Watching the decline...

Tag Archives: Life

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

 

 

 

The Queen, RIP

Much of my childhood was a blur, but of the sounds and pictures that remain she was one of the most defining. Her voice is stitched in to my childhood and whenever I hear it I always think of my mom.

And then there was her performance in the Blues Brothers.

We’ll miss you.

Perspective

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.

 

Hang Around Long Enough…

I’m not sure what mojo I’ve been working but the site has seen a lot more traffic lately. Blame Putin and his army of Russian bots, or the accidental  cross posting of something I might have said in a exhausted haze but something has made the site visits jump off the charts in the last few weeks.

Well…

Whatever it is, and whoever you are who are visiting…

Thanks.

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!

Are We Really That Divided?

The more people I encounter, the more it seems the difference between the political poles is a social construction. Aside from the prominent examples of ideological contradictions (Liberal Racists, Conservative Welfare Cheats, etc., and everyone knows at least one), there are some very real reasons that people seem to adhere to beliefs, act upon impulses and support policies that may do them harm in the long run.

We are manipulated, especially the bottom third of the economic scale, into believing we belong with those in power but are being sold an ideological package labeled “Liberal” or “Conservative”  and anything that falls outside those preconceived broad definitions is filtered out of choice.

There are some hot-button issues that are determined by our closer communities. If you are White and rural, you are more likely to feel X, or Urban Black and Gay, Y, but after that, I’m always surprised at the level of nuance people show when they have discussions with people with opposing views who are willing to engage them. Being able to have conversations between my fiscally conservative friends about a topic like gun control is a whole lot easier than being able to talk about the subject with a rural hunter, but not impossible.  Speaking to a Melinneal liberal arts college kid about not understanding the new gender definitions or why “safe spaces” exist is a hell of a lot harder than discussing it with a moderate, but older LGBTQ ally who is still in the process of understanding all of the above him/her/themselves.

As a friend of mine recently said “I don’t talk about politics on social media anymore, It’s all a matter of where you come from and how you see it” truer words…. But we need to have those conversations, preferably face to face, in each others presence without our “Hi I’m a Liberal” or “Hello I’m a Conservative” stickers attached.

There is no doubt that we are what we are primarily because of where we grew up and what we were surrounded by.

There are other factors,

But, I’d say, mostly you have to be exposed to new people, and new ideas to at least know they aren’t the monsters you have running around in your head.

Even if Conservative, Libertarian, and Liberal brains are “different” don’t we all need each other’s perspective to live with each other?

I think that even when we come up against issues that we are steadfast on, especially so in some cases, we need to listen harder and assume less.

I think its the only way we’ll ever possibly learn to live together.  Our existence as a species depends on it.

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