Anatomy of a troll

This blog post follows on from one I wrote to reflect on the experience of being “the angry cyclist” about a year ago, which I posted on my cycling blog. A guy who did a lot of shit-stirring online, whom I’d christened A in the cycling blog article, came to my attention at the time. I took him off my friends list, but I still saw him commenting and posting to pages here and there, and realised the guy is a textbook troll. More specifically, he is a kind of non-anonymous concern troll. But life went on and I forgot about him.

I am still doing what I can to encourage people to cycle. However, I no longer take any shit. I don’t launch personal attacks, but I won’t sugarcoat my responses. I’m sick of having to deal with people attacking you no-holds-barred but demanding that your remarks should be delivered as if to the pope.

And then came A again. He posted a photo to the Dundalk Cycling Alliance page. Note the comment that he’d posted it to another page, where it was removed, then posted it to his own and several other pages – classic trolling:

a_tailgating_photo_nonames Continue reading

Failure, success

One of my deep interests is human wellbeing. I did not have much opportunity to study it formally, but devoted an enormous amount of time to study the subject on my own steam. In addition, I obtained certificates in life coaching and stress management. I was quite passionate about the issue, deeply moved by the plight of those struggling to be happy, and keen to help people discover how much more control we have over how we feel, than we often realise. To spread the word, I started a business: Koru Consulting, with the aim of teaching happiness.

Alas, my business venture failed. It was a good experience because it taught me a lot about myself. Notably, I realised I’m an introvert, and do very badly when I have to put myself out there. I went through a period of very careful examination of my life and the things I am naturally drawn to. At the tail end of it, I decided to turn my attention to my creative side, my interest in web design. I enrolled for a Level 5 FETAC course in computing, after a month moving up to Level 6 Networks and Software Systems as my existing knowledge was broader than I had realised. I passed the course with distinctions in most of my subjects, and am at the time of writing about to start a degree course in Media Arts and Technologies at our local college.

I’ve done many jobs in my life. I’ve tried many things, some were successful, others failed. Yet I’ve come to a place of being really, really content. I was prepared to try, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I’m elated I can say that, rather than: “I never failed! Because I never tried.”

What’s the difference?

I was not a fan of the “no make-up selfie” craze, yet the ice-bucket challenge struck me as awesome. This sentiment made me feel somewhat uncomfortable at first. I am aware of our learned biases against women, and women-centred actions. Having grown up in a community which was bible-belt-level patriarchic, I’m aware I was especially indoctrinated into thought patterns which don’t stand up to scrutiny. I always pause and consider the motivation for my feelings in cases like this one. In this way, I’ve sometimes discovered some weeds in the garden of my mind.

However, I think my sentiments are justified. The no-make-up thing was often labelled “for cancer”, if explained at all, a vague purpose that seemed tacked on as an after-thought. It had at its centre an action which was highly contentious, and excluded half of the population from participating, except as a joke. One good thing about it was, perhaps, that it put a spotlight on the fact that women feel pressured to wear make-up to be presentable.

The ice bucket challenge stays away from any morass of controversy. It can be done by any gender. Sir Patrick Stewart did a brilliant one, putting his own delightful spin on the cause, and Kari Byron rose to the challenge with a fundraiser auction. How it started I’m not sure, but perhaps learning from the no-make-up thing, those posts which attached a cause made it clear: to raise awareness and funds for ALS. Now I, for one, had to go do a search to find out what ALS was, and I would not have done so if not for the ice bucket challenge. Mission accomplished then, at least in my case.

I did not have to go do a search to find out what cancer is.

In the end, the no-make-up-selfie thing accomplished a great deal. Donations to charities concerned with cancer research or support skyrocketed. Yet I think it was more by accident than by design. The ice bucket challenge probably learned from that, and went about being a craze with greater clarity, and perhaps more success.

Bondage gear, for the office

Picture dress code for the more formal workplace, or a formal event even in an office where the dress code is quite relaxed. You’d imagine people looking more or less like this lot:

Professional-dress-code

Okay, now imagine all of them running a race.I’ll wait while you finish laughing. Even the girl wearing trousers is going to have a problem because she’s in heels.

Women are expected to wear clothes at events focused on their professional abilities which disable them, which limits their capabilities. Can it be that on some subconscious level, this contributes to the woeful state of women in work, especially management positions? Just a thought.

 

 

You’re more than that

From a TED talk by Bryan Stevenson:

I’ve come to understand and to believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I believe that for every person on the planet. I think if somebody tells a lie, they’re not just a liar. I think if somebody takes something that doesn’t belong to them, they’re not just a thief. I think even if you kill someone, you’re not just a killer.

The focus of evangelical Christianity is on first convincing people they are the worst of themselves. If you feel you are a bad person, this version of Christianity says: “Yes, you are. However, Jesus magically makes you good.”

The truth is that humans are capable of spectacular evil, and spectacular good. Every one of us. Nobody is exempt: if you are physically able to do something, good or bad, you can reach the mental space that will make it possible, given circumstances, conditioning, and so on. Yet the majority of us lean to the side of good. Knowing that we have that capacity for evil, makes us aware of what we need to avoid, so as not to slide that way.

Defending Israel backfire

Don’t know whether to laugh or… or… Well, judge for yourself. I’m listening to a programme about the interesting online and social media side to the conflict in Gaza*. Kind of annoyingly, the two guests being interviewed whom I’ve heard speaking before pausing to share this are not neutral. The first guy clearly has an agenda, which is unfortunate. The pro Israeli spokesman follows suit, and clearly aims to show Israel and its side of the story in the best possible light.

He mentions that Israel’s military is the only military in the world with the word “defence” in its title. Its aim is to defend, not attack.

My eyes widen, I stop washing dishes and dry my hands. Pause the programme, open a new tab, do a search, and yes: I remembered correctly. They are in fact not the only military with “defence” in their title. The South African military was called “South African Defence Force” from 1957 to 1994**.

In case you need a reminder:

During apartheid, armed SADF troops were used in quelling violent opposition to minority rule, often directly supporting the South African Police.South African military units were involved in the long-running Mozambican and Angolan civil wars, frequently supporting Pretoria’s allies the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). SADF personnel were also deployed during the related South African Border and Namibian independence conflicts.

That word

 

*I am deeply interested in what’s happening in Gaza, and particularly support all in the Middle East (this includes Isrealis, Palestinians, Iranians, and many more nationalities and backgrounds) who are striving for an end to the conflict through a pursuit of non-violence and much more effective methods for quelling the acidic hatred in the region. There are loads of them, why not add your support?

**After 1994, the SADF was dissolved and reformed into the SANDF (N for National), so the IDF is STILL not the only military with the word “defence” in their title.