15 December, 2012

Stupid Does as Stupid Is

Well, this proves it.  My writing muse clearly springs from the dark side. If you want to read about what's bright, shiny and happy in the world, that's the blog across the street. The really short one, but I digress. If you want to read about what's sad, stupid and unfair, welcome to my pad. Pour yourself a stiff one and find a comfy chair.

But wait,” I sense your query. “If your blog is about sad, stupid and unfair, then how come it's been decades (slight exaggeration) since your last post? You should have source material for 500 entries daily!  All true. Too true, in fact, which is why I've been scarce. If I paid attention to every bit of misery I encounter, hell, even if I simply gave it a passing glance, I'd probably spontaneously combust. Or go into local politics. So I've kind of shrunk my range of contact with the world, installing psychological blinders, defenses and other mechanisms which have helped narrow my focus down to the parts of living with which I can still reasonably cope. Which pretty much amounts to eating, sleeping, and Facebook. And wouldn't you know, even then I'm not safe. Read on.

As part of my neural self-preservation, I don't follow the news very much. I don't actively watch TV or read it online, for a few reasons. If it's in Romanian, I simply (yes, still after all these years) don't understand enough to get it. If it's American, I can't be bothered to filter through the bias, sensationalism, misdirection, and “personalities” to get to the important stuff. So, all but the biggest items come to my attention a bit... behind the curve. Additionally - and this is important to what comes next – an event that may be “big news” in its country of origin, may only be a mention of interest elsewhere. For example: did you know that on Friday, 14 December 2012, an armed man went on a rampage and attacked over 20 students at a grade school… in Henan, China? Let the many levels of that news sink in for a moment. 

Moving on. If you think that you can lock down your Facebook experience to keep out the sad, stupid or unfair (or whatever ails you), think again. I just have to share with you a recent exchange in which I got caught up, as surreal as it was stupid… and ultimately, all too common. We open with a photo and quip from my friend M., whom (as it frequently happens among the online savvy) I've known for years without having actually met in person. Sadly, I now know that the phrase “any friend of yours is a friend of mine” to be complete and utter bullshit. What you need to know at the outset is that at the time I made my reply, I am now certain I had not yet heard anything in detail about a school shooting in Connecticut.

Now, in order to be my friend on Facebook, you need to be one of two things: a hot chick with high blood alcohol and low standards, or someone who shares my humor style. Since I've always been reasonably sure M. is the latter and not the former, I felt comfortable posting my response, and indeed he quickly gave it a Like. MAYBE, just maybe if I'd been more up on breaking news, I might not have posted it. But since I had been inspired by something so completely unrelated (a TV show), I still might have.

But I needn't have worried, for total strangers waited to sit in judgement and save me the concern.

You can quickly see how this escalates. You can probably also see that I made the grievous error of standing my ground, explaining my position rationally and factually, and worst of all... assuming I was addressing individuals of comparable motive and intellect, who were interested in hashing out what was really going on. I suppose my first clue should have been when the input descended to the last refuge of the out-argued; "You're a dick." While that should have said to me, "OK, I have nothing more of value to bring to this discussion, further effort on your part will be pointless", I in fact did have some spare effort laying around for which I had no other immediate use. So, like a cat which can't resist continuing to bat around the flailing sparrow even when it's already clearly caught and dying...

This person quickly reminded me of what I might hate most about my fellow Americans: the intractable, utter conviction that their personal opinions are somehow binding verdicts upon me which I must accept and act on without question, and specifically how "offending them" is something I should make my highest priority to avoid, and profusely apologize for if I fail. That a total stranger is utterly convinced of his divine authority to exact a penalty from me for offending him, especially if unintentionally, is something around which I have never been able to wrap my mind.

At this point, I thought things were sputtering to a halt, or if they weren't, I was pretty much done anyway. I had led this horse to the water of reason and logic, but I couldn't make him drink. Calling me a "troll" was just another version (Internet-specific) of calling me a dick, so I knew I would derive no more satisfaction from exposing his ignorance. My "yee-haw" came from the fact that by now I'd looked up this rube's profile and seen that he lives in the American South, practically the historical home of argument for its own sake, but more relevant to the story, most geographically likely to be populated by educationally- and dentally-challenged inbreds who, among whatever else they do for entertainment, yell "yee-haw" a lot. Well, more than they probably do in, say, Vermont, I'd wager. Anyway, it was my attempt to bid farewell to my new friend on a level of communication closer to his. But wouldn't you know it...

It was apparently a tag team effort, with more of the same.

Well, not completely the same. I'd been promoted from "dick" to "pencil dick!" On the off chance that the original "dick" meant "toothpick dick", it was clearly a step up, size-wise, and I took the compliment, as well as new buddy Bruce's advice. I closed with a simple question, but seeing as how I used a lot of big words, I shouldn't have been so surprised when no reply came.

And finally, my friend M. declared the end of the adventure with exactly the type of flair that illustrates why we're friends.

Post-Game Analysis

I've really tried in my life to adopt a "live and let live" philosophy. Granted, my reasons aren't as altruistic as you might think... it's more for my own medically-advised stress reduction than any desire to better relate to my fellow man. But either way, many things that used to bother me don't anymore. Stupid people are the best example. I can usually shrug them off nowadays. There are just so damn many out there, sheer numbers make any possibility of fighting the good fight laughable. So, as I said above, I set up ways to minimize my exposure to them and their effect on my life. For the most part it's working, as evidenced by my barren blog. Nope, to get on my radar, being stupid is no longer enough. I can even finally consider that it's probably not even their fault. There are so many institutions at all levels - education, media, business, government - actively working to make and keep them stupid that vanishingly few minds can resist them all. It doesn't even bother me anymore when stupid people actively approach me and impose their stupidity on me. This has not so much to do with self-discipline... I've just become numb to it from having it happen so often. But clearly a line still exists, as shown by these goobers' ability to cross it. And I think it is when stupid people not only actively approach me, not only slather me with the stink of their stupidity, but then have the unmitigated gall to consider me inferior because I didn't come around to their way of thinking. It's such a distorted, perverted view of the way things really are, that anyone with two brain cells to rub together will overwhelmingly, instinctively need to try and correct it. Thinkers abhor stupidity as Nature abhors a vacuum. I don't know if Nature finds her compulsion as futile as it is irresistible, the way I find mine. But it would certainly help if, every time I finally learn to stop banging my head against this particular wall, someone didn't always move the wall closer again.