Friday, July 20, 2007

Weekend: Shadows of a Tesseract

Well, I've been blog-surfing again.

Quick! Someone take my mouse!

Seriously though, there seems to be a thread running through a lot of the things I've been reading over the past few days. It is "how do I get to be me in a culture that discourages just that, by forcing me to feign happiness all the time?"

That's my paraphrase, of course, but it is a really valid question. Most people carry more secrets than the CIA/KGB/FSB/MI5 (pick your intelligence service of choice).

Whether it is moms who feel they can't get beyond mom conversation with each other or people in workplaces who can't say how they really feel or believe for fear of repercussions, whether it's on our blogs or in our families, even among friends, it's a common thread.

The overriding feeling is that we don't have much opportunity to express our deeper thoughts, our concerns or our beliefs, to share them with others and get authentic feedback. We can't talk about current events because we might offend someone. We can't compliment each other because it might be misunderstood. In schools, kids are not allowed to excel because the one who doesn't excel might feel bad. We censor ourselves all the time.

When I was in the workplace especially, I found a tyranny of political correctness which I understand has gotten even worse over the past few years. We were basically told what we are allowed to discuss and what we are not allowed to discuss.

Something that started as a potentially good thing (none of us want to hear the "n" word or sexually explicit talk outside of a strip club), has become an albatross that has effectively silenced all of us.

Some of you who came by last night might have found that I had some negative comments from a person who believes that my appreciation for and love of Thailand equates to my supporting child rape. I deleted the comments after having been accused of being a .. well... someone not very nice, a person who would do things with children. No further extrapolation needed.

This is the kind of absurdity that's brought about by political correctness. The only way to express disagreement or dissent is to become so outrageous that it goes into the realm of the absurd. For the record, I don't just blame western culture for this. Thailand, as an example, would have to be included in the indictment.

There is no middle ground for disagreement. It is either full-frontal attack or silence.

This is pathetically unfortunate. And it's unhealthy.

I believe we should be able to express our ideas, share thoughts, balance our opinions and reasoning with the reasoning of others. It is how we learn. It is how we grow. Instead, we become insular. We don't speak our truth.

Expressing our truth doesn't have to mean conflict with others. It doesn't have to be a competition and I don't have to be wrong for you to be right. We can both be right. Outside of the obvious absolutes, the sun will rise and it will set, there is a wide continuum of belief. The more we get away from judgment, the more we realize that we are ultimately all in this together, with our varying ideas and thoughts and beliefs.

Instead, we don't feel safe with each other.

And that is such a loss. Through the ages, wisdom has been passed by word of mouth, one generation to the next, one person to the next. Even when we disagree, there is a kernel of learning going on. We are exposed to other ideas, other ways of life, other belief systems. It can only serve to enrich all of us.

What say you?



jen said...

this is brilliant. and i agree. we've all become so restricted by what is "socially" ok that it's left so many things off topic and yes, sometimes people resort to absurd vitrol in order to get their feelings out.

the underlying emotions behind all this shutting down must be rage at times, lonliness a lot of the time, and god knows what else.

it's why i often fantasize about sitting round a communal fire. no one has anywhere to go or anyone to impress. this world has glimmers of that and yet it too, is guarded because sometimes due to the above people still strike out.

but it's another one of those conundrums, i have no idea how to actually get to where i want given the lifestyle and perameters i am living in.

Snoskred said...

At one company I worked for, we were even told what we could and could not wear as far as fragrance was concerned. No perfumes, only deodorant and they preferred ones without fragrance if possible. If they thought it was too pungent, they would let you know. All this because so many staff would play the "that smell is making me sick - I'm allergic to that" card in order to go home and still get paid.

They even had to go so far as stopping any outside stationery being allowed in the building - all their stationery was 100% scent free.

I don't think it is really so much about political correctness as it is about people refusing to listen to opposing points of view and choosing not to accept people who disagree with them. Freedom of speech? Yeah right. There's no such thing in a workplace where the bosses are judging you.

Freedom of speech is not really tested until someone is standing right in front of you screaming at the top of the lungs things that you disagree with completely yet you are supporting their right to say it.

Snoskred said...

I had to come back to get another look at that picture.. whoa, that is like freaky! Do you have a bigger image of it and if yes can you email it to me? :)


slouching mom said...

I agree.

And I'd like to know why it is so difficult for people to be moderate.

I've tried to answer the question by considering that moderation admits more complexity into someone's life, and most prefer to simplify.

