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Category Archives: Social Issues

Celebrate with Freedom, Love, and Life; Fight Against That which Would Destroy Those Ideas

Today is Independence Day. I was born and raised in the US. My parents were born here. My grandparents were born here. My paternal great-grandparents were from Sicily. On my mother’s side, I have family that came over with the pilgrims. I also have an ancestor on that side who’s mother was from Ireland and who’s father was black. He made up an Italian last name and erased his black ancestry. This ancestor was discovered when one of my cousins decided to do our genealogy and found his birth certificate. My family history with the US is extremely varied. It encompasses many different experiences of being a US citizen. But this is basically true of most Americans.

On this day, usually reserved for drinking beer and watching fireworks with friends and family, most of us are scared. We’re scared because our nation and the entire world is in upheaval. The pandemic has cost many people their jobs or businesses or homes on top of costing so many lives. Food scarcity, already an issue in the US for many, has become an even worse issue with the weakening of the supply chain. People began protesting for their freedoms, worried that the lockdowns were an attempt at government overreach. These fears were not unfounded as nanny statesmanship has been gaining favor in some cities and states. With the economy coming to a standstill and Congress not working fast enough nor doing enough to help the citizens, too busy fighting over the bone to appear as the heroes to the people, those who had been or had loved ones affected the worst had had enough. And the media chose to shame them instead of listening to their plights. And at the end of May, things just got worse.

People all across the US were in agreement that George Floyd was murdered. Both political sides agreed that it was police brutality that cost him his life. But then when we were our most united, those who practice critical race theory shouted the loudest and were given center stage. Critical theory ideology doesn’t bring people together. It divides us into groups based on identity factors out of our control. We cannot help but be who we are, even trans people. But critical theory uses that fact to prop some voices up and silence others. It hates the number one tenant that our nation was founded on: the freedom of expression.

Critical theory does not believe in the freedom and diversity of ideas that has allowed the US to progress to such a point that slaves were freed, women gained the right to vote, people of color gained that same right, and people were allowed the opportunity to live their lives in the way that felt best to them. The US has a history of activism to make our lives better than previous generations, all built on our first amendment. While the first amendment prevents the government specifically from silencing the people as long as they are peaceful in their activism, our freedom of speech is under attack from many corners.

You may have noticed it a few years ago when Zionist Jews were starting to be silenced, fired, or not hired in our universities. You may have noticed it in social media when people with more conservative or moderate views were cancelled en masse. You may have noticed it when moderators of those social media sites starting playing favorites with whom they decided to deplatform. You may see it now as many scientists, academics, politicians, professionals, and celebrities are fired over dissenting opinions. Maybe you’ve noticed that some of those people were of minority groups, liberal, loving, kind, or simply doing the job they had been hired to do and following the rules they had laid out before them. The hierarchy of ideas followed by the hierarchy of identities to see who does or doesn’t get shouted down is in full force, which is why JK Rowling, being a white woman who espouses for women’s rights over trans women’s rights, is under fire and why Terry Crews, being a black man who espouses universal liberalism and caution, is being called racial slurs. Both of whom have been victimized in the past but overcame it, which is why I believe they are still able to stand up for themselves despite the mass bullying. Maybe, like me, you’ve noticed all this and you’re afraid that the number one focus of what this nation is founded on is in danger.

If you feel this way, understand that you are not off the mark. If visions of an Orwellian or Maoist future are haunting your sleep, you are again not far off. Actions such as the tearing down of any and all previous forms of science, art, commerce, and religion, most recently depicted in the silencing of STEM, the tearing down of statues, even those representing or honoring freed slaves, the abolishment of slavery, black contribution to previous wars, or black heroes of the past, and the burning of churches or businesses, are the very acts committed at the beginning of such cultural revolutions. History is a harsh teacher, but it is important to pay attention to it.

Black people, like Terry Crews, Candance Owens, and Marcellus Wiley, who do not “fall in line” with what critical theory wants from them are being attacked with ad hominems, many of them the worst racial slurs I’ve ever read. The same is true for women, like JK Rowling, Helen Pluckrose, Asra Nomani, and Lydia Morphy. Gay men, like Dave Rubin, and lesbians are also under fire, especially if those lesbians state they will not date a trans woman who is non-op or pre-op, such as the deceased Magdalen Burns. Trans people like Buck Angel and Blaire White, who disagree with critical theory, often face attempts to silence them since they espouse the existence of sex and their identity as trans specifically over blending it into sex to the point where trans does not exist and cannot be spoken of unless it seems someone is facing dysphoria. Men and women of color are under attack, especially those of mixed race, for their dissenting views and “proximity to whiteness”, such as Tim Pool and Andy Ngo. Many people think being in a protected identity means those people will be, well, protected from ad hominems based on that identity. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Because ideas are more important than people in critical theory ideology. And once someone strays from the approved ideas, their identity is fair game for attacks.

Because critical theory promotes attacking a person based on identity. This is why white men and women are especially under fire for being allies or for not being allies. They are assumed to be racist no matter what their experience and the more they wish to help, the more racist they appear. When it comes to sexism, men cannot talk about their problems at all, to the point that male victims of gendered violence must remain silent along with all other men while their teachers encourage the female students to speak on their victimhood, imagined or real. A white woman can be followed home by a man and be accused of racism for simply being frightened of this very aggressive and dangerous action because that man is black. Actions matter less than identity and identity matters less than ideas. This allows real predatory behaviors to go ignored and unpunished. This is how so many sexual and racial predators end up in high political positions. This isn’t the America that even our forefathers envisioned.

When the forefathers decided to stand up to the English overreach, they argued over the sticky issue of calling themselves a free and equal nation while allowing slavery to continue. One of the earlier versions of the declaration of independence had slavery as being illegal, but there were too many men that would not support the revolution while having to give up their slaves, so the rewrites capitulated on that horrific issue to allow the US to unite against the English. But the language was there. It was a seed of freedom and equality, and it was exactly the rhetorical tool left in the declaration of independence to allow abolitionists to fight slavery down the line. And to continue to create more freedom for more people. The only idea that matters as much as human life is freedom. Because that is what life should be, free.

One of the best freedoms the US has gained is the one to love whom we wish, and that one is facing a great amount of attack. Inter-racial relationships and the children they produce are now a sign of proximity to whiteness. The right to be homosexual is now seen as bigotry against trans. Love is, to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., the only thing capable of destroying darkness and hate. Telling people who they can and cannot love is, in a time when Americans should be drawing those they love closer to them, wrong. Invalidating the very existence of that love for those who could not experience their love even fifty years ago is wrong. America in the last one hundred years has embraced love of all kinds. Critical theory does not support that love.

As a US citizen and a human being, I believe in your right to express yourself. I believe in your right to disagree. I believe in your right to protest. I believe in your right to be who you are. I believe in your right to love whom you wish. Today I celebrate those things that do make America great: the love we share, the ability to express ourselves, the ability to be who we are freely no matter how different, the people of the past and today who fought for equality and freedom and the rights they gained for my generation and for any other US citizen. I will stand against ideologies that work to break those rights down. I may be only one person, but there are, in fact, many who feel the same way. I stand with them, and I will support them, even if they aren’t Americans. Because these freedoms should exist for everyone.

 

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Carrie by Stephen King – Sunday Book Circle

So since this is the first book I’m covering, I figured I should go over the format a bit. I’m not going to review the books. I’m instead going to talk about points I found interesting, and I really do want to hear from people in the comments what they think about the book. So I highly suggest having read the book before reading the post, but if you don’t care and just want to hear what I have to say, then you can do that too. I’m not going to just do fiction, but will cover non-fiction as well. I hope that all makes sense, so here we go.

