Back when I was at Weaponized Social with a bunch of other sociable geeks, we spent most of two days beavering away with math, networking, creativity, art therapy, and lots of really pretty decent catering, at the idea of creating spaces in which people have the best possible opportunity to, as Bill and Ted once put it, be excellent to each other.

This is great stuff. This is rainbows and puppies and nerdy workshop spaces. I love these things. They are wonderful.


Sometimes, people do not want to be excellent to each other. It would be great if everyone did and all the trouble in the world was due to misunderstandings, but it isn't. It would also be great to get my Utopian future based on bitchin' guitar solos and George Carlin, but I'm still waiting on that, too. Sometimes, people -- and there is really no way to put this delicately -- are shitheads.

I may have missed something in one of the other discussion groups, but to the best of my knowledge, I was the only one to bring up the idea that possibly, just possibly, we should not always do our best to make sure everyone's feelings are preserved.

Shame is an important social tool. So is guilt. Shame and guilt make you feel bad. Emotional pain hits the same part of the brain as physical pain does. The memory of shame and guilt make you shy away from doing horrible things to other people the same way the memory of fuckfuckfuckow makes you use a potholder to take pans out of the oven. If you hammer it in well enough, you remember things like potholders and civility even when you're blind crawling drunk.

There are times when people are simply impervious to reason. You can explain how their actions make you feel, and how they defy logic, and how they are socially inappropriate, and these people are convinced that you are joking, even though you cannot possibly conceive of what humor value they think this conversation contains. They do things you do not like because they think the indignation of others is funny. They do it at parties and in public places because they think that prompting your angry reaction qualifies as entertainment for the gathered crowd.

I know it's said that profanity is a sign of a weak vocabulary, but I have never agreed. Sometimes, you have to metaphorically declare someone  a spineless, gormless, malodorous goat-felching fellater of innumerable syphilitic donkey cocks because that's exactly what you mean.

People who do this are counting on the presence of others to keep you from making an embarrassing scene. They are correct: The scene will be embarrassing. For them. This lady has the right idea.

She has other articles talking about how her mother taught her to use the Dog Voice when she wanted her brother to stop something as a kid, the serious voice you use to shout "No!" at the dog. I always called it the Everybody's Mother Voice. If you get it right, it'll make almost anyone else stop dead, no matter what they're doing, and whip their head around, trying to figure out when their mother got here and who let her in. It marks the precise instant your right to dignity and polite consideration is surpassed by my right to embarrass the fuck out of you until you stop doing that. It is the voice your mother uses that one last time she tells you to stop running out into the street before she swats you on the backside and physically picks you up to stop you from doing it again. Maybe I can't bodily restrain you the way your mother could when you were four, but you know, realizing that suddenly everybody in the entire room is eyeing you like you are the world's biggest party-killing douchecanoe has a remarkably similar effect.

This kind of public humiliation teaches people who don't have or refuse to use empathy that bad behavior will make their life difficult. It is less trouble to pretend to give a fuck about what other people think. It would be nice if you cared about other humans, but if you don't, you're still required to follow some basic rules if you want access to the conveniences of civilization, so just learn to hum vaguely along when we get to the chorus.

I've gotten extremely good at this over the years. I'm rather proud of it. It took a lot of ignoring the endless line of adults who noticed all the bullying and told me airily to 'just ignore it'. Way back in college, the boyfriend of a friend accidentally encountered me for the first time while I was trying to run an abusive fuckwad away from someone I knew. I don't even remember the incident, but over a decade later the now-ex-boyfriend-turned-friend still apparently thinks I'm terrifying.