Censorship

I recently read an article about how certain websites create and disseminate a large body of inflammatory work – specifically racist and other hatred-based themes. They discussed the nature of growth of this type of material when people are exposed to and share these memes, and likened it to biological growth, which is why the term “viral” is pretty apt in describing how this information is distributed.

For a moment, just a moment, a thought actually surfaced that I wanted to find a way to remove these offensive messages that I do not agree with – because I have decided they are amoral and destructive, not to mention distasteful and clearly not evidence based. For a split second I was willing to censor information to protect people I had deemed in need of my protection from those messages.

I couldn’t believe it, and I immediately stopped myself to re-examine my own thought process. No, I don’t actually want to censor anyone, or keep anyone else from information based on my own judgment of its content. I had a moment, but then remembered that all I want to do is ensure that people have complete, unfettered access to the skill of critical thinking and the freedom to use it, as well as the ability to truly make their own decisions. I need to be satisfied with that, and let people make their life choices because I can’t do it for them, like it or not.

Sure I wish everyone behaved in a compassionate manner and offered each other respect, but I can’t control them all.

But beyond that, I can’t rob others of their experience in coming to understandings that certainly were hard won in my case. Whether they are the creator or the recipient of hateful messages, it’s up to each of them to examine what they’re doing and why. It’s up to each of them to determine what they believe is real, and decide what they want to participate in, promote, or reject.

If they don’t look at this same information and come to the conclusion that hatred is more self destructive than outwardly destructive and ultimately not worth the effort, then nothing I do to keep them from this information will matter anyway.

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I get pissed off! (About rape culture)

George Carlin is a heavy influence in my understanding of humanity and our workings within the universe. Man was brilliantly on top of our interconnections with each other, our own behavior, and our environment. He was also unbelievably, sharply observant of realities and truths that no one else seems to have been able to match in terms of being able to articulate them in a way that the rest of us could appreciate without being steeped in shame or fear of repercussion because he knew we are all subject to the culture and environment we live in. He was on drugs sometimes too, but his astuteness was not terribly diminished by that. At any rate, one time he got so riled up, he just stopped and said “well I get pissed off Goddamnit!” thus the title of this post.

I’ve been salty as all get-out in my life, pissed off beyond belief, or whatever other fun terms you care to apply to fits of rage or aggravation… and like most folks from my general cultural area, I eventually resort to what’s affectionately known as the “F-bomb”. And at least for me as an adult, I wanted an expletive that captures the sentiment I felt, so as not to act out in an even worse way, like starting physical altercations. I’ve screamed the F bomb at the top of my lungs, spat it out in disgust and used it in jokes as part of youthfully excessive vernacular, aside from using it as filler or decoration.

Lots of recent cultural changes have led to a satisfying challenge of cultural norms that have been dubbed “rape culture”. And I’ve got to be honest, even freakishly liberal as I am, I felt like that was an inflammatory choice of words when I first heard it. To me, it seemed over the top, and in my mind I minimized some very prominent cultural factors that led to the creation of the term. It’s partly from my own acculturation into accepting sexism, and partly from a place of wishful thinking that “we” had somehow evolved or developed “beyond” that type of mentality and behavior. I’m not going to speculate too hard on the remaining amount or placement of sexism in society, but I’ll say that it isn’t gone enough to warrant disregarding any amount of this entirely unacceptable behavior.

I despise language policing by and large, because I firmly believe that we can typically determine context and/or the general intention the person has or is attempting to express. I believe that most of us are not using our language in the offensive without making that clear from the outset, which is a different scenario from everyday conversation. I also believe that when we’re not clearly on the offensive, that we should enjoy the benefit of our audience giving us the latitude to express ourselves using language that is familiar to us, and the courtesy of recognizing our underlying message while overlooking minor differences in phrasing. It’s part of effective communication – everyone is different and as long as the person’s intent comes through, let’s not worry about the exact shades of connotation that may differ between us. We can always clarify as needed, and please do so whenever possible! George Carlin remains my example in this case… I saw him eject the word “faggot” during a set once, and saw his face fall for just a moment before continuing, because this was simply a remnant from his past, but he never intended it to be derogatory to gays, it was a reflection of his cultural upbringing: language is firmly established early in our lives and it’s difficult to adjust without essentially learning a new language. We can go on and on about how he should never have said that, but the point is that we should look at his intent and recognize he wasn’t being deliberately hateful; the language pathways of his youth had deep ruts and his wheels went down an old path for a moment.

