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On Decency

Posted on February 4, 2014 at 4:55 PM

On Decency


Like so many blogs, I start with one idea but, over the course of writing it, it emerged as something else. Originally I was going to write a nice “remembering” Philip Seymour Hoffman piece, and I probably will at some point because he has been easily one of my favorite actors for the past decade or so, ever since Boogie Nights at the least (though I recall him in a small role in Scent of Woman years prior) as well as The Big Lebowski - two of my personal favorite films and both released relatively close to each other.


But then I got to thinking less about his work and more the situation surrounding his death. In particular, the reaction from people about it. This got me thinking and my half-written blog on my favorite film performances of his (I hadn’t the pleasure to his theatre work unfortunately) began to be less about Hoffman and more critical of how his death was being treated by the internet.

 

I pretty much live online. I don’t watch television, any news or events I hear through social media and websites, so I heard about his passing the moment I got on Twitter, then went on to read the articles. As a few days passed on, and I thought about re-watching some of his films (25th Hour, Capote and Snyecdoche, New York on my list) I began to notice that little big of algae scum that builds up on the internet: the trolls.


Aproximation.

 

Tragic Events? Bring Out the Trolls

The past week or so has had its share of tragic events, one being Hoffman and another which I’ll get to in a moment. Of course, as these came to light, out pop the internet idiots because everyone has an opinion and they think it’s important to share. Let’s take the loss of one great actor in Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of the finest actors of any generation but particular one of his own, who was found in his apartment over the last weekend. Drugs were involved, Hoffman a recovering heroin addict.

 

Some like to say he was “recovered” because he hadn’t touched drugs in over two decades. Well those people don’t know shit about drugs because an addict doesn’t “recover” from anything, they just approach each day at a time and hope they don’t make that one mistake. There’s no “control” over anything in your life that’s 100% and people that say “he made that choice” haven’t a clue.

 

Other reactions were far more worse, though. Naturally, with the passing of a great actor or musician or anyone who offered some sort of creativity and artistry to the word, people like to post things online celebrating them. In the case of Hoffman, I clicked on a link that was a behind the scenes outtake from the rather under-apprecaited The Master where Hoffman and co-star Joaquin Phoenix kept cracking each other up over some cigarettes. It was hilarious. It was very human because in that moment, they wren’t “characters” and were just two guys trying to do their job and failing at it. Laughter ensues, and in tragedy, laughter is by far the best coping mechanism for anyone.

 

Then I scrolled down to the comments. I don’t know why I did. I should know better by now, but I did anyways because I gullibly thought “the man just passed away, I’d like to see what others are saying about him.”

 

Well, that was a stupid thing to do. Insults, people calling him “selfish” or “a junkie” or “got what he deserved.” Yeah, shit like that.

 

I also hung out on a message board I frequent and, naturally, the same was being done there. Most, mind you, were kind and nice and said how much they loved his work and how awful it was he passed away. They showed sympathy for the family and his friends. Then you have that handful of assholes that woke up that morning, saw that news just like I did and said “oh man, well…I better be a complete piece of shit for the next 24 hours it’s in my Asshole contract.”



I'm not sure what trolls are looking to get out of being awful, but it's probably a mental disorder in and of itself.


 

All this reminded me of another incident recently where a pretty popular internet personality, Justin Carmical, tragicly committed suicide. I hadn’t commented much on it because I felt there was nothing left to say that others who knew him better (I only met him a few times) had already said beautifully. But like the previous case with Mr. Hoffman, the trolls and idiots came out of the woodwork and did nothing but show their own ignorance about suicide, much as the case with drug addiction in Hoffmans case, as well as ignorance about depression and other mental disorders by claiming this and that - calling suicide “selfish” or “cowardly” and the like.

 


Armchair Therapists, Indecent Critics

Like addiction, depression and other mental problems a person has is hard to fully understand, so when a tragedy happens it’s nearly impossible to comprehend it. You already have a mental disorder that you can’t comprehend because you aren’t that person victim to it, yet you want answers after a tragedy…well that’s not going to lead us anywhere now is it? That’s why those internet trolls do nothing but show their own stupidity every time I see a some armchair psychiatrist who took some class at a community college chime-in as though they know anything, much less show a little ounce of decency and simply say they are sorry to hear that someone has passed away.

 

None of these people can be empathetic because each person is different, and every disorder of the mind unique to that one individual, which they can’t understand yet they feel obligated to speak as though they do. Sure, you might have a room full of people with bipolar, but each one of their own disorder is unique to them. That element is lost on someone who would have the audacity to type “junkie” or “coward” in a comment section of a tribute video or blog without knowing a goddamn thing. There's vying for attention, then there's just being awful.



