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"Punishing the Unfortunate" Fallacy -- Why Full Refraining Doesn't Always Work

Updated: 7 days ago

A pleasant area within an airspace

During one of my journeys through videos online, I encountered an interesting suggestion: "If you are sensitive, don't use the internet!". This makes one wonder, how much does one have to restrict themselves? Just to avoid any kind of disturbance in this world? Just because they have a liability, which could cause such disturbance?

In other words, if you're epileptic, does it mean you should avoid watching videos altogether, just because not every video creator puts an epilepsy warning before each trigger?

This series of questions I asked myself also occurred when I watched a certain video where, at the end, there was an auditory overload; a short duration where there was intense music and screams.

Of course, I couldn't have predicted that, because the video was a movie review. I can't just expect, as a man with Asperger's, that every movie review will have a sensory overload session in their final part, right? Does it mean that I shouldn't watch movie reviews or videos in general?

In one other example, I was on a walk in a public place, while someone indirectly screamed in my ear from an opposite direction; they were probably calling for someone, and I just so happened to be in that unfortunate, specific positioning. Does it mean I should refrain from taking hikes, just because any random stranger could scream near me to people that are away from a talking distance?

That, you see, is what I call the "Punishing the Unfortunate" fallacy: the call to confine the more unfortunate members of society to a smaller area of living (not necessarily a defined physical space), just because of their unfortunate traits. You might find that you are rejected by general society simply because you're too different and they have difficulty at containing you like everyone else. Whether or not they are aware of it, this is a form of social discrimination.

You see, sensitive people don't necessarily choose to be sensitive. It's not something you can decrease by ordering them to be "less dramatic" or "less of a chicken" or whatever. There may be ways to reduce sensitivity but no one is obligated to do so. They might not even want to be less sensitive and may choose to see it as a strength. It is a fact that some people react more dramatically to things than other people, and it is also a fact that not all do so of their own volition; in other words, reactions are not always triggered voluntarily and not even wholeheartedlty. Our resolve/willpower is not always in line with our intentions. It's possible to act independently of willpower but I digress.

In a way, being insensitive is a privilege not all people possess. It opens for you more job opportunities, such as in reception and telemarketing (where you must talk to strangers); it makes you more immune to insults; and so on. In the end, if you happen to be sensitive like me, the inevitable fact is that you too are sharing a place in the world, just like the rest of humanity. We technically can be too much sensitive when, for example, we are repulsed by things that are good for us.

Some populations are denser; some are smaller and more isolated. Ultimately, unless you're a complete hermit, being in any kind of interpersonal forum is inevitable. Therefore, calling for a major form of isolation for someone, such as not being online, is not only unjustified but also ineffective. It is ineffective because even when there is something that makes it more difficult for them to do so, and to operate in life in general, it does not mean they should not do just that. We need, in a way, to fight for our right for presence. Otherwise we will be rejected and submit to those who are unwilling to contain us.

Of course, there are ways in which refraining from certain things works. Using the epilepsy example, it's probably a good idea to not watch a video with an epilepsy warning if you have that unfortunate condition, but that doesn't mean you should avoid any kind of online media or television.

Aside from unfortunate conditions, even without caveats, it's preferable that you live and seize life as much as you can or want. That's despite said warnings and conditions, even if it means that there will be a risk at hand.

And still, you can't expect every risk to be worth it when the stakes are too high. I like video games but wouldn't play stressful ones, as they're bad for my mental health. After all, I play them for fun and rejuvenation, not to gamble away my mental health. Is it worthy to trade wellbeing for fun?

Of course, refraining completely from gaming, would mean that I would be punishing myself for something specific that doesn't exist in the entirety of the field. Likewise, the sensitive shouldn't refrain from using the internet just because there are some insensitive people or insensitive content hidden in its corners.

This fallacy applies when people -- or even yourself -- "mistake you" for a person with a wheelchair that cannot access buildings with just stairs. Not every person with something unfortunate has something so unfortunate that should make them completely abstain from something. They too deserve it, just like a "normal" person without said "something".

For example, the fact that I have Asperger's and am sensitive to sound doesn't mean I should be deaf or refrain from watching anything with sound. Another example: people who experienced trauma may suffer from flashbacks. One shouldn't isolate themselves entirely from the world just because they suffer from flashbacks. Instead, we need to understand each other better as knowledge is a path to reduce unnecessary suffering in this world, by avoiding causing it in the first place.

In 2011 I was almost murdered and as such I may suffer from flashbacks occasionally, which could harm my concencration and cause me grief. I shouldn't be punished for almost being a victim of murder. I should be understood by those who care about me so they will know how to not trigger my flashbacks. Knowing one another can not only reduce loneliness, as I covered before, but also allow us have a better time in one another's company. This is why empathy, either emotional or cognitive, is important. We all have an innate need to be understood by those we care about.

It isn't the same weight as a person who uses a wheelchair and needs ramps to access buildings (or other kinds of accessibility, for that matter). Thus, autistic people shouldn't completely isolate themselves from audio just because specific audio makes their lives difficult. That would be punishing the unfortunate, for good or bad, by intention.

I myself am a hermit, ironically as it may sound. However, I do not let my Asperger's get in the way of my ambition to be a writer and philosophize publicly. The internet has brought me benefits as well as harm.

The fact that there is harm on the internet shouldn't make one give up the entirety of its benefits to individuals, societies, and mankind. It is, in a way, one of the few true places where you can express yourself with minimal worry for retribution by being anonymous and by not being in a physical space.

Even in a democracy, you see, you can suffer consequences for expressing yourself: violence, arrest, harassment, being fired from your job, and so on. Democracy is pretty much a spectrum rather than a specific definition, because even in the democratic world there are more democratic countries than others, whether through law, culture, or both. The quality of a democracy can technically be measured.

Even people with my specific condition can be relevant; even philosophers can be relevant in today's world. I will not let the embargo of her non-poresence defeat my ambition for greater success.orth of two things: the value of honesty and that even outsiders like me can be relevant.

Even people with my specific conditions can be relevant; even philosophers can be relevant in today's world. I will not accept being punished for being me, for there are aspects in myself you can never change.

The world would've been a far better place if we learned to accept each other rather than punishing one another for being to abnormal, whether by default or by the fact that some of us, like me, were victims of murder and other expressions of trauma.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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