This is a thing I wrote in response to some SFF fandom bullshit going on. If you’re reading this and don’t know what the Sad/Rabid Puppies are, well, I envy you. Stay unaware. Don’t google it. Google prehistoric squirrels or Steven Universe conspiracy theories instead. It’ll be time better spent. For the rest of us poor bastards who have eaten of the Fruit of Bullshit from the Tree of Train Wreck, this post is for us.
When someone says, “Well, at least I care!” all they’re saying is, “Well, at least I have an opinion!” I’ve read this from one of the Sad Pup ringleaders, and couldn’t help but read the bit about “caring” as the foot-stomp of the petulant, self-righteous child. Caring is meaningless. Caring can be split so many ways and made to mean anything. You can carry it down into all kinds of Godwin Law absurdity. Mussolini cared about train schedules. Custer cared about the Sioux. You can’t say they didn’t. They certainly cared enough to have opinions about them. To state so sternly that you’re justified in your actions, because “you cared” is simply a sleight of hand attempt to raise feelings up to the level of values, because you’re not wise or self-aware enough to process your feelings without making noises.
I read a thing online.
I didn’t agree 100% with it.
I was okay with that and went on with my life.
Why is this hard for people?
I deleted my Facebook account last week.
Or I put in a request to have my Facebook account deleted.
Or some iteration of that…
And this isn’t out of some privacy, anti-Zuckerberg stance, but simply for my own mental health. I wish I could be one of those people that lurk and post once or twice a year. The people who know what’s going on with you, but never say anything. Yeah, they’re creepy, and yeah, I’m talking about, you know, my aunt, but I envy their self-control. If I could simply lurk and not opine, I’d still be there. As it is I can’t, and I know I can’t, and I also know 4PM with low-blood sugar and bored at his desk Justin is really and truly not the best Justin. So as not to give “him” a soap-box and to cut down on the petty annoyances of finding out your former good friend thinks alien wooly mammoths built the pyramids because we now have cell phones, on one hand, and the daily machine-gun barrage of outrage-inducing current events that I must form an opinion about and emote about RIGHT NOW, on the other, the whole thing was getting me down.
Of course, I’m having second thoughts. For one thing, I’ve somehow managed to become friends with people that don’t check their email regularly. Send them a FB message or a Twitter PM and they get right back to you. But an email? No. (Although the worst of those people are the ones who you email and then they text you back, because WTF.)
The other reason I’m waffling is that FB groups were easy to organize and most everyone checked them regularly, so if I cave it may just be to belong to one or two groups for gaming and swapping books. Otherwise I start feeling like that asshole vegetarian friend of yours from high school, you know the one that passive-aggressively manipulated everyone to eat where they wanted, because they were assholes more than they were vegetarians. What ends up happening is everyone makes plans on FB to meet, and then one of them has to email me to get my input, and then bring that to the group, then back and forth, so on and so on, so that in order to stay connected I have to find a friend who doesn’t mind being stuck in the middle, and I know if that was me there, I’d be as annoyed as shit.
All that’s making me rethink my decision a bit.
I realized my favorite thing about living in South Korea. And I don’t even think it’s a South Korean thing, as a hold over to being a country not the size of the USA thing. Like if I lived in Ireland or Italy, I suspect I’d encounter the same thing. It was also what made me like living in Queens, NY. I know, Queens!
Anyway, what I like is that the city where I live, Pohang, retains the quality where a single pedestrian who is probably elderly determines how the city is designed. It’s like if you took Betty White and made her a metric unit that measured urban accessibility. Okay, maybe not Betty White, maybe Jane Jacobs, but you get the idea.
Pohang is a kilojacobs city in that every neighborhood is self-sufficient. Within an easy walk of my house I have access to hardware stores, stationary stores, delis, grocery stores, a traditional market, and restaurants. It was something Joe Mitchell talked about in post-war New York where every neighborhood was a self-contained village. This single pedestrian is accommodated in other ways as well: lots of parks with places to sit down, a robust bus system, and cheap taxis. This is vastly different from the USA where the unit of urban measure is a family with an automobile, and therefore things can be spread out, the supermarket here, the school there, and your entertainment way over there. Public transportation is treated as a charity to be given to the unfortunate, and not as a tie that binds the city together.