We who are familiar with the “F” bomb know it is a term referencing a type of sex. It can be used as various parts of speech, but is normally some conjugation of the verb form. We’re not confused as to its meaning – whether someone is the subject or object, the operative function remains. There are plenty of terms that are just plain vulgar, describing or referencing things that are considered inappropriate or distasteful, and the “F” word reigns supreme as the most offensive one, at least here in ‘merica. It’s not because it references sex itself – goodness knows sex is the bee’s knees, and I’m no prude. I’m more than good with sex and talking about it openly. However I came to realize something about the usage of the “F” word, and how consistently the underlying message comes through. It’s never meant to make love, or even rough-but-fun sex. It means rape. It means without consent or comfort. It’s obvious in the way that it’s used that even when a friend of mine recalled their drug-filled youthful past, saying “I used to love to get all coked up and F***” that it wasn’t an endearing, fond look back on days of glory. It was obviously a demoralizing, creepy description of forcing sex upon themselves. When we say the word about someone else’s mom, be it “F” your mama, or “mother F-er” it’s not meant lightheartedly, no matter what put-on people trot out. When we say “F” that, we mean rape it. We mean no lube, no kissing, no love, just rape.

Now, I’m not going to speak for others or ask anyone else to change a thing about their communication, but I’m announcing here a change that I’m making for myself. I’m not going to use the F bomb anymore. Because I don’t “F” things when I’m angry. I don’t even engage in make-up sex after anger, but I digress. I don’t want to “F” that, or you, or this, or my life. I don’t want to wish it upon anyone from another source. I don’t think it’s funny, and I don’t think it’s empty. I believe it’s a level of dehumanizing ourselves or others to a state of emotional disrepair that serves only one purpose; to cut to the core of violation and violence. At the deepest levels it strikes at everything we have come to hold sacred: our physical and emotional security from unwanted transgressions. This term is used purely to highlight one of the deepest fears we have, which is that someone will not just go against our desires, but forever ruin a delicate physical and emotional activity that informs the highest bond between consenting adults: trust. Rape is often seen as worse than death, because we are forever scarred by its very existence, let alone being subject to it. That’s why “F’ed up” means completely wrecked, because that’s what rape does.

I had expected to have more to say after this, but I’ve read through it a couple of times and this is it. I’m not going to perpetuate a cultural norm that says if I’m angry enough I’m willing to be violent at all, but especially not in this way. I won’t do it. Others are welcome to speak as they see fit, and I’ll continue to abide by my general policy of giving people the latitude to express themselves in a way that is familiar to them. And I will look for their intent over taking their casual word choice with too much seriousness, because I do understand and acknowledge that we all have habits, cultural affectations, and socialized norms. I get that other people aren’t examining or analyzing this term every time they use it; to most, it’s just a handy word that’s broadly known and used. I’m not accusing anyone else or calling for a linguistic revolution. But I’m also no longer going to use terminology that comes from and promotes culturally accepted violence, especially in relation to sex.

Good riddance F word, may your usage decline rapidly and your intent be forever buried in the ugly past that we shouldn’t gloss over but certainly never re-enact either.

Ditch the frames

Our worldview is shaped by how we frame our experiences; the narrative we tell ourselves about what we have gone through. The frame is comprised of various cultural values, opinions, priorities, correlations, preferences and expectations. If memory serves, it is transcendentalism that says we operate by the lamp of our own experience, and as such every new experience is colored by those that came before.

It’s hard enough to deal with the fickle feels of biology that make us cranky at the slightest imbalance or discomfort (I think modern sensibilities are more tender as well, but I digress…) let alone the difficulties inherent in meeting deviations from our givens; the things we take for granted. The challenges that come with disturbing our sense of regularity are manifold, and cause cognitive dissonance for the majority of average folk.

Our understandings of reality are built on observational comparisons and contrasting analysis with all previously acquired knowledge. As such, we use all sorts of compartmentalization, categorization, and priority evaluation to determine what we think something is, how it functions, how it can be interact with us, and we assign it an approximate value in relation to our own existence.

