Safety, Opinions and Feeding Frenzies in the VC

Those Moments that make it all worthwhile by Lady CG
December 15, 2017
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December 15, 2017
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Safety, Opinions and Feeding Frenzies in the VC

(or, “When Vampires are Oysters”)

The Walrus and The Carpenter
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

A few of you are probably wondering why I would open with Lewis Carols very famous poem but interestingly enough the VC has more in common with the Walrus and the Carpenter than one might think, at first glance. In the poem the Walrus and the Carpenter invite a bunch of oysters to join them on a pleasant walk, just as we invite new people to the VC on a regular basis. It seems a nice thing to do. Bring some people who have similar interests to our own into our groups where they can make friends who understand them and feel part of a community. They jump into the groups and the greater community, often with great enthusiasm. They take part in the conversations, they do some reading, they come to a few conclusions. They come along for the journey, never wondering why others choose to sit on the sidelines and watch or why there are so many who are NOT actively participating. They go along with the crowd wanting to play and laugh with everyone else, hoping to learn something about themselves along the way. And everything goes along swimmingly, for a while. Eventually new community members begin to develop ideas and theories of their own. They develop opinions and shape those opinions on what they see as evidence around them. They don’t just blindly follow any more, but start to share their thoughts and visions on their new found passions – and THAT is usually when they begin to suspect that all is not just a pleasant walk on the briny beach, so to speak.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

Every group of people or community or whatever you want to call it when a bunch of people band together for any reason, has its pecking order. There are leaders, there are followers, there are innovators and organizers as well as those who truly just want to come along for the ride. Long time members and leaders tend to be the glue that holds such groups together. They also tend to be rather set in their ways and ideas and they often have their own agenda and its often set in stone because their experience in the community has shaped their opinions and they believe THEIR idea is RIGHT and if everyone would just go along with it, things would be oh so much better than if people do not. They may or may not be correct in their views but what matters is they believe them. If they believe them enough thier ideas can become so tied up with their ego and sense of self worth that they become willing to defend them at any cost. Because these people have been around a long time they often have networks to back up their opinions. THAT is when the oysters get eaten.

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

Having come along for the trip along the beach, eventually the oysters get a little weary of keeping up with the status quo. Everyone wants to believe they are important to group dynamics. Everyone wants to participate. But what happens when you take a position on the wrong side of long time community members or leaders who have friends and networks to back them up? Usually a feeding frenzy ensues, often complete with sharks.
We’ve all seen it. Someone proposes an unpopular point of view. Usually (not always) the initial responses will be cautiously negative and full of responses designed to bring the person on the wrong side of the topic in to line with the popular stance on the topic. If the new / misguided poster sticks to their points stronger language is brought in and people start to take sides. Names are called, personal issues are brought into it, no depth is too low to sink to in making ones point. Friendships are on the line, community status is threatened even physical abuse is not off the table. If the misguided poster is a long time member entire groups can be torn apart and if they are new they can and possibly will be fed to the negative feeders that come crawling out of the woodwork. (no pepper and vinegar required!)

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

One of the saddest parts of all this is that there are always those who see it coming. Like the old wise oyster who refused to leave the safety of his bed, many have watched it happen all too often. Often these people choose to safely remain on the sidelines, knowing the walk along the beach for what it is – a trap. Others have been around long enough to know the signs and even try to put a stop to it. These are the people who try to be the voice of reason. They point out that something is wrong with what is happening, they often even point out the injustice of the situation. It usually falls on deaf ears.

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

Sadly if those trying to be the voice of reason persist, they can be eaten along with everyone else, regardless of community status.

Eventually the loudest, most ruthless and usually those with the least scruples, win. These tend to be the people who will go to any lengths to make their point. They feel it is THEY who initiated the walk along the beach and are justified in whatever they do “for the good of the community”. They mourn the loss of friendship and are bitter about those who “turned” on them, but they eat them just the same.

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

The community becomes fragmented, new alliances are made and the process starts again. New people come in and again end up savaged by those who will go to any lengths to “win”, our communities are tarnished by it and as time goes on fewer and fewer people are willing to expose themselves to the abuse – and small blame to them. We as a community cannot TEACH self respect, self esteem and safety and then expect people to stand in line for abuse because they stand up and give an opinion, or see things from an unpopular point of view.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

Is THIS the future of the VC? We come to the community seeking asylum. We come wanting our lives to become better, wanting to learn who we are so we can love ourselves and find something special in ourselves. While that can be found within the VC, truly safe havens are few and far between. You won’t find them on Facebook where everyone and his walrus has an opinion and is willing to eat every oyster in sight for a few minutes of being able to say “I WON” or “I’m RIGHT!” Sometimes the price of being right is too high. Especially when the cost is another persons self esteem.

So where does that leave those of us seeking fellowship, discussion, those who want to explore potential new aspects of themselves and our demographic? How do we avoid being eaten by the Walrus or the Carpenter in our quest for a pleasant walk and talk, for fellowship of our own kind? Is there a way to put our foot down and say “Enough” without being abusive or grinding others beneath our boots in our quest to be RIGHT?
.. or will the community continue to devolve into a place only the most vicious survive and frequent?

Food for thought.

copyright Lady CG September 2012

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