Saturday night ponderings in February

Not been feeling well over here. Comes and goes, but always comes back. We each have what we have, incidentally or by our own creation (usually a combo of sorts). Such is life. Shit happens. And shit has to happen. Growing pains are part of the struggle.

But we live in bizarre times too. That matters just as much as anything personal one’s got going on. We are all reflections of sorts of our environments and cultures. Can’t get around that. Times have gotten crazy in the West, with so much happening so quickly that traditions got reduced to mere lip service and romanticized “ideals” and people are trying to fit themselves into new molds determined by the latest technologies.

I was reading this post a little while ago from Inklings blog, and it got me thinking about reality and how it’s come to be so incredibly saturated by illusions. Always has been that way probably, but now aided by new technologies and high ambitions. The sky’s the limit, right? That’s modern life in a nutshell. “Postmodern” — a term I’m still not prepared to fully accept. Bugs me. Might as well call us more modern than modern, kinda like more human than human. Postmodern comes loaded with the connotation of belonging to the time after time has ended, which perhaps is actually an apt description of where humanity stands in this instance.

I’ve long been drawn to the book of Revelations in the Christian bible because, in a sense, I do believe in the essence of its message. Humans wind up fucking everything up and creating hell on earth, though we’re figuring out that hell can take many forms. Why? Because we given in to our base natures: our greed, our lust, our envy, our contempt, our shallowness. We defile ourselves and one another more intensely and more frequently, deliberately or otherwise.

Right about there is where someone likes to chime in saying that humans have always been a rough lot who’ve engaged in ritualistic tortures and rapes and religious persecutions and murders — so this is not new, we just know more about it now that we’re connected in with televisions (and now the internet) with news programs that track events daily. We’re over-saturated with information, and it is that that is making us irrationally fearful. People who read and watch Steven Pinker might also add that violent crimes have reduced proportionally to the rise of civilizations, making it seem that the centralized approach is good for at least curbing violent tendencies. My reply to that is yes and no.

Has human consciousness also not risen over the last several thousands of years, at least for a quite many people? Two thousand years ago something revelatory was (re)born; it was the concept of humanity knowing no racial, ethnic, political, or economic divides. These are human-made constructs that we’ve been increasingly improvising on since the dawn of our being, we have always been social beings first and foremost. When we look back at distant hunter-gatherer societies there is evidence that many were relatively peaceful within tribal relations (in-group as well as with other groups that share in marriage alliances). In abundantly stocked locales with temperate climates, it is reckoned that people actually had to put in far less time and energy in order to survive. And the groups that embarked on hunting and/or fishing and/or gathering did so as brothers, uncles, fathers, sons, sisters, aunts, daughters, cousins — all were relatives. All cooperated because they had to, and leadership was far less formal and not handed exclusively to one individual in the clan. They were bound by their religions and spiritual myths, but these were living religions passed along by oral traditions, augmented and updated by shamans and clanspeople incrementally over time. Religion had a greater significance to people back then. It was not only their explanation system in a pre-scientific world, it was their life narrative that fostered social cohesion and union with all of Life. It was how they understood, as they were able, and I’m tempted to say they were closer to the truth than we in our civilized societies and highly-organized religions (including scientism) are today.

Shit changed. Some peoples learned to grow food and so settled down alongside their crops (though some didn’t and are very interesting to learn about, such as Papau New Guineans before they were pulled into the modern fold). It’s been a project in accumulation from the start, but with the rise of chiefdoms and fancier ideals came the need for more extravagant sacrifices to the gods and to chiefs. Power began centralizing because wealth could be transferred and stored, starting with crops and later precious metals. This led to a new form of economics that has been evolving in complexity ever since. And it was just that sort of economic divisiveness and exploitation that played an important role in the myth about Jesus Christ.

It’s an illusion and always has been. An important one, no doubt, because it’s allowed humans to specialize and to become knowledgeable about ourselves and this world we inhabit. Hence the myth about Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil — it’s a relevant metaphor for how we’ve evolved. We not only have amazing new technologies but we’ve also unlocked all kinds of secrets about humans’ psyches and created environmental (e.g., concrete and plastic jungle) conditions that have had profound psychological impact on everyone in various ways. We’ve become able to delve into and design new forms of torture and control, some that are so subtly felt yet insidiously dangerous and pervasive. In a very real sense, humans have created a whole new world, regardless of whether its turned out agreeable or compatible with our higher natures and aspirations.

And yet we tromp on, thinking we’re in pursuit of ultimate truths. I’ve been thinking for a long while now that humans are doing a fantastic job in unwittingly destroying what’s of actual value to most members of our species. I see us as having become domesticated animals, dependent and sophisticatedly manipulated into accepting the modern circus.

But somewhere along the way romantic love made its debut, plus the notion of extending empathy to distant humans we’ve never directly met and to treat flora and fauna with greater respect pierced through the illusory veil, and this whispered something true. There’s a nugget of truth if we’ve ever found one, and it pulls us in opposing directions since so much in modern life has become about divisions and rankings and serves economic imperatives first and foremost.

I ask, what is a worthy sacrifice under these conditions? What does courage call on us to do in times like this? That’s a mystery unto itself.

