To say that this has been a pretty messed up year is an understatement on par with calling Amanda Bynes "quirky." We've had enough legal and political clusterfucks in the last six months to modernize Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" and add in an obligatory rap break. Social media sites have been spiraling insanity on a galactic level ... well, more than they usually are, and not even Han Solo could navigate their emotional asteroid fields.
Let's get this straight right off the bat: No one short of a full-fledged superhero can make sense of the things we've seen in the last couple of months. There's simply too much information to absorb, and that shit takes time to organize. You cannot boil down the complexities of the Zimmerman case, the Texas filibuster, Snowden, the Boston Marathon bombing, or any of the other crazy shit we have going on into a 140-character tweet. It's frustrating, I know. But it's times like these that we could use some basic reminders to help hold our sanity together. Because it's way too easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and forget that ...
#5. Anger Is Not Evil
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Fuck Yoda. Anger is a natural human emotion, and trying to suppress it is flat-out dangerous. As wise as that little green bastard was, Luke ended up out-wising him in the end and made him his wisdom bitch. How? Well, remember how they always talked about bringing "balance to the Force"? People who only look on the surface would say that he brought about that balance by destroying the Emperor -- but that isn't true. He brought balance by accepting his anger in that final fight with his father, using its strength to defeat him, but not getting consumed by it in the process. He accepted both sides of the Force as natural, and used them both for the betterment of man.
In the wakes of the many soul-crushing tragedies we've seen in the last few months, people have felt that anger, and there has been no shortage of expressing it. Where it starts to become a problem is when we slide out of that middle ground and allow it to control our actions. Exploding on innocent people who were just trying to talk. Picking fights where there were none, because our brains are screaming at us to vent that shit out. Attacking people just because their light sabers glow a different color than our own.
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"Get that blue shit out of here, Mom!"
On the other side, I've seen people jump into conversations and debates they weren't even a part of to tell others that they have no right to be angry. "Did you even know Trayvon Martin? How can you be angry when you haven't even met him?! You aren't even black -- how can you be outraged about this?!"
If we're going to grow and evolve as a people, we can't let that happen. We can't be the Emperor, no matter how cool lightning fingers are. You do that shit long enough, and someone is going to chuck your ass down a sprawling hole in your battle station. And I know how much we all want to be Darth Vader, but he learned too late that the anger was his downfall. No, we have to be Luke, using controlled anger as a tool to save lives. It's not easy. If it were, he wouldn't have had to clean swamp mud out of his crack to learn it.
"A Jedi's crack ... clean it must be."
And holy monkey fuck, we can't be stupid enough to think that we have the right to demand that other people change their emotions. To think that there's some standard, appropriate way to feel when a tragedy strikes. This is stuff that we learned in our very first year of school. People handle situations differently, and as long as the way they're handling it isn't hurting others, there's nothing wrong with it. Be as angry as you need to be so that you can get back to being happy as fast as humanly possible. And if you decide to shoot lightning out of your body, at least shoot it out of your ass so you can get an awesome YouTube video out of it.
#4. People Can Care About More Than One Thing at a Time
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After the Zimmerman ruling, one of the craziest things I've seen consistently repeated online has been "How can you people suddenly be all up in arms about this when there are so many deaths happening in Chicago right now?! Do you even care that people die by the dozens in Syria every day?!" I understand where these people are coming from, and I've done this myself more times than I care to admit. But there are a few things wrong with it.
First, we tend to look at the Internet as a singular entity. One of my favorite sites is Wrestle Zone, where they give non-storyline news on wrestling. Because I am a secure man who freely admits to being a fan of oily guys in Speedos violently squeezing each other. If you open enough articles, you'll eventually see a common exchange in the comments where people go off on each other, saying things like "Yeah, you assholes hated Cody Rhodes before, but now you all love him. You're such sheep." They've taken the collective feedback of certain fans and applied it to the Internet as a whole. So when they start to see a differing opinion emerging, they don't recognize it as new fans speaking up -- to them, it's the Internet changing its mind.
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"If you want to see Stone Cold whip this sumbitch's ass, gimme a 'hell yeah'!"
Second, it's insane to think that because someone is talking about one subject, they are incapable of recognizing another. Or that in order to be fair and respectful to one tragedy, you must also bring up and discuss every other tragedy, right there in that particular conversation. Humans are highly complex beings with a biological computer locked into their skull that is capable of functions no computer on Earth can match. We are more than capable of processing multiple scenarios at once. Hell, most people have at least three porn windows open at any given moment.
What these people are really saying is "I'm sick of hearing about this subject. Let's talk about the one that weighs more on my moral scales." We have to remember that comparing one tragedy to another in order to make one of them look more important undermines and disrespects the very meaning of the term. It changes how we perceive them by setting up measuring sticks and saying, "Don't feel as strongly about the loss of this one life, because over here, 15 people have died. Therefore, you should feel 15 times more passionately about this other issue."
Care Rating: 2.7.
I don't care if I have to repeat this a thousand times, because it's important: It is fucking hard. It's hard to not fall into that trap of comparing and measuring. It's a complexity that many, many people will never grasp if they live to be 100. Please try your hardest to not be that person, because the more we itemize and categorize tragedies, the more desensitized we become to them.
#3. Everyone Wants to Be Heard -- No One Wants to Listen
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There is one super harsh lesson that every person on the planet eventually has to face -- well, maybe not so much with celebrities -- and that is: No one gives a fuck what you think. Now before you get all up in arms over that statement, understand that it doesn't mean your opinion isn't valid or correct. And it isn't all-inclusive. The people closest to you most likely do care and will go to great lengths to discuss important issues with you. If the word "cockmaster" is important enough to you to tattoo across your neck, I'm sure your mother would step in and show her concern. But when we're talking about something as huge as the Texas abortion law filibuster, the entire 'net erupts into nonstop debate, and most of those interactions are with total strangers.
Strangers who couldn't give less of a fuck what you think.
"Sorry, I'm having a hard time hearing your argument over the sound of go fuck yourself."
So why take part in a debate at all? Well, the truth is, some people just need to vent. Some like the confrontation. Others treat it like a game, and they're trying to "win" the discussion. Others just like to troll. But most of them, in my experience, just want to be heard. They aren't there to learn anything. They aren't there to exchange ideas and find out why other people believe different things. They have built a pretty solid opinion on a subject, and they have a basic human need to express that.
The problem is that the ones who are actually looking for answers tend to be the quietest of the group. They read and digest safely from the shadows like a ... learn-ninja. If they have a question, it's asked, and then they tend to disappear from the discussion, lurking and absorbing information as it's made available. So what we end up seeing the most of are the loudest, most interactive extremes, shouting their points from the mountaintops, kicking off all who dare to claim their position.
"Well, that's a big enough pile of bodies that I think I could just jump down and use them to break my fall."
Precious few of these people have any more knowledge on the subject than any other average person. But that doesn't matter to them, because the most important part of the discussion isn't the debate -- it's knowing that people are hearing their insight. They want to be viewed as unique and intelligent, which is why so many Twitter and Facebook posts on a touchy, hot subject start out with "What nobody understands is ..." Because that rush of "Holy shit, you're right -- I never thought of it that way" feels fantastic.
No, not every person in every debate is like this. But high profile cases like the ones mentioned above tend to draw them because everyone is talking about it. People whose only other debate experience is whether or not Han should have shot first are suddenly debating. Just because a large majority of them are only there to be heard doesn't mean you have to stay out of the discussion, but knowing this fact going in will save you a lot of headaches and your computer monitor a whole lot of knuckle dents.
"Honey, come in here and hold my laptop so I can spin-kick it in half."
And for that reason ...