Some important ‘Sage Scifi’ advice: we should be people who treat kids like people. If we want to live in a world where we get to be mature, enjoy civilized discourse, and anti-racist, then we must acknowledge our responsibility to be persons that young people can feel safe talking to.
Let me tell you what got me thinking about this. A tumblr post ended up on Reddit and the author was quoted as follows:
“12 year old boys are not evil. They’re children. And they’re susceptible to manipulation […] People turn to extremist factions when they feel ignored and dehumanised.
A 12 year old boy online isn’t going to be able to read the nuances in your uber ironic but not really actually ironic “all white men are inherently trash” hot takes. They’re going to take that at face value because they’re 12 and that’s what 12 year olds do. And they’re going to feel angry, rejected and judged by your words. And then ***** like Andrew Tate get to swoop in and tell them that you’re wrong and start the ball rolling on that indoctrination.”
As I’ve said before – the dumpster fire that is Andrew Tate has many lessons to teach elder geeks and scifi sages. This is different. This is about how we create a world where Andrew Tate and other grifter idiots like him cease to exist. It begins and ends with being people who treat kids like people.
Treating Kids Like People is Easy
It’s a remarkably effective strategy and requires little to no effort on our part. Here’s how it worked for another Tumblr’er:
“If I’m allowed to add onto this, I can say with 100% certainty that being open and honest with a 12 year old boy and allowing him to ask questions that may seem concerning to you absolutely works.
My brother started to fall down the alt-right pipeline … The key here is that my brother trusted me enough to come to me and ask me questions … So please don’t write off young men the way the op of the original tweet does, ESPECIALLY not the young men in your life. Be someone they trust to ask questions. It’s the frontline of this battle.”
“They target younger, disillusioned, lonely men, provide them purpose and community through ritual, and then unify them towards a purpose that serves whomever organized them. It has been like this all throughout human history and it continues at full steam to this day.
Once you see the pattern you realize how common this is, this exploitation of isolated, lonely young men for political and personal power. Drug cartels do this. Islamic terrorists do this. White supremacists do this. Steve Bannon did this with gold farming and World of Warcraft players. Andrew Tate does this, Jordan Peterson does this. The US military does this.”
Kids – like every other human on the planet – have a need to be understood, be heard, and to BELONG. We can use scifi to create a place for those kids to belong. They don’t have to go out there into the Groomer-verse to find it. Persons attempting to elevate social discourse by deconstructing harmful social constructs often place themselves into a ‘purity spiral.’ Historically – ideological purity spirals end badly for everyone.
It’s already starting, as this Tumblr’er cautions:
“In this same vein, I really feel like people need to lay off on the “so they want a cookie/medal for doing the bare minimum/for having basic decency?” rhetoric. because whatever ends up driving it, the actual effect is to drive people away at the door, to convince them that there’s no point in trying because nothing they ever do will be good enough.
social response affects social behavior! if we want people to continue a certain line of behavior, then yes, it has to be encouraged! if you, personally, do not feel up to handing out said cookies, then maybe consider… just not engaging at all? The uncharitable thoughts can stay on the inside maybe?
because if you’re so determined to make sure they do not feel welcome here, I’m afraid that there is no lack of welcome to be found on the other end of the rabbit hole”
The welcome mat is already out in the dark places of the Groomer-verse. If it’s important to us (AND IT IS) to keep children from being exploited and from living in a future where that exploitation results in violence and misery on the rest of us – then we have a job to do.
Please, Sage Scifi’ers – Be the people that treat kids like people. We need to talk to young boys like actual people, treat their concerns with respect, and above all else remember: they are children, not villains.