The Paradox of Experience: You’re Cancelled Bro!


“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” -Niels Bohr

As a gamer, I have found that the games where I do best are the games where I have made the most mistakes. Those mistakes then inform my next decision in hopes of making a more calculated or strategic move in order to meet my objective. Isn’t this what experience is all about? We hit a barrier then learn how to lower or circumvent it, in order to complete our objective?

I wonder, though, where I do the best in these games, what would happen if I just never died due to setting the difficulty to extremely easy. What, then, would be the expected result if I started playing multiplayer games against other people? Would they also be set at extremely easy? Isn’t that kind of analogous to only talking to people who agree with us? Extremely easy setting with minimal to no challenge.

Would we be in a position to rise to the occasion if all we have known is “easy street”? Is that even meaningful experience?

Let me take you through an embarrassing moment for me while gaming. The year was 2005. I was raiding Vanilla (original) World of Warcraft. The first few raids were insane and difficult. The regular mobs leading up to the bosses would wipe our entire raid of 40 people. Those are days I don’t miss and yet they made me a better player, and where I allowed it, perhaps a better person.

As we made progress in this game, there came a boss named Baron Geddon. He was a giant fire elemental who would randomly choose someone to be “the bomb”. Eventually, mods would be created to help people see if they were the bomb or not but at the beginning, you just had to be hyper-vigilant.

So there I was, healing away as a druid, chilling next to other healers because that’s simply how I fell into battle formation. A problem I had at the beginning was focusing so much on the health bars of raid members that I could fail to miss the most important issue immediately facing me; Baron Geddon just made me the bomb.

So what does that mean? Exactly what you think a bomb means. You blow the hell up, fly way up in the air, and take fall damage to boot if you survive the blast. Total adding insult to injury moment. That said, when I blow up, anyone near me blows up as well. If I don’t see that I’m the bomb and I’m chilling next to the other healers, what do you think happens when I blow up? Yup, our tank who is holding Geddon in the middle of the map dies due to lack of heals, and Geddon one by one goes around punching people in the face with his literal fists of fire.

Because I wasn’t paying attention, I wiped the entire raid. Because I wasn’t paying attention, I wasted 39 other people’s time. Guess what happened next time I faced Geddon while raiding? Yup, hyper-vigilant about me being the bomb. Inevitably I would become the bomb, and the tactic is to immediately run for an open area where even if I died, I knew I saved lives by paying attention and reacting accordingly.

I made a mistake; catastrophic even. The rest of the guild (group of players), while annoyed, gave me the room to grow and learn from my mistakes. This made me a better player and helped to shape my ‘out of game’ narrative to consider if I was in a position to figuratively explode, how do I minimize the destruction? How do I maintain the integrity of those around me by not compromising them with my situation, while also leaning on them to help me grow when surely I will make future mistakes?

We now live in the age of cancel culture. If I was playing WoW and was canceled, I never would have seen end game content nor got the gear I had. I never would have had the chance to grow as a player nor as a person, because any mistake that inconveniences or challenges the viewpoint of others, would discard me to the trash heap. Yet if no one was allowed the ability to grow, likely not a single raid would make it passed Geddon, because they wouldn’t have the experience to rely on and knowledge to pull from past experience.

I wonder, in the same way that raiding together allows us to see greater fights and more difficult obstacles, wouldn’t this translate near directly to real life? If I was robbed of the opportunity of learning from my lapse of awareness that I was the bomb, I wouldn’t be able to guide new players with my new-found wisdom. As Niels Bohr puts it, I wouldn’t have been able to become an expert in this field.

If we go around and cancel anyone who we feel has problematic views or says something we find disagreeable, when the moment comes where we need to lock arms in solidarity, didn’t we just nerf our ability to compete? Who benefits from cancel culture? Surely not the working-class.

I don’t believe that America is a meritocracy but many do. With that in mind, if we truly are a meritocracy and we rise to the level of our merit, no one is born with merit. They build it. They craft it. A baby tries to stand up, falls, then crawls over to a couch to support them in their next attempt at standing. If we canceled this baby for falling on their first attempt at standing, they’d be crawling on the ground their entire lives.

Yeah, I get that this seems silly, to cancel a baby, yet how many people have infantile thoughts that run in their heads and don’t really know how infantile they are until challenged? Isn’t that what life is about? Doing something stupid and learning from it? That pretty much sums up the average childhood, no?

If we cancel the stupid instead of grooming it to be better, we rob ourselves of our greatest weapon against tyranny; wisdom. This paradox of tolerance, in my approximation, states:: In order for any society that is supremely tolerant to maintain its tolerance, it needs to be intolerant of intolerance. In the same way that Nazis are intolerant of everyone, we chase them out of society by being intolerant of their intolerance. We guard against their tyranny by being intolerant of it. Otherwise, the intolerant will ruin a tolerant society.

While cancel culture doesn’t stuff people into ovens or train cars to die of exposure, it surely strikes a death blow to the collective awareness and consciousness of the general population. It is supreme intolerance of any mistake at the whim of the bloodthirsty mobs (figurative).

When in real life we run into a Baron Geddon, we are no longer armed with any sense of experience to guide our current and present moment, because we canceled anyone able to inform us of the wisdom they have curated. We robbed ourselves the ability to grow better and stronger, and by that, we become tyrannical dictators of thought crimes. I mean, is it really a stretch to say that any wrong mistake will get you canceled will then lead to any wrong thought will also?

To purposefully prevent any learning via experience, we create a system where our present person is the enemy of our future selves. I challenge you all to defy cancel culture. If we truly want to become a tolerant society, we can demand no less of ourselves.

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there.” -Anonymous


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