A Plea For Maturity

27 Sep

Many years ago, maybe not quite when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, I threw a tantrum over something. If I recall the details correctly, there was a good chance I’d be fed something I couldn’t eat (and, for various reasons, this wasn’t something I could share). I still cringe at the memory of emotions welling up inside me, to the point where I couldn’t think clearly, let alone rationally.

I was, in short, an immature brat.

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The point, or at least part of the point, is that I would probably have gotten what I wanted without throwing a tantrum, if I had managed to explain the problem. But I recall thinking that there was no point in explaining the problem. Either it wouldn’t be taken seriously (a valid concern) or it would be used against me (another valid concern). And so I disgraced myself.

I find, as I grow older, that I have less and less patience for ‘silliness.’ I have never been the sort of person who is amused by constant pratfalls. Indeed, I have learned to loathe characters whose entire lives consist of nothing, but pratfalls. The Black Adder (only the first series), Mr. Bean, early Mickey Smith (although he got much better) and that geeky guy from Supergirl … you know, the characters whose sole role is to either make someone else look better or provide comic relief.

Now, having read this far, you may be wondering about my point.

When you are a child, the smallest thing may seem like the end of the world. You have an ice lolly – the boy next to you has a chocolate ice cream. It’s not fair! It’s the end of the world! And when you are a teenager, you wail and moan and write bad poetry because you think being rejected by the hot girl/boy is the end of the world. Most teenage romance novels are appallingly cringe-worthy for the very simple reason that most teenage romance is cringe-worthy. It’s pretty much the equivalent to taking a pratfall with every second step.

Maturity is learning that not everything is the end of the world.

A mature person can recognise that accidents happen. Of course they do. And sometimes, no one is genuinely at fault. Or that someone had a slip of the tongue. Or someone merely expressed something badly. And someone may not mean to be offensive when they seem offensive.

The thing is, making a big song and dance – or throwing a tantrum – about some perceived ‘microaggression’ just smacks of silliness. A ‘microaggression’ is something so small, so tiny, that it can pass unnoticed, unless someone makes a fuss about it. But the mere act of making a fuss makes them seem like immature little brats. If Bob asks Li Han for her help with his math problems, is he recognising that she’s the brightest person in math class, trying to find an excuse to be with a pretty girl … or jumping to the conclusion that Han is good at math because she’s Asian? (As opposed to, say, her having spent time actually doing her work instead of goofing off.) What do you honestly think the answer actually is?

My name has been mispronounced (and made fun of) more times than I care to admit. It’s something I’ve learned to live with, simply because most people who mispronounce it do so accidentally. I can correct them if they do and then move on. But apparently, mispronouncing someone’s name is now considered a microaggression.

Silliness.

A mature person would recognise that not everyone can parse out the correct pronunciation from a written word. And anyone who came to me whining about how their college professor had mispronounced their name would get short shrift.

Apparently, writing a character from a different culture is now considered ‘cultural appropriation.’ What utter nonsense! I am not a Space Marine, any more than I am a teenage sorceress or an alien. There are no space marines, teenage sorceresses or aliens. Does that mean I shouldn’t write about them? Coming to think of it, should JK Rowling not write about teenage boys because she’s a woman? And writing a character from a genuine culture, done properly, is telling the world about that culture (for better or worse.)

The silliness in the recent ‘tempest in a teacup’ is astonishing. A white man writing about a black girl from Nigeria does not prevent a black girl from Nigeria writing about her own life and times. And if that white man is prevented from writing about that girl, it does not automatically follow that the black girl will have her own shot at getting published. The idea that it does shows a lack of understanding of the publishing world.

A mature person could read the book, then address the character. Someone could say, quite easily, that the character isn’t remotely genuine. Someone could even try to do a better job themselves. But that requires actual maturity.

Here’s a question. My wife, son and I were in Malaysia a few months. During one of the days following Ramadan, my Malaysian wife insisted that we all wore Malaysian clothes.