 

Now Carrie is Stephen King’s first novel. I was a little worried that knowing how it ends from having seen the ‘76 film would make it less enjoyable, but King doesn’t bury the event as a surprise for readers towards the end. Instead, it is clear from the beginning what’s going to happen to Carrie because the format is documentation style mixed in with shifting limited third. I often enjoy documentation style narratives, such as Dracula (the book), but Carrie‘s style is more similar to the movie District 9 than it is is to Dracula, because of the mix of limited third. The documentation style is often interesting because it brings to mind that you can’t know for certain if the characters writing are being perfectly honest. Diary is still a presentation of the self as opposed to the actual self. And official documentation has a lot of white spaces. More traditional narrative style typically tries to fill in those white spaces and present sides of the self that the character may wish to hide in all ways or is not even aware of. The blend that King uses in Carrie is interesting because it often seems that what people wrote is the same as what they felt and thought, at least consciously. It almost makes me think that at the time of writing Carrie, King felt that people were very honest about who they are. But I won’t go so far as to say that that is strictly true.

 

Before reading Carrie, I had read both Danse Macabre and On Writing by King. King brings up Carrie quite a bit in On Writing, describing the two young women who inspired the character. And reading the book and knowing about those two women, I couldn’t help but think that King is quite possibly the most empathetic writer I’ve read thus far. I also felt like the alienation, isolation, and the hatred that grew out of those two feelings could be applied to how mass murders are developed in the real world. If you think about it, Carrie is a mass murderer. We feel sorry for her, mostly because we can literally feel and hear what she is feeling and thinking, but we can’t do that in the real world. Real world mass murderers are most often male because women tend to internalize emotional turmoil, but this whole book is built around a mass murder, who happens to be female and telekinetic. Importantly though, she’s also telepathic. Mass murderers are typically in so much emotional pain and feel that no one can possibly understand what they are going through and one of the goals of the act is to make others feel as much pain as they do and to make people finally see them. These are all things Carrie experiences and does. She does it better than a real world mass murderer because of the telepathy. Everyone knows Carrie is doing this, because she has the power to make them know. Everyone can feel her anger, because she has the power to make them feel it. And finally Sue feels all her pain, even the pain of her death, because Carrie has the power to make her. King does a beautiful job of showing that Carrie is a person, a human being, not some unknown monster that hides under beds, waiting for the moment to hurt someone because it gives it pleasure to do so. I loved this. If Carrie could have gotten the help she needed, if she had more friends, if she had a better home life, none of this would have happened. It’s a powerful idea. In fact, it empowers our society with a responsibility about mass murder.

 

Now, did King mean this giant idea I’m having to be applied to real life mass murderers? I have no idea. It’s just my takeaway and it seems very applicable to the United States today. But I’m interested to know what you guys thought about it and these ideas. Leave some comments and I will think about them and reply in a new post.

 

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American Horror Story: Roanoke – First Blush

American Horror Story: Roanoke – First Blush

In this series I’m going to go over my initial reaction to first episodes of show. American Horror Story is a bit different because each season is a new story. So for this one, I’m giving some background reactions to the previous seasons and how Roanoke seems to shape up against them.Thumbnail

I’ve been watching this show for a while now. I liked Murder House, even with all its mistakes. I loved Asylum and Coven. But I noticed a drop in quality of writing in Freakshow and Hotel. Murder House had an interesting theme in the extreme desire to be a mother or not and how the state of motherhood is not the same as being a good one. Asylum examined societal understanding of insanity and reality, but rushed an ending. Coven, arguably the best season, is about feminism and racism and how the two can be counter to each other. Freakshow was very obviously about homosexuality, but it was a bit more overt with its message. And Hotel was about . . . vampire melodrama? I made jokes, pre-Hotel, that they had taken a step down in no longer having Jessica Lange and instead having Lady Gaga, but I was pleasantly surprised by Lady Gaga’s performance. She had subtlety and emotion that some more experienced actors never have. When they announced Hotel, I couldn’t help myself and started making jokes about how they had run out of ideas. What was next? American Horror Story: Library. IMG_2415

American Horror Story: Supermarket.IMG_2411

American Horror Story: Senior Assisted Living Facility.IMG_2413

But now that I’ve seen the first episode of Roanoke, I really believe they’ve run out of ideas. Going with a documentary style is the way horror goes when the story can’t fill up the whole time. The problem with documentary style is that it takes all the tension out of the narrative, and in a genre where tension is the most important thing, this is really bad. False documentary is not the same as found footage, and found footage still keeps the tension. The reason why fake documentary evaporates all the suspense is that I know Shelby didn’t drown in the hot tub, because she’s talking to the camera telling us what happened. I have almost no worry for Shelby, Matt, and Lee. They’re talking about it after the fact. Obviously, they live.

The real versions of the people look more like the real versions of these character types. Lily Rabe looks more like a yoga instructor who drinks too much light colored wines and wears Birkenstocks, while Sarah Paulson doesn’t really pull it off, which lends the dramatization some more realism in that the actor pretending to be Shelby doesn’t really capture the real Shelby. It’s very meta. The same is true for the real Lee versus the fake Lee. I can’t believe I’m watching something else with Henry Deaver. He’s everywhere. He’s good, but he keeps popping up when I least expect him. I also can’t believe that I’m watch Cuba Gooding, Jr. again. I didn’t realize he was still acting. Weirdly, Henry Deaver seems like a better actor than him. In my opinion at least.

On the character of Matt: he’s a racist. “He can’t be racist, he’s black and in an inter-racial marriage.” His assumption that the locals hate him and his wife when what’s happening clearly has nothing to do with them because how could they string all those Blair Witch style twigs throughout his house, is his easy answer. Easy answers are typically wrong and often come from prejudice. The locals weren’t threatening them when they said You don’t want this house. They were warning him. Who knows what they planned to do? Set it ablaze, maybe. Also, the show’s need to depict the locals to be as disgusting as possible is prejudice on all its levels, the fake depiction by the fake people making the show and American Horror Story itself. It’s cliche, and I don’t care if they are being satirical; this kind of crap needs to stop.

Overall, I’m not looking forward to finishing this one. I’m worried that the show has lost all sense of thematic strength, but of course, I’m going to finish it. Because I lay myself on the altar of review.

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Generational Warfare: The Grown Children and Their Parents

There is a lot of animosity between Baby Boomers and Millennials right now. Shots are being fired on both sides and it has been going on for years. Mainstream media articles take more shots at Millennials either by directly blaming them for the downfall or decline of certain brands or industries or by simply being out of touch. And Millennials have mostly been firing back through social media. Avocado and “By the time you’re thirty” jokes abound. So what’s going on?

Meme Wars

This has been the most fun thing to come out of this. In our frustration, many Millennials have been fighting back through the use of memes. Outside Xtra has an entire video about mortgages in games and how they purchased too many avocados to afford one in real life. The never-ending list of tweets fighting back against the very out of touch idea that by the time you’re thirty you should have twice your income saved in your retirement, including my favorite that by the time you’re thirty you should have a potato masher in a drawer making it impossible to open that drawer. There’s the old couple meme, the university building meme, and the interviewer meme, all of which point out how out of touch Baby Boomers and universities are to the current academic and job market situations which make getting an education too expensive and make getting a job nearly impossible. But it’s not as if the older generation isn’t generating content against Millennials.

Articles abound saying that Millennials are killing the housing market, Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Ruby Tuesday’s, TGI Fridays, fabric softener, the car industry, the wedding industry, domestic brand beer, mayo, department stores, razors, toys (like Toys R’ Us), Hooters (good riddance), cereal, golf, motorcycles, normal yogurt, soda, bars of soap, napkins (source: https://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-hurt-industries-sales-2018-10#fabric-softener-18), Campbells, McDonald’s, the NFL, Tiffany’s, De Beers (source: https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/young-people-killing-off-these-brands-faster-than-you-think.html/), designer bags, gyms, home improvement stores, the oil industry (https://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-are-killing-list-2017-8), and so on and so on.

