“If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives…” — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I’ve always been fascinated and horrified by Twitter. Here is a platform to share your ideas with the world. Will you say something good and uplifting? Or will you say something mean and degrading?
However, the real question is, will you say something I agree with? Because that’s all that matters.
XXXTentacion’s recent death caused quite a stir online with one side of the net applauding the young man’s talent, positivity and his personal growth, while the other side at best were unmoved and at worst were thankful he died as he is a criminal who faced charges of assault.
I am on the former side. Before I went into his music catalogue, I listened to an interview of him as an up-and-comer. I was shocked at the fact that someone so young could amalgamate the horrors of daily living with love for his friends and community. Many have done it before, but he was different.
He is a hip-hop and metal fan. His music switches from aggressive to sad and solemn. And his parents are Jamaican. Naturally, I would feel an affinity for him as we have things in common.
But what if you don’t like his music and you learn that he’s facing assault charges on his then pregnant girlfriend? What if you learn that he’s already been arrested several times for assault and robbery? What if you learn that he’s had multiple feuds with his peers?
What if you learnt that he’s been suffering with depression? Such is the composition of X that he’s easily one of the most polarizing figures in several years, which is why I distanced myself from his music. Not to mention that he seemed to still be emerging from his teenage angst and his music reflected that.
I couldn’t tell if I could support him or not. Such was my cognitive dissonance.
However, when I heard that he had been shot, I quickly dismissed it. No way would he die. He’s too young! Then when I saw rapper Lil Yachty post a picture of him and I read the caption, I had to face the music.
This then led me to read comments on Instagram. The most popular comments were positive, so I thought, “Okay, it seems like everyone is in support of him and are saddened by his death.” This wasn’t the case. I hopped onto Twitter to check out what people were saying about the World Cup matches of the day and saw some pretty distressing things.
People were extremely dismissive of X being gunned down, others were glad that a menace to society was gone. Naturally, these opinions were fought against. One of the most popular responses was that he was/is just a kid (he turned 20 in January) and that we all have made mistakes in life.
Remember the three questions I began this post with? Will you say something good and uplifting, will you say something mean and degrading, or will you say something I agree with?
I found myself trapped in an opinion war that I could only exit when my side made a point I didn’t agree with. It short-circuited by a point that didn’t vibe with my values or internal compass.
But isn’t that why the opinion war was happening in the first place?
We will always defend those that we love and/or are invested in. We will acknowledge their shortcomings (because we don’t want to look like hypocrites) but defend their strengths.
Conversely, we will vilify those we do not like. There is rarely a time when we are fair in our assessment on such folk. Here, we will acknowledge their strengths (because we don’t want to look like hypocrites) but acknowledge their shortcomings.
It’s all about where you want to place your focus.
X is not a child. That opinion was nonsensical to me, especially when others will use that same line for someone who is 16. Use it for the 16-year-old. At 20, you get tried in court as an adult. He grew up in a society that marks manhood at 18. As a member of that society, he subconsciously knows this. After all, he has changed.
The best you’ll get from me is that he’s becoming a man and is plagued by a rough upbringing which caused him to be in the altercations he found himself in.
But if that’s the case, then I could excuse just about anyone, couldn’t I?
Now we have a decision to make. Provided that one accepts what was said above, would one relent on their indignation of XXXTentacion and others who have done wrong in the past, or would you continue the indignation?
I would chose the former, but it comes at a cost: I can never judge another soul in my life ever again. People are a product of nature and nurture. We are essentially the same thing at varying degrees of various behaviour traits, genotypes and phenotypes.
This is why people have been saying for centuries to let go of judgment. It simply doesn’t make sense because there are reasons that people do what they do. Your judgment is based on your ability, inability or proclivity to do the same.
This doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want. There’s still a code of conduct to preserve the rights, freedoms and pleasures that a person can enjoy. Those who infringe should be rehabilitated. But in the same breath, one has to admit that it is hard to be something that you’re not. You might not want to do something but based on conditioning or programming, can you help it?
If you lived my life and had all the genetic and cultural predispositions to certain thoughts and behaviours, you would completely understand everything that I do. This is why people agree with each other in the first place. At some level, they can relate. If you can’t relate, it’s because you’ve never had the experience or you’ve had the opposite experience or you’ve reacted in the opposite way.
“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
I haven’t written anything that you didn’t already know. Even if it’s never crossed your conscious mind, deep down, you knew this. Plus, people have been saying it for eons.
But perhaps what we tend to miss is that when we judge others, it’s justified. But when we mess up, it’s justified! Sorry, but we can’t have it both ways.
We can take this even further. Consider when we judge ourselves and hate on ourselves for things we’ve done. The people that love us forgive us but we find it hard to forgive ourselves. We consider ourselves inherently bad, as if we have no redeemable bone in our body. It’s just a lie. Your friends are right. You’re awesome!
Take that same love and apply it liberally. Many of us wont. We think some people we simply have to despise. But I have never seen that work. Deep down, we think we’re highlighting our values when we hate others for what they do. Instead, it shows that we value hate.