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What the Hell is Wrong with People?

This is one of those things that I probably shouldn’t bother writing about. There will be people who say that it’s important to have these conversations. On the level where I know problems do not get resolved until they are pointed out, or acknowledged to exist, I agree. Yet on a far more cynical level, all I can see are the echo chambers that will develop, where the people who already agree will continue to agree, and the people who refuse to acknowledge the problem will simply shove their heads further up their, um, designated head-space of choice.

To provide some context, I just finished reading “Honey, Let The Real Gamers Play” – A Follow Up. For the record, this post is not specifically about that specific situation. It’s about the general phenomena where someone will bravely step forward and point out that something is wrong, that something has made them uncomfortable, or that they have been wronged, treated poorly, or abused. Those people will be called “snowflakes” and worse, will be told that they’re lying or making things up, and will be made more uncomfortable, treated poorly, or further abused.

The people pushing back against those with the courage to speak up are, by-and-large, thing-skinned snowflakes themselves. They have a status quo to protect, a toxic culture to preserve, and generally take a specific incident they had no involvement in as a personal attack against them. As they take things deeply personally and very seriously — as evidenced by the way they hold on to these debates like a dog with a bone, and escalating things up to and including death threats — they accuse the original speaker of taking things too personally and too seriously.

Surely not all of these attackers are lacking a sense of irony and self-awareness. A lot of them are troll, getting their kicks by stirring the pot and getting a rise out of as many people as possible. There has to be some percentage, though, that lacks the metacognition to realize how they sound, the way they’re being perceived, and how rude, cruel, and willfully ignorant they are about the issue they think they’re being reasonable about.

Here’s how all of this is supposed to work: When someone says “OW!” you respond “Are you okay?” and check on them. If they need help, you help them. Sure, if they’re exaggerating or faking it, because it sometimes happens, you assess the situation and deal with it. But not until after you’ve lead with empathy and taken a look at the facts. This is how a mature, emotionally intelligent human being behaves.

Instead, what happens is that someone says “OW!” and the knee-jerk reaction is to get defensive and scream “I NEVER TOUCHED YOU” and launch into a barrage of ad hominem attacks. No one takes a beat to see what happened, whether the person just stubbed their toe or tumbled headlong down a flight of stairs. In the latter scenario, they’ll rush to the top of the landing, peer down the stairs, and yell “GET UP YOUR LEG’S NOT BROKEN, YOU’RE FAKING IT!”

What’s even worse is, there could be someone else standing on that same landing. That person could admit that they pushed the other person down the stairs, and the narrative would still be to scream at the person laying on the floor in a crumpled, bloody heap and tell them that they’re going to get their ass kicked if they don’t stop making up stories about being pushed down the stairs.

I have no idea what’s wrong with people, or how the hell to begin fixing it.

Published in The Invisible College of Blogs

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