Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Griefers and flaming kittens

There was an interesting conversation in Twitter today around the question "what in Second Life offends you?" Even venerable CodeBastard Redgrave had a limit:
Being spammed with...Zippocat...a picture of a RL kitten, being burned to death by stupid teenagers using Zippo fuel...the fact someone took a real animal, poured gas on it, and burnt it for real.
Offended is an apt word for the feeling we reflexively experience when thinking about someone intentionally burning a kitten to death.
It comes from the latin word offensa, meaning "a striking against, a hurt or displeasure." We experience pain and then mentally strike out to attack and shut out to defend. We clench our fists and close our hearts.

I realize that many people believe that offense is a justifiable response to the malicious actions of others. Although I often react that way, I aspire to meet all experiences with a peaceful mind and heart. I am inspired by people who have met hate with compassion.

The Dalai Lama recounted meeting Lopon-la, a Lhasa monk he knew before the Chinese occupation. Lopon-la had spent 18 years in a Chinese prison before he was released and came to India:
He told me the Chinese forced him to denounce his religion. They tortured him many times in prison. I asked him whether he was ever afraid. Lopon-la then told me: 'Yes, there was one thing I was afraid of. I was afraid I may lose compassion for the Chinese.'
Peace in the face of griefers and distant kitten burners seems a relatively achievable goal.


Codie said...

LOL Twitter becomes funny when people actually report what you tweeted ;) thanks for the shoutout.

The thing is, the Zippocat meme has some history outside of SL. It is considered by anon experts to be probably one of the most despised. On the forums where that meme originated, it usually means permaban. Even the blind crowds that feeds on shocking images all the time went berserk for that poor kitten. Because this time it was not a stupid prank. The story shocked many people, so I'm not alone to love kitties ;)

My point about this discussion was quite in the way of what I think you mean in this post. Be zen. If you don't like it, TP away. SL lets us immerge, but it also creates a physically protective layer. I know we get attached to our virtual selves but sometimes its better to rather play it cool and let go. A prank is a prank. I feel "griefing" is used as a blanket word for quite any attack or drama or prankster. To me, it means harassment, especially repeated, slandering, and its serious. If we cry griefer too quick, we wont hear the crys anymore. The more your outraged, the more fun they will have. So what to do apart chuckle and move away. Not saying that its right. But SL often offers a carbon copy of RL behaviors, plus the anonymity. So thats a counterside i'm afraid we may have to bear with. Asshats exists in any world ;)



Anonymous said...

My participation in this argument has helped me examine my own definition of griefing and I agree with Codie's definition of the word.

I also agree that overreacting and crying "griefer" at every incidence of asshattery is only feeding the flames. As the person who used the term in the conversation, I retract that and will take care with the word in the future.

However, I still feel that taking actions for a laugh when you believe there is a reasonable expectation of hurting that persons feelings is a denial of that person's feelings and shows a lack of empathy and I can't easily forgive it. I feel that the person whose actions sparked the twitter conversation was just as guilty of being insensitive, ignorant, and unapologetic as the injured party was of overreacting.

As for cultivating love for all beings, I guess my overdeveloped sense of justice and propriety prevents it. I'm not sure if that's a flaw or not, and so far self-examination has only taught me to temper my actions with a measure of compassion and reason, but not to erase my convictions entirely.

Finally, I think there is a point after which we can't just move away anymore, unless we detach ourselves wholly from *any* concern from ourselves and our lives. What does love mean if it means nothing matters enough to us to hold onto it?

I don't know what else to say. I lay down my pen and thank you for a thought-provoking post.

Botgirl Questi said...

Thanks for expanding on your ideas from earlier today! We should do this more often. It would be fun to take a lightly explored but interesting twitter thread and blog on it individually. "Twitter idea of the week club" or something along that line.

I love your comment on the protective layer of virtual worlds and selves. Although I don't intentionally go looking for them, unpleasant experiences allow me to practice letting go of judgmental thoughts and their associated feelings.

