wombat_socho (wombat_socho) wrote,

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Friends and politics and politeness and all that

I was reading this post on a blog I'd never seen before, which I had reached through a link at Amritas-sensei's place. It made me think for a minute, after I got done feeling bad for her. I've never been in her shoes, so I've never really had that kind of experience, but I do have a notion of why she got into that mess. Philosophical stuff follows, feel free to move on to other stuff.

I grew up a service brat, in a place and time where the military was a long way from the worst thing you could do with your life. Nobody protested our high school having a junior ROTC squadron, and except for the dirtbags at the Pentagon during the Vietnam years, the military bases in the area didn't have a lot of problems with protesters. Most of my friends thought it was pretty cool that I joined the Army, and in fact they threw me a pretty kick-ass going away party. I'm still in touch with some of those friends, though despite e-mail and LJs and free nights & weekends on the cell phone a lot of the relationships have fallen prey to what seems like the inevitable decay imposed by time and distance. People do grow apart if they aren't around each other a lot, which I think is a corollary of David Wong's Monkeysphere theory.

Anyway, all these friends of mine and I got along pretty well in spite of having disagreements over politics, religion, the female of the species, and similar incendiary issues. In fact, I once offered to dump a friend of mine off in the middle of nowhere on Route 50 at two in the morning after he unintentionally insulted my parents while we were discussing religion. (He'd bought into the "only uneducated peasants really believe in Catholicism" BS.) He apologized and we got along just fine after that, for the most part. Same goes for my family. I don't know Mom's side of the family all that well, but most of the Trainors are a bunch of bleeding-heart liberal Democrats, which doesn't keep me from loving them all dearly.

More recently, I have a lot of friends & acquaintances here in Minnesota whose politics and religious views don't jibe with mine, and nonetheless we get along okay most of the time. I think the deal here is that most of the locals knew I was conservative (or had it pointed out to them) and so, being Minnesotans, weren't about to get in my grill over politics or religion at a social function any more than I would. Also, they're not as shocked when they drop by here and read my occasional political fulminations, because they know where I'm coming from. On my side of the table, I usually don't discuss politics or religion at SF conventions and related social functions, because I think it's in poor taste. We're there to have a good time, not have an argument, and I'm not the kind of person these days that finds arguments entertaining; I have enough stress in my life as it is, thankyouverymuch.

It's got to be harder for somebody that grows up in a part of the country where the military is despised and Republicans are considered no better than a bunch of thieving, warmongering liars who want to put dog food in little Johnny's school lunch and throw Grandma into the nearest snowbank. Let's not even get started on what these folks think of Christians, or "Christers", which appears to be the new epithet in some circles. Growing up in that part of America, your friends are mostly going to think like that, and when you start thinking differently it's not going to go over too well. Humans in general are wired to dislike things and people that are different, because way back in the monkey days when our ancestors were wandering the plains of Africa with rocks & sticks looking for things to bash & eat, Others were Different and Dangerous. There's still a lot of that wiring left in the brain, although civilization usually manages to install some more advanced software that allows us to work around that and deal with different people without reflexively reaching for a grenade or an M-16 or a rock. Sometimes the software works great and you get diplomats and priests and other such folks; sometimes it doesn't or isn't installed to begin with, and you get Pat BuchananNorth Koreans. Either way, politeness is one of the essential subroutines, one which appears to have been corrupted badly in recent years. It goes hand in hand with courtesy, which some people lambaste as hypocrisy, but in fact is an essential lubricant of society, as Heinlein once observed.

I blame the neo-Rousseauist attitude that you should always be honest about your feelings, be natural and just do what feels good. While the other apes in your tribe may be okay with that, we're not living in a tribal environment, and the other people that have to deal with you may find you to be a major pain in the butt, one to be disposed of as soon as the exigencies of business or social requirements allow. Sometimes there's no way out of honestly expressing your opinion, but you have to realize that even in America, there's a distinction between free speech (which has a cost) and free beer (which doesn't). Only the government has to keep its grubby paws off your speech, although Congress and the courts keep trying to slip the odd restriction in there -yeah, I'm taking about you, you fuckers. So if you have to get something off your chest, be ready for some friends to decide they don't want to be around you any more...because they probably weren't that good a bunch of friends to begin with.

Monkeys are like that. So are people.
Tags: culture & politics
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