Lazy, Luxurious Millennials?

The idea is that Millennials spend their money on stupid things like going out to bars and unique restaurants with avocado toast and aren’t willing to work hard and that’s why we can’t afford things like houses. That’s actually bullshit. Millennials often do not prioritize a clean and tidy home over things like working long hours and having some moments of relaxation, exercise, and enjoyment in their day. In the work-life balance, there is not a lot of cleaning. Having a messy home can make people appear lazy. This often comes from a Hollywood idea that if a person’s home isn’t clean then they are obviously trashy welfare assholes. The idea that we also like pricey things, while not wrong, is not an accurate depiction of Millennial values.

Failing Industries and a Loss of Value

Millennials like valuable things. There is a good reason for all of these articles and the perception about Millennials. For one thing, Uber Eats and Postmates exist as does Amazon! It’s come out that some of the foods that are failing are bad for you, and some of these items are simply luxuries that Millennials can’t afford, like golf, motorcycles, gyms, and huge weddings. Big weddings were traditionally paid for by parents, but most parents don’t have the money to spend on that anymore. Baby Boomers have even stopped buying from these places or stopped buying these things for the same reasons that Millennials have. Some of these companies are just not adapting well to the new shape and direction of the markets. On the thing about houses: it’s not that Millennials don’t want to own a home, it’s that a lot of them can’t afford a home until they are much older. One of the articles I listed above said we were specifically killing the starter home market. I’ve not seen a new development with any starter homes in it at all for the last fifteen years. So it might more be that the development companies are not building them. The tiny houses trend is actually big with Millennials, and typically you have to go to a pre-fab company to get one of those because every home built in the last twenty to thirty years by developments all have a fucking “great” room. What’s so great about a giant empty space that no one knows what to do with? It’s the same thing with the car market. What happened to companies making the economy car? Where is that? So these articles are off base in blaming us, not because we’re not responsible in some cases, but because they fail to recognize that trends come and go. Women don’t wear stockings all the time anymore and you don’t hear the hosiery companies still bitching about it. Frankly, this blame game has to stop. It’s not actually making anyone happy. Even if the memes are funny.

Millennials are also not at all lazy. Most of them work two jobs when they can get them with projects on the side. The idea that we like luxury items has more to do with the fact that we are paid less than previous generations at our same age. Millennials do follow the adage that the poor man pays twice. We are not affluent. When we have money to spend or need to spend money on something it better be worth the expense. It should be healthy, quality, durable, and/or enjoyable, or we don’t want it. This is why McDonald’s is failing. This is where avocado toast comes in. It’s not Millennials’ fault that healthy, quality food is more expensive. This is why when you see a Millennial “splurge”, the item appears high value/cost. We value money more. We spend it less, but when we do spend it, we want it to mean something. Millennials are actually pretty smart with money. Most try to plan for rainy days while at the same time enjoying small pleasures every once in a while. The problem isn’t that they’re dumb with money; it’s that money isn’t coming into their pockets at the levels it should be. Work is valued less than it used to be, as in people’s time is not being compensated to match the cost of living, so Millennials have to work about twice as hard to afford essentials than previous generations did at their age. It’s no secret that tuition costs have skyrocketed. It’s no secret that the minimum wage is not keeping up with the cost of living for one person, let alone for a family of four as it was supposed. If articles could stop trendily slamming Millennials for being poor and frugal, and instead start slamming industries for not adapting or paying employees livable wages, maybe the economy would be doing better overall because people would start hearing the truth instead of whiny complaints about how we don’t buy fabric softener.

Greedy, Thoughtless Baby Boomers?

There’s quite a bit of hate going backwards too. Most of this is through memes as stated before, but the idea is that Baby Boomers are out of touch with the reality of the job market and cost of academic degrees today. They don’t understand how hard it is to get a job, job benefits are mostly abysmal, that minimum wage is not a livable wage for even one person, and that tuition prices are way too high. They aren’t willing to help either. They are also looking for jobs, but finding them more easily due to their experience, but they inflated the housing market, consume way too much in products, and are rude to lower paid individuals. This is just the idea that people have about Baby Boomers. It’s not completely true, nor is it true of all Baby Boomers, especially those who have done things out of the traditional order and tried to get degrees without employer help in the ’90s or later. Younger Baby Boomers do not always represent this depiction as well. But where does this attitude come from for those that do accurately represent this depiction?

An Abundance of Everything and Raised by Those Who Grew Up with Nothing

Baby Boomers were children and young adults in a time of great industry growth. Post-WWII saw more growing companies, more colleges, more access to upward mobility. Until the ’80s, everything was upward trending, so consumerism also rose. People could afford more, so they got more. This isn’t really this generation’s fault. It’s just how our brains work. They don’t believe in the future. They believe in surviving now. (You know? The future is a lie, the pasta is now.) At least, that is the part of the brain that is all urges. Baby Boomers’ parents actually didn’t grow up with much, so they actually encouraged Baby Boomers’ to consume when they could. The problem is that the world changes. We’re back to a time of less, instead of more. Partially because of over-consumption. The housing market crash doesn’t happen without this. Were balloon mortgages a good idea? Absolutely not. Doesn’t mean that they didn’t take what was offered them. It’s part of the reason so many of them are still working into retirement age. Immediacy was too strong with them. It’s hard to know how to have temperance when you are surrounded by cookies. If you know you won’t be getting cookies often, then it is much easier to save some of them for later. But after a lifetime of giant piles of cookies, these habits are hard to break, and it’s hard to see past your visions of those piles to notice that other people have never been surrounded by the piles. The cookies aren’t the greatest of metaphors because I’m not talking about something pointless but tasty. I’m talking about the things required for living: jobs, homes, decent wages. Speaking of . . .

Entitlement and Privilege and What Is Deserved

The words Entitlement and Privilege have been bandied about quiet a bit in negative ways. Oh, Millennials are just entitled. They have privilege. There are actually scales of entitlement and privilege and a slave is on the end with no entitlement and no privilege. And that’s a bad thing. We also hear those things as if other generations or demographics don’t have any entitlement or privilege, and that’s just laughable. We also hear them as if fighting for more entitlement or privilege is a bad thing, and if you know anything of labor history that’s also laughable. Baby Boomers had as much as they did because they and previous generations fought for labor rights: things like livable wages, overtime pay, sick leave, FMLA, anti-discrimination, worker’s comp, OSHA, etc on both federal and state levels. Then there were all the unions separate from government laws to hold industries to even higher standards. So when someone tells younger generations they are just entitled and don’t deserve anything, I can’t help but think that not only is this unempathetic, it is also ignorant of American history and law, and just generally stupid. It’s great to sit on your mountain of entitlements and rights and pretend that no one fought for those, because they very obviously did. There were strikes, riots, and protests to get where we are today. Why wouldn’t we continue that history of activism for more or for application of what we already have in other industries or for other workers in areas without those rights? The argument that we don’t deserve anything if patently false based solely on the law. I believe some of this comes from the inaccurate idea that working hard and exploitation are one in the same. I know how to work hard. I work very hard. But as I said before, I’m going to avoid exploitation of my hard work when I can (https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/letters/when-opportunity-knocks-now-its-the-opportunity-to-be-exploited/), and there is nothing wrong with others doing the same.

