[We will be returning to our story in progress Very Soon Now, but I needed to get this rant out. Rest assured that nothing below applies to you lovely people reading this.]
Children tend to have little sense of boundaries and appropriate behavior, which is one reason they are taught to raise their hands when desiring to speak in a group setting. Parents and teachers work had to instill such boundaries, and eventually most children learn how to take turns speaking. They learn to avoid personal attacks. (Keith Olbermann is an exception.) As adults, these skills are very useful in a variety of social and professional environments.
Not everyone is adept at these skills. This week, I had the misfortune of attending one of the least-pleasant meetings of my professional life. Perhaps three dozen professionals were assembled for the purpose of a free-form meeting to make suggestions as to how to modify an important document - the particulars are unimportant. Things turned ugly very quickly, as one faction decided that the appropriate strategy was to (1) shout over anyone with an opposing point of view, (2) ridicule those with an opposing point of view, and (3) insist without evidence that their position was the only possible correct one. At one point, when one person was trying to get out a complete sentence, a second person shouted words to the effect of "Assume I'm right about [something]. What's your response?" Before the first speaker could reply, the second said again, "What's your response? What's your response, huh?" Let us just say that there was no meeting of the minds that day.
The Aethernet has always been a tough-and-tumble sort of place, a frontier characterized by the appearance of anonymity, in which some feel comfortable enough to lob ad hominem attacks and odd, thoughtless remarks. (Twitter's 140-character limit does not help in this regard.) One person tweeted - and had retweeted - the sentence: "Anyone who does business with [name of large bank] is an idiot." (Apparently, the bank had engaged in some particularly egregious screw-up.) As it happened, I was a customer of this bank. The writer had just called me an idiot. Oh, not directly, of course, not intentionally, and with no malice, but still, that wasn't nice. I regularly read tweets along the lines of "Anyone agreeing with [some position, policy, or political school of thought] is too stupid to live." While I appreciate forthrightness and am happy that we do not live in a world where thoughts must be quarantined, one would think that there are more graceful ways of expressing one's opinion. (I have no doubt that I'm guilty of this kind of behavior on occasion, so I cast no stones. All I can say in my defense is that I try not to let it happen often.)
Group chat in Second Life, bless its dysfunctional heart, is another area where the fingers may type something that the brain later regrets. I turned off a particularly belligerent discussion in ISC chat the other night that started on the subject of LL's new policy regarding free and low-priced items on SL Exchange, morphed into a discussion having to do with comparing corporate tax rates across countries, and degenerated into a debate about high personal tax rates and nationalized health care. I clicked it off more because I didn't care to have my screen taken up with those subjects, rather than the less-than-polite language of some participants, but the language was, in fact, less than polite.
None of this is new, of course. And emotions occasionally run high. The number of such episodes in one week focused my attention on the subject. I resolved to do two things: first, take such comments less personally. Second, recognize that others have a right to their opinions and that those opinions may occasionally be right. Occasionally.