Now, I am talking about a small city. I have no idea how Seoul compares, although even there I think it would conform to the model of Queens, NY as opposed to Detroit, MI. And like I said I don’t think this is necessarily a Korean thing, some kind of “Wow. Confucianism dictates that you treat your elders with so much respect!” bull shit, as it is related to country-size. The USA has “Settling This Vast Empty Land” as a foundational myth, and it shows in most of our cities.
Fortunately for me, Korea’s foundational myths don’t seem to effect urban planning all that much.
It starts like this:
I’m back home visiting the States and out and about as it’s generally when I have a social life. I try to cram in as much time as I can visiting everyone I know. Invariably I’ll meet someone I don’t know and it comes out in conversation that I live in South Korea at which point they’ll slip into a script where they mistake things they’ve heard about South Korea for knowing something about South Korea. It’s like they can’t help themselves, and they have to tell me right now about one of these four things:
1. North Korea and/or the Korean War. It’ll be about the war if it’s an older guy because that’s the war the guys my dad’s age remember from when they were kids. MacArthur will get mentioned. If it’s a younger person they’ll go on and on about North Korea cribbing from Vice documentaries.
2. Asian Sex Tourism. This is always a younger guy and he’s incapable of not sharing everything he knows about sex tourism. I find it best to back away from these people and leave them as quickly as possible.
3. Plastic Surgery. Mostly women bring this up. And they may or may not bring up foot-binding as well. This is what I term an obsession with an obsession. And you can generally throw a wrench in the works by asking them if they think getting braces is plastic surgery. At least with this one I can have a conversation.
4. Dog Eating. Not as common as the above three, but still on the list. As with the Korean War and sex tourism when someone starts down this road I can actually see their eyes gel over as the obsessional script-worm burrows through their psyche and erupts from their mouth.
Here’s another one to file under Captain Obvious is obvious…
There are people I like, people I admire, people I feel are extremely insightful and worth listening to, but if I follow them on Twitter I know that they would drive me annoyed. How do I know this? Because I have done exactly that. I have followed these people, read their Twitter feeds, and become annoyed by their floodlighting. Of course, I probably have a low personal threshold for what is and isn’t floodlighting. Some folks might not mind things I do. Some folks default to hugs. I default to distant nods and maybe a handshake because anything beyond that is inherently suspicious. Other folks might operate their twitter like a traffic cop, muting people for a bit, listening for a bit. I don’t have the will, patience, or time to do that with the attention required. So what to do?
Answer: Follow other people who follow those people you like, and rely on that first group to filter the latter. And so far it’s worked pretty well. The folks I admire and find insightful remain so without drowning me in their moment to moment tribulations, squeegasms, and would-be stand-up routines.
I doubt it will come as any surprise that I have atheistic tendencies. If anything I’m an atheist that believes in mythology, or if I want to be pretentious and pretend I’m an Italian New Wave film director, “I’m an atheist with a nostalgia for religion“.
Mythology’s the stories we surround ourselves with and which shape our perceptions of ourselves and the world we live in. So, yeah, there’s Greek Mythology with Zeus and all that, but there’s also Christian mythology, and national mythology (like the Myth of the Frontier if you’re an American). Religion not only supplies one of these mythologies but builds a scaffolding around it in the form of texts, rites, community, personal practices, or shared references. When I say someone’s Culturally Catholic, Culturally Muslim, Culturally Buddhist, etc. it’s referencing their ability to navigate that mythological framework.
I joke about nuns. My buddy jokes about the Talmud. My other buddy answers his dad’s phone call with “as-salaam alaykum” while we’re sitting in a bar eating pulled pork sandwiches.
Some folks might see all this as hypocritical or cynical, but I find it all healthy and in its way respectful. Where it comes from is a maturing of religion away from one thing and towards another, a cultural identity, and more and more as I encounter ex-Mormons I wonder how long we are away from having people say “Yeah, I’m Culturally Mormon, but I drink coffee and support gay marriage.” Or they’ll sit over a beer swapping “war” stories about their missionary year. From a devout perspective they’ll be outside the fold, but from their own place it’ll be the framework they’ve inherited and can share, and as more and more people leave the fold, find life outside to be pleasant, and stay on good terms with their family and friends inside the fold, I won’t be surprised to see people saying culturally Mormon as a way of acknowledging their experiences.
I give it a decade. By which time we can all wonder about the Cultural Scientologists and puzzle out what their deal is.