Watching the decline...

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I don’t know about you but I need these today.

 

 

 

Perspective

Today’s Lesson: Everything Doesn’t Always Work Out

I used to think I was lucky. I’d delay and put off and push away the scary stuff and somehow things would just work themselves out. I thought I had luck on my side because when the stakes aren’t really that high, you don’t really care that much.

Well, as I got older and the “luck” started to wane I realized it really wasn’t luck at all but instead just a case of not really having much to lose. You acquire things, debt, friends, family, ex friends, ex lovers, ex stuff…if you are lucky you get the chance to go through a few of these and slowly take the training wheels off, but by the time they do come off you realize how much “on your own” you really are. You start taking things to help you sleep, start worrying about losing weight and all the assorted other mundaneties that never would have entered you mind when you thought you were invincible.  You begin to simultaneously begin to care, and care less.

Slowly but surely you realize that everything you do, every interaction, every conversation you have ever had has consequences.

And you realize that, no, things don’t always work out because they never did. You just had to grow into realizing that they didn’t. And now, in the middle of the journey, you see how every decision you made informed where you are right now and that for better or worse the decisions you didn’t make were as powerful, or more so in some cases, than the ones you did and you hope that you get enough life left ahead of you to steer the ship into a safe harbor.

You wish the body was as learned as the mind has become and you wish you’d done a few things just different enough to be in a slightly fresher hell.

Life is still good, but it always can be better.

Always.

A Message

Alien abduction stories have diminished in the last few years…

I wonder why.

We don’t give a fuck about each other anymore.

We don’t give a fuck that we are demonizing kids, both our own and those just yearning to breathe free.  We’ve created a MS13 factory by separating kids from parents in the vain effort to use them as playing cards in our xenophobic deck.
We’ve hardened our hearts to each other in our webspheres and countless subreddits.
We’ve said the we want to protect life, but only if its politically expedient.
We turn our backs on each other because of our races, languages and the places we live. If we knew, truly, where we’ve been, the politicized history of denial of entry to those we feel are degenerate or lesser. From the Irish, to the Jew, to the Arab and the Mexican, someone always has to be less than us. And don’t even start me on “forced immigration.”
If there really is intelligent life out there and somehow they have condescended to look at us as microbes in a petri dish, they are surely appalled at our lack of care for each other and the big brownish ball we live on. We’d better be happy they can’t see us or haven’t yet found us or we’d surely be wiped off the face of the universe with extraterrestrial Lysol. Good news is that we probably won’t feel a thing.

We’ve become the absolute worst measure of humanity, our better angels have been slain by the devils we’ve nurtured through ignorance and greed.

If we continue down this path, we deserve whatever we get.

I’ve seen this coming, its only going to get worse.

Every Single Day is a Fucking Gift

Life sometimes sucks. People die way too early and sometimes you are just way too chicken shit to be there to hold the door on the way out. Days like this make you want to grow a pair and suck it up and face your shit. And mourn…

Its About Culture Part 1.

When we talk about violence, specifically gun violence in this country we hear a few very different takes depending on the location and the background of the shooter.

When the shooter is ideologically motivated and Muslim, we hear about terrorism first. We hear the panicked cries of mostly white conservatives and a few moderates and liberals about the cultural significance of Islam and its propensity for creating violent jihadists. Even though the insane, rational gymnastics of connecting violence and extremism, in these cases we still won’t talk about Guns, and there is little to no discussion about mental health.

When the attacker is White, and the ultimate ideological motivations are sussed out, we revert to the discussion about “mental health” and family and run away as far as we can from Guns and ideological motives.  Somehow access to firearms, however they achieved them, is eliminated from the conversation and the ideological motivations all but erased by about day 2 or 3.

If the assailants are young black men and they are killing each other over gangs, drugs or other petty conflicts, it’s all about the culture. Single moms, video games, and music are the usual suspects; again, surprisingly the narrative no longer focuses on the availability of firearms, even illegal ones.