Part of the nature of perception is that it uses a limited quantity of data for analysis, since we’re limited by our biological capabilities. What we choose to focus on then becomes a more heavily weighted element in our value calculations. How we quantify and qualify our perceptions and experiences is layered, and includes our own biological responses, and what we perceive of the people around us. Social behavior dictates we observe each other’s cues for group security.

It is up to us to paint the picture of reality in our mind’s eye with some fundamental understandings behind that work. When we look at the famous painting that reads “This is not a pipe” beneath a representation of one – we are encouraged to understand that we are not creating or re-creating the real thing in our own estimation, we need to keep the spirit or essence of the real thing in our handicapped versions though, since that’s the best we can do. It’s up to us to look beyond the paint and implied shadows or textures it represents, to recognize the concept that something is inherently more than we could possibly grasp or regurgitate psychologically. We need to see that our own personal understanding of the world is limited, and that the whole world is very real and ongoing, despite our own limited understanding of, and limited direct experience with these elements of the world we live in.

When we try to use previous experiences, correlations or qualifications in relation to our current situation, we are looking to provide context or some level of overarching or widely connecting concepts to help us understand the situation. But truthfully, past experiences are only helpful in a limited number of instances going forward – in specific, anyway (past experience is generally useful but hardly in specificity). It’s a detriment to us that we look for patterns in a completely unplanned and unfocused reality. Events are rarely linked enough to be worth making connections about, despite our tendency to force them into a limited set of categorical definitions or sections that provide a false sense of cohesion amidst entropy at work.

The truth is, even (or especially) when it comes to human behavior, drawing conclusions based on expectations of regularity is counter productive at best. As much as we wish anything was consistent or predictable, things are largely neither. Even fundamental scientific principles can surprise us in how they play out. This mindset also limits our ability to draw a more complete or accurate view of a given situation. We rule out pertinent data and keep irrelevant data, largely based on our pre-existing frameworks.

The tendency to try to create order has a lot to do with adaptation, and it’s the evolutionary trait that rightly tells us that it doesn’t really matter what value we place on something, in order to survive we need to adapt to what we are currently and most frequently are confronted with. We need to work with what we’ve got to make it. But humans would generally prefer to modify the situation to fit their definitions and understandings. However, too much framework or coloring-in of our experiences only leads us to a false sense of imaginary structure around things that were never truly premeditated or organized to begin with.

What we tell ourselves about what we see changes the reality we live in, and if we only do things we expect and only accept things we can control or compartmentalize, then there’s not as much room for the things we wish or hope or struggle for. Letting the past color the present is about hanging on to pain and suffering and bringing it with us, but we can acknowledge and remember those transgressions without prolonging or worsening the damage from them. We can move on past feeling hurt by things and take comfort in the fact that it’s not a premeditated plan of ultimate punishment that is personal against each of us. We are not in hell and we are not here to suffer for what is only colored as bad, when really it’s shades of self preservation.

We don’t need to spin tales for ourselves to convince us that there’s a reason for things or a pattern among them or deem them targeted, nor are things inherently bad or worsening. Life is just living, one breath at a time, each moment alone in the continuum. Let us find points of reference in existence rather than attempting to paint the universe in frames of reference.

 

Frienemy

Sometimes it’s hard to be our own best friend when we’re also our own worst enemy. We’ve been taught we need to regulate ourselves, but we haven’t been taught how, so we do it in all the wrong ways. We don’t need to curb our enthusiasm, we need to know when to employ it. We have somehow forgotten that of all the people in this lifetime we will meet and get to know, only one is sure to stay here from head to toe.

We can be our own best friend, and it’s well worth the effort. Not just because we’re stuck with ourselves – since no matter where you go, there you are, but because we’re the best resource for others who want to know us as well. No one can know us like we know ourselves, but we don’t automatically come knowing everything, since we’re inside of our experiences and living them out organically while we discover the world and ourselves within it. It takes time and effort to get to know ourselves, and then project ourselves outward.

