Saturday, July 5, 2014

Internet Civilization?

Greetings and salutations, fellow castaways, and thank you for your patience. I have now  graduated three out of the four offspring from our illustrious and tradition-rich high school, and all the shockwaves are settling down to a steady, rolling sea instead of rogue wave city. And now, it's about time I got back to work.

Chapter Thirteen of Tempus Fugitive has now succumbed to my fingers and aching brow, and I am now only one year and six months past my (self-imposed) deadline for preparing the manuscript for the submission process.

But that's not what I want to talk about this week.

Lately, I have heard a record level of vicious howling and screaming on the Web over two particular issues: Big Game Hunting, and Hobby Lobby.

I don't need to weigh in on my opinions of either here, as Facebook has heard about all I need to say on these two points. What I want to call everyone's attention to is the way the Internet seems to encourage rage-baiting. And let's face it, it's about time we all sat down and took a personal inventory.

Because most of us, if not all, see ourselves as perfectly reasonable people.We honestly can't see wen we've crossed the line into hysteria, even when those around us cringe and run away.

Let's all agree before I go on that a society must be civil within itself in order to survive. I didn't say we all had to agree on all the same points, I said we all need to be civil with each other. Without civility, there is no discourse. Without discourse, there can be no agreement. Without agreement, there is no peace.

Now, let's look at "agreement" as a word, because to some it may mean something different. The World Book Encyclopaedia Dictionary says this: "1. To have the same opinion or similar opinions. 2.  To be in harmony; to be consistent; correspond. 3. to get along well together. 4. to say that one is willing; assent; consent. 5.  to make a bargain; come to an understanding. 6. (In inflected languages) to have the same gender, number, case, person, etc."

Look at all those different definitions. No wonder everyone is spending so much time screaming and threatening each other. To have the same opinion is not necessarily to be in harmony, nor does it mean we have to share the same opinions in order to get along. Definition 5 says it means to come to an understanding. I like that one, so let's use that from here in in my house (to be meant "here on my blog") from here on. I don't have to share the same opinion as you in order for us both to understand each other.

What we need to do is stop accusing each other. A cheerleader goes to Africa and legally hunts big game, and she's called a murderer. The Supreme Court decides a law violates another law (previously signed by a president of the party who's doing the most screaming about it), and all of a sudden the entire country is a theocracy. Parents teach their children from the Bible, and are being accused of child abuse.

People everywhere are crying, "what's gone wrong with our country?" I might suggest that the relative anonymity of the internet is at least partly to blame. We can now hide behind the comfort of our computer screens and usernames, and we no longer have to be accountable for what we say. I'll tell you what, some of the things that have been said to me in the last six months would have bought someone a quick punch to the mouth if they'd been said in person. I can only turn my cheek so many times until I run out of cheeks, folks.

So what I'd like to do here is introduce (or re-introduce) a concept known as the Personal Inventory. A personal inventory is something that should be taken every time we're engaged in a discussion. What it does is help us to see when we (meaning "I") need to steer the discussion back to more civil ground. If you find yourself doing any of these, you are probably too angry to have a reasonable discussion, and you need to take immediate measures.

  1. ARE YOU TYPING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS? You're screaming at the other person. Stop it. The same goes for speaking in a raised voice. If your voice is raised above the level you would use to order a steak from your favorite server at your favorite restaurant, you need to back off and take a deep breath.
  2. Are you calling anyone else a name you wouldn't want to be called? Whether they are there to defend themselves or not, you are in the wrong on this.
  3. Did your last statement include a personal threat? "She ought to have that gun shoved up her *** and the trigger pulled" is a threat. You have no business saying that to anyone else, or about anyone else. If so, you have forfeited the right to call yourself "civilized." They make the DELETE key for sentences like that. Feel free to use it. If you feel you MUST write it out, write it on a Word Document and save it in your hard drive only until you shut down for the night, and then send it to your recycle bin.
  4. Did you just try to "mind read?" Here's my example: "Republicans hate women." Dude, get real. You aren't psychic enough to read every single Republican's mind and tell me with all honesty that all Republicans "hate" anything. The very statement in itself is idiotic and inflammatory. Did you seriously bother to ask any Republican if he or she hates women? I doubt it. "Democrats just want big government." That's another one too stupid to answer in one sitting. I don't know what every Democrat wants; I haven't asked them all. So don't tell me what I want, or who I hate, or what I'm for or against; I can tell you all of that myself.
  5. Did you just exaggerate to make your point? Really, did you just stretch the facts just a wee bit? Stop it.
Now, after your personal inventory, which you should be doing with every post you make, if you find yourself stepping over the Civil Line, then erase your comment, take a moment, and try again, only this time show your counterpart in the conversation who the better person is by the respect you give them and their point of view.

Who knows, maybe we can all start getting along again?

1 comment:

  1. So true. If only everyone would follow a personal inventory like that, it would make the internet much more pleasant!