Ignorance and Self-Righteousness: A Rant

I was perusing a popular online dating site the other day, and a woman caught my eye. Her profile was interesting, and she was pretty. The site said we were a good match, so I proceeded to check out her “Important to me” questions. The first question on her list made me quite trepidatious:

Have you ever spent more than 8 hours straight playing video games?

I wasn’t sure which way the question would lead. I am well aware of the fact that women play video games; most of the women I know play them, and of the ones that don’t most at least tolerate them. But I grew up in the 8- and 16-bit video game era. I was mocked incessantly for my hobby. My parent’s generation, and the ones before them, tend to abhor video games. My interest in video games was openly mocked by family members, by teachers, and by classmates. Later, my interests were questioned by employers and coworkers.

There is a universal truth in this: people who don’t understand something tend to dismiss it quite readily. Some people, despite this lack of understanding, are inclined to think they know better than someone who actually does, and tend to outright mock said thing. This is a truth not limited to video games. There is a sort of prevailing ignorance that takes pride in itself and mocks those with more wisdom. You can see it everywhere you look. You will come across it in any comment section on the internet. You’ve probably seen it in your Facebook feed. It’s definitely a major part of television “opinion” news. The worst part of ignorance is that it is entirely unaware of itself.

So I answered the question: “Yes.” Because I have spent more than 8 hours playing video games. There were two other options: “No,” and “No, and anyone who does is a loser.”

Can you imagine asking that about any number of other hobbies? Have you ever spent eight hours straight reading? Watching a TV series on Netflix, or having a movie marathon? Listening to music? Watching sports? At a social function? Because let’s face it: people do that all the time and no one says boo. People spend not only three or more hours watching a single football game, they spend hours before and after watching pre- and post-game analysis. And the only reason they don’t watch more is that most sporting events have a time limit. Don’t believe me? Ask a baseball fan about their favorite double-header.

I’m not trying to mock these other interests, mind you. It’s no secret that professional sports, in my opinion, are the most boring thing ever. However, I get that other people enjoy that sort of thing, and though I tend to dismiss any discussion of the subject fairly quickly, I do not mock people for expressing that interest. I love reading, and going on Netflix binges, so I’m just as guilty of watching a full season of Lost over the course of a weekend. If someone spent an entire day doing something they loved, I’d probably be envious rather than derisive.

The site let me clarify my answer, so I did: “It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened.” What I didn’t say was that those are some of my favorite days. There’s something quite relaxing in becoming engrossed in another world. It’s true, marathon gaming sessions don’t come by often for me, and when they do they tend to be around games that are a big deal: the recent Tomb Raider remake, for example. Or the all-encompassing world of Skyrim. When a game like that comes around, and an opportunity arises? Yeah, I let myself get lost. That sort of thing only comes around a few times a year, and I spend so much more of my time and money on things that are nowhere near as interesting to me. I am out of the house almost twelve hours a day due to my job. Why should I not be allowed to have my fun in whatever way I see fit, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone?

Her response to the question, as I feared: “No, and anyone who does is a loser.”

I immediately lost interest, obviously. But I also felt a smoldering frustration. It perplexes me to no end when people think it is okay to disparage something they know nothing about, or even worse, have a sort of pseudo-understanding of because they read an article one time, or had a relative/friend/significant other they grew to dislike and happened to be interested in whatever thing they’re mocking. People who reduce something complex to its lowest common denominator and then insist there is nothing more to it.

I shouldn’t have to defend myself for having a healthy interest in something. I am an intelligent, responsible adult. I pay my bills — on time! — and I show up to work every day, as much as I would prefer not to. How a person spends their free time can certainly say a lot about them, but to look at a person’s hobby and declare them a loser seems to be judgmental in a way that should not evoke pride. That’s what calling a person a loser does: it sets them below you. It is as much about elevating the judge and it is diminishing the judged.

I suppose I can take solace in the fact that I am, apparently, a better person. Honestly, though, I’d be happier if the world didn’t seem built around the whims of assholes. If people actually tried to be better, and not give in to nonsense like baseless accusations and off-the-cuff judgements. I can’t say it ever feels like I’m the only one. There are too few of us, though, and we’re not working hard enough to give the scum of the world the lessons they so greatly need.

I realize there are worse things in the world than not being respected by a stranger I will never meet. I probably shouldn’t feel all that disparaged, considering the person who insulted me has no idea how great a person I may be (answer: VERY GREAT). As injustices go, it’s a pretty slight one. I’ve never had to deal with any real tyranny or oppression. On the whole, I’ve been pretty fortunate.

But still: it sucks. It’s disheartening. It chips away at you. It can lead you to question yourself when you shouldn’t. It’s easy to let a little negativity overwhelm you.

Rising above it all is hard, but I try.

Posted on December 17, 2013 and filed under Opinion, Rant.