A Curmudgeon’s Manifesto

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We live in a time of heightened tension. In fact, we practically live in a zombie apocalypse, and the contagion is codependency. We are all turning into full-time managers of each other’s attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments. We froth at the mouth at those who disagree with us on social media; we yell instead of discuss, we choose outrage over empathy, and we blame instead of ask intelligent questions. We stare at our glowing rectangles in a perpetual state of agitation and horror at what our aunt/cousin/sister/mother/acquaintance just said. We ruin our lives trying to control the thoughts and behaviors of others – it makes us unhappy, angry, and insane.

In light of the current climate, I feel the need to establish a few boundaries with my readers and the world. I will do so only once, in this post, and then I will return to my regular writing. Over the past few years, I’ve learned to connect to my inner curmudgeon: the fine art of not taking any bullshit. This is a follow up of sorts to last week’s Living Mindfully in a Kingdom of Fear, but it is more general in its scope. This is my curmudgeon’s manifesto.

I’m not a joiner

The first thing I need my fellow human beings to understand about me is that I’m not a joiner. I don’t join movements or fads, especially those my fellow liberals rave about. A few examples: I don’t use trigger warnings, because I find them aesthetically monstrous. I don’t take to the streets to protest, because I feel I can better serve humanity by other means. I don’t go to conferences, because I’m much too introverted and anxious to handle all the noise. I don’t wear the safety pin to signal my safety to minorities: I want my character and conduct, and not my fashion, to prove that I am trustworthy. I don’t partake in holidays (except for Halloween) because I find holidays depressing and anxiety inducing; and I don’t celebrate the LGBT Days: Spirit Day, trans day, Coming Out Day, etc. Being gay, I celebrate these things every day. I don’t wear anything to signal my solidarity with the LGBT community.

(Actually, I take that last one back. I wear a tiny rainbow necklace that you have to squint at to see. I decided that wearing a rainbow would be good for my LGBT pride. And I like rainbows.)

This is not to say that there is anything wrong with the above list. In fact, many of these things are good and necessary. I just don’t do them – I’m an introvert with a severe anxiety disorder who already has a full time job. Don’t take my lack of participation in liberal festivities as condemnation. It’s just not my personality. I will show my support in ways that are unique to my character.

I will not tell you how to think or behave

I’ve learned the hard way that it is useless to tell others how to think, especially on Social Media. I’ve tried correcting people’s perceptions and biases, and I’m still recovering from the trauma. I won’t tell you how you should watch your tone, not be angry, stop being a jerk, or to be less sanctimonious. I won’t tell you who you should or should not be friends with. I won’t tone police, and I won’t tell you to stop tone policing. I won’t offer advice except when asked. I may, at times, encourage certain behaviors; I may be honest about how certain words, attitudes, or actions effect me, but I will do no more. I relinquish all control I ever thought I had over you, my dear reader.

Instead, I will do my best to focus on my own integrity, and will use “I” statements as often as possible. I will try to spread my values by living them, instead of demanding them of others. I will also often fail, and I will choose to show myself grace when I do, regardless of whether others think such grace is merited.

I refuse to demonize (or glorify) others with broad strokes

It may be that every white supremacist in America voted for Donald Trump, but that does not mean that every person who voted for Donald Trump is a white supremacist. If you see me resisting blanket statements about a whole demographic, it is because I find that doing so is simply dishonest. Many who aren’t racist may have been blinded to Trump’s incompetence and evil by other pressing, panic-inducing concerns. The human mind is fragile, and is easily blinded by anxiety. I owe them the courtesy of trying to understand their fears and concerns as best I can, while also accepting the calamity of certain choices.

My refusal to make overarching statements does not somehow inhibit my ability to decry injustice, inhumanity, and evil. I can choose to see nuance and still stand boldly against evil. I don’t have to fall into black and white thinking to recognize the horrors in the world.

I refuse to join the outrage machine

I won’t participate in the online outrage machine. Goodness, I already have panic attacks because the weather is bad, or I’ve had too much caffeine. Why do I want more anxiety in my life? If I look for outrage, I will find more than enough to ruin any capacity to create value in this world. Outrage is bad for my constitution, and I have limited emotional resources. Why should I let myself get all in a tizzy over the latest online drama? Why should I let other people’s quirks, blind spots, and meltdowns exasperate me? You are all as stupid, blind, and arrogant as I am, and I figure a little grace on my part is in order. We’re all idiots, bless our hearts.

I instead choose to replace outrage with curiosity. Asking ‘why’ is the most daring, dangerous, life-altering, world-changing question we can ever ask. Investigation leads me to answers and insights, and lends me power to stand up to evil. Most of us never take the time to forego exasperation and ask why. This allows me a sharper and more powerful anger – an anger that might be able to do something in the world.

I will not answer for the actions of others

The internet has become an odd, highly ineffective tribunal. All conservatives must suddenly answer for the latest abortion doctor shooting or hate crime, and all liberals must be held accountable for the latest riot that got out of hand. Why should I be held accountable for the actions of those who might believe similar things that I do? Why am I expected to defend them or apologize for them? Why should I tolerate my perspectives being dismissed because someone on the other side of the country did something that sours you to my cause? The short answer: there is no good reason, and I refuse to play that silly game. Show me the pitfalls and follies of my own reasoning, show me the consequences of my own ideas. I will accept nothing less.

I will only trust those I deem trustworthy

I am dedicated to dialogue, but I also only trust those I deem trustworthy. If you are a jerk, or fail to respect others, or attack me, I see no use in engaging you. In other words, if you offer me no more than exasperation, I will turn my awareness from you, and towards those who offer me constructive conversation and provocation. My time and focus – as with everyone’s time and focus – is precious, and I want to use it only on those who bring value to my life.

I will do my best to always listen, learn, and live with integrity

I make this promise: I will always try to live, think, and act with integrity. I will oftentimes fail. You may oftentimes disagree with me, and you may often see my flaws more than my virtues. But one promise you can be certain of: I want to live a good, upright life with as much honesty, humility, and integrity as I can. I will confess my shortcomings when they are made visible to me. I will do my very best to practice hospitality and kindness to everyone who crosses my path. I do not believe that positive regard and the boundaries listed above are mutually exclusive.

If this list of boundaries is helpful to you, you are free to adopt it. Regardless, I encourage you to establish your own set of boundaries. Let’s do what we can to cull the Codependent Zombie Apocalypse.

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