Ashland, Oregon was the site of one of the original chatauquas. Ashland is presently the site of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a group of three theatres, each with a very different atmosphere and type of presentation.

The Angus Bowmer theatre is a large, modern indoor theatre where contemporary plays are presented as well as Shakespearean plays. The Black Swan is a small, intimate theatre where a variety of plays are performed. The Elizabethan theatre is an outdoor theatre, designed to approximate stages in Elizabethan times. Here presentations are either Shakespeare's plays or things written in that era.

The festival grounds are adjacent to Lithia Park, a beautiful city park with a natural fish bearing stream, swan ponds, the usual playgrounds and picnic areas, and large natural sections. The park is named for the mineral water that flows from artesian springs in the area. The water contains lithium, a naturally occurring sedative, which some think accounts for the laid back atmosphere found in Ashland.

A fireside chat with Uncle Grouchy

A bad thing happened recently.  A very bad thing, right here at E2.  It disturbed me enough that I couldn't get it out of my system until I'd talked about it, so pull your chairs up a little closer to the campfire and let's talk.

As a preface let me say that I'm new around here myself, but I've already developed a deep appreciation for what Everything2 is and the potential for what it could become.  I'm writing this in the hope of helping to achieve that potential, if only in a small way.  That being the case, I don't think I'm going to be specific about the who and what of the events discussed below.  It's more important to focus on the issues raised, in general sense, rather than to judge or punish the individuals involved.

A friend of mine recently exercised his rights, as a member in good standing of the E2 community, and posted a writeup of some original fiction.  He hadn't posted anything in a while and it took a little prodding from his friends to lure him back.  He's a grumpy old fella, like me, and has had a long and rich life.  He's got a lot of stories to tell and a wealth of knowledge to pass along.  An ideal candidate for the E2 many of us would like to see develop.

So, the writeup went live, and almost immediately garnered some favorable attention and a few upvotes.  Then, along came trouble in the form of a cocky young noder, let's call him the BluePunk, with more attitude than sense.  BluePunk stumbled on to my friend's write up and decided he didn't like it.  Didn't like it one damned bit. Hey,  fair enough.  That's what downvotes are for and he used his. No worries mate.  Then he encouraged a few of his pals to come along and dump their little rain clouds too.  I've still got no problem with that.  Pack behavior is an unsightly but common behavior in young males.  

Outside my window this morning, a half-dozen ugly yellow-eyed Grackles were chasing all the other, smaller, birds away from the birdfeeder.  The Grackles weren't even hungry  anymore, but they didn't want anybody else to have any, just in case they got hungry later.  Same deal  with BluePunk and his crew when you think about it, territorial behavior.

But then the BluePunk stepped over the line.  He felt the need to insult and humiliate my friend in addition to expressing his dislike for the writeup through his votes.  So he pulled together this salient critique and fired if off like a chemical warhead:

BluePunk says re The Work in Question The fuck is this crap?

Tacitly concluded and succinctly stated eh?  I don't think we need the linguistic skills of Gritchka to ferret out the meaning here.  BluePunk didn't understand the piece, but he was sure, and he wanted the author to be absolutely sure, that he hated it.  In its own feeble and  inarticulate way, his message is a complete success.

Okay, I can see you out there, shifting a little uncomfortably in your seats, but bear with me for a moment.  E2 is a rough and tumble place with a free flow of ideas and attitudes.  That's one of the things we all value about it.  I've heard some thoroughly wack shit in the Catbox, that has made me laugh and cry.  I don't want E2 to be too polite any more than you do, but I think there's a deeper issue with BluePunk's behavior that is serious and profoundly troubling.  

Why do you suppose that BluePunk felt at liberty to indulge in such insulting behavior with someone he didn't even know? In real life there are serious consequences to that sort of thing.  I don't know BluePunk, but from reading his work I gather that he's a student, likes music, a little fussy and snobbish about his personal interests.  Not too outstanding in any respect, but probably fun to hang out with.  Doesn't strike me as the kind of fellow who'd either have the grit to make a comment like that to my friend face to face, or who'd fare very well if he did.  Us grouchy old guys are more dangerous than we look.  So why would he feel empowered to engage in an act of random cruelty like that here on E2.

I think the answer is that he's been here for awhile and has, like most of us, developed a little following and a group of friends, and he knows how the place works.  In short, he's an insider, part of our community, one of us.  And I think he took a quick look at my friend's home node, sniffed a defenseless newcomer and felt that most dangerous of human impulses: the strong, feeling authorized to prey on the weak  If you think about it, I think you'll agree that this impulse, taken to its extreme, has been the root of the deepest evil known to man. I think BluePunk did this because he felt that it was safe and acceptable to spit in the face of an unknown noder.  I think he did it because my friend wasn't "real" to him in any meaningful sense.  I think he did it because he forgot that there was a living person at the other end of the network.  

Of course, this wasn't taken to an extreme.  Perhaps it's not even a great example, but it is representative of a dissonant thread that runs through our community.  A glaring spot of rust on a shiny, polished, surface.  Hopefully it's not the kind of rust that crumbles to dust when you press your finger against it.  The kind that reveals a deeper problem that gets worse and worse the closer you look.

I don't think it is, and I hope it's not, but this incident has opened my eyes to the problem and I'm vowing not to indulge in gratuitous meanness at E2, no matter how much I disagree with your point of view, no matter how inarticulate or unskilled I think your writing is, no matter what.  There's enough hate in the world already.

"All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win is for good men to do nothing,"

-Edmund Burke


Coffee will be served in the lobby. Thanks for listening

June 2006 Update

Three years since I posted this and to my surprise it still gets read now and again. I recently was asked whether I thought E2 had "moved on" past this sort of thing and I wasn't sure how to answer. Oddly enough, a few days later I received a message that leads me to believe we still have a ways to go. I'm reprinting it below with the author's permission.

2006.06.18 at 06:47shaogo says I just read Chautauqua, and although it was penned in 2003, it addresses what I believe to be the reason so many E2ers have fled. I'm new myself, and am gonna stick it out. I, personally, have received some abominable responses to /msgs intended to act as a cyber-handshake. One in particular was a question posed to a New Yorker about a subject I was writing up. The response was sarcastic and unnecessarily pompous. I'm going through a lot right now in life, as evidenced by my daylogs. I look forward to Laura Elizabeth's delightful morning greetings and "on this day X happened." E2 is also making me a better writer. in conclusion, there's plenty of *real* crap in the nodegel that perhaps those who need to flex their egos should address, Not the work of the moment. I liked your w/u a lot.


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