I don’t get to watch it, because Dr. SJ has an issue with premium cable. She thinks we send Jimmy Dolan too much money already, and won’t send him a dime more than necessary. She’s very tough about things like that. But I did see a video of it the other day, and it involved one guy having a sword fight with another guy, who he killed.
To put it mildly, the guy who was killed lost the sword fight. With extreme prejudice.
For all those who are fans of the show, take a memo: sometimes, you lose. Most of the time, you get to fight another day, unless you lost with extreme prejudice. Then, you don’t. I thought about this after a late night phone call with Marco Randazza last night.
During the call, he asked me if I remembered some guy whose name eludes me at the moment. I told him I didn’t. He reminded me that it was some baby lawyer who wrote a few posts at Randazza’s blog, the Legal Satyricon. Vague recollection came back to me. It seems he wrote about criminal law issues, and was just awful. He wanted to be a blawger, but lacked the grasp needed to be even moderately competent at it. And I told him so.
Apparently, he told Randazza that my criticism had broken his will to write. I crushed his spirit. He gave up. I felt badly hearing these words, not because I felt any blame for being critical, but because his reaction was to quit. Marco gave me a tummy rub; “you were right. He could have stepped up his game, but instead he decided to run away.”
After I hung up, because it was way past my bedtime, I thought about the reactions I had evoked from some scamblogging baby lawyers a while back. They called me a monster because I was so cruel. From their perspective, it was a fair assessment. They were never losers, but just the last winner. Their ideas were never stupid, but just in need of further development. Nobody ever explained to them that for every winner in a sword fight to the death, there was a dead loser as well.
How could they love their video games, love their HBO series, and yet not have the slightest appreciation of the reality that not everybody wins? They watched and applauded, but never realized that they could be the dead guy as well as the hero? Had there been no one in their life, no parent, no teacher, who told them the truth? Was there no one willing to risk their antipathy, to suffer being the monster, so that they would recognize that bad work is bad?
Well, yes, there probably was such a person, and they gave her the name “bully.” If you hurt someone’s feelings by failing to tell them what they want to hear, then you are a bully. How easily then to dismiss any negativity, because they are the guy still standing, with the sword raised over his head. They can’t be the dead guy on the ground.
There are two things we need a whole lot more of. The first is honesty. Feelings need to be hurt sometimes, because the truth is that not everything is good, winning, fabulous. Sometimes, it’s not passable. Not even salvageable. Sometimes, it sucks. You see that for others, but it’s just as true for you. And me. And everyone. Stop crying about it. You’re not special. When we blow it, we blow it. And someone ends up dead on the ground.
The other thing we need is to react to a harsh smack of reality by learning from it, doing better.
Randazza told me that he thought what I did to the baby lawyer was a good thing. He would have continued to write garbage on the internet, unaware of the fact that his content was bad. He would have made people who read his stuff stupider, and that’s not good for others. But because I spanked him, he quit. He ran away. All those readers who would have been made stupider were saved.
But that’s not what I hoped he would do. I hoped he would step up his game, learn from his mistakes and try a whole lot harder to do better. But he didn’t, and I’ve long since forgotten he existed except for Randazza’s reminder.
So I’m a monster who says mean things. Screw me. Do better. Prove me wrong. Show me what you got and make me look like a flaming idiot. That’s my gift to you.