Perry Writes About Richard Armitage’s 2nd Annual Cybersmile Post

Stop-Cyberbullying-Day-2016-Richard-Armitage

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After I read Richard Armitage’s blog post for Cybersmile a few times, I chose not to read what any other fan said about his piece. I kept away from all social media. I have no idea whether my musings here are going to be from left field, center, or off base.

As many suspected, “empathy” is a key theme in Richard Armitage’s  Cybersmile post, though it was not all he discussed.

I understand and get that overall, Richard Armitage was once again sharing personal and professional experiences to make a point, the Cybersmile point, about watching our words, trying to see the position of the other side ( mainly by being empathetic) and, I think not being judgmental about other people’s actions – especially on social networks.

The main message is that we can hurt each other with words, which are our only weapons on social media, and we should think before we write – we ought to think about how what we say may hurt someone else – we ought to put ourselves in their shoes.

Fine.

I wish that instead of the command must, that he would have said ought or  I wish people would. . . . 

On the web our words are our weapons and we must try to temper them. We must consider the other persons [sic] feelings before we express our own, consider how our words wound. There is a much more dangerous undercurrent ‘cooking’ on the web also fuelled by words. It scaremongers, it rouses, it radicalises. In our own small way we can champion harmony, tolerance, balance and forgiveness.

Never underestimate your words. Use them carefully and for the better; if, like me, it’s the kind of society you believe in.

His reference to weapons actually harks back two paragraphs earlier, to his discussion of opposites: the good guys and the bad guys; right or wrong, and how such broad generalizations can be problematic ( my words not his), especially if the “sides” have weapons which they use in a final showdown. In a larger sense, he can be talking about the actual state of our society right now and in a smaller sense, he can be talking about communities on the web like his own fandom. I think he’s trying to say that it’s best to avoid the simplistic and look more closely at issues to see the other side’s point. This is a version of how he sees empathy, I guess.

If one just wants to take that broad message from an ambassador of Cybersmile and walk away happy. I think Richard Armitage achieved his goal, as many fans and readers will do and feel just that way.

Even I will, because I get what I think the tenor of his message is, what his mission as ambassador is, and let it go at that.

By now, I don’t expect him to be an organized writer. I had a comment once from someone in the know when it comes to actors’ writing, and she shared that many of them just shoot from the hip,  and are kind of loose with how they express themselves. [ETA: the commenter was HeatherParrish (see below) and her comment was on this post]

Now, I know there are some fans who think, we ought to leave it at that and not pick apart every word he says. But, just as you as a fan may be interested in where he goes, who he’s with, what he’s wearing, his career, his performances, his interviews, (me, too, for most of those – okay all of them), I am also interested in how he expresses himself when he’s communicating to me/us.

So, just to be safe, I’ll say it again – I have no real issue with the Cybersmilish sentiments Richard Armitage expressed, but I also think, as I have with much of his writing in the past, it’s confusing and one has to work really hard to get all of the message.

I think maybe he tried to address too much in this essay. Perhaps he was compensating for his Orlando tweet fiasco, because, he wrote this:

Make no mistake, there are ‘actions’ in this world which are inconceivable and abhorrent, but it takes a human being to make ‘intention’, action. It made [sic] be a damaged human being, a damaged society but we do all spring from the same place and return there ultimately, wherever or whatever you believe that place to be.

And then, he let it just sit there, until he went back to his good guy/bad guy theme, and the fact that words are weapons.

I think he was acknowledging  that despite the gray areas between good and bad guys, ( despite what he has just said)  there are, indeed, really bad guys. I’m just not sure what he wants us do about that or think about that. He left me, as the reader hanging. I don’t expect Richard Armitage to have a solution to maniacal, lone gunmen or genocide, and I’m glad he said something relevant about the horrific tragedies we’ve recently witnessed, but, this particular paragraph was one of those paragraphs of his that leaves me wishing he were a better writer. That’s all. I wish he were a better writer.

