Sometimes I get complacent being content with things and at peace with people in general. That’s when I always seem to get it right between the eyes. What is it that hits me? It’s people being, well, people. I am quite familiar with, dare I even say an expert on, human nature. Most people care. They really do, and many of them say so constantly how much they care. What 99.9% of everyone leaves out is that they mostly care about themselves, about how they feel, about how good they’re doing, about how they look and how other people see them. This is generally what drives most people, regardless of their protestations to the contrary. And the more they protest, the more you kind of know they’re not being honest. Those who simply carry on with their business and say nothing in response are the ones you got wrong. Anyway… it hit me today.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I used to be quite free-wheeling, rarely ever angered, and extremely flexible. It was college and those I fell in with while there that began changing that. Also as mentioned before, the years of marriage to my ex-wife and the social and creative suffocation that ensued did most of those characteristics in. It was a long, hard, unhappy road. It’s the oblivion out of which I’m meandering. All that said, stuff that people keep doing is really hitting me lately. In particular, it’s the overuse of the quote:
I may disagree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
I call bullshit.
I do not know anyone — and I do mean anyone — who shows the slightest inclination in word or deed for that to be the case, not even remotely. (Okay. Maybe the Dali Lama, but that’s really it.) All I read in blogs, hear on the radio, see on television and movies, read in the newspaper and magazines is how one side of practically anything openly and desperately wishes to shut the other side(s) up. There’s no desire for the much-ballyhooed “serious, reasoned debate” or discussion. Yeah, they’ll talk a bit, but it invariably degrades to accusations of the other side(s) being inflexible, unwilling to compromise, intractable, descending into demagogy, and so forth. And all the while each side claims to high ground. So yeah, I call bullshit.
I’m bothered because it’s not just strangers, nameless faces or voices from afar that are doing this crap. It’s friends. It’s long-time friends. For all their claims to independence in thinking and all — and all their claims of cherishing freedom of speech, thought, and happiness — as soon as someone disagrees with them, and especially if that disagreement is open, then they do precisely what they deride and deplore that other people do. They dismiss. If that doesn’t work, they deride. If that doesn’t work, they demonize. All the while they claim the high ground, that they’re doing what’s “right” against “evil” or “stupid” people. And they get very, very touchy about it when questioned. They express outrage, as if that is somehow to get them off the hook for behaving in ways they themselves proclaim duplicitous in others.
It’s saddening, and it’s bullshit.