What pretending to be a girl on World of Warcraft has taught me about myself.

So a little history here, some years ago I started a new character with some friends on World of Wacraft. We all rolled Night Elf Druids on the US Frostmane server. We also all had some innate knowledge that female characters usually ended up having people send them gifts just because of the way the WoW population works out. Anyway needless to say, if you ask me today I’d probably respond that I rolled a female toon for one of the two reasons:

  • Male Night Elves are ugly anyway and who wants to stare at that for extended periods of time.
  • I lost a bet.

These are of course lies, but it’s how I’ve always responded to the question; because, honestly I’ve never had a good answer outside of “Seemed like a good idea a the time”. Needless to say, this was during the late days of the Burning Crusade, and that druid went from just a character that I rolled up with some friends being my Main (The character I primarily play if I’m playing WoW). Over the years I’ve done server transfers, moved from Alliance to Horde back to alliance again, seen every type of server (PvE, PvP, RP), and met a few friends along the way.

It’s been a long history of getting used to the WoW culture and the people within it, going from a keyboard turning Hunter who used to roll need on shields to someone who prides themselves on doing decent with the Feral Kitty rotation.

About a year ago, after Cataclysm, I had grown tired of the “WoW Hustle and Bustle” and decided that I would move over to an RP real to see what all the fuss was about. I am a big fan of D&D outside of World of Warcraft, so one of the things that I always missed from WoW was letting the “Character be a Character” so to speak, to really take on a life outside of simply an avatar which I attached purple clothes to.

I was fearful of moving to a role playing server, on the basis of a myriad of factors including the recent horror stories of the US Moon Guard server’s “PornShire”, but after seeing a reddit post about Emerald Dream, I thought I might at least give it a shot. I was initially unimpressed with everything at hand, but it would seem that the RP Community is one of those things that you sort of have to break your way into rather then it just inviting you in.

So anyway, I’ve been on the server for I guess a few months now, settling in and enjoying the scene. And in truth, I have actually enjoyed the Role Playing aspects of the game a great deal more then I thought I would. In a lot of ways it allows one to escape the “Grind for the next reputation or purple” and just sit down and enjoy the lore and nature of the Warfcraft World.

Playing a Night Elf Female though has… taught me something. It’s interesting, because when I transferred back to the Alliance, I could have very well changed Alnarra’s name and Gender easily, even made her a Worgen Male or something similar, but I didn’t. At the time, I think it’s because I thought it would be dishonest to the character. It’s not that I think on some level that a series of entries in a database, or gathering of pixels on a screen has feelings of opinions on the matter, but just like my cat is who she is and I would never change that, in the same way I feel like the character has it’s own sort of mythos internally that can’t be replaced.

It means a lot more then just a simple collection of achievements  It’s the memories of running Naxxramas and Ulduar with is Naughtier then you, making fun of Faz’s burst DPS on Anub, or even sitting on the cliff side of a virtual mountain having a campfire with a friend of mine in Oregon after his girlfriend returned home to the east coast. All of those elements compose to me the character and what it means to me. It became more an avatar of my personality then I think somedays I like to admit.

Now I sit on Emerald Dream being a girl, which is interesting in it’s own rights. The thing is that I was raised by the internet so to speak. So a natural side effect of that has been a natural  skepticism of almost everything, including a person’s purported gender in a video game. As such, my mind had automatically assumed that all women were men, and that’s where this RP’s server fist oddity caught me off guard.

The sheer number of women playing male characters was staggering to me. I knew that some women played male toons for various reasons, but to see it again and again began to unnerve the very foundations of the assumptions I make about people online.

You see, Gender’s always been a weird subject online. In some ways it is the ultimate escapism for people, a chance to shake off not only their physical shackles (Being overweight, leading a dull life, etc), but the very basic foundations of who and what they are. One of those basic foundations is the concept of gender. I suppose perhaps these issues have become more apparent to me in the recent timeline because the transgender movement has become a very prominent issue within the online social justice circles.

To see my stereotypes so easily shattered on a community like Emerald Dream has caused me to start looking at not just how I view women, but how men view women, how women view men, and even the depth of how do men think women view them and vice versa.

The natural side effect is that gender behind the keyboard while still relevant in it’s own ways  is largely dismissed in favor of the gender of the character on the screen. In such a way you learn to interact not as yourself, but as this idealized version of the character you are playing.