He starts off his post talking about empathy, and, goes on, for once, defining  what it means to him,

I believe every human being deserves empathy. That word is often misconstrued; to me it means ‘to put oneself in the shoes of another in the attempt to understand them’. It’s key to my work, and perhaps, as my friend the psychologist suggested, key to functioning harmoniously in society. Its a good word. It’s not easy to practice.

If that’s his definition of empathy, then I’m sure it works for him as an actor if he’s able to do it; however, it is not exactly my definition of empathy, which  has less to do with understanding another person and more to do with sharing his or her feelings.

Richard Armitage’s definition of empathy is a tool I used as a lawyer – trying to put myself in the shoes of the the other side to figure out what he or she really wants, or what’s motivating him/her/them. That’s a psychological aspect of it which worked well because it gave me the ability to exert some control over someone else’s response and actions by playing into another’s feelings and motivation. But I wouldn’t really call it empathy.

Either way, unlike Richard Armitage, I don’t believe that every human being deserves empathy – either his version of it, or mine. I do believe that when I write, say or do something that involves another, I should, and always am, thinking about how it will be received. ( Well, except for those occasional blurt outs).

On the other hand, through my experiencing blogging and commenting, I know this – no matter how carefully  and precisely I say what I want to say, and mean what I say, there will be some readers who take my words with a different meaning, either by ignoring my actual words, or reading something else into them.

Richard Armitage also wrote about leaving ourselves alone, which he and his psychologist friend say means silencing those negative voices we all hear in our heads.  Of course, who can argue with the notion that we should try and break ourselves out of destructive patterns in our life? On the other hand,  I think those negative voices can be a positive in some respects and under some circumstances, and I don’t know if I agree that we always exert those negative feelings outwards, as he claims. I think this is one of those topics that can be viewed in so many different ways that it’s futile to discuss it from a distance.

Whatever, it seems to me that Richard Armitage has some difficulty getting rid of all of his negative voices, and may not be as easy on himself as he wishes us to be on ourselves.

I hope he reaches the point to which he aspires.

Meanwhile, he did a competent job for Cybersmile.

 

 

 

 

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35 thoughts on “Perry Writes About Richard Armitage’s 2nd Annual Cybersmile Post

  1. Pingback: Perry on Armitage on Cybersmile | Me + Richard Armitage

  2. Empathy to me is to understand another not for any sort of personal gain other than gaining of the understanding of that other persons thoughts and feelings (just my personal definition)

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      • Thanks. I don’t see in any dictionary definition where empathy has to be altruistic, but we define it as we need to. No question the example I gave of how I found it useful as a lawyer to “stand in someone else’s shoes” had an element of “gain” or advantage.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi – first, I think the comment about actors’ writing being “woo woo” was mine (on the post about the Christmas message). And I agree with your assessment of this piece. I’m in favor of the general concepts he’s putting out there in the world and try to subscribe to them myself, but they would be helped with a bit more specificity on how to take action.

    I think his writing needs a director the way an actor needs a director, in other words. (I won’t bore you with more actory-actorson theater nonsense here!)

    But as a director who absolutely LOVES how actors put emphasis on stirring emotion and on fully embracing their own, I’m partial to a little bit of “woo woo”. He seems to think in emotions first and I admire that, perhaps because I have to work a bit harder at that myself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for saving me the research. I updated the post to reflect your previous comment. I knew you used some term, like ditzy or spacey, but neither seemed quite right. I’m always interested in hearing about actoring ( my own word?) from someone with experience, about this, doublets, whatever. I could never think with emotions – or maybe I don’t understand what you mean. I react with emotions first, sometimes just internally, but then I think about them and about whatever it is, before I take the next step.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I poorly phrased that “think with emotions” thing. It is definitely closer to what you describe (react with emotions). It’s just that actors are often trained to “stay with that emotion” even as they are thinking through the situation with their heads.

