All this heated debate over site moderation has gotten me thinking about the great Roman stoic, Epictetus. At the beginning of his book Enheiridion, he writes:
Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.I can't control whether or not my body gets sick, the looks with which I was born, whether or not others relate to me respectfully, etc. These things are all granted by chance, others, or circumstances. What can I control?
The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you not be harmed.
follow me beyond the fold to find out.
I can control what I desire, what I pursue, what I believe and so on. In other words, I can control how I think about the world around me. Think of Captain Dan in Forest Gump. Why does Captain Dan suffer so much in the movie? Because he lost his legs? According to Epictetus, absolutely not! Captain Dan suffers because of the values he has chosen. He constructed his entire life around being a hero and dying in war like all of his forefathers, and when he can't fulfill this mission he can only see his life and the world as a horrible place. He falls into drug abuse and bitterness because of what he values. When he finally pulls his head out of his ass and changes what he values, recognizing that what matters is love, friendship, service to others, and finding those small oases of happiness available in this life, he finds peace and joy. He gets his values in the right place.
I would ask those of us that are calling for moderation, that are talking about how horrible the tone is here, etc., to meditate on this passage from the Encheiridion:
When you are going about any action, remind yourself what nature the action is. If you are going to bathe, picture to yourself the things which usually happen in the bath: some people splash the water, some push, some use abusive language, and others steal. Thus you will more safely go about this action if you say to yourself, "I will now go bathe, and keep my own mind in a state conformable to nature." And in the same manner with regard to every other action. For thus, if any hindrance arises in bathing, you will have it ready to say, "It was not only to bathe that I desired, but to keep my mind in a state conformable to nature; and I will not keep it if I am bothered at things that happen.Dailykos is like a Roman Bath. We all know what human nature is and how humans behave when they are together in huge groups and are involved in something as passionate and heated as politics. Remember that you have chosen to be here, that you cannot, no matter how hard you try-- the Stalinists tried really hard and were terrifically unsuccessful --control others or make them do what you want them to do, that you have the power to respond or not to respond, and you have the power to choose what diaries you frequent. Remember also the history of moderation on dailykos and, more generally, on internet forums, and how badly it has turned out here on each occasion.
What I've seen here is no different than what I've seen in other forums for over a decade. I once watched a pie war on a dog forum over which terrier is the best. I kid you not! It was every bit as acrimonious as rox/sux pie wars, and had nice little tidbits like "we're here to advance terriers and you're undermining that!", not unlike the dickish responses some kossacks level against others when they say "we're here to elect more and better democrats so shut up as your little remark on this blog somehow undermines that!" On the academic blogs-- academia! --it can be even worse. This is the nature of forums where people discuss things that they're passionate about. With the exception of unambiguous and full out hate speech, I think we do pretty good here. I also think that the controversies are productive in generating lines of thought, arguments, and keeping people here. Do some people leave? Yes. Are they more often than not extreme partisans on a particular issue that are unable to tolerate disagreement? Yes! It's hard for me to feel sympathetic to them-- especially the ones that write TTFN diaries --as my experience has generally taught me that they are pot stirrers that take joy in poking those they're opposed to. I also think that calls for moderation are more than often not so covert attempts to exercise power and abolish opposition on a particular issue, i.e., they have nothing to do with civility and everything to do with wanting to force conformity and adherence to their position.
Follow Epictetus's advice and, with practice, I guarantee you'll feel better with time. You didn't want to get splashed or have your wallet stolen at the pool, but you know this happens when you go to the pool. Remember that when you talk in certain ways, folks freak out and get rude. Remember that surrounding certain diaries you choose to go into, there's likely to be a certain form of nastiness. You are the one choosing these things and it is your belief that you can bend other humans to your will in a community composed of thousands that causes you to suffer-- just as Captain Dan suffered as a result of his misguided values, not the loss of his legs --and that it is not the nature of the forum that causes you to suffer. You have control over what you do, how you choose to emotionally react, and how you respond. You do not control others and when folks have attempted to in the past it's led to mass bannings.
That's my two cents. I think that moderation is far more destructive than any of the pie fights that happen to take place around these parts. Flame away.