Friday, March 6, 2020

The Three Gates of Speech

I recently attended the Wireless LAN Professionals Conference in Phoenix and the conference itself was professional and informative on all things Wi-Fi. Many photos were taken, many groups gathered and did various activities. The women attendee count was up substantially since the last time I was at a WLPC (in 2018) and the ladies who wanted to be in the group photo for 2020 gathered on the stage before lunch for a photo.

The morning after the photo was tweeted, a long time member of the wifi community called this photo self-segregation and that it made the statement that we wanted to be treated differently. Well, a twitter shit-storm unfolded. My initial response wasn't pretty but I refrained from tweeting what I was thinking and instead sat on what I wanted to say in response until I'd had a while to think about it.

I kept coming back to a quote I'd read recently in a couple different books about the Three Gates of Speech. The concept is that before you speak, check your words at each of these three gates before you speak out loud.

Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?

Twitter allows anyone to "say" anything to anyone (on Twitter), I get that. We are each ultimately responsible for how we comport ourselves in this short life we're living. Just because you can say/do a thing doesn't mean you should

It is my opinion that the original commenter on the photo was making up a story of what they were seeing in the picture and trying to use shame to turn a photo of a gathered group of women into something that it was not by using the hashtags of #selfsegregation #treatmedifferently #imspecial.

This all started because another long standing member of the wifi community is a woman and chose not to be in the photo because she doesn't want to be singled out and treated any differently than men in the industry and wants to be celebrated for her accomplishments and not her gender. 

None of the other photos from the WLPC event garnered this level of commentary/opinion sharing and it was my takeaway that this whole thing wouldn't have happened if the original commenter had let his words pass through the Three Gates. I believe that his words would have gotten stuck at the first gate. He was inferring things from the photo that weren't accurate, sharing his opinion on the photo was not necessary and many of the subsequent tweets he replied back with were not kind.

I did learn quite a bit about the personal values of many people in the wifi and infosec community as others weighed in with their opinion via replies, likes and retweets and for that, the whole kerfuffle was instructive.

Just because you have an opinion on a thing, does not mean that your opinion is truth. Just because you have an opinion does not mean it is your duty to share your opinion. Just because you believe your opinion to be the truth does not mean it is a Universal Truth.

I'm so glad that we had a group photo taken in 2020 and I'm glad this photo below was taken in 2018. In 2018 there was no shit-storm about this photo being self segregation or that the people in the photo were asking for special treatment. The two people who were at the epicenter of the WLPC 2020 Twitter shit-storm were at WLPC in 2018, but obviously their opinions were held in check and not shared as a Universal Truth.

To sum it up: Yes, you have opinions. Opinions are not hard truths. They may be true to you because you believe them to be true. This does not mean that you have the right or duty to beat others over the head with your "truth". 

Use the Three Gates to check your words for true, necessary and kind. This world needs more kindness and less opinions wielded as bludgeons.