I’ve been trying to figure out why I have had a negative reaction to the negative reactions to Richard’s Cybersmile communications (say that ten times, fast).
I value free speech. I value divergent ideas. I value criticism. I value debate. I value discussion. I value tolerance. I value constructive criticism.
So why do I cringe and feel conflicting emotions bubble up when a new Richard bashing post crosses my dash? Why don’t I experience growth or freely embrace new ideas in the honest assessments that are negative? Why have I started doing more DL:DR than ever before?
I think it’s because we all interpret RA’s communiques through our own paradigm. Mine feels somewhat ‘in synch’ with his on most of his points and therefore if someone calls him names it feels like they are directed at me and anyone whose paradigm is similar to mine (his). I’m taking the negative reactions to RA personally not because I’m in APM or feeling second hand indignation but because they attack me and my world view personally (even though not specifically addressed to me).
This is not revolutionary or particularly insightful – taking things personally is a garden variety catalyst for feeling offended and initiating conflict both online and in real life.
Damn. I thought I was above all that. I thought I had decent metacognition. Nope. Turns out I’m bloody human after all – and much closer to neanderthal than an evolved social creature.
So why do I nod when I read his communiques instead of furrow my brow? Why does my brow furrow and the acid rise in my belly when I read persistent negative comments?
Because I’m so thoroughly egocentric it’s appalling. I assume that everyone knows and remembers the same things I do. That everyone processes things the same way I do. It’s never constructive to say “Well, I’m pretty average and I get this, so everyone else should too.” I’ve done that. A lot of that.
I remember the many quotes and interviews over the years where he’s talked about putting others first; his manners and thoughtfulness when he’s with fellow cast members; his commitment to reflect the style of the interviewer; how he praises his colleagues never taking credit on his own. I have not read anything via Cybersmile that contradicts 10+ years of statements or behaviour. His putting others first is one of the reasons I initially found him compelling and attractive. His Cybersmile communications simply reinforce those things for me.
I know that he is not a sociologist, psychologist, counsellor or bullying expert. I know he’s an average person that cares and in his admittedly fallible way, tries to make a small difference and to do it authentically – every statement he makes is consistent with who he is and how he’s conducted himself. If his personal disclosures weren’t enough, everything else confirms that he is speaking honestly and from the heart. For me, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be sincere.
I know that he writes in a sort of stream of consciousness way. He’s described it many times with regards to his characters’ backgrounds. His essay felt like that – it felt like reading his thought process – sincere, imperfect, personal, mostly uncensored. It wasn’t buffed and polished. I was moved by the style of his writing as well as the content because it felt tremendously intimate. For me, it was simply Richard speaking in a way which confirmed everything I’ve ever thought about his integrity and character.
I agree with most of what he said. There were bits that I found a little confusing but that is the nature of communication when it’s coming from the heart – sometimes there are foggy sections and you have to decide if you’re going to interpret it in isolation or trust that the future will hold some sort of clarification.
I could go through line by line, paragraph by paragraph and show what I agree with, what I don’t, and what’s confusing. But it’s sort of irrelevant – my paradigm isn’t original or unique or able to add anything new to the discussion. And in reality, there isn’t a forum for debate – only a medium for sharing opinions.
My paradigm has interpreted his texts and posts as consistent with who he is, as valid and meaningful as any other layperson, and without malice or false piety in his attempts to make his little corner of the interwebs a friendlier place. Ultimately, reading his communiques through my paradigm has meant that I admire him all the more for what he’s doing and trying to do.