People are pretty cool in small numbers.
But put a bunch of them together and some of them will invariably start to act like jerks. In young people, this jerkage often manifests itself in one or more acts of exclusion. Sometimes it’s sitting apart from one designated outcast or another at lunch. Sometimes it’s the issuance of semi-secret invitations to “I Hate So and So” clubs designed to create an sense of inclusion for some at the expense of others. Sometimes what starts out as exclusion evolves into outright harassment or physical assault.
Some people just aren’t satisfied being a face in the crowd. They need to be special. And they will go to great measures to appear so. Sometimes these actions have tragic results. There is no debating that they cause unnecessary harm. All in the name of being different.
Who gives a crap about being different? And even if you do, acting like an asshole is a really stupid way to try be different. Assholes are the white sheep of the herd. They are a dime a dozen. It reminds me of a joke I heard at the Safari Room in Winston-Salem back in the seventies. Do you know why you see more white sheep than black sheep? Because there are more of ’em. In my inebriated state, I thought that was the funniest joke ever.
But it turns out it wasn’t. And neither is unkindness towards others.
This age old desire to be different manifests itself in various ways. Sometimes in positive ways, like hard work, good deeds, etc. Other times it manifests itself in hurtful ways. If you knock someone down, you have created a sense of separation. They are down, you are still up. It’s not as noble as separation via positive actions, but it’s also not as hard to accomplish. Obviously, we should denounce those who knock others down to create this false sense of separation, but shouldn’t we also denounce those who stand by and let it happen without taking a stand against it? These silent conspirators think they are benefitting from the system, but in reality they are pawns too.
There is an irresistible impulse for a crowd to rank itself based on one criteria or another. The allegedly powerful rank themselves near the top of the list. The truly powerful pick the criteria on which the list is based. It’s a messed up system where a few benefit at the expense of many.
People who let others be assholes are like those who wear sunglasses indoors. They either have vision problems or are assholes themselves.
And this problem isn’t limited to the school yard. The internet is full of new playgrounds.
The school yard bullies grow old, if not up, and some of them migrate to the various online applications, where the world wild web and perceived sense of anonymity further emboldens them by increasing the victim pool and making all the victims seem faceless. But they aren’t faceless, and those of us who witness this sort of behavior online and do nothing are just as culpable as those who stand idly by while it happens at recess.
I see this crap happening all over the internet, in one form or another. There are minor-jerks who work tirelessly to create some sort of caste system within the various online locales. There are those who want to create false measures of value and watch as others fight for a place in their self-serving hierarchy. There are medium-jerks who want to dominate the so-called social networks with their private conversations like actors in some theater of the ego. And there are major jerks who are simply rude and hateful to others. I have noted many examples of all of the foregoing, as has anyone who has spent significant time online.
And it’s wrong. And it should not be tolerated. I say we enact and communally enforce a no jerks, no assholes rule.
Who’s with me?