I got a trolling e-mail and was disconcerted. Initially, I was just hurt, because it was in fact a hurtful remark. I apologized, thinking, if you have hurt me, then I must deserve it. Then, I realized the remark had been rude. I e-mailed again, saying, look, that was rude. If you really wanted to raise the issue you raised, you could have done it far more productively. Then I remembered, this person actually does know how to be polite. He does not just need a little guidance, he needs to be called on his presumptuous, gratuitously abusive behavior.
As you can see, it takes me some time to process these things, which is why I do not “just ignore” them. Unless I allow myself to process these behaviors and their effects upon me, I find myself simply accepting them, internalizing them. That is not to truly “rise above” them, and what I do now is notice how they actually make me feel, and talk back.
Trolls are irritating, but in the end, I am grateful to have encountered some. Their words and rhetoric have taught me a great deal about rhetorics of privilege, entitlement, male privilege, and whiteness. These often draw upon the rhetoric of abuse, which, as I have been learning, does in fact have a rhetoric.
I grew up under two sentences. 1. You do not have the right to be a person, but if you recognize and submit to that, you will be provided for. 2. Forget that you are not a person for any length of time, and you will be left to starve.
These sentences are a major Bane. They create a series of double binds, since if one is not a person, one cannot provide for oneself. Reeducation retaught me the two sentences quoted above, sentences I had long since forgotten. I am to this day uneasy because I am providing for myself. In order to do that I must be, at least to some extent, a person. I must make my own decisions. I cannot leave everything to chance or to someone else. And yet, I always feel I am doing wrong by being a person, by having my own thoughts.
That is another, important Bane. It is one reason why I was so struck by the graffiti I saw on the walls when I was a child: “Freedom NOW!” “Free Huey Newton!” “I am a MAN!” Freedom was coming, and I was for it, and I looked forward to participating in it, as a PERSON.
In the new year, however, I am not going to let trolls, on the Internet or elsewhere, drain my energy. I will not do this even when they claim to be friendly, to be “only trying to help,” or to “mean no harm.” I am perfectly lucid, I am quite good at working with serious criticism, and I do not need to “learn lessons” from random snipers. Although I am not a celebrity, I will take a page from the celebrities’ book. Celebrities know that people just will find something to criticize. They have decided long since to simply go about their lives.
Also in the new year, I will live as I did before Reeducation. I will spend more time in town, on the trails, and in the studio. I will be more involved with my local communities. My academic writing will be less cautious than it is now. I will suffer fewer fools, and I will not bargain with anyone about my own integrity. I will live at the center of my own life, and take authority there, whether the trolls and Reeducators feel it is kind of me, good of me, sweet of me, moral of me, or ethical of me to do so or not.
Life, it always seemed to me, was so easy and simple for someone like me. If you have health, youth, and a living, none of which I ever lacked, it is easy to be in the world and to do a number of things. This, of course, was an unacceptably simple attitude to take in Reeducation, but I really do think I am right about it.