Building our identity and growing into it is not just a selfish gesture. We occupy space and time in our communities, our jobs, our relationships – in this world. We absolutely affect those around us with our choices, even when we choose inaction or retreat. Whether or not we’d rather be noticed has no bearing on the fact that we are. Humans aren’t playing blackjack with the world as some authoritarian dealer – they’re playing poker and they trade off being dealer in turns.

As we have no choice but to be part of our surroundings, it’s up to us to define who we are and what we’re doing. It’s up to us to recognize our shortcomings, weaknesses, oversights; our failings and fears. But it’s not just our mistakes we need to learn about, since those tend to linger malignantly picking away out our confidence and self respect anyway. There’s something far more important and often neglected in our sense of self, in who we are.

We need to learn what’s best about ourselves: our strengths, our skills, our abilities, our greatness. If we don’t sufficiently find those out then how are to help them grow and flourish? We’ve got to see them as our keys to making ourselves who want to be, and by extension, remake the world into the better place it could be. It’s up to us to see and share the best parts of ourselves for the greater good, just as much as we need to own our faults in efforts to overcome them.

Loving ourselves has become an onus though, some sort of terrible obligation. Many of us have been taught to hate ourselves, or simply disregard ourselves as irrelevant. Most of that comes from disempowerment through manipulation from outside forces like the marketplace and the media (kissing cousins to say the least). But those pressures are very real and have dire consequences in the form of a highly unstable, emotional populace that is confused and scared about everything.

As much as loving ourselves has become a fad, it’s disingenuous often, or misunderstood. Defensiveness is not the same as pride or respect. It has become commonplace to see people joking about self hatred, even suicide and declaring “don’t judge me!” – both online and in public settings. These are clearly cries for self love in a time when it’s still not being achieved effectively by the masses, despite clichés and platitudes being tossed around extravagantly. It’s understandable and part and parcel of loving ourselves to accept ourselves as we are – but that means actual acceptance, not loudly expressing something we still judge as inadequate.

True self love is very difficult to achieve, I’m not going to minimize or deny that. But recent trends have led to a disturbing mix of defensive self loathing and wretched insecurity that are derived from a number of sources, notably broader societal pressure to seem “well adjusted” when we’re simply not. Or to avoid being burdensome to others, seeing ourselves as damaged or broken. In fact, that narrative of being broken or damaged has been woven into the stories and culture that are passed along to our next generation as well. We see it in in memes online, hear it in songs, and tragically, it’s been wrapped up in our visions of love.

So many feel like they are incomplete, because that’s what they’ve absorbed from messages in their surroundings. When we discount and dishearten ourselves that way, we take the pain handed to us by outside forces and re-victimize ourselves with it regularly. Each one of us may have struggled in our time, and may show scars from trouble along the way. But that’s the best part about being human, we’re malleable – our parts cannot truly break like things mechanical. Our hearts do not break as we’ve been told, they get bruised and battered but each still holds some grain of hope, even in a sea of confusion, no matter how despondent we get.

But there is someone still there in the bottom of that well of doubt and misery we can fall into. It’s the only person who can remind us that messages may abound, but it’s what’s inside us that counts in the end. We may drive others away, or tell them we’re fine, or they may even leave us behind on purpose. Yet still there remains in the darkest of places, one person we can always count on. Maybe we’ve kicked this one while down, maybe we’ve left ourselves hanging out to dry, maybe sometimes we forget or give up for a little while, but there’s still one person we haven’t yet managed to get rid of despite it all.

We can and should and desperately need to turn and look at the person inside each of us. We’ve got to hold on tight and never let go, and love that one like we love comfort and fun.

I used to think it was just another pop song, but I’ll turn it into my anthem now.
I couldn’t say it better myself: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”

 

My grandma always said “That’s simply your perception.”

I had already begun to write this post a while back, but had wanted to wait until the moment felt right to start drafting specific language for it. I already had the concept, the sentiment in mind. But I needed something succinct to put this in perspective. This morning that inspiration came as I heard a woman tell another about her own experience, and it was perfect. She and the other gal had been talking about changes in our biology over time. As we grow older things change, and for fertile women many changes happen from pregnancy as well. One mentioned that migraines never afflicted her until after she’d given birth. The other responded by telling her about how until her own panic attacks, she had previously believed that health conditions like migraines or panic attacks were not real, that it was “all in their head”, meaning that to her way of thinking, these people were not actually experiencing anything. She specified that she felt that way because she had never personally experienced the condition in question.

