Can we talk vilification for a moment?
I know, I don't think about it much, either. I don't tend to get angry, or at least angry enough to think about vilification. Typically I don't get angry. I get hurt or sad.
People tell me anger can be a good thing if it's a catalyst for action that leads to justice. Okay, I can see that. But. Typically I just try to accept and forgive. If that results in a little understanding, well, that's a bonus. If I can find the humor in it, so much the better.
I don't go around thinking about or plotting revenge or dreaming of vilification.
I had a moment, well, a couple moments...all right an hour...of desire for vilification. I couldn't sleep and I slid down the slippery slope of recalling injustices. I never do this, but it was a bad night. Alcohol was a factor. It kinda scared me because I was surprised at how many perceived injustices I'm carrying around with me. The fear isn't that I'm repressing emotions, my concern is that, gulp, maybe my friend is right, maybe I have
been perceived as a doormat in certain situations because I don't retaliate.
know I'm not a doormat, I know I was accepting and forgiving and rising above the immediate, but, the other people
in certain situations didn't know that. I don't really care what they think about me, their opinions don't matter to me, and the worst thing that could result is that I have a reputation for not engaging in hostile behaviors. That's not so bad, is it? Better that than a reputation for a quick and hot temper.
The internet and all it's social outposts has opened up huge cans of worms hungry for vilification. I'm not sure that a lot of people even realize what they're doing when they post comments about others on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Most of the posts seem to be rants posted in the moment of emotion. Someone A says or does something that angers or upsets Someone B, Someone B is hurt, angry or offended and instantly lashes back at Someone A in the form of a public comment deriding Someone A. Voila, vilification. I think the point is smug satisfaction, a tit for tat revenge. I'm rubber you're glue, it bounces off me and sticks to you. That kind of thing.
When these situations play out in private it's immature and regrettable, but somewhat understandable. Frustration, hurt feelings, and bruised egos are not patient. They crave immediate salving and because they're loud emotions they tend to fire fast and large synapses that trigger reactions that are not exactly well thought out or deep. Friends, family, significant others all (hopefully) understand that these skirmishes, while regrettable, do happen sometimes and cut us some slack on the presumption we'll cut the same slack for them.
I have a friend who has terrible road rage. It's really bad. Really, really bad. And. Worse. She's a backseat driver. So. When I'm driving with her she's yelling at other drivers and
me. This situation has played out more times than I care to recall.
Us in a car stopped at a red light, me driving.
Her: "It's clear! You can turn! Go!!!"
Me: "I count three 'No Turn on Red' signs. I could
go but I can't afford the traffic ticket. And I'd rather not knowingly break a posted law."
Her: "No one but you pays attention to those signs."
Me: "Yep, just me and the cops."
Sometimes this turns into a catfight about how I'm such a goody two shoes fraidy cat and how she's an impatient, selfish Type A poster child with anger management issues. Other times the light turns and she's ranting and flipping gestures at other drivers before she has time to have a go at me. We've known each other so long any words said in anger and frustration between us are forgotten less than a mile down the road.
But. Let's say one day I decide I'm sick of her road rage and the insults about my following the rules of the road, and I decide to use her name and post words on Facebook or Twitter to the effect that her impatience and anger management issues are bordering on dangerous and violent. #NeedsImmediateCounseling. I'm not sure why I would do this, as opposed to trying to have a calm conversation about my concerns over her health and welfare, but let's go with the presumption that it was one nag too many about my "inability" to turn on red in 'No Turn on Red' intersections. The presumption being that I am finally fed up with being yelled at about following the rules of the road and obeying traffic signs. Let's say in this rant I mention that my friend and her selfish "if they slow me down or get in my way, rules are made to be broken" attitude is responsible for the breakdown of society and decline of civilization. Again, naming her by name.
The only purpose for the public airing of my friend's dirty road rage laundry is a) to vilify myself and b) embarrass and slate my friend for yelling at me for obeying traffic signs, further vilifying myself.
Why? What's the point? It doesn't make me worry any less about my friend's dangerous driving habits and anger management issues. It's not going to stop her road rage, in fact, it will probably only exacerbate her issues, making her more angry and more Hellbent on not following "stupid" traffic signs. And it's certainly going to elevate her hostility toward me.
Vilification is pointless.
But it's everywhere on the internet. Some of it is "merely" pedantic ranting* and I understand the need to vent. Boy do I understand. But a lot of what I see posted online is disturbing not so much for the insults hurled, but for the immaturity, hostility, self righteousness, judgment and lack of awareness behind the post. Venting...that's understandable. Trying to sort out an issue and get some insight from other people? Commendable. But naming names, judging, assigning blame, publicly? That's taking it to a more sinister place. For reasons that baffle me, a lot of people have public Facebook accounts. Which means if Someone A posts a vilifying rant about Someone B, employers, coworkers, family members including Grandma and nitpicking gossipy Aunt Agnes will see any post about Someone B. Someone B shoots straight past the fair trial and the verdict that Someone A issued is being judged by a jury of peers.
