My friend is currently getting deluged by death threats.
To make the issue simple, it ultimately boils down to two sides: You either believe that there are a set of criteria a person can meet to justify abusing him/her, or you believe it there is never a reason to abuse a person.
When I point that out, the people who believe the latter agree with the succinct statement wholeheartedly, but those who agree with the former, dodge the question, and telling me I am over simplifying. Since they need more, let me explain in depth.
As mentioned, my friend has been receiving death threats, as well as other forms of harassment. This started because she had been speaking up for decency on the internet. A well known game designer she knows was being doxxed, slut shamed, had naked pictures of her posted to the internet, and was being sent rape and death threats. The game designer became a target because her ex made allegations of nepotism as part of a very bitter break-up. *Updated: AS it turns out the allegations were part of a well orchestrated and fabricated lie* My friend spoke up and stated that no matter what a person did or did not do, those tactics were despicable and that no one should be threatened that way or should have their personal lives publicized that way. For speaking up and calling for maturity and decency, my friend was made a target.
Sadly this is not an isolated incident.
In Ferguson, MO, two black men were aggressively confronted by a police officer, tried to flee, and when one was shot while running away, he turned put up his hands to surrender, and was shot another 5 times.
Within the next 2 minutes, an American will be sexually assaulted. The perpetrator will most likely believe it was not rape, and the community will probably side with the perpetrator.
And so on.
The scary thing about these problems is that in each instance, the perpetrators do not believe they did anything wrong, and a community has surrounded them to support their action. The actions they take aren’t in some grey area. They aren’t part of some misunderstanding. This isn’t an issue of poor communication, an issue of one person being oblivious and making a mistake, or any other issue that cause the more mundane problems in the world. Rather the person is choosing to be violent, choosing to escalate violence, and choosing to remove the other person’s rights and safety. These are actions of clear cut abuse and aggression. But the perpetrator and the communities around them see nothing wrong with those actions, shifting the responsibility onto the victim.
And that’s the problem with the real world evil. It’s not about some cackling madman. It’s not about some faceless cabal of hooded conspirators. It’s about justifying aggression and getting the people around you to buy into that justification. It’s about crossing the line and getting people to cross it with you. Real world evil is about choosing aggression, and then absolving away that choice.
Aggression is the most primal of responses to a problem. It is seen in all species and predates the dawn of humanity. It is the easiest way to get needs met, it is the easiest way to handle threats, and is the easiest way to establish a sense of control. It is not the best way, the most permanent way, the most mature way, or even the most realistic way. It is just the easiest way. It’s the response we are born with as children, and so is always in the back of our minds.
However, we are also social creatures. The social aspect of our humanity is built on our empathy, and because of that, we feel shame when we see the harm we create with our aggression. So we try to reign in our aggression. We learn new tactics. We learn to be assertive, to empathize and compromise, and to work towards mutual goals. We learn to balance our needs with the needs of others, giving up some of our smaller, short term wants for the more important long term goals. These are the better methods, they are wiser, more mature, and more realistic.
But they are also harder.
So there exists in each of us a a desire to aggress. The childlike Id inside us seeks that quick and easy narcissistic fulfillment of our every desire. And should we find ourselves in instances of impotence or disempowerment, should we find ourselves without the skills to assert for our needs, or should we just decide to indulge our latent narcissism, the more that desire to lash out builds within us. It is common for most perpetrators to paint themselves as victims, and either they are mistaken a loss of entitlement with a loss of actual rights, or, just as often, they just don’t know how to meet their needs otherwise. One of the most common patterns in aggression, for instance, is one where the person is first passive, not addressing the problem in the moment, but letting the frustration build, until they have to blow up in an aggressive attack.
But then a conflict occurs. The desire to aggress must be resolved with the shame the aggression would produce. The person could resolve this by rejecting the abusive acts, changing how they handle situations, and examining the beliefs that cause them to lash out. But sadly, the person is more likely reject the shame. To do that, they need to remove the responsibility from their actions. They need to make their decision to be aggressive be the responsibility of the victim, or they need to dehumanize the victim to prevent the empathy switch get flipped. Either way, they need to make their actions, their aggression, and their abuse, about the victim so that no one sees the reality that it is really about the infantile drive to indulge aggressive desires. Abusers always blame their victims, creating reasons, designating criteria, that makes it ok to perpetrate the abuse.
But that is only half of the crime.
As pointed out, it’s not just the abuser that blames the victim, it’s society as well. The abuser points the finger, but society follows it, putting the abuser on a pedestal, and joining in the victim blaming. We cheer on the aggressor, because doing so allows us to live vicariously through their indulgence. We cheer every punch because we want to buy into their delusion and indulge our childish aggressive desires as well. If we let them get away with the loosening of the responsibilities, then we can unburden ourselves too. And if we can actually join in, mobbing the victim, participating, we can unleash while avoiding the shame and responsibility through the facelessness of the crown. So we support the perpetrators, we collude with their lies, we join their delusions. We accept their criteria so that some day we can can apply it to others ourselves.
The fact my friend is pushing back against that is what makes her a hero.
Instead of enjoining with the delusion, she is placing the light upon it to point out the truth. She is pointing out that the tactics used are not justified. She is pointing out there are no criteria, no reasons to justify the aggression and abuse. She is dispelling the lie. And that is why people are so angry. They need to attack her, because of she lets the truth be known, they will no longer be able to dispel their own shame, they will have to take responsibility for what they do, and they will be forced to admit they decided to abuse others.
They will be faced to admit that ultimately you either believe there are a set of criteria a person can meet to justify their abuse, or you believe it is never justified to abuse another person.