June 8, 2020 Journal, Podcast

Baby Talk

Can we talk for a minute? Like adults?

Because there are a lot of serious things going on in the world right now. And what I’m seeing is a lot of baby talk. 

People who are supposed to be adults are demanding absolute terminals. 

They’re demanding the END of racism and the END of police brutality. NEVER again. NO MORE. Not ONE more. 

That’s not going to happen. That’s not real. It’s a childish demand. 

No matter how many marches you have or Arby’s restaurants you burn to the ground, you’re not going to END racism or END excessive force or police brutality, and you’re sure as hell not going to END violence. You’re not going to END injustice or unfairness. 

In a few months someone’s going to post another video of something happening that goes viral on Twitter — that anti-cosmic hysteria machine — and then a bunch of people are going to cry bloody murder and jump up and down and break a bunch of stuff and say NO MORE all over again. 

I’m not saying it’s impossible to create change or punish people for doing wrong. Actually, that’s what the law is for. That’s what the police are for. Their job is to enforce the law, whatever it is, using violence. 

For instance, I know that as a gun owner, I’m not allowed to shoot you for destroying my property. I know that, legally, in order to use lethal force, I would have to be able to demonstrate in court that, given all the variables, as a reasonable person, I was legitimately afraid for my life. 

I don’t agree with that law. I think that if you step on my property, I should be able to fire a warning shot, and if you don’t get off my lawn, I should be able to shoot you. But I won’t, because I know that if I do, some armed men are going to show up at my door and ask me nicely — or not — to surrender my weapon and take me to jail. And if I resist, the law allows them to use force — to use whatever means necessary, including threatening my life — to arrest and detain me. That’s actually the reason A LOT more people haven’t been shot in the past few weeks. Because most gun owners know the law. And whether they agree with that law or not, it’s the law. 

In the process of arresting and detaining people who, naturally, do not want to be arrested and detained, shit is going to happen. Some guy — some human with his own set of experiences and prejudices, making his own judgements — is going to get carried away and use too much force. Maybe with malice, maybe not. But someone is, at some point, going to take things too far or make a bad judgement call. And in that case, if the public or his peers think he made a negligent or grievous error, armed men may arrest and detain him. That’s how the law works. 

I hope that this doesn’t happen to me, and I’d like to hope that it doesn’t happen to anyone, but that’s not realistic at scale — and I think any adult with any understanding of human nature and human fallibility should understand that. Because we’re not babies and we don’t live in a fairy tale. 

Like many things, it’s a question of scale and percentages. In a nation of well over 300 million and a world of nearly 8 billion people — all imperfect — someone is going to make a bad judgement call. At that scale, I guarantee that someone, somewhere, is committing what you would consider a heinously injust act at this very moment. While I was writing this, some kid probably got raped in Afghanistan, and some drunk dude beat his wife, and some guy got high on meth or crack and robbed somebody. Some politician lied about something that cost someone their life or livelihood (shocking, I know). Someone, somewhere was brutalized or tortured, or murdered or abused or falsely accused. All of that stuff happens and it is going to keep happening because there are a lot of people in the world with a lot of problems who find themselves in all kinds of situations that, for whatever reason, cause them to do something that you might not agree with. They may do something in the heat of the moment that even they wouldn’t agree with, objectively, if someone else did it.

The global media creates a lot of this hysteria by blowing up issues that happen far away and making them seem close. The media collapses people’s sense of scale. It makes people angry about things that aren’t happening — or happening often — around them or to them. It makes one person’s problem seem like everyone’s problem, and it makes something that happened somewhere seem like it is happening everywhere. Before we had 24 hour news media and phones in our pockets all day, if something bad happened 2,000 miles away, you never would have heard about it. It wouldn’t have been any of your business. 

In the small town where I live, maybe 40 or 50 mostly white people — terrified that they’d be left out of the big protest hoo-hah — laid down in the street in front of the police station as if they were praying to Mecca. There were probably more people at the protest than there are black people in the whole town. If anyone gets profiled and harassed at all by the cops here, it is probably Mexicans, but no one was laying down for them, because they didn’t see that on TV.

Hundreds of thousands of kids graduate from high school every year, but every time a school shooting happens anywhere in the country, it makes it seem as though every student everywhere is in imminent danger. That simply isn’t the case. Is it a problem that happens more often than it used to? Yes. But, at scale, it is actually fairly insignificant. A few kids died or had a terrible experience out of hundreds and hundreds of thousands, even millions of kids. 

Most of them also got drivers licenses, even though an estimated 38,000 people died last year in automobile accidents, and over 4 million were injured. Why not march to END automobile accidents? Or driving? The world is not and has never been and will never be completely “safe.”