And so I started ending up on the “Other Side” so to speak. Now I don’t for a moment pretend that playing a girl online in any way equates at any level of magnitude to the things that happen to actual women on a daily basis, BUT it does provide some amount of insight into the sort of perceived social interactions that go on. It’s not just male characters giving you free things, it goes to an entirely different level.

People will treat you quite differently under the assumption that your female. Now part of me just assumes that they don’t suffer from the same skepticism as I do and think that people are actually the gender that their onscreen character suggest and that has to be kept in mind as a factor, that they are acting this way because at some level they believe they can win an “Actual Girlfriend” out of all of this.

Yet, this introspection remains, as the character I “play” is for all intents and purposes a widower and just the sorts of comments that people will make in that line of reasoning fascinate me. It provides unique insight into a wide variety of how “My People” (Males) act when around women. I suppose I can see it in myself, but sometimes it is better to see perspectives from outside the mirror. All the classic ideas of relationships, gender roles, all neatly packaged into short online conversations.

Every variety of person exist and you interact with such a large variety of ages and mindset that you are forced to step back for a moment and think to yourself “Oh yeah that’s how people interact”. I suppose that’s strange on it’s own right, mostly because as an MMO, it has to at some level enforce social stereotypes for the average nerd. As they say you wouldn’t be chasing a girlfriend in a video game if you could get one in the real world… or do you?

Again my evidence is purely anecdotal and I make no assertions that this is any kind of proper social study,  but WoW’s social and family aspects are often highlighted, and all to often I am seeing ACTUAL real world couples who’s characters have nothing to do with each other. That kind of thing is simply mind blowing to me, people who after getting done with WoW will go back to sitting on the couch loving each other, that while Role Playing aren’t in any way affiliated. It’s strange… a departure from the accepted cultural perception.

It makes me look at second life with a second glance and think “Oh… that’s what they were getting at…” truly shedding that shell of “Who Am I” and trading it for an idealized version of self, even if it is constrained by the limited technology available.

These small things, these bits of anecdotal evidence have forced that introspection I spoke about above, the “How do I view women?” question to the forefront. Now obviously there are factors outside of WoW that have to be influencing my thoughts on the matter, but I can’t pretend that it doesn’t play a part in shaping at some level my own thoughts on the matter. The question of when I’m writing a small story, how do I write women? Do I write them differently from men? If so, how do I do that? When I’m DM’ing a campaign do I assign the traditional gender roles, how do I have the characters respond?

After several suggested that I would make a good Mother, I can only assume that either I write women well enough that people find them believable, or there is a massive conspiracy of assholes out there working to feed me the same set of lies. It does make me step back and wonder though, what templates have I been applying to women? What has my upbringing brought me?

Suddenly you can start to see all the same relationship ploys working across both sides of the line. You see the traditional gender roles so much clearer, this notion that it is the Man who initiates things, the expected responses from Women, the notion of the “Friendzone”, all of that put into perspective from both sides. In some ways it’s been like an explosive gender equalizer where you have to step back and go “Oh… we’re both playing the same god damn ball game, they just told me I’m using a different rule book”.

The social structures, the irritation from both sides about the other, the presumed stereotypes, all of it so clear when you position yourself as a sort of neutral party. I’d like to think it’s taught me to be more socially aware of my interactions with women, and on some level more “aware” of the social queues, but I’ve never really been great in those fields to begin with anyway.

I’m not sure what kind of insight I was aiming for in this post outside of “Gee this is fascinating  look at the tree monkeys all interact in the virtual world”, but I thought it worth posting, and perhaps I can get some thoughts out of you guys.

Have you learned anything profound from interacting in a simulation like WoW? 

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Shows I think everyone should watch

QI – A show put on by the BBC, featuring Stephen Fry quizzing guest on various tidbits of knowledge, this show is truly a delight, and filled with lovable British Humor. A vast array of seasons to choose from, and it comes in at about 45 minutes a pop. 

Farscape – A dash of Science Fiction and Comedy all mixed into one, this show follows the life of one John Crichton as he’s tossed onto a ship of aliens. The show is pretty consistently  good and can provide a healthy dose of Science Fiction. 

