“Gulag ArchiCanado: Free Thought Under Siege” (plus my thoughts)

Truly terrifying that it’s come this far this soon. Grateful to not be a Canadian, though I recognize the threat in the U.S. as well and hope that prove more rebellious and less willing to silence ourselves in the face of batshit ideologically-driven craziness. Hopefully enough of us out here are willing to tirelessly defend our freedom of speech and to explore ideas, including the ongoing search for scientifically-backed truths. To allow ourselves to be pushed around and shut down by wannabe-communists would be a damned (unforgivable) shame. Especially since what these Far Leftist types desire to bring about is purely idealistic and will ultimately prove unrealistic to implement in the real world.

Such has been tried already, as we now all know, and it’s always failed miserably, racking up great body counts in the process. To assume that primadonna campus feminists and outspoken trannies and lesbians and their indoctrination-pushing professors are going to lose this battle in the short run strikes me as naive at best. We’ve been watching this trend gather speed all of our lives — it’s not dissolving despite the Far Left appearing to eat itself at times. If anything, it’s becoming more deeply entrenched and powerful within academia, both in the U.S. and Canada (though Canada appears especially off the hook at present — and should serve as a serious warning to us Americans observing what’s happening there).

As a Social Sciences major myself I am well aware of how slanted the information presented could be (depending on the professors in question), but it appears to only have gotten worse since I graduated nearly a decade back. Some of what I learned at college has taken me years since to reckon with and call into question, not realizing the narrative for what it was until much later. I continue to have very mixed feelings on that curriculum and have had to struggle against its claims in more recent years. Because so much was presented as fact, as indisputable reality, as ground-level critiques and resistance to the corporate monied interests and those made rich off of it. Some of what they presented was indeed worth considering, but it’s wrapped within a greater narrative that attempts to remold how we view life and country. And some of those added trappings are themselves conveniently adapted to bolster the grand narrative, though further scrutiny shows that what was presented rarely was the full story. Such educational programming can send one down a rabbit hole of questioning everything, including the curriculum itself, which turns out to be the best possible outcome in such a scenario since all does indeed deserve to be reexamined. But in doing so you wind up unable to trust your lying eyes and all that’s ever been presented to you from all directions, at least for a spell while you try to make sense out of what you’ve been taught. There is no “listen and believe” in that world. Can’t be. Not when all winds up looking like various forms of indoctrination and truths must be teased out from them. In that regard, I can’t help but value my education in the end, though not its price tag. Though, with that said, I cannot in good conscience encourage others to follow in suit and sign up for social science majors, especially not nowadays. Better to learn about it on our own (via textbooks that we all have access to) than to continue padding the pockets of professors and administrators who apparently wish to see our societies irreparably divided, believing that that somehow serves their cause. In short, students should not be used as ideologically-programmable fodder for older professors with axes to grind. Especially not when we wind up drowning in student loan debt in the end as a result.

They’ve been using us. And by now they’ve used enough of us that they’ve effectively undermined the general sense of national pride predicated on protection of individual rights. Back to tribalism — that’s what’s occurring. But those calling for tribal divisions tend to be the weakest among the weak, those who contribute the least to society and who depend on our collective funding in order to remain in power. Truly parasitic, if you ask me. They appear to be angry at The System that they feel they cannot compete competently within, and their words hold most appeal for youths who fear the same thing (myself included back in the day). Rather than learn to play the game as it stands currently, they’d rather flip the entire gameboard and start anew, as if it’s ever that easy. Their own fears and frustrations fuel the words they preach and are intended to sow seeds of doubt and worry in the minds of youths who otherwise might fare reasonably well in our societies. The goal has been and continues to be to divide, to find groups to blame, and to destroy the game as it currently operates. But what they will actually accomplish is the formation of a new game with a new class rising in power, most of whom aren’t competent enough to assume such positions, and the whole project is destined to fail once more. Of course these people cannot and will not accept this reality, so attempting to get them to see it winds up being an exercise in futility.

I’m not a particularly successful person out in the crowd (depending on how one chooses to define success) and I too had been filled with enough propaganda (from all possible sides) to sate me for a lifetime. Has driven me away from people over time and hardened my heart toward all things political. I say this in order to explain that I haven’t necessarily discovered bootstraps and have therefore changed my opinion accordingly. No, I’ve grown critical of all of it, all sides in these debates, all claims of truth and all peddlers of ideologies. Because all appear interested in using us to further their own causes and aims. And I don’t take kindly to being used for someone or something else’s purposes, especially covertly.

I must say, though, that some of what these Leftists point to is indeed worrisome. The Game is rigged in ways, though not to the extent nor in the fashion as they like to claim it is. Everybody has their own pet theories about reality and why it functions as it does. Some prefer the oppressed/oppressor model, which is the weakest dichotomy to operate under. My life has brought me to finally seeing that so much is an accident of fortune, of era and opportunities, but also that some are better poised to take advantage of whatever arises at any given time and to profit from it as a result. And many others out here seethe with resentment in kind, believing that they’ve been shut out from effectively competing by those who proved successful. But that is not really the case. Oftentimes we shut ourselves out of the running due to our own mindsets and irritation with the Game, which is fine if that’s the case but let us not fool ourselves or others into believing otherwise.

Again, I continue to have a lot of mixed feelings about what all I’ve learned from all sides of the aisle. There are truths and falsehoods peddled by all sides. BUT there are also principles that truly do matter much more than all else because they’ve given us all a shot at living as free as one could hope, freer than any people at any other time in history. And at the end of the day, my loyalties have to go toward that, regardless of whatever else I might quibble over. It’s the principles themselves that matter, not any groups or ideologies or narratives. So, I find myself in opposition to some of those who once taught me and to others who now feel emboldened to silence academic freedom and inquiry. And here I will remain. Always have been here, come to find out, but it’s become so much more clear with each passing year. The benefit of the doubt that I once extended to those who pushed such narratives is now being revoked since they will not reciprocate the tolerance and understanding that they’ve requested. What once appeared to be simply be an alternative way of looking at things nowadays appears to me to be an obfuscation, a dramatic pack of lies intended to confuse us so that we would do their bidding and destroy what we didn’t yet sufficiently understand. That’s pretty crummy, if you ask me. Pretty horrible thing to do to naive young people who lack the life experience to know better.

But I’m no longer that young and it all looks very disturbing at this juncture.

White nationalists worry me too

Just finished watching a couple videos by the youtuber Braving Ruin where he was discussing identity denialism and critiquing how individualism went wrong. He’s a smart guy with a different vantage point who offered up plenty of food for thought. But as I keep looking into videos like his and those from Millennial Woes and similar, and also read the comment sections, I’m left with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Especially when folks get to talking about how mixed people can’t understand their positions and are basically left in outfield in these discussions. Indeed, I do feel as if I’m unwanted by all who take such positions. Such talk makes me nervous, very much so, because they speak of those of us who happened to be mixed with a type of degrading pity, as though we don’t belong, as though we’re somehow not real Americans who care about Western cultures. And that’s neither fair nor accurate.

That right there is the type of shit that has always boiled my blood when going up against white supremacist types. I’ve met them down South in the past and on a few occasions up here in the Midwest. They’re the ones who felt it was perfectly legitimate to call me out (when I was much younger) in front of people and state loudly that I am not “all white,” as if that were a putdown. I recall one such episode when I was a teenager in my hometown in Mississippi very clearly. But it didn’t get to me much at the time since most folks didn’t treat me poorly, so I chocked him up to being some random asshole. Now I’m seeing these random assholes appearing regularly online and chiding others in similar ways. Their message invariably is that because we’re not “all white” that somehow that means we’re defective, unwanted. But where do they imagine we’re supposed to go when this is our home and all we’ve ever known too?