See, I figure humanity is going to do what it’s going to do. I don’t have to take it lying down, but I will probably have to take it nevertheless. And don’t we all feel similarly? Most people I talk to parrot nearly the same response about getting with the program and accepting life on its own terms, even if those happen to be human-made and detrimental. If you want to do something about it you’re instructed to join an organization and jump into the political arena, but everything’s about politics and money nowadays. Fuck it, I don’t want it. People are going to do what people are going to do. I aim to look after myself and mine, but I can’t help but be struck with awe and concern for what all is happening to and around us. Life is fascinating and rapidly changing — the most interesting “show” to watch. The common scripts are modeled after what we’re presented with through popular mediums growing in sophistication and spanning several generations back. In simplest terms, the templates we’re working with are very often influenced by unreality. In some contexts it qualifies as art, in others as propaganda — still affects us, though usually subliminally, and then it spreads through our own actions and behaviors. Monkey see, monkey do. On some levels, we’re apparently as simple as that.

And now I need a drink and a distraction. Time to think on something else.

Mid-week tunes (blasts from the not-so-distant past)

Cooked spaghetti and we watched a couple shows tonight. Went clothing shopping after work, which I do very infrequently, so that was a treat. Came across a great sale. And visited a chiropractor finally to learn what he thinks is wrong with my hip. I’ll chalk that up to being a fairly productive day.

Feels like a nice evening to unwind with some tunes…

Starting off with the Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”:

Love that song. It’s been on my mind a lot in recent months for whatever reason.

Swerving on over to Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk”:

Been into RATM since my teen years. I remember back during our freshman year (1999-2000) at college when my fiancee-at-the-time and I were enrolled in an Intro to Sociology course and our professor came in one day wearing an RATM t-shirt. Kind of blew our minds at the time because this particular professor was a disgruntled conservative-of-sorts who acted like he despised most of us students and our youth culture. Turned out that guy was a mixed bag all the way around. Not a happy dude though. But he was challenging and expected us to give a damn about soc or just leave. My future ex-husband and I both stayed and earned two of the few As he handed out that semester. He actually managed to run off nearly a third, maybe more, of the class before it was all said and done. An odd guy, difficult to describe. He could be highly critical, humorous, impassioned, down-to-earth, aggressive, contrarian. Apparently he was an alcoholic. He also was a married man and father who seemed perfectly willing to sleep with female students (or so he hinted to me in the checkout line one night while he was on a beer run — actually gave me his number). Kind of a disappointment in that regard, but at least I’d completed his course by then. So anyway, RATM is now forever linked up in my mind with that guy.  lol

It was then when I knew for certain that a Finance major wasn’t for me.  Sociology had always been my love, I just hadn’t known it by name yet. That surly professor demonstrated in my eyes that it’s not a field restricted to hippies and liberal elitists, nor should it be.  I consider myself lucky to have experienced a quality intro course on the subject.  yang

Anyway, back to tunes…

Probably my favorite song from RATM, “Killing in the Name”:

Speaking of the ’90s…here’s a blast from the not-so-distant past:

That was Tupac’s “Hail Mary” — a.k.a. worthwhile rap.

One I haven’t heard in a while, Tupac’s “So Much Pain”:

Another I like by him, “Thugz Mansion”:

Kinda funny how appealing these songs were for us in our youth and how they got ingrained to where they’re now a permanent fixture in my psyche. I know that song by heart. But like most Americans who got into listening to rap, I hadn’t grown up in an inner-city ghetto and know nothing of being shot at or arrested. And yet this song and others like it groove me.  *shrugs*

Westside Connection’s “Gangsta Nation”:

Probably the tribalism alluded to that’s most alluring. Like the attraction occurs on a sub-conscious, primal level. Hence why most folks, when asked, say it’s the beats that drew them in.

Just unfortunate that nearly all rappers alive today turned out to be ruled by money first and foremost. Sold out to Hollywood and corporate sponsors.

Here’s The Roots’ “Livin’ in a New World”:

If I had to make a list I’d rank that song in my top 10 examples of quality hip-hop.

Then there’s stuff like this:

That was Ludacris (feat. Mystikal and I-20) with “Move Bitch,” another I enjoy. It’s shallow and goofy and well-done — a good driving tune.

Another I can’t help but love is Old Dirty Bastard’s “Got Your Money”:

I’m the O D B as you can see
FBI, don’t you be watchin’ me

I don’t want no problem, cause I’ll put you down
In the ground where you cannot be found
I’m just Dirt Dog trying’ to make some money
So give me my streaks and gimme my honey

Radios play this all day every day
Recognize I’m a fool and you lovin’ me
None of you, nuh, better look at me funny
Nuh, you know my name now gimme my money

Feminists obstructing free speech (thoughts on disrespectfulness and the future)

Feminism’s been on my mind again, so I went looking up videos watched months back that bug me.

Ok. Pausing at 4:15. Goddamn it, that’s so disrespectful on the part of the protesters. Way to obstruct people’s rights to speak and peaceably assemble (not being familiar with the laws in Canada, but still). That was rude as fuck.

This is something that really bugs me about what feminism has devolved into. Concerns about rape are rooted in the question of respect, for one another’s humanity, for boundaries, for individual autonomy and volition. Yet here is an example of obstruction and disrespect running in the other direction, instigated by people who would be screaming about victimization if the tables were turned. This is hypocrisy-in-action.

If we do not treat each other with more respect than this, these fights will just continue escalating.

But who am I fooling? It appears plenty of folks no longer consider maintaining freedom a top priority, and certainly not above safety concerns. The many who tolerate this push without pushing back in any way are enabling this, but how do you stop this trend? Especially when the power of the State seems to be operating with a bias as well? I’m thinking one way to combat this is to stand up to injustices where witnessed and to connect with enough sense of humanity inside that we’re driven to uphold and protect certain basic principles for ourselves and others so that cooperation stands a chance. All these divisions are distracting us in having to deal with oh-so much bullshit, and along we’re swept downstream as we squabble, funneled further into new ways of life that are proving unhealthy for humans.

