How not to be kind of a jerk.

November 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

I just want to say thank you. In two days my previous post was viewed by over 100 people. I know that isn’t big in Internet terms, but it’s so much more than I ever though would see it. So thanks so much for reading and tweeting it an sharing it. I hope people understood where I was coming from.

But something has come up since I posted that last piece. I shared it with the Facebook friend who posted the offending picture. Specifically, I posted it as a comment to the picture, since I thought it said everything I thought needed to be said. And he/she responded on my wall. I quickly copied the response to email to a friend I had been discussing this issue with. I want to post a response to his/her response here. I feel a little scummy for doing so, though, since I have already unfriended him/her (for reasons that I hope will become clear), but I really feel like there is a lesson her on how not to respond to someone who has been hurt by something you’ve done.

Tip #1: Don’t respond to the complaint by basically saying, But I didn’t mean you.

Oh no he/she didn’t. Well, yes, he/she did.

The issue, as far as I’m concerned is not how much debt you have, what type of job / career path you have chosen, or whether you are employed or not. The issue, as far as I am concerned is individuals who have not sent out the 120 job applications, have not gone to school in hopes of pursuing a job, or who, after school, take no steps to continue in utilizing their education to pursue a career or a job. People who truly believe in social justice work for it. Whether that work is paid or unpaid. The soldier in the photo works for it through his service. You work for it through your involvement with the ACLU, and through your blog. The collection of over a half-million dollars by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is not being shared, the littering on and destruction of public property by large groups all mimic the worst behavior of the organizations they are protesting. I have enormous respect for people who act upon their convictions in a positive and useful manner.

So I don’t fall into the category of good-for-nothings that picture admonishes! All is well. Except, it’s not. Because I totally am in the category of people that picture admonishes. I obviously am. The photo clearly implies that people who don’t work hard will fail, and since I have failed to find a job in the year and a half since I graduated, I must not be working hard enough. I’m not the only one who sees this, right?

Another thing that bugs the hell out of me is the discounting of an entire movement – which, by the way, has plenty to be pissed about – because of littering and “mimic[king] the worst behavior of the organizations they are protesting.” I can’t speak to the littering. I’m not there. But mimicking the worst behavior of Wall Street banks? Last I heard, OWS hasn’t destroyed anyone’s pension or taken millions and millions of dollars in corporate welfare. These are the issues OWS is trying to call attention to. You can cringe at the tactics, but it’s undeniable that the issues are real.

Tip #2: Don’t remove your own defense after the offended hits back.

Yep. That happened. In his/her defense, my response did include an f-bomb and a couple of “bullshits.” I was worked up, and I probably shouldn’t have used those words. Then again, I subscribe to the Stephen Fry school of profanity. But that really wasn’t the worst of it. He/She also deleted my comment from the offending photo, so no one else who came across it would see an alternative point of view. The photo, I should add, remained. This what made me unfriend this person. I usually don’t cut someone off because of philosophical differences (if I did, I’d have…no friends), but this was an affirmative act on this person’s part to disrespect me as a person, and I’m not compelled to go along with it.

Tip #3: Say you’re sorry.

Look, I think I was pretty clear in articulating how the photo made me feel. You don’t have to agree with it, but you should recognize it’s validity and apologize. You should apologize for no other reason than you hurt someone’s feelings without meaning to. If that had happened, I’d probably have one more Facebook friend today.

Tip #4: Use the uncomfortable situation as a means to grow as a person and see another point of view.

Not everyone is going to agree on everything, but being able to see another point of view is necessary to being a fully developed human being. A little introspection never hurt anyone. Recognizing that your actions have consequences is one of the hallmarks of being an adult. That doesn’t mean that everything you do must be vetted by the PC police. But it’s important to know that we live in a society with lots of people and lots of opinions and sometimes it’s good to let those people and opinions influence how you see the world.

This post is a little off topic, but I thought this could be an important learning experience. None of us are perfect, and I’m sure I’ve offended people and then got too defensive or dismissive. But we can do better than that. Our discourse can be better than that. I hope that I haven’t hurt anyone’s feelings by posting this piece. And if I have, then I apologize. I can see how this would upset someone, but I think this is terribly important. Maybe next time I write something like this I can make my point in a less offensive way. I hope we can still be friends.

Image credit: Carnoodles

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