To be [Ye], or not to be? That is the question–
Whether ’tis nobler [to yield one’s agency to]
The slings and arrows of [invading expression],
Or to [halt thine enemy encroachment upon Ye],
And, by oppose, end [sacrilege–Ye live not as Ye]?
–William Shakespeare (Alt. by J.J. Gamet)
I. The Encroachment of Thine Enemy’s Slings and Arrows
Has anyone’s expression (i.e., opinion, suggestion, or expectation) concerning you or something about you caused you to feel bullied, uncomfortable, fearful, judged, wierd, angry, anxious, immobilized, mortified, worthless, suicidal, belittled, dismissed, insignificant, useless, unappreciated, embarrassed, incompetent, or unintelligent? In response, did you feel “compelled” to accept the person’s opinion of you? or to conform your words or actions to the person’s suggestion to or expectation of you?
II. The Yielding of One’s Individual Agency to Thine Enemy
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then you’ve fell victim to the ignoble force of “Social Boxification” (SB). This occurs when people try to fit you into “their social box” (1) by convincing you that something about you is wrong, (2) by coercing your genuflection to their perception of you, and (3) by conforming your self-agency to their perception. The objective of those who employ SB is threefold: the intrusion upon your individual agency, the devaluation of which, and the “compelled” relinquishment of which to another.
III. Distinguishing Ye From the Ye Thine Enemy Hath Fashioned
In the altered Shakespearean epigraph (quoted from “Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1”) above, I bridge past and present to pose a salient question: To be Ye, or not to be? Translated to modern terms, “Will you be you, or not to be you?” If not, then one must ask, “Who Ye is?” Is Ye, Ye? Or is Ye whom “thine enemy” hath molded as clay into the Ye it perceives as more desirable? That is the question during these times of global identity crisis.
IV. BE YE – Know Thyself and Thine Vulnerabilities
The SB process usually takes place subtly, gradually, and undetected via opportunely-lodged opinions, suggestions, and expectations against the impressionable, passive, and insecure–textbook characteristics which render one exceedingly susceptible to second-guessing. Influence, however, is exerted both intentionally and inadvertently, and conceived with ill and saintly intentions. To overcome SB, you must first be able to identify it as it happens and resist it as you would when maintaining your balance to a push.
V. BE YE – Know Thine Enemy’s Sacrilegious Warfare
It is very important to recognize the various ways which people convince and coerce you to conform to their perspectives. In fact, it is difficult to resist the force of ill expression without such awareness. It is just as essential to one’s spirited self-expression as it is to one’s self-maturation. The following three examples of ill-intended expressions pose notable obstacles to one’s self-agency.
In a social media chatroom, a high school student expresses to a fellow student her general irritation with classmates who ask the teacher too many homework questions. She expresses her opinion knowing that the student who does so is in the same chatroom and reading her conversation. At class, the inquisitive student refrains from asking her teacher for homework clarification, fearing her classmate’s disapproval and ensuing ridicule.
In a prison Chow Hall, a prisoner suggests to a new prisoner who sits at his table, “You get more support when you only talk to people of your own race.” Later, the new prisoner’s tablemate sees him talking to an old friend from another race. His tablemate scowls at him as he walks by. To avoid social rejection by his tablemate, the new prisoner stops talking to his friend.
At work, an employee is told by her boss that he expects her to convince another female coworker that he’s a good guy. But she knows her boss has a wife and has seen him cheating on her with other women. When she refuses to play matchmaker, her boss begins spreading a rumor around work that she has been married three times. Embarrassed by her boss’ malicious rumors, she agrees to play matchmaker.
VI. BE YE – Absorb Thine Enemy’s Slings and Arrows
An effective way to lessen the impact of ill-conceived expressions directed at you is to absorb them just as a boxer would turn his or her head with a punch. Moreover, when hit, a soft reed bends as opposed to breaks like hard wood. So absorb unfavorable expressions by simply accepting them.
For example, when prison staff forget to turn off overhead cell lights after completing daily headcounts of prisoners, prisoners often remind staff to turn them off by yelling “COUNT LIGHTS!!” On occasion, I, too, would alert staff. Then one day, my former domineering neighbor complains loudly to a mutual neighbor that guys who yell to turn off count lights were “[bleeping] idiots.” Just as he was finishing, I yelled out “COUNT LIGHTS” and our mutual neighbor bursted out laughing. I neutralized my domineering neighbor’s opinion by being the idiot.
Similarly, one of my formidable Scrabble opponents seized every opportunity to announce his “few and far between” wins over me. Unfortunately for him, my opportunities occurred much more frequently. So to give him a taste of his own medicine, I mimicked his unsportsmanship. He took offense, but rather than show his discontentment, he resorted to appealing to my sense of higher value–humility. He would ask, “Don’t you want to be a role model to others by being more humble?” “Yes,” I said, “but I enjoy the competitive banter of Scrabble. Don’t you?”
