Tag Archives: interactions

Our Heroes Are Garbage People And We Are Too

I have a problem with heroes, and I bet you do too. Whether or not you pay attention to someone’s Twitter, Facebook, or their interviews, someone you like is invariably saying shitty things about you.

I used to be able to willfully ignore my heroes missteps, but they continued talking trash, especially on topics they know very little about. When I came out as transgender, it got worse. As much as I looked up to these people or enjoyed their work, they constantly insulted and offended me and individuals like me. It was completely disheartening. My so called heroes began to show their true selves, and their true selves were trash.

Maybe It’s Just Me

When I was younger, I often believed that my getting offended at individuals dehumanizing me was the result of my own sensitivity. I believed myself to be weak because I couldn’t roll with the punches. I know now that this was simply not the case, and the individuals I looked up to simply reframed the controversy to make it about me and individuals like myself. Framing in communication is an important tool, it allows us to utilize rhetoric without changing the facts, to promote certain interpretations of events and discourage others. In essence, it’s a means of steering the conversation towards one conclusion.

What often happens when someone in a position of relative power is attacked is that they will shift the blame and communicatively construct a reality where the victim is at fault. “I was making a joke.” “You’re just being overly sensitive.” “Hey, it’s just my opinion.” While the facts remain that someone made a mistake or used language that was harmful to an individual or group, the conversation shifts to be about the victim. Often time the victim’s only action is to point out that the individual made a mistake; sometimes the victim has had no action. If the internal logic is consistent, someone could basically reframe any issue and convince people that they’re right and the victims are wrong. “You are reacting to something I said so you’re the one at fault.”

Whether intentional or not, this often results in a skewed reality where an influential person has changed the conversation and minds of several of their followers. It often incites a hate mob, specially targeted at the victims of the initial comment. Furthermore, it promotes the internalization of oppression. When reality is skewed to be against a victim, they may begin to believe that they are actually at fault. If our understandings of reality shape what we believe, and reality is skewed against us, we take in, rationalize, and internalize that reality. The reality where victims are just weaklings becomes our own. This just leads to the further marginalization of people, simply because someone in a position of power can’t accept their mistake or understand the gravity of the situation.

What needs to be understood by individuals in power is that power dynamics play an important role. Being in a position of power shouldn’t make an individual infallible, and while everyone is entitled to an opinion, when all eyes are on you your opinion can have serious repercussions for marginalized individuals.

The Problem with Celebrity

Whether an individual is respected or seen as intelligent is irrelevant. If you’re asking an individual to opine on a random topic out of their breadth of expertise, you’re rolling dice as to whether or not your hero will let you down. This is especially the case when it’s a hotly debated topic and there’s no care and dedication into understanding the problem. Privilege, widely held social beliefs, age, and trust in meritocracy only compound these issues further. So while an individual may be regarded as the pinnacle of their field of expertise, ignorance, privilege, and other social factors, may cause them to share uneducated or harmful opinions.

This is emblematic of a society that values celebrity the way western society does. We still expect that everyone that has elevated in society based on their talent will somehow be a renaissance person. We give individuals a soapbox and a loud speaker, and expect them to tell us how to think, feel, or act, because they’re someone in society. It’s also a society that places the value of personal opinion higher than expertise, that gains enjoyment from shock value, where any mainstream opinion that condemns a minority is lauded by the individuals that do not match that identifier. This is not to excuse who share their terrible, harmful, and often times violent opinions, but the construction of society plays a major role as to how they were given a voice and why they haven’t been driven out yet.

This problem does not solely lie on expertise, however, ignorance and an inability to process new information also contribute to dangerous opinions. Similar to taking a driving test or getting a degree, we often falsely elevate individuals based on solitary achievements and not continued work or relevance. When you’ve made it, you’ve made it, or so they say. Individuals that were once considered groundbreaking, revolutionary, or relevant, are falsely raised above others and given an important voice in a community. Often their contributions are hailed as being so pivotal in the cultural zeitgeist that society begins to see them as infallible leaders. As time goes on and as society becomes less interested in the zeitgeist they stood for, their opinions begin to clash harder and harder especially if their opinions come from a time society has moved past. A once revolutionary, cutting edge, iconoclast can be reduced to just another member of the establishment and no longer concerned with the revolution.