Consider the source, you say? Yes, I say that, too. But. Casual observers, employers, potential love interests don't know the source. They're background checking the subject of the vilifying rant. They, especially would-be love interests, are likely to shy away from someone who has a hot-tempered, self-righteous ranty friend or relation in their circle. Who wants that drama in their life?
It's especially disturbing when the vilifying comments posted by someone I respect. There are things I don't want or need to know about family, friends and public figures I respect. But thanks to the internet it's all right there in my face. Pretty people doing ugly things.
Facebook and Twitter are increasingly cited as devaluing the human experience. When everything is special, nothing is special. When everything happens in the immediate, nothing is worthy of anticipation. When everyone's opinion is globally accessible, no one's opinion really matters to anyone else. I avoid Vlogs like the plague. Why? Because most of them are shouting matches between people who talk a lot but don't seem to listen, even to themselves.
But my increasing concern is the false sense of (instant!) gratification borne of vilifying posts. If a friend posts an insult on Twitter and no one reads it because it gets buried in 100s of other tweets, was it really an insult? Arguable point, but the more I naming names snark I see posted, the more I think, "Throw another insult onto the pile..." There's a lot of negativity being hurled into the Universe. Is that what we really need? Is that what we want?
There's a lot of animosity out there, and we're all being subjected to it. What used to be private skirmishes or insults between friends and family are now public (globally public) floggings. Is that really necessary? Take my friend's road rage as an example. Does anyone need to know my feelings about it, much less read about it online? What does it prove, and more to the point, what does it solve? What will it resolve? Anything? Probably not.
I blog. Publicly. For reasons that continue to (still) baffle me, people read what I post. There's responsibility that comes with that. The main responsibility for me is to protect anyone (other than public figures) I might mention on the blog. I receive a lot of h8 about anonymous blogging. My anonymity negates any credibility. (they say)
A) I have a life, some argue not much of one, but I have a life.
B) That life involves real people whom I care about and don't want to hurt or offend.
And mainly, C) I don't want people who care about me to worry about me. If they knew half of what I'm thinking they'd worry about me, and I don't want that.
I'm not looking for vilification. For me, the personal aspects are not the subject. The bigger picture, the insight and humor and frustrations are the subject. The names are inconsequential minutia. I'm not looking to hurt anyone or lash out at anyone. Just observing and reporting and trying to gain some understanding and insight.**
Maybe I should be a little more forthright. Maybe a little abuse of blog power would be cathartic. Name names. Divulge secrets. Betray trusts. Would it be more interesting to you, more titillating or "real" if you knew my name, the names of my friends and family? It would end up like the Monty Python Blackmail game show skit
, but hey, it would be some good vilification.
Wanna know the names of the girls and a few other kids who teased me and played horrible "jokes" on me, and generally bullied me throughout most of my school years? Would it make their actions more real, more sinister, more disturbing if there were names you could Google attached to them? With all the attention on bullying these days I could make several PSAs about all the tormenting I received, naming names and citing specific incidents. I was pushed down on an icy road in front of the oncoming school bus. The bus driver saw who did it. She nearly overturned the bus trying to avoid hitting me while I struggled to slip and slide out of the way. The other kids not only didn't help me, they laughed at me. The bus driver walked me back to my parents' house, told them what happened and who did it. My parents and I had long conversations with the school counselor and our minister about it and ultimately "we" didn't "do" anything out of concern that it would only lead to further retaliation. As it was I'd already had my clarinet stolen, my art projects broken, my snow boots pooped in, I had applesauce flicked in my hair at least once a week in the school lunchroom, my parents' house was routinely egged and one year my father's painstakingly planned Christmas light display was vandalized and rearranged to spell out my name and several vile sexual slang words. I was 9 at the time, by the way. Wanna know the names of the kids who did that? I knew who did it. My parents knew. I could, now, publicly name the names of those kids and list their "jokes." But, now, as then, it serves no purpose. Back then, their defense was that it was "just practical jokes" and their parents backed them up on that, claiming my parents and I didn't know how to take a joke. When it came to theft and damage of property, the parents of the kids responsible said we had no proof and claimed their children would never do such a thing. When it came to me being pushed in front of the oncoming school bus, with irrefutable proof in the form of a signed witness account by the school bus driver, the other kids, afraid of retaliation from the neighborhood bullies, denied that it happened. There's a lot more to the whole incident, but ultimately nothing was done and those kids got away with attempted murder. Would naming them, now, change that? Would I feel any better about any of it? I could go for it, publicly hold those kids up for their actions, and a lot of people think I should
. But, I contend that's just stooping to their level, bullying them with the excuse of retribution...over something that happened years ago when we were kids. And based on some of the hometown gossip I've heard over the years, most of them have suffered enough without me publicly slating them for their bullying behavior. Let's just say they're not leading enviable lives. (Yes, I could post that gossip, too...)