The other major argument, that minimum wage jobs are for teenagers, is completely and historically inaccurate. The minimum wage was meant to be a livable wage for a family of four with one income at full time work (source: https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/minimum_wage), and since a single person in most locations cannot live on a minimum wage (i.e. pay for shelter, food, utilities, and healthcare), it is obviously not high enough. Fighting for a higher minimum wage is completely justified, and while people argue that it will hurt business, I don’t see how more people, especially the poor who tend to spend more of their money, with more spending money is a bad thing. The majority of the people living paycheck to paycheck and having no disposable income and often no livable income is not sustainable to business, especially for those industries which rely on luxury purchases, such as restaurants, entertainment, and retail (yes, this is a luxury, since most of the people under the poverty level purchase clothes from resellers). I have hardly ever heard real arguments against these changes. Just more of the same unsupported claims. The only argument I’ve heard against raising minimum wage or increased benefits that made any kind of sense was the increase in daycare and disability care costs argument; however, considering the fact that these people are taking care of our loved ones and often have advanced degrees and stringent requirements, I can’t help but think that they shouldn’t be making minimum wage, but far more than that. We should value that work more. And to prevent costs from becoming unmanageable, their work should be at least partially, if not substantially, subsidized by the government. While some of them are, I don’t believe our government is valuing their work or the need for them enough. These things are all worth fighting for, as other “entitlements” were worth fighting for in the past.

The Forgotten Generation

For some reason in all this, Gen X is just not involved or considered. It’s possible because this generation is small by comparison (by population, not years) and that it actually doesn’t have a name. Millennials were called Gen Y for a hot second before Millennial became the name. They almost had the name of Latchkey, but it didn’t stick, and neither did the name MTV. There isn’t, however, as much data on the experience of Gen X. The generation is considered happy, active, and entrepreneurial in nature (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_X). Maybe no one talks about them because they are happy and aren’t trying to blame anyone else for their problems. Maybe they aren’t fighting for anything either. It just seems weird though that in the all shots fired, Gen X hasn’t taken one hit or fired one shot, generally speaking. When I read comments on articles bashing Millennials, a few Gen Xers will pop their heads up and voice their support of the problems facing Millennials, which is nice. I really don’t think we should forget this generation or their experience. It’s not as if they are invisible or not contributing. I’d actually like to hear more of their voices.

The New Generation

While Millennials are self-deprecating and fatalistic, Gen Z makes an art form of it. Some of this comes from the idea that they may not be able to go to college at all or afford the lifestyle of the American dream, things Millennials thought they were going to have. It also comes from growing up in a post 9/11, Great Recession America. They feel insecure and unsettled, but this wasn’t jarring to them, like it was for Millennials, who grew up in prosperity and then had the rug pulled out from under them. There’s also more of them then there are Millennials or Baby Boomers. I would like it if Gen Z had more to look forward to. I would like them to have hope for their futures.

What Does It All Mean?

That’s a good question, because as it turns out, generational traits are contentious. They’ve found that they don’t really cross socioeconomic lines, race, and sometimes even gender. African Americans, Hispanics, other minority groups, and rural Americans typically are nothing like their generational cohorts. Some of the traits of Baby Boomers really do not apply to all of them. In fact, it seems some of them are more like Millennials. Some of the traits applied to Millennials really do not apply to all of them. For example, it is believed that Millennials are supportive of the government restricting public speech offensive to minorities, more so than previous generations, believing in trigger warnings and safe spaces. I am not one of those people. Even though I am a Millennial. But I am also a writer, and just as I stated in my post about being a writer over being a woman (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/im-not-a-female-writer-im-a-writer/), I didn’t choose to be a Millennial. I absolutely chose to be a writer, and writers, especially American ones, have a long standing tradition of not supporting government sanctioned censorship. I may not have liked the things the Black Hebrew Israelites were saying to the Native Americans, but they still have the right to say it (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2019/01/26/fake-news-what-happens-when-trump-is-right/). Part of the reason why I don’t support censorship is that, as I stated in my blog post about satire (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/irony-satire-and-sarcasm-and-those-who-dont-get-it/), too many people are not intelligent enough to recognize it. They become offended and demand censorship, while the point sails clear over their heads. I do not trust mobs to decide what is or isn’t offensive because mobs do not have the ability to reason what is satiristic. That makes me an atypical Millennial. My point is, you can’t assume a person’s personality based on their generational group. Yes, vast numbers of them adhere to certain traits, but not all of those traits and not all of those people. Like any other demographic, a person has to learn about an individual before they make any judgements about them. You know? Like a good person.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2019 in Consumer Rights, Social Issues

 

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Fake News?: What Happens When Trump Is Right

Have you heard the latest news debacle? Video has surfaced of a group of white teenagers bullying a Native American U.S. vet. Or so that’s what most media organizations big and small are selling for their headlines. Definitely gets clicks and shares. Like my headline. Thing is though, I don’t make any money if you read this. I also hate the idea that Trump is right about fake news. He shouts it like Oprah giving away prizes and about things that are typically not fake. But not so in this case. I’ve had issues with news media manipulating the public before, but this instance is only proving that it is getting harder and harder to do so what with the internet and now we can all feel free to call the intent of the news into question.

The Reporting

Take a look at what was originally said of this incident on major news sources. The Washington Post shows four minutes of the incident and speaks specifically to Phillips the U.S. vet and several representatives of the Native American rights associations: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/01/20/it-was-getting-ugly-native-american-drummer-speaks-maga-hat-wearing-teens-who-surrounded-him/?utm_term=.acfbde9d2669. ABC has less than two minutes of video but interviews on a more balanced level despite the click-baity title: https://abc7news.com/politics/boys-in-maga-hats-mock-indigenous-elder-in-dc-video/5097427/. The initial CNN report video shows only seconds of the footage but makes many moral judgements using tone and statements, but forces the responsibility on society as a whole, but seems almost ironic when it moves on to the idea of people promoting “going viral” considering how much news itself relies on audience attention and shares (and the fact that the video didn’t come from the teenagers themselves): https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2019/01/19/maga-video-teens-native-american-unfiltered-vpx.cnn. Fox News obviously didn’t say much about the video until the backlash started. Yahoo News shows less than two minutes of video and then four minutes in another embedded video and had no interviews: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/maga-hatted-teens-harass-native-182138098.html.

