I’ll trade you a name for an explanation

Here are some things you may wish to know about this blog, now that you’re here.

1. The title is the mission statement/philosophy

You know that book series by John Gray, PhD? The pop-psych empire built around the phrase “men are from Mars, women are from Venus”? Yeah, that comes up a lot. In fact, you yourself probably hear it a lot. It’s, uh, not that useful, as a principle.

Thinking about anyone as a strange, ineffable being who may as well be from another world is, I think, generally not the most conducive approach for understanding, empathy or societal progress. We do it a lot, though. Anyone you don’t understand, anyone whose choices or actions or opinions are repugnant or even just confusing to you… well, it’s easy to cordon them off somewhere in a safe little box in your head marked “may as well be from somewhere near Alpha Centauri”. But accepting that you can never understand someone and may as well not try is how societal divisions, baseless fears and mindless prejudices grow and flourish.

When my mother was little, her parents bought her a sailor suit (and, improbably, she loved it), starched white, with two shiny gold buttons. She hung it up on her cupboard door. One night, she woke up and, looking up drowsily from her bed, saw two menacing yellow eyes staring out at her from what appeared to be the depths of her wardrobe, gleaming in the sparse moonlight. Near-paralysed with fear, she slowly, cautiously, crouched and tiptoed her way to the lightswitch beside her bedroom door, and flipped it, expecting a monster to leer back at her with its eyes glowing and its mouth slavering with anticipation. She saw nothing untoward, switched the light back off, and watched those eyes reappear. It took her several tries before she connected the bright irises with the two shiny buttons of her new sailor suit.

You can see where this is going. The best antidote to blind, panicked terror is light.

The aim of this blog is to have a bit of a ramble about the idea that, while we may be different from one another, we are essentially, at least partially, comprehensible, and it’s worth the effort to try to understand. You don’t need to agree with someone to understand them, though you might find yourself deciding that perhaps their opinion isn’t so awful after all. You don’t need to want to do what they do, or have the same priorities as them. All you need to do is think, and ask, and try.

2. Orders of business

Of course, not every post is going to be a straightforward treatise on How To Understand Your Fellow Human, or at least not explicitly. Stuff I might write about may include Ways People Do Not Try (sexism, racism, queerphobia, general prejudice, douchiness), Ways People Do (friendship and relationship ethics, activism, general awesomeness) and Things That Help Me Understand (life anecdotes, art, science, literature, theatre and film, other people’s internet writings). Sometimes I might just go off on a little ramble about something only tangentially connected to the theme. Bear with me?

3. You-Know-Who, but without the Death Eaters

I’m attaching neither my name nor my most common internet handle to this – yet. This decision may be revised at a later date. If you know either of these names, I’d love it if you could hold off on referring to me by them here just yet, because I’m still having some trouble deciding how I want to do this whole internet anonymity thing.

See, I have friends I only know from the internet, and I’d love it if they read this. I also have friends from, er, real life (“meatlife”), and I’d love it if they read this too. Troublingly, though, I don’t want everyone I know from the internet to have access to my real name, nor do I want everyone I know from interacting in the physical world to know about everything I put online. The internet age is weird in this way – I have two different social circles, and they know quite different things about me. And that’s without the issue of scary internet strangers and harrassment; I may be writing a little about contentious things, and it’s amazing the lengths that creepy people have gone to when they want to upset total strangers writing something they find objectionable.

Someday, maybe, I’ll attach my real name. For now, I’d best come up with some sort of nom de plume. All suggestions welcome. It can’t be worse than my high school nickname.

4. Comment is free

It’s also really easy. A lot of blogs moderate their comment sections. I’ll see how I feel about that if I ever start getting real nasties. (You don’t even need to be a big famous blogger of any sort for that to happen, the eleventh person in a readership of eleven could be the one who decides they hate you and want to tell you why in barbed all caps.)

One thing I’d be especially pleased to hear about is what kinds of things you’d like to see written about in the theme of ‘we’re all earthlings here’. Suggest away!