We haven’t spoken for years, probably not since college. Easily a decade. We were not particularly close, just in each others social circle. And now, of course, we are friends on Facebook.
I’m sure that, at most, I am a minor figure within your mental life. A blip on Facebook, just as you are to me. I’m sure you’ve seen my various status updates, the occasional rant or blog post. Or maybe not, you may have a lot more friends than I, so my thoughts are rarely noticed by you as you peruse the Internet Agora.
But I’ve been noticing your posts. More and more. They unsettle and confuse me. They make me realize how little I knew you in the past, and how little understanding I have of the person you are in the present. I am left with small crumbs of data – trying to extrapolate the person that writes the things that you do.
The person that I knew did not speak with such surety, such bone-certainty, such pure and righteous fervor. Did you believe these things when I first knew you? Are they beliefs that you have discovered as you have aged?
I have a belief of my own. A credo of sorts.
Do not argue with people, unless you have something to gain from it.
People with passionate beliefs are not going to abandon them due to a well-turned phrase or a cunning allusion. I can bring every drop of eloquence, and emotion, and craft that I possess; and at the end of the argument nothing has changed. I believe as I do, and you believe as you do. Most arguments – online most prominently – are simply exercises in each party shouting their beliefs louder and louder until everyone walks away in disgust. Points are tallied, victories are claimed, and nothing has changed. I believe as I do, and you believe as you do.
Since there is nothing to gain, there is no purpose in engaging in an argument.
So when people share their beliefs I listen and move on. They share them with cruelty, with derision, with simple faith, with arcane reason, with the tongues of angels, with the acumen of used car salesmen. I listen and move on. At least that is what I consider to be the course of wisdom.
I have nothing to gain, so there is no reason to argue.
If someone continues to display behavior or rhetoric that I find unpalatable, I simply choose to stop listening. Unfriend, unfollow, block — all terms for the act of ceasing to heed. I’ve done it in the past without a second thought. But with your words I find myself reluctant to do so. You have become a canker sore in my online consumption.
There is a temerity in certainty. There is an offense in self-righteousness. There is an arrogance in your words. And that is what galls me.
That your view is the only rational one, that the whole world is crumbling and only you can see it. That people who disagree with you are fools. Uneducated fools who make their own choices based on fear or ignorance or blind sin. If only they will listen, if only they will listen to the good sense that you humbly proffer.
You pick apart the words and thoughts and decisions of those who disagree with a manic glee and a permanent eye-roll. You are so happy to be right, holding each gem of your triumph high for all to see.
You take a very complicated issue and make it very, very simple. And not out of a sense of nobility, or a desire to correct the ills of the world. You just want to be right.
You need to be right.
At least that’s what I believe is the root of this. I’m a cynic. I am far too conversant with the human compulsion towards supremacy, that lizard-brain requirement to be right, right, right. To tear out the eyes of any who are wrong. The holy fire that fills our brains when we are just – smiting the blasphemers and bringing order to the universe. The smug confidence, the knowledge that the other tribe is comprised of simpletons and degenerates.
It’s an old flame in the human mind. The Other Tribe is Evil.
So, why am I writing this to you?
I do not name you, nor address the specific issue that fills me with distaste. As stated, there is nothing to gain from an argument, so I have no wish to engage in one.
I just want to know…what exactly? I want to know how you can be so sure. What do you gain? Do you truly believe that speaking the way that you do will change the hearts and minds of those who read? Is your belief so pure that you feel that you must speak out?
If this issue is truly important to you, why do you choose this method to promote it? Surely derision, arrogance, and wrath are not the most effective ways to share your thoughts?
What do you gain?
I am afraid that I know the answer. But I want to be wrong. I want to discover that you truly do not intend these words to filled with bile, that you truly care so deeply about this issue that your passion outpaces your reason.
But I don’t think that’s it.
I think you are empty and sad.
And that is not the fate I would wish for the person I knew long ago.
I don’t understand, and I don’t agree, and I fear that you are living a life of paranoia and don’t even know it. But I will listen, I will keep listening as long as I can and I will not argue.
To the person who I fear you are, I want to say this. Shut up. Shut the fuck up.
To the person who I thought you were long ago, I want to say this.