So tell me. Am I committing cultural appropriation by wearing Malaysian clothes? Or is my wife committing cultural imperialism by insisting that we wear them? And my son … being mixed-race, should he wear British trousers and Malaysian shirts? Or vice versa?

A mature person wouldn’t even try to raise the question. And realistically, I wouldn’t be impressed by anyone who did.

There is a strong difference between reasoned criticism and throwing a tantrum if you don’t get your way. And I find it impossible to respect someone who feels more inclined to do the former than the latter, just as I find it impossible to respect someone who made a habit of complaining about tiny little ‘microaggressions.’

And every time some special snowflake throws a fit about someone so minor it doesn’t even register, genuine issues get buried beneath a mountain of silliness. And everyone they target grows to hate them. And everyone else decides to ignore the silly little cry-bullies. No one takes them seriously.  And why should they?

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Our society doesn’t need trigger warnings or microaggressions or invented academic terms that serve to confuse people. What it needs is maturity. It needs adults.

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24 Responses to “A Plea For Maturity”

  1. Bobby Bedard September 28, 2016 at 2:10 am #

    How do you pronounce your surname? Also, I agree that enough is enough with people being too sensative and coming up with “cultural appropriation”..

  2. PhilippeO September 28, 2016 at 4:02 am #

    Agree on ‘Tempest on Teacup’ is very silly.

    but disagree on almost everything else. Being Mature also means recognising that Everybody definition of ‘serious matter’ and ‘sillyness’ varies. what important to me, is not necessarily important to others. What seem silly might matter a lot to someone else.

    particularly ‘microagression’. i have seen ‘microagression’ used as genuine bullying tactic, so it doesn’t always silly. Bully are creative, and deliberate mispronouncing one name, insisting on term one disliked (honey, dear, etc), Despite being corrected, is so clearly part of bully tactic that i consider any victim calling something ‘microaggression’ is True, until proven false.

    about cultural appropriation, i think it good thing actually, imitation is best form of praise ?

    As someone who graduated from college and high school, my view on this and various news of ‘college sillyness’ is a) most of the time is just young people being immature and idealistic, its often harmless and end up abandoned in few years b) very occasionally, sometime young people do make change to the world for better or worse. So tolerating college sillyness is necessary, it might be stupid often enough, but it mostly harmless and unimportant, and sometime they might be right.

    • Wayne Pharries September 28, 2016 at 6:20 am #

      I find it deeply offensive that you are so easily offended. When “college silliness” shuts down discussion and costs people their reputations and jobs we should all find it deeply offensive. In the US we are guaranteed by our constitution to have the right to offend and to be offended. That right is increasing being infringed upon and that’s not only offensive, but troubling as well.

      • PhilippeO September 30, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

        Never liked US freedom to fire employee policy.

        About reputation, people are not entitled to any reputation, and certainly should not ask government to help protect it. I generally dislike gossip, but people have Right to think about other person, rightly or wrongly.

        The Right to offend still exist, is not ‘under threat’ or ‘infringed upon’. People just must deal with its consequence. There are no right to offend without consequences .

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

        Yep, but the “offensive behavior” is often either on the side of the Left/Victim Classes or is “imaginary offensive behavior”.

        Your side has used “accusations of racism/sexism/etc” as a club and many people are sick & tired of the BS from your side.

    • sjallen343 September 28, 2016 at 9:31 am #

      It’s very easy to lose track of reality if nobody has tried to kill you recently.

      You’ve eaten today, you have an actual house to sleep in and nobody is actively trying to kill you.

      And you wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t care if they offend you. Because you’re too weak to ever be considered a real adult and show no signs of even trying to improve.

    • Stuart the Viking September 28, 2016 at 3:32 pm #

      “…i consider any victim calling something ‘microaggression’ is True, until proven false.”

      Wow… You obviously have never been in the position of having to try prove yourself innocent of something with real consequences on the line.

      There is a reason that any reasonable justice system is based upon the ideal of “innocent until proven guilty”.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 28, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

        That and of course there’s the question of “who is a victim”.

        The Liberals have assumed that anybody in certain groups are automatically victims thus if somebody is a member of those groups are automatically Correct no matter how silly they sound.