Someone in a comment section tonight brought up a few good questions pertaining to this inquiry, asking why mixed people would want to support nationalistic agendas framed in this sort of way when it’s pretty obvious that eventually we’d be discarded by such a movement. We don’t fit their demographic criteria, no matter what’s in our hearts and minds, no matter how we may choose to live, no matter how much pride we might feel for this country (despite criticizing its shortcomings). Someone like me would be a FOOL to support an ethno-nationalist agenda — I’m well-aware of that fact and always have been.

But then I also get torn because all of my family is white (with a little Native American mixed in for good measure) and most of my friends are also white. And since I care about them I want to see them be okay in the end ultimately. That pits me and my own interests against those of my loved ones, though I know that none of my loved ones support an ethno-state and don’t believe in such divisions according to race. But this sort of ideology itself aims to pit loved ones against loved ones, don’t you see? It’d be asking my Grandma to turn her back on me, which she would never do. And it’d be asking me to separate myself from my closest friends, which I’d rather die than experience. Absolutely serious on that point. My friends and family mean the world to me, they are all that keeps me sane and I would completely lost without them. So to think of some crazy ideology wishing to separate people based on something so arbitrary as race alone is just sick. Deeply disturbing.

Yeah, I’m getting emotional on this topic tonight. Been emotional the last couple of days already, but this one really hits a nerve. It’s been tough enough coming up the product of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, born to a woman who wasn’t really suited to motherhood, and thereby winding up being raised a good bit by my grandparents. I’m very grateful for the sacrifices they made in taking me in when I needed them most. Hate to imagine how life might otherwise have gone. My Papa and my Grandma represent what blood and soil means for me — and understanding that cuts straight down to my core, needing no explanation to strangers. My love with them has always been fierce and I pity the son of a bitch who’d ever aim to divide a family’s love just because somebody isn’t “white enough” according to their standards. Ya know, I grew up feeling like a burden and it’s given me a complex that I haven’t been able to shake to this day, and it makes me awfully sad to think that there’s a growing number of people out there who’d agree with that sentiment based purely on some blood differences. Not even cultural differences, not national differences. Just some fucking blood, some genetic material that only ever can lead us to generalized assessments of groups, saying very little about each individual therein.

I’ve told myself over the years that I ought not feel like a lesser person than others, that I have as much of a right to walk this earth as any of them do. And it’s true. Just as it’s true for all of you (save for those who forfeit that right by exterminating others unlawfully). We were born and we’re now here whether folks like it or not. Regardless of how much some might like to wax poetic on topics of ethnic pride and homogeneity. Sure, we do differ, but that’s true intraracially as much as interracially. Go read about it. I’m sure Dr. Charles Murray could explain it you.

Then I get to thinking about my best girlfriend (American of German and Swedish descent) and her Mexican husband and their mixed kids. They have a good family, and may they never be parted. To look upon them as a union that should’ve never taken place sounds to me like blasphemous thoughts. How dare you. Seriously. How dare someone concern themselves with matters that are truly none of your fucking business. Love trumps such nonsense. As it should. Thank God for that!

Yet these same people so often call themselves Christians. That hypocrisy is one reason I prefer not to live down South anymore. Yeah, I said it and I meant it. Though I recognize the Midwest has their fair share of jerks and tools too — at least up here people are more inclined to keep their opinions to themselves on such matters. Keep it behind closed doors and among close friends at least. Unlike some of the loud-mouth Southerners I’ve encountered who just can’t control themselves when it comes to blabbing about shit that doesn’t concern them. From other people’s religions (when it’s not affronting your own), to their sexual preferences (when it’s not impacting your own), to their family situations (as if you all came up perfectly!), to their race and the race(s) of their loved ones (which in no way directly affects YOU). I’ve long since been sick of it. And it makes me feel guilty still after all these years when I get irate at my fellow Southerners over this age-old bullshit, but oh well. Sometimes it needs to be stated aloud. Seeing as how they’re so notorious about not keeping their damn mouths shut, then maybe they deserve to get an earful back every once in a while.

But this isn’t about Southerners specifically…those are just my own past demons flaring up. Living among them just taught me originally how sick I am of such mindsets and solidified why I refuse to join suit. Not that it would make any sense if I tried. Because here’s the thing: when it all boils down to blood, there’s absolutely nothing you can do or say to change the situation. Can’t erase one’s genes. I could probably lie about mine, but why do so? Why should I have to? For what? Shouldn’t have to lie just so as to live in peace without being harassed by idiots and assholes over matters that shouldn’t concern them.

Though I can hear it already, from the peanut gallery that is emblazoned within my imagination, that these people DO see themselves as affected by persons like myself and unions like my friend has with her husband because we’re all part of this society and can’t help but be impacted by its decline. To which I’ll argue that the decline isn’t a result of people loving one another. Quite the contrary. Seems to me a big reason for the decline is all the divisiveness being sown. Which politicians just adore partaking in. Which we idiots on the ground can’t help but lap up.

Sure, there are real general differences among groups of people. And some perhaps will deem it impossible to live together, to which I say “bye.” Go wherever you’re going then. But that doesn’t entitle you to try to remake this entire society in your idealized vision. No. Certainly doesn’t entitle you to speak of doing violence against people just because you think the races ought to all be kept separated. Such talk is bananas and will be fiercely resisted. For all the wannabe nazis out in the crowd, there’s a whole lot more reasonable and sane people. The latter just happen to have better things to do than engage in battles of the wits with dumbasses online. People like to talk down about the so-called centrists out here, but I’d say don’t sell them short. They’re the many, and while they don’t get as crazy about politics as the nutjobs tend to, that doesn’t mean they’re a bunch of timid lambs waiting to be led to slaughter. Most of my closest people don’t care all that much about politics, but they do care about self-defense and they care a WHOLE BUNCH about their families, friends and neighbors.

I really shouldn’t let this junk get to me, but more and more people keep speaking as though they take these narratives seriously. As if they’re waiting for severe enough economic problems to arise so that they can take advantage of the situation like the opportunistic cockroaches that they are. America was never a white nation. We are indeed a melting pot. Hell, you’d have a hard time finding a white American who isn’t mixed with various European ethnic lineages. Not as if “white” were some sort of monolith. No. We’re all a bunch of mutts. And I imagine this trend will only continue, much to the white nationalists’ dismay. So be it.

If they were really serious, they’d focus more on preserving Western cultures, histories and ideals, instead of placing so much emphasis on race alone.

Race alone doesn’t tell you much about a person. As if we all haven’t met retarded jackass white people. Or retarded jackass black people, for that matter. Or retarded jackass native American people. Or retarded jackass Hispanics. Or retarded jackass Arabs. And I’m willing to bet there are even retarded jackass Orientals as well. ha

As if we don’t know this. As if somebody’s skin color alone is enough to make us want to have something to do with them, no matter how poorly they behave or how they treat us. Because someone’s white doesn’t guarantee they’ll behave loyally toward you any more than it guarantees a non-white won’t. Some out here like to say that individualism has become a problem, that we’re all off living in our little unsustainable bubbles but will eventually be made to recognize the importance of group identities. OK. But there are FAR better bases for forming group identities than race. Or sex/gender, for that matter. Whatever happened to those principles conservatives claimed to care about??

Just gotta remind myself that life is a shitshow sometimes. Not much can be done about that. And we humans aren’t as evolved as we like to think we are.

