Friday, October 1, 2010
Why Do We Hate Each Other?
I found the above image, "Neurotico", in my travels last week, and planned to use it for another topic. I think this one is more timely.
Yesterday, I read about 18 year-old Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers University student who committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge, because his roommate was threatening to "out" him on the Internet with a tape of him having sex with another boy. Unfortunately, Tyler's story is one of many (and one of only a few we've heard about) about cyber-bullying and using the Internet to "out" another person.
The cutting short of a bright young life is devastating enough; the threat of being "outed" as a homosexual before one is ready to make that information public must be an unbearably torturous burden to bear. Your sexuality is your own, and should not be fodder for someone else to use as they see fit. Rumours and gossip do enough damage without entering the realm of social media, but today, they are inextricably linked. It used to be, there was nothing we could do to stop the talking, the whispering, the classroom dramas of yesteryear, that left indelible damage on so many of us. Now, when you factor in technology, it only exacerbates the problem to the point where there really is no recourse whatsoever. We can squawk all we want about needing to put an end to cyber-bullying, but really, what can be done?
Again, I need to make the disclaimer that I am childless by choice. However, this does not mean I do not have a right to speak out about this. I barely escaped my own adolescence by the skin of my teeth, and thankfully, I did not have to live through it during this information age we now live in. I grew up in New York City, and the plethora of locations at which I could have ended my life, had I felt the need to, make me shudder to think how desperate Tyler Clementi must have felt to make the ultimate sacrifice. The ignorance and cruelty that drove him to it are just unthinkable. This was no freshman college prank; this was an abuse of technology, by a fellow student who, by all accounts, knew what he was doing. Granted, there are always three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth. By "accounts" I mean this story from The Newark Star-Ledger. I'm sure the remorse now felt by the parties who drove Clementi to suicide is genuine, but what could they have possibly been thinking beforehand? Therein lies the problem.
Is it correct to assume that we are all taught to respect human life? The answer, obviously, is "no". What we actually learn is to think of ourselves first, even if outwardly, we feel the need to exhibit altruism by appearing to be concerned with the welfare of others. In reality, we don't give a damn about others, but we want everyone to think we do. Parents need to teach their children about actually giving a damn, not just appearing to, because that's what you're supposed to do. It's a hard lesson to teach, and a hard lesson to learn. Yet, to prevent something like this from happening over, and over, and over again, parents MUST teach their children to be respectful and tolerant. If for no other reason, it could be their kid taking a dive into the Hudson River, not someone else's. That's not a good enough reason, but I believe it's the reason most people will use to assuage the guilt that comes with not raising caring, conscientious children. If you really try, you can begin to reverse the damage.
Earlier this week, I was feeling pretty rotten about being called a "schnorrer". I'm still not happy about it, but hearing about this tragedy puts it all in perspective for me. Name calling is a childish form of ignorance employed by people of all ages and is another blight we are powerless to stop. But, what Tyler Clementi did, could surely have been prevented. I've been surviving name calling since grade school, and I will continue to survive it. Sadly, Tyler Clementi forfeited his survival because of the actions of two people who will forever have his blood on their hands.