…Or: The Latest Cultural Artifact we’ve Run off the end of the Goddamn Earth with.
Disclaimer: If you have legitimate, no-shit, diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I give you a pass on this – assuming, that is, that you are doing your part to seek help and get better. PTSD is not supposed to be a life-long condition. If you are suffering from it presently, please get professional help. If you need help to get help, then ask for it. Someone near you, someone you know and/ or love will help you find counseling. There are counselors out there, trained to deal with this kind of thing. Find them and use them. It will get better if you do. It will get better.
That being said, (and you know this is going to be a rant because I started with a disclaimer), I am getting sick of everyone and their mother talking about trigger warnings, or being triggered, or whatever new abomination to the English language the culture came up with since last I looked.
As I mentioned in the disclaimer, there are people who legitimately suffer from PTSD, and can be legitimately triggered. I don’t think the term is a made up term, but I think the extent to which it is bandied about, in social media and the media proper, in everyday conversations, and on college campuses, demeans and degrades the very real, but fairly rare psychological condition.
(Much the same way it became fashionable for control freaks and neat freaks to talk about their “OCD”. Fuck you. When you wash your hands until they bleed, and can’t stop, then tell me you have OCD.)
Here’s what I have noticed, a lot of the talk about “triggering” in its various forms appears to boil down to:
1) Something is making me uncomfortable,
2) I shouldn’t have to be uncomfortable.
Another phrase I’ve heard strewn about like glitter in a skanky strip club is “invalidating my experience”.
I didn’t quite catch that. Someone invalidated your experience? So, you’re telling me you are a moron who can’t tell the difference between what happens outside your head and what happens inside your head?
Because, and let me be perfectly clear here: no one can invalidate your experience!
It’s an experience, and it’s past tense. It’s already happened. You were there, weren’t you?
No one can invalidate or even devalue your experience(s). It can’t be done. Someone may convince you that you should value any one of your experiences less or more than you do, but it’s still you that decides whether or not the value of your experience changes.
Have we become so easily led as a people that now we’re allowing others to determine, for us, what we think about what we’ve experienced?
(Okay, don’t answer that. In fact, don’t think about it too much right now. There’s still more words on this page to read before the rage-blood starts shooting out of your nostrils.)
Back to my point of digression; most of the talk concerning triggering seems to be people using the term as an intensified substitution for the phrase: made me feel uncomfortable.
(By the way, I think it can be reasonably argued that, if you use an intensified substitution to amp up the effect of your words, you may already be invalidating your own experience. Let’s face it, outside of entertainment purposes, if you thought it had value and impact, you wouldn’t need to use a more intense word, would you?)
Here’s my question: When did we become such a nation of cowards that we can’t stand to be uncomfortable?
Because that’s what all this, non-legitimate, whining about triggering is; a bunch of cowards who can’t stand to be uncomfortable.
(Note: I know that some racist, sexist, homophobic genital wart of a human being is going to take my statements here as some kind of license to continue with their douche-bag fuckery. It is not my intent to give these human puss stains ammunition for their irrational prejudices. The fact that some day, some one might fills me with existential loathing, but that, dear readers, is the subject of another rant. In any case, I’m making a point about distinction, not trying to bludgeon people who are marginalized or suffering.)
Here’s the thing: for the most part, for most of us, life is going to be uncomfortable. Dealing with it; getting by and getting over is part of what life is all about. Part of the meaning is the struggle. We shouldn’t be running from discomfort, we should be embracing it. Discomfort, when confronted and overcome, is the stimulus that helps a human being grow. It makes us strong. Discomfort tests us and molds us and hammers out impurities in our character. Discomfort chips away the inessentials until we are truly ourselves.
Discomfort is our greatest teacher and ally. And the moments we are uncomfortable are the most potentially learning filled moments in a human life time.
Being uncomfortable, if you engage with it, makes you better.
But say there is a person, or a group, behaving in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps they are being racist, or xenophobic, or whatever the newest flavor from the prejudice of the month club is. Suppose you’ve been taught to be polite. To not ruffle feathers or make a scene. Then suppose the behavior is just too damn inappropriate.
As Bruce Lee said, “Learn to accept things. And learn to accept the fact that, some times, you will not be able to accept things.”
So, say someone is being a real flaming shit-bag, and if you want to know what to do when said burning bag of excrement behaves inappropriately, here’s what you do: Speak up.
Speak up. Stand up. Step up.
Use your intelligence and your wit to make that person or group look as ignorant, mean, hateful, and foolish as they well and truly are.
“But what if they get violent?”
So what. If it gets violent, then get violent. Or not. it’s your decision to make in the moment.
But take a stand, in that moment, and do something. And damn the consequences.
Maybe you get verbally abused for it. Who gives a fuck?
Maybe you get physically abused for it. Again, who gives a fuck? If you’re not willing to stake a little of your flesh on it, then I question how deeply you hold the conviction.
Let me remind you of what having the courage of your convictions looks like:
Civil Rights Protestors of the last century.
They knew they would be sprayed with high-pressure water hoses. Knew they would be taunted, humiliated, beaten and arrested. Knew they would have police dogs set on them.
You know what they did?
They marched on. They sat in. They made their statement, regardless of the consequences. And they made a difference.
I’ve never read or listened to a single interview where even one of those protestors talked about being “triggered”.
“You got beat up and arrested yesterday for marching. What are you going to do today?”
“March some more.”
That’s courage. That’s what this country used to aspire to. Victims deciding to be heroes, regardless of what it cost.
This cultural phenomenon that is “triggering” is a coddling, insecure, infantile desire to be insulated from any and all discomfort. To not have to be bothered with standing up, with showing courage, with enduring whatever comes to be able to make a difference.
For the sake of our culture, and for the sake of those who actually suffer, we need to get a fucking grip.