We Can’t Talk About IT – The Greater Pain

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This week someone close to me had an experience on Zoom known as “Zoom Bombing.” “Zoombombing” is when an uninvited person joins a Zoom meeting. This is usually done in an attempt to gain a few cheap laughs at the expense of the participants. Zoombombers often hurl racial slurs or profanity, or share pornography and other offensive imagery.

The people joined the call and said terrible things. They wrote the N-word and antisemitic nasty, horrible, and offensive expressions. The participants in the call were stunned and stymied. They didn’t know what to do for a few minutes and they had to collect themselves to stop what was happening.

They ended the call.

After the call, they all went back to their own mental, personal, and home space to process. A few days passed and one of the people voiced their disappointment in a note to the call participants in that the others didn’t reach out to this individual person. The person felt these attacks were personally toward them and highlighted their pain in the note to the others. This is where things become increasingly complicated.

The opinions expressed from here on are mine alone. I am not representing any other perspective or interest other than my own. I take responsibility for what I am writing and I am writing to learn and share. Additionally, I am not attacking any person(s) or people. This is an exploration in thought and reflection on experience. If you are offended, discontinue reading.

-Cohen

let’s say there is a car accident, there are four people in the car:

  • The first person broke her arm in three places.
  • The second person broke her leg and shattered her foot.
  • The third person broke his wrist and has whiplash.
  • The fourth person was the driver (not at fault), walked away with some scrapes, scratches and nightmares. (They were sideswiped and the car hit on the front driver side)

Is the driver responsible now to call everyone and make sure they are ok? If the other car that sideswiped them was driven by an impaired driver how does their action or inaction or irresponsibility convey to anyone else in the car?

What if three of the people in the car were children including the driver. Does the responsibility now fall on the adult in the car to make sure everyone else is ok? What if the adult was hurt worse than the children?

The point is that every situation has complexity. When we start to generalize events and simplify them, they become very easy to rationalize and further judge. Let’s go back to the Zoom situation to unwrap it just a little.

The people attacking used more than one kind of racial, ethnic and, socially immoral attack. They attacked people of color and Jewish people. Recently in the news, we have seen the sensitivity concerning RACE and ethnicity. There is only one race but for all of the reasons that people have sought to separate themselves and place themselves into groups, we have created mechanisms to do so.

The person that complained about the attack with the expectation of someone reaching out to them identified with one of the groups attacked. They didn’t reach out to ask how anyone else was doing. They reached out to say they are hurt. This is where I seek to simplify the complexity and call out one of the major issues going on today in our society.

I walked out the back door of Truman High School and waved at my friends as I walked toward them. From my left side, I was pushed down and didn’t see it coming. I was looking to pick up my things and I was surrounded by a group of teenage boys. These kids weren’t white but all of them weren’t black either. It started with pushing and shoving and then talk of slavery. I should have kept quiet but I told them Jews had nothing to do with American slavery 200 years ago. That was the last thing I said to them before I was beaten to the point where I had to go to the hospital. Regardless of the “hate” I have experienced, it is not enough pain and it isn’t considered systemic. It isn’t systemic but it was everywhere I went throughout my life. It isn’t systemic but it presented itself in that Zoom call.

We can’t have real progress on these issues because people aren’t willing to take the power away from the people that hurt them. They are very willing to be victims. Yes, I was hurt and yes, I experience hate from people and yes, it has been my whole life but this didn’t prevent me from being a productive citizen. It didn’t steal the love that I have to give to others and it didn’t cause me to place a label on all people. If I were to do that, I would hate almost everyone.

We can’t talk about pain because we take our pain and weaponize it. People in groups take their individual pain and express it as everyone in the group’s pain. We assume and assert that our experience is the common experience in our group. We rate our pain and we compare it with others. If we assess our pain to be more than others we delegitimize their pain. The broken leg in the car accident is more painful than the arm. The arm is more painful than the mental state of the driver.

We are in a very bad place when it comes to this subject. Our children don’t know what to say or do. As parents, we don’t know what to tell them. We apologize for the behavior of people we have no control or say over. We can’t talk about it without consequence. If we don’t start to deal with it, we will create conditions for more separation. On top of this, we are all automatically racist because it can’t be helped. See here https://medium.com/age-of-awareness/yes-all-white-people-are-racist-eefa97cc5605 as a simple example of an individual person asserting their opinion to a group. By the way, her argument is impossible but her voice is pretty loud, she has 33k followers. If we start a discussion with “admit it” how are we to get anywhere?

If we “admit it” then everyone on that Zoom call was guilty except for the one victim. If we “admit it” the other people on that call who were Jewish or offended can’t possibly understand the one victim’s pain. If I am to admit anything, I’ll share that when people victimize themselves there is no amount of money and no amount of adjusted compensation in any way that will feed that appetite. It won’t ever happen and that is why the very idea of healing in this way is fundamentally flawed.

The people that were attacked in that Zoom call were all attacked and none of them deserved it. None of them. There is no “greater” pain, there is only pain. Pain is individual and it hurts that is why it is called pain. Instead of taking that frustration and figuring out ways to work through the pain, it is amplified and shared. I’ll end with this thought.

If a person loses their hands and feet in war, their anger would be misplaced even if they were angry at the person that pushed the button on the device that injured them. Even if they wiped out all of the people considered enemies they would still be left without hands and feet. The problem is when they come home and demand that everyone cut off their hands and feet. If now all the handed and footed people are systemically in a better position. If now all the handed and footed people are advantaged. It just creates misery for everyone without the possibility of healing. I wonder when we will be able to talk about it without having to defend against the greater pain.

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One Reply to “We Can’t Talk About IT – The Greater Pain”

  1. It’s unfortunate, but in our early evolution it was an advantage to form tribes and treat others as outsiders and enemies. All it would take is one cutthroat tribe to take advantage of an open, welcoming community and that DNA and all those learned behaviors would be wiped out. Our society has become much more complex and interdependent and the benefits of cooperation and being a “decent human being” outweigh those of tribalism and exclusion, but it still seems to be hardwired into a lot of people. We still want to segregate and treat people as groups instead of as individuals. It’s certainly less work to generalize and feel like you know a person just by their appearance or the group that they associate with. It’s made even easier by the internet as it’s even easier to form tribes and wall yourself up and percolate and distill your opinions and views to the point where they can never be diluted by outside perspectives, facts or new experiences.

    It seems like we’re making the problem worse. Efforts to proactively focus on new voices and perspectives is creating resentment and reinforcing the more radical views. Cancel culture is having the same effect.

    You’ve highlighted the latest twist; when the victims hold everyone else accountable for the behavior of an outlier and expect the “group” to take responsibility for the actions of an individual. That’s every bit as tribal/racist/discriminatory as the original offense. Being a non-xxx doesn’t automatically align you with the offender. This kind of thinking is what’s creating and escalating tensions.

    The only real solution is to treat people as individuals. But, so much of the narrative on both sides is association with the group rather than celebrating the person (or holding them personally accountable).

    Its almost impossible for us not to categorize and assign people to groups. Maybe if we can just think about the groups that others put us into, it might help us to see past the group and see the individual.

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