What has your Quora experience taught you about the world and the people in general?

Never a trivial question from you, eh Michaelis?

Something I’ve actually being discussing at some length with Jennifer Edeburn, to whom I seem to have outsourced my superego. (You’ll have noticed I took a day off of that today, Jennifer?)

Nothing I would not have learned from engaging with humanity in general, if I got out more. But some lessons are always salutary, the more so if you learn them ten times running.

  • People are wonderful. Randoms have unfathomable reserves of empathy, kindness, and respect. Which I have drawn on, and which I hope to have reciprocated.
  • People are awful. Not just the discernible reprobates, the trolls and the bigots: that’s too easy, that’s too fertile a ground for “but I’m above that”. The smug, the judgemental, the unthinking, the bien-pensant. The cliquish, the reactive, the indignant. That get applauded for it.
    • And that at times, that can include me. Not a pleasant learning, but a useful one. To be conscious of it is not enough, but it’s an advance anyway.
  • People are complex. You can admire one facet of a person, and find another repulsive; or at least problematic. Which makes evaluating whether they are in or out with you difficult.
  • People are duplicitous. Or rather, subtle. I hear reports that a lot of people have been unmasked by anonymity fails, under the new regime. I wouldn’t be chortling about it: who among us does not have things about them they’d rather not be broadcast?
    • You, perhaps, Michaelis. But you are a nihilist, after all.
    • Oh, and I also wouldn’t be chortling, because “upstanding citizens” too can be embarrassed by privacy fails. And they have further to fall.
  • Large organisations are stupid and don’t care about you. However many buffets they lay out for you. A relatively easy thing to learn, and I’m astonished that a critical mass don’t seem to have.
  • Large organisations have their own agenda, and that’s no more immoral than you having your own agenda. That takes a bit more getting your head around. As I said towards the end of my coming to terms with it: if Quora’s Moloch, then there’s no use getting angry at a furnace. That’s what furnaces do.
    • (I’ve taken to calling it a Wall since. Less… incendiary.)
  • Communication is possible with people of good will, who let go of their dogmas. That’s a useful lesson that comes with BNBR self-policing.
  • Communication is impossible with people who do not share your postulates about the basics. I can talk politics with communists; I cannot talk politics with libertarians. I can talk theology with the undogmatic, I cannot with the self-righteous. There are limits to BNBR.
  • Privilege is real, and so is hegemony, and so is complacency. There’s a reason no revolution ever worked on BNBR.
  • There is a place for a salon of the thoughtful and the critical, whether Mountain View intended it thus or not. If that’s an abdication from the pressing urgency on the streets, well, let me have it. If Rome is falling, there are worse things to do in its final days than recline on the couch and discuss pentameters.

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