When we’re kids, we all hear about “The Golden Rule,” which is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
I liked the concept. I remember pondering it in the car when I was four or five, driving around with my Mom. Raffi*** was singing about it on the tape deck. I was too young and non-Indian to have heard of karma, but I was somewhat obsessive about having things balance out. I remember feeling compelled to perform odd actions out of this sense of balance: for example, I’d accidentally brush my left elbow against a doorframe, and then feel compelled to brush my right elbow against the other side of the doorframe — in precisely the same spot. So, when I heard about this Golden Rule, the equality of the concept resonated with me. With a seriousness that always amused adults at the time (though later unnerved them as I aged) I decided that I should apply it whenever I could.
I forget the golden rule here and there, due to emotion. Everyone gets angry; Everyone says something mean sometimes. It’s human. You have to forgive yourself. When I have the presence of mind, though, I do my best to stick by ol’ Gold. My self-control has gotten better with age. The downside is that the computations can become massively complex, resulting in a Hamlet-esque mental denial-of-service attack that renders me useless for minutes at a time. Eventually, I even lose the plot, and wind up mired in thoughts about computer programming, electronic music, or why Microsoft can suck my left one. I get locked into a train of thought, and the rest of reality atrophies as my mental resources all pour into powering the train. I’ll walk into tree branches, miss my subway stop, and leave beautiful ladies mired in existential crises regarding their looks because I had a cool idea for a perl script (when all I really had to do was lie and say, “You look nice, dear”).
Sometimes, after zoning out like this for a bit, I’ll re-establish an uplink with reality and excitedly announce the conclusion I just came to. People look at me funny, because, wat, this guy was catatonic for five minutes, then blurted out something no one understood. WAT! non-sequitur. Meanwhile, in my own mind, I will have applied the Golden Rule — I came out of my zone because I figured out something cool, and I felt I should share it. Like, you dudes would not believe how mad balanced this perl script is. If I’d anticipated the uneasy reaction, I would have just stayed in my goddamn zone. But, when I rocket out riding on a conclusion like that… yeah, slingshot, baby, I just fall from the sky and lay it down. It’s how I am.
ANYWAYS, these situations kind of tore a hole in the Golden Rule for me. I realized how I wanted to be treated was not how everyone else wanted to be treated. Different people want different things, have different interests, and so on. In order to treat someone how they want to be treated, you must understand them. Consequently, understanding others is a prerequisite for the Golden Rule. I am miserable at this; it requires constant, focused effort. The Butthole Surfers sing to me here: You don’t know just how to look through someone else’s eyes. That’s the small problem.
Then there comes the Internets, with its cosmic commitment to rule 34. Upset all the moneychangers. Babel all the towers. Hack all the things. If anything could really torture my inner OCD balance-o-meter, it’s the fucking Internets. It turns out, there are people who are simply complete bastards, in the Patrick Bateman / American Psycho sense: Narcissistic fuckers with a massive ego and a former or present cocaine habit. Tony Soprano bitching about the Happy Wanderer: wants to smash the fucking guy’s face in because the guy’s happy. What does he care that the guy’s happy? Why does he want to smash the guy’s fucking face? My understanding of psychopaths is admittedly minimal at best, stemming from twelve credits of undergrad lectures and a lifetime of watching too much television… also, I read “The Psychopath Test” by Jon Ronson (recommended). Thank the powers, though, I have had no real contact with psychopaths before the Interwebs.
However, the Interwebs is the coat room everyone gets stuck in, and if you’re a heavy InterWebsHed like me, you run into them every now and again. These psychos do not give a shit about balance or equality. They regard you as a sucker for giving even a rat fart in a rainstorm about anyone else’s lot in life. You can be nice to these people, but it will, at best, buy you a temporary respite. Though I would not want to be mocked, berated, criticized, belittled, and/or finally ignored, I have no problem engaging any and all Interwebs psychopaths on that level, since it’s how they treat everyone else.
You have been warned.
***Disclaimer: My opening to the contrary, don’t believe everything Raffi tells you. Raffi also told me an apple a day keeps the doctor away. I have found much less use for this phrase — I hate apples, and all I need to do to keep the doctors away is to not make any appointments.