Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Social Cost of Free Expression

Free Expression Tunnel at NCSU
(NOTE: The following post includes a graphic depiction of a violent fantasy which I had this week. It should be understood that I have absolutely no intention of acting on this fantasy, or any like it. If you are bothered by descriptions of violence, do not read this post. I hope that anyone that I care about who may read this won't think negatively of me after reading this, should they choose to do so. However, I'm fairly sure that the people I care about already understand my intentions.)

I've railed against hypocrisy in the past. My reasoning is that if you believe in, or otherwise espouse, a principle you should be willing to live with the consequences of that principle because in doing so you will either learn that the principle is worth defending or that it is a stupid principle that no one in their right mind should have supported to begin with. I've even gone so far as to say that, as an extension of this anti-hypocrisy attitude, I have never done or said anything for which I am ashamed. While I still assert that position, I will say that sometimes I do things which, while not causing me shame, do cause me a small amount of regret.

On Wednesday, my friends and I were hanging out in the lounge in Poe Hall as usual before our Psych Research Methods class. In case you haven't already figured it out by now, I can be something of a loud mouth. Most of the time this isn't a problem, and I've even discovered that some people find it to be rather amusing. Those who don't usually are not very happy to be around me, and that typically suits me just fine. Well, on this day some guy who was sitting behind us in the lounge yelled at us (me, in particular, since I was speaking at the time) to be quiet. To our credit, we did become silent while the guy remained in the lounge. However, I was seething with anger. When the guy finally got up to leave, I just couldn't hold in my hate any longer and I flippantly insulted him as he walked away. Needless to say, he wasn't pleased with that and responded in kind. I could have escalated the matter but chose not to out of fear that what I wanted to do would get me kicked out of school.

I should probably point out that, as a response to being abused as a child, I don't appreciate taking orders or being told what to do by others in any way. You may wonder how, then, I can possibly enjoy academia where I am constantly told to read this, write that, etc. I suppose it is more to the point that I don't like taking orders from people I perceive as being "less" than me. I consider professors as being my superiors in a way that I never considered members of my family, strangers, or prior bosses to be. I have always respected them and it is the reason that I want to one day join their ranks. Obviously, I held no such respect for the guy in the lounge.

This is where the regret comes in. I didn't want to just yell at him, cuss at him, or even throw a punch at him like some people may have wanted to if put in a similar situation. No, unlike "normal" (ie., non-abused) people, I seem to go from 0-Serial Killer when someone keeps me from behaving the way I want. I wanted to attack him like a wild animal. I wanted to grab him and bash his head against one of the brick walls until I crushed his skull. I wanted to bite his throat and rip out his flesh like a tiger attacking a gazelle. I wanted to grab him and throw him down the stairs from the lounge then jump down onto his prone body so that I could crush his rib cage before I took his laptop out of his backpack and used it to knock out all of his teeth. And all the while that I would do these things, I would laugh and laugh and laugh. In fact, the most civilized thing I wanted to do was hold him over the balcony from the lounge by his feet while I yelled at the top of my lungs, "I AM THE ALPHA MALE HERE! YOU DON'T FUCK WITH ME!" before making him beg for his life; though, to be fair it is only a one story drop from the balcony so the most he would be is paralyzed from that fall.

So, what do I regret exactly? I don't regret being a loudmouth. I don't regret pissing off that guy. But, I regret that I have to be vigilant not to release this animal that lives inside of me for reasons which aren't even my fault. I regret that I can't always respond to people around me as a fully rational human being, and instead must step through this dance of impassioned expression and repression. I regret that, for me anyway, the cost of free expression is that I will always have as many enemies (possibly more) as I have friends, and that no one will ever be on the fence about how they perceive me. And I regret that it has to be this way simply because it is probably safer for all involved.

Have fun and keep living life... And guard against your inner demons.

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