Monday, January 5, 2009

when the trees are sobbing faintly, with a gentle unknown woe

Perhaps it's an impossible ideal, perhaps wishing for the "old standards" I and others remember is asking too much. It was never about dress, it was never about social standing, but I thought it was about decorum, manners, and public presentation.

I really am, when push comes to shove, speaking more about the stunning lack of respect overall, over the individual lapses of proper etiquette. Personally I don't care if someone's more used to "sweetie" or "dearie" or uses proper names as a source of address (if not at a formal ball)--it's the respect behind it--or not--that matters most.

I've been thinking a lot about this, and it all comes down to a very few points for me:

* I don't want to participate in a themed community that ignores its theme. Are we or aren't we recreating the nineteenth century, as best we can? Are we or aren't we interested in Victoriana? If the general answer to both of those questions is "no", then my behavior must change, eventually: I must adapt to a society of Caledonians who want to dress however they want, talk however they want, and I'll likely drop the "Mr." and "Miss" designations along with it. But it will be a hard change for me, because that's part of why I adore Caledon.

Of course, along with losing social formality and bustle skirts will come an increase in net abbreviations, coarse humor, and the equivalent of fisticuffs in channel, because that's what's happened in every other active group I'm involved in.

On the other hand, having witnessed over half an hour of discussion in ISC chat last night about blingy nipples and the validity of male genitalia, I'm not so sure we're not already there.

* I don't want to feel as if opening ISC chat is a bad idea. This one's key: I don't want it to get to the point where I'd rather be off the grid than open--or listen to--the official channel. I hear so many people, over and over, say they just keep the window closed; but how does that help anyone? The channel's there for a multitude of reasons, but the main ones (at least, so I think) are asking questions (about theme, about prims, about scripting, about history--being willing to ask, and willing to answer, I think is valid and important to ISC chat), asking for help from EMs (restarting sims, clearing away prim clutter, et cetera), announcements from Des (and again, closing the window? Closes off the Des announcements, some of which he doesn't make notices for), and fostering community (which takes a variety of forms, from passing around notable links to asking how someone is doing to simply chattering back and forth on issues of the day in Caledon). If we choose to keep the window closed, we are in essence choosing not to participate in the evolution of social Caledon. And that's not the answer.

* I don't want to get to the point (again, unless we're abandoning theme entirely) where I'm "Em" to everyone out there. Des says it's not about politeness, it's about being decent, genuine, compassionate and forgiving. And those are good things, I grant those are good things. But is everyone identifying "decent" and "genuine" correctly? I don't, personally, think "decent" includes who's schtupping whom at any given time. I don't think "decent" includes cursing on channel. I don't think "genuine" means we act any old way we want and everyone else should just deal.

Some time back, I got into a tangle with a group I was involved with at that time. Things went south insanely quickly; and my decision, then, was to reinforce the fall. If they wanted an enemy, if they wanted someone to hate, if they wanted someone to despise, by God I would be that someone. And I was. I was hateful, I was vicious, I was petty beyond all dreams, I was a bitter picador, scoring points in blood as I went.

No one won that argument. And it ranged for three weeks online, which--online--is a very long time indeed.

More than four years have passed since that point. I am older now, and just possibly wiser. And I am doing my level best not to descend into the place where it's all about counting off obscure digs and being ruthless, being mean, just for the sake of it.

But I don't think I'm wrong in the main. It wasn't about any one particular avatar, that night this all started. It was about the last straw, the absolute last straw, for me and many others. It might have been anyone, old or new, that caused the snap; though I doubt it, highly, it could have been peerage or merchant, debutante or dilettante; whom didn't matter, what they chose to say DID.

I have been lambasted in other places for "attacking newbies"; that's inaccurate, I think, and disingenuous besides. While it may, when laid out, come down in some fashion to "new" versus "old" Caledon, I don't think that's the main point. And in any case, I never meant "new people to Caledon" versus "people who've been in Caledon for some time". I meant Caledon as a whole. How it is now, as opposed to how it was a year ago. Or two years ago.

And in any case, as someone else pointed out, it's not all about me--it's about what's best, for all of Caledon. What do we as a group want? Societies can be equated to living organisms; individual people (think "cells") may have power in small ways to effect things, but only the body at large can effect large change. So what does Caledon the body want? What makes it happy? What will best keep it happy?

Common decency is only common if everyone understands what decency means. Compassion, forgiveness, these are easier (though harder to personally attain--we are far too fond of grudges, some of us). And I will maintain to my dying day that "genuine" means being open, being honest, insofar as we can, being real if that's not too much of a metaphoric impossibility--but it does not, it cannot mean, for me if for no one else, an utter disregard for each and every propriety.

Manners. Social lubricants. I mean that. Manners are the difference between a society of disparate values and views that can still come together and enjoy time spent, and a society that is anything but polite, anything but social, anything but understanding, approachable, friendly or entertaining. "Social pleasantries"? They are exactly that--things that help to smooth the way for the society to function well, and in good health.

Decency, compassion, forgiveness--these are excellent community guidelines, and I fully support them. But manners should be paired with decency. Manners, after all, in society at large, at dances, at gathering points, just meeting on the street...they're part of what separates Caledon from any other section of the grid.

Without manners, we might as well become a nation of skyboxes, and never go to ground. And where's the fun in that?

(Later edit: I should let this go, I really should, but I find I must make at least one additional point. This whole issue does not pertain in the least to the OpenSpace sim conflict. It has persisted and steadily grown--or descended--for at least six months if not longer. The OS issue happened after I noticed the first signs of decay, and while it hasn't helped, it didn't generate everything, poof, from a hat. This went on long before.)


Rhianon Jameson said...

Well said, Miss Orr!

(And to think, I go away for a week and all h**l breaks loose! That will teach me to let the children loose without adequate supervision! :) )

Emilly Orr said...

*smiles and shrugs*

I will admit, I set the first flame to tinder. And I have been lambasted for it, in some quarters more than others, and with no doubt, I have more enemies to add to the tattered lists.

But I know others, by their own admission, were a breath away from such comments themselves, and that now some of Caledon--at least, that most vocal portion who finds occupation on the official channel--are thinking about what they say, how they say it, and listening--simply listening--to others who are choosing their own words.

I cannot help but this this is no bad thing, for the individuals in Caledon, and Caledon the nation as a whole.