Sunday, October 30, 2005

Conduct Unbecoming - Greg Rucka

Conduct Unbecoming:
"...I'm finding it harder and harder to retreat into the jaded cynicism and self-aware - or at least self-referential - irony that I see in almost all the fellows of my generation.

I know myself well-enough to know that this isn't a post 9/11 realisation, that it's not part of some sappy conflation of flag-waving and posturing leading to a kinder-gentler anything. It may simply be part of the process of growing older, if not just of growing old. Example: I used to watch every episode of OZ religiously; then I had a son, and suddenly prison-gang rape lost its appeal.

Go figure.

I used to work on ambulances. I didn't do it much, and I didn't do it for long, but for a brief period of misspent youth, I was a certified Emergency Medical Technician for the State of New York. I even got to carry a badge and make the lights and sirens go. Great gig, except for the inevitable assault of human suffering. Saw a lot of people in a lot of pain in a lot of ways, but that wasn't what really got to me.

What got to me was the contempt with which my fellow EMTs seemed to hold every patient. According to my fellow medical professionals, most everyone was a liar, or a cheat, or a malingerer, or a junkie, or worse. Racial epithets were common. Racial stereotyping was prevalent. It was relentless. The job was to care and transport the sick and injured, and unless you had a car wrapped around your abdomen, most of the techs I worked with were 100% certain you were faking.

This behaviour is by no means unique to the emergency medical field. I know a handful of cops who act much the same way, and I'm sure that it's prevalent in, for lack of a better word, other 'service' professions. It's primarily, I suppose, a defensive mechanism, a means to insulate, and to foster a more them-versus-us mentality. It doesn't make it excusable, but it perhaps makes it explicable. After all, there are only so many times one can feel compassionate to the same drunk when, night after night, you respond to a call of him lying in his own vomit.

So that's explicable to me. The environment is one of intense pressure, and it leads to compassion fatigue.

Why the hell am I seeing the same thing in comics?

I am unaware of any industry that so actively holds its most ardent fans in as much contempt as comics do to theirs. And more and more, it seems to me that is exactly what we do, and it's not restricted to only the working professionals of the industry. Fans do it as well, actively deriding one another for their passions, actively demeaning themselves for their love of the medium.

It's never wise, and it's certainly not kind, to diminish another's passion. Yet more and more, in both fan-based press and in professional commentary, that is exactly what happens..."

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