply to say as blasé as possible, something like: “So?”
*FYI: Typically the trolls use insults that are either parroted mindlessly from something they heard someone else say, or, when they create their own, tend to be as eloquent as my example here.
What can the troll say to that? They will scramble around in their uncluttered head for their sharpest repartee which will likely be something like, “Well… I don’t like having to look at you!” And again, the elegantly simple response of “So?” makes the point well enough again. The effort needed to say a single word compared with the buffoon’s attempt to assemble as many of the 4-6 letter words they know into the semi-coherent vomiting sound they call “speech” is unmatched.
I used to feel that simply ignoring the trolls was the best way to go. But that can escalate the trolls’ tirades because they feed off of others’ reactions. To give them nothing makes them hungry. So instead, I feel that the best way to get rid of them is to take the “nutrition” out of one’s reaction. They can’t get anything out of “So?” except frustration. Let them expend the limits of their intellect spinning their vile and wearing their stubby fingers away on their booger-coated keyboards. The effort of responding with a single word is negligible and you come away looking and sounding classy in comparison.
One last point, though. There are some other types of trolls that I wonder about. These are the “death trolls” whose insults stray into threats of violence (rape, torture, death). I have no idea how often such threats are actually carried out compared with the rates of similar stupid but unthreatened rapes, tortures, and killings. I don’t know if “So?” is a good enough response. But I wonder? It is emasculating to make a threat of violence only to have the object of your threat appear genuinely unfazed.
Ultimately I would prefer a world where what you see is what you get. The assholes of life would be obvious and we could avoid them. We would stop making them and they would eventually die out. But really the skinny troll fat-shaming another based on looks is the only way we have to reveal who should be the most ashamed. Skinny doesn’t make you a good (or a bad) person; attractive doesn’t make you a good (or a bad) person; rich doesn’t make you a good (or a bad) person; fat doesn’t make you a bad (or a good) person; ugly doesn’t make you a bad (or a good) person; poor doesn’t make you a bad (or a good) person. My truth is, it’s what you do, how you treat others, and what you value/devalue that makes you good or bad.

Are you a bad person?