What I find so interesting is that although this person did not follow her own logic to its natural conclusion, and she had been living with a huge misconception at the foundation of her reality. As much as she didn’t say it this way, the stark truth is that this woman believed that if she had not already personally experienced something, that it was genuinely not real – that it did not exist at all. She truly did not understand, and may still not understand, that it is possible for someone to experience something that A) she hasn’t yet experienced, but more importantly, B) could not experience. This woman isn’t alone, and across the world countless people only believe what they have personally lived through, while disregarding anything outside of their own experience.

This is at the heart of what we consider reality to be, which shapes what we do, what we tell others, what we promote and what we pass on. When I first alighted on this concept, I knew that anecdotal evidence is the key. People will trot out and polish their own experiences while denying very real evidence that may contradict their conclusions. They assume that their reasoning has led them to an accurate analysis of that situation, and by extension, life in general. They believe strongly in their own abilities to form opinions based on their own experience exclusively. Somehow, it seems to me a grossly overlooked aspect that one’s experience is not equivalent to one’s analysis. We may have our own experience, but that does not prove out any ability to adequately analyze a given scenario. In other words, we can be sure of what has transpired, but that’s fundamentally separate from understanding why or even how it all happened.

Trying to help people see that others also have their own experience that they believe just as fiercely, that might be attainable. But getting people to see the other person’s experience as no less valid than their own, that is a goal that is ultimately very challenging. The biggest challenge there is due to people identifying with their experience or analysis of it (any time people identify with something it is tragically difficult to get them to see it objectively or re-evaluate it at all).

The nature of reality is heavily influenced by participants and their perspectives. I used to be absolutist about reality, but at some point I had to re-evaluate my construction of reality because it was not accounting for how others build and maintain their own perspectives. How they see things drives their decision making, and their reality may seem to be just their own, but they carry it with them and color the things that they have agency over, including the opinions of others.

The nature of reality is an awfully big topic though, so we’ll just let this stand alone as a commentary on perception and perspective, and we’ll leave the deeper discussion of reality construction for another time.

 

Art IS Life

Being overly analytical, I had long dismissed the arts as a waste of resources at worst or irrelevant at best… but I had been sorely mistaken. Art is everything. Art is the foundation for our purpose as a species. The perfect expression of consciousness and abstract thought is art, in all forms. Regardless of the medium it is inherently a way to produce and disseminate pure emotion and experience. It is largely unfettered by the trappings of societal constraint, while building cultural material that heavily influences societal trajectory.

I had always wanted to get more done, and had foolishly thought that if we could eliminate all inefficient things that we could accomplish everything that needs doing. I have always listened to my grandma and for us, art was eating dessert before we’ve had our dinner – but it was a mindset that was faulty and shortsighted. It turns out that the things that make our dreams take flight are the things of fancy and frolic, and the things that light a fire in our passion are the things of misery and suffering. To turn away from the nature of how we process experience is to turn away from what we are and how we depart or arrive or move through life’s situations.

When we make the mistake of removing our hearts from the picture, we cannot and will not grow or learn very well. Art is the repository for our collective expression, our aspirations and our shared human identity. Without art, there is no reason for us to do better, no reason to dream or want to improve anything. Without art we are driving somewhere without direction, chasing our tail, spinning our wheels, running a fool’s errand. We need to have things to strive for, and we need inspiration to convince us to strive at all.

Art doesn’t imitate, it creates. We need art to chart our course through celestial white noise. We need it to help us understand the universe.

Art is the magnet that stops our moral compass from spinning out of control. Art is the heartbeat of life as we know it.

Emotional boundaries are a labor of love

It is not endearing to violate others’ boundaries. Yet somehow, American culture has come to a place where violating other people’s boundaries is commonplace, accepted and even encouraged. It’s treated as normal and condoned in public settings as well as in private. It is disguised as exercising free will, instead of the bullying it really is. And as with other bullying the victim is blamed for being hurt, they are ridiculed and demeaned in order to make it clear to all parties that supposedly the perpetrator is only joking. It’s almost always couched in joking terms, as if someone who were actually joking but ended up hurting someone would ever behave that way. Which, they do, but basically just as an extension of this behavior pattern – which is to say they were never joking and only using that as a tool to manipulate the person they just victimized.