In my mind there are four primary causes of violence in general, particularly gun violence, and they cut across most cases regardless of whether they are in a school or out on the streets. Irrespective of where we come from or who we are there are a set of preestablished reactions to stressors that trigger us to want to hurt or kill. Those motivations go right to the heart of what we all share emotionally as human beings, and I believe that is one of the reasons we don’t talk about them.

1. Personal/Group Insult or Revenge – One of the most common reasons for violence and aggression of any kind is feeling violated in some way. Whether it is through direct insult or insulting one’s group, it is a defensive reaction to a breach of some social contract that causes most violence. I believe this tendency is built into us as we are social beings. Our hierarchical understanding of group and private structures create a means through which we have a built-in trigger, groups that tout exclusive membership use this instinct to manipulate people into reacting with violence when they otherwise would have just cooled over time.

2. Fear – Is it that pop-psychological to indicate fear as a primary motivation for violence or aggression. As well as being social we are also programmed to be wary of personal injury. This is an odd one because fear as a concept can be very nebulous or very specific. Fear that a bear is coming right at you is very different from fear of being attacked by a bear. The chemical reactions, the physical changes that result from the various states of fear are very distinct and can be manipulated by people and institutions that are more powerful and have some of their fears to contend with.  I found this discussion of fear interesting as it almost serves as a surrogate for the triggers of violence.

3. Social Engineering – As social beings who have developed hierarchies to survive under specific circumstances we have also come to understand how reinforcement of those structures is required to keep the status quo. I’m not passing blanket judgment on this as dangerous by any means, some social structures have helped us advance to the point where we have created a better life for millions of people. Others, however, though seemingly good ideas at the time, often descend into disruptions that do damage to a great many people. It’s tough to say without the benefit of hindsight that some form of social engineering was good or bad especially if we learn from the results. In this case, violence based on established and enforced social norms.

4. External Perceived or Existential Threat – this is admittedly a kind of toss off. Its fear but not the tangible bear chasing you down type, it’s a minor madness in a way and it crosses the bridge to woo-ville in some cases, but either the feeling of something “not being quite right” or the manipulation of that feeling can drive people to violence, what distinguishes this factor as a trigger is its slippery nature. In a way its one of the most potent modern triggers because of the deluge of information we receive and have access to on a daily basis.  So much information crosses our eyes and ears daily that it’s often really hard to distinguish between what is demonstrably real and what is pure hokum. Existential threats have us not believing our own eyes when we see a concrete example of the opposite of what we believe or are told to think.  Cognitive dissonance is the state this puts us in and in and of itself is a kind of mass mental disorder that affects our macro brain. It is also one of the ways large groups and governments keep control of the status quo. In fact, it is the prefered method of tyrants, both big and small.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of everything in terms of an organism. From my limited understanding of the organization of life, it looks distinctly like from the tiniest cell to the largest societal collections the functions are similar but blown up accordingly. Using the example of the internet (again with a basic knowledge of biology) you can see how humans have organized themselves in the image of their biological networks. You can look at societal organizations similarly, but the internet is the clearest model of our mimicking the structure of our neural networks in our construction and organizations I can see. We build on what we know.

I look often at how these incidents of violence make perfect sense. Ideas are like mutated cells or gut influenced genes; they can grow and spread, are road tested by the environment and shaken out accordingly. You have to get non-judgemental when you think this way and see both the biological process and the spread of ideas the same way. Physiological changes, random occurrences of genes or the environment’s influence on them, have consequences. It is my feeling that biological evolution and the evolution of ideas may not only be linked but now be one in the same. We’ve reached a level of complexity in out inner and outer constructions to see where our intellectual developments have gotten almost as complicated as our biological ones.

When you look at movements, especially extreme movements, be they nationalistic, religious or racially based they broadly share the same development cycles and paths of growth. Some, like Islamic fundamentalism, are less exclusive biologically and more rooted in ideology. This is part of the reason Islam has snowballed so quickly. It is not as exclusive as some other movements, it requires no biological purity test, no cultural purity test, and no nationalistic paternity test, there is a small barrier of language, but learning a few prayers can solve that. Many other extreme movements are based on passing some racial or nationalistic purity test and have far fewer adherents as a result. At the risk of sounding like an Islamophobe, it is the perfect virus in that way.