Star Trek (The Next Generation / Deep Space 9) – These are the two primary shows. There’s a mixed bag of nuts in terms of good and bad episodes, but it is some truly great science fiction. With 14 seasons between them, you’ll be watching them for quite a while

Doctor Who – Again put out by the BBC, Doctor Who has an illustrious history and nearly 35 seasons of material. Of course there’s a sharp division as of recent with the “9th” incarnation of the Doctor starting the modern era. This show focuses on exploring Time and Space in a whimsical and enjoyable manner

Babylon 5 – Much like Deep Space 9, this show focuses on some brilliant military – political drama. It is has some dated graphical styling, but is otherwise a great watch. 

Supernatural – A show running on the WB (or whatever it’s calling itself these days), focusing on the lives of 2 Brothers chasing after monsters, ghost, and what have you. The constant nerdy humor and emotional roller coaster never stops. I highly advice watching this show. 

Avatar the Last Airbender – A cartoon produced by Nickelodeon following the tale of a young man who learns that he must quintessentially save the world. With amazing attention to detail and a fair amount of subtle adult humor I can’t help but mention this one. 

My Little Pony: Friendship is magic – A cartoon put out by the Hub with a surprisingly exceptional style of animation in addition to having an incredibly positive message. It’s one of those nice feel good shows. 

Torchwood – A spin off of Doctor Who with a much darker tone. Featuring a slightly more realistic approach to how humanity would deal with aliens, it’s consistently good. 

Firefly – You have no excuses for not watching this. It’s 1 season long and has some fantastic characters. A classical Western Science Fiction. 

Gundam Wing – Politics, Giant Robots, and all those things that make you jump up and down like a small child. This series has a special place in my heart. 

Ghost in the Shell – An anime exploring the nature of a post information society, in which a cybernetic society rules over land. A great exploration of humanity

Stargate (SG1 / Atlantis) – With 14 seasons, this series has hefty weight in the Science Fiction universe, and for good reason. With lovable characters and a rooted understanding of classic science fiction themes taken with a modern show. 

Battlestar Galactica – I didn’t used to like this show, but watching it without having a week’s gap has made it far easier to follow (this is a show I feel you needed to have on DVD in order to catch it all correctly). Defiantly worth watching for some darker tones on the human condition. 

Archer – A brilliant comedy following a Spy as he works for his Mother’s agency. Filled with endless humor this show always has a good adult laugh in there. 

The Daily Show – A comedy news show with well over 10 years of shows going for it under Comedian Jon Stewart and crew. Though it’s better to watch while it’s on topic, the humor is generally good year round. 

Whose Line is it Anyway – A improvisation comedy show, I personally suggest the American Version rather then the British version, but that is likely a matter of personal taste. 

Kitchen Nightmares – Formulaic but enjoyable show following a Scottish chef coming in and getting kitchens into order by any means necessary. I’m not generally a fan of reality TV, but I have to say I like this one. 

I’m sure there are of course more out there, but I thought I might share a sample of the media that I consume on a regular basis, in case you should ever get bored and want to watch something interesting. Of course this entire post is a matter of personal taste, but I thought someone out there might enjoy. Next week I’ll go down a list of video games I think everyone should at the very least try. 

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I like Voyager’s Portrayal of the borg

Sorry Wiki, imgur's broken.

The Best of Both Worlds

Oh god, now I feel dirty. I think I need to take a bath. That said, I was recently watching Collective, and while the episode may have it’s own issues, I couldn’t help but to be left to ponder something about the nature of the Borg. For those not sure, Collective isn’t actually that bad an episode. That is not to say it’s a great episode, but it certainly has some strong points. I have to admit that the poker game during the teaser was amusing and hearkened back to the TNG days of the crew sitting around enjoying a good game of cards. When the Borg cube snuck up on the Delta Flyer the script actually addressed how they managed to do so, with notions of technobabble obscuring their approach.

I have to admit I also liked the fact that there was a moral debate between using a weapon to commit a form of Borg Genocide (again hearkening back to TNG’s use of Hugh in order to destroy the collective). To me it was an overall acceptable episode without to many real plot holes that managed to introduce a bit of character into how the Borg deal with their young. Many; however, see the episode as yet another stab at the Borg, making them weaker and less powerful. Reading the debates online about how stupid it made the Borg to have them do X or Y it hit me like a Borg Cube so to speak.