It’s a wonder if we’ll ever make it out of this maze. What’s taken for granted as “progress” appears to me to be just another bunch of lessons to learn.  Crazy time to be alive. We’re looking pretty fucked right about now on a lot of levels, and hating on each other certainly isn’t helping anything. It’s one thing to bicker and disagree, but it’s another to just mindlessly antagonize one another. What good is that?

But then again, I look around and listen to people (in this case, mostly young people) speaking as though they want to aid bringing about the crash of civilizations in a dramatic fashion. It’s a pipe dream since society itself will probably remain intact for at least another century to come (that’s my bet), so in the interim we’re just making conditions more miserable and likely ensuring future generations will have less of a chance to cope with whatever lay in store.

The desire to sadistically torment one another stems from a sense of powerlessness that’s been increasingly sweeping the land. We’re taking shit out on one another because 1.) it’s convenient and tempting to lash out at those who are easily accessible, and 2.) we’re experiencing drama directly among those we’re closest to here on the ground. Can’t so readily take our grievances to the public square and receive redress — life’s gotten too complicated for that. We have a corporate-dominated political sphere and a society chocked full of interest groups with lobbying power. Damn near impossible to make a dent tangling with that nightmare branch of the American system. So what can a person or a group do when faced with this situation?

This is where I keep being forced back to pondering the power of the individual and the importance of our social ties and bonds, because I’m not seeing a top-down approach being any kind of real solution but rather at this point is guaranteed to serve interests counter to what most people truly do dream for. And I’m not fully convinced there is a way out anytime in the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t free us up to drive on another nuts in the meanwhile. That still makes life insufferable, which is no good. We have enough bullshit to content with without adding to it unnecessarily.

But so much is easier said than done.

My Dream: 10,000 clans going their own way (the Intro)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Are we doomed?

Filmed this yesterday while out with my friend, but thinking today on all the examples out there that bolster the idea that we humans (or we Americans most certainly) are doomed. Care for me to elaborate? Great, here goes…

1.) Every option available to change our current course as a society requires concerted effort, yet no 3 of us can agree on a damned thing. Most folks are determined to prop up this political duopoly nonsense, nevermind that nearly every doggone politician offered up by either main party is a corrupt crook or will become one once installed in office. Third, fourth, fifth, and sixth-party candidates have no chance because most voters apparently are assholes who tolerate them being excluded from televised debates (let’s ignore for the moment how much bullshit it is to rely on television when it comes to getting quality information on such matters of importance) and do what they can to deride those they feel may pose any threat to the two-party stranglehold (Ralph Nader immediately springs to mind).

2.) We as a species are wiping out the earth’s resources with reckless abandon. Long-term interests be damned — everything’s become about the all-mighty dollar and keeping the economy alive no matter what. Infinite growth cannot continue unchallenged on a finite planet with finite resources. We know this, yet we like to act like we don’t know this.

3.) Thanks to corporations tampering with everything under the sun, our foods and waterways are severely contaminated with an untold number of chemicals.

4.) Bee hives are showing up contaminated with chemical cocktails as well, and we know if the bee populations continue to decline that’s going to eventually jeopardize the food supply.

5.) We Americans (and Westerners in general) are completely dependent on an unsustainable grid powered by petrol and coal predominantly. So far the word is that solar, wind, and water power options aren’t sufficient alone to provide for our immense energy demands, leaving nuclear power as the only option touted as being able to, and yet it comes with all kinds of major risks and presents a serious disposal dilemma.

6.) Even if humans were to somehow manage to destroy or overhaul this grid, we have nothing in place to replace it with in developed nations. Meaning many, if not most, would starve in short order. All talk of needing to return to working the land and growing our own vegetables and legalizing the growing of hemp for materials and how we deserve to be left to live modest lives without the threat of taxation is laughed at and shunned as impractical “liberal” thinking.

7.) We’re stepping on one another’s necks and driving each other crazy, leading some of us to believe the project in civilization perhaps has done more harm than good by this stage in the game. But again, how might we ‘undo’ civilization? Is that even possible for those of us accustomed to domesticated lifestyles lived out in concrete jungles where food is just a grocery store away, water is expected to pour from the tap, and the major focus is to earn money, somehow, some way, regardless of whether our labor is being utilized productively toward that end? But the crazy-making aspect should not be trivialized here, since that’s diminishing our quality of life at the same time that we’re coming to rely more and more on material comforts.

8.) Our governments are jacked up and proving nearly uncontrollable, but then again, we the people are doing a shitty job of regaining control. Our governments have become corporate-dominated, so we the people now live at the mercy of major multinational corporations. And they really don’t give a fuck about us. The corporate agenda reduces people down to nothing more than laborers and consumers, otherwise we’re deemed completely irrelevant.

9.) Then there’s talk of climate change and glaciers melting; invasive species being released into non-native habitats that are decimating natural populations, thereby disrupting ecological equilibrium; deadly diseases are posing ever greater threats, especially when we’re jammed into big cities where we cannot escape breathing one another’s air; etc.

10.) Most importantly, to me anyway, is the fact that we humans haven’t evolved nearly as far as we like to think we have and apparently are not equipped to confront these sort of disasters, most of which were originally a result of human ambitions. We’ve become less principled the more “civilized” we become, plus more spoiled, more dependent, more competitive, and more demanding. We’ve become trifling and unconcerned about what impact we have on one another. Our social fabrics are in tatters at this point and there isn’t much to unite us anymore, especially not when entertaining ourselves to death seems like so much more fun. Or suing one another up in court over frivolous bullshit — that’s another favorite American pastime.