Part of violating other people’s boundaries has to do with bullying culture, but part of it also has to do with family dynamics. Plenty of world cultures have very close families that care deeply for each other, be they siblings and immediate family or larger extended families. Plenty of humans feel this closeness and choose to build that closeness through caring for and supporting one another. When reared together the average healthy human feels loyalty to those people closest to them, which entails a desire to protect those people and the relationship with them.

Unfortunately, Americans largely aren’t building healthy relationships with appropriate boundaries, and instead have been emotionally isolated and personally devalued, destroying most American’s ability to build any functional relationships. Most importantly, the family group has been made out in cultural context to be restrictive, prohibitive etc. and as such is avoided. That’s wrapped up in the focus on individualism that divides a person from the group, and that gap is reinforced through lack of trust. This comes from cultural pressure to be independent despite the very real need for social support to function as a healthy human. That dichotomy is emotionally damaging to the individual, and sows the seeds of instability in the community.

Americans have been taught a narrative of competition so complete that it is applied to their own family members as well as the rest of the world. However, American culture demeans work and sacrifice – despite the dogma that’s touted. Americans may proclaim that hard work is the road to success, but they hate having to accomplish anything personally. Americans would much rather force someone or something else to accommodate them so that they may achieve success without extending personal effort. Because, above the satisfaction of accomplishment, achievement is seen as an end to be gotten through any means, and manipulative means are seen as intelligent competitive strategy.

Seeing hard work as a burden they would rather avoid, Americans use tactics to basically force others into emotional commitment in friendships and dating. They use tools to make the person feel vulnerable and inadequate, but then reinforce that this is part of their culture of intimacy. Partly because they all feel insecure and inadequate themselves, they ensure others feel the same way as some sort of bonding or shared experience. But it’s also a handy way to manipulate the person into feeling desperate enough to seek support and/or compromise their own values to be included in the group, or more accurately, to avoid exclusion. When people feel inferior, they try to impress others or otherwise gain their approval, especially when faced with the fear of rejection.

The hard work I’ve been alluding to is emotional work. It is work to come to others and build intimacy, which is inherently from a place of vulnerability. Americans are terrified of that, both because it’s associated with weakness, which is demeaned in the culture, but also because it strikes at their fears of survival, since they’re isolated and can’t seek support when they need it. This all results in a lot of relationships built on social currencies like obligation and status, that are injected with pressure and explode in messy, emotional outbursts as people are only willing to admit their own emotional needs or boundaries when they’ve been pushed well beyond their limits, or when they’ve engaged in self destructive behavior enough to bring themselves to a place of being able to allow closeness at all (e.g. drinking too much alcohol, engaging in sexual or intimate behaviors, etc.).

It’s scary to try to trust someone or let them get close to us (which gives them a level of power over us). When we feel secure in a broad social network, an individual relationship does not garner nearly the same power that it does when we essentially have no network to fall back on (except more people we don’t fully trust or feel accepted by). As much as it is scary to open up to others, it’s scary to stand our ground with them as well. Despite our fears, we can’t have the healthy relationships we all desperately need without risking being hurt by them too much. That’s why it’s so critical that we know how to create and maintain appropriate emotional boundaries with others – to be able to let them in our hearts without letting them destroying us.

Building healthy, functional relationships takes a lifetime of compromise, sacrifice, effort, goodwill, forgiveness, flexibility, vulnerability, trust, respect, responsibility, focus, acceptance, support, encouragement, communication, adjustment, accommodation, collaboration, ingenuity and, hopefully love.

