Avast ye mateys. It’s time to start clearing the deck of all these pieces of news chum, before they bring my bookmarks to the bottom of Davey Jones’. So let’s throw some of this bilge-bait to the fishies. This bucket o’chum all concerns social media and aggressions:
Bucket No 1: Lashon Harah.
In these 10 days of introspection between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur comes a very timely post about the use of social media from the Coffee Shop Rabbi. In it, she talks about the Jewish notion of Lashon harah, which prohibits the use of speech to say anything negative or derogatory about another person, even if it is the truth. There is only one exception: we can say negative things about another if those things are true, but only if our silence would result in injury or severe loss to another person. Think about this the next time you get ready to press that “share” button. The Coffee Shop Rabbi’s article goes into this in more detail; she uses as her example the viral claim that terrorists are infiltrating Europe among the refugees. Although debunked, spreading it can cause great harm. As she reminds us: “Social media is particularly potent speech because it travels so far, so fast. Careless use of it has ruined reputations, destroyed careers, enflamed violence. We need to be careful in using such a powerful tool.”
Bucket No 2: Microaggressions.
There’s an interesting article in Bloomberg View about how grown-ups deal with microaggressions. The author of the article notes that “We used to call this “rudeness,” “slights” or “ignorant remarks.” Mostly, people ignored them. The elevation of microaggressions into a social phenomenon with a specific name and increasingly public redress marks a dramatic social change.” What I found interesting about the article (and I didn’t agree with everything) is her notion about cultural shift:
Western society, they argue, has shifted from an honor culture — in which slights are taken very seriously, and avenged by the one slighted — to a dignity culture, in which personal revenge is discouraged, and justice is outsourced to third parties, primarily the law. The law being a cumbersome beast, people in dignity cultures are encouraged to ignore slights, or negotiate them privately by talking with the offender, rather than seeking some more punitive sanction.
Microagressions mark a transition to a third sort of culture: a victim culture, in which people are once again encouraged to take notice of slights. This sounds a lot like honor culture, doesn’t it? Yes, with two important differences. The first is that while victimhood is shameful in an honor culture — and indeed, the purpose of taking vengeance is frequently to avoid this shame — victim status is actively sought in the new culture, because victimhood is a prerequisite for getting redress. The second is that victim culture encourages people to seek help from third parties, either authorities or the public, rather than seeking satisfaction themselves.
I think we’ve heard folks talk about “victim culture” before: the notion that everything that happens to me is someone else’s fault. Some call it the abdication of responsibility.
But as I said, I’m mixed about the notion as a whole. I do believe there has been a culture of privilege, which creates aggression and privileges not seen by everyone, but there none-the-less. How do we handle these? Writing them off is clearly wrong. Some of the anger I see, however, although heartfelt, it also the wrong way. The problems need to be fixed.
Bucket No. 3: A Sentence is a Bad Thing to End a Preposition With.
One of the most common sources of aggression on the Internet is grammar. The problem is that most of the hard and fast rules we think exist really don’t. It demonstrates that we need to boldly go to that world where grammar is the least of our concerns. We need to not worry about what they will think, or what we use to end our sentence with. Hopefully, we’ll all get along. PS: I’ve discovered a great podcast on words: The Allusionist.
Music: Having It All/Having It Almost (2008 Demos): “Date Is Just A Four-Letter Word” (Liz Larsen, Wendy Perelman, Christa Jackson, Stefanie Morse, Kirsten Chandler)