Aaaaaand as it sometimes happens, I have created a monster – wheee! So today, kids, the things that we are going to look at are censorship, politeness and airing dirty laundry.
On the one hand, there is a certain ‘rule’ in the Western society: to sort one’s personal grievances privately, not to air one’s dirty laundry out in the open. In most cases, it is indeed a wise advice. When some occasional troubles arise, it would normally blow off and be sorted out in a very short time, and there is no need to publicize any of it. It is considered ‘polite’ and ‘proper’ not to publicize some passing troubles, especially to protect a common goal or a business or a project that may be a collateral to any dispute. This is why companies have PR agencies – to make sure they can effectively sugarcoat any bumps on their way and filter information that ever gets out – to make sure small internal disputes don’t come out into the open and don’t unnecessarily affect the entire company’s reputation.
But there are exceptions. When a problem is chronic and when trying to do something privately simply doesn’t work at all. When that problem affects many people. For example, it would be very difficult to do much about civil rights if black people of the past century USA remained nice and polite and tried to sort out their troubles privately with their owners, in order to make sure to not hurt the cotton industry… You can imagine how effective such approach would have been. Instead, it took being loud and assertive and even aggressive to get the message across and to finally mobilize enough public momentum to stop an entire segment of the population from being abused.
The principle works on all scales. Here’s something you could learn in conflict resolution: in a relationship between two people, some couples try to avoid arguing… If they do it too much, if they are too afraid of conflict – they stop communicating effectively. They get too fixated on not offending each other instead of on building a relationship and being honest with one another, on growing and evolving together, on bonding and making sure both themselves and their significant others are happy. A conflict, an argument – it may hurt for half an hour or a day, or even a week but it clears the air. It brings out into the open what can otherwise grow unnoticed into an all-consuming cancer. People are afraid of conflict, for it is associated with pain and threat to lose something dear. Ironically, couples with least conflicts normally don’t last long together. Couples who occasionally get caught in a bad loud argument – they are those who most often celebrate all those freaky quarter and half century anniversaries.
So, in the view of what happened with my little monster, I got told to, basically, shut up and keep things behind the scenes and sort things out privately… Except apparently this is case number 2 – a chronic case where “quietly” yielded exactly zero results. Now what?
And now it’s about the time for some people to understand that sometimes, in some cases, focusing only on ‘good PR’ and on making everything seem and look ‘perfect’ or just ‘nice and shiny’ all the time leads to the loss of focus on the actual goal, whatever it may be. To begin with, it’s fake. There is no perfection in this world. When something seems to be too good to be true – you know the rule… In addition, when too many people are affected by some wrongdoing, but are bound by the common ‘courtesy rules’ of ‘shut the fuck up’ and ‘try to solve it mano a mano’ – that actually doesn’t make any problems go away. Oh, and sometimes when nobody out there in the open knows that some things are done in a wrong way, they fall unwitting victims to unexpected mishandling. Those who kept quiet about it for a very long time – those are bystanders, on whose hands the inconveniences and troubles of the new ‘victims’ are just as much, as on the hands of perpetrators. If, on the other hand, people knew what to expect – they could make an informed choice of whether to deal with someone and how to go about the potential inconveniences.
There simply are times when an actual storm is absolutely needed to clear the skies. If we all, by keeping polite silence at all costs, allow for wrong behavior to remain and to continue unchanged, we’d all reinforce the idea that some people might hold that it is fine to disrespect people they deal with. That it is fine to hear everyone tell you that how you go about doing things is totally wrong and inappropriate, to hear good sound advice on how it can be done better but ignore it and keep doing the same good old stuff as always. We as people, even if we are working on a common goal, don’t need to like one another at all times, or agree with one another on everything, but we need to all remember to respect one another. We also need to remember that NOT stopping behavior that is hurtful and disrespectful in the end hurts that very precious common goal that we so desperately are trying to ‘protect’ by censorship of any discontent. The only world where such obsession about political correctness is functional is in Orwel’s 1984 world – are we sure we want THAT type of a world? If someone for a very long time holds an opposing view and considers that to be right – then please don’t say it would do any good to any common goal. I’ve never heard of any cases where disrespect did any good to anyone or to any goal, I doubt I’d soon live to see an exception.
People are welcome to hate me all they want for occasionally sorting some specific bundles of dirty laundry out in the open, but sometimes that laundry stinks so much it’s silly to pretend it’s not there in the basket because everyone already feels the smell. Ever heard of the elephant in the room? That awkward ‘stuff we don’t speak of’? Remind me of the last time it helped any community to keep feeding that elephant by more and more silence? And just as at times a doctor has to inflict some pain to the patient to save them, sometimes some conflicts and some problems need to blow up big and loud and out in the open to prevent even greater damage. Before they slowly, through accumulating charges of minor grievances, accumulate enough to turn into nuclear weapons of mass destruction of both the precious common goal, whatever it may be, and everyone involved in it. It is much worse when a nuke blows up than if a firecracker does. Don’t know about any of you, but I’d rather on occasion let a firecracker blow up (when putting out the fuse fails) than wait until a full-on nuclear explosion.