Understanding “Safe Spaces” as Expressions of Ideals

In observing the interactions and conversations about social justice and related topics, one thing that becomes increasingly apparent is the stark difference in perspective that can come from being a minority vs. a majority. In particular, the criticism of “overreaction” is a fascinating one to explore, because of how it can lead to the idea that “political correctness” is causing more problems than it solves. However, what I find is that the issue isn’t so much that people are oversensitive, or even that the other side is composed of monsters, but that there is a particular approach to life that is implicit in the actions of many who take can be thought of as “overreacting.” I call this “externalization of an internal ideal.”

Before I continue, I want to say this: although I’ve actually been thinking about this subject quite a bit, it’s Duncan “Thorin” Shields’s recent video above arguing how the media is all too eager to create outrage that has prompted me to really commit my thoughts to text. This is because, while I don’t agree with some of the key points of his video, he at least lays it all out such that it promotes debate and discussion. And even if I’m not of a similar belief to him in certain respects, I still highly value his work on eSports and continue to watch his videos regularly.

At one point in Thorin’s video, he mentions the Donald Trump “pussy grabbing” scandal, arguing that the outcry against it was exaggerated to an absurd extent. This is not because Thorin is defending sexual assault, but that the way in which Trump was speaking was in the context of a private conversation between men where the objectification of women is par for the course. The idea laid out in this minor point is that Trump’s words should have been a surprise to no one, so to respond with shock and horror is to willfully ignore reality.

I think Thorin is right in a certain sense, but I also don’t think that this is automatically a problem. Although some might navigate their lives by saying, “This is how the world is, so I’d better figure out how to best work within those restrictions,” others might instead think, “I want to live my life as if the world is at the point I wish it to be.”

Let’s put this in the context of minorities. When it comes to the dictionary definition of a “minority,” it would only make sense that they would feel like the world does not cater to them. If there was a world where the population was 99% majority and 1% minority, then mathematically it would be unlikely for this minority to gain much traction. And yet, that does not mean someone who is a member of a minority should only ever be able to feel like they are excluded from the majority, that they cannot act as if they are the default or standard. If there is a black person, or an Asian person, or a gay person, or a transgender person, and their mindset is to behave as if they are not an outsider, that they are not the “other,” then I think that is a perfectly fine way to live.

This is also why I think the idea of “safe spaces” is often misunderstood. Sometimes you’ll see them characterized as “hug boxes,” or places that prevent people from learning to overcome adversity. If the “real world” is where iron sharpens iron, then safe spaces are supposedly sites of stagnation for individuals and groups. But their ideal function is to be a place where one can feel “normal,” that they are not some deviation that must inevitably be compared to what is most common in society. Why shouldn’t women want a world where they’re not judged first by their looks, even if the first thing we tend to notice about people is how they look? Why shouldn’t a racial minority get to spend some time without being implicitly judged by their skin tone and the cultural stereotypes they carry?

There is a downside to all this. If you live by trying to externalize your ideals, you risk creating a false perception of the world, especially if you ignore the need for reality checks. However, if you take the world “as it is,” then you might end up reinforcing hierarchies if the desire to fight is absent. What I think is especially important in the former’s case, and why I think the notion can seem so foreign to certain people is that it carries a kind of utopian desire. Rather than simply imposing one’s will upon the world and forcing it to obey, it’s a mark of a hope for a better world. Instead of the world telling you how you are, you tell the world how you are. Even if people “shouldn’t” have been outraged at Donald Trump’s words, they want the world to be one where implied sexual assault is admonished. Only by understanding this perspective can discussion really begin.

I am not someone who believes “overreaction” does not exist, or that it is a wholly unfair criticism towards liberals. It is all too easy for even well-meaning people to have knee-jerk reactions, not understand the context of a situation, and then ride their anger without looking back. Nevertheless, I do think that this desire for an ideal world is not simply a pipe dream or a refusal to acknowledge reality. The better way to look at it is as a wish for the world to be a better place starting with one’s own mind and body.

Why is Defensive Play Maligned and Is There Anything We Can Do About It?

Defensive styles get a bad rap in many arenas of competition. Whether it’s Floyd Mayweather in boxing, Jigglypuff in Super Smash Bros. Melee, or turtle play in Starcraft, a strong focus on defense can draw the ire of both players and spectators. Whether or not the defense is the product of immense skill seems to matter little except for the most hardcore or well-informed. Defense is viewed as passive, and passive is viewed as lacking in “hype.”

It’s not surprising that many people share this belief. The impact of aggressive play carries a kind of emotionally visceral thrill that the mental excitement of defensive play can’t quite fulfill, and participants (both in the game and in the audience) are frequently looking for entertainment and gratification. There’s nothing wrong with this mindset, and it’s a bit presumptuous to decry people for liking what they like (as tempting as it is to do so), but I have to wonder if anything can ever be done about this mindset such that a significant number can enjoy or appreciate defensive play.

Esports historian, writer, and commentator Duncan “Thorin” Shields has argued that people’s uses of the terms “aggression” and “passivity” are too simplistic, and that this limits their ability to discuss play styles in games. In fighting game terms, this would be the false idea that aggression can only come in the form of rushdown, constant in-your-face attacking, when there are a whole range of possibilities. I think Thorin makes an excellent point, but that still requires people to take that extra step. They have to search out information, to think more deeply about the games they play and watch, and this is perhaps more than what can be expected of an audience (though perhaps that onus should be placed on players who are critical of defensive styles).

Not that I think people like Thorin should stop what they’re doing, or that it’s pointless. They provide a valuable piece of the puzzle towards increasing people’s appreciation of competitive play, but perhaps there should be an additional step in between, something that can reach people even when their minds are not fully geared towards learning.

One possibility comes in the form of commentators often found at these events. Perhaps there needs to be a more active push by commentators in general to emphasize the positives of defensive play, and to encourage that more mental (rather than emotional) look at games and sports. One potential problem with this is that it doesn’t apply when commentators aren’t around, and that it still might not convince people’s hearts where it arguably matters most.

Is it a hopeless cause to get people who thrive on “hype” to not sneer at “overly” defensive play? Is there a future where this can happen?

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