To the Philosopher, All News is Gossip
Why We WriteMon, March 3, 2008 - 9:24 AM
In the 1940's Frank Capra directed a series of propaganda films titled "Why We Fight," a title re-used for a more recent film that criticized the US war machine. This weekend I had a brief email exchange with a friend here on Tribe who had decided to leave and so took some time to consider yet again what I am doing here on Tribe myself and, essentially, why I write. What the heck are you doing here on Tribe?
I first came to Tribe in late 2005, encouraged by one of my computer-consulting clients to present myself here for artsy types who used Macintoshes. I signed up but didn't really do much until Thanksgiving weekend, when I joined a few groups and made a few posts, noticing that a former girlfriend was also here. She was not well (she once thought I'd sent her a pipe bomb) so I ignored her, understanding she could contact me if she wanted to visit. Instead she made a semi-dramatic city-wide announcement that she was being hunted (and presumably said more in private circles). So much for positive professional networking on Tribe! When her boyfriend invited me to a film screening and then changed his avatar to one of him pointing a gun at the camera upon my acceptance, I decided that she was *definitely* trying to communicate. I did my honest best to honor these silly, sideways signals, but finally decided that she was a clueless drama queen I left Tribe shortly after I attended (and was not approached at) the film screening. Silly woman then sued me for civil stalking in a tale that may soon be told at catherinelynnecarter.com (depending on her future legal decisions) so from pride I returned to Tribe immediately after the suit.
I am on Tribe for four main reasons. In decreasing order of importance they are (1) to publicly assert and defend my own character while (2) playing a game Eric Berne calls "homely sage" and (3) wasting time and (4) trawling for interesting cultural events. It is ironic that I would have left here years ago were it not for the selfish rantings of a silly, drama girl, yet here I am.
For the most part I think that Tribe functions in much the same way as other subcultures. Human beings are social animals who seem designed for village life, and social circles much larger than a hundred or so confuse us and leave us feeling disconnected and meaningless. There is thus a strong desire to create sub-groups: smaller ponds in which each of us can be a bigger fish, a sort of comprehensible and defensible psychic space. I keep chickens and the same sort of thing happens in protestantism, as flocks break into smaller sub-flocks for a clearer picking order. Pretty much every social animal does this, as best I see, and I came to do this among artsy, Portland-based Mac users. Having perceived personal calumny, I stayed to assert my decency and right to exist. If some twit wants to attack me, let it be in public where everyone can see how I deal with such fools.
The "homely sage" angle is something that only occurred to me recently, upon re-reading Eric Bernes' 1964 book "Games People Play." An influential book at the time and forward, Berne asserts that there are clear behavioral reasons for all social interactions, and identifies different ways people manipulate others and the social environment to get psychic needs met. Although much of the book is about destructive games and manipulations, he also notes a few positive games such as "homely sage" where a person of quite modest success relocates to a smaller pond where they seem wise and are revered. Having received a few compliments on my insights or contributions here on Tribe, it occurs to me that I get a lot of pleasure (or "strokes") from this, and that the positive feedback (or fights) are a pleasure to me. I enjoy ideas and their many uses, and get to seem both more and less than I am here in print.
The use of Tribe and other online content as a means to flee our personal pain and unsuccessful lives is clear to anyone who spends more than an hour or two of discretionary time online. As a child I retreated into play or nature or with my dog. Later I retreated into books and ideas. Today people go online, but it is still essentially retreat. "Retreat" can be a positive thing (as in a healing retreat) but it is retreat, nonetheless, and much of my online time is retreat in the ambivalent or negative sense: a distraction from more fundamental issues or tasks I should probably be addressing.
As for cultural events, there are actually darn few. I found the name of a neighborhood gallery I visited monthly, and have attended a few burner-oriented events I would have missed, but much of the stuff on Tribe is clique-based or about DJ's and (what seems to me) newage twaddle. A lot of the kids who in high school would be in band or drama club are here on Tribe more, dressing up to drink liquor. In Portland, it seems, much of the BM activities are a sort of micro-scene: a display ritual in which people dress up to see and be seen. Depressing. I know that there were lots of good people in band and drama club, but mostly they have day jobs today for good reasons. Watching them praise each other is heartening in the way that watching the Special Olympics or weeknight Little League baseball is heartening. It is wholesome and good and positive and such, but it is not the Kirov or Bolshoi Ballet.
So why do I write? To show I am not alone, and that I am not the thoughtless, senseless monster that some would paint. I am neither stupid nor merciless, just here. Thank you for reading, and giving me something to reflect upon.
|add a comment|
|I don't think you are a thoughtless, senseless monster and I have enjoyed reading your blog, and very much enjoyed the Tribal interactions I have had with you, through comments and messages. I'm sorry to hear about the drama queen/stalking situation and I hope it resolves soon.|