      • Stuart the Viking September 28, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

        LOL Paul! Yes.

        I was going to add all of that, but my comment was in danger of growing to the size of a small novel. I have been making an effort lately to make my comments shorter (which is terribly hard for me).

      • PhilippeO September 30, 2016 at 2:19 pm #

        And I agree with that. Any good justice system should assume innocence.

        What I mean, is me, personally, as an individual and internet commenter without any power, consider if there any news/debate/case about whatever, I inclined to Trust the victim until proven otherwise.

        False accusation is rare, and victim had many disadvantage, so my personal sympathy is with victim.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 30, 2016 at 2:24 pm #

        False accusation is rare

        Or you personally rarely hear about the false accusations because they aren’t “head-line news”.

  3. Gardner Friedlander September 28, 2016 at 4:09 am #

    Although I love your novels, I would ask you to use this post on maturity to reevaluate your thoughts on the US election.

    • chrishanger September 28, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

      My thoughts haven’t changed. Hillary bad, Trump slightly less bad.

      Of course, a genuinely mature RNC would have realised they were losing voters and a genuinely mature DNC would have looked for a canidate without so much baggage.

      Chris

      • Stuart the Viking September 28, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

        I agree, except I wouldn’t be quite so generous with the RNC (which I used to be affiliated with).

        We (the aforementioned “lost” voters, or at least some of us) have been saying for many years that we were unhappy, and why. The Republican party didn’t ignore us, they flat-out said “We know you aren’t going to vote Democrat, so we don’t have to care about you”. Most sat there an took it. Others joined the Libertarians. Hell, some probably started voting Democrat. I tried doing the Libertarian thing, but Libertarians are… I don’t know… a little off? I fit in somewhat politically, but personally, um… no.

        Trump saw that the balance between “RNC Republicans” and disgruntled Republicans had tipped and took advantage of it by giving voice (or at least lip service) to some of the concerns of the disaffected Republican voters. Trump usually used the worst phrasing possible, and made a lot of those concerns sound racist and stupid, but hey, it was better than the same-old BS they were getting from the RNC candidates.

        So now, a Presidential race that should have been a shoe-in for the Republicans has turned into a fight to the last between the worst candidates I have ever heard of.

      • nayrams September 28, 2016 at 7:20 pm #

        Hi Chris, I love your books but really think you have it backwards. John Oliver recently did a scandal by scandal comparison for both of these fools…you should check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1Lfd1aB9YI

      • Shoeless September 29, 2016 at 3:41 am #

        At Nayrams,
        I watched that segment by Jon Oliver. He can be a funny man, but an accurate source of news he is not. He ignored and neglected the worst points of each Hillery scandal. From the fact that she had multiple phones, so the blackberry one email account excuse is bs, to the actual concerns over pay to play shown in her emails.
        I used to be a huge fan of the Daily show, but I would never reference it in an argument. As Jon Stuart said multiple times, and Oliver used to work with him so he should be on the same page, he is an entertainer not a news man.

  4. Vapori September 28, 2016 at 10:51 pm #

    Actually i think both viewpoints on microagression have a point.
    sometimes it’s very silly. in collage, schools, or long standing work relationships, They can make considerable damage. why a single microagression is indeed harmless.

    Often these tantrums from mature (or at least adult) persons were something that developed over time. They feel a microagression. sometimes just one person doing something slightly different.(at work) or another viewpoint repeated multiple times.. at some point they start to bear a light grudge against another an then comes a tantrum. Often not in front of the person or group that caused it but to a friend a superior or just a random listener or reader.

    sometimes a bit less of passive aggressiveness might have prevented it, other times not.

    and then there is of course the form of microagression that might bewhen someone feels constantly misjudged sometimes rightfully so by a larger group.