VII. BE YE – Thine Enemy Hath Feathers and Straw
Stand firmly against those who shall attempt to bend thou individual agency with “feather and straw” expressions. Sleep softly and peacefully. For thou pillow is feathers, and thou bed is full of straw.
he “Be Ye” Manifesto (2 of 3)
By Jacob J. Gamet
VIII. BE YE – Judo Flip Thine Enemy’s Slings and Arrows to the Ground
When people launch their expressions (solicited or unsolicited) at you, the last thing they expect is for you to flip the script (pun intended) on them by judo flipping their expressions to the ground. Judo uses the principles of balance and leverage adapted from jujitsu to redirect the force of an opponent’s strength in a manner that defensively benefits you. One well-known defensive maneuver is the judo flip, where you grab your opponent and, using your leverage, twist your opponent around your body, moving your opponent (i.e., his or her expression) off balance and flipping her or him to the ground.
It’s time to flip the script and turn those earlier slings and arrows into feathers and straw! For convenince, we’ll use the same three examples in Section V. (BE YE – Know Thine Enemy’s Sacrilegious Warfare) of Part 1 of 3 of The “Be Ye” Manifesto. But in the examples below, the previous SB (Social Boxification) victims will deboxify themselves and become the victors:
Instead of “not” asking the teacher about the homework assignment due to fear of ensuing ridicule from her popular chatroom classmate, the inquisitive student raises her hand and asks the teacher: “Mr. Johnson, while I’m sure that some students aren’t serious about their grades or the quality of their education in terms of what college they get into, and so they may never ask questions about homework, I, however, am serious. So would please explain…”
In choosing to ask her homework question, the inquisitive student made a brave choice to BE YE–and not be the silent YE her classmate desired–and indirectly highlight the absurdity of her classmate’s expression. In doing so, she not only made her classmate feel ridiculous for not wanting her to ask homework questions, but she also showed other students why it’s important to ask and how to BE YE in the face of peer pressure.
After being scowled at by his racist tablemate, the new prisoner later catches him alone and tells him: “Hey, I just wanted you to know that I understand that you don’t associate with black guys because of your group beliefs. However, I don’t judge people by their color, not you or anyone. So if I’m required to in order to get support from any group, I’d rather go without support. I’ll find another table to sit at.” The new prisoner then walks away.
By cordially and frankly raising the issue to his tablemate one-on-one, the new prisoner avoided putting his tablemate directly on the spot in front of his group, which could have bruised his ego and resulted in an argument or worse. Though his decision may have incurred a personal attack on him if he were imprisoned in a more gang-political and violent prison, the new prisoner was willing to risk that to maintain his integrity. He also planted a positive seed in his tablemate’s mind of what it means to BE YE, and to “not” BE YE.
Embarrassed by the rumors her boss spread about her, the female employee approaches him one-on-one and explains: “I didn’t put a good word in for you with Julie because I would be lying. Plus, you are married and also seeing other women. I’ve never told your wife or any of your mistresses what you’re doing. I haven’t filed a complaint against you with human resources for the rumors. I’ve been more than fair to you, and only ask that you cease the rumors and refrain from any further retaliation. I only ask to be treated professionally going forward. Deal?” They shake hands and she lightens the mood by saying, “Now quit acting like a teenager and let’s get some work done, Casinova.”
What she did is actually phenomenal. One, she didn’t malign her boss behind his back or in front of others and thus jeopardize her job. She took a deep breath and confronted him with poise and professionalism, reminding him that she was neither his enemy nor his matchmaker. And clearly, she also wasn’t out to get him. She framed the situation properly and then defused the tension, securing her job, with humor and a handshake implying a truce. She proved to be the ideal example of how to BE YE.
More importantly, she didn’t feel compelled to run around explaining to coworkers that she’d never been married. Why? Because doing so would provide further oxygen to her boss’ rumor fire, and it would only reinforce her boss’ power of opinion over her.
This reminds me of a movie in which Jessica Lang played a woman (named Mary?) who was raped by soldiers who were hunting her husband. Afterward, she walked out of her house, held her head up with pride, and made her way to a body of water to wash herself as townsfolk stared and judged her. A young man whom she knew wanted to run and tell her husband, but she made him promise not to because she knew her husband would return home for revenge, as the soldiers wanted. She refused to lead her husband into a trap, and to his death.
VIV. BE YE – Name and Tame Thine Enemy’s Slings and Arrows
When I think of taming and naming the force of an expression, the movie Good Will Hunting comes to mind. In a bar scene, Matt Damon plays this unassuming genius kid who sees one of his buddies being berated by a smart and entitled rich college kid with his buddies present. Damon comes to his friend’s rescue and intellectually demolishes the rich kid’s argument by first recognizing the social boxification the kid is using on his friend, identifying the SB technique as bullying and pathetic, then explaining with genius comprehension and articulation the intricacies of the topic the rich kid claims to know. He thus named and tamed the rich kid’s expression.
Of course, I’m not suggesting you need to be a genius to name and tame a person’s ill-conceived expression toward you. I’m merely saying that if someone uses SB on you in a crowd, recognize it, identify it as pathetic, and you will thereby name and tame it.
Jacob J. Gamet
Categories: Jacob J. Gamet