Monday Miscellany: Compassion, Cameras, Charity

This week is full of really thoughtful social justice pieces. Get your post-Christmas, people-really-can-live-together fuzzies here.

1. Miri on the push-pull between people who want to learn and understand and people who want to have advanced-mode conversations.

Anger can be absolutely 100% justified and still cause people to shrink and shut down and go away. That is, in fact, one of its purposes. For most people, getting yelled at is not conducive to the sort of mood–hopeful, curious, alert–that is conducive to learning. Many of us have had awful grade school teachers who yelled at us; some of us might still remember what that was like. I do. I didn’t learn squat-diddly-doo in that class, so focused was I on making myself small and unnoticeable and calming myself down.

[…]So there’s sometimes a difference between behaving in ways that are absolutely understandable and justifiable, and behaving in ways that are likeliest to get us the results we want to see. When I think about how to respond to someone online, I think about what I want to happen here, and how I can best make that happen. It sucks that we can’t always express ourselves fully if we are to achieve certain goals, but that’s part of being realistic and goal-oriented.

2. Laurie Penny responds to Scott Aaronson’s comment on being an excluded nerd. (Do make sure to read Scott’s whole comment). I think the thing I like best about this is the sense of collaboration and compassion. Too often Laurie Penny’s pieces remind me that authors remind me that just because some editor put that awful, inflammatory title on it doesn’t mean I will hate it.

3. Dan Kahan talks body cameras for police forces and the problem of motivated perception compounded by motivated focus: we will actually look at different parts of a video based on who we feel is ‘the bad guy’ (This is also an endorsement of reading the Cultural Cognition Blog)

I definitely favor police “bodycams” as a means of promoting greater police accountability to the public and greater public confidence in their police.

But there’s a pretty straightforward reason why bodycams won’t prove to be a silver bullet in the effort to subdue societal conflict over excessive police force: perceptions of who did what to whom in such disputes are among the class of factual beliefs influenced by cultural cognition.
Whether the police can be trusted to refrain from abusing their authority turns on a host of disputed facts symbolically identified with membership in important cultural groups. Accordingly, the stake that individuals have in experiencing and expressing solidarity with those groups can likewise be expected to unconsciously shape what they see when they view filmed depictions of violent police-citizen interactions.

4. I’m pretty surprised that one of my favorite year-end pieces came from Gawker, but it did. The writer who broke the Justine Sacco story (you might recall the woman who tweeted that she was going to Africa and hoped she didn’t get AIDS; that was Sacco) meets with his subject and reflects on humanity and outrage culture.

5. Male-tears feminism.

6. Half-A-Sexual reflects many of my complicated feelings about dating and relationships and asexuality.

7. The strange relationship between depression, sadness, and performing mental illness. 

When I’m having a depressive episode, I’m not walking around in tattered black clothes, weeping and wailing. I go out with friends. I crack jokes (especially sardonic ones). I keep working, and have friendly chats with the people I work with. I often manage to feed and clothe myself, I read books. Above all, I experience moments of happiness. A flash of delight as I’m walking on the beach with a friend and the sun is perfect and the breeze is just right. A surge somewhere deep inside when I look around me and I’m surrounded by beautiful trees and it’s raining and I feel my heart swelling to encompass the whole world. A warm, friendly, affectionate sensation at the touch of a friend, a hug at the end of an evening or a hand placed over mine as we lean forward to see something better.

Yet, I feel a strange conflicting pressure. On the one hand, I feel like I need to engage in a sort of relentless performative sadness to be taken seriously, for people to understand that I really am depressed and that each day — each moment of each day — is a struggle for me, that even when I am happy, I am still fighting the monster. I feel like I need to darken everything around me, to stop communicating with the world, to stop publishing anything, to just stop. Because that way I will appear suitably, certifiably sad, and thus, depressed — and then maybe people will recognise that I’m depressed and perhaps they’ll even offer support and assistance. The jokes die in my throat, the smile never reaches my lips, I don’t share that moment of happiness on the beach by turning to my friend and expressing joy.


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