Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Too Much Rage

Today there were two, not one but two, mass shootings. One of them happened in my town, three or four miles from home, where a UPS employee shot up his workplace and killed himself.  The other one had to do with a crazed liberal opening fire on some Republicans who were getting some exercise playing baseball.

On my way home, which involved a crazy ranting drunk threatening to kill various other commuters, I reflected on a rant I read the day before, by one of the sad puppies who was angry about this website I frequent, File 770, and issuing a rant about all the rainbow-haired SJW never-was types who comment there.

It’s like you can’t travel a meter in any direction these days without encountering somebody else’s steaming pile of rage.

Allow me to state, for the record, that I, Charon Dunn, author of books with covers decorated by ragefaces and weapons and firearms, am against violence.  I am a pacifist hippie San Franciscan. I am an artist and my hands are for making art, not throwing punches. I disagree with the death penalty because I’d rather the state set 100 murderers loose than to kill a single innocent, and juries are fallible. I disagree with drafting soldiers. I don’t care if you hunt and fish, as long as you follow applicable laws regarding safety and not driving your prey to extinction, but don’t expect me to go watch you slaughter things. Yeah, I eat meat, but I’ll probably stop once the vatgrown stuff hits the shelves, plus I’m not the kind of extreme pacifist who takes care to avoid killing flies. Just the kind that doesn’t approve of people getting physically violent with each other.

I mean, Jeez Louise, it’s 2017, go play some freaking Overwatch or paintball or go take a capoeria class or go to the gym and beat the crap out of punching bags or throw it into your art and play some metal or draw some zombies or write about some kind of horrendous apocalypse or photoshop your town in ruins – there is no reason whatsoever to indulge in any of these impulses in a three dimensional sense.  Raauuuuuuuggggggggghhhhhh!  Hitting people is very, very retro. 

Even if it involves people I agree with attacking people I vehemently disagree with. 

Especially if the fight involves philosophy. If your philosophy can only be defended by bloodshed, it fails right on its face.  Use your words.  Philosophical arguments are one of the main things words are for.

Better yet, write a science fiction novel, about why your opponents are so, so, wrong. I feel this is the optimum way to fight, which is probably why I do it that way. 

The conservative who was mad at File 770 and its editor, Mike Glyer, went off on a theme regarding how Glyer would excerpt tantalizing political statements in his lede, accusing Glyer of being misleading and sensationalistic and out-of-context. And you know, I could almost empathize, because when he posted my “interviewed by my cat” piece about Retrograde Horizon, he excerpted my little political paragraph, about how I toned the violence way down. 

I later wrote an expanded piece about how originally RH ended with something resembling the finale of Reservoir Dogs, except in the president’s office. During the Obama administration, it was hipstery and snarky and “look ma, I saw a Tarantino film once!” and over the top. Once we changed to the Trump administration, it felt different. 

To say that I’m not terribly impressed with Trump is probably an understatement. He’s embarrassing. I don’t want to kill him, though. In fact, I think all my enemies should have long lives (that are filled with disappointment and heartbreak and papercuts, but long nevertheless, so they can reflect on their own loathesomeness and attempt redemption). My true enemies are things like concepts and attitudes, things which occasionally take roost in a human brain, and also occasionally depart.

Still, I felt a little bit like a deer under a spotlight when Glyer excerpted my paragraph about having toned down the violence. Would I get shade from my fellow liberals for not hating Trump enough? Would they accuse me of being a secret conservative? Would conservatives try to use me as some kind of example of a nervous liberal? Would I fall under the ragers' radar?

Sometimes I tell people that I write action stories where guns are de-emphasized, and that’s a true statement. My hero is more of a persuader than a gunslinger. While I’m pretty firmly against the idea that games/songs/books/videos/art causes violence, I do agree that it can inflame and inspire a mind that has already set upon that path. There are images I don’t want/need floating in my head. 

There was recently a comedian who got into trouble for a photo showing her holding up a severed presidential head. That’s the sort of thuggish, bullying impulse I was trying to avoid, including too much rage in my art, making it bitter and distasteful and potentially poisonous. I came of age during a time when violently nihilistic aesthetics were in vogue, and truthfully I still enjoy that sort of thing from time to time, so I have to consciously make sure I’m not spewing it into projects where it doesn’t belong. 

People get addicted to rage. They get high on the brain chemicals it induces, and to keep them flowing they rage out at every possible opportunity. Certain forms of social media encourage this. Certain subcultures encourage it too. Keep people enraged and it's easy to yank their chains. 

Liberals used to stand pretty solidly behind nonviolence. That's the main reason I lean that way. Once we start blathering about terminating republicans and going nuts with firearms and brandishing photos of severed heads, our credibility plummets.

I hope we humans can get a handle on our collective rage issues before we do too much more damage to each other.

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