Reading recently through the usual eclectic mix of blog posts and other sl paraphernalia that comes my way, a good proportion of which is both unplanned and on a complete tangent to whatever line of enquiry i happen to be following at the time, i came across a rather beligerant rant on the subject of the Flag.
The Flag in question is the American flag and the point that had given rise to the post i’d happened upon was the singular question of wearing the Flag in sl. The writer was somewhat incensed by the propensity of some to sport the star-spangled banner on bikinis, skimpy shorts and pretty much any other item of clothing that it’s possible to wear, (although i suspect it was the shorts and bikinis that really irked the author).
The debate that ensued highlighted for me a point that will inevitably crop up from time to time in sl, simply because of the nature of the virtual beast. As a Brit, the word ‘patriotism’ has a very different slant and interpretation to that which – to an observer, at least – is endemic within American culture. To me, and i suspect the greater proportion of my compatriots, the concept that wearing the national flag is somehow unpatriotic, even demeaning to one’s country, is bizarre and not something that would ever occur to us. Don’t misunderstand me, i can entirely appreciate the reasoning, and i admire the sort of attitude that defends the values that people believe in – heaven knows, we could do with a lot more of that in the world – but, to a Brit, it’s an argument that would rarely, if ever be debated. Bear in mind that i write to you from the country that brought you Ginger Spice’s Union Jack dress, and maybe those of you not native to the British Isles, will understand a little more about where i’m coming from. To be fair, it is enshrined in US legislation that the Flag should not be used for decoration or as clothing, whereas over here in dear old Blighty, not only do we have no law on the matter, neither is there any statute providing for a flag at all… yes folks, officially the UK has no official flag!
However, before i cause a rift in transatlantic relations, none of the preceding waffle has any bearing upon my thought for the day, other than to illustrate the vast differences in understanding that can surface in sl as a result of the co-mingling of cultures, nationalities, values and beliefs. SL is very much a melting pot, into which an hugely diverse group of people are thrown. We are thrust together, often in contexts that we’d be unlikely to experience outside sl, and, for better or worse, we get on with the job of getting on with each other. What never ceases to surprise me, is just how well we succeed! Somehow, we seem to be able to overcome barriers, not just of cultural diversity, but also language, and timezones with an ease and degree of tolerance that is frequently conspicuous by its absence in rl.
It’s entirely possible that this state of affairs can arise because – by necessity – when signing up for sl we elect to be subject to a whole new set of rules and community guidelines – distinct and separate from those which govern us in the real world – rules which are ostensibly designed for the common good. The more cynical may argue that the TOS are specifically geared towards the good of Linden Lab – this is, of course, to a degree true and absolutely necessary, although any binding agreement that defines acceptable behaviours, community standards and moral guidelines must, by definition, also work for the common good. Whilst we’re on the subject, i offer no opinion on the current debate raging about the TOS… i’m happy to leave it to the lawyers, loudmouths and those whose vested interest in the eventual outcome is far greater than mine – i’m just here to have fun!
Rules and regulations aside, you could argue that – unlike rl – the sl resident has at their disposal an array of tools that, even if they don’t actually promote good relations between avatars, certainly provide a convenient means for avoiding conflict. Report, mute, ban and eject are convenient and remarkably effective methods of avoiding landing ourselves in the kind of war zones that litter the real world – often literally. Unlike rl arguments, feuds, guns and punches in the hooter, the worst that can really result from them is hurt feelings and a loss of dignity – hardly the end of the world, let’s be honest.
Maybe i’m completely barking up the wrong tree – perhaps the real reason we seem to mostly get along terribly well in sl is the reason that we’re there in the first place… to have fun, to explore our creativity and that of others and, just maybe, to escape the dramas and differences of opinion that we have no option than to put up with in the real world. Maybe we’re just that little bit better people when we’re pixellated?
If you’re so brave, then face the tide
There’s no mercy in this life
Now it’s time to feel and see
What is fiction and what’s reality
Enigma – Hello And Welcome