It was morning. He woke up. And immediately he had this feeling of dread, he knew it all too well. It was this day again. This day.
Once again, once a week. The day was now in front of him. And reliably it would be horrible. He would have to enter this place again. This place where they wield long large needles. And it is the place, where everything else is otherwise so neat and very tidy. Impeccably clean. It adds to the horror.
But mainly it was the needles that made him anxious beyond belief. In fact, he was scared even before he was awake. Dreams don’t sleep.
What would happen this time? What would they do? What would they say? How would he be humilated by their special knowledge this time? Their technical expertise. Their instruments. How would it be done this time? It all seemed complicated. Beyond his rational grasp. Complex. His mind was racing.
When he speaks… would they hear him out? For one thing, he knew they did not like him talk about his feeling of dread. They seemed to only accept strength, strength of mind and control over emotions. They were sure of theirs. They are experts. What was he? What was he to them?
Could it be a misunderstanding on his part? The way he had asked the question. His phrasing. But he quickly remembered the one occasions when he had plucked up the courage to ask a question about their techniques and operations. Really, he had mainly asked the question so he could calm himself down: knowing at least bit about their specialism, their procedure, their plan, would keep his mind occupied and keep the nervousness in check. He would be able to understand. He was not stupid.
That was his hope anyways. But. They laughed. Cackled even. It was an awful scene. And only added to his fear.
He simply wanted a reassuring answer. Some understanding on their part. He wanted to be recognised and acknowledged. Recognised as a human being in a room full of needles. He was eager to learn. But all this depended on their kindness to return his offer. However what he got in return was the opposite; it destroyed his confidence.
Confidence in himself, his ability to cope with his fear, made him unspeakably nervous every time he saw a needle. His mind was reeling. Tumbling. Now. The door. How did he get here? But here he was. The door opened. And then he walked into the room. It was a clean and tidy room and it was full of women, knitting and chatting. The needles moving. Clinking. He was scared. And in a crumbling voice he managed a small and feeble “Grandma, I am here to pick you up.”
OK, why am I telling this story? And please excuse my lacking skills, I am definitively not a natural or talented story teller. Perhaps, I hope, I managed to get the gist across though. Often we do not know the full picture. We will have to assume and fill the blanks. And these assumptions can come back to bite us. What is missing (in conversations etc) is an open and curious mind. Our brain is not set up to know it all. So here is my experience with a person who seemed to know it all.
The religious fundamentalism of a vehicular cyclist
For a while I have been trolled by a committed vehicular cyclist. He keeps coming back. One thing I realised, it is not so much what these folks say, but rather how they say it, that makes the experience so disturbing and degenerate. They cannot bear your difference.
What they say is largely in line with any politically conservative (even neoliberal, Hayek/Friedman style) approach to life: personal strength sorts out all your problems. I am an individual, and sod all and everyone else. Hey, we are in competition! This attitude is then taken to the public spaces and roads, and there converted to the belief of a level playing field. For the militant VCist, we are all mere individuals; we will simply fight it out. Guns blazing. Needless to say, the only thing a conservative has to fear losing is their wellbeing, health or physical strength. A cowboy roaming the wide plane. Logically, cycleways make these folks feel like being in a cage – they take away the competitive element. They need that freedom of the level playing field of shared space. And note carefully, that shared space is always this mix: cyclists and cars. Never the mix may be cyclists and pedestrians, because there the strident vehicular cyclist would demand space clarity (so as to advance quickly). (The VCist who is currently trying to shout me down also is a misogynist. I suppose one view easily combines with the other. But perhaps, I add, not universally so.)
So they are conservative-neoliberal – dog eat dog. Understood. The thing that is disturbing however is their how, their approach, the atmosphere these extreme individualist folks create.
How they say it. I have met that particular man in person. He is loud, agitated and rather quite emotional when he speaks. You could call it self-important, perhaps .(And, yes, aren’t some people saying it were women who get emotional… but … reserve your judgement until you get to hear a religious VCist getting flustered.)
They bring with them their conviction and wear it like a cocked gun in a shopping mall.
And the other thing they bring is this: no willingness to understand the other. Their religious conviction permits them. There is no middle ground to be held. No interest or curiosity of the other. They live in their own heads, alone. That’s all there is. Reality stretches from the forehead to their nape, resulting in quite a lack of empathy and ability to hold a conversation or to collaborate. And so they troll you to force their conviction on you.
Yes, this is abusive. The aggressiveness is abuse.
If we were able to have a conversation, who knows what could be discovered. Who knows what we could figure out. We would perhaps find out what it is exactly, that we disagree on. Where the split lies in each of our thinking or worldview.
Without that attitude to exchange and open-mindedness, they condemn themselves to living exclusively between their own ears – shouting at everyone else who does not fit their limited view. It is lonely. Why are they not political? And try to change the world? Why are they shouting at me?
Maybe if they tried working with others, it could be revelatory to them. Or put it this ways: perhaps they should try to locate like-minded folks and start a campaign or whatever. There would at least be the shred of a chance that they would get somewhere. Instead they shout at me. But, hey, lonesome cowboys roam the plane. They know it all. For them, hell is other people.