Do you want to know HWNMNBS's name? Why? I wouldn't feel any better or worse for publicly flogging him, although given my position of woman scorned I'm allowed a little Hellish fury. He's counting on me to be mature and respectful. He's trusting me. But what do I owe him? Nothing. Some would argue I should have betrayed that trust, airing all his dirty laundry for the entire world to see, attached to his name, globally slandering him so that henceforth any woman or employer who Googles him will read some ugly (to the point of disturbing) bits of information about him. Could I destroy him and his future? Probably not. But I could cause a few uncomfortable conversations between him and anyone who Googles him.
Ditto my former boss. The term limits on my termination agreement have ended, I am free to say whatever I want about my former employer and anyone I worked with there. In the interest of public service I could name names and phone numbers and even post some spreadsheets the IRS might find interesting. Would anyone take me seriously? Maybe. There'd be a few uncomfortable conversations and I'm pretty sure my former boss would hire a lawyer to bring some sort of liable and slander case against me, but ultimately the damage to her reputation would be done. It would take me about 20 minutes to write a full report, with attachments, naming names and citing condemning specifics. At least I could name a few names in a few vilifying posts on Twitter or Facebook, or, on the more sad and pathetic end I could whip up a website devoted to my former company and some of the people who work there. Slander, liable...the truth...no matter how it's taken, most would see it as nothing more than a lame attempt at retribution from a disgruntled employee.
Believe me, there are times, like my recent sleepless night drunken concern about whether or not I'm perceived as a doormat, that I think, "Screw it, screw them, I'm calling everyone who's ever wronged me to task. I'm naming names, dates and deplorable behaviors." I think about compiling a
list of all the people who deserve a public "[expletive of your choice] you!" And it concerns me when the list grows beyond 5 people, because that's a lot of vilifying for one person and a lot of apparently unresolved issues.
But what would I get out of it? A few moments of vindictive pleasure? Ultimately it would just make me look bad publicly and I'd feel bad about myself.
I'm above that sort of thing. I'm better than that. And yes, of course, people who know me count on me being that way. So there would be a surprise element, a big surprise element, because it's grossly out of character for me to stoop to that level and/or to betray trust. Which, in the movies, makes the plot device all the more enticing to screenwriters. The good girl pushed beyond her limits who seeks furious revenge to the surprise of all who know her is a well-worn theme. I notice Lifetime uses this plot device in a lot of their movies. That's how you know it's a trite and cliché move.
So, why, then, are Facebook and Twitter any different? Why the rampant vilifying snark? I dunno. I have no clue why people are so impulsive, so quick to pull the vilification trigger via Facebook and Twitter. Bullying behavior? Maybe. Self esteem issues causing them to want to make other people look bad? Maybe. Stupidity? Selfishness? Emotional immaturity? Probably.
Which is why, if I was granted a do-over with those kids of my youth, or HWNMNBS, or my former boss, or my friend who yells at me for obeying traffic signs - knowing what I now know - I would
react the same way. I would not seek vilification or revenge or retribution or vindication. None of it. The only difference would be, if I knew then what I know now, is that I wouldn't allow
myself to get hurt or saddened by the situations. That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I'm living
proof of that. My skin is so thick Ginsu knives couldn't penetrate it. I try very, very hard to bypass victim mode and go straight to "let's sort out what happened so I can prevent it from happening again and then find a way to laugh about it and put it behind me" mode. Not always easy, and it often takes time to gain that kind of insight. You have to ask a lot of questions and be brutally honest with yourself. It's not as easy as quickly lashing out a vilifying remark on Facebook or Twitter. But the results are deeper and longer lasting and ultimately better for everyone involved.
*Pedantic rants - great band or album name. "Professor Snark and the Pedantic Rants"
**And yes, I am guilty of some forms of vilification via 50 First Dates. No I didn't name names, they were changed to protect the innocent, but, they didn't know that I was writing about my adventures in dating. And if Creepy Perfume Guy
and the Humping Dwarf
were to stumble across the blog, I'm pretty sure they'd recognize themselves. And yes, I did rake them over some hot coals. Albeit in a humor befitting their behavior, but passive aggression is still aggression. And on some level I was exacting some form of revenge for my disappointment at dates that went nowhere. And yes, that has everything to do with me and very little to do with them. All those guys were just being themselves - their creepy, pervy, addicted, violent, selfish, rude, shallow, etc. selves. I
was the one who had issues with their behaviors. I am aware that I owe them a debt of gratitude for letting me peek into their personality, um, traits, on the first and second dates. In doing so, they spared me the time, effort and disappointment of getting involved and investing emotion with them only to find out weeks or months into the relationship that they had some disturbing skeletons in their closets.
And I am fully aware that I am guilty of vilification: Each date that didn't work out was another chink in my armor of hope, and my public retelling of dates gone wrong was a way to lick my wound (they didn't wound me, the process did) and vilify men and dating in general.
So yes, I was aware, am aware, that I am guilty of vilification.