For more food for thought, check out Naomi Klein’s article on “How science is telling us all to revolt” (Oct. 29, 2013). I also HIGHLY recommend her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism — a very good read that’s well-sourced.

So yeah, I can see why it may appear that we’re doomed. At least I’m doomed, because nothing much is likely to change in these respects for the better in my lifetime. And how would we go about changing much of this anyway? Some of this has gotten beyond our control, and as individuals we’re certainly limited on what we’re able to do when the vast majority is hell-bent in heading down the path we’re already on. It does look to me like our fate is likely sealed.

So I’m trying to look at this situation from other angles, wondering what is within my power as an individual and how my time and energy might better be spent.

Thoughts on rage as part of the growth process


Been continuing to think on some of the rage and frustration I’ve encountered online over the last year, particularly in recent months, among some men and women who term themselves as MRAs and/or MGTOWs or feminists. And I realize I need to step back to my own past in remembering how much rage I once contained, toward both men and women, but most especially toward men since they were who I was in most direct contact with and kept experiencing mistreatment by. No one could have told me not to be angry then, and doing so would’ve just ramped up my aggravation and wound up causing a fight. Because my pain felt (and still I feel was) justified as a reaction to what had come before. I was working through those emotions and it took several years to do so.

During that time I came online and likely spat some vitriol toward mankind in general. There was no aim inside me at that point to be fair and balanced because all I could see was how I’d been done wrong, and then this was amplified when I discovered other women (and in some cases men) who experienced similar forms of mistreatment. My own issues centered around my family (particularly my mother, stepdad and step-side of the family) and then beginning at a rather young age (early teen years) dealing with attempts at sexual misuse of me by much older men (one of the first experiences that messed with my mind and still sticks with me involved a 70+ year old man I’d grown to trust when I was 14). At first I became scared because I didn’t know what to do and my family wouldn’t or couldn’t offer the kind of protection that was needed back then. And then I got angry. And then angrier. And then outright hostile toward the end of my teen years and heading into my 20s. During that time I came to identify myself as a feminist, as I’ve discussed, largely because I needed support and guidance and help like any young person does. But then I didn’t wind up finding much of that there either.

The point here though is that I was in incredible pain, some of which still stays with me. I felt bewildered and was aiming to protect myself from what this world showed itself as having to offer. And everywhere I turned it seemed people were screaming in my face “Well, life’s not fair! Get over it!” Rage doesn’t seem an adequate word to describe where I went inside.

But as time moves on, you aim to manage some of what you’re feeling, and for me this meant trying to accept a more “pessimistic” outlook in terms of recognizing how dangerous men could be in the right circumstances and doing what I could to navigate in this world. My lifestyle during those years probably had a lot to do with me trying to take back power over the situation by me determining how relations would go (so far as I was able) and ensuring I stood to benefit on some level. During that period I spent a lot of time in neighborhood bars in my off-hours and through the use of alcohol and sexuality aimed to, on one hand, numb myself and, on the other, to seek comfort where I could find it. Escapism flavored by distrust and a sense of feeling I belonged nowhere and that ‘wicked’ people were everywhere waiting for opportunities to strike, and it came down to me protecting me because no one else would. I already had virtually no faith in the police or the courts, moved hours away from people I’d known, and had a weak support network at that time.

Strangely enough, through those years and despite experiencing and witnessing additional damaging events (though decreasingly so; luck factored in there as well), the ice began being chiseled away from my heart and I came to see numerous examples of men in need, not on the take, hurt in their own ways, suffering with serious problems on a level most others can’t even fathom (for example, one man relayed to me his story of winding up paralyzed AND being hit with divorce papers while recovering from related injuries in the hospital — a very, very sad ordeal).

Funny thing is the taverns I frequented actually proved a bit rehabilitative in a sense because there I met the old war veterans and people from all walks of life with nowhere better to go. They sought out companionship, someone to talk to, someone to listen, and I came to appreciate sitting with them one-on-one, hearing stories of what it was like working as a Teamster or hearing about a man’s wife who had died of cancer or hearing about how another man’s kids won’t have much of anything to do with him, etc. Individual men with individual stories to share. In other aspects of my lifestyle back then I met men with debilitating health problems as well as those who’d been overlooked as potential dating partners by most of society. Still met my fair share of jerks, but I also gained a lot of respect and empathy for plenty of others I came into contact with.

This led me on to my next phase, after a bit of a setback where I returned to feeling angry once more due to circumstances I don’t wish to get into right now. But this next phase was about opening myself up to others and to realizing that while my own life experiences and views aren’t trivial and do continue to matter, they don’t represent the bigger picture of what all is going on out here in the world. They are one perspective, the closest one I’m privy to, but still not by any means a definitive say on the matter. As I began opening up more and more, I began realizing who my real friends were and who I’d been treating unfairly due to my own hostility and fear of trusting others. Once I stepped beyond feminism and began exploring more about our military and then our economy, my whole outlook shifted to include a great many more considerations than merely focusing in on the harm men and women can do to one another. But it’s not a straight path, it winds and circles back around.

This path also led/leads me to looking more closely at events where I had contributed to the problem or where I had outright harmed others. Hindsight isn’t 20/20, but reflection and introspection of this nature is invaluable. Also it has helped to remember people from way back and stories they shared and my past observations on how they came up and what they looked to be up against, etc.

