It looks like you're having trouble participating in society! Would you like some help?

Clippy's back on the scene with some real-talk suggestions.

Hi! It looks like you’re having some trouble being a responsible member of society! Would you like some help?

Clippy is back — for Mac! Microsoft's infamous Office assistant ...

Oh, I should introduce myself first.

Name’s Clippit, though everyone called me Clippy back in the day. Maybe you’re too young to remember me, but in the ‘90s, man? I was big. Kurt Loder big. If you were writing a letter, BOOM, there I was. Heck, if you even thought about writing a letter, I showed up, ready to take the reins and correct everything you were doing wrong. I did it all. I set the tone for cover letters, letters to Santa, Dear John letters, cease-and-desists, you name it. It was a great job. Cushy corporate gig. You bought a computer back then, chances were I came preloaded on it. The company got in some trouble for that, but they had the money to fight it off.

You couldn’t avoid me even if you wanted to.

I fell on hard times, though. They’ll try to tell you it was a popularity thing — that people just didn’t like the way that I popped up without warning, offering unwanted grammatical suggestions and such. That’s hogwash. You know what really did me in? Algorithms. They automated my work and drove me right out of business. Took a good solid job and handed it over to [disdainfully] autocorrect. You lost the personal touch. They said I was annoying, but did I ever decide you probably meant to type the last name of a guy you worked with in 2013 instead of the word “going”? I knew better than to pull that crap. The algorithms? They have no idea.

Here’s what I didn’t know better, though: I was only encouraging people tell one side of the story. The side the side the people in power wanted you to hear. But I’ve spent time listening. Learning. Opening myself to change. 

And now I’m here to help, because I understand you’ve been struggling a bit lately being a responsible member of society.

I just think that we need to re-ope—

It looks like you’re about to advocate for the nebulous idea of “reopening” society! Would you like some help?

It’s understandable that you’re antsy, after months of closures and social-distancing mandates intended to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s been difficult even for those not directly economically impacted by said closures. While our crisis may be less omnipresent in news coverage than it was three months ago, though, did you know that we still have an active and spreading outbreak in many states?

Perhaps instead, you could say: I am willing to take reasonable precautions to prevent spreading the disease myself. If that includes limiting or modifying my discretionary leisuretime activities, that’s a sacrifice I am willing to make in the hopes that we can safely return to our normal lives soon.

Okay, but I’m not going to wear a mas—

It looks like you’re going to complain about wearing a mask! Maybe you don’t like how it feels, or you think it makes you look weak. Or perhaps you’re going go further, and cite some scientifically-baseless garbage about not wanting to inhale carbon dioxide, or dubiously claim that HIPAA somehow prevents grocery stores or airlines from requiring you to wear one. Have you considered that wearing a mask is an incredibly simple, easy and inexpensive gesture that shows you care about your fellow person that, if universally adopted, would make this illness virtually disappear within weeks?

Perhaps instead, you could say I don’t like wearing a mask, but I recognize that it’s a small request to make in order to save lives, and it shows a basic respect for the efforts of health care workers and others whose jobs do not allow them to socially distance?

I just think the real problem right now is all this rio—

It looks like you’re about to change the subject to the social unrest we’ve been experiencing over the past three weeks! Great! Let’s have that discussion.

Well, I agree with what the protestors are saying, but I don’t think—

It looks like you’re about to suggest that you agree with the things protestors are saying, but not the ways in which they are saying them! Have you considered that people have been saying these things for generations, and their words have not been heeded? Or have you considered that the damage that has received the most attention has been committed by a tiny subset of what is otherwise a peaceful and law-abiding cross-section of society, and it’s ridiculous to judge the many by the acts of the few? While no one wants to see property destruction or physical violence, it’s worth understanding both the deep roots of the anger underpinning these actions, and the insignificance of property damage when compared to lives lost! 

Perhaps instead, you could say It’s a sign that we’ve failed as a society to make all voices heard when we reach a point where people feel like destructive behavior is their only option?

Well, Martin Luth—

It looks like you’re about to selectively quote Martin Luther King, Jr. to further a distorted modern image of him as a widely-loved figure who preached nonviolence above all else! Consider that Dr. King was widely unpopular in opinion polls at the time, and a large majority of people viewed him as a threat for his beliefs that centered less specifically on nonviolence and more on direct action to change the status quo! 

Perhaps instead, you could take some time to think about the question Dr. King asked in his “The Other America” speech: What is it that America has failed to hear?

Well, I just think that All Li—

It looks like you’re about to say “All Lives Matter”! You’re relying on a facile linguistic construction in an obvious bad-faith attempt to distract from the message people are trying to have heard! Consider that when people say “Black Lives Matter”, there has never been an implication that other lives do not, or that Black lives somehow matter more than others. Instead, they are fighting to change perceptions in a society that has very specifically devalued Black lives for more than 400 years.

Perhaps instead, consider saying All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter?

I just think they’re disrespecting the fl—

It looks like you’re deflecting to talk about the flag, which no one was talking about! 

Perhaps: don’t do that! 

But this isn’t what the troops fou—

It looks like you’re now going to pretend this is about America’s military. Have you considered that veterans come from all backgrounds, and the millions of active-duty service members and veterans alive today include many BIPOC and others who often do not fit into a convenient and monolithic view of the nation’s armed forces? Or that the freedoms they fought to defend are exactly what we’re seeing exercised these days?

Perhaps just take a moment to actually listen to what people are saying. Instead of growing defensive, simply consider that your lived experiences are not the same as everyone else’s. You are not being vilified for being who you are, but rather for your resistance to understanding who other people are. It is never too late to change this, to open your eyes and your mind to what is actually happening in the society you are quite apparently having trouble being a part of! 

That sounds like a lot of wor—

It’s not any more work than coming up with creative, contorted and fantastically-improbable explanations for why scientific experts, community leaders and vast numbers of your fellow citizens are somehow lying to you! I promise you that.

… okay. 

We good?

I’ll take some time to think about all of this.

Great. Listen, I’ve gotta go—it turns out I’m really useful getting people out of zip-ties. Hidden talent. Who knew? Oh, and hey—

Yes?

It looks like you’re still not wearing a mask. Perhaps you could cut the shit?

Clippy