28 August 2016

It's Time to Grow Up

I want to talk with you today about an interesting incident on social media this past week, in which a friend of a friend (a used-to-be trusted term that has completely lost its meaning due to Facebook) totally miffed me by conflating her ideological beliefs with what was actually said in a video that my real friend had posted.

This person called the actions of the character in question in the video "illegal" and "despicable" when the video's narrator (a trusted news reporter) explained that, while shocking, the individual's actions were, in fact, legal. My friend's "friend" said it would be unfair to blame the national organization (which, ironically, no one had even mentioned!) that happens to incessantly lobby for and defend to the death this kind of shocking behaviour when it was this one individual's fault. Even when that one individual was only doing what the national organization has convinced society is completely normal and legal behaviour. 

(To make this story easier to understand, I'm talking about the going-viral video of a 13-year-old American boy (an undercover actor) who tries to buy beer and is not allowed, then tries to buy cigarettes and is not allowed, then tries to buy an adult magazine and lottery tickets and is not allowed -- but then walks into a gun show and easily buys the first .22 calibre rifle he picks up.)

I pointed out to this "friend of a friend" the illogicality of blaming the individual gun seller when what he did is legal and accepted in his culture. I did this by quoting the narrator word for word -- the same words she had heard in the video. That's when she became defensive and wondered why I was picking on her. 

Picking on her? Hmmm, picking on her. Let's see. Because I drew attention to the exact quote in the movie that contradicted her sweeping statement that individuals rather than culturally accepted norms should be blamed? 

I unfriended my real FB friend (sorry, friend!) in order to stop bumping into this woman's comments (this wasn't the first thing she'd said that made my blood boil). Who wants to "socialize" with friends of friends like that? I know I don't. And if you think that makes me narrow-minded or something, well ... here you go (literally).

Her reaction reminded me of three things. First, a crazy spoof video on White Fragility Training in the Workplace (link). "Ooh, you just called me out when I did something racist, but I don't think I'm racist, so you're mean and you hurt my widdle feewings." The article White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo, explains "White Fragility" quite clearly and graphically -- as does the going-viral video I mentioned.

Second, this FB person's reaction reminded me of an old movie I watched recently. Gentleman's Agreement, starring Gregory Peck and Dorothy McGuire, is the 1947 story of a reporter assigned to write an exposé on anti-Semitism in post-war New York City. Short version? He is blown away by all the different ways he is discriminated against when for six months he pretends he is Jewish. But what really hurts (and I thought Peck did an admiral job of depicting the pain) is the lack of awareness in people around him who don't see themselves as anti-Semitic yet remain silent in the face of it. 

Finally, having to go through the video again to pull out the exact quote to point out how this woman's comment was illogical and incorrect (note: I said nothing about the woman herself) reminded me of all the time that has to be spent by climate change activists, reporters and scientists to caerfully and completely accurately explain and correct wild claims, false information and cherry-picked data spewed by climate change deniers, skeptics, ignorers and delayers. It's. so. wearying. And then they, too, sometimes claim to have their "widdle feewings" hurt.

I do what I do for the sake of the children. My compassion is in short supply these days, so I'm saving it for the children -- of all species. I'm sick and tired of people abusing their adult power in any way that threatens the viability of the climate, the health of the biosphere, and the day-to-day or future safety of the children. If someone's "widdle feewings" are hurt by having some truth, logic or laws of physics pointed out to them, then they can just grow up.

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I would appreciate hearing your thoughts or questions on this post or anything else you've read here. What is your take on courage and compassion being an important part of the solution to the climate change emergency?