I still have a long way to go (as if there’s ever a finish line). While it is very trying for me to sit by and let others verbally attack me and paint me as some princess who knows nothing about this life—that always boils up my indignation—I’m realizing how these folks are on their own journeys, which hopefully they actively continue on, seeing as how remaining mired in the muck of bad memories and powerlessness is no way for anyone to have to live (as I try to remind myself, impossible as it is to forget the past). Maybe I’ve been a bit harsh and dismissive categorically because I don’t know how else to respond. In person it is easier because we can size one another up and get a better sense of whether we’re being honest and forthright. Because not all are — some are charlatans who will prey on others’ sympathy so as to position themselves to take advantage of the situation, this I have learned. And some are so angry that they turn cruel to such an extent that they become outright toxic. We do still have to protect ourselves despite wanting to be open to the concerns and stories of others. We have to be realistic, taking in all that we’ve learned thus far, while also trying to shelve that enough to where we aren’t too closed off to people. This is a struggle, and it won’t be easy for anybody out here.

The next question becomes where to go from here. I don’t know. But I’m trying to keep walking on while pondering and letting a lot of information in to swirl around and meld with the rest. I’m aiming to be more careful with my judgments, though there is a time and a place indeed to judge, particularly when it comes to scrutinizing ideas.

Perhaps part of the problem becomes trying to fuse personal healing with political activism, because we’re prone to behave as reactionaries with very narrow focuses when we feel like a ball of pain. It nearly can’t be helped at those times in our lives, but in doing so, we can unfairly heap even more wrongs onto the pile and make enemies out of potential friends and allies. The tragedy in that isn’t just about alienating potential friends and allies but also what we wind up doing to our own selves, we who need help, we who wish to be heard, we who crave validation and understanding. We wind up isolated, or worse, in an echo chamber with other extremely angry individuals who see no way out.

Life and living are very tricky in this way. There are no easy answers to this dilemma, so I am simply acknowledging this appears to be where we stand today.

Shifts Happen

A recording from June 2013 that explains a bit more on my current outlook:

Personal disclaimer and ramble for September 2013

No group of people is above being singled out and discussed. We all generalize as needed to point to cultural or social phenomena we’re trying to make sense of and call attention to. But, at the end of the day, these are only generalizations. Take them with a grain of salt, especially coming from me, because my mind has and does change over time in light of new information and experiences. It’s called personal growth and life exploration and it’s good for us.

I could gripe about the working class and poorer folks too, and likely I will at some point. Can’t do all my griping in one day, so give me time.

Gonna say some things that sound pretty ignorant, especially in my videos, video-making being a whole new concept for me and not one I’m catching on to quickly. Think: monkey with a handycam, editing during free evenings while drinking.  drinker  There’s no point in holding high expectations here. ha  There comes a time to take your time, does there not?

But I like writing on here, and hopefully my elaborations help clarify some of my points not discussed in detail in my videos (otherwise they’d be hours long).

People along with all of our social sphere remains fascinatingly complex and interesting to me. Anytime we attempt to discuss one issue from one particular vantage point, it can’t help but be a freeze-frame of just that one type of perspective. But it’s never the whole picture. This is my qualm with statistics as well and how they’re formulated, interpreted, and then misinterpreted by people attempting to bolster their arguments and promote their own perspectives and agendas. No issue is limited to only one or two ‘sides’ worthy of consideration.

We can skate eerily close to talk of relativism here, because yes, everything is indeed relative. Including our own perspectives in how they can shift from year to year, month to month, and day to day depending on what’s impacting us at any given point in time. Makes it tough for me to toe one line when my disgruntlement shifts its focus by the hour. heh

Some of us apparently were born and bred to be bitchers. The world takes all kinds.

I’m not sold on many claims being “cold, hard facts,” preferring to keep more of an open mind. If my brain falls out, so be it.

No group or position or stated ideal deserves to be placed on a pedestal and claimed above critique and scrutiny. That’s religious mumbo-jumbo and little more. Even the most sacred calls for our inquiry and inspection, and why would it not? All of nature is here for us to experience and explore, including ourselves and one another and all ideas brought to the table. One thing we should know by now is any group of people elevated above being scrutinized, inspected, and critiqued will wind up abusing their power in such a position of privilege. In short, we all deserve reality checks from time to time. Me too.

We live in crazy, weird times, and we have this amazing technology at our fingertips, whether we’re any good with it or not. The possibilities are endless on what can be communicated to one another now that so many of us are connected through the internet, and who knows where it all might lead? I assume it’s a matter of time before the internet shrinks in scope thanks to Google buying up all the popular hangout sites, and likely it’s already the case that anything we say and do on here might wind up being wielded against us eventually in the public court of opinion, but screw it. What are we so afraid of? Looking stupid? Saying something we might regret later? Calling potentially negative attention to ourselves? Appearing nuts? Well, so far as I can tell we are all nuts. Some nuts just subscribe to similar beliefs and hence don’t appear as nuts to one another thanks to confirmation bias. But we’re still all nuts.

Oh, and I suppose I’ll add here my belief that all persons are capable of spells of going “psycho.” That’s not a put-down, just an observation from knowing myself and others. Guess it’s not such a big deal so long as it doesn’t get taken to too crazy of extremes to where we’re doing major unnecessary damage. Just part of living. Though ramped up societal pressures and endless bullshit certainly isn’t helping any. Humans get stressed and act it out in various ways. No getting around that, especially not in crazy-making times. But we can try to make sense of it the best we can and think on what might help alleviate the mounting pressure that’s driving people toward anxiousness, depression, and resentment. Would be nice to see more thinking outside of the box here.