When you talk among the fans, you’ll get various different opinions on exactly when it was that the Borg began to go downhill. For some, it was the moment that Jean Luc Picard was assimilated as a precursor to Wolf 359, making the Borg less a force of nature and more interested in biological aspects. Yet more still at the introduction of Hugh, with each progressive episode about the Borg tapering off until you have this culmination of hatred at Voyager’s last episode, in which the Borg are dealt a massive blow.

I thought about this for a very long time, as I’ve always been happy to defend the Borg in one way or another throughout the Star Trek franchise. I suppose being an apologist for Berman and Braga is just my own little way of getting by in the day. I’ve even gone so far as to say that the Exact moment Voyager became a disappointment to me was Scorpion’s introductory scene. The thing is that as I think about it more and more, the thing I was angry about with regards to the Borg was not making them a weaker enemy, but instead making them a more complete race with it’s own flaws and issues.

You see, in Q Who, the Borg had been presented not as a race, but as a force of nature. They were portrayed as this entity that wonders the universe and gobbles up technology. They were unstoppable and uncontrollable. What Star Trek did over the years was morph that unstoppable force into not a force of nature but a true hive-mind. They made the Borg into some incredibly advanced Wasp.

And when you re frame the Borg as a really big, advanced Wasp colony, their actions across the board becomes far more understandable. If you frame them as a force of nature, then yes almost every episode after Q Who is going to be an insult to their very existence. But when you start looking at their behavior as more like that of an insect, they become approachable in the sense of what happens to them.

Yes they still have that bit about assimilating and having incredibly powerful ships, but you start looking at the strange things. For instance, why did that Borg Cube sneak up on the Delta Flyer in Collective rather then just blow it up outright, or if the Borg have had that capability, why didn’t they use it all the time? The answer is of course simple, they’ve never needed to sneak up on their enemy before. In the past they could simply use sheer force of will to overwhelm the opponent, so there was no need to hide and play games with their prey. You don’t need to hide in the grass if you have more stamina and can easily outrun your opponent. But the cube in Collective was damaged and piloted by only a few drones. They couldn’t take their opponents on in a fair fight, so they needed to even the odds.

Or take for instance the commentary about the Borg only sending a single vessel to fight the Federation on it’s home soil. Again, if you frame this as a wasp colony that is simply scouting out prey it makes a great deal more sense. The first cube got a whiff of the Enterprise and was intrigued, so they followed her home only to discover a culture with a wealth of technology, but still with the capability to destroy their scout. So just to check things, you send another scout to find out exactly what their capabilities are, investigating and poking to determine the strengths and weaknesses.

This of course brings up the issue of why didn’t they just travel back in time and assimilate humanity, and I think the answer there is that unlike what seems be general consensus, going back in time was never a plan, it was a panicked response to being suddenly overwhelmed. I mean if you look at the fleet in comparison to the cube, it was still doing quite well on it’s own accord. Then all of the sudden, someone shows up and knows how to cut off your head with surgical precision and you have to think of something…

In the case of the Borg, the easiest place to hide would be in the past, where they could lick their wounds. Of course the Borg aren’t simply mindless beast, why not turn a crushing defeat into a victory. So they think about it, and they decide that if they’re going to be forced to go back in time, they might as well kill two birds with one stone. I mean realistically there were plenty of points in human history where they could have gone back and met minimal resistance. In fact the original script called for the Borg to head back to the feudal age to fight with Knights. The idea was thankfully scrapped in favor of the First Contact storyline.

I like to think that Voyager and the subsequent Borg episodes expanded the race, not diminished it. It was fascinating to get a peak into the monster. To take a fundamental human unknown, a force of nature, and to explore it to discover that perhaps the great beast isn’t so inhuman after all. It has it’s own flaws, it’s own enemies, and it’s own issues to deal with. It anthropomorphizes the borg into an actual culture.

It is certainly understandable why someone might find this change to the Borg to be disagreeable but I think it may actually speak more to Gene’s vision of the future. The notion that there is no true evil in the universe, there are simply things that Humanity doesn’t understand and the Borg are one of them. That is not to say what the Borg are doing isn’t fundamentally wrong, but much like Arturis in Hope and Fear noting that he did not blame the Borg, they were just doing what it is that Borg do, I think that it should be noted that they are at the very least not Choatic Evil.