Let me make something clear right now; I hate no person. I am opposed to certain ideologies because they make no rational sense to me beyond social grouping, but I don’t hate anyone who believes in them. I apply cancer or virus metaphor to almost all religions and any social group that forcibly bends its members to a particular kind of violence or extreme coersion.

When violence arises as a result of these affiliations, a large part of how you get perfectly rational and not insane people to enlist is through the use of the last cause of violence. In a sense, you are taking a little bit of the first three elements and mixing them to create a stew of cognitive dissonance. You create a world where, by some non-biological or vaguely biological association, you pit one association against another. The reasons could be cultural, circumstantial or just made up entirely but they don’t pass a rational examination.

What also doesn’t pass the rational examination is the ways we here in the US, separate these groups and their affiliates into little social boxes that have unequal weight on the actions of people who commit violent acts.

I’ll talk about how we treat different groups and ideologies differently in Wednesdays post.

 

Insight Comes In the Strangest Forms, In the Strangest Places

I have no doubt everything this man says is true.

 

From Sexuality to Race, power and money and the art of music, some of the most incisive comments I’ve heard about any of these things come as a conversation from an observer.

Born outside the corridors of power Quincy Jones “Q” as he’s been known has an insight into all of the above that takes no in-between-the-lines interpretation to unpack.

This is what online journalism does so well, what Rolling Stone used to do but gave up to chase false rape accusations and hand the alt-right a new narrative.

Read this, it will change the way you see music, sexuality, America and life.

Reconciliation

As the year closes and a new one begins several feelings wash over me.

I feel a continuing sense of change, personalty, professionally and in the world around me.  I feel that what came apart last year could use some mending this coming year, and when was left unfinished or unsaid, needs completion and vocalizing.

As has been the pattern of my life I am starting anew, leaving behind what was and moving towards something else, I’ve shed yet another skin and left behind a part of myself in the process.

I think in order to reconcile the world around you, you have to reconcile the warring factions within yourself. In order to understand the external chaos, you have to address the internal. You have to let some of the voices you’ve forcibly ignored to be heard. As someone with deeply held beliefs I have had those beliefs challenged constantly by those I choose to surround myself with.  Beliefs and opinions not only about the world but about myself as well, the picture I paint of myself and my actions doesn’t always match that of what the outside world sees and I’m realizing that however ugly that picture is, it has some validity.

In the past year I have done things I never would have told myself I’d have done, made choices both bold and cowardly that I never saw myself making and became a shade of myself I never considered using from the box of crayons I used to color my actions. I’ve learned hard truths about choosing one thing over something else and myself over other people, I’ve learned that at times when I’ve felt so sure of something that there existed equally a terrible fear of being wrong. Mostly what I’ve learned is that when you choose yourself, sometimes, there is a terrible price to pay.

I’ve also learned that when you allow other’s view of you to become integrated with your own it not only invites in doubt, but that doubt brings along perspective. It’s a fine line that separates the two, but one does not come without the other. I now know that when you allow yourself to see yourself as others see you it makes plain what needs to change.

When I started off this year I was knee deep in sorting out my life. Determining where I wanted to be and with whom, sorting through who and what I wanted in my life. I was confused, bewildered and estranged from myself and poorly choosing my way through a series of friendships that would eventually take me to where I am now. I felt confident about nothing except that I needed to change.

We were also beginning a turbulent section of American history, facing down the expectations of a presidency that both elevated the office and stripped the country of its facade of post racialism. We allowed our petty hatreds to divide us and create a false dichotomy of left and right that had nothing to do with classical liberalism or conservatism, and pit rural versus rural with neither really knowing how the other lived. We silenced the voices that could have spoken across those lines and increased the volume of those that would, for their own best interest, push us further apart. We laughed uncomfortably at what we all knew to be true:

 

So, what now? Where to go and what to do?

