I realize the way I survived was not the way other people would have done it. I realize I have made some decisions that other people would not have made. I realize that my life has not been conventional, and is open to considerable picking of the seams and examining of motive, and to be frank, on all counts, I don’t give a damn.
The world would be a better place, and a more comfortable one to boot if people abided by the simple memeable maxim, ‘you do you’, and left others, as long as they are not committing some grand felony, or impinging hugely on another innocent person’s rights to do the same. I could not give a shit about others choices and preferences. My judgement certainly is not needed on any account. Sure, I might raise an eyebrow now and again, but my eyebrow keeps it’s business to itself.
I suppose this is not a natural state of affairs, Dylan once declared ‘to live outside the law you must be honest, you always say that you agree’ and of course, Dylan, as usual, speaks the Truth, but this is not the entirety of the matter. To live a life that insists on being difficult, not only requires a certain honesty, but also integrity. Lessons get learnt fast about minding your own business, about being low profile, even if it grinds yer gears and makes smoke come outta yer ears. Perhaps I am not nondescript, but ultimately self preserving and therefore I see, hear and speak no evil. I might write a little now and again, but hey, a girl has got to have some vices.
When life gets unconventional, and mine got unconventional pretty quick out of the gate of life, I had two choices: get weird with it, or else go under and agree to be a victim. I might be hurt, but I am not completely broken. For others it might not be the same way; but for me that was my choice and a choice that was open to me. I am a stubborn bitch, and I simply refused to be dismantled.
As a child I used to love those little toys, I think they were called Weebles. You could make ’em take a wobble, but you could not keep a Weeble down. I think it is entirely possible I modeled myself after those little buggers. It used to be possible to pick myself up and simply carry on, a little dusty, a little bruised, but able to regroup and continue. Nowadays it is an entirely different proposition, and forgive me for sounding like an old person, but I blame social media.
Social media is one of these ills of the world that is a necessary evil. Once that universal internet genie was out of Pandora’s box, it was not going to go back in. Ties get made in vast numbers, and with people you have no opportunity to vet or size up. How can you clock someone that sees something you post on social media, or that someone else posts about you, and then decides to interact with that information? I have a limited social media presence. I only do twitter, and only for the purposes of promoting my writing, and getting new paid gigs. Of course it is inevitable that a few other ties are made. There are a few people on there that I clicked with, and that I like immensely, and know I would probably adore in person. Yet, I am not a person who makes ties easily. I don’t have many friends, and even fewer people that I talk to even vaguely openly. To be open is to be vulnerable and in my situation I can’t afford to be vulnerable.
While social media provides so many opportunities, it also brings in the virtual coliseum crowd. The virtual piranha attack en masse, taking down anyone who doesn’t think like they do. There are certain prescribed thoughts, philosophical positions, actions, looks and intentions that are non negotiable. These are not illegal or damaging things to others, yet are treated as if they are absolute. Any straying from the herd-view is not tolerated. These piranhas will cancel somebody with no regrets or afterthoughts, chewing up their professional and social lives and spitting out the bones for public humiliation and ridicule, and I detest them.
I suppose it is not surprising for someone like me, who is relatively devoid of conventional virtue, not to like virtue signalling, but I cannot stand phonies. Long strings of emojis signal various modern virtues, even if the owner has no affiliation in reality. What they are is armor against cancelling and desperate begging to be liked and likeable. Someone might be straight, but that rainbow, various gender flags and ‘ally’ shit is right at the front of their twitter handle. They might have previously never had any dealings with the Ukraine, but they are flying that blue and yellow. I do not judge others by the emojis in their name, but by the content of their tweets, and to be frank, a lot of the time, the two don’t wholly mesh. I won’t mention any names. But I have seen some woman-hating shit come out of some woke twitterers, and men who dismiss lesbians as existing, wondering what they can do to ‘compete’ with other women for women’s affections, yet they fly that rainbow flag. Ok. I might judge now and again. Don’t shoot me. I am only human.
Because of this culture of fear, fuelled by potential ‘cancelling’ (incidentally a phrase that I had only previously heard used in thrillers with regard to other human beings, and generally then meaning that Tom Cruise or Matt Damon is about to act out shooting someone in the head) and the ravening hoards that descend upon ‘unpopular opinions’, trying to force a lot of square pegs into round holes.
The world has been brought to heel. No one dares to have an honest opinion any more for fear of some pissant offense being taken, and their lives being torn apart. Being within the herd is safety. Being thrown out of it is danger. I often feel like a puppy who has just watched another puppy having his nose rubbed in shit by an unkind owner, and now sits trembling waiting for my turn. I guess I had better not soil the carpet unless I want the same lesson taught to me.
This is putting society under way too much stress. Because people are afraid to let it all hang out, to let their freak flag fly, to do ‘them’; they are being put under vast amounts of depressing and fearful stress. We are living in a world where unpopular opinions can lead to ruin and destitution. Nowadays you not only ‘don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows’, (Dylan again…), but you had better not fly against that wind, or else. And we all know what the ‘or else’ is.
Before social media all we had was the stress of being popular to the people we chose to have around us, and those we could not help interacting with, face to face. Bullying was far more immediate and physical. It is possible to avoid and run away from physical threat, at least to some degree, but in this modern world, especially post covid, no social media presence is akin to social suicide. Most people are not built to be alone.
