I was looking something up and was on the wikipedia page for the Virginia Tech shooter dude, Cho. At the time (now long since lost in hundreds of edits) there was a note on an apparent “contradiction” — some of his teachers said he was a troubled kid who needed help and they were worried about him, and at least one other just hated him, said he was just plain mean, not troubled.
I thought, “that’s not a contradiction, is it? Becoming mean yourself is one common way of reacting to being tormented. Hating yourself and hating others, loathing yourself and loathing others, they’re two sides of the same coin. I know I’m ‘meanest’ when I’m feeling wretched myself, and vice versa.”
That led me to think about how I’ve been lately. On and off I’ve been hit by some really wicked depressed moods in the last couple weeks. It’ll be there one day and gone the next and there twice as bad the next day. I’ve been able to control it with cognitive therapy work, and that’s helped, but…
I’ve been pretty angry at people lately. Mostly people I will never meet, like Bush and his gang. (I haven’t been angry at the Cho dude, not because he hasn’t earned it or anything, but because it just sounds from the story like he was way out there in some very strange bad place of his own already, you know? I mean, what’s the point of getting angry at someone that horribly, horribly messed up? It’s like being angry at a shark.)
I’ve been angry at people on Reddit whose posts I’m disgusted with. I’ve been angry at someone on a BBS for saying he thinks Africa is a lost cause and we’d be better off nuking the continent and starting over. I’ve been angry at Fox News, I’ve been angry at a technical pundit I usually like for writing a particularly spiteful column, I’ve just been overall filled with outrage, disgust, and loathing. At people who richly deserve it of course!
But I realize now that this isn’t a coincidence. The depression and the righteous anger and outrage, they’re two faces of the same beast.
It’s the tyranny of evaluation. It’s a trap. By identifying bad guys and railing against them, I’m playing the “bad guy game.” Fighting fire with fire doesn’t actually work. It makes a bigger fire.
All the people that I admire most, who got the most done to make the world a better place, like Gandhi and MLKJr, did so by transcending the need to judge people as bad. They did their work of making the world a better place by means other than identifying the bad guy and fuming about how bad they were. They were able to say “I do not accept this. This is not right” without saying, to anyone, “I do not accept you. You are bad.”
So clearly abandoning the “bad guy game” is not abandoning a commitment to making the world a better place. It is probably the only effective way to really make the world a better place.
Changing the world aside, I think I’d be a lot better off cutting the world, and myself, a little more slack than I have been lately.
Let’s see how that works out.