    I’m not easily offended and not really a classical case.
    But as a a part-russian in germany I married early during my university days. and both I and my part-russian wife overheard quite some conversations about us.
    About marrying to early and too fast, both might have been true. But it was partly related to us being descendant from russia and statistically it is right and we fit the statistic.
    (the underlying tone was just that of light contempt)
    still it’s quite unsympathetic to hear it specially when it gets related with you being a quarter or so russian. (i can’t read the language and barly understand it.)

    same goes for drinking (I drink roughly 3% of what the avarge german drinks .)
    Still I often get suspacted to be a merry drinker just for being partly russian
    and then this isn’t really a classical case.
    I guess a turk in germany or a black in the us joining the academic has it much harder and will hear such rumors much more often. When they study something socal then they will likely like the idea behind microagression and support it maybe so aggressively that many will feel offended.

    Of course then there are children and there tantrums.. but just because child, teenage or young adult tantrums, my own included were cringe worthy and quite undignified that doesn’t mean that all tantrums today don’t have cause. even when they could express it better or in another way.

    often those tantrums aren’t meant that way, they just repeat themself over and over because they feel that nobody understands their point or cares enough about it.

    and then there are reasons for that s well and so on.. and before i write my own novel sized tantrum here I stop now.

    • Shoeless September 29, 2016 at 3:52 am #

      I will mostly aim my response at the US, but it still applies to Germany. When I was in college several of my teachers would go out of their way to “shock” us with so called offensive lesson content. The point being that by arguing against extreme positions you learn alot. Being offended shows a narrowness of mind and a lack of will. If you let someone offend you that is your problem. You could just as easily write them off as an ignorant idiot and move on with your life. But instead your going to throw a fit and make yourself unhappy. Why? To simplify this statement. Grow up and man up. Not everyone will agree with you in life. learn how to talk with people with different view points instead of getting hurt by it in some emo inspired passive aggressive bullying scheme. As for why this is mostly to the US, as someone mentioned above. We have a constitutional right to free speech. Their is NO right to not be offended. And despite recent idiocy by the supreme court, equal protection and discrimination protections are only for citizens against the government. not from citizen to citizen. I have the right to be a racist jerk if I wanted to be. It is the price we pay to make sure people can speak about the important things without fear of reprisals. Whatever those important things are to You.

      • PhilippeO September 30, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

        Woo ah. You have Right to be racist Jerk, but not without Reprisal. Everybody else also have Right, they can be offended or not offended, boycott or not boycotting, accuse you of racism, write letter to your boss, or doing anything they want as retaliation.

        First amendment guarantee protection of free speech against government, not against private individual reprisal, retaliation, or shunning.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard September 30, 2016 at 2:42 pm #

        Yes, there’s a Right to be a Jerk, but as long as there are Jerks on “your side” making False Accusations, Being “Thin-Skinned”, etc, there will be Righteous Anger against “your side” and so-called Victims.

        I say “so-called Victims” because too many times, those “victims” have more power than the people they call oppressors.

      • Shoeless October 1, 2016 at 5:20 am #

        I don’t disagree that people can get angry or right letters etc. As long as they don’t step over into open violence sure they can. Unfortunately that is not where this is stopping. The people complaining about trigger words and micro aggression are trying to force via laws and regulations people to accept their viewpoint. That is wrong and a violation of the freedom of speech. Everyone has a right to their opinions in the US no matter how dumb they are. They don’t have the right to force those opinions on the rest of us.

    • chrishanger September 30, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

      I think if it happened once, you could point it out and then let it go. Then you would be on more solid grounds if it happened again and again.

      Chris

      • Shoeless October 1, 2016 at 5:31 am #

        What makes this such a difficult issue is the subjectivity. What is the difference between flirting and sexual harassment, between a joke being funny or offensive. I would guess that in most cases it changes based on how much you like the speaker.
        And some people use the polite warning of, i find that offensive please don’t do that anymore, to effectively gag anyone they don’t agree with. You are speaking about trump, that’s racist. You speak about Hillary, that’s fine shes not a racist. Or vis versa with slightly different wording.
        The US constitution stipulates that we error on the side of letting people be offended in order to allow the free flow of ideas. But then I am frequently told it is a living document. Perhaps that idea is going out of style.

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