Most of us Americans have the luxury of thinking about philosophy, culture, and morality because we have full stomachs and a roof over our head. If you’re on a phone or a computer right now, you are one of the lucky ones. With this new chapter in human history, we get to flip the script on how we treat humans.
I’ve noticed internet comment sections go red with rage because of simple disagreements. I have watched as people repeatedly defend their own long-ago learned opinions about the world to the point of knee-jerk insulting those that challenge them. It seems that we are lacking compassion and the ability to learn.
I imagine a world where every space is safe and welcoming and considerate. I imagine a world in which we take responsibility for our feelings and our perspectives and are able to communicate from a point of trying to understand one another rather than trying to prove one another wrong.
I bring that imagining to life every single day. Even on the internet, where it might seem less important (but totally is not).
Recently, I was going down a social media time-hop rabbit hole (thanks facebook) and had a wave of emotion. I didn’t delete the posts and comments from forever ago. I made some of them private and saved screenshots. I keep lots of screenshots in case I ever have to go to court. Now, with the Louie CK reveal, I feel like I did the right thing.
When I first started comedy, a comic made a graphic masturbation joke about another woman on the show.
I called him out and was shocked that she didn’t defend herself (in fact, she admitted that she thought it was funny and that it was okay for men to talk about her like that on stage because women in comedy should be able to take a joke (cries)) and a slew of older, middle-of-the-road comedians hit me with different variations of “that’s the way the world works” and “that’s how the scene is if you want to be a comedian”.
There was this stink of, “This is the price you pay to be a part of this scene. Suck it up.”
You mean, the scene that excuses your shitty jokes and celebrates your mediocrity and inappropriateness is the very same scene that can’t be changed no matter what we try? Really? There’s nothing you can do to change it? Nothing? Not even admit that it benefits you? And maybe that affects your judgement around it?
I was a month and a half in and knew that was bullshit. It has nothing to do with comedy. It’s about human beings. They had an image of the “comedy scene” that I didn’t yet have. They insisted that jokes like these were just jokes and comics can say whatever they want. “Hey, the crowd’s laughter is how I can tell if it isn’t good.”
I’ve seen a similar rigidity around compassion and common decency in political discussions on the internet. The previous example has to do with not being professional or respectful to people you share a stage (job) with in addition to being a super sexist creep. With politics, there’s a grander assumption that human behavior is so influenced by a system already in place that poor human behaviour gets to be excused.
“That’s how the world works. You work hard, make money, make more money, step on people to get to the top. You earn your wealth and it belongs to you and your family and then you get to influence the political system in your favor for generations to come. That’s how you win and that’s how the game is played and I’m winning right now so, no, we can’t change the rules. That’s not allowed.”
I know you heard a trusted adult tell you that your entire childhood, but they were hurt and now so are you and I’m so so sorry that happened. We all share a common ancestor. The bloody men that had to literally fight and kill to survive and the filthy, shaking women that had to hide to stay protected. We are no longer those people.
We are wielding technology and connection.
We get to spread this luxury to people all over the world.
So for now, make the choice to do the nice thing. Even if that’s not how the world works. Even if that’s not what you were taught. Even if it feels like a contradiction. Even if it might change the world to include others in the joy of being alive. Even if you have guilt around your old self. Even if you’re mad at the media, parents, and institutions that gave you false information before you knew how wonderful you are capable of being.
The world is us. The way we work is the way it works.