        The experience of tender emotion and vulnerability can become a justification in and of itself for many actors. It is one of the addicting things about the profession.

        Not all of them, of course. Others are quite good at compartmentalizing and accessing emotion only when necessary.

        But most tend to function more in the realm of emotion or sensitivity as a primary mode, with reasoning and logic as the support for the emotion (not the other way around).

        Does that make any sense? (I’m on my phone on the way to a performance and so my own writing skills are at a disadvantage this way. Lol!)

        It’s all speculation regarding actors I don’t know, of course. I could go on about this stuff for days.

        Liked by 2 people

        • It makes sense to me. I’m giving more thought to the notion that one’s art or work, if it requires feelings we don’t have regularly, can be addictive – can feel good. I don’t know if that’s what you mean.

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          • Yeah, perhaps “can feel satisfying” is slightly closer. The emotional vulnerability that they tend to have running just under the surface (which they allow to come loose during performance) can be uncomfortable as often as it is a thrill. But since they value feeling things fully and connecting through emotion, vulnerability tends to have a big, satisfying payoff. They experience more intense personal connections (friendships are very intense and romantic life is more consuming) and more expansive intellectual connections than when they try to dampen the feelings down.

            But that DOESN’T mean that they should always just let it loose in everyday life. The ones that do are often perceived as off-balance (they kind of are) or difficult or high maintenance. The way that they balance (or “temper”) their own feelings is by trying to enter into the feelings of others – staying sensitive to the larger world, not just themselves and their own POV.

            Sometimes, they wish they could be more like “regular people” and have their emotions take a secondary place, but they couldn’t do their jobs quite so well if they were. That’s why audiences are attracted to them: emotional vulnerability is very compelling, if sometimes infuriating.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I think his piece showed the influence of the counseling viewpoint- and from that perspective, I fully agree that everyone deserves empathy. Understanding & hearing out someone’s perspective can definitely be healing, especially paired with words expressing respect and understanding.

    But I too thought that applying this to the macro / societal level didn’t work as well as the micro / personal one. Too many issues that add complexity …but I basically liked the piece, and always enjoy a window into how his mind works. His compassion can’t be doubted, which is lovely to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with what you think about the therapeutic value of understanding and hearing, but I wouldn’t call that empathy, using my definition – not his – because I, as listener, may not be sharing those feelings, although I’m learning about them and understanding how the person feels. I can come close to empathy for the families of the victims in Orlando because I shared a somewhat similar experience ( only somewhat – more removed, not the loss of loved one, but people I knew, senseless killing), but I can’t empathize with, for example, the shooter, because there’s no way I can share or even understand the feelings that drove him to that horrendous act. And I don’t think he deserves empathy and his feelings are not feelings I want to share.

      I also enjoy the window into his mind – hazy as it might sometimes be.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And I think empathy with people who do despicable things isn’t something anyone looks forward to. Counselors and criminal profilers are maybe the few who take it on professionally, as an obligation. Richard showed willingness to do it with Dolarhyde, so I think that underlies his sense that his empathic skills are better than average, and I would agree. But for those professionals I mentioned (at least counselors) it’s paired with unconditional positive regard, which enters into those feelings not just without judgment, but also respecting & communicating the inherent value of the person as distinct from condoning/agreeing with their behavior. It’s an incredibly fine line. And not intended to express or support a sense of moral equivalency. More like meeting the person where they are in order to assist them at their true starting point.

        And I meant to say, Perry, I appreciated your post and POV. More disciplined than I could be, avoiding being shaped by the other social media thoughts 😀

        Liked by 2 people

      • And I also want to apologize, because reading back I sound unusually pedantic 😛 I think because these concepts, even including empathy, can be pretty amorphous and even harder to apply (to me anyway), I find myself running on & on, ayiyi. Thanks again for the great post.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Armitage Weekly Round-up 2016/24 | Guylty Pleasure

  6. Hi Perry, I appreciate your insightful points about Richard Armitage possibly needing to “dial back” his suggestion wording from seeming to command to more of a hopeful wish, empathy, and such. I concur.

