Thursday, September 24, 2015

A WORLD WITHOUT FILTERS

Trigger warnings? You're not going to get them. Microaggressions? Yeah, I've got plenty of those. Zero tolerance? Precisely the amount of tolerance I have for the current atmosphere of poison masquerading as the best oxygen ever.

If we really lived in that Utopia of rich air we could all join hands and sing Lionel Richie and dance on the ceiling 'cause oh what a feeling. But we don't. So I won't. We live in a great big mess of a world and no amount of mind coddling will change that. If this fact offends you I am not sorry.

I am offended by a different truth: We are softer now for breathing the tainted air. Some people think it's better this way, being soft and everpleasant, but I think they're only doing it because they're smart and they know to keep their heads down. The air is a little fresher down there and it's better to go unnoticed anyway. It's the brash and the stupid who raise up and get their skulls shot off. Before the preceding sentence I guess I should have issued a trigger warning for people traumatized by the Zapruder film, but too late.

I should have a better filter, to keep me from acting out. I think it was shot off a long time ago, when being brash was a requirement for fiercely intelligent discourse. Provocative thoughts and questions were encouraged, and if the debate created uncomfortable moments — good. Being challenged was a good thing. It made you think.

It's easier to be provocative these days because people are easily offended and no one wants to be challenged. No one wants to think. Social media allows us the luxury of instant me-too outrage that we can share with our friends. Pretty soon everyone is pissed off at a hunter they don't know and mourning the death of a lion they never celebrated during its life. Or they're making sure all of their Facebook friends and Twitter followers know they stand for this cause, this person, that plight. Their profile pictures reflect their current fixations.

But dare question why they feel the way they do and the furies are unleashed. People are touchy, so touchy, and it's no use reasoning with them because that might cause them to think and that's not fun. Thinking is scary. It forces people to challenge themselves and others. It's better to click like and move on.

But that requires keeping your head down — figuratively, lest the furies attack, and literally because that's the only way to click like on your phone.

It requires a filter. A thick one with plenty of accordion folds to catch all the nervy things before they fly through my brain and out of my mouth. Otherwise I might find my left thumb and right index finger tapping on the glass, banging out a screed:

Fine, you're offended. By the breast or the councilman. By gay marriage or that county clerk. By the Republicans and/or the Democrats. By liberals or conservatives. By Hillary because you love Bernie. By Islam or Islamophobia. By immigrant haters or Hispanics. By Christians or atheists. By a flag, by a racist, by a joke, by a word. Got it. You. Are. Offended. Pardon me if I don't click like.

Share your status with my friends? Not just no, but hell no. Not unless it's something cool, like super slo-mo vid of cats.

Dat cat video: much cooler than someone's insistence that every cop is a racist pig. You've seen those posts, right? Cop pops caps and another one bites the dust. Because racism.

In the back of my head I think it could be fun to poke, to point out that there are plenty of good cops, that black Americans are disproportionally represented in jails and prisons, and that this doesn't necessarily mean the system is racist, but it's damn well worth talking about. It would be fun, right up to the point when the long guns come out and shoot me in the head for being a racist oppressor who clearly thinks bad things about black people.

It would be equally fun to point out to some friends that their affection for the word "hero" is sweetly stupid because the way they overuse it only dilutes the honorific. Not every cop/fireman/soldier/person in uniform is a hero. Some of them are scoundrels. But saying it only makes people think I'm a cop-hating lawbreaker who needs to be watched by the cops.

It would be enjoyable to leave a comment on a post that insists on rigid lockstep thinking when it comes to gay marriage. You know, something along the lines of okay, you think you're on the side of history and if someone disagrees with you they're bad, they're evil, they can only speak if they're properly muzzled. Please get over yourself. And stop shouting at the people who think you're wrong. They don't deserve your hate. Save your hate for Hitler.

But why bother? The time for caring has slipped past. I'm only interested in surviving this ridiculous era. It will take a cataclysm to end it — some sort of shock to the grid that destroys the 'net and forces us to look inward, and up. Once that happens we can get serious again about recognizing the humanity in other humans, and understanding that they're more than a Facebook profile.

Until then: too late. The virtual battle lines between the warring factions are dug-in, deep. We are not interested in talking with each other, only talking past each other.

We are on a sure slide into madness, where dissenting thoughts and words are seen as weapons in the hands of our enemies, the people who disagree. The swift penalty is death by digital dismemberment. Anything less won't quench the thirst of the outraged. It's mob rule. Welcome to the mob.

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