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The Worst Thing You've Ever Done [Mar. 4th, 2010|10:48 am]
dalekboy
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[mood |sympatheticsympathetic]

This piece is not about any one person specifically, it's about the way people are demonised in general.

I want you to think about the worst thing you've ever done. Something, no matter how long ago you did it, that you're still ashamed of. Don't shy away from it, think hard about the nastiest, shittiest, lowest thing you've ever done to someone.

Now, I want you to imagine people in general, and the internet as a vague group, deciding that's the person you really are.

Think about how they would react, how they would treat you, attack you, the things they would write about you - for a single act. It doesn't matter if it was a mistake, deliberate, or if there were extenuating circumstances - they don't care. There's little to no forgiveness out there, almost every time folks talk about you, it will be in relation to whatever it was you did.

How would that make you feel, as the weeks became months and years, and people still brought it up? How would you feel about the fact that no matter what else you did, there would always be someone there ready to bring up that single bad decision and start the whole thing up again? That every other positive act in your entire life would be deemed unimportant or irrelevant compared to this single event.

I'm not saying there should be universal forgiveness. Some people repeatedly do horrid things to others. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a price to pay for a single error, sometimes we have to make amends. But if the only issue you can find with a person is one really bad thing they've done, then doesn't that suggest there may be more to them than that one act?

Remember this the next time the crowd starts baying for someone's blood over a single mistake, especially if you're part of that crowd. Other people are as complex and have as many layers as you do.

You, and I, are not just the worst thing we ever did.

And neither is anyone else.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mrs_roy
2010-03-04 12:00 am (UTC)

I have to say this is real food for thought, your parting message is quite lovely. Thank you xx
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-03-04 12:13 am (UTC)
I've had this post brewing inside for well over a year, but it was only this weekend at Continuum while chatting to an old friend that I was given the words to sum it up. We were talking about people being demonised and she quoted a TV show where someone basically said 'I'm not just the worst thing I've done.'

She's one of the nicest people I know, and as she said, she'd hate to be known for the worst thing she's done. Same goes for me. I'm pretty well liked, and most people think of me as a nice guy, but I've done stuff that I'd never want others to know about.

We all have these skeletons, but it seems that you should only be really made to pay, again and again, if you have the poor luck or judgement to be found out.
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[User Picture]From: delicious_irony
2010-03-04 12:03 am (UTC)
Thank you.

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[User Picture]From: paulhaines
2010-03-04 12:09 am (UTC)
You know that old joke, don't you? Where the guy does all these good things in his life, but is always remembered for the dalliance with the sheep? Or whatever other punchline has been inserted.

And though we know and wish that is not the way we thought and behaved (ie the worst thing we ever did), it is human nature.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-03-04 12:20 am (UTC)
I nearly included that joke - "But you fuck one goat..."

I'm just over the mindless herd hate response. Hatred is not justice. Because when you stop to think about it, you just know that of the people loudly screaming about how evil someone is, a portion of them have done stuff at least as bad. They just haven't been found out.

And some are so wrapped up in themselves they've done horrible similarly horrible shit, and never even realised.
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[User Picture]From: ghoath
2010-03-04 12:48 am (UTC)
I'll join the chorus of people who agree with this totally.

I know my (and my partner in evil's) biggest sin is, neither of us are proud of it, and we are still both judged in various ways and scared to go close to that circle ever again. Even the judgee who broke the news to the community of concern has admitted that that in itself was a sin to do, as in respect for myself and my partner-in-evil's long term reputations.

But from what I can tell, it seems to be worse in a hobby society group thing rather than in a disability group. In a hobby society, people seem to find it easier to deamonise people because they feel ike if they push someone hard enough they can push someone out, which of course backfires when that person is strong or brutally stubburn enough to go "fuck this, I'm staying" and then everyone else gets more angsty and miserable, rather than figuring out how to work around that person's faults.

In contrast, my experience of disability groups seems to be that we have to be a bit more tolerant and understanding of each other, because you know that you are going to know, and need to put up with, these people for the rest of your life. Come what may, you can't stop being part of that disability group. So even though you don't agree with a whole bunch of things someone does, or has done, you still have to figure out on what level you relate to them or can be civilised with them, so it doesn't appear that you are having a go at them all the time, because that gets tedious pretty quickly.

