Tag: nerdfighters

Seriously, DFTBA

Courtesy Nerdfighteria

I am not composed of cells and tissue. I am composed entirely of awesome.

So are you, provided you haven’t forgotten that fact.

It’s an easy thing to forget, really. We live in a sad, fettered world that’s all about the gains and advantages, the one-upmanship and quick victories, the lionization of the false self-image at the expense of demonizing the other, among other poison of the patriarchy, and all of the other things that makes people like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin into ‘world leaders’. And when that world is coming at you in all sorts of forms, from the latest round of bad news from across the globe to someone close to you buying into nonsensical gossip that completely ignores facts, suddenly, we forget to be awesome.

Our viewpoints get skewed away from making the world around us better, and towards more self-centered goals.

When I see it happening, I tend to get angry. Because we are capable of being so much better than that.

I take a lot of stress on myself in trying to understand the positions others are in when they say or do certain things. This is especially true if I have some personal knowledge of or experience with a given person. “So-and-so has said and done X in the past; why are they acting in this contrary way now?” The answer is never simple; you can’t cut a complex individual with Occam’s Razor. First of all, cutting people in general is cruel and downright rude (unless there’s some sort of consensual act occurring, in which case, please have some antiseptic handy, and check in with your partner often). Moreover, if we want to be imagined complexly, and not merely reduced to a caricature of our inborn traits or the perception of our rumored outward showings, we must imagine others complexly as well.

That’s been my philosophy for a long time. And in spite of everything that’s happened to me, I refuse to change it.

One thing I’ve really struggled to integrate into that philosophy is the cold fact that not everyone will appreciate my efforts, or even acknowledge them. Because this thing I do where I treat others the way I want to be treated means I don’t always assert myself or leave room for myself to be myself. That tends to give others the implicit permission to treat me in a reductive fashion — to take advantage of me, use me, in some cases abuse me, and in others, discard me like a broken thing that no longer serves a particular purpose.

You see, being reductive is easy. It requires less thought, less time, and less consideration of others. A particular person may be more interested in furthering a personal agenda; they might distance themselves from a perceived threat, be it a threat of person — “this is someone who could hurt me” — or a threat of position, i.e. “this person could make me look/feel foolish/ineffectual”. They might even get triggered by the hint of past trauma, or are too indoctrinated into a particular zeitgeist. In all of these cases, reductive perception is the quick way to resolve a situation. You get to keep your place in the groupthink, you have an easily influenced bunch of cohorts at your beck and call, and you can paint your perceived enemies with the same, broad brush. Simple! Easy!

I may be hard-wired to make things harder than they have to be for myself (more on that later), but I will be damned if I take the easy way out in this regard.

Come to think of it, I already have been, if you ask some folks.

They’re not bad people, though. They’re not evil villains out to destroy people like me.

They’ve just forgotten to be awesome.

Being awesome isn’t about winning. It isn’t about getting what or who you want. It isn’t about always getting your way. Your victories do not make you awesome. Your friends do not make you awesome. Your game collection, your bank account, your liquor cabinet, your list of potential booty calls, your Instagram — none of that, in and of itself, makes you awesome.

You know what makes you awesome?

Asking hard questions to get the facts. Making hard choices to make the world suck less for a stranger. Standing up for people who aren’t able to do so. Getting out of your own way enough to make room for others who are getting held back. Seeing something inside of yourself that needs to change, and no matter what, changing it. Doing things for yourself that are positive, happy, progressive, and constructive, of your own volition, with your own permission, that do not hurt others, and that stoke your own fires. Occupying the space you occupy without being afraid that you don’t deserve to occupy it. Being yourself and owning what that means, even if it means you’re going to make mistakes, because like it or else, you’re merely a human being.

But doing that stuff I just rattled off means you are the most awesome human being you can possibly be.

Try not to forget to do that today.

And if you do, that’s okay. Don’t forget the next day. And the next day. And the day after that.

The world needs you to be awesome.