But I'm not satisfied with that answer.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I agree with much of this post and admire the way you stated it, but I am not sure that people resort to spewing vitriol in order to be heard. I think, rather, that this is the reason behind there being so much restriction on what we may discuss openly.

Although certainly silencing people can work in favor of those who fear dissent, like corporations and governments, it may also be intended to silence those whose views are offensive on a wide scale, like your visitor of last night.

I think the thing I like most about blogs is that for the most part, we are all able to express who we are without fear of personal reprisal since most of us would not recognize each other on the street.

Still, the distrust which we develop to protect ourselves is a heavy burden, and I wish that it were not necessary.

Catherine said...

This is such a real, real problem...I appreciate that you've brought it up. We need each other; we need to be know. There's no other way to be healthy. But yet, so few people have experienced this, so so few people can give it...when someone tries, often everyone just ends up getting hurt. This is something I think about a lot..

Emily said...

I want to say that I feel safe with you. I always feel you take all my comments in exactly the spirit with which they were intended. I keep coming back to read because, even though we are so different, your honesty and acceptance are inspirational for me.

That's what say me :)

Snoskred said...

I think a huge part of the problem is the 24/7 media coverage of things and all the talking heads trying to get people to choose one side or the other - there's never a debate with a middle ground person vs someone left and someone right.. Where are all the people in the middle? Is it not interesting enough unless people are fighting and biting each others heads off, like you see on Fox News?

We see what happens to people who speak up, who say what they think - they are ostracized, they are not invited, they are shunned, people judge them, and many people might be sitting there nodding in agreement on the inside but too scared to voice that for fear they too will be a sudden outcast. Despite what we might like to think, it happens here in blogland too.

I don't know how many times I have censored myself when it comes to commenting, especially with regard to Australian Politics. There's this one blog I keep right away from because the person behind it has such an agenda and anytime I go there I want to voice an opposing opinion but I also don't want the baggage that comes with doing that. So, I don't speak. Once you do speak on that subject, you are labelled, you are neatly put into a box as a lefty or a righty, and then certain people will stay away from your blog and you'll attract a certain audience - that really isn't fair. I am neither left or right - I swing based on what I feel is right on each particular topic. When it comes to voting, I vote for the party who I agree with on the major topics and what they intend to do about those. I've voted for a bunch of different parties but that's beside the point as far as those people are concerned.

I think politics is probably the worst example of this but religion is not far off either. And the people for gay marriage vs the people against it. And OMG the abortion debate. And the death penalty. Wow those are touchy ones. Keep off those unless among friends..


Snoskred said...

I guess I should add to that, what really annoys me is when someone argues for a bad idea just because it belongs to their "side". Like one political party on the left here who wants to spend 4.7 billion dollars on upgrading our broadband network - in order to make it the same speed we have now. ;) What genius thought of that I'm not sure, but I am sure they will propose building the Sydney Harbor Bridge next, and all the leftys won't point out we already have one. ;) Just act like it's not there, everyone! I mean, it's a bit hard to miss the bleeping thing, probably you all know what it looks like, it's a little.. big, imposing, and enormous. But the leftys would basically photoshop it out in their heads if they had to.

I figure if you're going to spend that kind of money, lay fibreoptic cable and quadruple everyones speed. But oh how the leftys all agree with spending this 4.7 billion to get what we have now, when rents aren't affordable in this country, when that money could go to much better uses! Just because it was proposed by the left and is one of their major policies this election.

It really makes me mad.. :( I think you have to be bipartisan - you have to be prepared to shift to the side of what is best for all citizens of the country.


Christine said...

thank you so much for bringing this up. it is something that has been weighing on me so much. so many people i have talked to lately keep saying we shouldn't care about others decisions, thoughts, actions. mind our own business essentially. even my sister kept scolding me for opining about this or that. "who cares, none of our business. doesn't affect me." i have such a hard time with that. you are right, judgment is wrong, but at what point can we simply disagree and not have it lead to a fight or absurdity as you say. sometimes i feel so stifled in my opinions it makes me want to scream, forever afraid to hurt someone. part of it, for me, is that dam "good girl" who always wants to please, be freindly, and sweet. i need to get a set!

QT said...

Chani - so much of this post is so true, and thank you for putting it out there in such a reasoned way.

I usually end up feeling like a big clod because I tend to say the things that people are thinking but don't want to say - but I just can't keep my trap shut sometimes!

thailandchani said...