 

Talk about missing the point

In this age of finally being able to gain a small foothold against the tyranny that blames victims for assault, abuse, sexism, hate crime, and more, there has been a disconnect that formed and grew, and is now becoming a fresh problem in American society. Although there are no absolutes, broadly put, the left wing has come to blame some of the victims of the right wing’s efforts as culprits instead of seeing them as they victims they are. If we look at statistics and know that predominantly right wing communities count significantly lower levels of education and resources than the upper classes, and we know that right wing culture discourages using social support while needing it more, and we know that the right wing disempowers wide swaths of the populace through convincing them to infight as well as vote and spend against their own best interests (let alone through discrimination against minorities), and we know that the right wing ethos is that people are only poor if they are dumb or lazy, or somehow exceptionally removed from the data set, and if we know that the right wing insists that hard work is enough to succeed and prosper unconditionally, if we know that they do glorify classism while blaming the victims of the upper classes’ abuse, then we on the left are blaming the victims of the right who have been duped and destroyed by their own “leadership” while being convinced they need to blame other victims in the very same position.

Every time we antagonize and bully these people on the right we are blaming the victims of a very small group of perpetrators. Governmental, community and commercial leadership is not such a large pool, and they are using every method they can to draw attention elsewhere so they can run out in the middle of the night with spoils from both sides of the war they started. The culture war is deep and intense and motivated by the most serious of our concerns as humans: survival. When the upper classes alighted on the ability to drive action through manipulating the lower classes into feeling constant threat to their survival and/or wellbeing, the result has been generations of dysfunction and self sabotage as the victims struggle with their own inability to do what they know to be true, which is cast off the small group of leeches that are sucking us dry. The average American citizen of right wing persuasion as well those one the left know that  banking and loan policies are predatory, as is marketing of all stripes, and that little to no financial education is provided to new consumers before entering the workplace or the marketplace, yet people on both sides choose to participate in processes they don’t understand, including contractually binding themselves to agreements they can’t uphold because they are victims of fraud, misrepresentation, manipulation, coercion or intimidation.

If we know that the right oppresses women, ethnic minorities, those outside of the right’s identity standards, the disabled, the elderly, children, the abused, the poor and the wretched, then why do we blame those poor victims for eating from the only open hand in sight? How can they abandon the limited knowledge they have without even realistically knowing the alternative because they’ve been kept from the truth and we know it? If we know these people aren’t capable of making decisions based on critical thought until they get more education and support, then how can we blame them for that? They didn’t keep themselves from it with intent, they’ve been deprived of resources that are fundamentally necessary to being able to escape their role as victims of manipulation and control. Clinging to the only defense mechanisms they’ve been afforded shouldn’t be punished as a self aware decision when it’s really just uneducated self preservation.

In short: if we don’t blame the average citizens of Germany for what Hitler and the SS did, and we don’t blame shrouded women in the middle east for what Gaddafi or Bin Laden did,  and we can make that distinction in so many other cases, then we need to make that distinction here and stop demanding that victims save themselves or take responsibility for their victimization. They need our help, our support, and access to tools and resources to be able to begin empowerment and self sufficiency.

Because either we’re trying to help those who are suffering or we’re just kicking them while they’re down.

Tired

We’re all so tired. So so tired. We’re so tired we wake up tired. We sleep until we’re tired again. And then, we’re tired all day long. We’re tired on Monday, we’re tireder by Friday. On the weekend we’re exhausted and then we talk about how we got no rest then either. We come back and say “I need a vacation from my vacation.” In seriousness.

We get tired seeing each other, we consider it draining. We’re tired of work when we sit in meetings or type endlessly. We are tired year after year after year after year. We’re completely depleted with nothing to spare, forever on our last gasp of polluted air. We can’t seem to catch up on quiet time or rest, we’re forever pushed on to the next task.

My tiredness was relentless and I couldn’t seem to shake it for so long I thought I’d always be tired. Somehow on this journey where the road is the goal, not the end or transition to other worlds, I got so tired as I trudged along I forgot the most important song. Freedom is for all and I don’t have to run. I don’t have to walk, I don’t need to follow a straight line. I can step off the path and relax anytime, but somehow I was waiting for the moment to arrive. A good time in the neverending cycle to break out and sit down and check out for awhile.

It’s silly to think we could be all things, or be part of it all. But even when we try we just wear ourselves thin, wishing we’d saved ourselves something for the end. The road travels on whether we’re there or not, but it will be there when we’re ready to come back. There’s always a chance to get what we want, but it’s better to notice our own human condition. Without water or food we die quickly. Without rest it takes longer, but it’s no less vital.

