A World Without Winners

10 Feb

As always, I’m sorry for the radio silence. To those of you who still choose to read when I have time to up-date, I’m really thankful! Having said that…

Last weekend, Daniel and I went to go see the new movie Chronicle. For those of you who haven’t heard about it, here’s the trailer:

In short, it’s a story about three friends (who weren’t always friends) who make a discovery, end up having supernatural powers, and what happens from there.

It’s not the most original plot, I’ll admit that, but it’s well done. It’s poignant, genuine, and (kinda barely spoilers alert) despite the fact that those powers inevitably bring out the best and the worst in these kids, they remain sympathetic characters throughout.

This fact won me over more strongly that I would have suspected and I had to ask why? Why? I talked to other friends who were not won over and, moreover, had a fraction of the emotional response that I had. Why is it that I am so obsessed with other people’s reactions and my own? Because, sometimes, I feel like I don’t understand how people aren’t more affected by the negativity we are bombarded on a daily basis.

Another reason, for sure, is that I recently read this article about Tyler Clementi and the tormentors who drove him to commit suicide.

The article, The Story of a Suicide by Ian Parker, is a simple and well-written piece that humanizes the aforementioned tormentor and forces the realization that, like many situations in life, there is no clear cut line between who is “good” and who is “evil.” However, there are are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who will be ready to tell you there is without knowing the full situation and without caring for the truth. My feeling is that this is because the truth, often, is hard to define and unsatisfying to hear. Why is it so much easier to believe the worst of people? To pick a whipping boy and demonize them past recognition?

To some degrees, both Tyler and his roommate were victims not of any one crime, but of a social situation. They were both quick to judge based on what they felt were fair markers of understanding who a person is: ethnicity, sexuality, and economic class. They avoided actual direct communication and researched each other via Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Where Tyler could have used more support, his roommate, Dharun, received support where he shouldn’t have.

Now, I’m not saying that I think everyone deserves to feel victimized all the time or that that Dharun is innocent of the crime for which he’s being accused. But one of the hardest lessons to learn at any age is how to take full responsibility for your actions. Human beings are excellent at crafting excuses and blaming other people. We’re also excellent at underestimating the effects of our actions.

Which leads me back to my previous concerns. How much of the negativity that surrounds us is our responsibility? How much to we rely on others to create our environment?

Living in a society that is so entrenched in the media machine, it’s easy to accept what we’re fed about the news and the world around us; this includes everything from entertainment to news. It’s easy to believe what others tell you to believe, whether or not it’s who’s a good singer or who’s the best candidate. It’s harder, though not by much, to find answers for it ourselves.

There are clear examples on all ends of the spectrum. From Lana Del Rey‘s SNL performance debacle, that some viewed as a rough first performance while others believe it was the most insulting waste of public broadcasting time, to the ridiculous spanning points of view on gay marriage that start with believing it’s a basic human right and range to The Marriage Protection Act and believing gay marriage would somehow lead to bestiality.

Clearly, one of these examples far outweighs the others in importance, but the point is that no matter the seriousness of the subject someone exists to tell us often and loudly what they think we should believe. And unfortunately, we are easy to judge, easy to hate, and easy to self-righteous bigotry.

Famously, sources like Fox News are scrutinized for openly lying to their viewers to the point that their viewers, who are often religiously faithful, are wary about simple truths. This is not a biased statement.

This brings me back to my subject title. I believe that, in some ways, we are intent on creating a world without winners. A world where every success is only judged by the severity of its critique. As with Lana Del Rey, more and more, we criticize the arts for producing bland and boring but largely because of the fear that any tiny failure could be not just “Tomorrow’s Headlines,” but “10-Seconds-From-Now Headlines,” and Tweets, and Facebook status updates, and on and on.

I find it hard to separate these unimportant criticisms as feeding our larger problems. If we spend our time throwing insults at a TV, or by posting them anonymously online, aren’t we slowly inuring ourselves to this negativity? Do we stop noticing how much hatred we speak? Do we draw the lines between constructive honesty and real complaint or do they all start to bleed together? Because I know that, even as an adult, it’s hard for me to distinguish sometimes.

I’m not innocent of this myself. But I know that, as someone whose heart sinks at the piercing negativity I see others breed, I pause before I speak negativity. I hope to never (or as rarely as possible) be the reason that someone else has a bad day.

So what does this have to do with “Chronicle” or the article about Tyler Clementi? Well, maybe this blog post is just another ramble that I needed to clear my head. But both this movie and that article have reminded me that if there is so much I can’t control about this world, there is at least one thing I can control: how I treat people. Both the article and the movie remind me that each day is another opportunity for me to reach out to an old friend, to smile at a random person on the street, to focus on my small circle of the world and make that as good as possible. Because you never know what the person next to you might be dealing with.

I like to think that, if there is a purpose to life, it’s to make each others lives easier because life is, so very often, very hard. I’ve been called idealistic, optimistic, and naive because of this. I’d like to think I’m just not an asshole.

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3 Responses to “A World Without Winners”

  1. Laura Poff February 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    I loved this blog update. I know I feel the exact same way you do about making my corner of the world a little better. Then two thoughts come into my mind: I wonder if everyone feels like this and I wonder to what degree everyone struggles with acting according to this. I even struggle sometimes (especially when driving) with controlling the nastiness. Thanks for the beautifully written reminder.

  2. Heather Sommerlad February 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Here here! I hate negativity!!! šŸ™‚

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Max Landis, Famous Geek Progeny « the red speech balloon - February 27, 2012

    […] spoken about the movie he co-wrote, Chronicle, and the emotional impact it had on me just a couple of weeks ago but it’s more eloquently detailed in this piece from […]

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