“Get the fuck out of my way!” you yell in your car. No one car hear you, so you blare on the horn, sometimes holding it down for an uncomfortably long time. You flip them off. If you’re lucky the person in the other car doesn’t care when you senselessly and irrational race past them yelling “Asshole!” No fights. No crowbar to the hood. No gunshots. If you’re lucky.
Does this at all sound familiar, at least in the degree of irritation if not so much in language? (And I apologize. I can only be myself.) We find ourselves distracted by rage more and more often, so many people, so little time, the world moving at such a rapid pace that human evolution seems to be losing touch. Technology seems to have replaced us. No wonder one of the most popular apocalypse theories is a robot revolution.
We all get annoyed with other people. If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t like most of them. This does not imply outright hatred of humanity necessarily (hatred requires far too much energy to maintain. If you disagree with that, when do you expect your heart attack?) But it certainly points to a problem in our scattered and faceless social world. Let’s continue our narrative:
“I’m sorry I’m late,” you grumble, distracted, ignoring the fact that your impatience on the road had much more to do with your having left fifteen minutes later than planned. “This asshole cut me off, and then he drove, like, twenty miles an hour,” you lie, convincing yourself that this is what actually happened. Rage can do this. “And I couldn’t get around him either because some other asshole was going even slower. Sorry.”
This is usually forgiven without a thought, unless the person waiting for you is yet another asshole to blame. I can see my mother, tapping her foot impatiently and growing increasingly annoyed with every minute that passes. My mother is a committed misanthrope, and this is the ideology I was raised under. And for all my (and everyone’s) rejection of our parent’s beliefs, inevitably the most foundational characteristics seep into your grow-up outlook. People worry about becoming their parents. They even have those silly commercials with someone turning into a literal cliche. But it is rarely so literal. Looking at my children, I can see that the negative behaviors of my wife and I are becoming far more prominent than our kind hearts, good nature and hard work ethic (then again, they are both teenagers, so we can’t be entirely to blame.)
I am a half-hearted misanthrope. I say ‘half-hearted’ because I have far too much interest in our diversity of behavior to completely write off the human race. Oh, sure, I might not care as much about important social issues as I probably should, which sometimes makes me seem cold, and unforgiving. But this does not mean that I wish the world away. I prefer to be a floating outsider–a fly on the wall who’s interactions with others is a selfish grab for insight. I am presently writing a biography about a person who’s life is remarkable, and this requires me to suppress myself entirely and give into the perspective of another. I believe I have been fortunate to have had these experiences of empathy–even for the worst people (this does not relate to the subject of my book). It will help to provide a sincere and true picture of who this person is.
I have certainly called enough people assholes, as I’m sure many of you have thought, if not actually vocalized regarding someone who offends you. In this online age of communication (faceless, as I said before) we have enabled ourselves to play characters, to exaggerate our attributes, and to judge humanity without any sort of filter. We can lie without any real consequence. And do not try to excuse yourself from this problem. Where are you RIGHT NOW?
The internet was designed as a way to get information–an endless library of facts–and to reach out to people all over the world. Inevitably sales took over, bankrupting a number of people, all the things we could ever desire suddenly at the push of a button. And this noble idea was quickly corrupted. It has become a doorway into the most perverse sorts of pornography–altering mankind’s perspective of sexuality as every fantasy is highlighted, shown, and promoted as a legitimate lifestyle. You can follow hate groups, facelessly join a community of monsters who want to blow up the world. The internet has taught us a deeper intolerance than we may ever have had–even in the days when terrible people bought and sold other humans on the open market. But this hatred has gone underground as social norms of acceptance have evolved. So many people sit around simmering with their prejudices, delighted over the opportunity the internet offers to express how little respect they have for the world.
The internet has detached us from the human community. People have forgotten how to talk to one another, the awkward silences increased. We can simply text it. We have a new language, in every language. Text language.
One of my favorite assignments that I gave to students one year was a poem. I did an enormous amount of writing prompts in my classes. I was a great writing instructor. Teaching literature? I was probably talking over most of the students’ heads. But this assignment, after receiving other papers filled with text phrases (OMG! STFU! TY. Some symbol replacing the words–a heart, a middle finger. A sad face.) I literally said in class one day “What the fuck is this shit?” to a student who’s paper was about a third of a page long, filled with this nonsense. I gave this assignment: “Write a twelve line poem, with a 1-4, 2-3 rhyme scheme, where the 1 and 4 rhyme with each other in every stanza. Write it exclusively in text language. The title will be TXT.” Arrogantly several of the students tore into this:
YOLO, We LEET
K . . .
It could never get farther. Even the rhyme scheme was off if, in fact, using the actual words gave it a slightly better rhythm. But it makes no sense. Meaningless crap. That was my point. Language matters, and the abbreviation of it will create a whole new Babel.
Since, as my initial premise states, we dislike most people, this has allowed us to be unconscionably cruel. Sometimes the hyper-sensitive, or children raised in this socially detached age, take whatever nastiness is slung at them so much to heart that they kill themselves. Sometimes the person who inspired this is lost in pride.
I realize that this commentary has devolved into a rant against the internet, my obvious hypocrisy on display. And I get that this opinion piece, supported by personal experiences, portrays a bleak vision of what we have all become, but what can I say? I’m an asshole too. How about you?