What is happening in the world and the Church depresses me no end, and yet I'm also very vulnerable to the personal attacks and innuendoes unleashed on anyone who complains. I could defend the things I believe against all comers all day long, but once it comes to personal attacks, I feel defenceless, since I'm always inclined to believe anything bad anyone says against me.
And not even against me personally. A few weeks ago I was browsing a book by John Waters, Feckers: Fifty People Who Fecked up Ireland. It was entertaining enough, but one of the last "feckers" was "Paddy O'Blogger"-- a long rant against bloggers, portraying them as pathetic and angry and frustrated figures.
I wish I was the kind of person who just takes such things in their stride, but I'm not. Doubtless John Waters was writing mostly about left-wing bloggers (he was quite vague). He also took issue with them for their anonymity, and my blog has never been anonymous-- I've always put up my name, my picture, and my place of employment. He contrasts online writing with print journalism and letters to the editor, much to the former's disfavour. Well, I've had plenty of articles published, and plenty of letters to the editor too. Do I somehow stop being "Paddy O'Blog" when my words are in print, even when I'm saying exactly the same thing?
I can reason thus with myself, but it doesn't really make any difference.
I left Facebook some time ago. While I was there, I had a lot of very positive interactions-- indeed, a good few people said nice things about my posts. But I also got a lot of sniping and bitching-- and, once again, I don't give two hoots when it's addressed to my ideas or beliefs, but when it's a personal attack, it gets to me.
One of my own relatives posted a still from The Simpsons, a picture of a newspaper which showed Grandpa Simpson waving his fist at a cloud, with the headline: "Old Man Waves Fist at Cloud", and tagging me, in response to some conservative opinion I'd expressed. Another of my relatives saw fit to "like" this. I pretended to take it in good part, but the truth is I found it extremely hurtful, and still do. Once again, this was because of the implication that my opinions are based in personal failings or flaws or inadequacies. And there was a lot of this.
I'm not good with interpersonal conflict, and I find it gets harder rather than easier. I love my job, but I find it more and more difficult dealing with angry customers (while knowing that a library couldn't even begin to compare with a call centre or many other places of work). The fantasy of a life without interpersonal conflict is one I increasingly indulge in. (I'm not talking about an end to conflict per se. I like C.S. Lewis's speculation that, if he had killed a German soldier who had simultaneously killed him in World War One, they might have laughed about it in the next world. I like films where two fellows are having a sword-fight, one has his sword knocked from his hand, and the other chivalrously allows him to pick it up again. That is the kind of conflict I can dig.)
I'm not bothered with ridicule when it is aimed at what I say rather than me personally. Some months ago, I was in the audience for the TV show Claire Byrne Live. I made a comment that the Church had apologized too much rather than too little, and almost everyone in the studio laughed. That didn't bother me in the least-- I even found it bracing.
I've always done my best to refrain from ad hominem attacks myself. In this post, for instance, where I make a case for attacking ideas, not people. Doubtless I've lapsed here and there, but I think I've kept fairly rigorously to this policy, and avoided personal attacks and insinuations, whether against particular people or bearers of a particular opinion.
Writing is like breathing to me. If it wasn't, I would probably stop-- at least, give up any writing that involved social commentary, I'm so bothered by such attacks and insinuations. Now and again, I've thought of pouring my creative energies into something less polemical, such as horror novels. The sneering and scorn really gets to me.