There is actually more than an hour of footage of this incident, including moments of a group of Black Hebrew Israelite protesters taunting the teenagers with racist and homophobic slurs, but most shockingly of all the video starts with the Black Hebrew Israelite group blaming the Native American protestors for the loss of their land on their “idol worship” and that’s just the first 30 seconds. You want to talk about offensive? That’s offensive. Why isn’t that the headline? Because it is two minority groups butting heads instead of a majority group and a minority group. While the clip everyone is showing has one kid being silent and a Native American banging a drum and singing, the beginning of the whole video includes a shouting match between a Black Hebrew Israelite protestor and what appears to be a Native American woman. “Half of understanding is listening,” says the guy that’s not listening. After eight minutes in, the man filming turns the camera on himself to spout extremely sexist comments. Then the main protestor starts asking where her husband is. He calls another woman a “culture vulture” as if telling Native Americans that them worshiping idols instead of God isn’t disrespectful of their culture. The person recording then calls who seems like the MAGA teenagers crackers and threatens to “stick [his] foot in their ass”. A chunk of the video after this is the Black Hebrew Israelites discussing religious history with a Native American man as the Indigenous Peoples’ March kicks up a bit. After a while, the main protestor starts shouting at the Native Americans again, suggesting that their march is useless, but recognizes the similarities in Native American and African-American struggles. Afterwards, they point out the teenagers again and use the N-word. Then there is a lot of political/religious preaching, followed by the reasonable question “When has America ever been great for us?” Which he then hurts his message by calling the kids peckerwoods. But he keeps promoting separation of White people from the other races as they are all oppressors to him. Then he disrespects Native American culture and religion again. A Native American man started yelling at them for not showing respect. The Black Hebrew Israelites call them the N-word, stupid, ignorant, demons, and Uncle Tomahawks and ask why the Native Americans don’t yell at the MAGA teens (who’ve been quiet thus far on the video). Then the MAGA teens come over and the man recording talks about how disrespectful they are to the Native Americans for wearing those hats at their march. A woman starts yelling at them and the Black Hebrew Israelite leader start asking about her husband and after she starts preaching love, peace, and unity, he says he’s done with her. More preaching. A man points out that they are proselytizing. More preaching. Then some anti-Semitic comments. The man recording starts pointing out the teenagers again. The boys don’t do anything. More preaching. Then homophobic comments about a pedophilic priest. Then homophobic comments about Trump and Giuliani and the Catholic Church. More Uncle Tomahawk comments about a member of the crowd, telling him he might as well put on a MAGA hat and calling him the N-word and coon. The guy filming asks them why they won’t yell at the teenagers. Then he walks up to the teenagers and calls them crackers. They still don’t do anything. The Black Hebrew Israelite leader calls them all future school shooters and the man filming calls them animals. The teenagers put some distance between themselves and the Black Hebrew Israelites. More political/religious preaching, including something about UFOs. Some guy skateboards through the area playing music, and they start threatening him with “punishment” if he gets too close and call him a clown. A woman talks to them about a prophecy. More preaching. A near fight breaks out between the skateboarder and the guy filming. The skateboarder goes off, but circles them still, and the man filming says he’s going to hit him. The leader starts talking about Bill Clinton, Haiti, and Paris. The man filming continues to point out the teenagers, that still haven’t engaged. The skateboarder’s music is still playing, as he seems to be trying to drown them out, and they keep threatening him. More preaching. A man starts shouting, but he’s really hard to understand, but they call him a five dollar Indian. A woman shouts that we love everybody. The leader shouts “We love you as much as Donald Trump loves us.” More preaching and threatening of the skateboarder. Someone asks if this is a Stand Your Ground State. More preaching. Then they call the teenagers incest babies and bastards. The teenagers start chanting, but it is not “Build the Wall”. They call the teenagers dogs and hyenas. A water bottle is on the ground between the two groups and one of the teenagers runs forward to pick it up. It is not clear where the bottle came from, if it was thrown or dropped or by whom. The teenagers then chant and focus on one of them who takes off his shit, and after that the man filming calls them cavemen. He says they are surrounded by them but you can clearly see a way without any of the teenagers that people are walking through. The teenagers keep chanting. Then we can hear Phillips coming and he stops between the two groups and continues drumming. The teenagers jump up and down in front of him, and yes, some of them are disrespectful. They chant Hey in time to the drum and clap, then it sounds like some of them sing O, but some of them are still and quiet. A couple of the teenagers engage with the Black Hebrew Israelite leader, booing him for calling them school shooters. It’s hard to see Phillips, but we can still hear his drum. Some of the teenagers say at best cheeky things to the leader at worst immature. Some White adults start making the teenagers back up. School chants ensue, one kid says they are being racist. More cracker and N-word slurs. Most of the students are standing there but are very close. The man filming calls one of them a young clansman who had said something I couldn’t understand, and the man filming appears to be holding a stick (like a broom-handle). The students appear to be about four feet at least from the protestors. One of the students says they can’t vote. More preaching and the kids are shocked by many of the things he says. One teenager says you can swear on a law book instead of the Bible, one says they don’t judge them. Some of the teenagers are laughing. An adult says Let’s go, the teenagers cheer and leave. Then the Black Hebrew Israelites start shouting at a group of Native Americans. More homophobic comments. A woman comes up and says We love you. He asks for his land back. A White man says that Black Africans sold others into slavery. After more stuff about religion and child molestation, a woman says “You’re not going to change their minds.” At this point it is clear that nothing will stop these protestors from shouting down the people around them, using racist, sexist, homophobic, and disrespectful comments. This is so hard to watch. It is so hard to sit and listen to everything these two men say. I did it though. I watched the whole thing, and I know it is hard to watch anything longer than five minutes these days, but it is worth our attention, so here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQyBHTTqb38. I won’t say enjoy, because I didn’t find anything about this enjoyable.

I want to say that I don’t understand why the headline is about the teenagers. I want to say that I don’t get it. But I do understand. It is about an agenda of divisiveness that increases viewership. It’s about clicks.

Assault, Harassment, and Defamation

Because of how the media has presented the events of the quick bit of video they show, the main teenager in the video and his family have gotten death threats, he is facing expulsion from school, and is one of the most hated figures of social media right now. It’s no wonder that he came out with a version of events from his perspective, even if it laden with rhetoric to make himself out to be the victim. To be honest with you, considering that he and the other students are underage, I don’t believe the video should even be shown with them in it with their faces clearly identifiable. Other countries do this, and it’s high time we did, but minors should not be part of the media circus. To me, it prevents mob mentality from judging minors for life, in the same way we protect them from the stupid, inexperienced criminal choices of their youth by sealing juvenile records. Not everything is protected as if they are charged as adults, then it sticks. But I certainly don’t think any of these teenagers committed the kind of felonies in the video that would mean we never let them forget it. But the media has decided to vilify these teenagers. And if some of them did see the whole video before reporting, they decided to hold minors to higher standards than adults.

I don’t agree with why the teenagers were there, I don’t agree with their support of Trump, but they are still young and people change quite a bit in their early to mid twenties from who they were as teenagers. I also believe they have the right to march in a rally that I don’t believe in. They have the right to buy hats I don’t like. We can’t assume they deserved to be vilified simply because of those hats, as some people vilify women for wearing low cut necklines or LBGT people for wearing rainbow hats and shirts nor do we accept them being harassed by others. But apparently we’re supposed to okay with a minority group heckling Native Americans. Those two men also had the right to be there and they also had the right to say what they did. I don’t have to like it, and I don’t, but they still had the right. Everyone had the right to be there. There were some near assaults when people started to get into each other’s personal space, and only if people followed someone around and said horrible things to them repeatedly would it be considered harassment. The event itself was fine. Uncomfortable. But legal and fine. As Trevor Noah put it “All First Amendment and no Second Amendment.” It was fine.

The Backlash

What isn’t fine is how the major media networks decided to reframe this video to rabble rouse and sow division. As if things aren’t bad enough. And after everyone found the long video, many people were upset at having been misled, and now the pendulum is swinging the other way. Those on the extreme right feel vindicated and able to character assassinate Phillips, as if that’s okay too. It’s really not. I’m a huge opponent of ad hominem. I don’t believe it promotes empathy, trust, or the seeking out of the truth. Very rarely do I see a purpose in condemnations of others unless a true argument with evidence to support claims is given as well.

People who are typically in the middle, like me, see this news debacle as disheartening. For me, it is just more of the same. I’m unsurprised by their decision to manipulate their audience, but this has given a lot of people something to think about. A lot people, despite Trump shouting fake news, trusted the major news networks to give them unbiased information, but now they feel lied to or misled. They may even look back at previous reports on political and social topics and wonder. My hope is that more people will start digging deeper as a result, which is now easier to do with the internet.

A lot of the old guard think that the internet actually makes it harder to know what is real and fake, but a person just has to be discerning in their sources. It also one of the only places Americans can get international news as while interest hasn’t dropped, reporting from the major networks has (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ly7Btx0Stg). There is still some left push back, people saying that the teenagers deserve what they get both in the video and by way of punishment and harassment since they were wearing MAGA hats and were there for a Pro-Life rally, but as I said before, they have a right to believe what they believe, wear what they want to wear, and protest what they want to protest. I don’t have to like it or agree with them, but they have the right, just like anyone else. That is what America is about. Even if it isn’t always pretty.

