This is why I write…

Posted on September 27, 2012

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Well, not specifically this story, but generally this is the sort of thing that inspires me.

I’ve been away for a while.  Again.  I’m sorry; life happens; I try to not let it happen, and I’m still working at it; and that’s all I have to say about that.

But this post…  Wow.

I think about these things.  As a writer, a father, a Christian, a soldier and a publisher (my ideal career choice) — I find myself conflicted as these ideas, which define my life, interact in my mind, my work and my world.  They are me, and I am them.  There are times when I have to reconcile their differences internally.  This often manifests in my writing, or in how I talk to coworkers.  The biggest struggle, however, is with the rest of the world.

I believe in original sin.  I think a person should be rewarded based on their work and not the favoritism of others.  Other people believe different things about this world and the next, and that’s okay.  I have no problem with conflicting beliefs, but when someone tells me I can’t believe what I want, or that I’m a bad person for thinking that way, or when someone tries to force me to think differently…

All these thoughts are congealing into a morasse inside the soft tissue, and it’s starting to get clogged up.  Like a bathroom drain after a college party: Lord only knows what I’ve stuck down those pipes.  Well I’m not going to try and unclog it here.  I want to address only a few issues at one time.  The rest will have to wait.

The post I mentioned strikes me as a clear example of how fucked up this world is.  I highly suggest you read it first.  That way I won’t spoil anything.

Okay, so this guy has a blog, and like most bloggers he expresses his opinion about a variety of subjects.  And apparently he’s Jewish.  Sometime after joining Twitter, he’s assaulted by a troll.  The troll attacks him verbally for a long time, sending him messages through Twitter and Facebook, and other internet media services; eventually the situation escalates to delivering packages, making death threats and generally terrorizing Traynor’s family.  Traynor, with the help of an IT friend, tracks down the perpetrator and confronts him.

Turns out the troll was a son of a friend.

Far as I’m concerned, the kid is lucky.  Traynor is a better man than I, because I would have involved the police as soon as I knew who the guy was.  Or I would have had a gun or knife with me when I met him.  I suppose his tactic was just as effective; after all, he was dealing with a lifelong friend and family, so confronting the kid and getting him to realize his mistake and admit his guilt and all that…  But yeah, I would’ve brought a knife.  A really big knife.  You can play on a person’s emotions or sense of right and wrong in order to uphold good behavior; or you can scare the shit out of them.  I prefer the latter.

Which brings me to another point: this story reveals something about human nature.  Take away consequences and people become real assholes.  (While the State of Nature generally refers to human society before the formation of government, I see it as applicable to human nature absent any form of social restraint or moderation.)  Because at our core, we care only for ourselves.

But how else am I to understand the circumstances that led to these acts of terrorism?  How can a 14-year old be so stupid as to never think, “Hey, maybe these things are hurtful or scary?”  …  Okay, I know, teenagers are stupid.  But the kid did this for three years!  How?  Why?  Bad parenting?  I mean, I’m the first to stand up and accuse parents of not paying enough attention to their kids, and that was probably part of the situation.  The kid’s father should have noticed that something was wrong when he saw his son spending all his time online or with social media.  But maybe there weren’t other signs; maybe the kid had a normal life outside the internet.  Maybe there was no indication that he was sending homicidal messages to a Jew and his family.  I’m not defending the parents, I’m just saying that there isn’t enough information in this story to know what really happened, to know what compelled a teenager to engage in a three-year terror scheme.

And now I’ve argued against myself.  How can I claim that human beings are selfish and corrupt and evil if i acknowledge that my example lacks information that could lead to that conclusion?  Well, because I’ve experienced this sort of awful behavior.  Visit any chat room online, and you’ll find people who don’t know how to behave.  Look at any forum and you’ll see posts that are just plain mean or spiteful.  The majority of these have no justification.  What good does it do to lambast someone on the My Little Pony forums (yes, it’s a real thing)?  What purpose does this serve?  Are these people really this awful in person?

No, they aren’t.  The kid in Traynor’s story didn’t act like a bastard in person.  When other people are present, we tend to behave ourselves.  When social norms and constraints exist, we repress our baser urges.  Take all that away and you get to see the real horror that is humanity.

So this is why I write.  I mean, there’s a creative side to what I do.  I want to tell stories.  I want to make games.  But I’m driven to speak up when I see how terrible and horrible people are.  And not everyone agrees with me, but that’s fine.  If you don’t like what I have to say, either voice your opinion and we can argue about it, or walk away.  I’m still going to write what I think.  I’m going to put my ideas out there for the world to see.  I just hope that we can be civil enough about our differences, and not resort to tactics like in Traynor’s experience.

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