Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Evolve Past the Playground Please: On that Satirotypical Wargame Mocking UK article

Not living in the United Kingdom, I doubt that I would have ever heard about an article written to be a political poke that used the apparently laughable mock-worthy hobby of wargaming as the vector for criticism. 
The article is anything but groundbreaking: just the same old tropes paraded out for expediency.

But it has generated some interesting discussion, such as over at Porky's Expanse (always good for a dip in the cerebral pool) and Big Lee has a lot of interesting things to say about it too. And the topic is making the rounds.

I started leaving a comment at Big Lee's when I realized it was going to get long. and involved.
I tend to get very anthropological when I consider society.  It's just one of the major lenses I look at things with.  But it's not a quick way to explain society: I can't just leave things at 'it's good' or 'that'll do some damage, I can't approve' or other similar fast sum-ups. So of course this is less about the article that spawned the discussion and more about the implications it makes about human society in general.

So I thought I'd better just give it the room and get it out of my system.

Regarding the article and all such examples of group-think chest thumping, this is an example of the weakest form of conformity: the author is appealing to a wider group for approval and acceptance by denigrating a smaller group perceived to have less social standing. It's the equivalent of a jerk at a party chiming into a serious conversation with "it's like women drivers, am I right?"  .. well,'re just a jerk. 

As a pack-species, humanity has a strong desire to be part of a group. Unfortunately, one of the easiest ways to draw the lines of that group is by pointing out those who are not desired in the group.  It is beneath a sentient, thinking-individual to let those instincts trample over reason and marginalize other people.  

Millions of years of evolution thrown aside for the quick security blanket of the bully. 

The fact that this kind of mentality also stifles free expression, creativity and individuality is another shame, since those are some of the greatest attributes of our species.  

Every subculture group can find examples of individuals that fit the negative stereotypes associated with their group but that doesn't validate the stereotype. Also troubling is the idea that a derogatory stereotype is being supported by people within the hobby being stereotyped. As if joining an outside group in mocking the 'stereotypical' members of their own hobby-group somehow protects them and establishes them to the larger society as 'one of the good ones'.  Plenty of examples in history of the dangers of that type of thinking.  No one is going to appreciate all hobbies, but to appeal to mockery for social acceptance is just sad and should be beneath someone's dignity. 

When you get down to it, the very notion that one hobby or another, one subcultural past-time or another, is 'cool' or not, socially acceptable or not, is just silly.

It is all pretend really. That's what makes me laugh about how serious some people take stereotypes and society's approval over what is 'cool' or not. It's a playground-level of stupidity.

It is all just random and made up!  It's like fashion. Someone decides they like something, some others like it too, and if they have enough social pressure and 'authority' behind their opinion then they plant their flag of coolness on it and declare victory.  

Children are the most feral and instinctual of human beings. Not many of them think, and not very often. 
They run on their instincts.  They create social groups around the most trivial of things. 
'If your shoes have three stripes you're a loser, cool kids have a crescent' or 'your sunglasses have oval lenses so you are lame, you need round lenses'.. etc. But kids are instinctual animals just driven by their pack-animal DNA, can't really blame them.  

But how many adults ever grow out of it?  Not enough apparently: "your hobby is for dorks, our hobby means we're cool so we make fun of you" or "your god is false, our god is the real god, so we can kill you"... some wide ranging affects there but the root of it is the same: random, imaginary social guidelines grounded in nothing more than personal whim and the comfort in collecting others of like minds to make those of different taste miserable. Do we really all need to be the same to be accepted? 

It really doesn't matter what people enjoy doing as long as it isn't harming anyone else.  It can all appear pretty ridiculous when you pull back from it.  Is pushing little painted miniatures around a miniature landscape playing out a battle any odder than sitting on a couch, yelling in excitement or anger while watching grown men run around a field with a ball? Is spending time creating miniature soldiers any odder than time spent knitting, or restoring antique cars, or gardening, or collecting spoons?  

We're an odd & varied species.  Our hobbies and interests are bound to reflect that. 
We should embrace it.  It will make life better for all of us. 


Lead Legion said...

Very well said Ferret.

Crazy Joe said...

As the man said, a good point, well made.

Anne said...

When I read the piece it was difficult to contain my anger and I didn't want to respond wit an emotional outburst. That would just cast our hobby in a negative light.

Your counterpoint is sane, rational and without vitriol. You are spot on Ferret and this is the kind of response that is needed.

Sam Wise said...

I suppose that the article is supposed to be funny ... but this guy point a little part of the people!

He's not funny ...

And fortunately we always can do what we want of our time!

Sean said...

I haven't read the original piece but I liked what you had to say.

Lee Hadley said...

Great response to this subject. Humans are are a weird and varied bunch and while I understand our instinctual need to bond into social groups I look forward to the day when we can all say "your different, and I'm cool with that".

Clint said...

Well written.

Porky said...

The playground metaphor is spot on I think. The kind of behaviour you're talking about is not only infantile in itself, it infantilises the rest of us as well. That's very dangerous ground for a society as technologically advanced as ours - we need maturity. There's so much we can do, each of us alone and in various combinations together. Why would anyone want to hold that back?

Asslessman said...

Well this person can have multiple issues
1) He meant it in a funny way to prove his point because he doesn't want porn to be banned (maybe HE suffers from sexual deprivation...)
2) He really means it in which case he's just plain intolerant
3) He has temper issues and it bursted on us like it could have on videogamers, people who play bridge or even monopoly.

In any case, he's just a very bad journalist and your answer Ferret makes perfect sense. I deeply share it. My hobby is about community and sharing. Some people seem to like to mock on others what they lack themselves...

Anonymous said...

Your article is superb and one of the best explanations of the mechanism behind Internalised Oppression i've seen, and i'm passing it on to my activist friends who all too often have to deal with just this kind of stuff when they are trying to save lives, fight bigotry and get people access to their basic human/civil rights.

Well said!

Laughing Ferret said...

Thanks all :)
Honestly wasn't sure anyone would read a wall of text, this being the internet and all ;)

Asslessman: I know what you mean, and I too have no idea what the author's opinion or intent truly was, and really it doesn't matter to me. No matter what his thought & intention was the problem it reveals is the same: the common & unthinking acceptance in our culture to mock & put down entire groups of people or subcultures to elevate oneself or one's group. It's fine to not like or appreciate something, but that's a whole different issue.

Batty: Very honored :) I know the 'honor of wargamers' being at stake is small issue compared to the problems of people who's rights, freedom & lives are at stake, but I do think it is all related because it's the same root cause: the way of thinking and behaving that is considered acceptable. If what might seem 'harmless' isn't called out and brought to attention, but given the stamp of approval, then the same kind of thinking has more authority to then proceed to allow people free conscience in trampling civil rights. Small bad things lead to big bad things if the pattern that allows for it is deemed acceptable.

Thanks for reading & the feedback all :)

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