Shit like this gets me feeling like a misanthrope, like I can’t identify with any of the options being presented, nor do I want to. Want to love the ones I’ve got and do my little part in not horrendously fucking things up so far as I am able, and then not leave descendants to have to deal with this nuthouse.

Bracing for another winter

Feeling kind of down today. Not sure why. Feeling very sensitive.

Finished listening to the audiobook The Chimes by Charles Dickens and before it ended, it had me crying. It’s an emotional day. But at least it had a happy ending, unlike a lot of the books I typically read/listen to.

Grandma called this afternoon, and we had a nice chat. Was good to hear from her since we haven’t been talking as frequently over the last year or so. My best girlfriend tried beeping in too, but I texted to let her know I’d get back to her another day. The timing in their calls, one after the other and both directly after the audiobook went off, had me kind of wondering. As if we can sense one another sometimes despite being many miles apart…

Just wandering thoughts. Superstitiousness never seems to leave me.

Didn’t get to go to the shooting range today as scheduled since Former had a long, bad day at work. So probably for the best for both of us that we skipped today. We went out for Mexican food instead and then lounged around until my late-night appointment called me across town. Promises to be a busy weekend with several scattered appointments throughout, plus a meeting with a new client, plans to meet for coffee with an older lady friend, then plans for dinner on Sunday with my best guyfriend. Maybe we’ll  find time to go to the range later tomorrow afternoon.

Discarded my diet the last couple of days. Had bread last night and tortillas today. Ah well. It’s highly doubtful it’s a food plan I can reasonably expect to adhere to daily no matter what. Life just doesn’t roll that way. But it has been teaching me a lot and I intend to go forward with an eye toward reducing carbohydrate intake most days. Though probably not as low as the keto diet calls for. One issue I’ve had with that low of carb intake is that it’s left me feeling weaker when doing strength training, I’d be doing a set that I’m used to doing but then need to pause after a few reps, then continue, then pause again before finishing out. That kept happening throughout Wednesday’s training session, and Former blames the lack of carbs. So I’ll look into it further.

Had all kinds of things on my mind lately. Many societal concerns, plus private worries over my loved ones and myself staying safe. Though we live in a pretty safe area, I do get nervous in wondering how long it will remain this way. Seeing as how the crime and homicide rates have been ticking upward in recent years. Paranoid? Maybe a little. Mostly just concerned since the close men in my life have a habit of being very helpful toward strangers, and I really hope the day doesn’t come when someone tries to take advantage of their hospitality. Like, for example, on the side of the road when they’re claiming to have car problems. Hell no, I don’t trust people. Well, I do to a point since we have to, but that doesn’t mean I’d put it past a few of them running a scam or acting a fool on the bike trails (as some already do) or trying to break into houses (as already happened at Former’s place a few years back). I trust people to be what we humans tend to be, which is a bunch of opportunists. Until I know you I can’t help but be a bit wary about you. And I sometimes wish my menfolk would be a bit more so as well. Which is sad since it dampens a person’s spirit to have to walk around worrying about who might be trying to work an angle. But we hear the local news and should be aware that things are shifting in this relatively calm city as it continues growing and experiencing so many newcomers from other states. I don’t trust the suburban kids either — too many of them are up to no good also.

LoL  So yeah. In my own little misanthropic mood over here today. Just journaling it out of my system for a spell, like usual. I think it’s all of us aging that’s getting to me. Gets to realizing how vulnerable we all are (and probably always have been, though it was nice feeling blissfully oblivious in our youth). Car accidents. Workplace accidents. Asshole opportunistic people to look out for. And now that fall is creeping toward winter and it’s getting colder outside, there’s the upcoming snow and ice to brace ourselves against.

Now that I think about it, I likely get melancholic around this time every year. Winter’s approaching, and that alone always makes me nervous. Winters here can be so harsh, much harsher than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. But this is the new home, so I try to adjust and get on with it. But when your car starts sliding on ice and the others around you are doing the same, you can’t help but get nervous. Especially if you’ve ever gone off-roading as a result before (as I have once many years back — was pretty scary). Then people get stuck and need to be pushed to get started, so the guys get out to help, but there’s the worry about another car coming along and sliding into them. Scares me straight every winter knowing this going on. I’m not strong enough to help much with pushing, so I don’t usually stop for people other than to call help for them. They say I’d only get in the way otherwise. This place just turns into a big ice rink every winter (except last winter, the mildest on record in a long time). Gotta be careful out walking (my guyfriend fell on his driveway once while out trying to get the mail and smacked his head and back — I’ve fallen on ice several times but usually manage to land on my knees, a big reason why they’re so jacked up). Been rear-ended twice because of ice. I sincerely wish everybody would put snow tires on their vehicles since they help SO MUCH, but they’re pricey ($150/snow tire for a midsize sedan).

The cold itself takes a lot out of you. That chilly air blowing hard in your face, especially in the suburban areas where there aren’t enough trees and tall buildings to break it up. Fingers feel frozen even when inside super-padded insulated gloves. Gotta dress up like the michelin man just to leave the house, padded from head to toe. Long johns on underneath, three layers of shirts, thick Carhartt coat, skull cap plus ear muffs plus scarf, super-thick socks with snow boots with deep treading (and yaktrax for when even more grip is necessary). Hence why it’s no fun going to the gym in the winter — takes a while to change out of all that. Wish I could wear a ski mask so as to keep my nose warm, but then people would look at me funny and probably think I’m trying to rob the place.

Winters are just daunting. We all tend to worry about its approach, though I try really hard not to until it is here since it’s a waste of energy worrying about what inevitably will come. But then here I am, worrying anyway. By the end of this month the snow will have started falling, and it will continue to fall until March, maybe April, maybe even early May. Can’t blame the gods for picking on me in sending me here since I could’ve moved elsewhere by now. This is where the economy is good, and this is where I’ve made a couple close friends.

I tell myself that it’s all a trade-off and that these harsh winters are more bearable than Mississippi’s hot-as-hell summers. And I believe it too, up until around February. That’s the hardest month out of the year, every year. Makes me wish I had more tolerance for heat and bugs and snakes. Causes me to question the locals on why they’ve remained here all their lives. Somewhat amuses me to observe newer transplants trying to cope with all this blusteriness. It’s not fun, not when it gets down below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. But I will say this: I can’t tell much difference between 10 degrees F and zero degrees F. Both suck equally. Especially when prolonged for days on end. And the sun comes out less, and it grows so dark so early. And I’m at the mercy of ambient heat funneled into my apartment — not much way to adjust it other than to either open or close the vents.

Some years we put plastic on the windows to help reduce the draftiness. Thinking this seriously needs to be done to one of Former’s bedroom windows since its outside pane still hasn’t been repaired. While over there I can feel the coooold swirl of air drifting down across my face at night. Have to hide my nose under the down covers to keep warm while I sleep. He doesn’t mind it, but I threaten to freeze to death.

But it’s also the time of year when it’s nice to bake since the oven helps to heat the place. And a lot of us sleep better when it’s cold out (albeit not too damn cold). All that time spent indoors trying to get warm and baking leads to chubbiness though. lol

Ugh. Oh well. Another winter approaches. Nothing can be done about it. Just have to be careful. Could be worse — we could live in Alaska. So gripe, bitch, complain, fret away…changes nothing. Simply is what it is. Year in and year out. Like clockwork.

Preemptive worry never does me any good, but it’s hard to avoid. On a brighter note, Former says he’s thinking of roasting a turkey next weekend. So that will be nice. An early Thanksgiving this year. I need to figure out a veggie side dish to bring along.

