The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

What is the point of a rant?

Almost invariably the rant is not directed at the persons responsible for creating the situation in question, nor is it directed at other persons who might be able to do something directly about the situation: so it accomplishes nothing at all in actually alleviating the objective situation. I use 'objective' a bit tongue-in-cheek: since, rather than the distinction between non-involved 'objective' observer and unable-not-to-be-involved Heisenbergian observer, I see a series of concentric circles of perspective within each of which the terms 'objectivity' and 'subjectivity' describe the degree to which others within the same circle agree upon what is seen -- and the larger ones embrace the world itself. (Even concentric circles is an incomplete image: especially among the inner circles some will overlap to a greater or lesser degree, and some will be mutually exclusive in their entirety.) So 'objective', here, in the sense that most others would tend to observe the situation at least to some extent similarly: and especially those others who are the intended audience of the rant. In effect, in ranting, one releases frustrations by sharing with one's intended audience all the reasons why a given situation is disliked or hated -- and one expects one's audience to agree and support.

The existence and acceptance of the rant defines the existence and specifics of the shared-perspective circle. The fewer share that circle, the less likely a rant -- or, alternately, the more likely a rant will be turned back upon the ranter by its intended audience.

But there is a secondary aspect to the rant as well: easier, far, simply to rant at another in the absence of understanding and appreciation of the validity of the other's motivation. It is also much easier to overestimate the extent to which the actions of others result from some quality of personality -- as opposed to our own, which are (of course) inevitably environmental. 'They' drink to excess because it is in their character; 'I' drink to excess because that is what one is supposed to do in social situations. For some reason, those of our own motivations and actions we dislike (but never see in ourselves) seem most difficult to accept in others. It is almost as though we tend to compensate for our own suspected weaknesses by abhorring them in others. There is no one quite as hard on a smoker as an ex-smoker.

Then again: why should 'I' be forced to look at things from another person's point of view? That is 'their' job!

Me, I am in the habit of dealing with existing situations: resolving them where possible, stepping aside where not rather than even accidentally force others to my own perspective (which means I have been stepping aside a good deal of late). Nowhere in that Weltanschhauung can I find space for a rant. I love people, all people. And so, ironically, I come across so very often as cold when I am required to resolve an existing situation: perceived as biased precisely in that I am not biased in favour of those I know better than others. The closest thing I could define it as is that I won't expect from others the extent of what drives me. How could I? And so I bias in favour of all who are not me, those who are personally known and those who are not personally known alike; and the more another actively tries to use me as their model, the less I bias in their favour at all: even as I continually try to step away, for myself, from the 'I'go-centric. How could this not be seen as cold: that I will if anything bias less in favour of a known friend than of a complete stranger? For how could I be arrogant enough to think I could know in every aspect another's individuality, another's circumstances? I don't even fully understand my own!

No: I cannot rant. There is neither enjoyment nor entertainment for me which comes at another's expense. I can only love, and try to comprehend, and try therefrom to resolve the situation (or sometimes rework from the ground up). And I can hope and wish and try to help (where requested) such that things work out for everyone, however long it takes. (That would be my first and perhaps my only of the hypothetical three wishes.) But people will persist in expecting others to see the world as they do -- and that, too, is human.


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