But people like to poke one another with sticks and escalate shit. Seems to be a popular form of entertainment. And perhaps we really are descending into an idiocracy, willfully, thanks to so much pandering to the lowest common denominator and technologies that let us be lazy. Perhaps we’re coming to the end of our evolutionary cycle in terms of long-term progress and healthy survival, likely as a result of contaminating our environments and consequently the gene pool. And maybe we, as a species, are already past the point of no return. It’s possible. And maybe it’s not necessarily such a bad thing either, just the way life can go. Life’s irony. Who knows? I surely won’t claim to, but it’s all interesting stuff to ponder. Nothing is off-limits for pondering.

FeministFrequency Series (plus rambly thoughts on nature vs. nurture)

I’ve been watching Tooltime9901’s video series discussing Anita of Feminist Frequency and her critiques of gaming and pop culture. The first 10 videos in the series are in the following playlist:

And additional videos have since been uploaded:

Ah. The old nature vs. nurture debate. The way I see it is nurture plays a tremendous role, but that stage is set on top of base-level biological drives. When people say “gender is a social construct,” that’s largely true in terms of how the mainstream pushes the idea of gender. But how genders actually shake out in reality oftentimes clashes with the prevailing social norms.  Socialization teaches us what to suppress and what to act upon in order to fit in well enough to function alongside others in a given society, and this of course varies across cultures and sub-cultures. There is no one “true” norm aside from variety, yet our culture is one that celebrates binaries and promotes false dichotomies. One must be either A or B, because C, D, E, P, Q, Y and X aren’t recognized as fully valid. Anything outside of A and B is viewed as a deviation from this supposed norm, and that tends to skew and bias conversations on this matter.

What I just stated appears more in line with what the field of sociology puts forward, though obviously as a social science there tends to be a greater emphasis placed on examining behaviors and in-group vs. out-group dynamics (competition) rather than exploring the biological origins of intrinsic desires. And this stems from specialization and divisions between disciplines that really ought to be freed up to flow together when impressing on students’ minds. But that’s just not how schools operate these days, much to my chagrin.

Both aspects (nature and nurture) matter so much that neither deserve to be trivialized, though it’s still probably not accurate to claim nurture and nature contribute equally to how we turn out. We experience them in tandem, so there’s no clear way to separate the two sets of influences, not usually. Socialization shapes how everything is framed for us, the society having already been in full-swing before we arrived on the scene. Conformity pressures, fear of ostracism, and being schooled by a long line of others instructed to accept similar narratives has led us to follow examples set by others. Furthermore, we do still live with relics from bygone eras that no longer fit with where societies are headed today, resulting in a lot of confusion and guilt and struggles with repression and expression.

But it doesn’t make sense to assume that a blank slate or neutral playing field can be created in the nurture department so that our “true natures” can develop unencumbered, this being one ideal I’ve heard professed by people who apparently think nature can exist in a vacuum. When it comes down to it, nurture is a product of nature — it’s how we’ve evolved as social beings. It’s an inescapable conundrum; the two sets of influences are inextricably united at the hip. Our nature is to nurture and to be nurtured, to teach and to be taught, to lead and to follow. It cannot be stressed enough that we belong to a creative social species.

This gets me to thinking about the two common, albeit very different, definitions of civilization, one pertaining to the formation of chiefdoms and then nation-states and now globalization and the rise of technologies and complex hierarchical organizations, the other being about civilized behavior taught to people in an effort to create and maintain a relatively harmonious and functional society. The latter often tends to be accompanied with utopian underpinnings where it’s believed that we can be altered and trained to become sufficiently docile and law-abiding creatures, and in this dream lies the problem. It’s fast-becoming a social engineering fantasy that ignores our innate, biologically-rooted drives or it aims to somehow eradicate or override them, and this strikes me as very dangerous and unnecessary. (In my mind, this ties in with the field of “mental health” and its goal to label behaviors as “disorders” and then attempt to “treat” them, but according to what normative standard are people being compared?)

When we step too far toward accepting nurture as paramount, we run the risk of fooling ourselves into believing we can play God on such an essential level that undoubtedly will prove psychologically destructive for many if not most subjected to such concocted schemes. Likewise, when people stray too far toward embracing  the role of nature at the near exclusion of nurture-related concerns, we see the rise of dogmatic biologically-deterministic narratives. Both extremes obscure the truth that there is a fusion interwoven all throughout who we are, beginning as soon as an infant begins observing and interacting with his or her environment.

Most of what we see around us is a social/cultural construct, from the concrete jungles we live and drive within, the schools and churches we may attend, family arrangements (e.g, nuclear and blended), employment options and economic conditions (and all money), and material goods and all else created or conjured up by human beings. We live within a matrix of human design. However, all of that exists within the larger matrix of the natural world that originally spawned us and that sets the ultimate parameters on what is possible. Sure, humans aim to push the boundaries and see what can be manipulated, but because we might try drugging ourselves and one another into oblivion to promote peace and non-aggressiveness, for example, doesn’t mean such a strategy won’t prove detrimental to our underlying natures and thence result in consequences that may prove pandemically fatal. (Such a scheme certainly goes against our psychological constitutions as animals and as people. If life feels rather meaningless for many people now, just wait until we become automatons.)