    I have provided the link for your post here ina comment on my essay on the essay post.

    I would also add that Richard Armitage’s phrasing where he indicates “On the web our words are weapons”, I would rather he had chosen “tools or instruments”, rather than “weapons”. But I still admire his bluntness in this regard. Because unfortunately, some people do treat their words as weapons on the web–as we see “trolls” and seemingly “troll wannabees” (Ha!) make negative and inflammatory comments time and again, on Twitter especially.

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  7. Richard is not a professional wordsmith. I’m a lawyer, too. You can’t parse a normal person’s speech like a statute. What he said is from the heart and it’s lovely. He means well, he’s a very kind loving person. Let’s all appreciate that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome to the blog. As a fellow lawyer, I hope you didn’t mean to suggest that we are not normal. I think one ought to be able to analyze a “normal” person’s writing, perhaps not like a statute, but from a composition and grammatical perspective, and to discuss the ideas contained therein. If you think every thing he wrote was lovely, or the gesture in its entirety was lovely, then he succeeded.

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  8. Nice analysis! And yes, I wish he was a better writer too, because, just like his first Cybersmile post, I had to read it several times to actually get it all. I felt it was better than the first post, though, but yes, still a little rambling. I do really like the general sentiment of what (I think) he wrote, even though we (some fans) may not agree on all the details of his post. 🙂

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  9. Pingback: Empathicalism part two | The Book of Esther

  10. Enjoyed your post. I think the empathy theme was too broad for me. Kinda like the term bullying is too broad. I have no problem putting myself into the shoes of others and have to do this over the course of my day at work. But I don’t believe everyone deserves empathy. I don’t believe I should waste my time on those really evil people in this world. However, while reading his message two shows I’ve watched came to mind. How many of us had some empathy for Francis Dolarhyde? I did to a point until I thought of the families he killed. I love The Walking Dead and they often explore the topics of “good” and “evil”. How you can have two groups who see themselves as good while doing evil things.

    As for this statement, “We all do it, we have expectations not just for ourselves but for how others should behave and function around us, face to face and in cyberspace. When we start to free ourselves from those expectations we allow ourselves to be surprised without judgement” As a parent and wife I couldn’t disagree more. If I didn’t have my expectations in place things would not get done around here. Being a parent you need to teach your kid how to behave and have expectations in place.

    Carolyn

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    • Yeah, there was nothing about Francis Dolarhyde, even if he weren’t a serial killer, with which I could empathize. I can understand why and how he became a damaged person – but that’s it. And honestly, the “free yourself” thing, I don’t know if I get what he meant, or whether how I took it is as he meant it.

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  11. Pingback: When empathy is a lie: This will be intellectual and political #richardarmitage | Me + Richard Armitage

  12. I enjoyed reading you not least because you know how to make a good argument. I enjoyed following your train of thought is what I mean 😊 I also liked the example you gave on empathy. It’s not a word I use because I have difficulty pinning down the boundaries between empathy and understanding, sympathy, identification with others etc. And there are I think quite significant difference between exersing empathy professionally as it involves training and conditioning and very clear purpose for empathy exercised compared to every day instances. Interesting thoughts and again a different nuance to what I read. I actually enjoy the rambling ways because it makes we really think about the whys of what he says and what he means and also it stimulates very good and complex debate which can only be positive. I think I might add my own thoughts too…. maybe.