They are an alien race with slightly different methods of procreation (assimilation in their case), making them not to unlike the often parasitic wasp. They have a queen, a hierarchical but hive oriented structure, and they suffer from a serious case of Galaxy wide OCD. I would like to think that the Borg would have eventually discovered a way to deal with Species 8472, but like a wasp colony facing a bit of bug spray, they were panicked and looking for answers. So when a Federation ship comes wondering into your field of view and tells you the thought of the answer you are bound to think about the consequences of trying to kill them.

I’ve heard criticism about how strange it was that the entire collective didn’t come up with the same idea as a Hologram who represented all of humanity’s medical knowledge, and I think there is a key point about innovation here. It’s not that the Borg aren’t innovative, we know from other scripts they like to run experiments of their own all the time. I think they may have genuinely just not thought of the the solution the Doctor proposed. It’s not about lacking imagination, it’s about not imaging the same thing. The Borg were approaching them like an invading empire, Voyager approached them like individuals. That is to say, in trying to cure Harry Kim (something the Borg weren’t really all about, looking after their fallen isn’t a priority). The Borg didn’t think of a medical approach to destroying species 8472 because it was never really an alleyway they decided to chase or dig at.

I’m sure there are still instances where the Borg do in fact get written in a poor manner, but I am hoping that my re-framing the Borg as a big Wasp Nest rather then techno zombies might better make their actions seem more in character in the later episodes then perhaps they were previously viewed.

As always leave your commentary, I love nerdy discussion.

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Why I hate Nolan’s Batman

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight Rises Movie Poster

So, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I have to say that I just do not like Nolan’s idealized Batman. I should point out that while Nolan’s movies are truly well done, I simply find how he handles Batman to be a bit strange and perhaps even irritating. That is to say that Nolan makes batman a rich guy who dresses up like a bat and knows karate (oversimplifying I know, but follow me). The thing is that I respect the idea that Batman is just a normal human being, that in one way or another he doesn’t have super powers he just has money. In another respect though, the thing I loved about Batman was while he didn’t have super powers he was still a paragon of humanity (and I don’t mean in the sense of Mass effect), but if one were to stat Batman out it would be 18’s across the board [D&D 3.5].

Yes, Batman was a human, but he was also a really smart, really athletic, and really strong human. In a great deal of the Batman literature (not all of it mind you, some comic authors are more true to Nolan’s interpretation), the thing that makes Batman such an amazing super hero is the fact that he’s so many steps ahead of the enemy. A bit like the Doctor, batman always seems to know what the next step of the plan is, or what needs to be done. I mean sure he can get beaten up, but it’s incredibly tough to outfox or outsmart batman. And yes, sometimes this is taken to extremes in terms of just how “smart” batman is, or what kind of knowledge checks he can make on the fly and succeed at, but for the most part I feel like they are well within the realm of a plotting mastermind who happens to go out at night and catch criminals.

I suppose my “Idealized” interpretation of Batman would be the one that the Justice League (the TV show running in early 2000’s). It tended to keep Batman as this mastermind character who could fight, but ultimately was a “normal” human being with cash. The character was aware of his surroundings and saw through the simple rouses. He was the character that served as the “brain” for the team.

Lucius Fox

Lucius Fox

If you compare this to Nolan’s Batman, the difference is startling. Nolan’s batman isn’t just a normal human, but he’s not a very smart one either. I mean think about it; it wasn’t Bruce Wayne who built all of the armor, weapons, and Vehicles. That was entirely the work of Lucius Fox in the movie series. In Fact despite this rare moments when Bruce just seems to get bored and come up with an amazing piece of software, for the most part he isn’t involved in the creation of the Batman technology, one of the key elements that makes  Batman who he is.

I suppose to some degree, this allowed the conclusion of the Dark Knight rises to have a brand new Batman without to much concern. Furthermore it does fit in with the lynch-pin of the story that Nolan was telling, primarily that Batman was not a superhero, that he was simply a symbol and that someone with the right equipment could go on to assume the mantle and no one would know the difference. I want to stress that I think this an interesting interpretation of  the Batman lore, but I think it takes away from the core of the superhero nostalgia. That at the end of the day the superhero is more then just a costume, that the idea of a the superhero itself is it’s own kind of symbol.

