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This is why we can't have nice things ..

I've been thinking a lot over the past couple of days about social-normative enforcement, the kind that ranges from general hostility to outright verbal harassment and/or violence. And there are some thoughts in there that I think are worth sharing.

One fact of life that social-outliers like me grow up aware of, that isn't immediately obvious to people who tend to be closer to majority social norms, is that being a social outlier can sometimes be dangerous in unpredictable ways. There are people in this society who are driven by a certain kind of impulse to feel powerful over other people in ways that involve punishing them, and people who feel such impulses tend to justify them with pseudo-religious reasoning of various sorts to rationalize what they are at least dimly aware is not actually right, in general, but might be excused in specific cases.

And make no mistake about it, the impulse comes first, and the outlet is only a superficial perception that the abuse the impulse calls for is somehow socially sanctioned .. the bottom line is that if you are visibly and publicly not compliant with some aspect of Accepted Social Order, and you happen to come into contact with someone who sees that as an excuse to use you as an outlet for that kind of violent impulse, you're likely to become a victim of a hate crime, whether it's called that or not.

And this kind of thing happens in the shadows, in private, covertly, all the time. Feminist bloggers encounter this every day, in anonymous vitriolic sockpuppet comments from angry men that escalate exponentially with the success of their blogs. The news is full of stories of men who begin an evening with the desire to go out looking for men they think might be gay, because they're feeling the impulse to engage in violent behavior and looking for an excuse. I could go on.

But it seems to be very significant to me that these things happen in the dark, in the wee hours, up close and personal, and out of sight, most of the time. It seems to me to speak of a deep seated inner raging hate, simmering and biding its time until something comes along against which it can feel safe lashing out, but even then it hides to some degree, behind supposed anonymity or safety-in-numbers. To some extent, that's also due to the disconnect between the reality of the law and the standards of genuinely civil society and that perceived social sanction for "corrective" harassment, abuse, and violence, but to me, there's something about the nature of it that seems to be dark in and of itself, that seems to belong in those out-of-sight moments when deeper and baser emotions can come out to play more easily.

To me, that dark rage and the perception of that kind of twisted social sanction for using it to punish anyone who strays too far from (again, mostly arbitrary) Accepted Social Order is the heart of the cancer I see in this society, in the genes of the dysfunctionality inherent in it. And I don't see any way at present to get past its superficial rationalizations of pseudo-religious reasoning and deal with the darkness itself, and it's far too easy for people to give in to impulses and far too difficult for their victims to counter it when neither side has enough critical awareness to have any idea what's really going on under the surface.

I intend to write more on this, but it may be in book form ..