As a society we are being whipped into not taking risks, not exploring ideas, not debating or discussing. We are at the mercy of how the majority defines morality. This is stunting art, capping culture, stopping people talking about how to make things better, and facing problems in society head on and tackling them. We are being reduced to the beliefs and positions of the cud chewing herd, and I fail to see how this is doing anything but harm. Social rejection used to be momentarily painful, now it is a worldwide court of our peers, that decides whether the individual is worthy of being allowed a life or career. It is a vast shaming of being different and thinking outside of the box. To be frank, it is making me feel somewhat adversarial.
I never used to be the kind of person that hated humanity in general. Despite everything I am and remain a social creature. I like company. I love human-kind in all its infinite variety. This no-debate culture has made me fear that I actually detest humanity. This insistence on herd-correctness has this ‘go your own way’ kinda weirdo feeling chastised and reduced. When I write, I write with the thought in the back of my head that if I don’t stay ‘on message’ and ‘correct’ I am going to get my ass cancelled and I cannot afford for that to happen.
Those souls who are naturally herd dwellers, who lack the sheer force of personality and dyed in the wool stubbornness the freaks and weirdos have, are easily carried along on a wave of well….not wanting to make waves. Even Yale Law School is refusing to allow debate. It is one thing not to agree with the conservative views presented to them, it is another not to allow them. The law is meant to be impartial, to see all sides, not not put personal views in front of the truth; however it would appear that all this has gone up in smoke, and the Law is no longer blindfolded.
Opposing views are shouted down, instead of defeated in debate with reason and fact, and this, my friends, does not bode well for the future. My personal views on the entire gay cake baking debacle do not align with the baker, but that does not mean I am unwilling to allow dissenting views or debate. If I was in the law game, which thankfully I am not, I would say to entertain the opposing view would be an essential of the job. Not nowadays it isn’t. That really does not fill me with confidence that the future is going to be just and impartial. We appear to have fallen into a strict dystopia in which we either agree with the prevailing views, or else get dragged under and chewed up by the Social Media Machine.
When I read that Maus was going to be banned I immediately went and found a copy, and read it with my son. It opened up discourse about the dangers of a society that turns in on itself and it’s hate out on those it others. It is anti-fascist, anti-nazi, and bold about it. The tales from holocaust survivors should be read, not banned. Banning books! That really does not sound like a good thing, surely, not even to the sheep-like masses who go along for the ride out of fear and lack of imagination.
I sometimes wonder, if those sheep turned, if they got brave and said to hell with it, and said just one true and honest thing a day on social media, if their bared their inner feelings, if they let that cork out of the bottle of their feelings and released all that pressure to be ‘correct’, quite what would happen? Would society collapse under the weight of the infinite variety of the human condition? Would we have debate and discourse and let some of the poison out of society, before it festers in the dark and turns into something dangerous? Would we make the world better? Would the artists flourish and the writers heave great sighs of relief?
I have always been ‘me’. I don’t much care to be told by social media that I prefer the wrong kind of jeans. Social media don’t care about the individual, only the masses. It is a one size fits all deal. Being a short pear shaped woman I do not suit pants with wide flappy legs. It makes me look short and stocky, instead of someone with ass and thighs and a smaller waist. I will never forgo my skinny 501s, not in this lifetime. Yet I am told I should not be wearing them. We don’t only have to contend with magazines and television promoting a certain look and style, we have to cope with the tentacles of social media telling us what to think, how to act, how to dress, how to paint our faces, even who we should fuck and how and why. It is doing me no good. It is doing world society no good either.
I am going to keep on being me. I am perfectly aware that others would have dealt with the situation I find myself in more ‘virtuously’ than I have. I am aware that some people have an intense need to justify themselves and their decisions, and to do that, they feel they must denigrate others who handled a similar (at least on the face of it) situation differently. I also have no desire to have these people in my thought space. I did what I did, how I did it. I am alive. I have my son.
I didn’t win wholly, but in my particular individual situation, I did the best I could at the time, and did what I believed to be best for everyone involved. As far as I am concerned my actions were the right ones for me and my family, and seriously anyone that has anything to say about that can go fuck themselves with an ultra spikey pineapple. These choices were life preserving, and sanity preserving, and you know what, they bought me time with my child, and my child not having to live in a reality where his father killed his mother, or beat her until she was brain damaged, and I am good with that. The piranha are out in force, and I think that the heart of the matter is this intense need for social appreciation.
Some people, a lot of people, I would chance to say, on a deep and fundamental level need the herd to judge them ‘perfectly perfect in every way.’ I ain’t no Mary Poppins, and I don’t judge those who are not either. In fact Julie Andrews makes me kinda sick. I don’t trust anyone who claims to be perfect, and wholly correct and in the right and insists others act just like they do. People are not meant to be clones, not meant to be mirrors and shadows of each other and their feelings. We are a group of individuals, and our uniqueness is what makes each of us special, not an ability to please the herd and be deemed suitable to continue running with it.
I say, ‘you do you’….. and I’ll ‘do me’, and if anyone really wants to fight about it, I might have just about had enough and be at the point where I am willing to let that raised eyebrow do the talking, and I should not have to worry about getting writing gigs, or staying in my house, or staying with my kid if I speak my mind freely, and neither should you….