It represents this idealized human or even alien, whichever it does not matter. While they may have their flaws it allows the reader or viewer to submerge them self in this world where the evils of the world can be righted, justice served,  the grim nature of the universe unraveled and turned on it’s head by a single man or group of men. The superhero can’t change because their very existence as a superhero goes beyond the symbol in their own universe and stretches out into a symbol of this one. The lore of Batman is one of a great hero for humanity, who strives to do what is right, to avenge all those who have been ravaged by thoughtless crimes. I think perhaps that the new movies irritates me in the same way that Batman Beyond did.

Batman beyond

Batman Beyond

It created an instance where the superhero was depreciated in favor of the symbol. Luckily Batman and Green Lantern can get away with this; because, they are ultimately symbols within the universe and less individuals within the universe. But could the same thing be said for perhaps Marvel’s Spiderman? What about Superman? The things that make up that superhero are unique to the individual. You can’t just put on a Spiderman mask and suddenly assume the role. There were certain conditions that had to met first.

To me, Nolan is doing the same thing that Batman Beyond did, the depreciated the super hero, by making it about what the superhero represented to the universe they were in rather, then what they represent to the readers and viewers.

It’s much the same thing that irritates me about the new Star Trek. It’s a perfectly fine production that stands up on it’s own right, is a brilliant movie, but as a Star Trek fan it hurts me to see Gene’s vision of the future (batshit as Gene may have been) twisted in such a way as to make it this war porn story. Nolan, in my eyes is doing something similar.

He is taking a classic and twisting it to fit his own narrative, at points, I think, forgetting what it is that made that classic character so appealing. Now obviously comic books change, hell the Batman of the 30’s is NOTHING like the batman that I am praising here today. Beyond that, I have to be willing to admit that the cultural views of a super hero can change just as easily over time as anything else, but I think at times it can be uncomfortable to watch as the intelligent and cunning super hero you worshiped get’s mutated into little more then a vengeful playboy with money.

To realize that the Batman going forward in a lot of respects is not going to be the same Batman (in the eyes of the majority public) that you grew up loving and idolizing, can I think at times be a little irritating. So brushing aside some of the minor plot holes (Seriously Christopher, how did Batman get from a hole in the desert to one of the most heavily fortified cities in the world with zero money or supplies in under 24 hours), and moving forward I am happy to see Batman revitalized and the series continuing on in such a major way, it’s just a shame to me the direction in which the character is going.

 

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Rebutting my own bullshit, a lesson in humility.

So a few weeks ago I posted some shit, and let’s just call it that because that’s what it is. I responded with a twitter post some time ago saying I take it all back, but in truth that doesn’t make up for the shit I spewed. If I’m going to leave something like that on the internet I might as well have the cojones to be willing to go through and show that I realize that I’m wrong. Beyond that, I need to show why I am wrong. Without that acknowledgement or demonstration, I am doing little more then being a flagrant dick and then trying to “I’m sorry” my way out of it without much thought on the matter. If I truly want to consider myself some kind of progressive individual then I need to learn from my mistakes and hopefully express them to others so that just maybe they can learn from them as well.

FIRST, and let’s get this out of the way. What I said about trigger words and warnings was said irrationally and in poor judgement. It lacked empathy on a level about events that are beyond shameful, they are disgusting. There’s something disturbing about the internet, the feel of anonymity that allows you to become a different person. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t distinctly aware of the Greater Internet Dickwad theory, but I suppose to some degree I never took into consideration that actual repercussions of it all. You grow up as a kid who gets picked on and suddenly you have this awesome outlet where your physical strength is irrelevant, it’s all about mental prowess. And so this feeds into some kind of ego, and low and behold the internet becomes this wonderful echo chamber where you can bask in your own glory and never really think about your actions.

For years, I visited sites like 4chan, Newgrounds, Something Awful, etc. and had this odd sort of pride that there were things that should have phased me in the real world but didn’t phase me because I had some kind of magical shield separating me from them. That somehow my actions of being an asshole, or making a racist avatar in Habbo hotel didn’t hurt anyone. You evolve this into the later years and you see the jokes you had discussed, the memes you had beaten like a dead horse, and you look back and all I can think now is “God what a petulant child”.

My friend Brendan once made the comment “You will look at yourself 2 years ago, and I guarantee that you will hate some element of that person”.  As I have grown older, and I hope to some degree, wiser, the comment reflects more and more each time I look at who I was versus who I am today. You see aspects of yourself that these days you despise. You see a child who lashed out at things he found enjoyable to fit in, a person who lacked the confidence or mental… understanding to deal with actual relationships. You can’t help but look back and think “Jesus, was that me?”.

