Politics, Violence, Social Media, and Dungeons and Dragons
I've not written this post several times. It will be intensely personal, brutally honest, and not directly about gaming resources. It is likely something in this post might trigger you, regarding abuse, sexuality, or mental illness. It is filled with ups and downs, trials and travails, good and evil, hope and loss.
A) It is one year ago today I was fired, illegally, due to a medical condition. Soon after termination, I was diagnosed with an Apnea Hypopnea Index of 120+, breath stoppages of a maximum 35 seconds. An index of 30 is considered 'critical'. (That's code for deadly. The number is the number of times during an hour that breathing ceases. An exercise for the reader: Multiply 120 times an average of 30 seconds and see how many of the 3600 seconds an hour I didn't breathe while I slept. My AHI is now < 2.)
B) It is one year today that I've survived as a full-time working artist and writer! (hint: support me on Patreon!)
I'm not a smart person. Tests say I'm a smart person, but I don't think that's true. Not because of low self-esteem, but because I stop and think what someone smarter than me would do.
It is no great insight that those two statements of fact create different biases. A smart person would realize that and try to eliminate their biases. So that's what I did. I broke out of my filter bubble. I got in conservative groups, liberal groups, groups that claimed to be unbiased, reviled groups, secret groups, popular groups, and more, because I wanted to understand people who are not like me.
You know what I found out?
What I Found Out
I spent 20 years (1998-2017) working in mental health. That means psych wards, live-in home waiver services, drug and alcohol counseling, almost all with teenage youth. I've worked closely with schizophrenics, drug addicts, murderers, rapists and more. I was involved in violent confrontations multiple times a month.
A real life example, a 14 year old youth with fetal alcohol syndrome and developmental disability, watched his father murder his mother in front of him on a boat, then was sent by DHS/CPS to live with a family that repeated raped him until he came into our care.
Did you get empathy for him due to that description? It's probably because I didn't mention the rapes he committed against the female children under 10 in the home he was put in. He would scream and attack people so he could be restrained because he was touch starved.
I'm not doing that for the shock value. The above is hardly an unusual case. What I'm saying is that for 20 years, I worked with nothing but victims and criminal degenerate sacks of shit. Almost universally these were the same people.
Now, I've also run across evil; true, real human evil. It exists. But working with criminals and mental patients, the kind of place you're going to find true evil outside of a CEO conference, I can count the number of times I encountered true antithetical soulless broken evil humans without using all the fingers of one hand.
I can speak about this, because I spent 40,000 hours working with the mentally ill and in the medical sector. Here are things I learned that are the foundations for how I approach life.
+Arbitrarily deciding that people have infinite self-worth that is not based on externals (skin color, job, education, money, country of residence, political affiliation, personal beliefs) is a healthy way to approach life. Once someone's worth is based on externals, it immediately becomes possible for some people to be worth "more" than other people. For the last 40,000 years, this has resulted in enormity. From this week when a synagogue was attacked by a domestic terrorist, to early humans committing genocide against close relatives. Out of all the time we've had, that's been true for all of it.
+Everyone has a good reason when they commit a crime. A bank robber has a very good reason to rob a bank, or they wouldn't. Nearly everyone who commits crimes does so because of their own pain and suffering and they justify it because they don't understand the way things really are. In a surprisingly large number of cases, this is due to biological factors they have no control over that punish them with overwhelming pain and confusion. (e.g. pedophiles or people who have anger issues.)
+All actions people take are, to them, the most rational and logical course of action to take. If you or I were in their position, experiencing what they've experienced, and limited by their natural faculties, then you or I would make the same choices. Because it appears not rational to you, means you lack the perspective to understand why they view it as a rational action. This doesn't mean their action was rational—I'm fairly certain the bibles weren't shooting beams of light in an arc into each other.
+People are different. liberals aren't weak 'cucks' trying to undermine civilised society and conservatives aren't malicious assholes trying oppress minorities. They are different kinds of people with honest, core, philosophical differences. This is true for a lot of good biological reasons, which is why it's so difficult for one to understand the other.
No, Really, Here's What I Found Out
This is really about Dungeons and Dragons I promise.
Expanding my filter bubble showed me a lot of things. I saw people accuse others without facts. I saw a lot of people who would just make things up because they weren't alive when things were different. I saw people organize to blacklist and slander people. I saw people taking joy in other people's suffering. I saw people engage in gatekeeping and kinkshaming. I was told that adults could not be held accountable for their actions, that influence overrides free will so what gets made needs to be controlled. I was blocked by people I still love to this day. I was accused of supporting national socialist racial genocide. I've seen people claim hate groups (al-qaeda, kkk, nazis) were fake news. I saw people who are ideologically possessed. I saw anger, and fear, and hate.