Just my ovservations anyway.

It would be an interesting experiment, to have a post where you invite people to annonymously fess up to their worse sin; giving context of the situation without revealing names and places. You wouldn't want people to publicly judge each other as a result, even annonymously, because that could hurt people, but it would be interesting to see what people thought of each other's crimes, when they were faceless. Or you could do it in a way where the rules are, if you post your sin, you open yourself up to having any annonymous criticism levelled at you. I for one would be interested to see what random people who didn't know the people or circumstances involved, thought of my supposed sin.
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[User Picture]From: leecetheartist
2010-03-04 12:54 am (UTC)
Good post there, Danny.

One of the things that I find continually shocking is the terrible knee jerk reaction of some people on the net - I've seen it happen again and again on LJ, which is where I am the most, but I bet it happens everywhere else too.

A person will say something online, and heck, it might be in their own blog and it might be completely agin the thoughts of one, some or even all of their friends. Or they're having a bad day, and they don't phrase something right, whatever.

For example...

"Gods, blue spotted finglewangles are loathsome. They're a complete waste of space, vicious and I hate people who talk about them constantly."

What I find childish and just plain damn stupid and petty, instead of letting the 'culprit' explain, or bothering to interpret, or just opening a dialogue is the

"I'm going to defriend you and block you never speak to me again"

reaction.

And I've seen this happen over and over. There's no right of reply.

Would it not be better to say something like

"Gee, you really hurt my feelings there because I think blue spotted finglewangles are very sensitive and I actually have two, but I've known you for years and I'd hate to just write you off like that, can we talk about this?"

It's something that really bothers me, and it relates to your post very well.
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[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2010-03-04 10:07 am (UTC)
What I find childish and just plain damn stupid and petty... is the "I'm going to defriend you and block you never speak to me again" reaction.

Amen.

And it looks like there might be an example of it elsewehre in this discussion which I find disappointing.
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[User Picture]From: punkrocker1991
2010-03-04 01:07 am (UTC)
good thoughts, I was pondering just this on my drive to work today, and am glad to then find out I don't have to try to articulate this. I think that this also gets complicated by the different weightings we each give to what is good and bad: what is a minor misdemeanor to some is really bad to others.
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[User Picture]From: punkrocker1991
2010-03-04 01:11 am (UTC)
What has started me pondering this is the hoohaa over a woman in WA needing a new liver. On one hand she's a human being who may be able to be helped. On the other, she's already had her body reject one liver, possibly related to her history of drug use. Even the ABC manages to throw "drug addict" into any headline it possibly can, as if drug addicts are less human than the rest.
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[User Picture]From: capnoblivious
2010-03-04 01:11 am (UTC)
+1
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[User Picture]From: drew_bowie
2010-03-04 01:26 am (UTC)
Very, very well said.
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[User Picture]From: strangedave
2010-03-04 01:41 am (UTC)
Well said.
One of the things that has bothered me about the recent Swancon thing is people talking about how they don't understand how you could be friends with someone who has done something so dreadful, how their friends will get demonised too, how the guy is better watch out. And I know that, to their friends, no matter how awful the thing they have done is, their friends and family get to see all the rest of them, see a lot more than I see.

Sure, I might want people out of particular spaces, sure I might have more compassion for the victim, but I also don't think that this one act defines that whole persons life and his friends and family should stop caring about them, or that we should criticise them for doing so.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-03-04 03:50 am (UTC)
At the abattoirs I worked with thieves, murderers, and rapists, and some of them were much nicer people than the folks there who hadn't been arrested for a crime.

Hell, I'd still rather hang with those people than some fans I know, who haven't done anything as serious in scale, but seem to fill their lives with lots of small, nasty, spiteful, self-serving acts.
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[User Picture]From: girliejones
2010-03-04 02:00 am (UTC)
The other thing to remember is sometimes the one, worst thing that you did just one time could ruin someone else's life forever.

Get into a car after one drink too many, look down the wrong side of the intersection, veer out and kill someone in your car.

Violate someone else, just once, only the one time, but it plagues and haunts and ruins them forever.