Firstly, for me I have to take care of my own house first, clean around my gutters and put a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Houseclean my brain and look for the blemishes that reflect the neglectful portions of my psyche, patch the holes and soothe the edges and realize that the process may be a lonely one but cannot be done alone.

Then and only then can I take on the rest.

 

Happy New Year!

Tyranny Comes on Little Cat Feet

  • with apologies to Carl Sandburg

It’s becoming more and more apparent that we are losing our democracy of voices and opinions. Just as we seemed on the verge of becoming the ideal that we’d believed ourselves to be as Americans, that model was obliterated.  At this point it doesn’t matter who shot first, or why, but the decreasing number of us in the no mans land between the constructions of “the left” and “the right” regardless of how we lean, is troubling for democracy, and for the very survival of our country.

Tyranny doesn’t only come from the right.

I make no bones about how I lean; I make no apologies for my liberal cultural background and my progressive politics. I also do not wear that label as a bulwark against letting opposing ideas sink in, mixing with my own and changing me. This approach is my definition of what being Liberal means, being open to ideas, allowing them to mesh with my experience and trying to understand what lessons shape others. It’s a word that’s been twisted to mean inflexible and turned into an epithet, so much so that I go back and forth on whether I should call myself one anymore.

My definition of self is mine and mine alone. I know what the word means to me and also know that some of the other words I call myself are only shorthand for the complexities that I keep in those boxes.  Like anything, I think we get so wrapped up in the labels and the shorthand that we forget what the words mean.

It’s not always easy to hear through our filters, its never comfortable to be challenged, especially when that challenge comes from someone who you’ve already built a persona around.  But those problems are often the most powerful. Coming to grips with the fact that someone who comes from an entirely different background or had a very different experience in their life than you’ve had in yours yet you are still able to connect in a meaningful way is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have.

That is part of the reason it makes me so angry to see people put up walls, especially those who label themselves with monikers that define them as just the opposite. I spoke here about the Yale nonsense that happened a few years ago, and there have been numerous other newsworthy incidents, mainly on college campuses, that reflect an unwillingness to be self-reflective in the face of opposing viewpoints. The Milo incident at Berkeley or the Charles Murray incident at Middlebury college in Vermont are two big ones that spring to mind.  While I find Yiannopoulous a repugnant, showboating, self-promoting buffoon, I also found it ironic that the protestors, who became violently agitated over this clown, didn’t understand the legacy they were trampling on at that institution. Murray is also a cultural accelerant, but a more thoughtful and one who has been maligned in a way that makes me sad for the state of academic and cultural discourse.

When I look across the Millennial landscape and see the hairs-on-end sensitivity, the jumping at shadows and accusations, real or imagined, of triggered talk by folks who just haven’t caught up yet, it terrifies me to think that they will be the ones making some of the harder decisions about what speech will be allowed and what will be censored by shout down.

I’m so incredibly sick and tired of people being so offended by what they think they hear that they’ve become the monsters they, without a shred of irony, finger-point to daily. Sick of the fucking crybaby, triggered nonsense, sick of the proliferation of safe spaces as places NOT to be confronted on your bullshit instead of real and genuine refuges from psyche destroying trauma.  Let me make this clear; there is shit in this world that is so horrible, so psychically damaging, so mind-fuckingly severe, that it requires years of intense therapy to get over. Let me also make this clear, about 10% or which happens here in the United States, and about 5% is genuinely worth isolation from.

At this point a clear distinction has to be made, we all experience trauma, and unless we talk about it respectfully we never really know how difficult another’s existence is. BUT what is also true is that we’ve created a culture that condenses each of our experiences into little nuggets that cling like leeches to the identities we create for ourselves. In no way do I discount anyone’s stories of abuse, be they sexual, psychological or emotional, but when we are so deeply wrapped up in our traumas that we can’t see what someone else has gone through, see our universal personhood, we put another nail in the coffin of this grand experiment.

