A funny thing happened to me the other day. I ticked somebody off. I can already hear those of you who know me saying "Now wait..." so let me explain. What makes this incident particularly notable is that I didn't mean to tick anybody off. It wasn't on purpose. This used to happen to me a lot when I was younger, because I didn't make much of an effort to be cognizant of my surroundings. Or as my mother used to say: "Jays mouth tends to start moving before his brain." This unfortunate tendency persisted well into my twenties. Eventually I managed to kick the habit after being forced to deal with a number of unfortunate incidents over the years. Sadly this week marked the end of a rather sterling record of purposefulness on my part.
So what happened? Well I posted a link to a satirical article from the Onion in the #random channel of a private Slack site that I currently enjoy being a member of. Let me provide some minimal background because the context here is important: Prior to my posting of this link the channel had been chatting about Amazons latest delivery initiative that somehow manage to totally eviscerate the privacy of end users while providing a non-existent to minimal benefit to them.
In response to the rather predictable outcries of privacy invasiveness and strongly worded affirmations that people would never use such a service, I decided to lighten the mood a little bit by posting a link to this satirical article on the Onion which has a little fun with the idea of people giving Amazon so much unchecked power.
Disappointingly the posting of that link apparently proved to be extremely controversial. At the time of posting and immediately thereafter, I had absolutely no idea. A few people laughed and the channel moved onto something totally different sooner rather than later. That is after all what #random channels on Slack sites have a tendency to do.
A week later somebody in a position of influence asked to speak to me privately. Once in the Zoom meeting I was informed that the posting of that link had been judged to be a grossly insensitive act and told that it had been removed by an administrator of the site. Apparently somebody complained about it. I asked for clarification on what the precise nature of the problem was and was told, "The picture of the deliveryman pointing a gun at the customer was traumatizing for some especially in light of the current cultural issues surrounding guns."
Now before I spin this from my perspective there are a couple of things that you as a reader should keep in mind. First off, when you post a link on Slack, it typically displays a thumbnail along with a brief text summary of the content contained within. All of this content is supplied by the server hosting the link. In this case the thumbnail was the same picture you see in the article itself. The key takeaway here is that nobody had to click the link in order to be exposed to the satire contained therein. Secondly, the organization I'm affiliated with is based out of a blue state and tends to exhibit more left leaning type of values as a result of this. As somebody who largely identifies as a liberal socially, this generally isn't a problem for me. At least it wasn't until this week.
With that having been said, I made a full apology to the person I was meeting with. The incident was documented electronically and I responded in kind. I may feel wronged here, but I also know how to pick my battles. This battle looked liked a losing one from the get go so I surrendered early and was allowed to leave the field with my dignity intact as a result.
So here we are. I'm clearly not happy. The question I've been pondering is, "Why?" Well I've given it a lot of thought and this is the answer: The idea that people have the right to surround themselves with things that please them and dispense with everything else is inherently disgusting to me.
Now of course there is some irony here. I'm flapping my gums and telling you that I'm not happy, disgusted and what not. On some level I'm acting just like the person who complained about the link I posted. There is one important difference however: I don't expect anybody to do anything about it. If the complainer feels insulted, disgusted or threatened then he/she likely has every right to feel that way. It's not something I'm willing to even debate. However in my opinion there is no inherent right, law or guarantee that prevents life from being antagonistic. In fact I'd go so far as to argue that if we ever figure out how to remove the threats, challenges and stomach turning things from life then we as a civilization will lose more than we can ever hope to gain.
Is that wrong? Maybe. It wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong. Is this a valid position? Absolutely every opinion is valid no matter how self serving or illogical. Is this distressing to you? Awesome. That's exactly what it feels like to be alive. So take my advice and capitalize on this moment. Otherwise you run the risk of slipping into a coma of stagnation and there is nothing more distressing to me than the thought of that happening to you my dear reader.