But some of the networks are defending what they did as it is not always easy to get the whole picture before you have to publish, and that’s a load of bullshit. We now have 24 hour news cycle, but I suggest if they can’t do it ethically and competently in the amount of time they are giving themselves, that they need to slow down. It’s their job to fact check. You don’t win anyone over by whining about how hard it is to do your job. They’re more afraid that someone will report the story before them that they are all jumping the gun than they are of getting the story wrong, but look at what it has gotten them. If they hadn’t jumped the gun, if they had done their due diligence, they could have reported on the video accurately and looked like the good guys. Now they just look like assholes. It is shameful that they have misstepped so badly as to allow extremist right shouting of Fake News to be credible.

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right

Oh, but Fox News does it! Yeah, and they’re wrong when they do it too. You can’t control what someone else does, only what you do. CNN is not responsible for what Fox News says, but they are responsible for what they say. You can’t hold yourself to the standards and principles of those you don’t like or find unethical. You can’t think of it as winning or losing. Disseminating information is not a game. It is about ethics, the truth, and honesty. That’s what you hold yourself to. I can’t believe that I have to pull out an adage meant for five year olds to talk about major news networks comprised entirely of adults. That’s the kind of immaturity that exists in that industry. I understand that there is a competition for viewership, but there should not be a competition for hearts and minds. The news should be objective, despite the flashlight theory–it should at least strive to be as objective as possible. The point of the news is to provide the people with information, not to sway them politically or socially. That’s the job of politicians and activists. The real problem is the death of local news and coalescing of news, especially in major print and TV services, to a few sources. A few people get to decide that the truth is less important than a political or social goal, even if people are trampled by their manipulations. But the news is sold to us as an informational source, not a persuasive argument. So we have a mockery of that idea in all the major networks. They may claim to be news sources, but really that is a mask they wear to put forth a perspective subversively. It seems that yellow journalism rules the day. Left, right, I don’t care. I don’t want my news littered with rhetoric designed to manipulate me. And neither should anyone else.

Why This Is So Bad

But this debacle is going to have long term consequences. I can foresee in 2020 any “outrageous” things being held in suspicion. I foresee that if Trump does run that swing vote people will go for him because they won’t trust sources like CNN and ABC who will be pushing for a democrat winner. They already had a hand in Trump winning in 2016 (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/a-lack-of-respect-the-path-to-a-trump-presidency/). I know this sounds like conspiracy theory, but at this point too many people believe that left leaning news networks are not worth trusting and we can’t pretend that they’ll get over it. I figured out all news networks were trying to manipulate me a long time ago. Teaching rhetorical analysis gave me the edge needed to recognize it, and since I am a Centrist I did not ignore it from any source because no source was telling me what I wanted to hear. I don’t buy into the narrative that one side is evil and one side is good. I believe most politicians are in it to win it, no matter what, and are willing to promise anything to get a vote. So when any news source promotes one candidate over the other, and it’s not an Op Ed, but the kind of subtle jabs at one candidate and subversive advancement of another while “reporting” on debates or campaign appearances, I’m just pissed. And I think it is safe to say that more people are pissed at them after this incident then before, and I think they will remember, mostly because the right is not going to let it go. So great job, any left leaning media, you’ve shot yourself in the foot.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2019 in Gender Relations, Politics, Social Issues

 

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The New Year’s Resolution None of Us Keep: Stop Making Plans and Start Doing Them

New Year’s almost here and this is about the time that people buy gym memberships, diet books, and plan big projects. For creative types, that means planning to do something creative everyday to a schedule that will ultimately lead to a project being complete by a specific date. But so many New Year’s resolutions are broken in the first week, partly because of the fact that it is now expected that we break them. So what can you do to prevent yourself from breaking your New Year’s resolutions? I’ll try to answer that.

The Romance of Planning

Most people get pleasure from planning to do better or more than they actually do from doing better or more to improve their lives. It’s weird but we get satisfaction from the thought of going to the gym, going on a diet, or planning out our big projects, but don’t get nearly as much satisfaction from doing those things. That’s why so many New Year’s resolutions are so quickly broken. The pleasure that should come from success has already been felt. Some people who have a high amount of anxiety also become over-planners. They can spend hours upon hours, planning tasks years into the future. Hours that could be spent on the actual tasks. Task programs such as Asana, Todoist, and Wunderlist become addictive and planning becomes an obsession. The best way to stave off both these situations? Don’t plan at all. Or make sure your plan is incredibly general and freeform. Don’t tell yourself that you are going to do an aerobic exercise tomorrow. Tell yourself you’re going to do some kind of physical activity. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to write a chapter in this specific project tomorrow. Tell yourself you’re going to have a creative period tomorrow. You won’t know your mood tomorrow. And those of us who get pleasure from planning can end up locking ourselves up when it comes actually to doing the planned task because one, we already felt the satisfaction of making the plan, and two, we aren’t really in the mood for the specifics we created for ourselves to follow. Also, don’t tell a lot of people what you are planning to do. Tell people what you’ve managed to do. They will reward you the same for your plan as they for what you’ve accomplished and you don’t want to further associate pleasure with plans.

Ah, I’ll Do It Tomorrow

With over-planning comes procrastination. I was supposed to write the Intro on 12.20, the previous section on 12.21, and this section on 12.22. Instead I’m writing all three on 12.24 (yes, I’m working on Christmas Eve). Was I not working on those days? No, I absolutely was. I just wasn’t working on my blog. I thought to myself, these things are small, I can do them later. Right now, I’d rather read these chapters I’ve planned for myself or work on videos, but as easy as these sections are going to be to write, I don’t need to do them now. Especially since I’m on vacation from my day job. I’ve got all the time in the world. That last thought is the death knell of getting work done. Even though I have less free time during the days I work at my day job, I’m typically more productive on those days. This is something some of you may have felt. Where does this conditioning come from? My guess is school and work. We are so used to having a set schedule from an early age and are taught that there are productive days and days for fun. If we consider our personal projects (exercise, diet, cleaning, and creative tasks) work, than those are only for the so called productive days. Time off from work and weekends are for fun. How do we solve this? Two different ways: one, turn free days into pseudo work days. People who own their own businesses do it, so can you. Create a schedule to follow and start following it the moment you wake up, including waking up at a certain time. Sleeping in is not conducive to getting anything done. Or two, don’t consider these things work. Rework your thoughts to think of them as fun. I don’t have to write this. I get to write this. A combination of the two can work wonders on your productivity and help alleviate a good amount (but not all!) of procrastination.

Checking Things Off: It’s Habit Forming

If you do still have a ton of tasks in some kind of task management software, or even in paper form, and you do manage to mark one or two off, you may notice that you start getting pleasure from crossing them off. Almost as pleasurable as planning to do something, checking items off a to do list can be its own kind of satisfaction. This is helpful if planning is an obsession that can’t be helped. And maybe planning to plan, as in setting aside time to plan or listing it as a task, can help minimize the amount of time one spends doing it. It will also help you associate doing those planned tasks with planning itself and get you started on being addicted to getting stuff done. You’re gonna plan anyway, might as well make it part of your plan to do so. That may seem counter-intuitive, but it will also stop you from feeling defeated by the obsession with planning, because that is not helpful to moving on to your actual plans. Speaking of feeling bad . . .