If it were only weather that worried me then it wouldn’t be so bad. But when you toss in fear over others acting a fool and worry about technologies not operating as expected and then also wonder what’s going to happen to our nation on a societal scale when there’s all these divisions being sown — then worry transforms into dread. Hard enough to stomach a lot of that when Mother Nature isn’t actively draining you.

Guess this is my way of bracing for at least one inevitable set of circumstances. Maybe we’ll get lucky and experience no blizzards this time around. But as for the rest…I still am unsure how to brace for where that may lead.

For days now the song “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After continuously plays in the back of my mind…

Creating our own dysfunctional realities again and again

Recently I stumbled across some interactions between a group of people online, in which they got into some banal disagreements that turned into all-out videos wars where the gloves came off and the situation quickly degenerated to aiming insults beneath the belt. Typical drama to be found on youtube, for sure. And not particularly interesting either, other than it got me thinking about how and why these individuals attracted toward one another in the first place and wound up playing into one another’s preconceived narratives, as is so common.

Look, there’s a good bit of truth in the notion of like attracts like. Often I hear of self-described feminists online complaining about men and their treatment of women, perceiving themselves as victims of chicanery and “attacks” from the men in their lives. What I’ve noticed though is that in order for someone to be a victim, there must be someone else to play the part of aggressor or abuser, and this can and often enough does wind up proving to be a repetitive pattern. When one’s identity is tethered to being victimized in some such way, whether that person means to or not, he or she tends to be inclined toward attracting people who fulfill that dynamic, thereby perpetuating the very drama one claims to wish to avoid. But how can you avoid such drama if you’re unaware of how you’re attracting it and exacerbating it yourself? And do these folks even truly wish to avoid such drama when it serves the identity they’ve constructed over time? I’d argue that in many cases they actually thrive on such conflicts, especially when made public, because it aids them in broadcasting the narrative and outlook that defines them.

How can one claim to be a perpetual victim if not perpetually victimized by others? Do you think it’s an accident that the perpetual victim attracts perpetual victimization, especially well into adulthood? And here I think it’s important to draw a distinction between pitfalls that youths experience out of naivety and a lack of enough life experience versus the cyclic patterns of behavior fully-grown adults allow themselves to repeatedly become enmeshed in. Unfortunate circumstances that can and often enough do impact youths will hopefully provide opportunities for personal growth and increased self-awareness, albeit learned via the hard way (as proves inescapable in this life). But what about people who don’t learn, or if they do it seems the lessons they gleaned (consciously or sub-consciously) pertain to manifesting more of the same again and again and again, ad nauseam? Should we consider this a sign of willful ignorance and/or manipulative game-playing when one will not extract oneself from such toxic dynamics or figure out a way to elevate the game?

It gets a bit depressing observing people older than myself out here continuing to engage in immature skirmishes that aren’t geared toward improving relations in any way but instead appear to be signaling the same broken message again and again without ever hoping to be satisfactorily resolved. So you wish to be viewed as a victim on an ongoing basis…how is that helpful to yourself or anybody else? It’s pure drama on a base level. Where’s the lesson to be learned from that? What’s of real interest in repeating that cycle? What’s the benefit in portraying oneself publicly in such a fashion? What does one get out of it? Because people who repeat such patterns well into adulthood are most definitely getting something out of the dynamic or they would refuse to keep playing such games with one another. When the costs sufficiently exceed the perceived benefits, one becomes compelled to make drastic changes. We don’t simply stay willingly in toxic dynamics for long if there’s no benefit to be derived for ourselves, and I’d argue that often that turns out to be an ego benefit in terms of bolstering one’s constructed identity. If the game changes, you would be forced to change too, and that requires effort and accepting discomfort as a result. And doing so might cut you off from the easily acquired sympathy and attention garnered through the game you’ve been playing up until now.

We humans are notoriously conflicted about change, commonly preferring known patterns (even if dysfunctional and toxic) to uncertain forecasts. But the only way we’re likely to grow is by being challenged and pushed outside of our comfort zones. Does it really look like people who remain bogged down in these perpetual victim cycles are growing and expanding their awareness? No, more often it looks as if they’re hiding within such patterns and dynamics specifically so as to avoid change, even if that change might eventually prove most beneficial for all involved. It’s another form of escapism of sorts, a role to hide out in that’s comfortable because it’s well-known.

But why would people wish to keep this up? Doesn’t such repetitive drama grow old and boring? One would like to think. But again, what benefit can be derived? Such an individual can utilize these dynamics to garner attention that otherwise might prove to be hard-won and actually require a great deal more effort on her/his part. So in that sense it can serve as an easy fallback routine, a norm that’s grown comfortable over time because one’s familiar with how that game is played, even though it’s also crazy-making in its own right. To expand beyond such trivialities takes effort and heightened awareness, which then tend to force us to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves and our habits and how we’re creating the very reality we claim to wish to escape.

I get to thinking that most older folks are well aware that they’re perpetuating these ugly dynamics and yet continue to do so because they find it entertaining in an otherwise uninteresting life. Though our lives are only as uninteresting as we choose to make them. So it’s an easy avenue to “excitement” and a feeling of relevancy. While it’s common to accuse the one playing the role of victimizer as only doing so in an effort to make himself/herself relevant, the opposite also is true in that being perceived as victimized makes you appear relevant as well. And if your identity is tied up in the perpetuation of such base drama, how can it be any other way? How might you shine outside of such a tried-and-true dynamic whereby you’re rendered visible and deserving of sympathy and support? Would require a different strategy in order to do so, and some folks just aren’t that creative or ambitious to switch up the routine. Basically, if it works then why fix it? If this provides me with attention over and over again with minimal investment on my part, then why learn another trick? What’s the point in growing if I’m sufficiently satisfied with where I am currently and what this game is providing me (as evidenced by the fact that one keeps with repeating the same old song and dance)?

If it hurt badly enough, one would seek a way out. If you’re still there playing the same game decade after decade, it obviously doesn’t hurt enough. Or you’ve grown comfortable enough with that “pain” that it’s become preferable to alternatives. Otherwise you’d change it. We can and we do if and when we decide the game is no longer worth it. Happens all the time. So we can’t help but surmise over time that those who continue playing such games do so on their own volition. Many, many people have broken out of much worse conditions. People have proven time and again the willingness to try to move mountains to get what they really want (or to escape that which they really do not). We either improve the game we’re playing, discard it for another “game,” or accept it as is. Those are our options and intuitively we’re all become of aware of it eventually.

Personally, I’ve come to see such banal, directionless drama cycles as the product of lazy, unimaginative and/or manipulative people. It strikes me as rather futile to accept such outcomes as the norm continuously. Makes life bland and pointless, dedicated to creating senseless strife that aims to go nowhere other than around and around in the same circle. Crazy-making in the lamest sense. And artificial, unauthentic, and too easy. Where’s the real grit associated with playing such a game? And what’s the real prize in the end? Sympathy and attention received from other people in the same situation as yourself? How valuable is that? The growth potential is nonexistent in such scenarios. And that’s why so often we look upon such people as immature, behaving like 20-year-olds who never grow up, caught up in irrelevant high-school level drama and mayhem that serves no worthwhile purpose. Turns into little more than he said/she said conflicts of the most ridiculously trite kind. Goes nowhere, accomplishes nothing, provides little fresh insight for those involved usually (or for outside observers), and eventually proves boring and lame.

