Saturday, August 8, 2015

"We don't know each other well enough for you to try to control my speech."

That's a useful phrase to have.

Relationships are economies.   When I talk about economies, I'm referring to a back and forth of goods, services and emotional investments. Both parties are benefiting, both parties are active participants and -- most of all -- it's give and take. (For years I had a deal with the women I lived with. She cooks, I'll do the dishes. Together we got it done via this equal division of labor.) 

We do more for those inside our family/clan/tribe than for those outside. While we may do random acts of kindness and charity to strangers, mostly, we reserve our good deeds, empathy and concern for 'our own.' It's a very inside kind of thing.

Outside, there are certain social standards that allow strangers to -- if not get along -- get through their day and take care of business. These are kind of broad, general standards that do have some specific application -- like you behave differently in a church than you do in a restaurant than you do walking down the street. People are generally expected to understand these unwritten rules in order to get through the day.The point is, these behaviors are kind of standard and really shouldn't have to be explained to adults. As an added benefit, extra courtesies are gifts (e.g., holding the door for someone, giving an elderly or infirm person your seat on public transportation.)

That's a bigger picture to frame this concept. One of the largest differences between strangers and those inside our circle is how much we care about their feelings. This to the point that it influences our words and behaviors. (For example, you're more likely to call a fellow driver an asshole over a mild annoyance than your spouse.) Our concern, compassion and desire not to emotionally hurt someone is primarily directed to those we have relationships with. It's a big part of keeping that economy flourishing.

I want to talk to you about strangers who want to exploit the concern for feelings -- specifically by telling you what you can and can't say because it offends them. Or far worse, that  it 'might' offend someone

It's somewhat in order to control you, but mostly it's trying to get others to change without the investment of a relationship. But no matter how you cut it, it is totally selfish. I say mostly, because it's not exactly control. See, it's about reducing you to background -- meaningless, harmless, not-their-responsibility background. See actual controlling of someone requires work. Like it's a full time job. You gotta actively participate in a relationship with that person. (Granted, it's a one-sided power dynamic, but that's another topic.) When you're background, you're nothing more than a servant, if not a slave or more commonly, a non-entity. Even being a hated enemy is higher status than background. Because if you're background, you're just there for their comfort. How much obligation do you feel towards a chair?

Or to use another analogy, how much concern do you have for the feelings of a stray dog that comes onto your property and craps? I ask because this is often how strangers who are offended by your word choice behave. How dare you crap on THEIR property! 

Well except... Precious ... this ain't 'your property.'

Someone's word choice in a public forum or place are dictated by the environmental standards, not yours. Again, think of the rules of behavior in a church vs. in a strip club. Both places have very distinct rules -- but in neither place are they dictated by just one person. Way too often, these people try to make demands that are way above and beyond the general standards of the environment. There's a difference between someone saying "Don't drop f-bombs in the middle of church services" and someone telling you not to use an innocuous word because it offends them. 

(Although I do know this outlaw minister...).

Let me again stress, they don't necessarily want to control you -- that's too much work.  Nor are they interested in creating an economy -- that also is too much work A good chunk of it is about chasing away things that make them 'uncomfortable.' They want the negative stimuli to stop. And that's where things get kind of tricky...

I say that because this includes self-soothing by attacking others. (Negative reinforcement, their self-misery stops temporarily when they attack others). I always liked the rephrasing of "Misery no longer loves company, these days it demands it." Often such folks aren't just in self-generated pain, they insist on spreading it around. This upgrades you from meaningless background to elected whipping boy for the moment. After they get their nut, they're done with you and you go back to meaningless background status.

Kinda makes you feel cheap and used don't it?

The fact that they know "attacking people is wrong" is why they need to find some kind of rationalization or justification. They need an excuse to do what they want to do, but at the same time do something they know is wrong. And that is where being offended by your word choice (and what you're saying) comes in so handy. With complete and total self-righteousness they can say, "That term offends me." Or, if they want to bump up the credibility, they can claim the term is offensive to a particular group. Now, you've just offended a whole bunch of people

Or have you? As in "Wait a minute, fella ... are you claiming to speak for an entire group?" (Hell, even if it's a micro-group making up only 1% of the US population, did those 3,189,000 people all elect you as their spokesperson?) Pretentious much?

Although to be honest, hiding one's bad behavior under the guise of a greater cause and number (rather than your own little duck feelings) is a useful tactic given the exploitation I'll address in a bit. Ah why not? Let's do it now.

The reason I'm telling you all this is that the terminally offended are using both a natural tendency and the exploitation of a cultural norm against you.
Both the tendency and the cultural norm are, in and of themselves, good things. The tendency is the empathy, concern for feelings and willingness to change our behaviors for those we have economies with (our family, group, tribe).  The cultural norm is to be polite, non-aggressive and cooperative (within limits) with strangers inside your society. The exploitation is the conditioning that you have to be concerned what everyone else thinks of you (it's the basis of advertising and marketing). It's now not just the tribe, it's EVERYONE! That's another issue, but it's germane to this topic because -- using computer terms -- the Trojan tricks the user into installing the malware. The outraged person is relying on you buying into their pain and suffering caused by your words. The exploitation and conditioning we've endured about 'what other people think of you' makes us vulnerable to this approach -- from a stranger.

Understanding that, you can install protection against this malware attack by simply asking yourself "Do I have a relationship/economy with this person?"

Yes, you should adjust your conduct when it comes to people you have economies with. You do this in order to perpetuate the relationship. Be concerned with how your actions improve or decrease the feelings, quality of life and well being of those in your group. You do so because you (hopefully) have a healthy economy with them. As you give you receive. Also there's a good build up of credit for when times get difficult. Caring and compassion are wonderful to have in your life -- especially when they are two way streets.

No, you don't have to adjust your conduct when someone you don't have a relationship comes up and tries to bully you with political correctness or offense.

This especially, if you are behaving within the acceptable standard of the environment. Now you don't have to be particularly rude about not accepting delivery about (That is the other trap. If you do get rude, you have violated the standards of the environment.) That's why a simple, "We don't know each other well enough for you to try to control my speech" is usually enough.

It calls the ball on the fact that it is the other person who is being out of line without you crossing the line as well. That keeps the situation from deteriorating into Asshole #1 and Asshole #2.  If the person flips out, everyone in the room knows who the problem child is -- and it ain't you.

Oh and in closing, something to watch for in situations where you either want to or have to establish a relationship with said person. Consider such statements as early warning signals. As in Mr. Frog, y'all might want to check the water temperature with a thermometer instead of your perceptions of 'what's normal.'  A lot of times the same kind of people will take your acquiescence to such matters as the go ahead and start adding on more and more restrictions onto your behavior. This comes in the form of gradual indoctrination and increase in demands on how you MUST behave. Remember, healthy economies are two way streets. 


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