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

If you fall behind, if you don’t do anything for your big goal in a day, if you feel you haven’t done enough today, don’t beat yourself up. This isn’t going to help you make progress the next day. It’s kind of like how AA can sometimes cause tailspin falls off the wagon. Well, I messed up a little bit, might as well mess up a lot. No. It’s okay. We aren’t perfect beings and we can’t predict what our day will bring. Just tell yourself that you’ll try to do better tomorrow. It’s not necessary to be perfect. It is necessary to try your best. That’s all you can ask of yourself. Be glad for whatever progress you’ve made and believe that you will make more in the future.

The Six Task Rule

Ivy Lee, a fore bearer of modern public relations, created an easy way to be productive every day. Before going to bed every night, he would write six tasks from most important to least important to do the next day, and when he woke, he would start at the top of the list and work his way down until all six were completed. A lot of people follow this method today and swear by it. This method is better for those who have several projects going at once. Give it a test for a week if you’re daring and remember, don’t beat yourself up if you fail at all or all the way.

Or the One Thing a Day

When I was earning my degrees, one professor, who had a reputation for being extremely productive, had some advice, advice she had gained as she was entering her doctorate. Graduate degrees are notoriously stressful and hard to manage, and many people don’t complete them because they end up overwhelmed. The advice she received, which she was kind enough to impart upon her own students and colleagues, was that every day at least one task to the overall goal, in this case a doctorate, should be completed, even if that task is something as simple as buying paperclips. It makes the big goal seem less daunting if it is completed in smaller tasks, and if you only accomplish one little thing every day, you’re still making progress and you can feel good about that. This doesn’t involve any planning, only making sure some work is done every day. I suggest this one if you have a major project on your plate you are trying to complete. Remember if you miss a day, don’t fall off the wagon. Just try again the next day.

What Are You Waiting For?

I know that New Year’s Day isn’t for a few more days, but you probably shouldn’t wait for some special day to get started on doing better, on doing more. Just start tomorrow. Or better yet, start today. When I fall out of the habit of doing what I’m supposed to do, I don’t wait for some special day on the calendar to get back into the swing of things. I just start back up again. A person is less likely to start at all if they don’t start when they first get the idea. So don’t wait for the first. Write down the six things you’re going to do tomorrow tonight. Do one task for your project today. Get started now. It’s the best way to actually get anything done. And good luck with your endeavors!

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2018 in Craft of Writing, Social Issues

 

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Childish Things: Not Just for Children

Sadly, Stan Lee recently died and many people are in mourning. And some people are acting like assholes about this because “comic books are for kids. So meh!” But you know what? Many things that people consider immature are specifically designed for adults as well as kids, people make careers off these things, whole billion dollar industries are involved in their production, they help shape the minds of the future, and can prevent despair in adults. Allow me to defend what shouldn’t have to be defended: the consumption of play by adults.

C.S. Lewis with the Best Advice Ever

Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adults themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.

C. S. Lewis

If anyone ever calls you immature for liking childish things, feel free to call them childish, because C. S. Lewis said it was so. We shouldn’t be ashamed of the things we enjoy doing. Once when I was watching Dancing with the Stars (yes, I did that), they were doing a dance to a guilty pleasure song, and I mused out loud that I can’t think of any thing that I enjoy that I hide from others out of fear of embarrassment. I will lip sync and dance in my chair while working, not caring if people notice or find it weird. It’s enjoyable. It gives me pleasure. It makes work easier. I play video games, even trash mobile video games, and I read manga (my favorite is Ranma 1/2), and I watch the Arrowverse TV shows. I find stoner films very enjoyable. I don’t care who knows these things about me. Some people enjoy clubbing and bar-hopping. I don’t understand why they find those things enjoyable but I don’t think that makes them more or less human or adult. Being an adult is not about what you enjoy. It’s about owning who you are and taking responsibility for your own well being. Navigating debt, understanding renting and home purchasing and ownership, developing an exercise routine and healthy diet, managing finances, understanding insurance and retirement funds, these are the trappings of adulthood. What you do to relax your brain and understanding that finding enjoyable ways to do so is part of creating mental stability is also a sign of maybe not adulthood, since hardly anyone does this, but at least emotional health. The smarter the animal, the more play it needs. We humans are very smart animals. So feel free to sit in public and read a comic book. You should enjoy the act of enjoyment. Don’t be ashamed. Mature adults know and accept who they are. You’re not alone.

Childish Industries: Jobs for Adults . . . Obviously

Comic books, animated movies and TV shows, children’s, middle grade, and YA books, video games, and board games all employ millions of people worldwide. These people aren’t children. They’re adults. They’re adults who make a living, who make a career, who have a passion for designing, writing, and creating these so called childish things. J.K. Rowling is an adult. Hidetaka Miyazaki is an adult. Stan Lee was an adult. Alan Moore is an adult. Matt Groening is an adult. Walt Disney was an adult. Charles Darrow was an adult. I can keep going if you don’t get the point by now. Things designed with children in mind are designed by adults, and sometimes, because of that, the line between demographics blurs. Creators of creative mediums are meant to create things with love. Flannery O’Connor said that the writer should write the kinds of things they want to read. That bleeds into creating things for kids. We cannot help but make things that are also for ourselves. Hardly anyone finishes a project they hate. Usually, if they do finish, they throw the results away or hide them in the hopes that no will ever see them. Children aren’t making the things they enjoy. Adults are. And there is a lot of money to be made from these things. It’s a business. It’s serious, but it is the serious endeavor to create enjoyment in others. Children’s things are fun. They are even fun for adults, because adults made them. I’ll admit to missing my tamagotchi. I’d still play with it today if it was available, but mobile games have replaced that. I’m not the only person who misses the enjoyment of some of their childhood things. Obviously not, or there wouldn’t still be people creating these things with a passion. You think the designers of the trappings of childhood don’t play with those things before the products become available for the public? Maybe not the accountants at the businesses, but certainly the designers do. It’s part of the creative process to experience what you are creating. And if you don’t enjoy it, no one else will.

Animated Narratives are Designed with Adults in Mind

While there are animated movies and TV shows designed specifically for adults—things like Rango, Futurama, Rick and Morty, Beavis and Butthead, The Critic, Family Guy, King of the Hill, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Cowboy Beebop, and even some pornographic animated titles—many of the titles touted as children’s narratives are actually incredibly enjoyable for adults. The reason for this is the knowledge that parents will have to watch the stories, typically many times in a row, and that some adults will not watch anything higher than a G, PG, or PG-13 rating because of moral objections. I’m neither of those demographics. I will never have children and enjoy R rated films quite a lot. However, made for children titles can be deep, inspiring, hilarious, and saddening. The movie Up makes many adults cry with it’s deep and wordless depiction in all of ten minutes of a married couples’ entire life together. Animaniacs has some sex jokes in it. Kung Fu Panda has a message about acceptance of self, which most adults could stand to hear. To some extent, animated TV shows and movies are treated exactly like movies for adults. The crafting of the story, characters, and themes are just as powerful. They just shy away from some very specific things: extensive cursing, clear depictions of sexual encounters, realistic blood and gore. These things aren’t necessary for every story. Live-action G, PG, and PG-13 titles are actually less mature in their use of themes and comedy by and large versus animated titles in those same ratings. Sometimes animated movies are more cohesive and focused than live-action ones in the same ratings bracket because they know they want to teach an idea through their story to children and everything needs to feed into that because animation is (or at least until recently was) hard. But while they know that’s what they’re doing they still find time to slip adult humor into the films:

Also, Farquaad? How many years old were you when you got that joke?

The best episode of a cartoon of all time designed almost entirely for Beatles fans:

And finally, one of my favorites:

Kids laugh at these jokes because the adults in the room do. They don’t always get them. But that’s okay. Kids should be eased into adult humor anyway. This is a good way of doing it. And some jokes for kids are also very funny no matter how old you are, which is why Spongebob Squarepants is so popular with adults. Some of the jokes are just good. There’s nothing wrong with a lack of adult themes in humor, and there’s nothing wrong with laughing at those jokes. But beyond humor, some things for kids are just amazing. Like . . .

