I can’t remember which of the earlier installments revealed the Law, but I do remember Virgil teaching it to others in Battle for the Planet o the Apes.
Ape shall never kill ape.
Yeah, it’s nothing more than a variation of “Thou shalt not kill”, but it’s a little easier to apply laws made by and for monkeys to the freelance writing world than to go straight at the Judeo-Christian source material.
There’s no reason to anger the faithful with a trivialization of Commandment One.
That’s why I’m going with the version that appears in the Lawgiver’s scrolls instead of the one from the stone tablets. It’s better to work with the one involving Astronaut Charlton Hesston than the one with the Moses Charlton Hesston.
“Ape shall never kill ape” is good policy. Anything that originates with John Huston wearing prosthetic wise old monkey features probably is.
If you want your society to flourish, it’s a good idea not to beat up on one another. The gorilla shouldn’t whack the chimp. The chimp shouldn’t poison the orangutan. The orangutan shouldn’t put a contract out on the gorilla. Etc.
Things only work when the divisions between us aren’t potentially fatal.
We could easily start pontificating on that principle and what it says about the way the nations and religions of the world treat and kill one another, but I’m going to dial it way back. I want to talk about The Law and the various groups of freelance writers who share the same Internet.
There’s a lot of ape-killing going on out there, folks. That statue of the Lawgiver is weeping again and this time the tears aren’t open to multiple interpretations. It’s all about sadness stemming from our transgressions.
The comments on a recent FWJ post are a great example. There are enough dead apes to dissuade a number of writers from engaging their peers.
- Ape kills ape when the pennies-per-word content writers sneer at the haughty, elitist dollars-per-word people.
- Ape kills ape when the high-rate writers attack the low-rate writers and when they decide to “take pity on those poor fools who know not what they do.”
- Ape kills ape when the refined essayist condemns the hardnosed copywriter who loves screaming, red-headlined direct response work.
- Ape kills ape when that copywriter starts calling others “shitweasels” ala Joe Vitale and when the cool kids who don’t believe in “push” piss over those screaming red headlines.
- Ape kills ape when cliquishness trumps community and when back-biting beats collegiality.
Today, I’m a zealot in support of the Lawmaker’s number one rule. That’s the way it usually is with recent converts, right?
You see, I haven’t always embraced “ape shall never kill ape”. I’ve killed in self-defense, which I hope is forgivable in Mr. Huston’s eyes. I’ve whipped other apes for sake of amusing those who are predisposed to agreeing with me in the first place. I’ve also killed out of frustration and I’ve even buried a few of my fellow monkeys just because I could.
Overall, I think I’ve done okay. But I know I’ve been a smart-assed chimp, a vicious gorilla and a know-it-all orangutan at one time or another. Now I see the light.
I’m done with it.
That doesn’t mean I’m done with the discussions. I’m not going to silently nod and eat a banana when I hear something with which I disagree. I’ll still speak up. But I’m going to do it with a little more tact and a lot less bloodlust.
I know that Deb has mentioned her intent to stay positive. From a distance, I’ve always thought that sounded like a damn good idea. Personally, I didn’t know if I could do it.
I’m a natural born smart-ass and I actually enjoy (like REALLY enjoy) a heated argument. As twisted as this may sound, I also like pushing people’s buttons during those arguments. I have a full buffet of sarcasm and a pitcher of ice cold mean to serve and I’ve always been willing to dole out seconds. I also come from a background in competitive argumentation, where a little viciousness was recognized by all involved as a way to inject some humanity into otherwise analytical exchanges and where no one took it personally, unlike the way they do in the real world.
That’s why I’ve advised others to argue things out and to grow thick skins in the process.
That’s still good advice, I guess. I still believe that frank, open, smart disagreements can transform perspectives and push us closer to the ever-elusive truth. I’m a recent convert to the Law, but I’ve always been a marketplace of ideas adherent.
And there will be many apes who will disregard the Law. It’s good to wear a fireproof tunic over your thick furry self when you enter into arguments with those people.
But that doesn’t justify being mean. “Ape shall never kill ape” is good law for a reason.
When we’re not snarky, sassy, pissy, mean insult-tossers, we actually increase the likelihood of having others listen to our arguments. You get style points for the best “yo’ mama is so fat” line, but that rarely persuades anyone to change his or her mind. If the argument is worth having, it’s worth giving up the mockery and attitude to improve the dialog.
Plus, it’s nice. You know what I mean? It doesn’t hurt people’s feelings. Even the thick-skinned have feelings. Sometimes it’s their sensitivity that led to the development of those tough hides (even though they’d never admit to that).
If I disagreed with you last week, I probably still think you’re wrong. I won’t pretend otherwise. But I won’t engage you in the debate or blog about your position in a mean-spirited or negative way. It’s a bad habit that’s just not really working for me anymore.
It’s not that fun and it’s way too easy.
I might slip up here and there. Okay, I will. But I’m gonna give it a try. I hope others do likewise.