Because it’s come up three times now in the last few weeks, I thought I might share some thoughts on where we are in the modern age.
Civility has taken a back seat for many people. Just the basic courtesy of not being an asshole to someone. I’m not talking about the ribbing and teasing I get from close friends. I mean semi-random strangers on the internet who feel that distance and anonymity gives them the right to go out of their way to abuse me.
I know a few folks who thrive on the emotional combat that comes from such interactions. The striving to find ever-more-poignant ways to troll people.
What does it gain? Other than the adrenaline rush of the moment, what does it matter? Have you made the world a better place by verbally assaulting someone on social media? By being an outright dick to them? (How many times have you failed Wheaton’s Rule today?)
I don’t argue with folks. I don’t fight people in a public forum. But I do keep score. I do look at those folks who would rather spend all their time lashing out at the slightest infringement on their personal space in apocalyptic tones.
I understand fighting the good fight. I don’t see any reason to expend all my energy going after someone that won’t learn a single thing from anything I might tell them. Their minds are closed. Their souls are unable to find joy in themselves or others. They cannot look on a stranger’s success and be happy, so they must find fault and find a way to tear someone down.
They are addicted to rage.
Are you? Answer me honestly.
When something inconveniences you, what is your first—automatic—response? Do you shrug phlegmatically at something beyond your control? Do you suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and get one with your day?
Or do you turn around and throw punches (verbal or otherwise)?
Since it’s come up again, I figured I’d say a few things that some people will acknowledge and others will ignore. They are addicted to rage. They cannot be saved.
We are approaching the second anniversary of my home state of Washington shutting down entirely as a way to control a virulent disease that had mutated into something new. Something deadly.
West of the Mountains is (with a few dumbass pockets) an extremely civilized place, where folks are willing to suffer a minor inconvenience so as to help complete strangers.
Not everyone, though. I was at the grocery earlier picking up supplies and noting the physical traits that a handful of unmasked yahoos had in common. I bet you can list them all easily enough, because those folks have become a caricature.
I no longer say rude things about masks to those people, because after this long, they cannot be saved.
Read that again: Cannot be saved.
Any energy I might want to spend trying to educate them, trying to find the slightest hint of empathy, anything, is therefore wasted.
They can’t be saved. They don’t want to be saved. Their entire identity is wrapped up in a thing of utter negativity, and they would rather die than change.
They are addicted to rage because they have run into something they cannot control, and have never grown up.
Because that’s what it is. You’re seeing the sorts of juvenile behavior that we display as toddlers until such time as we discover that other people exist and might also have value.
Some people never learn that lesson. All you have to do is walk around a grocery store to see it on display.
Pride. But the wrong kind of pride. Pride in individuality at the cost of every other human being they might ever meet.
I can’t save them. Someone asked why I ignored a few folks who had discovered emptiness when they demanded my attention. Ghost-mode.
I’m not there. Won’t be. Won’t be coming back again.
Because I can’t save you. And it takes an amazing amount of effort on your part to move me to that sort of intention. Three folks have all managed it recently. (Actually, far more than three, but these were object lessons brought up by others in the past few weeks, so I’ll leave it at them.)
All of them raged. In two cases, they were wrong, but will never admit it. In the third, it was my fault, and I apologized, only to have an extra heaping of scornful rage dumped on my apology and rubbed in my face.
Easy enough. I promise that I will never make that mistake again. Safest way to do that is to never speak to you again. Voila. Endgame.
I understand rage. I was addicted to it myself for the longest time. But I hardly ever let it out on someone else. In fact, in the last twenty years, I can only think of a few circumstances where someone else witnessed my rage. (Ain’t none of you seen me truly angry, no matter what you might think.)
Then one day I decided I didn’t want to be angry all the time. July, 2013. I’d woken up white hot. Worse than I could ever remember being.
That was bad. I realized that NOTHING useful came of that rage.
So I became someone else. I do that a lot. Anyone who has known me long enough has seen it happen, but this time I had a hard pivot.
I chose to be happy.
Took a while to recover from the addiction. Won’t deny that. But I did.
Walked away from it. Don’s miss it.
But I do recognize others who haven’t gotten to that point in their emotional development. They think that scoring points on folks like that matters, because they have no empathy. I probably have too much, and that was largely the basis of my anger for so long.
I’m not that guy anymore.
And I can’t save you. Because you don’t want to be saved. You want to be idolized for the volume, tenacity, and destructiveness of your rage. For the metaphorical scalps you have accumulated in any given day.
All of those scalps belong to people. Do you ever give a thought about them?
Or is the rage your fulfillment entirely?
So when you can’t figure out why I won’t take your call, why I’ve blocked you entirely on social media and forgotten you exist, perhaps you can look on these thoughts and learn something from them.
How often do you drive people off? How many people are willing to look at you and tell you that you’re being a total asshole to complete strangers? Or are they afraid you will go after them next?
Been there. Done that. Got the scars.
But I also have my freedom from your behavior.
Because I can’t save you.
As a result, I have absolutely no interest in putting forth any effort.
Maybe you’ll grow up one of these days. Maybe you’ll learn how to apologize. Doubt it, but I’ve been struck by lightning a few times over the years, so I’ll leave that door ajar.
But not for who you are today. I don’t like that person, and choose to not have them soiling my air with their rage.
You have to decide to save yourself.