Jen, I'm not sure of the answer, either.. where we finally step out of the seemingly imposed box and become entirely authentic with our voices.

I censor a lot and am very aware of it. The fact is that I am like a foreigner in many ways. Since I have elected to opt out, I still have to interact with people who have not chosen to do that.

At a certain point, I just sit on what I really believe and keep my mouth shut because it's safer.

I'm not sure if it's an issue of cowardice .. or respect.. or... both. Who knows?


Snos, that's very true. Unless we are willing to allow others to have their voices, even when we disagree, I suppose we forfeit our own. That is the essence of free speaking.


Snos, emailed to you


SM, that's definitely an element of it though. Don't you think so? People want simplicity because it's easier, quicker and they can get back to whatever they're doing productivity-wise? Intellectual discussion isn't "productive" in the manner of US cultural definitions.


Susan, it is the heaviest burden. Really. Distrust. I am subject to that in many cases, too, so I can't say it's not true.

I hold back many things. Call it kreng jai or something like that. I don't want to hurt anyone.

As far as the visitor last night, it poses a real dilemma. Can I actually say she didn't have the right to say the things she did?

Not really.

Because if she's silenced, so am I. If she can't say what she thinks of Thailand ~ and of me as a result of my association with Thailand ~ would that mean that I have to remain silent about my feelings on American culture?

That would be a horrible result.. and is unfortunately the logical extension of political correctness.

You know, I would never speak to anyone the way she spoke to me.. never make those kinds of accusations.. but that's just me. And in order to be me, I have to allow her to be her.. even though I think she's a mean-spirited, blithering idiot?



Catherine, I believe there are certain things we would of course hold back out of kindness. But rich... strong... opinionated and meaty discussion should never be off-limits. Certainly any culture ~ mine, yours, anyone else's here ~ can come up with simple manners?

That's really all it's about... manners. Courtesy. Stating an opinion in a kind and considerate way.


Emily, thanks. :) Honestly though, I think that may be simply a function of age. I am old enough that I really don't need to feel like I'm right all the time.. or that I have all the answers. In fact, the older I get, the less I know.

So.. hearing other people is a pleasure ~ even when I disagree.


Snos, sensationalism is certainly a part of it. I'm reluctant to blame media though.. because we're all thinking people and can sort that stuff out.

Choosing sides is always the first step toward binary thinking, making it right or wrong, good or bad.. when most things are so much more complex than that.

I can listen to any political or religious opinion because, also, I'm not that highly invested in what other people believe. Left, right or indifferent is all okay with me.

I'm very opinionated about certain issues. I'm anti-death penalty, pro-life, religiously pretty open.. but definitely eastern Buddhism and pro-gay marriage. Politically, I am not even in the ballpark when it comes to western-style democracies.

And it's totally okay with me if you disagree with any of it.

It just makes things more interesting...

But I do know what you mean. Too many people get defensive about their pet issues.


Christine, I think once those skills are learned (and I think they do have to be learned), then we can disagree and have it be just fine. None of us have to proselytize ~ but many continue to do it. Their opinions (most of which change several ways in any lifetime) become too closely connected to their identities. That's all I can think of .. really.

Maybe I'm just too dumb to get really riled up about other people's opinions. I just find them interesting. :)




Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
thailandchani said...

Kevin, you put me in a bit of an odd position. I'm going to have to make an administrative decision here and delete your comment.

Here's why: This has nothing to do with PC. It has to do with courtesy.. and respect for other people's environments. There are people of all different ages and both genders.. and that kind of locker room talk just doesn't belong here.


Lenny Bruce was wrong. Words do have the power to wound. What I am advocating in our being more open with each other doesn't mean allowing our basest instincts to come to the surface with no consideration for others around us.

I hope you understand.



Kevin said...


I understand your point, but that was not Lenny Bruce's point at all. He fully believed that words could hurt. That wasn't the point of his skit.

I actually find it interesting that you would take it down given your post. It seems quite antithetical to me.

Lenny Bruce was not being base at all and this is why most people do not get his satire and why it is such powerful satire. They close their minds at the words and do not attempt to understand the meaning.

But, I fully respect your right to do whatever you want on your blog. And, I am sure that you have thought a lot about censorship. I know that having a blog has made me even more keenly aware of the issue. When you have the power to control speech, you have a real power.

thailandchani said...

Kevin, I can see where it might seem inconsistent. And I gave that thought. Sitting outside, I gave it quite a bit of thought actually.

