Haters and Awakened People

There is a phenomenon that seems pretty consistent in online spiritual-ish groups. When someone claims some sort of awakening, or enlightenment, or increase in their level of peace, a troll inevitably appears to attack them. The troll will poke and prod and insult until they get a negative reaction from the person who made the claim. The troll will then hold this as proof of the lack of awakening in the person who made the original claim. The same can happen when someone is praised for being an awakened person, or a peaceful person. The trolls leap at the opportunity and hammer at the person so named.

There's a specific need in most people that I think is called out at such times. The same thing happens to artists who put themselves on the line. Some examples spring to my mind. The first one is of artist Marina Abramovic. She got a bit of Internet viral exposure a little while back when she did a performance piece where she locked gazes with whoever sat across from her at the table she was sitting at during the performance. During that performance, an ex-lover of hers sat across the table from her. He had not told her he was coming. They had not seen each other for many years after commemorating their romantic parting of ways by walking away from each other on the Great Wall of China. They started at the middle and turned away from each other and walked to the opposite ends of the wall, "without looking back."

However, that dramatic example is not the one I have in mind. With all the publicity that Marina Abramovic got from the above performance piece, an earlier on she had presented came back into the public awareness. She stood in a museum, with a table of assorted items including roses, markers, and scissors. She stood perfectly still, and attendees of the museum were invited to use the tools on her in any way they liked. At first, there was gentle placing of the roses in her hair and writing positive words on her exposed skin. As the day wore on, things took a darker turn. By the end of the piece she was topless, had words like "slut", "ugly", and "whore" written on her, she had been spat on numerous times, and she was bleeding from where people had whipped her with the thorny rose stems.

Another installation piece involved a real doll, dressed in business casual clothes, and sat out on a chair on a semi-busy sidewalk. Real dolls are anatomically correct, life-like sex dolls. So, it looked like a woman sitting very still on the side of the road until you got closer. The whole day was filmed. At first, people shyly came up and snickered as the prodded her. Many people took selfies with her. As the day wore on people slowly got bolder, re-arranging her clothes, and then taking her clothes off. Towards the end of the day, people got brutal, beating the doll with gusto.

Further examples come in the form of anonymous vitriol and threats of violence that await any woman who comes out as a voice on the Internet. Thinkers, innovators, scientists, game designers, artists, entrepreneurs, and women of any stripe are so often the victim of violent online trolling (including but not limited to threats of rape, beatings, and murder) that it has sadly become almost cliche.

It seems that ordinary, everyday people have a lot of pent up aggression looking for release. It also seems that said release is facilitated by having a target that won't retaliate. I can't see a more likely source for such aggression than fear. Naked, stark, simple fear. What else could make people behave in the depraved manner shown above? Fear drives people into a place of desperation, and they look for any way to make a claim to power. Victimizing the powerless is an unfortunately easy way to do so.

I think there is an analogy here with the people who hate on "awakened" people online. Most people have a cartoonish conception of what an awakened person is supposed to be like. Their conceptions of such people are clothed in characteristics attributed to the saints & sages in their myths. An awakened person is never supposed to get angry or complain, or defend themselves. They are to be meek and mild. This means they should not strike back when struck. Essentially they are all supposed to be like Gandhi, or rather a cartoonish representation of Gandhi. This means that haters and trolls get to lob their vitriol at the awakened person, and if said person responds in kind, well then obviously they are not awakened and the insulting party gets to mark a victory on their scorecard. If the target of the hateful posts does not respond, then the troll is more than happy to have someone they can attack to their heart's content.

Fearful people feel powerless, they feel angry, frustrated, and hateful. They look to be able to strike back the way they believe they have been struck. A target that won't fight back seems almost irresistible to them. So it goes.

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