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  13. Hi Perry, I saw this on Servetus’ blog and appreciated your analysis because it gives me a broader view and possibly understanding of what he is trying to convey. Speaking from the point of an unorganized writer (which I don’t enjoy anyway, writing that is) the point that sticks out to me, is that it would be beneficial if he did have an editor. I do not see that happening, but it could possibly make his message clearer, more concise and who knows, maybe even effective in reaching a wider audience. I nominate Kathy Jones, based on the fact that she helps me on a professional basis and has edited material for me (I am a disorganized writer) making what I am trying to say better. I know lots of editors, but I’m naming Kathy because I noticed she commented here as well and she really is good. The biggest roadblock I see to that ever happening is what I’ve seen in the arena I work in, “celebrity writers” don’t get edited the way they should be, unless you have a damn good editor, even then, if the editor needs the job and feels they will lose the job, well that doesn’t help either.

    In my opinion, I see Mr.A as naive in some of his public opinions because I believe he has not had (not criticizing, my husband is in the same category) enough experience with a wide variety of the public. Think about it, when Mr A is walking a movie premiere line signing autographs, he has body guards, publicists and handlers to protect his interests.

    One exercise I recommend for artists in our “celebrity” arena, is for them spend a (busy) day in a comic store to get a little insight. It is crazy fun for some artists too, I’ve watch Neil Gaiman (he is too famous now to get away with it) help customers find comics on the shelves and answer the phone. He is not the only one to do this but thought he might be recognizable enough for some here to get the idea.

    An actor I have worked with, Lance Henriksen, always behaves with the utmost kindness and empathy when he is in public. He believes it is the only appropriate way to behave. Consequently, I have seen people take advantage of him and even when he realizes what they are doing, he lets them get away with it. (Not that I let it happen if I am around.) I think I understand where they are coming from, not that I agree.

    I see the vast majority of the public as not having any empathy at all. No one seems to have manners anymore, forget empathy, kindness or consideration for others. I work in retail full time, I also do work for ComicCon International, WonderCon and MBA mascot, to mention a few other organizations which put me in direct contact with thousands of people every month. I do not believe I have an empathic view of most people, most of the time, I am cautious and expect the worst.

    Someone is always going to be offended no matter what you say or do, or how you write it. Again, why a good editor and fairly thick skin can really make the difference.

    The biggest downside I see to the Cybersmile (could be wrong, have not visited the website in a year) effort, while it is needed, better to make an effort than to do nothing, I wonder if their efforts only preach to the converted. The people that need to know how to behave, have manners, not bully, well they are the ones not easily reached. Think about it, the kids who bully at school? Is it the kids whose parents are conscientious? Involved? Actively trying to help civilize their kids? How do you reach kids that don’t come from good places? What about children born to drug addicted mothers? Their brains are incapable of developing normally, forget learning empathy, trying to help them learn to function in society is extremely difficult at best. The root of the problem? Reaching and educating those that need the guidance to change or stop their bullying is the root of the problem. In my opinion of course.

    Sorry for the long diatribe, I never intended to write on Mr. A’s Cybersmile post at all, until I read your analysis. 😀

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    • Did KJ help with this? I don’t think it’s disorganized. I think an editor would help him – editors – or just another pair of eyes, can help most writers. (Some believe he had some help with this last one.) I think Cybersmile is probably less successful with stopping bad behavior than it is with giving aid and support to those who are victims. This is off the top of my head and based on my view of human nature. There may be a small percentage of CS users who don’t realize they’re engaging in poor behavior – but, as you say, the real bullies, the mean people – they don’t care and they’re not going to stop because of Cybersmile. Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed piece. Your job sounds like great fun!

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      • Haha, you sure know how to turn a girl on 😈. No Kathy Jones did not help me with it. I guess I didn’t think about that point, that CS might be helping victims of bullying. I was focused on the stopping of bullying behavior aspect.

        My job can be fun, but leaves very few minutes a day for any free time to do stuff I really enjoy. You know, RA appreciation and whatnot 🐶. There are many non-fun elements in the work I do. Kathy has been a first hand witness to some of that frustration. Thankfully, she has also been my lifeline a few times too. Like everything, it is still a job, one I am grateful to have, but it is work.

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