Most on the internet, including myself, aren't as clever as we like to think we are, but at least I'm not going out and commenting awful things about people and presume I know everything in the first place.



I look at mental problems as their own worlds. You can read up on it, know what it’s about, search and google the hell out of every disorder under the sun, but how it pertains to one person you can never know. You’re not in their world, you don’t see their view or how they perceive themselves and the world around them. The best you can do is listen to them and at least let them know you’re there for them. Even then, though, that’s often not enough. When a tragedy like suicide or an overdose happens, people still want answers. They need someone to blame, right? The best thing you can do, though, is get that right out of your head. “Blaming” and pointing fingers doesn’t amount to anything in a situation that involves any mental disorder of any kind, because you will never know how that person was feeling or what he or she was thinking.

 

I remember a lot of reactions to Justin’s suicide saying “he never seemed sad to me.” Folks, “sadness” isn’t depression. Perhaps it’s just a misnomer, but just because someone doesn’t appear sad doesn’t mean they’re not depressed. That’s our culture taking that word, “depression,” and making it less powerful. Now every teen with a bad day or someone who didn’t like their burrito will say or post some Facebook status as to how depressed they are about it. The meaning of that word is gone, and now people say “depressed” when they really mean “sad” in the same way people say “literally” to actually mean “figuratively” or “hilarious” to actually mean “slightly amusing” or “hate” to actually mean “mildly annoyed."

 

Depression is different for each person, and trying to comprehend and make sense of it is impossible. For one person, depression will make them angry or even aggressive (notably in young teens), another will show anxiety or panic attacks, another might just have trouble sleeping, another will isolate themselves, and another might decide to end their own life once that sense of hopelessness overwhelms them. The list goes on. Ask any psychiatrist and they’ll say the same thing: you’ll know the signs, you can give the treatment, but you’ll never really “know” what that person is thinking or how they see things. One in 10 US Citizens are clinically depressed. 15% of them will commit suicide because of that disorder.


There’s no “one” element, because there’s no “one” kind of person. Whether it be how drugs, mental problems or stress or just the taste of a food - it’s going to be different from person to person. How something affect a human being is different from one being to another, that’s what makes us individuals.



Look, I like to make comments. I like to be funny. But there's a time and a place. Are we so stunted in our society that we have forgotten how to act decently?



The Problem of the Internet is the Internet

I don’t know what goes through the minds of internet trolls. I know that the walls of safety and ambiguity of the internet has a lot to do with it. Want to know “cowards” then go read any hateful comment section of a youtube video. Spite and vitriol without consequence? There’s your real cowards. A good rule of thumb on internet comments, I feel, is to ask yourself “would I say this to the person if they were right in front of me?”

 

Sure, you can comment and say what you like, but you can also show a little human decency…or is that another word often misused and is now just an oxymoron?

 

Most would probably not dare, which shows they’re only there to get a rise and get attention by just being awful human beings. In reality, for each one I see, I don’t get angry. I feel pity. Far more pity than they deserve and certainly more than they have ever shown in their pathetic digital lives. If that’s all they can lay claim to, then yes…that’s pretty pitiful.

 

I don’t feel sympathy for them, though. That’s reserved for people like Carmical's wife or Hoffman’s children. You know, the real people affected by tragedy and not some idiot with a keyboard posting what could easily be classified as hate speech as far as I’m concerned. But it’s the internet, people can say as they wish. It’s neutrality and without bias. It's why we both love it, but also why we hate it...and I use the word "hate" with its legitimate meaning here.


Just because you can say something and voice an opinion doesn’t mean you should say something or that it’s necessary to even comment - the internet gives an outlet to voices that we would ignore normally if we heard it on the street, and protection to cowards to impose it. For some reason, when you see it in print, when you have it in a tangible form, it just seems far worse. I wish some of those trolls had the decency to comprehend that, but if they did I wouldn't be writing this blog. In fact, if your answer to “would I say this to the person if they were right in front of me?” is “no” then please just shut the fuck up and go on living your miserable life. You’re not contributing anything to anyone other than your own inflated sense of self-worth.

 

There are people with worth, though. It’s people like Hoffman or Carmical.  It’s their struggles, and their families struggling with them, not some internet commentor who woke up one day, decided to be a piece a shit and then offers nothing to the world other than being just that. I'm not asking you to pity them, I'm just asking you to either shut up if you don't know what you're talking about, stay quiet and be decent or offer up something that's worth a damn. Hoffman and Carmical offered a lot, and that’s worth appreciating and spending the time to comment on.


“I think you should be serious about what you do because this is it. This is the only life you’ve got.” - PSH



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