So be the awesome you want to see in the world.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

Holding Together

The challenges that we as independent thinkers and non-normative humans are facing are going to be increasing in pervasiveness and difficulty as the next few years unfold. We’ve already had to work hard to maintain that this new status quo that most people are settling into is not normal, nor will it ever be. We’ve voiced our stance of standing up for those who are, now more than ever, targets of an emboldened, vocal, and violent minority. We’ve resolved to hold together.

I want to add to all of that — with which I agree completely and will shout from mountaintops as I light every beacon I can find — a warning. The big thing fueling the new boldness of the willfully ignorant and gleefully hateful is utter and thoughtless submission to groupthink. While we as individuals draw a lot of strength from solidarity, and should never be expected to handle challenges like this on our own, the trick is to not fall into the sort of non-thought that makes people jump to conclusions, ignore facts, and pour more fuel and add more weaponry to any number of bandwagons. We must never lose our grip on individual thought, never stop questioning sources, never stop investigating accusations with care and thorough consideration for all, even the accused. After all, at least on some level, the accused are human beings, too.

I use the turn of phrase “imagine each other complexly” on a pretty regular basis. I picked it up from John Green and the greater community called ‘the Nerdfighters’. While personal experiences have soured me against greater participation in medium or large groups, as I said above, sometimes we must fall back into communities that can and wish to support us. The problems arise when elements of those communities cease fostering the independent thought of its constituents, and instead issue clarion calls that demand affirmation while denying or even expelling counter-arguments. I’ve seen people raise contrary points of view to sweeping statements that have little basis in facts only to be silenced, ridiculed, and even accused of themselves being coerced, blinded, or ‘traitorous’. That is not imagining each other complexly. That’s groupthink. That’s toxicity.

When we imagine each other complexly, we take into consideration our backgrounds, our experiences, our points of view, our motivations. While intent does not free one from the consequences of action, the source of our motivations can be revealed as ultimately faulty, due to one of those factors. If we can come to terms with such things, we can work to correct our mistakes, seek reconciliation from those affected, foster better communication within our communities and, as a result, become even stronger and more positive. When instead we make grandiose declarations that seek to divide, expel, and generally cast community members as ‘other’, we reduce the authenticity of said community. It becomes less a gathering of like minds and, for those employing these divisive tactics, tools for personal advancement.

To hold together is to avoid this at all costs. To hold together is to challenge those who’d fall into such patterns of behavior. To hold together is to foster one another as individuals, to imagine each other complexly, to practice and share love, a dedication to facts and forgiveness, and the ultimately mutually beneficial goal of holding space for those who can make our communities better, stronger, and more resilient.

Make no mistake. The groupthinkers, the willfully ignorant, the knee-jerk reactionaries, the insidious demagogues and oligarchs on scales large and small — they will not do this. They will place themselves in the way of progress. They will seek to silence all dissent, rally supporters with incendiary invective, prey on fear and foster negative influences that deny the facts. They will shun more complex and comprehensive responses, and expect you to do the same. They will pat you on the back when you succumb to anger and trauma, and foster that into feelings of hate and personal admonition. They will weaken you to make themselves stronger. They will divide and destroy. And they will laugh and celebrate their victories the entire way.

Personally, I do not know how or why this has become the baseline for discourse in the past year. I’ve seen it in so many aspects, from small communities that I thought were above it to the larger political machine of the United States. And while I want to find the root causes, understand the motivations and goals of those who seek to rob us of our freedom, I know that, in the end, those are not the people who think I matter, who care about me (if they ever really did), who’d hold space for me and imagine me complexly.

We must fight this sort of toxicity. We must foster healthier discourse between us as individuals. We must imagine each other complexly, stand in solidarity against ignorance and hatred, and lovingly but firmly demand of one another the denial of groupthink and the exaltation of each individual being an individual and still making whatever community we choose to support better, stronger, and more exemplary of the best that this species has to offer.

We must hold together.

Wednesdays I wonder at the world in which we live.

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