DAoS: How to be a nice, helpful gadfly in eight steps
You’re a skeptic, or a counter-cultural revolutionary, or the member of a minority, a critic, a contrarian or whatnot. Whatever it is that you are, your deepest convictions as a result of this identity are such that you’re at odds with the rest of the world in your outlook.
Your imperatives may be frustrated by tyranny of the majority at every step. Most people don’t understand you, because they don’t have to walk a step in your shoes and they don’t want to!
Stripped of your social inclusion, and your political inclusion, all you have left is your voice and thankfully somehow you’ve managed to be noticed. Good for you!
What are you going to say and do? How are you going to spend this rare and precious chance to voice your dissidence, your difference?
Well, you’d better be nice about it. You get more ants with honey and all that. Besides, you’re nice. Why else would you have tolerated the empowered majority this long without climbing the nearest clock tower with high-powered rifle in hand, if you weren’t nice?
Besides, you’ve got nice white teeth. Shiny!
Here’s what you have to come to terms with in order to get your voice across.
1. Don’t get too attached to your dignity, this is hard work.
Now, now, now. Calm down. Most people in this world never get the chance to be heard, and frankly, does it do reality television stars any harm to swallow their pride just to be heard? No. No it doesn’t, and they get listened to!
You may be the greatest mind in your field, even if this hasn’t been realised yet. You don’t want to look like Gene Ray now do you?
Swallow that dignity. Swallow it down and shit it out so you can’t regurgitate it back up later! You’ll never need it and it only gets in the way.
2. Don’t sacrifice your self-image.
What am I talking about? I just told you that dignity was worthless!
Rookie error! Dignity is not self-image! The latter is how you see yourself, the former is how you present yourself to the world.
I’d never ask you to look upon yourself as being garbage!
Now… Clearly you’re better than the majority, otherwise you’d think like they did. But the majority, if self-unaware about it thanks to the privilege of their majority status, look down upon people they see as being like you.
Look around at the people you’re surrounded by. Misfits!
If they don’t have the voice that you have now, they are to be pitied in a loving, parental manner. If they have more voice (and experience and expertise and book sales and so on), they just don’t understand. That’s your niche. You’re one of those amongst your type, maybe truly the only one, who understands.
What’s more, if you care to notice, all of the dismissals the majority direct at most of your kind, well none of them apply to you. And if you squint just right, you’ll also find that they apply to the misfits.
Good grief! You’re probably better than the majority, and you’re obviously better than the rest of your own kind.
3. Be helpful.
Look, getting the mainstream to come around to your way of thinking is hard. Damn hard. As much as you may be better than them, you’re not so good that you’ll be seen as The Way with your say so.
You need to ratchet your way up to that goal and you have to deal with the immediate concerns first of all.
Sooth their fears about you. Show that you aren’t what they think you are. Bring this into stark contrast.
Nothing provides as much contrast as standing next to someone who isn’t like you – one of your fellow gadflies that just didn’t make the cut for one reason or another. Either those that just don’t understand, or who are just so lumpen and pathetic that they need you to look after them. Misfits who need you to tell them how to engage with the majority.
Stand next to them, and pronounce your difference! I may be an X, but I’m not that kind of X.
You will be surprised just how well the majority can see the truth of this, and just how much opportunity and acceptance they’ll want to foist upon you. They may even want to… cooperate!
It is essential that you take every opportunity to differentiate yourself by voicing the majority’s objections to the misfits. Objections to crime, to too much polyester, to ignorance, to aggression, to anger, too selfishness and so on and so forth, these objections must issue from your lips with regularity!
Almost as if by magic, your voice will be elevated up above your peers and you may very well enjoy increased political and social inclusion as well (but don’t hold out on the latter, the majority can’t have their weekends monopolised).
If you manage to pull this off, you’re half way to achieving your goals!
4. Take the high road.
Don’t call people bigots! Don’t call them homophobes, atheophobes, xenophobes or racists! Don’t call them fundies, rednecks, white trash or sheep! Whatever you do, don’t call them a gobshite!
But most importantly when you’re taking the high road, don’t forget to point out that you’re taking the high road! The world needs holiday snaps of your trip to the pinnacle of respectful discourse.
You think that’s a bit too disingenuous? Remember rule 1! Dignity is overrated!
You deserve more, sure, but you’re lucky to be where you are as it is and you can’t afford a luxury like dignity. The moment you get airs and graces the majority will drop you back in with the misfits like they’d mistakenly picked up a turd.
Mind you, you can’t let out that you’re probably better than everyone else. Remember Gene Ray? What you can do is declare that you’re better than the misfits. This won’t stop you getting over with the majority.