Conclusion

We’re all just living garbage. Every single one of us is guilty of holding a contrarian opinion, having shitty personality traits, and being genuinely ignorant in many ways. However, when we elevate some trash above the rest of the pile because of their accomplishments, we risk creating a monster that can have very real, adverse effects, especially on marginalized individuals. When we give an individual a soap box on which to espouse nonsense and we enforce the lie that this individual is a person of real leadership in the community, we set a dangerous precedent that often reinforces taboo, prejudices, and flagrant ignorance.

Individuals we elevate above us have too great a power to influence discussion and place the blame for their shitty comments directly on their victims. They use reframing as a tactic to skew reality and convince other individuals that their victims are simply weak or too sensitive. They punch down at individuals that they hold in contempt and incite hate mobs to further destroy their victim’s lives and safety.

Furthermore, culture of celebrity treats the opinions of individuals with social power as infallible. We still wrongly believe than any individual who has shown mastery or expertise in one field, is magically endowed with expertise in other fields. We are also constantly disappointed by this fact as if we could not see that an evolutionary biologist might not have the firmest grasps on world affairs, or that an actress and comedienne may not have any understanding of medicine. We wish, that despite creating the exact situation we dread, that somehow this would not happen, that individuals we choose to elevate may meet our lofty expectation of omnipotence as if they were a deity. At least that way the idolatry would make sense.

Never meet your heroes. In fact, its best not to have heroes at all.

Comment: On “Unconditional” Love and Support

I was always told that I was loved and supported unconditionally. It wasn’t until later that I figured out that was a lie. Certainly, you could tell your children, or your significant other, that you love them unconditionally. But until they test your patience and test the limits of your love, you will never know exactly how unconditional your love is. So I wanted to write something on “unconditionality.”

Unconditional love, unconditional support, is a lie. Of course there are conditions to everything, there should be, and it’s something we should admit to ourselves. All relationships are predicated on certain conditions, common examples of these are: mutual respect, not being an abuser, and reciprocation. Sometimes relationships are predicated on shared politics and understanding of the world, some are centred around mutual interests.

Ask yourself: “Why do I like this person?” About every reason you give is a condition for why you like, love, or support a person. When those conditions are not met it sours and harms the relationship. If I found out a friend of mine was transphobic, supported transphobic individuals, or had no respect for me, I’d cut them off. I have absolutely no qualms with ceasing communication with people that rub me the wrong way, where I see red flags, and where I begin to question why I liked them in the first place.

Saying love is unconditional is an outright lie, and does a huge disservice to anyone involved. There are ways to embrace your conditions, set high standards, and tell people why exactly you love and support them, without having to fall back on meaningless rhetoric.

Continuance

An audio version of this article is available on SoundCloud.

As is our style, I would like to write a short follow up to the article Genesis by Marie Markwell. It may seem a bit redundant for the staff to expand upon an introduction article, however I believe there are a few things to be said and I wanted to take the first feedback article as an opportunity to say them.

Intentions

First of all, thank you so much for your support and feedback. Projects like this are difficult to gauge initially, so your continued support and interest has only strengthened our resolve and given us an indicator that there is a space, and an audience, for writing about the complex nature of human/company interaction. Obviously this subject is not everyone’s cup of tea, but given how often we rant about these issues, we do have a passion and interest in presenting long-form writing on these topics and others. That said, the staff would like to apologize for the clumsiness of the launch and continued delays.

As stated in Genesis, we plan on releasing Audio versions of the articles alongside the text version. This was the source of the first delay, as the article was ready on Monday, however, it was not complete without that audio version and hence it was delayed until Audacity decided to co-operate. I understand that to some people this may be an insignificant problem to delay the launch of website and the publication of an article, but we believe the audio version to be of equal importance to the text version. I assure you that as we get into the groove of things, things will get smoother and the quality issues with the audio version will be ironed out.

