why we hate

>> Thursday, May 13, 2010

Earlier this year I reblogged an internet fight some critics were having over Vampire Weekend (hey! remember my tumblr? no? me neither). I think that argument, among others I'm sure, led to Nitsuh Abebe recently starting a column in Pitchfork called, "Why We Fight". Either this represents a tremendous lot of self-absorption, or it's something we need to think about (maybe both).

So here's a long story that maybe has a point.

I was in the gifted program (do they still call it that? sounds very un-PC) in school. In grades 7 & 8 this meant that the whole group of us had every single class together, every day, all year long. So we spent a lot of time together and got really comfortable with each other, even though we weren't all friends. There was a lot teasing, a lot of running jokes, that sort of thing. But we - especially the more popular kids in our class - also resented being forced to be together all the time, unlike the rest of the kids in our grade who had different classmates every period. By the time we were halfway through eighth grade our teachers were actually worried about us. They thought we were too mean to each other, that there was something dysfunctional about our class. So they actually brought some kind of therapist in to talk to us. The whole thing was very bizarre. Predictably, we reacted the way you'd think a bunch of smart-ass 13-year olds would - we got mouthy. Kind of like close siblings or twins who fight all the time, but will immediately gang up to defend each other if anyone else tries to join in.

I still don't think there was anything wrong with us. Our behaviour is what you'd reasonably expect, given the circumstances. In retrospect it's possible that we were a little too mean to the nerdier kids (for the record, I was neither popular nor nerdy at that point, just standard eighth-grade awkward). Personally, I thought our jokes were really funny, but then I was rarely the butt of them. The point is, everything had more or less righted itself by ninth grade. We moved on - new kids came to school, we made new friends, new things became important. We only had three classes together in the year (instead of all eight) so we got along fine during the time we were together.

The internet has so much information but we tend to seek out and spend most of our online time associating with people who share our interests, lifestyles, and political leanings. It can make it seem as though everyone in the world is just like us. Sometimes I look at twitter's trending topics and don't recognize a thing on there - unless it's about a volcano or the latest major election, I just don't know. These internet bubbles we create for ourselves remind me of my eighth grade class. A bunch of smart kids going to the same school who really aren't that different from one another, but have to find ways to differentiate and stratify themselves, usually by acting like jerks.

So what I'm saying is that every person who listens to Vampire Weekend, including those who love them and those who think they're derivative hacks, are all the same kind of people. The very same!

So, there's that. Fine. We waste a lot of time arguing a lot of useless points. This isn't a problem, except when you think about all the other kinds of people in the world. And that, by talking to and arguing with people who are just like us all the time, we forget how to anyone else. At least, that's what I found last week when I realized I was talking to someone who was strongly in favour of the recently enacted immigration law in Arizona (I am not in favour of that law). I did not know what to say. And do you know what? That kind of thing actually matters! There are whole countries and provinces and states and even cities filled with people who have completely polarized views on things that really matter and we have to be able to talk to each other intelligently and sympathetically.

What I really wanted to say was something about the pointlessness of hateration and attitudes and arguments that exist primarily to demonstrate superiority over peers. When I read those music critic fights I picture a downward spiral and hear a giant sucking sound. And the worst part is that I participate in it all the time. Hating is just so attractive.

In conclusion, eighth graders are mean bastards and hipsters are a threat to democracy.

2 comments:

Ramk Chardri May 15, 2010 at 1:55 PM  

You know what rid us of all this hate? A benevolent dictator. If all the choices were made for us, we could focus more of our time on seeking the basic necessities of life, pleasure and an occasional change of clothing.

I know what you're thinking: "this greasy hipster is a threat to democracy". Well, you're right. I am. I'm going to make democracy my Sidney Crosby, nothing more than a faint glimmer of the past.

b June 7, 2010 at 5:21 PM  

your plan will never work. Do you know why? You chose the wrong hockey player to disappear. I think you should make democracy your Vincent Lecavalier (the next Great One...not).

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this here ma blog.

I like to talk about things I have no particular expertise in. Especially music.

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