Truth is, we think it’s work or other people that tire us out. Truth is we’re wrong about that, for the most part. We may be tired from doing, but we’re made for that so it’s more complicated. Truth be told we’re overstimulated and overexcited constantly. We feel obligated to be happy and respond to everything that comes along. We’ve been socialized to answer every look, word, and implication. We are asked to interpret and react correctly to assorted infinitely variable scenarios.

As much as we want to entertain every thought, feeling, or ethical conundrum, we can keep in mind we are each but one person. There is only so much anyone can handle, even on our best day. When we’re tired and frustrated we can’t see the light of day. We don’t have to wear ourselves paper thin. We don’t just don’t have to, we honestly shouldn’t. We’re not getting more done, we’re just spreading around our limited resources in new and different patterns.

It’s easy to lose sight of details, or the big picture, when our spyglass is dirty and needs to be cleaned. If our eyes are bleary from sleep deprivation we can’t really look through the peephole expecting much clarity. It doesn’t make sense and all swirls around because we need to sit down and stop taking it all in. We don’t need to be mindful of everything around us, we need to be mindful of the silence inside us.

 

What do lynchings and internet warfare have in common?

If I had much of a reputation or public image to maintain you’d be rarin’ to tear it down and make me start over again. You want to lynch this post before it’s even begun: because it uses the word lynch, and it says there’s bad people in all corners. Does that make me that other person out there who equates mowing down humans in a car with standing peacefully on a streetcorner? Until I assert anything, I haven’t done so yet – “lynch” me for what I really have said (not just what it seems like, and as an aside who the fuck could actually make that comparison at all?).

The court of public opinion is lynching every relationship and reputation indiscriminately. The new judges, juries, and executioners got no regard for evidence or due process. But now they enjoy a wider audience, and they come from all sides. The new pitchforks are words stabbing livelihoods and relations. The new torches are media purveyors shedding light on microcosms, throwing the rest of truth into further darkness. The new posse riding at night setting churches on fire is urged on by propaganda that’s electronic, not verbal.

There’s no testimony we can give, no answers we can have that are good enough to defend our honor in this court anymore. The dissected remains of twisted information run the trial, and the jury gets half that, if anything – sometimes even less… but justice is blind and deaf anyway. Condemning others in society’s eye has lasting consequences, albeit different than physically harming them – yet people seem more than willing to throw each other under the bus.

The slightest transgressions no longer draw a little heat, they’re engulfed in flames and fried to hard crunchy nuggets. Mitigating circumstances or any context is disregarded, let alone our history or best intentions involved. For some reason we no longer get the benefit of the doubt, we don’t get any leeway or time to sort it out. They want to call out the police for the same shit the public does online; ruin lives without due process or respect for any parties involved. It’s funny how quickly hypocrites turn tail and run, but not before the damage is done.

We could all say “but that’s only them over there”, yet the truth is plain out here – we’re the same as them when we call it like that. The deeper realities may not seem to apply to us, but we’ve all gotten this way more recently, in general. There is a difference in the goodness being put forth by people – not to belittle it, but to be honest, it now has a different flavor.

We’re seeing more action to build an image to be displayed. We’re dealing with more posturing than honest to goodness altruism. And it’s fine to do good from whatever angle, yet it can and often does feed into judgment and further separation. When we talk about how others’ efforts aren’t good enough or not the right kind, what we’re really doing is judging them, and comparing to ourselves at the same time.

We can say we believe that we’re right and they’re wrong, and say it for any number of reasons. But thinking less of others for not agreeing with us is thinking we’re better than they are, plain and simple. When we believe they’re wrong because they differ from us, and we’ve determined that we’re right and cannot be wrong, it’s not just disregarding their ability to come to conclusions independently, but refusing to acknowledge our own ability to learn so we can grow and work out differences with others.

No one really says “I’m better than others” so plainly, but it is obvious from certain behaviors when one of us sees ourself as somehow better – whether they consider it “earned” or “inherent”. Putting ourselves in a position of feeling superior, looking down on others as inferior, is all divisive and hurtful in the end. It’s not like it’s encouraging people to cooperate and work together to build a functional future for the greater good.

And the answer to the not-so rhetorical question in the title is: mob mentality.

Think for yourself, and build goodness if you want it in this world.