At a time when there’s so much information available to us, easily accessible from our computers, it seems a shame to waste so much time stuck in a dumb cycle to nowhere that can’t expand one’s understanding in this life and only serves to distract and detract. I don’t grasp the value in that, yet it remains popular enough. Granted, we all are intrigued by a bit of drama — such is the human condition. But at what point does engaging in the same low-level shit again and again get stale? For some, the answer appears to be never. And that bores me. Monotonous and dumb.

Life’s so much more interesting when we find a way out of framing everything as an us vs. them/ victim vs. victimizer dichotomy.

Mirroring back bad behavior vs. Taking the higher road

Just finished reading this article in the New York Times (posted yesterday) titled “We Brought Charles Murray to Campus. Guess What Happened.” That taking place on the University of Michigan campus. And reflecting on a Google Hangout discussion I partook in last night where a self-described “MGTOW” was arguing that mirroring feminist behavior is necessary in order to show people the wrong in their ways.

Hmmm…  The topic of whether to employ the tactics of one’s “enemies” continues to leave me with mixed thoughts. On one hand, I tend to think it best that we hold ourselves to higher standards and refrain from behaving like schmucks since that sends a better message to the general public observers. But on the other hand, I can also see where groups who behave in such foul ways as disturbing assemblies and refusing to allow invited speakers to speak and blocking entrances to lecture halls really do deserve retaliatory comeuppances, partly because it’s just desserts but mostly because I’d like to think if they experienced this sort of treatment in kind they might realize just how much it sucks and agree to a ceasefire.

The subject honestly perplexes me. If you allow the other group to behave like hooligans without behaving in kind, perhaps onlookers and outsiders will come to associate them specifically with the use of such tactics and disassociate themselves as a result. At least one can hope. BUT in the meantime, your speaker has been unfairly berated, along with the attending audience who came to listen to him or her, not to a loud crowd of assholes hellbent on pushing their own political agenda (nevermind if it doesn’t even apply in the given situation, they not being the types to actually look deeply into what exactly it is that they are protesting). And there’s the concern that the outside world will just ignore what’s going on, leaving your organization fuming but without any real recourse. That’s entirely frustrating and unfair. We’re supposed to be a society all about the free exchange of ideas, but that’s cannot be the case when hooligans do nearly everything in their power to be super disruptive and derailing.

But what happens when we fight fire with fire? Sometimes we do draw more attention to the situation, though not always in the ways we’d wish. While observing and reading about the tactics of MRAs (men’s rights activists), because I was unaware of the extent feminists were misbehaving prior I got the initial impression that the MRAs were a bunch of bullies. My sympathy toward their causes was hesitatingly expressed because I didn’t wish to closely associate with bulldog jackassery, not from them or from the feminists they were reacting to. The more I learned about how feminists were conducting themselves (after a few-year hiatus from keeping up with much going on in the feminist scene), the more I began to grasp why MRAs were acting as they were in response. But I still loathed their tactics and wished they would take the higher road instead. To which they commonly responded that they tried that and it led nowhere other than them and their plights being roundly ignored. Which is probably true. For many, I imagine, it didn’t register as a concern until a bunch of women out in society claimed to feel threatened, insulted, and unfairly mistreated.

Having said that, I came to take issue with the so-called “MGTOWs” (Men Going Their Own Way) whom I encountered online (never having actually met a self-described one in person) because I found that they tended to go on the offensive when dealing with women, not waiting for an incident to react to before spouting off epithets and deriding random women they happened across as “whores,” “cows,” “sluts,” “cunts,” and openly celebrating their hope for us to die alone with our cats. Deal with enough jokers like that your sympathy threatens to dry up entirely. Which I openly expressed a few years back once I completely tired of their incessant and unwarranted remarks toward myself and others who hadn’t done a damn thing to them to provoke such a reaction. They tend to argue in response that they’re entitled to behave this way due to how womankind tends to be, dismissing any objections that the individual in question they’re currently addressing isn’t guilty of what she’s being accused of, stating that she could be if she so desired thanks to the current state of the System. So therefor we all deserve to be tarred and feathered outright regardless of who we are, what we’ve done, how we actually live, or what values we assert. I’d say that’s mad…completely and utterly. That strategy and worldview is every bit as bad as that professed by the worst feminists they’re claiming to be trying to combat.

Leads a person to a “no win” situation in a hurry. Can’t communicate effectively with people employing such tactics. Can’t stand to even be around them. Can’t escape them since they like to seek out those they disagree with. Can’t live and let live since they refuse to do so. Can’t fight them back half the time without looking like the bigger asshole through the way the situation winds up being spun. Can’t defend oneself effectively since members of groups like this like to travel in packs and prove relentless in the harassment they dole out. So what then? Where do we as individuals and as a society go from here?

I worry that if we attempt to fight fire with fire that we’ll just wind up burning down the whole house. That nobody will ultimately win but a whole lot on both/all sides will wind up suffering. That free speech will be lost amid the chaos. And that people won’t limit their reactivism to tit-for-tat exchanges where they’re willing to lay down their arms when the other side agrees to do so, preferring instead to sadistically keep on and on at them beyond the point of reason. Why? Because humans sometimes revel in behaving like assholes. Smells like POWER. Easy to get drunk on the stuff.

But there’s a lot of truth in the claim that people are stubborn to learn the wrongs of their ways without feeling the brunt of such treatment themselves. Having been around dogs all my life, I am aware that some dog personalities are obstinate to the point where they simply don’t (or possibly can’t) learn to stop biting until they are bitten back hard  and enough times in response (usually by other dogs, mind you). They’ll take rough play too far amid human cries for them to stop and demands for them to settle down, and I believe a good bit of that pertains to the dog not respecting the human owner’s authority. Because there are little or no consequences for their bad behavior. That’s another topic for another time, but I toss that out there because I’d also argue that we humans tend to be a lot like that ourselves. Thoughts of the debate over child-rearing and the use of spanking as discipline springs to mind. Some screech at the idea, calling it abuse in all cases, while others swear by the tactic in raising their own kids. Just the same, some kids report being spanked by their parents as having been character-building for them while others sulk  well into adulthood over the matter. I’d argue that it entirely depends on the temperament in question as to what the approach ought to be. Divvies up differently for different people. Some people will eventually gain enough empathy and/or sympathy to come to recognize the err in their ways and will aim to make amends with those they’ve harmed. While others will continue behaving like jackasses until the end of time unless they’re physically stopped from doing so. Many in the middle will finally experience a lightbulb moment where they’re essentially forced to realize that they don’t like the just desserts doled back onto them so therefore they must discontinue doling it out to others. Consider it an appeal to one’s self-preservation (if only in regards to preserving one’s own peace of mind).

We tend to be a selfish bunch. Some of us will carry on with a behavior until something obstructs our actions and exacts a consequence that we find sufficiently uncomfortable. Perhaps when it comes to feminists and antifa they would be swayed by having their own rallies invaded and “safe spaces” disrupted and their own speakers shut down. Maybe. But maybe not. Perhaps they will then up the ante, as those with a well-entrenched victim mentality are prone to do. But I’m willing to bet a good many of them could be influenced to change their ways if they were shown a clear comparison of what their group did and how it made people feel vs. what wound up being done to them in retaliation, assuming the retaliation was kept directly proportional.

