Taking The Fifth These Days
I read something, I think a blog post, by an older gentleman who once worked in an industry I pay attention to. There. That’s about as vague as I can be. I don’t want to criticize an old man by name, even if it’s not a famous name.
He pushed some buttons in me. For one thing, I’m dubious about people this age (either late 80s or 90s, I think) being so active on social media. I’d be dubious about the rest of us, too; there’s sort of a sliding scale here. I follow some older celebrities, so that colors my view (or informs my opinion, take your pick).
I just think that it’s hard to be so public when you probably are much further away from the culture than you realize, or can realize. And humor is tricky as we age; our sensibilities tend to freeze at some point. What we think is funny is just old and boring, and what they think is weird and offensive.
Not me. Them. But I’m aware that I need to eventually back away from humor that’s not self-deprecating or otherwise acceptable. And humor comes in handy on social media.
Anyway, this guy was going on about something he considered political correctness, and I rarely pay attention to that term anymore. I usually don’t know what people are talking about, since it means what you think it means, I guess.
This man was complaining about a work of art that is currently considered by many people to be racist, or at least to perpetuate racial stereotypes in a negative way. Honestly, this is such a minor thing, of interest to so few people (I would think), that I’d be tempted to read and ignore.
Because there are things that are offensive to me now that once weren’t. I’ve grown. I’ve learned a few things. I don’t think I’d enjoy watching Manhattan again, for example, even though I saw it originally and loved it. I was 20. The idea of a 40-something man dating a high-school girl didn’t have quite the effect as it does now. It’s just gross, and that’s without the rest of Woody Allen’s behaviors to consider.
So maybe I’m being politically correct. Whatever. It’s not worth writing about; I just don’t care to watch. But I’m not in my 90s with some quixotic notion of restoring the past to greatness.
The point is, this guy at one point used the phrase “the younger generation,” which baffled me but also made me smile a little. It’s such an old-fashioned phrase, dating in my memory from the 1960s.
Because which generation would that be again, old fella? Boomers, Gen X-ers, Millennials, Gen Y kids who are now in college? Just anyone younger than 90, maybe? Let’s be specific.
I don’t know why that stuck in my craw, except that it’s a general concept that keeps popping up. Engaging with other people online is just fraught, you know? Misunderstandings and miscommunication are so common it’s hardly worth mentioning. Personally, I’m in favor of staying quiet as much as possible, if only to save myself the grief of getting pissed at people I like.
I have bona fides here. I’ve been writing for newspapers for 18 years, and for 18 years people have misunderstood. Sometimes this is my fault, as I certainly wander around and make mistakes and forget to tie up loose ends.
But often as not, it’s because people read what they think they read. Not, sometimes, what is actually written. At some point, I just started copying chunks of the actual text I’d written, which refuted whatever note I’d received from a reader, and sending those back without comment. I never hear back.
It could be my exile from active engagement during Lent. It could just be the evolution of the medium. I try to be optimistic, but I don’t know how to have conversations with people who believe unbelievable things, obviously false things, and double down on believing when they’re called on it. And it’s not my job to call them on it.
So I’m staying away, I think. I posted something the other day that got wild responses, completely unexpected and misreading and just rude so that I deleted it rather than get mad at friends. Not worth it. I don’t need to share.
At the same time, I’m going to say and write whatever I want. If I censor myself, it’s just discretion being that better part of valor thing. I don’t wish to offend anyone. I don’t really care if I do. It’s personal and kind of a mystery, but you don’t have to understand, just me.
And someone, somewhere, is going to misunderstand this post, I’m sure. Hey, it’s not about you. All me.