tomfromhr.com a blog on tech, politics, life and zombies

22Jun/110

Responsibility and Fault

I grew up thinking I should take personal responsibility for everything.

I'm not sure when this got imprinted on me, but the idea is that everything that happens around me, and to me, is my fault. Or, at least, that I should take personal responsibility for everything that happens around me. While in general, I think this is a good idea, it's gotten me intro trouble, on occasion. It leads to a very simple and visceral response to anything and everything that happens around me. Someone's reaction to me, and something I do, is entirely my fault. If someone reacts negatively to something I do, it is my fault. If someone thinks I'm stupid, or doesn't agree with a point of mine, it's because I've failed, in some way. If someone gets away with something they shouldn't, it's my fault.

Needless to say, this is a dangerous way of thinking that places  a Hell of a lot of responsibility on me.

And yes, as I said, I don't think it's an entirely bad way of thinking, in that I think far too many people think *nothing* is their fault. But I'm not Atlas, and I can't hold the world on my shoulders. I can only do the best I can, and let things happen as they will.

It sounds like a simple thing, but it's something I'm learning, over time.

20Jun/110

Meghan McCain’s Advice for Republican Hopefuls

Spot on, IMO. Particularly #7. I don't see how anyone can win the White House against Obama by courting the far right.

Link.

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20Jun/110

Rioting, Apple and The Fourth Wall

I'm going to start off by saying I don't get sports. I've tried watching hockey, football, baseball and mostly get bored. I can somewhat enjoy a game if I'm right there, but that's really about it. I don't understand the investment in the teams or the passion people feel for them. Particularly because...well, what are they doing? They're playing a game. These games require athletic skill, yes, but that's not the attraction. If it were, Olympic Weightlifting would be the ultimate spectator sport, or gymnastics, or ballet. All these require intense physical prowess and years of training.

A friend linked me a video and said that, essentially, sports are about The Fourth Wall, about the suspension of disbelief. For those who didn't take Drama classes, this is a concept that means you generally look at something understanding that it's not really happening, but you invest in it anyway. Like when you watch a play, you understand that Romeo and Juliet aren't really falling in love on the stage in front of you, but your suspension of disbelief allows you to feel like they are anyway. You pretend there is a Fourth Wall at the front of the stage, in front of you, and the actors pretend you're not there either. If Romeo turns and waves to his Mom in the audience mid-play, he's breaking the Fourth Wall.

Watching and investing emotionally in sports requires you to believe that what they're doing out there, on the ice or on the field, is important. It's not. It may make you feel proud of your city, but whether one team or another follows the rules properly and wins the game is not important. But you choose to believe it is, along with many, many other people. I'm not begrudging anyone that, or saying that's not awesome. I invest in TV shows in the same way, so I get that part of it.

Where you lose me, completely, is when you hurt someone, set fire to something, or destroy someone's livelihood over it.

I'm not disparaging Vancouver here, nor am I going to say such a thing would never happen anywhere else. It does. Often. It has happened in Toronto and will likely happen again. I'll admit I felt like throwing something at the TV when my favourite show got cancelled, or my favourite character got killed off. But I didn't.

I've had a surprisingly parallel discussion going on this morning on a World of Warcraft forum. Someone asked a question about a good laptop to run WoW on and a reply suggested a Mac laptop. This reply was met with vitriol, anger and hatred. The reply hadn't said "get a Mac cause they're better, faster, or cheaper than a Windows PC." All it said was "I have this, it's working great, and this new iMac looks pretty good." Left and right people started getting angrier, throwing around stats, facts, figures. I found the anti-Mac people boiling my blood and started prepping my scathing and factually accurate replies.

Then I stopped and thought..."wha?" Why am I so vehemently defending a product I use? Do I enjoy it, and think it's worth the money? Yes. But the feelings that came up went way, way beyond that. And it's not like this hasn't happened before.

I think these sorts of things are related. Many of us grow up in a culture that isn't well-defined. I didn't have any real strong traditions or values growing up. Morals, yes, but mostly it was "think for yourself, be kind to people and be polite." I think we are searching for meaning now, for belonging. And we find that in any group we can throw our weight behind, a group whose values we share, or a group who will have us. We often define ourselves by this group, even if that entire identity is a marketing construct. When someone points out flaws in this identity, we brand them a heretic and seek to stop them from spewing their blasphemy. Hell, sometimes we define ourselves as NOT a member of a certain group.

And we do things we would never do otherwise, like riot.

I try, however, to break my own fourth wall every now and then. Apple products have their faults, and they don't make me any cooler than anyone else. So I try to be honest about why I buy them. There probably is some cool factor in it, yes. But design is also important to me in my products. The top of the line specs are not, and the service is. I've had, historically, great luck and great experiences with Apple and Apple products. I won't delude myself into thinking their devices are all top of the line or the specs are equal to a similarly priced Windows machine.

I support the NDP because they represent my values. Maybe their economic plan isn't the most sustainable, and maybe some of their people aren't the most qualified. But I'll honestly tell you I don't care. I support them because they represent my values. I'm not going to argue for their economic plan, because I'm not an economist and can't argue the merits of an economic plan.

It feels good to belong to groups, and I can get the whole idea of being part of a team, of supporting it along with your friends. But when you get violent, it reminds me that, really, I don't get sports.