Are you going to END school shootings forever? No. If the state were to the ban and confiscate the estimated 300 million guns in America (aided by the threat of violence, presumably from police with guns) that might END school shootings, but at some point, some child with no sense of scale or perspective, is going to get mad that no one likes him and stab some of his classmates. If guns are banned, when an angry mob riots and assaults you and drags you out into the street — because, as we’ve seen, that’s a thing that happens — you’ll have no right to have tools to defend yourself. 

The same thing happened with COVID-19. The media kept everyone glued to their television sets for the latest updates, and convinced most of the country that they were in great danger of death or serious illness. To date, one person has theoretically died of the virus in my entire county — which means 26,000 people didn’t die, the vast majority never got sick and were never in mortal danger. 26,000 is a comparatively small number of people, because I live in a fairly rural area, but it’s a nearly full football stadium full of tiny faces and far more people than you will probably ever meet in your entire life.  It wasn’t a real danger or a real problem here — it was a perceived problem that created exponentially more real problems than the virus itself. 

One of the main products of the news media is hysteria. They make money selling it, like a show that keeps you tuned in, waiting to see what happens in the next episode. But they are creating a distortion of reality — a dire illusion. These dire illusions create more problems than they solve. 

With regard to the recent riots, businesses were burned and vandalized and people were injured or killed in places thousands of miles away from where the perceived problem occurred, in communities with completely different dynamics and totally different problems. People were punished and some were murdered for things they had no connection to or responsibility for, and that, too, is injustice. There are very high profile people supporting that or dismissing it, and that’s not OK. It’s sick. And none of this will END or solve anything. It’s merely chaos, set in motion by the mass media and other shadowy influencers. Frankly, I think CNN and Fox and Twitter should pay for some busted windows and burned buildings, because they’re the ones who profited most from the chaos they spun up. 

There are phenomena that have been part of the human experience since the beginning of time. Over the past few months, I’ve been sifting through ancient myths, and the reason that they are still relevant and even familiar is that people have always dealt with the same problems. Murder, theft, deceit, betrayal, rape, mental and physical abuse. Tribal warfare. Insiders vs. outsiders. Husbands cheating on their wives, wives cheating on their husbands, kids killing their parents, parents killing their kids, brothers killing brothers, people figuratively and literally stabbing each other in the back. These things have been going on for thousands of years and all of the angry parades and hashtags aren’t going to END any of them.

There’s a list of human universals compiled by anthropologist Donald Brown that I’ve referred to often over the years. Human universals are things that have been found in every human society ever studied. There have always been conditional social proscriptions against rape and murder, for instance, which indicates that they have been a problem always and everywhere. 

No one is going to END hunger or poverty or bullying or depression or suicide or unhappiness, either. All of those things have been with us forever, too. 

It’s rational for adults to talk about addressing problems or reducing them. It reasonable to talk about creating policies or social controls that penalize behaviors that a lot of people disagree with. 

Calling for an absolute end to human universals isn’t realistic or rational. It’s tantrumy baby talk. 

While we’re at it, let’s talk about “fucking” things?

FUCK Trump. FUCK racism. FUCK sexism. FUCK cancer.

None of that means anything. It makes you sound like a kid who just learned a swear word, or someone trying to sound tough. 

I’m not averse to colorful language and my speech occasionally veers between causal and vulgar. I’ll drop a “fuck” if it feels natural in the course of communicating. But I’m not under any illusion that swearing makes me sound tough or lends any weight to my opinion. 

Like, “oh, someone said FUCK, I guess they’re really serious and I should pay attention.” 

No, actually it just makes you sound like a mad, bitchy, little brat who doesn’t have anything substantive to say. Adolescent, at best. 

It’s like giving someone the finger, another thing that rolls my eyes in adults. When my buddy passes me in his truck and gives me the finger, and I give one back, it’s funny, because it’s a joke. If he were really angry with me, or wanted to start an argument, he wouldn’t give me the finger, because it’s a childish gesture of impotence. The middle finger says, “FUCK YOU DAD!(for taking away my allowance.)” It says, “I’m mad, but I can’t do anything about it,” or, “I never mentally graduated from junior high school.” 

People think these kinds of impotent expressions of anger make them sound serious, but they don’t. I read an article by some woman recently claiming that something men did had her “feeling stabby.”

Really, you “feel” like stabbing someone? Is that within the realm of possibility — is that something you would actually ever do? No. The fact that you have to add a cutesy “y” to the end of it indicates that. It’s attention-seeking baby talk.

Metaphor and hyperbole and even a little melodrama are sometimes useful tools in writing and I use them myself — because they’re evocative — but they are also easily overused and overdone. As with most things, context matters. 

I’d advocate for the END of baby talk, but then I’d be baby-talking myself. 

I realize that, just as there will always be rape and murder, there will always be absurd, naive and childish adults in the world. Because I’m an adult and I wasn’t born yesterday. 

However, babytalk is a tendency that can be addressed and reduced. If you want serious people to take your opinion seriously, and you want them to actually consider your input instead of merely humoring you — like someone nodding at a baby — you should probably avoid it. 

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