I don't feel like I violated my views on censorship in any way. Different things are appropriate in different settings.

If we were sitting across the table from each other, you'd be able to see by facial expressions and body signals that I found it disturbing to be flooded with that kind of language.

If that hadn't done the trick, I could have politely asked you to tone it down. And I'm sure you would.

On the blog, I don't have that opportunity.

I am a great believer in respect and courtesy.. and I think that kind of language disrespects me and the other readers here. I am not your contemporary in the locker room. I'm a 56 y.o. woman.

I believe most of us modulate our behavior, depending on our environment.

Anyone is free to express any opinion here.. and you are also free.. no, encouraged... to express yours. But, please, watch the language. Expressing an opinion doesn't inherently include the right to offend.



flutter said...

Knowing you as I do, Chani, I know that it had to be difficult for you to delete a comment.

As for your post? Afrigginmen.

urban-urchin said...

I know I have different views on a variety of hot point issues than the authors of blogs I read (yours included) what I love about blogging and commenting is that I can read and digest a post, and thoughtful make a comment or ask a question or dispute a point- something that isn't really possible in face to face conversation.

It is important to understand that while we may vehemently disagree with one another's point of view we can discuss and listen and learn- respectfully.

Thanks for bringing this up

MsLittlePea said...

What a good topic and some of the comments had me thinking a lot. For me it is an individual choice, during any discussion, to make sure that what I'm saying, is said respectfully and without hurting anyone who may be listening. I suppose that is PC overkill but I don't consider it censorship. Perhaps I do hold back a lot in my conversations because of that. I know from my own experience how much harm a word or two can do. I'm sure we all do, that's just the way I am. I've missed coming here....

Snoskred said...

Chani - many of us may listen to the media and choose not to let it make our mind up for us but I think in this day and age there are so many people who don't really have views of their own on things and they are willing to implant the media's view.

Like when Paris Hilton was being taken back to jail - not one of the commentators I heard chose to revisit what had actually happened, they were all trying to paint her as "poor Paris" - when a blogger I knew did wrote Why Paris was sent to jail it gave a much more balanced view on that whole situation. I was waiting for someone to say wait, here's why she was sent to jail - and nobody did. How can you make a judgment if you don't have all the facts? But I bet a lot of people did make judgments after watching that.

Maybe if the disconnect is there for all of us, it's more ok? If we all feel it..

I'd suggest anyone in the US reading this, if you volunteer in any of the upcoming election campaigns, that might be one chance to connect with political speaking people. ;) But I'm guessing even there it's not like the West Wing, with people passionately expressing their own views yet willing to listen to others. Maybe that only happens in the land of tv..

In the meantime we should make sure to express those views on our blogs if we want to. ;) at least it is a place to express that.

Anonymous said...

I am re-reading 1984 of G. Orwell, and your post makes me think of the "perfect" society where no feeling, emotion, original thoughts can be expressed, where one must fear friends and close family.

The blogosphere seems to be an outlet, where most of people must hide and protect themselves behind anonymity for them to be allowed to express their deepest emotions. This is highly symptomatic of our society where everything must be smoothed and where happiness is obligatory.

blooming desertpea said...

I'm with you - we should be able to express our opinions, anywhere and anytime but with respect and courtesy. There is a saying here "it's the tone that makes the music", meaning that the same same sentence accompanied by voice can be undestood in multiple ways and it should be a way that doesn't hurt the person to which the sentence is directed to.

I have been wondering though, why it seems so difficult to do as you suggest and I think it is because people find it difficult to read or hear an oppinion without passing judgment right away and on the other hand being judged for their oppinion.

I'm an open and honest person and if I am asked by a female friend what I think of her new dress, I tell it like I see it. I don't manage to tell somebody that she's got a nice dress on if I think it's ugly. Of course, I try to say it in a diplomatic way. If I am not asked, I would just keep my opinion to myself. No point going around spreading my negative thoughts.

Yes, we could learn so much from each other if we all learnt to communicate in the right way - I think that's where the thorn lies!

Julie Pippert said...

I say you beat me to the punch. After three of you mentioned PC as communication inhibitor on my post, I talked to Emily and thought, you know, this would be a great Hump Day Hmm topic.

Julie Pippert said...

Chani, you are on to a lot of what I have come to believe: we got on the bandwagon to support what seemed like a good thing--eliminating bigotry from how we spoke.

What we left out is that this doesn't fix the real problem.

