At the 2017 Creative Commons Summit in Toronto, Ryan Merkley mentioned that, as a community, we might consider placing our energy in big fights with our real enemies instead of in small fights with each other. Good advice. I have witnessed (and possibly even engaged in), small fights in the open community of late, but today I return to Ryan’s idea. I hope I can keep it in my heart for a while.
Some of the things I’ve seen recently, from people I respect and admire, amount to forming a posse and ganging up on the “offender of the day.” It’s ugly, and speaking for myself, it’s not a really great use of my time, especially when the offender is someone in our community, whom I know shares my values, but who made a mistake trying to defend something that was important to them in the moment. I’m seeing the well-worn, and far-to-easy label “privilege,” which somehow makes the offending statement more offensive. I’m not saying that thoughtless or hurtful remarks are acceptable, but privilege, among other labels we have no evidence about, is a recurring stick.
Just beneath the surface of nearly every person I have met face-to-face in our community are similar fears and sorrows. Many of experience hard work for no respect, injustice, grief for lost loved ones, lost love, loneliness, marginalization for any one of 100 reasons, real discrimination, family dysfunction, gaining an education against many barriers, the list goes on. Yes, some in our community have more fear and sorrow than others and they have my deepest respect for surviving and thriving. Skin colours education, employment, the “visible” things in the social-media-sphere don’t make any of these bitter human experiences go away, or have less of an effect on how savvy we might seem from moment to moment. In my view our shared human experiences are a core reason that we resonate.
There’s quite a lot about me that you don’t know. It’s personal and I’m not interested in sharing it in public. For me, it is because of terrible experiences that I am so passionate about education and economic justice and why I subject myself to the sometimes painful ecosystem that is social media. It is because of terrible experiences, and my funhouse mirror self-confidence that I sometimes make mistakes and say stupid things that I later regret.
I ask for peace, hope, and good will to return for us all. We all have the capacity to learn and apologize as a community. The lamenting that someone pulled out the “xyz” paint brush and damaged us all, or posted a snobby remark, or made a bad keynote choice, or didn’t think about my feelings is often borne of the after-effects of the struggles list mentioned earlier. I’m easily hurt and ready to pick a fight because I am profoundly bruised on the inside. I know I am not alone in this.
I am learning to read my Twitter feed with a lens of “don’t take it personally.” Unless someone calls me out by name, whatever was posted that seems quite annoying to me was probably not personal and not aimed directly at me. I always have the option to keep on scrolling or to block someone I find hurtful, no need to make a big thing out it. Of course intentional hate should be called out, but that’s not what’s happening in most cases.
I sometimes make mistakes, and I sometimes feel hurt and overreact. Please call me on it. Either way, I’ll do my best to see your perspective and right the ship. An apology is so simple. If I have hurt anyone in our lovely community I am deeply sorry. If I’ve overreacted and posted an angry tweet, I am deeply sorry. I’m even sorry if I’ve annoyed you, I’m Canadian after all. I would love to see you in person at any one of our conferences or virtual places and learn more about you so I don’t make the same mistake again.
When trusted colleagues call me on things I learn, which I actually love, even when it’s painful. I’m seeing many people I’ve met, and whose personal stories I know a little bit about, get tied up and tossed on the railroad tracks for “offences of the day” and I imagine that’s very painful for them. Shunning others is one of the worst things we can do, and one of our greatest fears going back to the dawn of our evolution. If we’re shunned, and left outside the cave, we might starve, or freeze, or be eaten by a predator. It’s deeply felt.
Maybe someone that’s made a mistake can’t see a way to repair it, maybe we’ll lose them as community members. We can all always learn to be better people, and learn what that means in a 140 character context. If we can’t respond to a personal request to learn, maybe we deserve the railroad tracks or the “block.” Maybe though, we need to give each other more of a chance. Collectively, we really have way bigger tempura to fry.