But that then leads to the next problem, which is that people have a hard time keeping reactions and responses proportional. People get angry and lash out and sometimes take things too far, which then makes victims of those you were aiming to merely mirror. That’s no good. But there’s always an asshole in the crowd who doesn’t understand proportion yet craves revenge and winds up making the whole situation worse for his own group. And I say “his” here for a reason — many of those who escalate the situation to violence are men. Women prefer utilizing more passive-aggressive, crazy-making approaches generally. Initiating an act of violence or a major overreaction tends to hurt one’s cause more than anything. So then you’ve set your group or movement back all the more and brought yourself and your affiliates scorn from the general public. That scorn isn’t soon to be forgotten either in most cases. Ruin your group’s reputation in such a way and it might never be restored.

So what the hell do we do with this?

My instinct keeps telling me we have to adopt a higher road in our responses. But I’m not 100% sold on the idea, acknowledging the handicap it can create for those unwilling to properly defend themselves and to give their tormentors a taste of their own medicine. Self-respect tends to hinge on being willing and able to stick up for oneself. But it’s all in how we go about it. And the bigger the group, the more likely that one idiot therein will take matters too far and muck up the situation for all involved. Hence why I don’t involve myself in groups. Hate the idea of my own reputation being tarnished due to the actions of somebody else. But sometimes we’re grouped together whether we mean to be or not, as in attending a speaking event. To outsiders we’re then viewed as supporters of the speaker, whether we’re just there out of curiosity or are devoted fans. Might not have any idea of what other groups are in attendance or what they might stand for, but that doesn’t stop opposing parties from lumping us all in together. Not sure how to get around that, aside from staying indoors and away from all others.  tongue_out

We ought to be able to rise or fall on our own merit and be judged according to our own individual actions. But that’s a bit naive to expect, especially considering the hold and influence group dynamics and their enshrined ideologies commonly exercise on their participants. No human is an island. We tend to judge people in accordance with the company they keep, even if that company was kept unintentionally or accidentally. Especially now that so many are actively aiming to make real world events mesh with the socio-political narratives they’re pushing forth. It ceases being about accuracy. Quite obviously.

There are no easy answers to this conundrum. Perhaps it comes down to assessing what’s most appropriate in each event and situation. Doesn’t appear to be a one-size-fits-all approach that won’t eventually run into trouble. I’ll continue pondering on this matter.

Recent virtue-signaling over Hollywood fiasco (damsels vs. powerful pricks)

Okay. Let’s try a little test, shall we? Watch this video and determine how you feel about it:

That was Ben Affleck in 2004 with an actress named Hilarie Burton. Full disclosure: I’m not familiar with who she is other than reading today that she was a Total Request Live host back in the day, and I am not much of a fan of Ben Affleck or any movie he’s ever starred in.

Now, if your response to that video footage is to angrily declare Ben’s displayed behavior there to be “rapey,” I’m gonna assume you’re an SJW or someone who hasn’t spent much time in taverns and bars or someone who can’t discern between a serious threat and an annoyance. Why? First off, Hilarie was FLIRTING BACK WITH him. Observe the hair tossing, the girlish giggling, putting her arm around him as well, coquettishly nuzzling in toward his neck and chest. THAT’S NOT SEXUAL HARASSMENT, YOU NUMBSKULLS. That’s two idiots flirting! That’s what it looks like. Plain and simple.

“But he’s a douche-nozzle!” you say. Okay. Yeah, I agree. His tactics wouldn’t appeal to a woman like me, but to each her own. Obviously appealed to THAT woman, and that’s all that matters in this particular scenario. Ever been around jocks and cheerleaders? No? Well, they behave in a similar dumb fashion. The guy says crude and stupid shit and the girl giggles and plays with her hair and sits in his lap and laughs at his retarded jokes. Then he knocks her up and they live happily ever after, until they divorce. Welcome to it. Happens ALL the time, folks.

Oh, but I can hear it now. “Retarded??!!” Yeah, I said it, because it’s a useful word. Ben said something similar there also. You don’t have to like it. If it offends you, then okay. Great. Don’t hang around guys like Ben Affleck then (or me either, for that matter). Chalk it up to incompatibility and move on if it bothers you oh-so-badly.

Ya know, since Trump said what he said and the mainstream media collectively lost their minds, and now Harvey Weinstein has shown himself to be a piece of shit, people out here in the public (especially on social media) are losing their shit in trying to drum up a witch hunt (once again!) over anything and everything they possibly can construe as sexual harassment or inappropriate. And it’s a real shame since it detracts from ACTUAL cases of severe wrongdoing. Harvey Weinstein sounds like an ass, and what made him particularly problematic was how much power he personally wielded in Hollywood. Had he been some random schmuck in a neighborhood tavern behaving as he did, he probably would’ve been slapped plenty and few would’ve pussy-footed around calling the guy out on being a perverted asshole. But with money and fame and power comes privilege. Some folks do aspire to work in Hollywood and therefore will tolerate jerks like him in order to do so. That’s not cool. Wish it wasn’t the case. But you wanna know how you do NOT address matters of that magnitude? By pretending that anything and everything under the sun qualifies as matters of that magnitude. Like some of you are trying to do with this clip of Ben Affleck merely acting like a fraternity house dumbass.

Geez. I’m beginning to wonder if the majority of people on social media truly are just that naive. Is it because so many of them are young? Too little life experience? Too pampered and protected of an upbringing? Where have all the older web surfers gone?

Look, there are dangerous sexual deviants out here in society. And then there are opportunistic jerks, a number of whom inhabit positions of power. Yes, they can impact people in all sorts of ways, from causing them to not get hired or to lose their job, to ruining their reputation, to actually harassing them, and even occasionally going so far as doing real physical harm to them. Hence why it’s very important that people learn to discern. Not all jerks are created equal. Not all are serial rapists without a conscience (in fact, most aren’t). Not all even expect to get their way despite their advances. Some even respect you all the more when you do stand up to them and call them on their bullshit. Some will say offensive stuff but that doesn’t mean they will physically attack you. Then there are others who will play up to you and pretend to be a close confidante only to later learn they were working against your best interests from the start. Lots of different types of jerks out here in society.

When it comes to us as women and how we conduct ourselves, I’m admittedly growing very frustrated with so many women acting as if we possess no agency. As if just because a man tells you to do something means you must do it. As if we somehow lost the ability to say “NO!” and mean it and to back it up with actions. Unless you’re physically overpowered and made to do something against your will, your will remains intact and it’s a choice as to how you decide to act. If an old pervert groping you is unappealing, then don’t let him do so. I’ve had old men grope me when I was younger a few more times than I care to recount, and yes, I understand that some are obstinate asses who don’t like to take “no” for an answer. But to hell with them. If they want a fight, give it to them. But don’t just collapse into their arms and then later pretend like you had no choice. That’s bullshit for any adult to claim, and it’s a BIG part of the reason women aren’t taken seriously enough. And not just by men but also by other women. We don’t respect one another due to this double-speaking/double-acting, underhanded BS.

Understand this: The rest of the world CANNOT READ YOUR MIND. Super important to comprehend that. If you don’t say it OUT LOUD and make it clear through your body language, then others can’t be expected to know what you’re thinking and feeling inside. We can’t. Sorry folks, but there’s a barrier around all of our brains making our own minds our own exclusive property. Nobody else can get in there. So we have to outwardly project what it is we’re wanting to get across. If you don’t want to sleep with someone, tell him/her so and act in accordance. If a big-shot guy jerking off in a potted plant is offensive to you (as it understandably would be for most of us), then let it be known. Best to directly tell the person you’re dealing with, but if you truly are afraid to do so then tell somebody else who can possibly assist you in handling the matter (if you find it to be that important to do so).

