19 February 2012

I Blame You, Kim Kardashian!

(Actually, no, that's as true to the topic on hand as it is fair to her.)

I rarely keep up with any reality shows. In fact, the only one I ever liked and watched consistently was the original Joe Millionaire. As for the others like Big Brother, Survivor, or anything with Celebrity in the title, I really couldn't care less. Then again, there are reality SHOWS, and there are reality SERIES, and the latter does hold a bit of interest for me. Bear in mind, this distinction is almost completely arbitrary, but I'll try and qualify it. A reality show like America's Next Top Model is essentially a game show where contestants compete for a grand prize, the "reality" aspect referring mostly to co-habitation during filming. Meanwhile, a reality series like The Osbournes is more straightforward, a condensed glimpse into the daily life of The Prince of Darkness, his wife Sharon, and two of their three kids. There's no prize, very little structure, and casting is irrelevant because it's about a family and their close friends, not some cross-section of living stereotypes hand-picked to appeal to various key demographics.
I loved The Osbournes, but just like Joe Millionaire, I thought I'd seen the best the format had to offer. Suddenly, along comes Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which, in a manner similar to The Osbournes, seems to have sprung from an episode of MTV's Cribs. I won't go into details about the show itself as most of you are probably more familiar than you want to be with this (in)famous family. Instead, I want to focus on a particular event involving the show's centerpiece (second, in my book, behind Bruce Jenner), Kim Kardashian, and her mother. I'm working from dead reckoning as it's been a good three years since I saw this episode and I don't feel like sifting back through the various seasons to try and find it again (Thank you, Netflix), so I may get most of the details and context wrong, but the meat and potatoes of the situation will be otherwise unseasoned.
The family Kardashian had gone up to the mountains for a family ski trip, with matriarch Kris strictly emphasizing the "family" aspect of the sojourn. This led to an incident in which bratty Kim's cell phone was taken away and potentially damaged in the process. This led Kim to take Kris' phone and throw it from the upstairs loft onto the living room floor, all under the premise of, in her own words, "Treat others as you want to be treated."

If your reaction to this is anything along the lines of, "That's not really what that phrase means." then congratulations are in order as you are officially in the other 10% of Sturgeon's Law. Granted, I don't expect Kim Kardashian to be any sort of sage authority on how to implement The Golden Rule in daily life, but there's a difference between Karl Popper's addendum (the Platinum Rule, as it's been called) or Kant's Categorical Imperative, and an outright contradiction. The justification for this petty squabble isn't just circular logic, it's outright bent, and it seems more people are walking that crooked road in defiance of all the situations wherein most of us probably heard that phrase (especially if you grew up with siblings).

Fast-forward a few years to a few days ago when I happen upon this comment from a YouTube user on her own profile:

"Treat others the way you want to be treated. I give back what people throw at me, negative or postive (sic)."

Let's forgo the formalities and just break this idiocy down mathematically:

If A = B and B = C, then A = C.

Let's make the first sentence A and the second sentence B, as the person who said this wants this phrase taken as one cohesive and equitable whole.

"Treat others the way you want to be treated." = "I give back what people throw at me, negative or positive."

However, what shall be C? How about we take B and use synonyms to make a new phrase that retains the same meaning, but with a different vocabulary. Actually, for the sake of fairness to this person, let's pattern the vocabulary for C after the one used for A, that of treating others. Since positive and negative have the same value, that won't need any qualifications, so let's focus on converting "giving and throwing" to "treating."

"Treat others as others treat you."

Sounds close enough, though it seems we're bypassing A's conceit of "how one WANTS to be treated" as opposed to "how one IS treated by others." Hold on, we may be on to something:

"Treat others as YOU WOULD HAVE others treat you." = "Treat others as others treat you."

Well, that doesn't sound right. Seems A actually has relative degree of self-sufficiency compared to our newfound C, given that C involves giving back what's thrown in the first place, whereas A simply needs an awareness of what one would prefer be thrown at them. This sounds more like Newton's third law of physics, where actions have equal but OPPOSITE reactions.

Given this, we can deduce that A does not equal C, or A ≠ C. If anything, A is the opposite of C, just as a positive 1 is the opposite of a negative 1, and 1 ≠ -1.

Wait, now, if that's the case, then how can B = C and, per our initially given statement, A = B? The answer is that it can't, and the only way A ≠ C and B = C is if A ≠ B.

"Treat others the way you want to be treated." ≠ "I give back what people throw at me, negative or positive."

Treating others as they treat you is not treating others as you want to be treated. It's modifying your own behavior to match the actions of another, adjusting your reaction to match another's action, effectively removing yourself and your autonomy from the social situation in favor of being another's mirror.

So can we please stop pretending that being mean or unkind to someone is not only giving them what you feel they deserve, but what they may actually want? If that's the case, then how do you expect them to treat you how you wanted to be treated in the first place? You don't have to be a doormat, but you don't have to be a shadow to someone else just to interact with them. Failing that, just be yourself.
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