August 30, 2012

I Hope I Never Become a Cynic

There is sometimes a confusion or misunderstanding conflating skepticism with cynicism. While I'm a card-carrying skeptic (without a card), I am not and hope never to be a cynic. I don't know what joy there is to be had in cynicism, but I am regularly given generous helpings of it from a fair few twitterererers whom I do choose to follow.

In a way, there is a strange, social bonding to be had in cynicism. A coming-together through sneering, upturned noses, through a refusal to allow a smile or share the joy or potentially wonderful things, but instead to kick down sandcastles and revel in a strange nihilism. The twittersphere and neighbouring blogosphere a both packed with these folk and their jokery, knocking everything down a peg or three.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with jokes based in mockery or popping over inflated balloons. And there's nothing wrong with anger and scoffery, in general. But gosh, is there no joy to be had? And when you've knocked down crappy sandcastles, do you have any better ones to offer? Criticism is crucial, but being a grumpy old fart is not. There is something bothersome about people gathering to mock and laugh at things which may not be perfect, while those people don't even try to do what their mockees have done.

Boo to them. Rise up and take action. You don't like something? Make a better something. Or try and find something better. Jen McCreight saw something she was deeply dissatisfied with and crowdsourced something better. She wasn't sure if it would stick and she knew it would be difficult, but it's easier to stand on the edges and mock. It's harder to enter the ring and fight.

August 23, 2012

The Hardest Thing About Being a White Man... learning to shut the fuck up.

As a white guy from a rich nation, there's a lot of things I don't have to think about on a daily basis. I don't have to worry about getting catcalled on the street, bring groped or leered at, having my sex life judged or being profiled by my skin colour in job interviews or at security gates. I tend to get listened to quite a lot. Hopefully, people keep listening because I have something vaguely worth listening to, but I have no problem getting people to listen to me, because everyone wants to hear what the white guy has to say.

I've spoken before about recognising the weird subconscious part of me that tries to tell me that women don't know what they're talking about as much as men and there's a lot of societal brainwashing that goes along with that.

When shit happens, in politics, the internet or whatever, I often feel like I have something to say about it. I have thoughts. I has feelingses. You must listen to my thoughts because they are important and I'm totally adding to the discussion, you guys. And, as I said, being a white dude means that people tend to pay attention. But then, we all have thoughts and feelings on these hot button issues, so what makes me so important? Why should people listen to what I have to say?

When it comes to issues of sex, politics, race, religion, gender and a whole bunch of other important crap, I'm probably not the one to be listening to. There are a heckload of qualified, relevant people who can give a much more valuable insight than I ever can. Folk of colour, female folk, transfolk, disabled folk - a lot of people from a variety of marginalised groups. These guys don't get heard because everyone is listening to the white dude, who are so used to having an audience that they never shut up.

It's nice to be listened to. It's really nice. It's validating, affirming, confidence-boosting and generally gives you the fuzzy feelings. So it's hard to stay quiet. It's hard to sit back and let other people talk. But do you want the discussion to be as valuable as it can be, or do you just want to be listened to?