Now, I’d argue that not all matters always need major handling. Sometimes we choose to keep matters to ourselves. Other times we warn our friends and acquaintances to keep away from a jerk and that’s about the best we can do. Certainly not everything is a criminal matter, nor is everything needing to be aired publicly. Totally depends on the situation. Scary guy truly acting rapey and menacing and threatening calls for a different approach than an idiot like Ben Affleck snuggling against you while drunk or high (or whatever he was on). As should seem obvious. Different problems = different tools needed in handling them.

I do get disappointed when reading about celebrity women who have power in their own right acting as if they’re too afraid to speak up on their own behalves or for other women who may be enduring worse treatment. The reason being that many of these same celebrity women are quick to lecture the rest of us out in society about our moral duties and push their political views. Meryl Streep immediately springs to mind, as does Ashley Judd. Celebrities are merely humans too, it’s true, but they’re humans with major platforms and a whole lot of influence and big followings and a lot of money and connections. Doesn’t make them more moral than any of us though. Some might argue the opposite tends to be true more often than not, and I lean that way myself in assessing the situation. Hence why I opt to vote with my dollars by NOT subscribing to cable television, rarely going to movie theaters, and rarely giving a damn what any celebrity has to say on political matters. They are ACTORS by trade, which calls for a personality type capable of suspending judgement, disbelief, and reason. They’re also surrounded by a bunch of other actors much of the time. Plus, they’re vying to arrive at and belong within the big league, with hopes of making millions of dollars based on their charismatic skills and physical appearances. So it doesn’t surprise me terribly that their discernment capacities tend to be wonky. Given enough years to observe ample examples of actors’ and actresses’ publicly displayed behaviors and choices and flippant reversals in brazenly expressed opinions and moral outrage, youngens too will likely cease being so easily surprised by much out of them anymore as well.

Some say this Harvey Weinstein fiasco will lead to the “draining of the swamp” in Hollywood, but I highly doubt it. Isn’t the first time a scumbag was exposed and won’t be the last. Look how many times it’s happened among politicians and yet that swamp remains firmly intact. Glad to see Harvey Weinstein step down from a position of power (though long overdue) since he demonstrated irresponsible immaturity in handling that role. But aside from that, I’m seeing mostly virtue signaling out of most in the mainstream media and on social media. People trying to distance themselves from him because now it’s the popular thing to do. Republicans and Democrats at it like usual, slinging mud at one another and crying foul, forever attempting to discredit one another’s parties (as if either is worth defending these days). Why isn’t Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama getting outraged at this news about their “friend”? Likely because they knew all along and aren’t all that different from him themselves. Birds of a feather…

Is it such a major surprise that Hollywood is filled with opportunistic perverts? Really? Or Washington D.C.? Come on, folks. None of this is new. And it won’t be stopped simply because we engage in dialogues about it either. Shaming people impacts specific individuals, not the system in place itself. Why? Because a lot of this comes back to human nature, not only in the types who prove most ambitious and vie for power but also in all of us in how we tend to swoon in the face of charismatic people and give them what they want. I believe that cycle is destined to repeat again and again and again, regardless of what changes we might try to make to the political structure or how many “diversity” courses we come to require in this field or that corporation. The best we can probably hope for is to learn to govern our own selves better as individuals, to choose whom we associate with more wisely, to figure out how to pick the battles most worth fighting, and to not compromise our principles (even—or most especially—when confronted with opportunities for financial enrichment and an enticing increase in popularity, power, and influence). But those are very tough lessons for humans to reckon with. Been trying to for thousands of years and don’t appear to have made much real progress thus far. It’s a perennial battle within and across members of our species, and it too promises to go on and on and on into the unforeseeable future.

Doesn’t sound like the happy ending you were searching for? Well, welcome to it. This is life. Nobody promised us a rose garden or claimed this shit would be easy and straight-forward or that all would shake out fairly or even that it would make a whole lot of sense. It simply is what it is. Figure out for yourself how to navigate in life most effectively, acknowledging that we won’t all prove to be on the same team or living in accordance with the same morals and beliefs, as should be obvious by now. Sell your soul for money and fame if you want to, but understand that there will be some sort of consequences. If you treat others poorly, then don’t be surprised when they eventually turn on you and aim to ruin everything you’ve ever built. Of course you can wind up targeted without having actually done anything wrong (or at least not terribly wrong according to some standards — Edward Snowden and James Damore spring to mind) — happens often enough. We’d like to think the greedy and cruel always get their comeuppances, but that’s unfortunately not always the case. Just as good folks aren’t always rewarded. Such is life…

BUT, in order to bring about more fairness and justice, our only real option is to begin with our own selves and how we behave toward others. We’re all sinners and wimps, but that’s not all we are, or at least it needn’t be. Lots of grey area in this life, which provides us lots of opportunities to learn and grow and explore. Much of the time when we strike out in indignation against some stranger whom we don’t even know outside of news stories, we’re doing so because it’s tripped some recognition within our own selves that we’d rather not confront. I believe this to be true much of the time. So when I read of all these supposedly outraged strangers on the internet getting up in arms over a Hollywood big-wig and other actors or over some words spoken by Trump years back, I have to wonder what we’re really reacting to here. What people we don’t personally know have done or said, or how that resonates within parts of ourselves that makes us uncomfortable? Willing to bet about 50% of the time people are freaking out because they don’t want their own little dark secrets to ever see light, so they pretend that they have none through loudly declaring the “bad guy” to be oh-so-bad over and over again. Deflects attention away from oneself. Drowns out our own nervousness. Very common tactic. Those pangs of weirdness and shame offer an opportunity for introspection for those willing to explore their own abyss. Much more fruitful, IMO, than simply focusing all energy outward in perpetual judgement of others.

Anyway, before I completely slide off topic here, I’ll end with this. Want to drain the swamp of Hollywood? It’s easier to do than draining the swamp of D.C. All you have to do is starve it off financially. Quit giving it money. Quit paying to watch movies by producers you don’t respect, showcasing actors you claim to have moral qualms with. Just quit it. Quit clicking on their twitter feeds or gossiping about what they’re up to. Do your due diligence on where you’re spending your money to better ensure that your expenditures align with your professed values. Don’t want to support and promote womanizing jerks who abuse potted plants? Okay, then quit buying products and services that line such people’s pockets.

The Year of the Scam

Did I mention that a few months back somehow a crook got hold of my debit card information and used it to place two purchases, one to an online retailer I’ve never shopped at and the other to a utility company in the Northeast U.S.? Yeah, that happened as well. A little over $270 in charges, all reversed by my bank once caught and reported that same week. Bank representative told me it was likely that my information was collected through a gas pump skimmer scam and that I’d be better off going inside to pay for fuel purchases in the future. That’s a bummer. So I began paying for gas in cash more often than not.

Then when I was finally filing my taxes after having filed an extension to put off doing so, when using TaxAct (which is the site I normally use) I had to deal with their relentless upsell attempts throughout the process. And because I didn’t have a discount code this time around and did have a second source of income from a side job (if you can really call that income since the fuel costs involved nearly equaled my earnings — certainly wasn’t a money-maker, come to find out, at least not for us independent contractors), my taxes were complicated a bit, prompting TaxAct to claim I had to upgrade to a higher plan in order to continue filing. Before all was said and done, TaxAct was wanting to charge $87 for federal and state filing of what’s normally been a very straightforward and basic tax return. Everybody’s trying to get their cut this year it seems. Considering not filing through TaxAct next year as a result, especially considering the upgrade didn’t seem any different whatsoever from the usual plan used. Didn’t even import last year’s tax information for comparison purposes.