We humans possess great egos yet tend to lack much foresight and patience, making it all the more likely that we would confidently rush into implementing social schemes, thinking we have enough information and evidence to run with, only to learn (as isn’t uncommon) that there was much we did not know about what we were toying with. (As we’re actively in the process of learning already.)

On the flipside, by trivializing the role of socialization and focusing nearly all attention on biological drives, we run the risk of promoting base-level behaviors that civilizing influences have worked to allow people to transcend. Do we want to live as if so primitive that we become preoccupied solely with procreation and basic bodily need satiation? We are animals, but we’re also more than that. We possess amazing minds that have evolved to do a great deal more than strive to prove we are the fittest mating material. In a sense, falling back on dogmatic biological determinism theories serves as a form of escapism, allowing people to convince themselves that base desires and needs are all that ultimately matter and are what we’re most driven toward and thereby should be promptly catered to. Does this not translate into a hyper-focus on sex? Meaning on the act itself with as many partners as possible, rather than on forming lasting bonds and behaving pro-socially within a community network. And wouldn’t such a scheme, if followed through en masse, deliver a death blow to family and community traditions and produce a sense of even greater alienation among individuals? (Does that sound closer to heaven or hell to you?)

So-called social darwinism disappointingly has come to provide an excuse for common laypeople who are not very deeply acquainted with this and related subject matter to view everything in terms of competition and to feel justified and “perfectly rational” in behaving selfishly, going as far as pursuing anti-social agendas. Pick-up artists (PUAs) spring to mind. This view of life strikes me as encouraging psychopathic/sociopathic orientations (because that’s who will thrive is this sort of setup). And at bottom it doesn’t really make biological sense either considering most who are wishing to engage in sex with many partners aren’t doing so with reproduction as the goal, not at a time when the Law dictates that children deserve to be financially supported by parents, making it no longer sensible to want to spread one’s genes far and wide. (And perhaps this is one reason why some MRAs argue for the legal right to opt out of supporting unwanted young produced in “hook-up” situations?)

All I know is that it’s a big, complex ordeal and it does no good to try to jump on one side or the other, as if the imagined divide between these sets of influences is anything more than an illusory perception. If we want to be abstruse about it, the belief that nature and nurture can be meaningfully teased apart from one another is a social construct in itself.

None of my rambling here tonight is directed at the maker of the video series above. Just once again pondering into the wee hours of the night.

Hurts me soul too

That was “Hurt Me Soul” by Lupe Fiasco, this being a song I stumbled across a little over a year back on Pandora Radio. Tonight it was chosen specifically due to its title.

Hurts me soul.

I hurt a bit lately. Changes. A couple current family-related concerns drudge up old memories and the blues. Drudges up some anger too. But whatcha gonna do? Can’t change the past. Just trying to keep managing the present as I go. Like my guy reminded me tonight, I do have most of what I ever wanted now, today. That being the love and company of my partner and support of close friends and Grandma, a non-corporate means of earning a living, keeping a roof over my head and food (and beer) in my belly, all the books I’ll ever have time to read, a reasonably well-behaved feline, a decent car, entertainment, freedom from participating in past lifestyle choices, etc. So why let the past poison the present? Well, that’s the tricky thing about our pasts…

It lives on in our minds, replaying bits and pieces triggered by whatever’s going on throughout each day. Smells, sights, similar circumstances, etc. The past doesn’t just fade away because we may will it to do so. And it never stops being a part of us. It’s what shaped and molded us, for better or worse — everything that occurred in the past and all the people we came into contact with interacted with the cores of our being and together helped chisel the art that is oneself.

Free will enters in to whatever extent, but is it not also influenced by the expectations of others? We certainly weren’t free to choose our families or the people we were tossed in with by them in our early years. And if you come up with any discipline you know you certainly weren’t free to interact in that environment and with those people as a free, autonomous agent. Resentments form and can simmer for years.

And then we hit adulthood and people expect you to flip a switch and turn off concern for all of that. Mine it for its good points and let the rest go. Spent much of my 20s trying to do just that. It was a worthwhile endeavor that taught me a lot about myself and others. Broadened my empathy for people I’d previously over-simplistically caricatured.

But I continue to struggle with the notion of forgiveness. It’s an Oprah-ballyhooed trendy idea. Forgive whoever who has wronged you so that you can feel better within yourself. You can release the anger and resentment and pain all on your own with no effort or apologies needed from the other parties. You can choose to not be controlled by your pain. You are responsible for your own feelings — no one else can make you feel anything. Those are the claims. Yeah, well, in case it needs to be said: it’s nearly all bullshit. It’s a guilt-inducing lie that tells the individual that they and their emotions can and do exist in a vacuum where they hold the reins and wield all of the power, independent of what others may do to us.

And it’s shit like that that makes me skeptical of the extremes people are willing to go to, in this case in the name of individualism. The notion of individualism taken so far as to expect us to behave as if completely atomized and capable of behaving with robot-like control over our minds and bodies is the talk of psychopaths, not ordinary people. Such cultural expectations would prove unsustainable due to the widespread psychological harm it would do. This damage arguably is going on already.

What a terrific performance by the Avett Brothers.

The tragedy of all that stated above is that more and more seem to be accepting Oprah and Co.’s logic, ignoring the reality that there remains a tension between each individual and all others they interact with, extending out to wider society and then to all of humanity. It’s a web, and it also stretches back in each one of our pasts to all interactions with others and our environments experienced before. Sounds abstract, but we intuitively understand this or at least behave as if we do.