Adding women and other minorities into TV shows as working characters doesn't really provide equal opportunity. Especially if they are just the supporting roles. For example.

I think this goes beyond how we talk.

I think it explains a lot, including but not limited to why we plug ourselves into machines.

And I think SM is right: moderate requires more complexity and openess than most are wiling to take on.

I've gone ahead with the Hump Day Hmm topic. I wish I'd gotten it up earlier as I'd intended but I can't be sorry because this is such a great discussion.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of it comes from having such a mobile society. Most people will have several homes, several jobs, several churches.

There's no real reason to make an effort to get along with neighbors you don't like, and no point in getting very close to the people you do.

Pam said...

This post hits on a subject that's discussed in my family, often. You are right when you say it's unhealthy.

I would love to say more, but my Dragon and I are not yet one.

Hel said...

I'm in the process of looking around for a new job. Once I have safely resigned I have a story of woe about not being allowed to be what I am. (They are reading my site. Grom)

The one thing that got me down was being accused of not being passionate enough. This is because I never work after six or on weekends.

I often think it is the parts of people that they were never allowed to express as children that they can not allow anyone else to own.

When someone is being critical I suddenly have a strong image of one of their parents.

thailandchani said...

Hel, just a quick response to this, then I'll come back to the other comments.

This one burned my britches though when you said:

The one thing that got me down was being accused of not being passionate enough. This is because I never work after six or on weekends.

Are they bloody kidding?

Where the heck do they get off, using words like "passion" about a job?

Oh, I can't wait to hear the story. Really. Sounds like more corporate double-speak. "PC" at its most manipulative.

Oh, this just makes me so angry!

Hope you get a new job very soon so that you can tell them to p*** off.



painted maypole said...

I love what you say about our own truths. That what is true for us doesn't have to be true for someone else, but we should be able to express it. Why can't we find a way for our truths to be heard, but not imposed on others. As long as my truth doesn't hurt anyone, why should it bother them?

thailandchani said...

Genevieve, I'm hoping your comment will be spawn for a new post. You said something really important, something to explore.


Flutter, yes, it was. I'm not accustomed to that. In all the time I've had this blog, I've never had to delete comments up until the past two days.

I need to burn some sage over my comments section or something. :)


U-U, any opinion is welcome here, as long as it's done respectfully. It's how we learn from each other. I know I've changed views on different topics because of something someone said in a comment, something I hadn't considered or didn't know.


MsPea, I guess I remove "courtesy" from the concept of PC.. because courtesy is always important. Being able to state an opinion though so that others can benefit from your thoughts and knowledge is important, too. Honestly, I believe we can share these things with each other and stay within the realm of decency in the way we behave toward one another.


Snos, we got a fair amount of coverage of her situation, including why she went to jail. The side issues did take precedence though. Media coverage is all driven by corporations. It will use any method to keep people dumbed down and focused on nonsense. It benefits them more than an informed, thinking population. Informed, thinking people don't mindlessly buy products.


Desertpea, have you ever read Deborah Tannen? She addresses many of these issues so well... why people in conversation on a topic find the need to annihilate each other. Maybe we need to come to a point where we stop seeing ideas as competing.


Julie, it would be a great topic.. and your post on it today is awesome.

I hope I can write like you in my next life. :)


Julie, yes, it is just a bandaid. Silencing people never solves a problem. It just drives it underground. Euphemisms, winks and nods still allow likeminded to find one another.

Isolating ourselves or plugging into machines is just another escape mechanism for those who find real communication too difficult ~ and I mean that in the kindest way because we all do it.

We do it behind our screens every day.

Your post on it is a good one! It's challenging in a way this one isn't... so I'm glad you put it up this morning.

Deconstructing particular instances is a real challenge I'd never considered. "Unpacking", as SM calls it.


Thomas, that's a good point, too. Everything is so fleeting that it's not worth the effort?

God, that's sad!


Pam, you got your Dragon! Awesome! :)


Maypole, that brings in another gnarly issue of who has the power to impose their ideas.. and to what agenda.

Another post will grow from that thought, I believe. :)




River said...

Loved this blog, and all the comments. I especially agree with what you said-"isolating ourselves or plugging in to machines is just another escape mechanism for those who find real communication too difficult..." That's pretty much me in a nutshell. I was raised to be quiet, be good, be nice, to the extent that I almost don't communicate and while I do have thoughts and opinions, they are all in my head.So that I stay "nice" and people will "like" me.