I Will Not Torture You With Fluff Tonight

As most of you know, I've been slogging up the giant mountain known as "Computer Animation Learning-Curve" for the past six weeks or so.

But that's not the only reason my blogging has been flimsy lately.

It's that Thumper thing again -- you know -- "If you don't have anything nice to say -- ".

I'm not big on the word "nice", but let's just change that to "additive/expansive".

Recently, I've witnessed some comment-threads that have seared my eyeballs -- name-calling and verbal hack-and-thrash (even among people who might be considered "natural allies") that have given me pause, and set me thinking about the term: Brutality.

Brutality. The ugly child of Hatred.

Hatred. The ugly child of Dissociation.

I honestly believe that the root of all the "-isms" that wreak such havoc in our culture is dissociation.

As primates, we are tribal/troop mammals. When we "associate" with other beings, we tend to think of them as "ours" and join them into a big "us" -- and that association usually leads us to defend, protect, and nurture anything that is considered me/my/mine/us/our/ours.

I hope you won't think I'm being terribly deterministic when I say that I believe that this tendency is hard-wired.

Luckily, I believe that there is another, and even more powerful, drive in us -- something that's wired into us not just at the Family Hominidae level, or as Ordered Primates, or even Class-y Mammals -- but at the Eukaryotic fundament of human-as-living-organism -- and that powerful drive is: Energy Efficiency.

If you think about what makes Homo Sapiens Sapiens really distinctive as an animal, it always seems (to me anyway) to be about the issue of Cooperation -- both the possibly "expansive" types of cooperation (Big Fuck-off Pyramids! International Space Stations! Teh Internets Tubes!) and the not-so-expansive types of cooperation (Xerxes Builds Mile-Long Bridge. Athens Doomed! Super-Delegates to Determine Election! Phelps Clan Pickets Another Funeral!) -- and I believe that, ultimately, humans usually cooperate in response to that pesky energy efficiency thing.

However, in order to cooperate, we have to work through any not-me/you/yours/they/them/theirs which resides at the shank end of our troop-mentality dichotomy. So, we often spend a lot of energy trying to determine the same thing that our immune system wrestles with all day: "Me? or Not Me?"

I believe that, in order for me to brutalize you, I must be convinced that you are not me/my/mine. In any way. I must be convinced that you are not remotely similar to me at any level, and that I could never be like you, and that you are alien and strange and possibly/probably -- very, very dangerous.

The bummer-ish thing about that is this: In order to become convinced of your "not-me-ness" to this extent, I have to also dissociate from the idea that, simply by virtue of your being a human being, you are probably more like me than 99.9999999999....% of the rest of all the matter that exists in the entire Universe.

So that's a lot of energy required for complete dissociation, right there -- and that wanton expenditure of energy pushes hard against our very deeply-ingrained desire, as organic life-forms, to get the MOST amount of energy for the LEAST expenditure of energy.

That's why whack-a-mole comment threads are so tiring sometimes, especially when the topic goes so far afield of the original post that Legolas couldn't track it if you dropped the phrase "leaves of Lothlorien" every third comment.

Yes, sometimes getting OT leads to some very interesting conversation, and leads us to ideas that we would never have imagined discussing -- but when the thread degenerates into --

"Asshole!" brtltrooth||2:14:03 pm
"No, you're the asshole!" snppycmbck||2:14:04 pm

well, then it's time for Calgon to take me away.

The threads that seared my baby-blues were not, however, of this simple "I know you are, but what am I" variety -- words and phrases were used that directly attempted to de-humanize the opponent, words like "scum" and "slime" and phrases that called into question the opponents' right to even be alive.

When that shit starts up, I believe we are entering into the realm of brutality. When action and words are used that have no other purpose but to denigrate and degrade the opponent -- I believe that these are used so that we can ultimately justify . . . . destroying them because they are "not me".

My main problem with dissociation (which I believe is a necessary predicate to hatred and brutality), is that, if I can manage to de-humanize you, I generally de-humanize myself in the process -- thus it is that, when hating, we are likely to become the very thing that we hate.

The worst part of all was that this kind of "conversation" was occurring between people who I am almost certain would call themselves "progressive" -- people who would protest that they are not "haters", and who would chafe (or rage) at being compared to the God Hates Fag-ers, or the KKK, or the man who raped me as a four-year-old and managed to dissociate from me so completely that my pain was, to him, completely inconsequential.

Some would argue that these are false equivalences (words in a comment thread and Phelps at a funeral) -- but I believe that the outrageous behavior of truly radical bigots and haters did not simply spring full-blown from the brow of Zeus -- it probably began with something much smaller and more "excusable" for each of them -- stones thrown at the alley-cat -- then derisive names for the passive servant who you know won't confront you -- then a trial slap -- turning into a blow -- turning into a beating.

I believe that any time I can convince myself that any other being "deserves" my brutality -- for any reason -- I am not standing on solid philosophical ground if I want to call myself a human-rights activist, or a progressive.

So I've been skimming threads lately, and Calgoning as needed, and thinking what I wanted to say about all this -- (it's not like I haven't gone there myself in the past, but I don't want to do it ever again).

I don't want to be Fred Phelps.

He's human -- and I don't hate him -- but I don't think he has a "Happy Place".

Posted byPortlyDyke at 11:59 PM  


NameChanged said... February 13, 2008 at 11:14 AM  

Well said Portly. I noticed you were outside many frays lately, and this is the perfect explanation, as well as a great examination.

NameChanged said... February 14, 2008 at 8:46 AM  

and the fluff is never torture

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