I’ve been thinking about “jokes” and growth.
As a retired college edge-lord, I was once into dead baby jokes, Opie & Anthony, and pushing people’s buttons with low hanging fruit. Standard bullshit that most kids with privilege get away with. “No disrespect”, “Not for nothing”, and “I don’t mean to be fucked up” were the perennial qualifiers to shield me from accountability and valid critical feedback.
Obviously, I’ve grown older and I’ve (thankfully) taken a step back and learned to change my behavior. I’m not done, but I do think I’ve got a bead on maintaining a semi-decent human status in the real world. I simply try to think before I speak. No easy feat—seriously—we’re creatures of impulse and it is a struggle to fight against impulses both indoctrinated and natural. Humans prefer paths of least resistance and being a conscientious member of society is filled with resistance.
But going back to the “only joking” nonsense. Like I mentioned before, introspection and hindsight are a hell of a thing and even with my attempts to change my own behavior it took a very long time to realize that those qualifying statements were thornier than I ever realized.
Because the translation of those qualifiers is quite simple, “Allow me to make light of a person’s social circumstances in a way that is entirely devoid of thought, empathy, and good taste.” “Allow me to think so little of you that I would have the fucking nerve to classify this as a joke as opposed to what it truly is.”
That’s what I hear myself saying all those years ago.
Now, I also see how this is a slippery slope. I’m not a fan of alarmist silliness and extreme wokeness. That behavior strikes me as suspect (and for good reason, anyone who jumps on every slight tends to have something to hide) but I also see validity in trying to ensure that I take people seriously enough and with enough respect to navigate my interactions with them as well as I can. And what’s funny about that is how easy it’s been to form good habits out of this; from pronoun use to simple moments where a pause benefits the words that come out of my mouth next.
I don’t think we can begin to walk a more conscientious path without acknowledging our internal biases and our bad habit of preferring ease in our social interactions. Truthfully, I find these things out about me every day and I work to try to see where I can improve myself in a way that benefits my goals without stepping on anyone’s throat.
I constantly fuck up—micro-fuck ups, but still fuck ups. I think that’s OK too. Well, so long as the mistake isn’t fucking insane or littered with bullshit good intentions. There’s also a matter of balance. Too much thought isn’t good either—and it’s stressful. I’m not sure I’ve found the balance, but I feel sort of good that it’s even on my mind.
I guess as I get older, I’m finding that self-improvement is sort of the same as the golden rule. If I’m going to better myself, than I need to treat others better too, right?