There’s an internet axiom called Wheaton’s Law. It was coined by Wil Wheaton, best known for appearances in the film Stand By Me, as well as on Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Big Bang Theory, among other films and TV shows. His eponymous law simply states: ‘Don’t be a dick’. It was originally designed for gamers, but it’s been proved to work in all aspects of life.
Heads up, I’m going to use the word dick a lot in this piece. When I refer to dickish behaviour, being a dick, and associated phrases, what I intend to communicate is a kind of short hand for an immoral behaviour.
You’ve got to think though, not being a dick is still kind of subjective. What I might think of as being a total dick move might be to someone else. Lets look at ISIS (used as an acronym to describe the Islamic State) as an example. One could state quite simply that ISIS are dicks, and it would be pretty hard to find someone who would disagree.
What if you ask a member or supporter of ISIS? It’s quite obvious that at least some of that group would claim that there is no dickish intent in what they are doing. Obviously their definition of being a dick differs to ours. Some may think that a dick move is justified by the ends, but deny that their goals are in themselves dickish.
If you think of “Don’t be a dick” in the same vein as the Golden Rule (One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself), then you get into a bit of a pitfall as well. I’m a fairly introverted guy, and I would prefer to be left alone by people in a lot of situations. More extroverted people would find that to be dickish as they prefer the company of others.
How we define not being a dick then depends a lot on empathy and being socially aware. What a lot of people call being politically correct, I would actually refer to as not being a dick. Seriously, it’s great. Whenever a new site comment or a talking head goes on about “PC gone wild”, I like to mentally rewrite it as “not being a dick gone wild”. The Social Justice Warriors aren’t wanting to police people’s language, they just want people to be treated how they deserve to be treated.
Seriously, most of the examples people bring up of “PC gone wild” are really trolls just trying to rile people up for Youtube views or Facebook likes. One of the big stories of the last week in New Zealand was about a blogger named Cassidy Boon claiming that “the Haka isn’t really meant to scare the opposing team, it’s meant to assert dominance over woman and scare us into submission”. This ended up in the national media and plenty of Facebook bytes were wasted on people complaining about the feminists.
I would argue that what Boon did here is a dick move. Not in trolling a country to get internet attention. She was being a dick by giving those who would argue against socially aware speakers more ammunition. Whenever someone brings up the rates of domestic abuse in this country and ways to combat them, someone will use Boon’s bullshit to discredit them.
My point? Well, empathy is important to a society. Don’t treat others how you want to be treated. Treat others they way they want to be treated. Karl Popper, in “The Open Society and its Enemies” wrote: “The golden rule is a good standard which is further improved by doing unto others, wherever reasonable, as they want to be done by”. Just, don’t be a dick.