Ever have one of those “I’m going to Hell” moments?
Wherein all social mores, beaten out from birth like a mantra on an ancestral timpani drum, can be so clearly delineated that any second grader can easily tell you, “Oh, that’s wrong, you don’t eat candy corn off a sidewalk. There’s germs there.”
Ask that kid what germs are, and they’ll spit right back at you, “Little invisible things that get in your stomach and make you sick.”
Now I’m not trying to debunk scientific method or repudiate the fact that the world is older than 5,000 years or event deny that there was once a man named Hammurabi (who was, in fact, the very first rule lawyer). Germs do exist, a method was employed to discover them and, although we cannot see them with the naked eye, they are truly there.
No, I wish to talk about our own self imposed and socially imposed mores that, though invisible, we all have. Although they vary from region to region – some heathens put mayonnaise on their fries, after all – the concept of right or wrong is so wholly integrated into our social contract that in order to exist productively in our civilization we must abide by it to some degree.
There are, however, certain gray areas which thrive violently behind the mask of anonymity. A college political science professor once told me that if you really want to inspect the level of racism on a college campus, you should look at the stalls in the bathrooms. Behind a door, in a vulnerable yet secluded position, all our mores can fracture. When they do, by exercising some control over our immediate environment, we can then mutter and scribble Tourette-style thoughts that have been welling up from deep in the recesses of our brains. In this safe state of idealized anonymity, we are simply a voice that resonates to ourselves. There the toxic pneuma breathed from our lungs releases endorphins which strike out against an addled brain and subdue all our anxiety, leaving the metaphoric euphoric azure skies open and immersing us in a feeling of instant elation.
I’ve never spiked a vein or taken a long drag of a cigarette, but in these moments, I can almost relate.
Yelling epithets, sexist or even inane comments allows us to break character in an expansive way and within this womb of anonymity, we do not worry about the repercussions of transient moments lasting but a breath – or maybe longer if you took a sharpie to that tin toilette paper dispenser.
The vulnerable and secluded position of anonymity allows for greater yields in the fracturing of mores. There is a feeling of instant relief when you push back on the world. Bathrooms, backyards, cars with windows rolled all the way up, these all make for perfect places to let loose a cathartic temper tantrum. The internet, even moreso, is also a perfect place to exhibit all your darkest thoughts, your temptations – it is a veritable Mos Eisley, where you can severe the arm of a patron and only receive fourteen seconds worth of attention or have full have a firefight with no repercussions.
It is an idealized Wild West, where some kid who is called ginger nuts all day at school and taught useless, barely functional mathematics, can snipe a computer generated representation of a full grown man, from a mile away and scream, “Go back to headshot school, faggot!”
This scene happens every fifteen minutes on Xbox Live.
Now, I can’t say this hypothetical kid is, or is not, grooming himself to be the chapter head of nearest hate crime organization. What I can say is that the frustration that he’s felt, combined with the anonymity of the internet and his own technical prowess, has been vented at the world. It has given him a sense of elation that his mind was craving.
It makes me wonder if the visceral desires that exist deep in our mind should occasionally be let out, both to allow the venting of frustration and also to reinforce our measuring stick for what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
There should be at least one place in society where we can go and vent and become a less than perfect representations of ourselves without fear of judgment and a backlash.
When you find that perfect secret place, forward it to Mel Gibson.