So now, I look back at the dead and beaten horses, the stupid shit, and I cringe. I’m reminded specifically of a conversation I had with a friend at Purdue whom I have a great deal of respect for (but likely showed it in a poor manner).  The topic of furries had come up and I remember that my first instinct was to react with that very same vitriol and hate that I had in all of those lovely online communities. To take that internet tough guy persona and drag him into real life, so that I could feel that same rush of confidence, that same glee of being part of the in group. Only, the conversation didn’t turn as I had thought, and suddenly the “in idea” wasn’t to scream “Yiff in Hell Furfags” at the top of our lungs but to have a thoughtful conversation that actually evoked a real range of human emotions. And I think to some degree I didn’t know how to deal with it. It shattered that world view that everyone was in on this joke about Furries. That at the very core I had sacrificed my empathetic side for the part of my brain that got satisfaction for making fun of the group. The worst thing of all was that I never really agreed with the whole nature of “Haha Furries are terrible”, I had just found it funny and it was easy to fit in.

And here I am today, doing the very same thing and clapping myself on the back, as if I had done a good job. Claiming that people with legitimate psychological horrors inflicted upon them should just suck it up and move on. What the hell do you say to yourself when you realize what it is that stares back at you in the mirror? Who the hell is this online persona and what does it really represent? Is it me? God I hope not. Is it some envisioned super hero, confident version of myself? Jesus let’s hope no that either. I had let the internet become more then a shield, I had let it become a weapon; because, whenever I had an idea challenged or a thought disassembled, I could just climb into an echo chamber and be told I was in the right over and over again, ignoring legitimate fallacy in order to make myself feel better.

I want to give you a quote; because, shortly after I posted this bullshit I received a phone call from a friend (I want to make it clear to all of my friends that I am incredibly grateful not just because you were there by my side when I needed a shoulder to lean on, but also because you’re willing to call me on my bullshit). In this case, that bullshit was over the nature of privilege, safe space, trigger warnings, the words, the whole range of emotions it evokes in people, and I remember something very specifically from the conversation that struck a chord with me, and I hope maybe to some of my readers it will to you as well

But when you went home, at the end of the day could they pick on you for who you were there? Did you have one place you could retreat to? That’s it right there, you had a place you could feel safe. The beatings about who you were stopped there.

Obviously I’m paraphrasing a bit, but I hope the core message remains intact. For me, even though I got picked on at school, got made fun of, got called all sorts of names. At the end of the day I had somewhere I could go back to. I had somewhere that the very makeup of who I was wouldn’t negatively effect my encounters in that area. It made me think about things a little differently. About the whole nature of a safe space vs. an echo chamber and the difference the two can really have. And while my views regarding specific elements of manipulation and poor use of the word (notable examples include reddit’s /r/lgbt and /r/srs) have remained largely unphased, my understanding of the true nature of the word has not.

I’d like to pretend that this isn’t some kind of grandiose apology, but at the end of the day, it is. My hope is that it can be more then that. I hope that beyond an apology it can be a lesson that we must remember that we are all human, and that there are subtle and powerful human emotions at play. Even if I have become apathetic to those things, others have not; that my tolerance and thick skin do not give me an excuse to bring emotional harm to those without. I am being no less a bully then what happened to me and that isn’t right.

I had originally waned on writing this, but a post an old friend reminded me of why I should. I wanted to get roweled up, to disagree, to say something, but the truth? She’s right. If the atheist movement wants to truly pride itself on morality and ethics then we have to be willing to fight back the casual misogyny and racism. Social Justice beyond the scope of religion, race, creed, sex, gender, all of it has to be taken with the same skeptical and rational approach. We have to fight for humanity, not just for those causes which affect us.

The endless circle jerks have to stop if we want to move forward. I realize that we aren’t going to change the whole of human society in a matter of years, but you have to start somewhere and turning Social Injustices into nothing more then jokes is not the way to go about doing so.

I will probably slip up again, say something terribly racist, casually homophobic, or terribly sexist in the future, and it is at those times that I hope one of my friends slaps me again. I and those like me have to grow up and evolve even if change is something we’re afraid of. We’ve got to be willing to get out there and mingle with the different opinions; because, without them we are no less shallow then those we belittle.

 

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