When we don’t dispense with our hegemonies of our experiences over other’s, when we refuse to listen, to hear what others bring to the table however flawed it might be, we lose a bit of that connectivity to each other. When we start pulling outward into the human instead of backward into an identity, into white, male, female, cis, gay, trans, straight and queer, we remember our sameness isn’t opposed to our uniqueness. When we stop the ridiculously insane push to be right all the time and be wrong at least some of the time, we gain it back.

We’ve all gotten too sensitive in all the wrong ways, instead of being sympathetic to how others may feel (which requires asking them exactly how they think and why) we hold way too tightly to our identity constructs.

I’m calling out so-called Liberals an Progressives on this as well as gender rights activists, queer theorists, and feminists, mainly because I feel allied or am a part of those loose identifications. I’ve called out the prevailing myth of white supremacy as a historical fact, women’s struggles as history and the benefits that come with being of a privileged class. My bonafides are there.

Yes, I find it amazingly ironic and annoying when ego-driven when people like Ann Coulter decry Liberal Fascism, when members of the alt-right claim their free speech is being violated, and when self-promoting attention whores like Milo Yiannopoulous and Mike Chernovich point out the hypocrisy of the left.

It’s annoying and ironic, but also, sadly, right.

 

Nature Abhors a Vacuum.

We are in a mirror universe version of our own.

With increasing regularity, I wake up in a world I do not recognize. Call it getting older (I just hit the ½ century mark, yay!) or some generational time shift, but something seems…off.

Life, in all its greatness (and there is a lot of just fucking great right now), has its fair share of weirdness and sadness. By my own doing, I’ve isolated myself from some people, insulated myself from their anger and confusion and backed away from the accusatory finger-pointing that I have instigated. In doing so, I have created a world for myself that holds immense pleasure and tranquility as well as an occasional little turbulence. On a small-scale, I can handle that. The world inside and outside has gotten weirder and more beautiful, in equal measure.

If there is one single immutable law of the universe (aside from “nature abhors a vacuum”) it is that nature seeks balance, the universe seeks balance. It may be hard to see because our lifetimes are but small micro-moments to the universe and our perception of that time makes universal blinks seem glacial, but this swift passage of moments is nothing. The world is indifferent to our plights; it could give a rats ass about us and would continue to spin without us. To it, we are utterly meaningless.

We are our gods, imperfect and petty, just like the one(s) we’ve made up. To varying degrees, needing the occasional blood sacrifice to keep our anger at bay. We must create meaning from what we see and do, even if it’s a fart in the wind to the greater part of the “everything else.” We must assign our lives meaning to live out whatever small cosmic purpose we have. It may just be the universe saying “I wonder what would happen if I bent this way, or the equivalent of us pulling wings off flies, legs off grasshoppers and burning ants, just to see what happens.  Maybe all the strife, the war and the threat of annihilation is just the universes attempt at cat/cow.

This universe, this version of the multiverse though, from this ant’s perspective, is well and truly fucked up. Is it balancing to have, in rapid succession the embodiment of a calming balm on humanity followed by a raging, scab tearing, bitter man-baby? Is it possible that this course correction is a live act cautionary tale of what happens when we neglect to properly note our human progress and revert to animatistic tribes?

I kind of wonder if other people are feeling this too. Are we who are in one respect so insignificant, affected by the higher universes volatility? Are not the smallest of cells a part of the functioning of the more substantial whole? If the universe flexes, don’t we bend, just a little?

Hindsight is a bitch, but it’s also only 20/20 through our eyes. There is, there are things that happen, without question, in this world that are absolute. I’m not talking about the reasons things happen, just the things themselves, the action or event. The slight wave of angst flowing through the world has to be the result of something else, some tiny tear in time/space or a 1000-foot butterfly on some distant exoplanet drying out its new wings. Some reason the world is vibrating like the distorted image of a summer mirage. Some fucking reason this beautiful life is sometimes simultaneously so fucking ugly.

I guess this is why we have gods because not having them makes these questions way too hard to answer or in some cases, to even live with.

We, like nature, abhor vacuums.

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