It's a little mortifying when someone you disagree with on an almost day-to-day basis on politics, technology's role in politics—and even on how to disagree with someone—has something to say that is enlightening. But because partisanship—and especially partisanship against something or someone—is a vile cancer that spreads even among those who, like myself, should know better, it's important to point out something that goes not only goes against what one is partisan to or against, but that actually makes sense.
It's with the disposal of that preamble that I turn to Dave Winer's short essay on friendship. Here's a good bit:
Most people use the term Friend far too casually. But if they had reason to pause, to think if so and so is really a friend, they would realize they either don't know (the relationship hasn't been tested), or they are not.
A rather close friendship of mine, while "merely" an online friendship, was put to the test in the period between December of last year and February of this year. The test may have lasted as late as March, since I stopped keeping records of all my IM conversations around then. To be honest, I thought it was over when she said "fuck you" to me, which was actually the first time someone ever said "fuck you" to me and really meant it. The test happened because of very complicated reasons, but it may have had its origins in September because I was spooked. (She knows why. It's none of your damn business, and I'll thank you to stay out of my personal affairs.)
Friendship is not about always being nice, or agreeable, far from it. A friend will tell you when he or she thinks you're full of shit, but always casts it that way, never as a statement of fact. It's a fine but important distinction. If I say "you're full of shit" to a friend, it must be understood that this is my opinion only. Further, it's more likely that he or she is not the one who's so full, it's more likely that I am. That's why I cringe when someone, in the name of friendship, says this to me. Usually they're wrong, but there's no point arguing, they're in some kind of trance, pedaling hard to avoid looking at something they desperately want to avoid.
I demand honesty and sensitivity from my friends, never eloquence. Eloquence is saying something with dramatic flair and flourish, but being sensitive means pointing out when I'm wrong in a nice way. I prefer to be told facts, because opinions can neither be proved nor disproved, but facts can. (And calling you a liar when stating a fact about yourself doesn't exactly help my situation.) An example: "you're an asshole" will get a shrug from me (partly because I already know that, but also partly because it's your opinion), but if you say "you hurt my feelings when..." you're stating a fact, and more often than not it makes me feel bad to know that and I'll want to apologize and make it up somehow.
All the things I wanted my girlfriend to do, to be like, were actually things I wanted of myself, and of course were tapes I recorded in early life, before any glimmer of consciousness. In the end I survived perfectly well without the babe. But the lesson has stayed with me, vividly. So I'm wary of supposed friends who tell me they know what I need to do to straighten my life out. They're full of shit. Always. (Almost.)
He kind of loses me with the discussion of tapes, but he's absolutely right: I desperately wanted (and to a degree still want, though not as desperately) to change how my friends behave, but it's only recently that I figured out if I love them unconditionally for who they are, and that however badly I think they treat people other than me, it's not my fucking problem, and when I sit down and calmly think about it, my friends are my friends because of how they treat me. The girl who said "fuck you" to me never really wronged me. She has been, on the contrary, rather kind to me, and on at least some level, respects me. I've tried to repay her kindness with admiration, but I suspect it takes me longer than she would like for me to admit it. It's like that for all my friends: most don't know I think the world of them, but that's simply because I haven't told them yet.
It's this line that speaks to me most, thinking about the past 10 months (and how those past 10 months relate to the last 7+ years): "In the end I survived perfectly well without the babe." Babes come and go (okay, for me they just go), but true friends are forever. Pretty close to forever, anyway.