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[User Picture]From: mondyboy
2010-03-04 02:14 am (UTC)
Agreed.

Also, I gotta say, if it was a close friend of mine who'd done the specific act, I'd have to seriously re-evaluate that friendship.
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[User Picture]From: mondyboy
2010-03-04 02:13 am (UTC)
While I agree with this sentiment, and I while I think we should be tolerant, as Girlie Jones states, we need to think of the victim as well.

Matthew Johns, who was involved in the sexual violation of an 18 year old girl with ten other men (alledgedly), did only one thing. he said sorry publically, and about six, maybe nine months later he now has a new TV show on Channel 7.

That makes me sick. It makes me sick to think that the Australian public has already forgiven him to the point that Channel 7 feel they can make a show with him. It makes me sick that the victim has already been forgotten.

In the case that been discussed (re Swancon) over the last couple of weeks, I can't help but feel disgusted by what the person did. Sorry, but that's how I'm wired. I won't act violently against that person, but I'd rather not know him or be in the same place as him, or those people who support him and suggest that "she's not so innocent in all this".

What I'm trying to say, and badly, is that we should be tolerant and accepting and understand that we don't walk in those same shoes of the person who committed act. But we can't forget the victim. And sometimes saying I'm sorry won't be enough.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-03-04 05:14 am (UTC)
I'm not saying there should be universal forgiveness. Some people repeatedly do horrid things to others. I'm not saying there shouldn't be a price to pay for a single error, sometimes we have to make amends.

I just wanted to quote that part again. Not having a shot at you, just being a bit clearer here. I was molested for a period of around 6 months by a family friend when I was a child. So I'm the person that until I read Mindhunter was in favour of mandatory castration in all proven cases of rape. What I learned after reading that book was that rape is usually about anger, not sex, and if you cut a guy's balls off you have a very angry man. And a guy doesn't need a penis to rape.

Going back to my quote - I don't think Johns has made amends or paid a price for his error. Lock the fucker up.

One of the things that sickens me about the Matthew Johns case is that right from the word go, the media referred to it as 'group sex.' Group sex to me is a consensual act, something agreed upon in advance. The media was already letting this guy off the hook.

The girl agreed to have sex with Johns, she didn't agree to have sex with all his mates. They just turned up, and so she's in a situation where she's feeling pressured by big burly footballers to do stuff. Does anyone really think she felt like she could safely say no? I have no problem believing that she went along out of fear of what might happen if she didn't.

And channel 7 have rewarded him! What message does that send, to both men and women?

As to the WA case, I hadn't seen the 'she's not innocent' posts. Ewww! Seriously. I have no idea what they're referring to, but at the time it happened she said no. He went ahead anyway.

I think the guy has problems, and that deserves some compassion, and treating him badly will not solve anything or make the world a better place.

However, his victim is deserving of a lot more compassion and consideration. All she did was happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time - the time and place where he chose to do the wrong thing in a moment of selfish weakness.

You and I have had many discussions over the years, and you know my take on crime tends to break down to - Did the person understand what they were doing was wrong? If the answer is yes, and there's no huge extenuating circumstances (i.e. stealing food because they're starving, murder that's a clear-cut case of self-defence, and so on), then throw the book at them.

She said no, so he knew what he was doing was wrong.

As far as I'm concerned, he's welcome back at Swancon when the victim has forgiven him, and not before. He already got off lightly because the police weren't involved.
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[User Picture]From: ghoath
2010-03-04 06:20 am (UTC)
No idea where this should belong in all the threads, so thought I would post another comment.

And I will state my usual disclaimer that even though I have Swancon friends, I know nothing about it.

The thing that always frustrates me in discussions about rights or wrongs against people is that so many people assume that there should be some jjustice, that there can be some justice, that justice will be executed.

For whatever reasons, that can't and won't happen in some instances. What if you can't avoid your attacker again? What if you and all your friends, despite your outrage, have to deal with, cooperate with, and get along with this person, regardless of how much you simply don't want to?

People put so much energy into hating or trying to oucast someone, but if it's not achieved, everyone has to move on somehow, including the victum. Yes of course there is being fearful of your attacker and horrified by what happened to you, but hatred is a separate thing that comes as a result of these things, and can be controlled by choice.

