Thursday, October 6, 2011

That Inward Horror Known as the Self

Looking inside of myself, I am sometimes horrified at what I see. I am well acquainted with some of the ways in which I am a flawed, faulty, broken human being. No doubt sometimes I succeed in deceiving myself on this front, but I know myself all too well to be fooled all of the time regarding myself.

Most of the time I conduct myself fairly decently toward people around me, and they conduct themselves fairly decently toward me. Though sometimes I do slip up, and that horror which is within me slips its leash and lacerates innocent people around me. When this happens, I am usually sickened and nauseated by my own behavior toward them.

I don't always know if they can tell. Does it show through? Does it show through to them that I am sickened by my own behavior? Sometimes I do apologize. But even when I don't (life isn't always so straightforward), does something in me show through to them, that I am cringing at what I just said or did, that my conscience isn't allowing me to get off scot free?

I wonder about this, because on those rare occasions when someone behaves poorly toward me, I can sometimes sense their inward cringe, their horror at their own behavior toward me; though more often not. Especially online, I could easily get the impression that many people rarely feel compunction regarding their careless or even malicious online mistreatment of others.

The standard patter regarding this is that on the Internet people lack the visual and emotional cues which are in motion face to face. If online behavior weren't on average notoriously so much worse than face-to-face behavior-- come on, it's become a commonplace, don't deny it-- then I might buy this standard patter as an explanation, or at least a partial step toward an explanation. As it is, it hardly rises above the level of a facile excuse. Qui s'excuse, s'accuse.

Online, as in everyday life, I've generally been quite fortunate in my dealings with people. That is, most people I encounter are quite decent and likable folks. My current blog is (thankfully) pretty much readerless and commenterless; but my old blog, which I ran for several years under my real name, had several dozen regular readers and a dozen or so regular commenters, and they were all without exception unfailingly polite, civil, courteous to one another. It was a delight blogging and dealing with them.

But one doesn't have to search very hard to find blogs, forums, boards, threads where it is quite otherwise. And these venues make me wonder. When I look inside myself, I'm horrified at the attitudes I sometimes find. I'm sickened when these attitudes within me slip the leash, and get loose. But how about some of these people out there who routinely treat their host or fellow commenters like garbage, and seem to display nary a twinge of conscience over it? Are they ever horrified by their own poor behavior? Do they have any internal level of self-awareness, any self-insight into just what a piece of work they truly are? Or do they sail along blithely with never a self-doubt and never a self-regret?

Do they succeed in fooling themselves all the time regarding themselves?

On second thought, I'm not altogether sure I really want to know the answer to that question. I'm horrified enough at what I sometimes find within myself. Let the self's faults be sufficient for the self.

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