Don't get me wrong, I have an agenda for this post. It's pretty much centered around supporting my daughter and writing about gaming. Listen.
I accept you. Yes, you.
I'm not writing this to change your mind about anything. In the last five years, I've had a life threatening ischemia, had my father die, become a father, lost my career and started a whole new one from scratch, was diagnosed with a serious mental disorder, gotten divorced and moved twice. I am currently in a legal battle against the Mother of my child who is illegally denying me visitation for my daughter out of spite. That's a major life-altering event about every six months for the last half-decade. When you tell me it's evil or wrong to talk to whoever you've decided is bad, my scale for what's important might be calibrated a little differently than yours.
If a United States marine veteran who spent 20 years working in the public health sector helping disabled non-white youth overcome crisis and addition, often in rural areas only reachable by plane (I spent 5 years of that doing work in rural Alaska) is being accused of being a Nazi, something is a little wonky.
What's wonky is that we are in the middle of a culture war caused by a fundamental shift in the way humans interact as an organism. It's called the internet, and it's not going away, and we are going to have to adapt to this new form of communication and interaction.
SERIOUSLY THIS PART IS PRETTY FUCKING IMPORTANT
Perhaps you are different then me. Perhaps you believe that if you interact, view, or talk with the wrong person, that the only solution is to make them verboten. *Perhaps you believe that when I draw a map of a dungeon and sell it that threatens your safety or causes harm to you.
Well, here's the thing. If you feel that way, you're really in the minority.
Most people are moderate and are exhausted by all these extremists [edit to clairify: Not Nazis, fuck those guys. There is no 'both sides'. Violence and the call for genocide is a crime. I explicitly mean 'extremists in the gaming community' I think everyone can immediately think of a name or two], Outrage peddlers living on the suffering of the left and right both, and their inability to get along. There is a whole job category of people who make their living by generating outrage. Those people, and the ones that support the outrage are a mind-boggling minority.
If everyone in america were 100 people. 8 would be in one corner, 25 in the other, and the rest of us just sick of listening to them yell at us, about each other. When this happened in England, they put all 30 of those folks on a boat and made them come build America.
One thing that extremists like to do is to respond as if I've typed (said) something I didn't actually type or say. So if I say "Extremists are minorities", extremists will view that as an attack—as if my failure to be an extremist will cause fungible harm in the world.
It won't and the extremism does.
This doesn't mean I'm a degenerate piece of shit. e.g. If a person is talking in my game, and another person talks over them, they get a warning the first time and a discussion where we process the behavior the second. (I was a counselor for 20 years, remember?). I recycle. I donate to CRI. I've served my country. I volunteer. I vote in every election. I am a citizen and I take my civic responsibility seriously. I'm a minimalist. I still eat meat, but not daily. I am the change I wish to see in the world.
And I wish to see less extremism.
Ok, holy shit I get it. Things are going to change. We are at a peak of human development. But it can't go up forever. Sooner or later it will come down. That could be Tuesday, or it could be the heat death of the universe. That creates a lot of anxiety. We don't know what will happen.
But you get wrapped up in that, you are just going to make yourself sick. They have a plan to make sure everyone on the planet has water. Like life was a god-damned camping trip. If they don't have access to fresh water in second-world places like Iran, South Africa, or Flint Michigan, then they make sure they had access to potable water.
When I was born, there wasn't any hemisphere of the earth that didn't know war, now all outright war is limited to a small slice of the planet. I could post links all day to all the wonderful fantastic things the we are doing.
All I'm saying is that if you're not old enough to remember having to wait till Monday morning to call the Library of Congress to get the answer to a question then you don't have any idea what fake news is.
It's ok to enjoy games!
The majority of all people are not extremists.
You can play and talk about games anywhere you like with anyone you like and it doesn't make you a bad person.
I'm not scared about writing this, because anyone who's upset about what I said, is an extremist and statistically if everyone single one of them stopped following me, It would be a small enough number that I would not experience any significant threat or change.
So, for example, I'm on MeWe. There's a lot of people who are talking about how MeWe is going away, like Gab. It's a haven for the 'wrong people'. Yeah, the 1,000 contacts who are talking about gaming in my circle over there don't care. I don't want to make a political stance—I want to talk about Dungeons & Dragons. There's literally thousands of people over there doing that. We've known for more than 200 years that Free Speech is Important. I also think it's good hate crimes are illegal, and understand the difference between the two.
I get 100 new contacts a day on MeWe, ever since the G+ exodus began. I see people posting on facebook about terrible people on the platform. Of course, the same people on twitter or facebook don't seem to bother them. I've even seen some people hoping all those gamers have their space taken away.