I'm speaking from experience.

I get sick of when society turns something into a "the world should be a better place and nobody should be violated" discussion because when these things happen, the individuals involved have to deal with it, somewhere, somehow, regardless of what's wright or wrong or what society reckons should happen.
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[User Picture]From: vegetus
2010-03-04 07:08 am (UTC)
Thanks for this. I think everyone can say they have done something they aren't proud of at some point and like you I knwo there are things I have done in the past I wouldn't want the wider world to know about.

Vigilantism isn't productive for any group and it isn't any way to solve a problem. I've seen it happen alot within Fandom, and a few times outside. It's never solved a problem but it's killed alot of good ideas/events/groups and hurt the community as a whole (which really sucks if it's a small community).

I also find the selective memory of fandom (especially Perth fandom) interesting. Personally I find, I'm remembered for certain people I dated and certain forms of employment I've chosen, years after the fact and when people are fully aware my situation has changed. Yes, the person I dated 12 years ago can be an idiot (I'm sure they feel similar about me). Last time I was in Perth I got a "oh so you dated XXXXX". Can't people get the fuck over it- we both are?!
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[User Picture]From: crankynick
2010-03-04 12:48 pm (UTC)

If not this, then what?

I could have waited until the current furore about your situation had died down, but then, there's always another situation that people will find links to with a post like this.

But you didn't, Danny. You posted it now, and this is what it's about.

You've told a self acknowledged sex offender that he's the victim of a mob, and the victim of the crime that she shouldn't have looked here because she'll just get upset again (even though she shouldn't, because he'll be sorry someday).

You've told the members of a community that got up and said "this is wrong, and the man that did it isn't welcome in our space any more" that they shouldn't have done it.

I think you're wrong. I think you need to read these again in front of a mirror, and look at yourself for while afterwards.

And I think your timing is appalling, and insensitive, and stupid.

I said in the comments to my original post that I didn't think we'd done a good thing, only - as flawed as it was - a necessary one.

But your post here has taken everything good that could have come of this and crapped on it.
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From: gutter_monkey
2010-03-04 03:05 pm (UTC)

Re: If not this, then what?

logansrogue herself disagrees with you, btw. As she said earlier:
"I guess I'm more angry with people equating your post here with what happened to me. It's not a comparable situation."

Also Danny's specific comment about whether that guy should be allowed to attend Swancon was:
"Do I say we should let your assaulter off? No, I say that he can come back when his victim says it's okay - fully expecting that to be never."


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[User Picture]From: kowren
2010-03-04 04:41 pm (UTC)

I know I know I know.....

NOT ABOUT A CERTAIN EVENT

Just wanted to let you know that you have made me pause for thought. Good post. Well said. Poor timing perhaps but why put your life on hold for stuff that this isn't even about.

Thankyou for making me think.
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[User Picture]From: bunny_m
2010-03-05 12:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this post. I can't even imagine how it would feel to be treated for the worst thing I've ever done.

Sympathies that there seems to have been explosions of drama in your LJ because of this, but thank you for saying so well what was in my head and heart, but that I just couldn't manage to put into words.

*sends you love*
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[User Picture]From: shrydar
2010-03-06 01:25 am (UTC)
I thought of this post when I saw the following article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7365479/Jon-Venables-is-no-longer-the-guilty-boy-who-killed-James-Bulger.html

I'm moderately surprised no one's mentioned the case yet.
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[User Picture]From: gemfyre
2010-03-08 04:10 am (UTC)
After the big blow up (alas, caused by my other half who has a tendency to think first and think later), I had written a response apologising for what he'd said, only to find that I had also had the opportunity to speak on the matter taken from me. For a couple of days I was in a real tizz and seriously bothered by it all. But after talking to a few people who wanted to hear all sides of the story (yes, people may be wrong, but dammit, there needs to be a forum for the argument or things just stew and get even more ugly), and reading this post, I think I feel better than when all this mess started. Thank you.

As for the one bad thing tarnishing you for life - I've been seriously contemplating a short fanfic I wrote about the topic. Maybe I should.
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