Wednesday, March 13, 2019

On Tone Policing

Things just seem get louder and more unyieldingly belligerent.

Every day, more outrage, more shrieking, more umbrage. In this interconnected era, when we hunger to silence the dissonance of the Other by forcing them to be as we are, there There is always something, always a trigger, because there has to be.  If we are not stirred and threatened and emotionally on edge, we do not engage obsessively.  And if we do not engage obsessively, our views cannot be monetized or added to a follower count.

in this interconnected era, when we hunger to silence the dissonance of the Other by forcing them to be as we are, anger is omnipresent.  We are, as a culture, addicted to rage.

It bends and warps reality, to the point where it seems genuinely insane.

If one notes this, though?  If a person says, hey, hey, let's turn down the heat a little here, try to be more civil?  We swat it down, because what right do you have to tell me what to say or how to say it?  "Of course I'm angry," you'll say.  "I have every right to feel this way!  And who the hell are you!"

The term we have created to silence those who'd like us all to just calm the [fornicate] down is "tone policing."

It isn't surprising that we've created that term, given that having our anger directly challenged always makes us angrier.  When you've got your dander up, having someone say "You need to calm down" always and invariably has the opposite effect.

That said, it is my observation that this cultural anger is fundamentally toxic to both our individual and collective souls.  It serves no purpose other than itself, like the roaring, suffocating inhalation of a Dresden firestorm.  Anger is a powerful energy, and it can have purpose.  But it also makes us reactive.  It makes us dead to nuance, and dead to disconfirming information.  It makes us more easily manipulated.  It calcifies our view of others.  It radicalizes, and polarizes.

And if it never, ever, turns off?  It becomes a form of madness.

I do not want it to rule my soul.  But there is a boundary to where I can make that happen.

The only place where I can govern tone is me.  I can say to my soul: you do not need to burn with the endless rage of outrage culture.  I can govern my own  reactions, and assess the tone and intent of those things I read and watch and consider.

I can police my own tone, because tone matters.  Tone opens the path to mutual understanding, just as it can wall off the Other.  It's a discipline, one that requires significant effort.  When I'm attacked, I have the same reaction as anyone else.

I cannot make anyone else do this.