That's cool! I accept them. They, like all people, are acting out of pain. But it won't stop me from talking to literally thousands of people about gaming. I post on Facebook and you know, some extremist acting like a violent asshole isn't going to get me off that platform. I broadcast on Twitch about 25-30 hours a week, and Twitch users commit violence against each other on the regular. What's that saying, no conscientious consumption under capitalism?
What can we do?
All hope is not lost. I too have been experiencing more frustration and anxiety from social media as this war between extremists goes on (as they all try desperately to convince us to not be calm, rational, and moderate). Mine was pretty severe because I changed my job to one that depends on media to survive. I see others hurting and suffering, so I'm walking the walk. This is how my knowledge of mental health helps me cope with the aggression and social violence of extremists. So I've been building a playbook of strong mental defenses using psychological techniques as follows:
+Don't believe anything. Belief means you think a thing. It doesn't mean you know it or can prove it. It just means you think it. Belief in an infographic, in where a politician is born, in the weather, deities, anything. I mean, personally I've met Ganesh the deity twice in person. But I don't "believe" in him any more than I "believe" in my daughter.
I'm not saying you shouldn't listen to people, I'm saying you should listen to the right people. I've got 40,000 hours in the medical field. I don't know fuck all about climate change. I don't believe anything about climate change. But during a spirit gathering, I talked to Yu'pik elders who had seen over 80 winters and they said that the snow no longer squeaks, because now there is water when before it was too cold to have moisture in the air.
You know what I know about? Heath Care, Counseling, Art, Video Games and Dungeons and Dragons. Possibly an amature opinion on movies or series procedurals. Those are the topics I can give an informed opinion on. Why would you listen to anything I thought about politics? Or anything else? Perhaps take a minute to note the million words on this blog covering video games and Dungeons and Dragons.
It's the same with the outrage sycophants. If someone isn't discussing an area of their specialty, but rather a variety of rotating topics—that's a talking head. Their job isn't to share knowledge, it's to push an agenda. Rosanna Pansino talks about cooking. Reviewbrah reviews food. Scotty kilmer talks about cars. Hack and Slash talks about Dungeons and Dragons. Those are creators. Know the difference when you engage.
+ Cultivate your awareness like a garden. CPGrey has an excellent video explanation of the fact that outrage from extremists is ultimately reinforcing and self-destructive once it veers far enough away from reality. This video will make you angry.
+Investigate claims to the source. If I hear someone make a claim about someone, it's literally the future. I can have a face to face call with nearly every human being on the planet in a matter of seconds. When I wanted to know something, I directly reached out and asked the person and then used my own judgement to determine the truth of the situation.
It's the same about concerns about MeWe. What I did was investigate and make up my mind myself. Here is a video where Matt Finch talks to a Jason Hardy the Project director of MeWe, and within 24 hours they responded more to our concerns then google+ did in total. MeWe is politically unaffiliated, but they have banned members for hate speech. Here is a conservative article bemoaning that they ban hate speech. We (G+ gamers) were welcomed to MeWe with a User Experience survey. A panel was held discussing the platform. Someone mentioned in a thread on MeWe that the pointed out the terms of service needed adjusting if they really claimed to be neutral and they adjusted the terms of service the next day.
+I engage in social media less. I read it, but now the only time I actually engage is to talk to artists or other creators. I'm tired of being sick to my stomach over stupid discussions online about shit people don't have the first clue over anyway. I'm tired of the never ending rant of just a few people who desperately want someone else to take their side or back their cause. Have you noticed I'm more quiet on social media? It's because I'm bowing out of the arguments online. That's not the fight. That's people trying to profit from the fight. I win the fight when I vote, volunteer, and fulfill my role to my community, family, and planet. Not when I'm pushing an agenda.
+Beware of totality in speech, be skeptical of fear mongering, and think about what might motivate someone to do a thing. When Rome fell, people still got up in the morning and went to work. The course of life is natural.
+Finally, holy shit guys, can I get a break. Just go another six months without a death, lawsuit, alien invasion? One stable year? So much crazy crazy cool stuff is coming!
For a little levity after all that, watch my daughter draw a D&D monster.
If you'd like to talk to me about any of this, you can have a direct conversation with me online on twitch when I broadcast, or you can write or verbally chat with me on discord (Agonarch#0828). When you visit me on twitch, it's just like television, except it's me drawing one of my maps! I won't be talking about any of this on social media, but I'd love to have an in person, voice or face conversation with anyone who wants to.
There's a lot of good gaming coming, I hope to see you there!
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**[Edit 2 the original text that was replaced: Perhaps you believe your safety is threatened and actions I take by listening to people or writing only about games is harming you.]