Don't tell anyone, but Botgirl's immodest dress, periodic sexually themed blog posts and strategically erratic-seeming behavior are, at least in part, intended as a zen-like whack on the back of the head.

Botgirl Questi said...

argent: Thanks to you as well for carrying on the conversation here and for your obvious candor and thoughtfulness.

Love and justice do seem contradictory at times. But like monks practicing a martial art, kicking someone's ass can be a compassionate act.

I think that on a deep level an "attacker" is more of a victim than the people they intend to harm, in that they are trapped by their own false thoughts and violent emotions. So while I can support the idea of banning someone for repeated destructive griefing, I don't have to feel any ill will towards them as a sentient being.

Anonymous said...

I often follow the philosophy of picking your battles. I remember the other day at work, this student (I work at a university) was upset she had to pay two different fees and said "That's so GAY!" Well, as a gay man, that offends me, but I think that in a lot of cases it's just easier to let it go and not ramp things up. While it would be nice to make someone change their mind, you really can't change people. However, I think thoughtful, insightful posts CAN help.

For some reason I'm reminded of a song by singer Aimee Mann (called "Real Bad News"). There's a line in the song that often feels quite vague and goes "I've got love and anger, they come as a pair". It's always an ambiguous line to me, but for some reason your post caused it to pop into my head.

Botgirl Questi said...

gahum: Thanks for sharing your story about that cheap homophobic BITCH. ;)

Personally, I can't honestly blame anyone else for feelings I have (which really sucks sometimes.) I find I can often slip my awareness into the crack between the onset of a judgmental thought and the emotion it would otherwise trigger. That allows me to respond to the external event with peace and flexibility.

I love Aimee Mann by the way. "Stupid Thing" is one of my very favorite songs.

Anonymous said...

Botgirl: Ah, you made me actually laugh out loud! You should have seen the look on my face the moment she said it. I hope she got the picture. Were confrontational and not worried about a reprimand, I'd probably have resorted to the C word. I mentioned it to my boss (who is a lesbian) and she was just as offended as I (although much more pained. She's a far more sensitive soul than I).

I think we'd get along very well in SL, especially if you love Aimee Mann. It makes me out to look like a total fanboy, but I often see the relationships of people I know in her songs (my brother fits her song "The Moth", for instance). She's such a good storyteller.

Dale Innis said...

Neat discussion! There's a really deep and thoughtworthy question here about the connection between being offended by hurt-causing acts, one's feelings toward the people who do them, and doing something about reducing the number of them.

The obvious (and I'll even say "Western", although it's a poor approximation) theory is that it's good to be offended at hurt-causing acts, and feel anger toward the bad actor, because that will drive you to do something about it. I mean, surely if you feel "peace" toward someone who burns a kitten, you're not going to do anything about kitten burning!

The Buddhist (and even that's an overgeneralization) counter to this is that feeling peace toward that person and that act is actually the *best* way to make people do that less often, to reduce suffering. As botgirl says, sometimes the most peaceful act is a kick in the ass, as long as it's done with compassion. *8)

(And there there's a whole 'nother range of quirks and traps, when people convince themselves that they can do all sorts of nasty things and remain pure, because they've fooled themselves into thinking that they're doing it out of compassion. And a whole nother nother set where people use peace and compassion as an excuse to do nothing.)

I think I believe deepest in what I call the Buddhist view above: that you continue to love and feel peace toward the bad actors, and this empowers you to *most effectively* work to reduce the number of bad acts. But I'm far from having a really good explanation of how it all works...

Such a complex world! *8)

Botgirl Questi said...

dale: Thanks for looking more deeply into the feeling/doing connection.

I agree that the world (of form) is complex. So complex that it is (almost?) impossible to know the complete consequences of our actions.

The best I can figure out to do is endeavor to act from as clear a mental/emotional space as I can. Things may still turn to shit, of course, but if it is processed and well-applied it can transforms into fertilizer.