Distance and Divisiveness

by  Christian A. Brown  |  November 20, 2016  |     No Comments

I’m a stream of consciousness kinda guy. I’m not sure how many of my radio interviews you’ve heard, but I amble between talking points and issues as they appear in a (generally) coherent flow of thought. With that process in mind, I was having my weekly listen to the gabbing-gals at roadsidereader.com; where they were discussing gaming, social culture and other things. Much later, the next day in fact, while still thinking about video games, online communities and cultures, I logged into ESO (Elder Scrolls Online), and for the first time in ages, I chatted with some of the thousands of strangers that I see every so often, and with whom I interact in the briskest ways possible: with canned commands (instructional stuff), “WTB/WTS” messages (“Want to buy/ sell), and a collection of impersonal engagements that rarely go beyond a few lines of text. I’m in a number of guilds, though not active, socially, in any of them. To me, ESO is an escape and something that I log into when I want to shut off the creative functions of my brain and work on disciplined twitch-combat or complex theory crafting. I guess I never really stop cogitating or obsessing over adventuring, conquests and achievements, although the impetus is taken out of my hands when I’m playing a game, and I’m along for the ride, rather than building the amusement park.

Anyway (putting a dam in that stream-of-consciousness), I was offered a blind invite into a group to tank (for the MMORPG-uneducated that’s someone that pisses off large monsters and soaks damage on behalf of the squishier members of a party). I usually ignore those, because it’s often some random person asking for money, items or something else that the courtesy of prefacing their issue might have made me more predisposed toward consideration. But, after examining the name of the inviter, I realized this was actually a fellow from one of the silent guilds I’d joined–places where people gather to mostly grind and exchange money, prestige or trinkets as they do in real life. So I accepted and we prepared to run a few dungeons. We were all using voice-chat and on mics. In the group was a lady we’ll call, ‘Joy’. (You know how I am with privacy and personal boundaries, so I’m not going to disclose certain identifiers, details, etc..)

At first, I wasn’t sure if Joy and I were going to get along. There was an easily perceived, natural defensiveness to both of our natures, compounded by distance, culture and our completely new and thrust-upon companionship–even a difference of about a decade of age, too. Joy lives in Northern Florida, which as you know flipped to Mr. Trump. I have my stance on both him and Hillary. Neither opinion is flattering, and I’m not going to beat a couple of dead horses by reiterating any of that. Although, I will say that I don’t think either candidate was in any way ideal, and I feel that the American people were just so frustrated and broken from the culture-wars tearing apart their country from within that they voted for drastic change. There: my stance in one run-on sentence. I don’t think it’s as easy as blaming “white people”, despite exit polls indicating that a majority of Trump’s voters were Caucasian and came from a certain demographic. I think that’s a very dangerous angle to pursue and will only bring more racial intolerance and conflict. My mother was a “white person”, who would’ve fit quite neatly into that demographic, forgoing any knowledge of how she spent her life and career as a hero fighting for civil rights and against poverty, racial-intolerance and many of the problems systemic in the US. (Hero, as defined by her marrying a black man when that was not acceptable, by her being a working mom, by her amazing maternal care, by her twenty year fight legally advocating for women, the poor, and minorities of all kinds.)

Anyway, I don’t know how Joy voted, or if she could’ve been pigeonholed into a specific voting demographic. Indeed, the subject of politics never arose. What we did talk about, though, was everything from literary interests to the effect of social media on humans proclivity toward rage and hatred: had it made things worse, or simply given a microphone to pre-existing negativity? Both, we kinda agreed. Indeed, we agreed on many things: Joy, ten years my senior and a possible republican and Trump supporter, and me, the gay, biracial mouthpiece for minorities and social-freedoms. Would the conversation have gone differently if I’d gauchely led with my background? Probably. But I’m not one to trumpet my disparities. I don’t feel that I have any strength to gain from that unless there’s a specific story to tell. Really, a thousand things could have gone wrong in that conversation, especially had we opened the Pandora’s Box of politics, on which most everyone has a different ideal of how to be governed. Still, we didn’t cross into those subjects, and not through willfully ignoring them. We were two strangers who met, chatted (for over an hour even) and, I feel, came away wiser from having had that conversation.

But let’s not get carried away with the kumbayaing. I’m fairly certain hostile UN meetings wouldn’t be peacefully resolved if world leaders held their council in the digital greathalls of World of Warcraft–though I’d love to see who they’d choose as their avatars. What I am certain of, is: understanding begins when two people lower their guard, honestly engage and listen to each other. We have Gamergate, random trolls, online attackers and all the horrors we face in the real world infesting our digital spaces, too, and there’s little to distinguish our personalities anymore from these two existences. I don’t know that Joy and I will ever speak again, or if we’ll become internet best-buds. That’s not important. What matters was that we were able to hear the other despite our potential gulf of differences. We discovered commonalities. We treated one another with respect. Our interaction made that small digital space, and by proxy the great social consciousness we share a little more weighed toward reason and community.

All my love,

–C

P.S. The featured image is Leo’s latest, and is a glorious rendition of the one and only, Eod, City of Wonders. A clearer version is below (click to expand). Also today is Trans Day of Remembrance–so take a moment to remember those who have lost their lives to hate-crimes, and to be thankful for the diversity and uniqueness of human kind. Xo

City of Wonders

City of Wonders

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