My Sensitivities Are Real, and They’re Spectacular!

Steve MerrymanCultural Rot3 Comments

Die Hard - Welcome to my feelings, Pal!
When I was younger, I was super sensitive. I cared deeply about you and your feelings, Imaginary Reader In My Head. And not only you, I used to care about everyone’s feelings, and I could usually figure out exactly what those feelings were, with regularity.

My personality profile was/is INFP on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Myers was nice, but that Briggs was a complete asshole (not really, but I really like that Billy Crystal joke from “Analyze This”). My particular type indicated that I was an Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeler and Perceiver and as such I learned I would never be invited to parties because as an introverted feeler I would probably spend all night introverting while intuiting the awkwardness of my predicament, feeling alone and perceiving others’ indifference which would result in constant hovering around the food table and eating a pound of guacamole (a rumored hallucinogen) before wandering home to catch Letterman and dreaming dreams of social achievement and world acclaim.

While Myers-Briggs weren’t quite that specific, they could have been.

And I am, to a large extent, still an Introverted iNtuitive Feeler Perceiver. But age has (fortunately) tempered my sensitivity to such an extent that I now live my life quite happily not caring about most peoples’ feelings.

Oh, I can still sense them. I just no longer give a shit.

There is some question as to the validity of the MBTI. But for me, back then, it seemed to align with my self-perception (the mid 80’s when I was out of college and still a baby designer).

Not So Special Snowflake

I used to think I was unique (INFP’s are about 4.4% of the general population), but now I’m no longer so alone. It seems that everyone’s sensitivity dial has been turned up to eleven.

Everyone is super-ultra-highly sensitive, because everyone is woke, and as a result everyone is outraged at the insensitivity of… well… everyone else.

Also, average intelligence is on the decline.

Increasing outrage combined with decreasing intelligence can’t be good for us in the long term (assuming we survive the short term).

The online world (social media mainly, but also much of the mainstream media) is in a constant race to show who is the most righteous, the most virtuous. And the best way to win the Virtuosity War is to hate and revile those who aren’t. And to hoist them up for ridicule and worse.

The fight is no longer about truth, but about who’s the most virtuous. With so much virtue being signaled, it’s amazing how much we all hate each other. Surprisingly, nobody sees themselves as bad guys.

That’s understandable. We are all the heroes in our life movies. The trouble is that everyone’s life movie is now Die Hard. They are their very own John McLane in world filled with Hans Grubers.

Die Hard - Welcome to my feelings, Pal!
Yippee-Ki-Yay M-Fers!

Feeling is the new Thinking

Part of the danger presented by this new world is that clarity of thought and expression is no longer an ideal. It seems to be more of an impediment. People don’t care if they misinterpret your shirt, hat, hairstyle, or facial expression. In fact, misinterpretation is kind of the point: It frees them to assume the worst possible motive so they can react accordingly.

A mother's dream
Just make sure it’s the approved Nazis.

I’m on an email list from a professional blogger who promotes blogging as a way to build a business. I think she’s right that you can make money in your business by blogging, as long as your business is “how to build a business by blogging”. For everyone else… it seems to be more of a hobby.

Anyway, her email a few weeks ago, which I trashed immediately after reading, to my shame (Blogging Rule: Never Leave Blog-Fodder Behind!), was about a web-seminar focused on “inclusivity training” or some-such similar phrase. In the email she related that being insensitive to “under-represented communities” i.e. not using preferred pronouns, making general non-inclusive statements (like “you guys”, etc.) or using potentially insensitive racial stereotypes (“let’s have a pow-wow…”), in our blogging should go the way of the FAX machine, New Coke and – hopefully – Clintons in politics, because (and here I’m being very precise because this is the phrase that jumped out and deeply, sensuously French-kissed my brain) doing so was part of society’s “old ways of thinking.”

Old ways of thinking.

In other words, your message is secondary to not offending our fellow man (oops!), I mean woman (oops!), I mean person (oops!), I mean hominid (oops!), I mean sentient being (oops!), I mean XN*#@)! There, who can find fault with meaningless gibberish? Unfortunately, I was raised with the quaint understanding that good communication was about conveying information simply, not pacifying the delicate sensitivity of every possible recipient. Forcing writers to kowtow (ha!) to every conceivable interest group is impractical and more than a little insane, in my view.

My attitude is, “Let the reader beware! Maturity and a thick-skin required when reading.”

I suspect these New Ways of Thinking are a tactic of feminist cat-ladies attempting to gain some cultural ground against Da Patriarchy. Good luck with that, and if you little ladies need help lifting those chips onto your shoulders, just give me a call, Sweetie.

Sensitivity Reader – an actual thing

Remember the phrase “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me!”? That’s an Old Way of Thinking, because apparently words can hurt us. Deeply. Like rap music turned way up.

Now there’s a whole industry sprouting up to help us become less offensive to the hyper-easily offended.

In an online writing forum to which I belong, someone started a thread called “Sensitivity Reader” in which she mentioned coming across this phrase recently. Sensitivity Readers are apparently a thing, like technical advisors, consultants, and The Clap.

Sensitivity Readers are paid consultants who will read your manuscript to point out areas where you have been insensitive to certain groups, or where you have mischaracterized a victim-group. This is my interpretation; no doubt those who play on the Everything Is About Social Change team would describe it differently.

The resulting discussion left me with the impression many writers think social change is their primary business, not telling a good story well. I’m sure I’m wrong, and such thoughts are just my Old Ways of Thinking coming through again.

And yet, I couldn’t help thinking of an imaginary exchange:

Sensitivity Reader Review

Sensitivity Reader (SR): “I’ve finished my review of your novel.”

Author: “Great! What do you think?”

(SR): “It’s a great and substantial read, with wonderful descriptions and a thrilling story…”

Author: “Yes! Yes! I’m quite happy with it.”

(SR): “…but in reading I found several passages and at least one major character very problematic.”

Author: “Oh? Do tell!”

(SR): “Well, Mr. Twain…”

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3 Comments on “My Sensitivities Are Real, and They’re Spectacular!”

  1. Ha! I love the kicker. But I also love Twain.

    I thought you said you were an INFP, but the in article you said you were an XN*#@? I’m confused. But I would be, since I’m an I/E NT P/J. Yup. NT is the only full one, and it was STRONGLY NT.

    And, I’m back from travelling.

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