That said, I would like to reiterate our intentions. Genesis was about explaining high-level ideas and giving a general overview of what we intend to be. As alluded to previously, the purpose of this publication is to provide a place for discussion of the (often) problematic business interactions and provide potential solutions to these problems. These interactions may be public interactions such as business-customer relationships, issues of governance, and issues of internal politics and policies that may affect the perception and health of an organization. Hence, we want to lead by example, experimenting in both an alternative governance structure and different mediums to express our ideas.

Governance

I also wanted to expand upon the discussion of our governance model and how Inatri actually functions as an organization. Building on the lessons learned by Gratipay, ATUnit and other projects, Inatri will operate as a worker owned co-op. We expect this method of governance to be fluid and dynamic, changing with the needs of the organization as well as feedback gathered. The short-term goal is to create the simplest, workable co-op set-up possible and then iterate upon that model continuously. We plan on actively soliciting feedback from staff, readers, and contract-based contributors, and this will have an effect on the governance of the organization.

Exploration of Alternative Mediums

The medium of audio was discussed above briefly, however, this is not the only medium we wish to experiment with. Audio versions of the text articles are only one of the ways we wish to utilize audio. We have plans of running a podcast that would sum up the week’s discussion and perhaps provide a jumping off point for further discussion. One of my more ambitious plans is to create a podcast for a round-table format discussion, similar to what you’d see if you watched The Agenda, however, that would require much more time and resources than we have currently. We also have plans to integrate other mediums in order to further our discussions. As some of articles deal specifically with software and website interaction, there are plans to experiment with those mediums in order to provide examples as to how a problem could be solved elegantly and quickly.

Genesis

An audio version of this article is available on SoundCloud.

Inatri is a publication centered on the problems marginalized groups face when interacting with companies. This is about the technological problems and constraints faced when those who don’t fit society’s definition of “common enough to worry about” try to use websites, interact with customer support representatives, or even get a fucking job.

This is about customer support switching to using “sir” to address me, after they look up my account information.

This is about systems that ask for your gender but really just want to know what pronouns they should use.

This is about the online and paper forms that actually want to ask about your gender, but present “male” and “female” as if they were the only two options.

This is about informing the world about these kinds problems and how we can handle them.

These obstacles often permeate all levels within a company—websites, support-call scripts, customer–employee interactions, and employee–employee interactions.

Sometimes it isn’t just individual interactions that are broken — it’s that your entire governance model is problematic.

Working with Authors, Handling Copyright, and Paying Contributors

A very small group of people are doing a lot of the initial writing and editing without payment. This is very explicitly not going to be the case moving forward, and I will be paying people for writing and editing articles as soon as it’s possible—no exceptions. And when I have the funds to do so, I will retroactively pay those who I couldn’t pay initially. Once I can pay people for their contributions and I’ve sorted out all the legal details, I’ll be looking to bring on more authors and editors.

People will be paid for their work. They’ll retain the copyrights to their work, and they’ll solely be giving us permission to publish it.

Articles will be written by those affected by the subjects at hand. Information on contributing—including any ongoing themes, as well as information on payment rates—will be on the contributing page.

Planning Ahead

Articles will be published every Monday and Friday afternoon (Eastern Time). We currently have articles planned through the end of February. If you would like to write an article once funding is resolved, please visit our page about contributing. Audio versions of each article will be made available alongside their text versions.

Currently planned articles will open with discussing the state of funding platforms, including an update on ATUnit (an open-source funding platform with diversity as its organizing principle) and my thoughts on how I would like to see the project move forward. Posts following that will continue our discussion of how openness and transparency can be thought of as tools rather than end goals (an issue that was first raised on Model View Culture). We’ll also delve into some of the problems that transgender and non-binary people commonly face when they use online services.

You can support Inatri on Patreon.