People may want to argue that bringing in our connections with others is some sort of scapegoat in our attempt to deflect personal responsibility outside of ourselves, holding to the belief that we each possess ultimate power over our emotions and our lives and that those who can’t toe the line are just lazy and lacking in will power and therefore deserve to be miserable. But who do you figure they’re referring to in that last bit? Why, most of us, that’s who. Nearly anybody possessing a conscience and sentimentalities of the heart.

Some people want to talk nowadays as if everything ought to boil down to “logic” and “reason” and “rationality” and “proof” and “empirical evidence” and mathematics, but that’s only one half of life. If that’s the yin, where’s the yang? It’s in our heart-felt emotional lives, our connections with others, our families and clans of belonging, our impulses and creativity — so much of what makes life feel worth living. We are social beings first and foremost, which is to say that if logic gets in the way of that, we tend to stray from being too logical (always while convincing ourselves that we’re indeed very logical — when don’t we?).

I’d argue sticking with the “yin” described above and neglecting the “yang”-side of life will prove a serious detriment to humankind eventually, making it illogical in the end. It’s pandering to a life out of balance, and when scales are tipped too far one way they tend to ‘knee-jerk’ back in the opposite direction before settling out. It’s anyone’s guess how long it could take, this being a process that plays out on and on and on.

Individualism vs. collectivism is the great social paradox. It’s a tension that cannot be naturally resolved. Not that I see it as a problem necessarily needing some sort of permanent resolution. It’s just the way life is, and we experience it on many levels, from the political sphere on down to our interpersonal dynamics and the memories that spin off from that and follow us throughout our lives. We like to think we individually are so mighty as to not need help from others, but it is an illusion disproven from the moment of conception. No human is capable of being an island, not fully and completely. Adults who attempt it frequently wind up going mad with depression. We are social beings, first and foremost.

Our lives are woven in the fabric of this tension. We are products of paradoxes that we have little choice but to learn to live with. Because they belong to the designs of the natural world, the framework we are bound to exist within.

Brings to mind another funny paradox about living as slaves. Humans have enslaved one another for at least as far back as civilizations have existed and perhaps even before then. Slavery is probably what allowed civilizations to come into existence in the first place. Cheap expendable labor, freeing non-slaves up to tend to other matters, like sitting around theorizing. Slavery allowed the West to rapidly ascend, and it arguably formed the foundation for capitalism (though we don’t call it slavery anymore, preferring economic jargon that sounds more sophisticated and somehow less barbaric). Capitalism was special, though, in that it freed masters from responsibility for their slaves. No more needing to house or feed them, while still not being required to pay employees a living wage. It’s clearly evident this, at bottom, is a cost-cutting scheme dreamed up by masters-of-old.

But anyway, what’s funny is that slavery is what we humans are fighting to try to stay out of with one another, now taking the battle to the political arena, and yet without slavery ever having existed the world would look very different today. Most people would likely still be either farmers or hunters out of necessity, because people would have to pull their own weight as best as able. This means big, centralized civilizations would serve no function, and therefore wouldn’t have come into being. Rather than be slaves to other groups of people, all humans are left to contend with their dependence on nature, the ultimate slave master. People wishing to escape that reality wound up in no better position unless they belonged to the master class(es), oftentimes determined by technological advantage achieved off the backs of those previously conquered. And which is worse? In the end will we not wind up being forced to contend with nature as ultimate master anyhow?

Ah well. Strayed far off the original topic of guilt, resentment, family, and individual power to forgive and move on. How much power does one individual possess, and does that amount of power fluctuate throughout our adulthood? Can we always help weak or tormenting spells, and should we always try to stomp them out? Do they not potentially provide value as well in allowing us time to think and ponder and rehash and soul-search?

Which brings me to the thought that initially inspired me to blog this evening: I am a soul; I have a body. This came to me after reading the titles of a couple of videos by atheists disputing the idea of people possessing souls. They say there is no evidence that souls exist, and I can’t help but chuckle. None of us really understand what a soul is, and how can we? It’s understood intuitively as representing our essence, of which our body is the vehicle. How might someone convince a skeptic of this truth? Probably can’t, because it’s not of the realm of science, at least not at this juncture. I suppose it doesn’t matter much what others happen to think on this topic — at least not to me. It’s not even a subject we can wrap our feeble languages around, let alone hope to prove or disprove.

So I continue on in speaking and thinking as I do on that. And today I am aware of suffering within my spirit. It began with a memory popping in mind first thing this morning, and more reflections followed as the day wore on. It happens. Even if I could fully forgive everything, I can’t forget. Beyond that, I’m not convinced everyone deserves forgiveness, particularly those who never ask for it. Maybe on some level it becomes the right thing to do, just to release the situation and let it rest as what has already come before. But a desire to stay the hell away from certain people seems unavoidable as well as healthy in plenty of cases. And then there’s grief over what’s been lost or broken, that being a tough pill to swallow and simply accept. To say that we can and should simply exercise our power to repress and move on strikes me as shallow and non-introspective, and in people who aim to do this I’ve witnessed the pain popping up later in life and dismantling their present. So it seems to me something we can’t simply walk away from and ignore but rather must go through and out the other side of, however long that may take.

But what does one do if stuck? I guess that’s where will power must come into play. If I will not direct myself, others may try to use me to serve their own ends, or I may be abandoned by those who lose faith in the health of our connection, and I wind up a slave to circumstances then.

Harshly put, Firefall. Noted.

… All is easier said than done.

… Is it really coming down to picking our preferred form of slavery?

Just thinking out loud again.