Monday, September 07, 2015

The Uses of Fiction

Two months ago I had a FB friend request from a guy I worked with from about 1988-2010 at the hospital. Through much of that stretch, I might have said he was my best friend at the hospital, and after he left, I made an effort to go see him at his house even though it's a distance. We had talked politics, religion, lots of office politics, myths of psychology and sociology, education, childrearing, regional differences, sports, and a hundred other things.

My first visit to his page was a shock. He had few posts, but more than half of those were vicious political ones - sneering, sometimes vile, unfair in an oversimplified, un-nuanced way. Things you would be unlikely to say face-to-face but only behind someone's back. I sat stunned. So this is what you always thought of me, really. I clicked the little button to hide further posts, but did not unfriend him.  I thought of mentioning it by message, or even in a comment as a type of public shaming. He didn't think he was talking about me when he posted those things.

I more than half got over it quickly as other people have real problems, and this one doesn't affect my day-to-day life much.  But the sense of betrayal remained, and as there are many paths that lead to thinking either about him, or about the problems of political rhetoric in general, the wound does get re-opened fairly frequently. It's a small thing, but nagging.

Yesterday I was composing a post about political rhetoric in my head, along the lines that when we make general accusations, we are likely to hurt those of tender conscience who are not terrible offenders but ready to blame themselves and embrace guilt. The more deeply guilty, however, simply deny any fault and shrug it off. (Those aren't the only options.  There are those who see it in others, or partly agree, or honestly conclude they aren't at fault.  The post on this might still occur.)  I wondered again if I should put my accusation before my friend.

Into my mind came the scene from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Lucy sees in a book of wizardry what a friend is saying about her - and the friend is insulting her to others. She is deeply hurt. A short while later Aslan references the incident of betrayal: "She is weak, but she loves you."

Yes, that is quite it. If I confronted my friend he would be pained and sorrowful that he had hurt me.  He was, as I noted, not thinking of the people he actually knew as included in his insult. He would think me an exception.  That's nowhere near as comforting as people think when they use that excuse. "Oh, I wasn't talking about you, Jim.  You're one of the good niggers." Still, it is something. And I'm not one as should be too critical, as I've done it myself, especially here.  I include frequent caveats of who I am and am not referring to in my generalisations - in fact, it has been mention that I do it too often and it's boring - but I certainly don't include disclaimers every time, and many posts taken singly could give offense to those who don't deserve it.

Many humans adopt their political and social beliefs because of who they keep them allied with, or because feelings of righteousness flow from being in one group and contemplating the other.  We all do to some extent as we are social beings.  But I saw at a glance that this is particularly true of this friend.  He has some reasoned opinions, I know because I have heard his reasoning.  But there are aspects of his politics that are social statements, almost a yearning to belong.  I have some immunity because I don't want to belong to many of those people.  My temptations lie elsewhere.

And so it is decided that I will not pursue it further, unless God puts it in my path, which is very unlikely, even if I run into my friend again. If he needs it to do him some good, that's God's problem.  I don't need to pretend to be the Holy Spirit going in search of arousing conviction.


Texan99 said...

In recent years a frequent joke in movies and TV shows has been a character who's in the room with two protagonists who are dominating the conversation, and say something that reflects on him. The third wheel pops up with, "You know I'm in the room, right?" It's sometimes possible to post something along those lines in a public forum without starting WWIII: "You know I'm reading this, right?"

What a good rule it is (not that I'm good about following it), never to say anything you wouldn't want repeated.

Anonymous said...

Westerners have become weak over the centuries since their ancestors. Guilt is a natural byproduct of that. The Norse raiding communities for gold and wives/concubines didn't feel guilty. And look where they ended up, Sweden and Norway allows in the rape squads and houses. It's like a reverse, all due to guilt, and not even guilt for the Vikings, guilt for the Colonization process which helped some people even as it hurt others.

Guilt is not something the strong or the conquerors have. And it's something the West might want to consider dealing with before some religion comes in and deals with it for them.

Maybe spoke too late on that, given the Leftist cult and Islamic JIhad...

jaed said...

"She is weak, but she loves you."

That's such a comforting thing to say. Because the pain of that betrayal (I think) is not in the insult so much as the belief that the insult reveals the friend's true feelings. That the love wasn't real, and the insult behind one's back proves it.