A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog for the All Things Mothering page about tandem nursing, which is when a mother breastfeeds two siblings of different ages concurrently. It was a pretty basic post talking of the strains and the joys of this unique relationship. What worried me was the comment string and the comments on the Facebook notification that followed. There were several unhelpful comments, where mothers called each other names and derided each others’ choices. The online administrator had to remove some comments and ban the perpetrators. If you’re a mother and you read blogs, check out Facebook comment feeds or visit noticeboards or chatrooms related to parenting, you will have noticed this worrying trend, namely, the tendency to hide behind the digital medium and be nasty.
It appears that many people haven’t moved on from playground antics such as telling secrets about other girls, talking down to each other, using name-calling, talking behind their hands and passing notes. This is stuff my six year old and nine year old come home with… and yet these are women usually in their 30s and 40s who will write the most abhorrent, derisive statements about parenting choices that are so personal. Although we are grown-ups who should be able to control ourselves and Do The Right Thing, somehow people forget basic manners online and rip each other apart because your choices don’t match mine.
The klesas, as defined by the author of the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali, are the obstacles to achieving the state of Yoga, or a quiet mind. In my last post I discussed avidya, or ignorance. The second of the klesas is asmita or egoism. Patanjali isn’t talking about egoism as in narcissism, but rather the tendency we have to see ourselves as separate from another. It’s an illusion that you and I are unitary actors in this world. Each of us is like a stone thrown into a still pool of water– everything we do creates ripples that move outward and affect other people and the world we live in.
An easy example from parenting: my children do as I do, not as I say. How many of us have listened in horror as our newly-talking toddlers come out with choice phrases that shouldn’t be heard from the mouths of babes? Our children are constantly learning about the world by watching us and others. Now that I have three small people around me nearly all the time, I can see with even greater clarity that nothing I do can be held in isolation. All that I do affects others and has the potential to mould and change the world, even if in a very small way.
To post an aggressive invective on a comment thread is to pretend that we aren’t connected and that the most important thing is that you have the ‘right’ to say what you think. Several of the people who had to be banned used phrases such as, “Well, it’s just my opinion.” Or, “I’m not judging you, but it’s what I think.” Or my favourite, “I’m just saying.” You might as well append the phrase So THERE and stamp your foot, as far as I’m concerned. Grow up. It’s artifice to think that you can put your opinion out there without consequences. Unfortunately many people seem to have forgotten tact and good manners.
It’s hopelessly depressing that those people fail to see our interconnectivity. As human beings we share the experience of living together on this Earth. Like a Venn diagram, each of our lives is a circle that overlaps many other lives. We are made of the same substance; we each have individual personalities but the stuff we are made of is the same. To forget this is the ultimate in egoism; to forget this is to say “I am all that matters. I come first.”
We spend countless hours telling our children to share, discouraging them from antisocial behaviour and helping them to navigate the world of social interaction. My daughters struggle with the nastiness of other girls who seem altogether superior, more knowing, with sharp tongues to match. I wish I could say that it all gets better when you grow up, but unfortunately it doesn’t.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.