I got someone yelling at me the other day. I insulted them deeply.
I told them I was smart. this was in response to them snarking at me for being a know-it-all. Yes, I know I can come off as a condescending prig... as long as I only do it when I don't mind pissing someone off--not inadvertently--it doesn't bother me much. I'm smarter than most of the people I meet--or ever could meet. There's nothing I can do about it. I'm usually brought up short by realizing someone doesn't actually understand x and they're just not bright enough to grasp it! This is embarrassing when it happens. I usually assume that though I may be smart, I know smart people and I'm actually probably not saying anything that intellectually challenging. (Smart people! They're just like us! They wear pants! ... ok, sometimes... They knit sweaters! ... with Tim Burton characters on them ... They watch sports! ... ok, no, they don't... where was I? oh yeah!)
Usually, my challenge is to not treat everything I think, know, feel, and believe like smart-brain fodder. Other people's emotional responses aren't stupid. Relationship issues aren't always the result of not figuring it out. Right now, I'm knowing intellectually that I ought to be exercising, but I'm not. Attempting to think my way into shape is just not going to happen, but it's great procrastination. I'm even trying to be clever in this paragraph, whose entire message is "Clever is only good for so much, and that muchness is just a sliver of all the things I need to do."
But if I actually know something someone else doesn't? To say, "The proof is here, so I cannot continue to respect your position in light of the facts," is apparently REALLY insulting. After giving it a lot of thought, it doesn't seem reasonable that the insult is "There are other facts," "You don't know these other facts," "I do know other facts," or any combination of those. The insult is "I cannot respect your position."
The reason is, of course, because I've challenged that person's status. Specifically, I have said, "No, I will not cede the argument because I will not accept that you have a higher status/greater authority on the issue than I do."
But when I look at it more, it seems that what we have (Internet we? United States we?) is, in the name of individual, egalitarian fairness, letting everyone have a voice, shedding race, gender, color, etc. in the wonderful Internet--what we have is a deep-rooted denial of all status indicators. In the voice of a U.S.-ian, "It's incredibly rude to remind me that we're not all actually equal." In those old British books I used to read, it was also rude to talk about class, but that, as I saw it, was because if people acted as was appropriate to their status, then calling them on it wasn't necessary, so doing so was just "lording it about," especially if you were privileged enough to have a higher status.
Now.... now, something. I have noticed pissing off a number of people, not by the content of the facts or opinions, but by the Perception (real or imagined) that I was not giving them their propers. Maybe it's Rude to remind people of their status, or to claim a different status, or any status. But the results of not recognizing a status conflict have frequently been much ruder and more destructive.
Other examples: The person who dissed my offer of peer status, and unfriended me because I hadn't been studying this subject for 20 years like she has (no evidence of having actually done), or was it because I was the tricksy kind who wormed my way into someone else's confidence for personal gain, like she would never do (except that one time when she totally did and was on tv for it)? I didn't offer disrespect, but I definitely got her pissed off that she wasn't respected ENOUGH.
I've also done it. I have totally had people hollering at me lately that I wasn't allowing them their right to "free speech" in a "public space," because quite simply, On MY Facebook page/blog/other media, it is not public, and if you disrespect MY status, or I even think you do, I'll delete your comments, block all your comments, or outright ban you for rolling over on me. I don't have a lot of things I totally control, so you challenge the things I DO totally control, then you have lost all privilege there.
Yes, the use of the word "privilege" is, in all cases in this entry, deliberate.
Let's just stop here and call it a work in progress.