But my financial problems are relatively minor compared to what’s been going on out in larger society. Did you hear about how after Avast took over CCleaner this summer it then somehow was corrupted and placed malware on a bunch of private and corporate systems (2.2 million affected), using that established backdoor to deliver more malware so as to collect data? The word is that that was the handiwork of a Chinese hacker group, said to be the same ones responsible for hacking into Google’s infrastructure back in 2009. Learned about all that while researching what CCleaner was when I noticed it (or a faux application by that name) was left on my computer by the Indian tech support pretenders I dealt with last week.

Now, the cyber-security and antivirus giant Kaspersky is under fire, with the Los Angeles Times reporting today (based off of the NYT’s story that ran yesterday) that the Russia-based company was found (by Israeli government hackers) to be in possession of hacker tools coming from the United States’ N.S.A. Which then makes one wonder why it was so easy for an N.S.A. contractor to take home so much classified information in the first place. And I’m not clear on why U.S. federal agencies were utilizing a Russia-based company’s security products when so many in our government claim to be extremely skeptical of all things Russian. Just doesn’t make sense.

Then there was the curious case of the hacker group known as The Dark Overlords made infamous in its attempt to collect ransom from Netflix this summer by threatening to dump full episodes of their exclusive show Orange Is the New Black, along with other shows on the site, turning its attention recently to hacking into a suburban Iowa school district and scaring the hell out of parents and students alike. Bunch of bastards those hackers are. Their link to this crime was made known through Twitter when members of TDO themselves took responsibility for the school hack. How lovely…

And in other news, there now appears to be a vulnerability on Android phones thanks to something called the Dirty Cow bug. So make sure only to upload any apps directly from the Play Store.

Then there was the Equifax breach (which, btw, in case you weren’t aware, when you clicked the link on their site to find out if your data possibly was compromised and sign up for their credit monitoring offer you’re also agreeing, per the fine print, to forfeit the right to sue them and instead to accept arbitration if problems arise — just so you know). But fear not others like me who procrastinated and are behind the times — public outrage forced Equifax to back down on trying to enforce that arbitration clause this time around. Though it wasn’t likely their little arbitration clause would’ve held up in court anyhow. A class-action lawsuit is already underway.

Now, the Cato Institute has come out saying that Equifax isn’t a one-time security concern and that all data-collectors, including those within our own federal government, are vulnerable to being compromised in a similar fashion, as was demonstrated by the 2015 hack of the Office of Personnel Management databases (resulting in data on 21.5 million government employees, security clearance applicants, contractors and their relatives and associates being breached — the major exception being employees of the CIA, conveniently enough straight_face  — as always, those guys move in mysterious ways) as well as the 2016 hack of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) that was made public only within the last month.

Back up and running (early October update)

It’s been a long week. Began last Wednesday when I had been having an all-around decent day and finally made my way to the local shooting range with my revolver. All went well there, then I got home and was searching on allrecipes.com that evening, thinking of what to make for dinner, when something peculiar jumped up on my screen. And guess who wound up getting scammed. You get one guess.

Ugh. Was a stupid mistake on my part. One would think with 20 years of online experience under my belt that I wouldn’t fall for a frickin’ scam. Was a pretty sophisticated pop-up, I’ll give them that. Claimed to be a message from Microsoft and included an audible recording. Locked up my screen and spooked me enough to call the number listed.  Dumb, I know. Figured that at the time but took the chance anyway. Why? Hungry, tired, not thinking straight. Anyway, long story short, they didn’t get any money out of me and I’ve spent the last week trying to make sure they’re completely out of my computer along with any software they tried leaving behind. Frickin’ Indian scam artists looking to cause trouble and extort money is all they were. And yes, I’m a fool for freaking out and calling the number. I know. But all appears to be back to normal now, though I’ve beefed up security measures since then. Didn’t know what a VPN was before, but I do now. Learned about a bunch else too, but I won’t disclose all of that.

Going to chalk that up to a learning experience. Gave me a reason to reacquaint myself with parts of my computer that I don’t normally venture into. Been meaning to devote time to better secure this computer since purchasing it a couple years back and failed to do so, relying almost exclusively on the Microsoft products included with it. So it’s my own damn fault. Plus I should’ve known better than to think Microsoft would post up something like that on the screen. It’s not their way of doing business. But I got frazzled in the moment. There’s a first time for everything, and this was my first time to be scammed by an Indian techie-wannabe over the internet.

I will note this. They left three pieces of software on my computer: Supremo (another remote access application), CCleaner, and Malwarebytes. The last two mentioned there were unauthentic — malware. Got them all removed, then figured out my Windows Update had been disabled. Following directions on an actual Microsoft page remedied that. Ran more scans this week than I ever have on this particular machine. Had to learn command prompts and restored the system to a month back. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve fiddled with a computer to this degree, but all appears clean now. Hopefully. Let us pray…

So that proved pretty frustrating. But it’s been teaching me a good bit. And I didn’t get taken for any money. So it could’ve been worse. Glad they didn’t employ ransomware. Because they still wouldn’t have been paid and I would’ve had to kiss a bunch of files goodbye.

Last week was a dumb week all the way around. Like my brain wasn’t working right. Kept making all sorts of stupid mistakes. Decided to lay off the diet after that and returned to eating carb-rich foods with my former partner (ya know, let’s just call him “Former” going forward, for simplicity’s sake). Will resume the diet soon enough. Lost about 5 lbs. overall so far. Not sure if that had anything to do with my idiocy last week, but it certainly didn’t seem to help. Been feeling a bit better since resuming normal eating. Maybe that was the sugar addiction’s way of getting even with me for trying to overcome it. Well, I’ll let it win that battle for the time being.

Just going to continue monitoring the situation over here in days to come. Didn’t mean to conjure up drama for myself, but managed to do it anyway.  disgusted  I can just imagine how an even less tech-savvy internet surfer might wind up taken advantage of by those scammers. They were trying to finagle $240 out of me, and I’ve read elsewhere online since then that plenty of folks have actually paid them more than that. Reported them to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), for the record. And to econsumer.gov as well. And I encourage others who’ve been in contact with scammers to do the same.  These creeps gain remote access to your computer and then try to extort money from you by basically holding your computer hostage, threatening to “disable” it if you do not comply. Best to not call them at all and instead to either close down the browser completely, or if unable to do so because it’s locked up, to just go ahead and turn off the computer and reboot. Microsoft had this to say on the matter.

From what I’ve read, these pop-ups are generated by ads embedded in sites. Apparently even on otherwise reputable sites, like allrecipes.com (assuming that site’s ads are involved since that’s what I was perusing at the time). So I also shot off an email to allrecipes.com alerting them that they may want to look into their advertisements to see if they are indeed generating such pop-ups. Wouldn’t be the site’s fault, and I’m wondering if the advertising companies themselves even realize what they’re passing along. Very sneaky these scammers are.

Since then I’ve had another weird thing happening. A phone number (360-112-2000) from the Washington D.C. area keeps calling my number the last 3 days. Called about 7 times yesterday alone. The times I answered the line is silent. Searched the number online and read how others have been receiving calls from the same number, some claiming it’s silent while others claim it’s someone on the line pretending to be with the IRS or a federal agency and trying to conduct a scam. So I assume the Indian techie-wannabes passed my number along to some of their pals or else are directly involved in that scam/harassment scheme as well.

Internet gangs — that’s essentially what we’re dealing with here. Welcome to the New Age.

Well hey, at least in my week of fumbling I didn’t click on the fake Firefox Critical Update scam. It did come up, but I ignored it. Yay me.  rolleyes_smilie