Monday, November 3, 2014

Wise The Fudge Up

People tend to avoid conflict as much as is possible and to join the crowd that seems most beneficial in avoiding their own suffering while emphasizing their own acceptance. Sure, there are outliers, and some people seek conflict for thrill, but the average person tends to reserve themselves in the face of adversity. This is, to some degree, a bad thing. People tend to allow bad things to continue simply to avoid a fight. But this can also work to our advantage in order to change the culture around us.

Deep down, people generally know if they are doing something that is wrong. This concept of wrong can come from culture, religion, law, or morality. When children do something wrong, the first they they do is look at the authority: teacher, parent, police officer, etc. They are extremely susceptible at that moment to soak up the response and forever gauge their future moves. If the authority does not notice, they learn they can get away with it and, if beneficial, they might do it again. If they see the authority noticed but did nothing in response, they might learn that this is acceptable behavior and do it all the more. If the authority responds in anger, they might learn to do such actions in secret. Depending on the age of the child and the cognitive powers of thought, if the authority explains the gravity of the behavior and the detrimental affects of the action, the child might instead feel ashamed and choose not to do it again.

This is a gross oversimplification of human behavior, of course, and old habits die hard. If a child has gotten away with something ten times in the past, it might take another hundred times of being called out before they recognize that it is not worth the risk. It also might simply take a hundred times for their brain to process the data and give forethought to their actions. It also may have a lot to do with whether or not the person calling them out is respected. A sibling, depending on the relationship, may not be as respected as a parent and thus the offending behavior might encourage it all the more. Such sour relationships are generally due to previous encounters of malevolence which can be difficult to mend. Mending, of course, requires extreme benevolence even in the face of adversity. No one can win an enemy over with rudeness or brute force. I have yet to hear of anyone respond to insult with, "You know, you are right, I am a bit of an expletive. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways. Let me just agree with you now and we can be friends." Or perhaps, "The collision of your fist with my face has shown me that I am wrong, please forgive me and let us be friends."

It is a fairly well-known fact, if often ignored, that violence begets violence. It is more unknown that refutation and argumentation further drives a person into their belief in a subconscious effort to save face. And yet, this is what is most commonly seen in forums and on Facebook. One person says left, the other person says the first person is a moron and that it is clearly right, the first person retorts who the true idiot is with a few facts, the second person ignores the facts and responds to the accusations equating him to body parts used for excreting wastes while supplying different facts which will also be ignored, ad infinitum. This clearly does not work and it amazes me that grown adults still function in this manner. What are you trying to do? What is your goal? Sincerely consider this. Do you simply get a high off bashing people or are you truly trying to make your point heard and understood? This behavior will not convince an opponent and it will encourage people of your point of view to exhibit the same behavior out of a subconscious drive for acceptance. The other people from the other point of view will do this as well and both sides will feel perfectly justified and accepted in their own little bubbles. This is clearly evidenced in the Democrats versus Republicans conflict which divides our nation quite nearly equally.

Both sides of the argument will thus become more solidified in their position, more angry toward the opposition, and both sides will become blind to reason and facts. Again, see politics. Is this what we want for our culture??


Culture is in our own hands. We decide what is acceptable and what is not. If we continue in this behavior, we will continue to divide our people and nothing will get done. Through disagreement, we must remain courteous in order to come to agreement over time. It is possible, but only with the recognition that we are each responsible to rectify the situation even in small matters. We must learn to value open, honest, and friendly conversation. We must learn to demonstrate it ourselves and to call others out who do not. This is where the avoidance of adversity comes to play. Angry people will not avoid adversity but ashamed people and neutral people will. Politely (i.e. without insult) call out the bad behavior and perhaps explain the ill effects. There will likely be excuses or perhaps even a retort of accusation, but this is to be expected. It may warrant more thoughtful and kind communication, but often times it might be sufficient to have simply said something once. The person might come to ponder the concept and begin to change at his or her own pace once removed from the situation.

We cannot simply ignore people who name-call, threat, act racist or sexist, or otherwise behave belligerently and immorally. They must realize that it is not helpful, it is not acceptable, and it certainly does not put them in the category of cool people. It is not what we want for our culture. Other people who read or hear our words can also learn that there are people who do not find such behavior acceptable. Even if the person we called out does not respond or change, it will help subside the effects of others joining in to the poor behavior. They will naturally avoid the conflict and negative feelings they would derive from a person who appears to value politeness and friendly discussion. They might even learn to call others out themselves in a friendly way. The more we uplift kindness, compassion, and understanding, and merely explain that we do not value name-calling, threats, and the tactics of brute ape-men who never left their caves, the more we will shape our culture around us. Even the vastness of the internet can learn from our examples over time, but this will clearly have the greatest effect in our immediate circles.

We must press values and deride the valueless as opposed to merely ignoring it. People are terrible at taking hints. They need to hear simple phrases like, "I do not find insults to be very effective in coming toward agreement" or "until I hear both sides of a story, I do not like to make judgement against a person based upon one person's perspective." Sometimes it may even need to be more directed, "That kind of behavior toward others is repulsive to me. I do not take joy in it whatsoever" or "I do not find sexism entertaining or cool by any stretch of the imagination." Clearly, circumstances will dictate the necessary response, but we must do something rather than nothing. Human nature, as Margaret Heffernan points out in her book Willful Blindness, will have people engage and copy others in their poor behavior simply because nobody speaks up. They will join the crowd. They will do what is culturally acceptable even if it is normally outside their character. Over time, good people turn bad when surrounded by bad behavior. It is a common adage that bad company corrupts good judgement. We must make it clear that cavemen and cave-women do not have control over what is cool and what is culturally acceptable. Those with loving and kind values need to direct our culture and we need to show how it is done.

Speak up. Kindly. Even if it is a single sentence, our demonstrating a lack of acceptance of bad behavior will have a strong effect in the world around us making it safer and more tolerable for us all. Silence will continue our decline toward hate, intolerance, and a country divided.

~Comments in Facebook flitter and die, comment below to be heard for all time~

~Knowledge is good, sharing is better~

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