At every point, where the majority would have possible cause to see you as different from the plebs, highlight it!
5. Patience is a virtue.
Be patient. Make sure people can see you being patient.
Right. Now that they aren’t looking and it’s just you and me – you need to patiently wait for that chance to spring your arguments upon the majority. You can do the big reveal before it’s time. The world isn’t ready otherwise there’d be more people like you.
Look at gay people. How many millenia did they wait for equal personhood? Now that’s patience!
If you notice the recent increases is gay acceptance, you can see that this patience has worn off. Win!
Being patient and making sure you’re seen as patient, serves the dual purpose of earning a place for your idea, as well as protecting you from being associated with others like you – these others being impatient by nature.
Use those white teeth of yours. If you don’t have white teeth, get them!
Take a photo. Make sure the photo is taken when you’re inordinately happy; too happy to be discussing anything grave or so serious that people’s lives depend on the outcome.
But don’t tilt your head back in laughter. You want to ever so slightly, look down your nose – more dignity than condescension mind you. And no, this doesn’t break rule 1 – this is a mild parody of dignity, so subtle as to not be immediately discernible, and at all times ambiguous.
You photo should say “friendly with you, you and you, but maybe not you”.
Keep this photo with you. Rehearse this face.
Use this picture as you’re Twitter avatar. Use it as your Facebook profile photo. Put it on all your articles.
Juxtaposed against the mood of your writing, your face will express anything between love and a shit-eating smile, depending on the psychology of the reader. Naturally the poor misfits will gravitate to uncharitable interpretations, which when expressed (and these views will be expressed – sigh) will give you the opportunity to show the empowered majority just how different you are.
7. Be subtle, not crude and obvious.
You know how I’ve told you to make yourself stand out from your peers? Wherever possible, be subtle about this.
Nobody likes a braggart, and nobody likes someone who puts other people down to make themselves look good – even when it’s for a good cause like yours.
The easiest way of getting people to accept that you are different, without it being obvious that you’re
playing guiding them, is to presuppose matters of difference in the way you behave or in the arguments that you make. That your interlocutor may be an ignorant fool, shouldn’t motivate you to call them an ignorant fool; simply lecture them on the topic of their ignorance. Even if the topic is for them a first year course from their alma mater, in a degree you don’t actually have; it doesn’t matter, they don’t understand.
Crude and obvious, while apparently clear, is simply crude and obvious. You’ve heard that majorities mistake clarity for shrillness, well sometimes members of minorities mistakenly feel a shrill voice is the only way to speak clearly. You are still a member of a minority. You don’t want to be shrill do you? Good.
8. Internalize! Internalize! Internalize!
If you’ve managed to obey rules 1 -7, you’ve probably managed to cosy up with the majority pretty well. All you have to do now is wait patiently and eventually you’ll be heard.
But you could still lose the chance!
Self-doubt is the killer here. You’re in a holding pattern maintaining 1-7, and if you falter you’ll be left having to start again or worse still, you could be entirely discredited!
The trick is to turn these rules into more than a checklist; you have to turn them into a repertoire of reflexes!
Say one of the misfits from your minority take a shot at you. They call you an Uncle Tom. They call you a sycophant, a toadie, an accommodationist or whatever hateful invective they can come up with.
Rule 2: Don’t sacrifice your self-image! Defend yourself!
Rule 3: Be helpful! You need to raise this kind of behaviour as a typical problem that stops your minority from being included by the majority.
Rule 4: Take the high road! Don’t use invective yourself, and make sure you highlight that you’ve made this decision.
Rule 7: Be subtle, not crude and obvious. Don’t just call them an ignorant philistine, or yourself a martyr.
“I’m not sure that this kind of discourse is helpful. I’ve found it much better to be gentle with people, and the majority does recognise this. I think you’d get your message across easier if you tried the same approach.”
Irrespective of the accusation, regardless of the specific facts of the matter or indeed the goal you’re trying to achieve, in the heated environments that the misfits create, this kind of response is appropriate.
This process should be fluid; no thinking out “rule 2, rule 3…”
Make it effortless. Don’t let it be the source of cognitive dissonance, but let rule 8 be the means by which you rid yourself of such confusion.
A final few words
If you’ve managed to follow these rules, you’ve probably suffered a lot of slings and arrows. It’ll be worth it.
You may not be the one who makes the breakthrough for your people, but you’ll be helping pave the way by showing a shining example. You’ll be remembered like other “accommodationists” (pfft!) after the dust finally settles and history is your judge.
Perhaps though, you will be the one to make the breakthrough. Then your people will find the promised land of equality and inclusion, and they’ll remember you as the one who led them there. Wouldn’t that be nice!