the world through rainbow eyes

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On Facebook and the Loss of the Privacy of Our Minds

Oh Facebook, you’re such a piece of junk. Your ability to reach out and substantially change the national, or even global conversation is nothing short of amazing. Your reach is so great. At the same time, never has a tool been more capable of isolating and driving apart friends and family.

Do you remember in the past how you didn’t really know that your Uncle Joe had really horrible feelings about people who utilize EBT because you pretty much only saw him at Christmas or Thanksgiving? Remember being able to complain about your job with your friends without your job hearing about it? All that is done with, online.

When discussing which superpowers someone wants pretty much nobody with the ability to think of consequences beyond the immediate chooses telepathy. We don’t generally want to know everything that our friends and family think. We’d much rather like them, frankly, and we’re pretty aware that some of that is dependent on not knowing what they’re thinking ┬ájust impulsively around the clock.

But hey, now you can. Facebook is the next step of being plugged directly into the impulsive thoughts of our friends and relatives, and them being plugged into yours. Which can be sort of great when you really want a soapbox. Or can be kind of horrible when you really want a soapbox.

It’s sort of like that Thanksgiving where your sister came out to the whole family. Things were a damn mess for a long time after that. Your mom and dad threw her out of the house, remember? Your little brother said a whole bunch of really hateful shit. But, the bright side was they came around.

It took a couple years, but everybody reconciled. Your parents found out that their daughter being gay around their son didn’t “turn him gay.” Your little brother eventually went on to head up his high school’s chapter of PFLAG.

Well okay, not everybody reconciled. Your aunt still says awful things. Things are still pretty tense with your older brother and the rest of the family. You have hope that he’ll come around, though. When your family went to the marriage equality rally to support your sister everybody quietly noticed his absence.

So, maybe Facebook is like that. It’s sort of tense there right now. A lot of people are finding out either that the people they love harbored a little more bigotry and a bit less compassion than was hoped for, or are finding out that the people they thought of as “other, “wrong,” or “weird” are actually the people who sit across from them at the table, or a cubicle down. Or whatever.

Maybe we can reconcile that, though. It certainly isn’t going to happen if we all block each other, or if we never say anything.


Everybody Is The Hero

I love The Stand. I reread it every few years. It’s not that it’s great literary fiction, it’s not. I know. It’s great storytelling.

So, I don’t know if you’ve read it or not, but follow me here for a minute.

Basically it’s apocalyptic Forces of Good vs. Forces of Bad. A couple times in the story a character from the Good Camp checks out the people in the Bad Camp and is somewhat stunned to realize that they can’t tell the two camps apart really. Some of the bad guys, sure. Murderers, abusers, users, etc. The vast majority, though, you’re just left questioning, “why would they fight for Bad?” The people in Camp Bad would regularly have the same puzzle over the people in Camp Good. “Why would they fight against us? We’re just trying to get along. Why are they doing this? They seem like people just like us…”

I think about that regularly. About people getting caught up in fighting for bad. Or even for Bad with a capital B.

Nobody, well, most nobody, thinks that’s what they’re doing. We are the heroes of our own stories, and the heroes fight for good, or Good. Whatever. That’s the story we tell ourselves. We are doing what we do because of the principle of the thing, or because of what our family needs, or because we don’t see other options, or because of our faith, or because it’s the easy choice, or because we are propelled by some gut instinct, or often, sometimes, just because. Just because.

We aren’t in Camp Bad. They are.

A story like The Stand is deeply cathartic because there is rarely a Camp Bad and a Camp Good. It tries to point that out in little ways, like when the good guys talk about the bad guys being good to them, and when the bad guys talk about the good guys being bad to them. Mostly, though, it’s a story with a nice clear division. These are the guys fighting for Camp Good, and you like them. They’re like you. If you were in this story, you’d be over here. You root for their triumphs and suffer their tragedies. You recognize them as you, idealized.

Conversely, the Bad Camp is easy to identify. They are the “Them.” They are those who do the wrong things, and choose the wrong ways, and believe in the wrong things. You cheer at their setbacks and boo when they’re ahead.

Life isn’t generally like that, though. It may appear that way, easy decisions, or even tough decisions that you simply work hard at because doing otherwise goes against who you are.

So it’s nice to visit a story where you can see it all from the outside and know which team is which. Most of us, if we’re introspective and honest, have found ourselves on the wrong team at one point or another. Our ego sort of insists, generally, that we forgive ourselves if we rectify it and move ideologies. We make peace with our decisions and decide that it was okay. That we did the best we could with what we had, and try to do better in the future.
I’m not going to go into those who simply dig in once they find themselves on the wrong side of something. I’m also not going to go into those who choose to continue doing wrong as a chance to hate themselves.
Sure, those people exist. They aren’t the majority, though. They might be stances each of us have taken on occasion, but generally, no.

We’re all mostly just stumbling along in our Hero’s Journey, and choose to see the wrongdoings we’ve committed as Redemption Cycles that we had to go through.

I think about that.

I think about that a lot.

Especially nowadays when we have things like social media to give us all the immediacy of other’s thoughts and deeds. People we respect, trust, like, love, or just enjoy the company of; we’re seeing their Hero’s Journey up close and not always are we so impressed with the the heroism.

We argue, or we debate, or we judge, or we just say screw it and we defriend, unfollow, vote down, block. We cut ourselves off from the unpleasantness of another person’s wrongdoings in a way that we can’t do when we’re in the wrong.

Sometimes it’s the right choice. We really don’t need 600 friends. There’s nothing saying that you need to follow all your friends on their blogs and twitters and facebooks and tumblrs and subreddits and and and. Sometimes also, yeah, some people just aren’t that great, and it was worth knowing and getting them out of your life. Sometimes you just can’t handle knowing that much about other people’s thoughts. That’s not really such a bad thing. Closing a door to a room that distresses you is a valid choice.

I’ve been considering all this while I listen to people have their say about what they think about the Zimmerman case. My feelings are clear to me. They feel right. They even feel Right, if you know what I mean. Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin because he was a black man (even if he was a young example, at 17, it was easy to mistake him for a man). He felt threatened, and he did what he felt was the right thing to do. He felt threatened because as a culture we have decided that blackness, especially when male, is itself threatening. We’ve decided that it is default suspicious.

You can talk all you want about how you see it, but that’s how I see it. For me, it’s a shameful horror. Doubling the horror is seeing people I have spent time with defend Zimmerman’s suspicion, seeing them defend his actions.

It’s made me feel a little trigger happy with the defriend button, and a little heartsick over the disillusionment I feel about people I like.

So I’ve been thinking about that good vs. evil thing. Thinking about the Hero’s Journey, and how everyone feels like they’re on it. I’ve been keeping quiet and keeping to myself about it, and thinking about that decision to keep quiet and keep to myself, too.

I don’t even know.