  • Avatar: The Last Air Bender
  • Voltron: Legendary Defenders
  • Batman: The Animated Series and the entirety of the DCAU
  • Samurai Jack
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog
  • Teen Titans Go (man, that Thanksgiving episode)
  • The Fairly Odd Parents
  • Ed, Edd, and Eddy (have you seen the surrealist episode?)

I could keep going and going on this list but eventually you’ll get tired of that. These shows may all be designed with kids in mind, but you do not have to be a kid to enjoy them. Seriously, have at it and enjoy!

You Still Play Video Games at Your Age? Duh!

I’ve literally heard this question out loud before, not directed at me, but instead of keeping quiet, I opened my mouth without thinking. I said, “Don’t say that! I literally just watched a Ted talk about how the average video game player is 30 and the average video game buyer is 37.” It’s old at this point, but you can watch it below.

The second statistic does not account for adults buying video games for children, which is why the first statistic is the most important one. Due to the rise of mobile video games, that average age for video game players has gone up to 37 for female players and to 33 for male players with 35 being the overall average (source: http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/EF2017_FinalDigital.pdf). There is a let’s player on YouTube with more than four hundred thousand subscribers who is an 82 year old woman (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzkY7wa8Ksxv4M5NyUYgTmA/featured). She posts regularly. Why would an octogenarian play video games? Well, because they help with reflexes, critical thinking skills, memory, focus, fine motor control in the hands, and so much more. In short, they’re good for you.

Oh, but what about the mental health effects? This is a contentious subject. Some people believe that video games make people more violent and is the cause of mass murders, but I can’t help but think that this is an insane idea totally defeated by common sense. Video games are a billion dollar industry and per household in the US there is an average of 1.7 gamers (source: http://www.theesa.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/EF2017_FinalDigital.pdf). If video games made people more violent, there would be way more mass murders and violent crimes, but violent crime in the US peaked around the mid ’90s and has been steadily going down at the same time as the number of people playing video games has gone up.

Source: https://videogames.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=003627

You can see from the first graph that video game sales were at a low when violent crime was peaking. Why would video games make people less violent? Well, because it gives them something to do and an outlet for anger or frustration. The brain actually needs this, in the same way that they often tell people to watch a sad movie or listen to sad music when they are grieving but numb. People need to express their emotions, good and bad, in healthy ways. Isn’t it better that someone beat up a fictional person than a real one? I’m pretty sure this is why so many people like martial arts, to blown off steam (I like kickboxing). But some people aren’t into that. They think these kinds of acts are distasteful, like our thoughts should be so pure that we don’t need to work off our stress with healthy violence. Well, I’m pretty sure those people have impure thoughts and that their lack of an outlet is why we have so many passive aggressive people. Can video games make a person angry? Yes, absolutely. At the game itself, typically. But that’s usually because of bad video game design that creates cheaty, BS progression walls and, more recently, gambling mechanics.

So there isn’t really a reason not to play video games as an adult. Most are designed by adults for adults with mature ratings, and if I and others had our way, those games with gambling mechanics would be for adults only. Not only is there no reason not to play video games as an adult, there’s many reasons to play video games as an adult. The higher functioning the brain, the more play it needs.

Face-to-Face Games

Board games and other party games are the only games most likely to cause a person to enact violence against another person. Like Monopoly or getting a draw four card in Uno. Yeah, that’s enough to punch a family member in the face, especially a sibling. But they often lead to a sense of camaraderie as well. They are much more engaging and interactive way to spend time with loved ones than side-by-side individual activities like watching a movie or TV show or reading. Some of my most cherished memories are of playing board games, card games, or something like charades with friends or family. They are much more memorable times than say when we all went to the movies together. Can doing those other things together be interactive? Yes, but only if you can pause the TV; otherwise, you’re just being rude. These face-to-face games aren’t just good for interaction; they’re also good for your critical thinking and problem solving skills. Much like video games, they stimulate parts of your brain that are sometimes set to atrophy in our modern, don’t-have-to-hunt-or-fight-every-day world, and since we need those parts of our brains to still work, it can make us happier overall to use them regularly. Not every face-to-face game is fun to everyone and not every person is fun to play with, so not every experience of “game night” is going to be a blast and beneficial, but on average they will be.

Illustrated Reading: Real Life Hero Stan Lee and Real Life Villain Bill Maher

For some irrational reason, Bill Maher has decided that after Stan Lee’s death is a good time to denigrate the man’s accomplishments. You know, in a cowardly way since Lee couldn’t defend himself. You know, in a distasteful and insensitive way since someone is dead. I don’t believe in over eulogizing a person, but in this case, I believe that Maher acted out of a sense of bitter jealousy, because I doubt that he will ever have the impact that Lee had on the world. It feels a bit like angrily riding on coattails. Anyway, in a very short blog post–or as I view it, in a long rant–Maher said that Lee “inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie.” Cute. Let’s pretend for a minute that comic books aren’t an about $800 million industry as of 2013 (source: https://www.businessinsider.com/the-comic-book-industry-is-on-fire-2014-8), which doesn’t include toys or adaptations. Let’s also pretend that the X-Men weren’t created as a metaphor for the Civil Rights movement. Let’s also pretend that when Bryan Singer helmed the first feature film adaptation of the X-Men that he didn’t make it a metaphor for the issues facing the gay community in the U.S. Let’s pretend that the introduction of Black Panther as a major comic book hero didn’t help race relations in the US, like when Jack Kirby had him fight the KKK. Let’s just pretend that narratives don’t help fix social and political issues by turning public opinion, like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and that getting them young isn’t a thing. Let’s pretend all that isn’t true. Should we also pretend that Lee wasn’t a servicemen during WWII in the training document creation department? How about no? How about we not ignore all these great things? Was Lee perfect? No. But no one is, and frankly comic books have done a lot of good through inspiring people to be more open to change, other people, and ethical ways of thinking. They are constantly making people think on questions of deep, philosophical ideas. Does every panel? No, but not every page of one of the great novels–Moby Dick–does so either. They are also meant to entertain. They do that too, but I don’t think philosophy in narratives should skimp on entertainment. I think it is essential to story-telling to be entertaining. And comic books do both. Like The Watchmen. A lot of the great stories of Marvel were possible because of Stan Lee. Comic books are quite possibly the most cumulative of genres, and he was one of the early major influences at Marvel.

This idea that Maher has that we’re supposed to stop reading comic books just because we reach a magical age that signifies adulthood is, in itself, immature. Tell me that The Watchmen is for children. Read it, and tell me it’s not designed and written specifically for adults. I dare you. Maher complains that my generation doesn’t know how to buy auto insurance but doesn’t acknowledge that the previous generations–including his–never taught us how to do so, throwing us to the wolves of the world without the knowledge to fend them off and the economy and job market were so messed up as to be soul crushing and education came with crippling debt that didn’t exist when Maher went to college, so excuse us for trying to inject a little fucking gallows humor into what felt like an impossible situation. No, Maher, we’re not stupider. We actually are more fiscally responsible and care more about social issues and the environment while reading books with pictures. So sorry to disappoint you for not pining for the days where racial and gender injustice were more prevalent and acceptable. So sorry we learned from comic books to be better people and valued them for those lessons enough to teach classes on them. Like any genre, they come with examples of bad lessons too. There’s books, movies, and TV shows like that too, but you don’t throw out an entire medium for a few bad apples. You promote the good ones and discuss what the bad ones did wrong, you know, like you do with literature. A person should apply their intelligence to EVERYTHING. Every aspect of our lives should be lived with intelligence and mindfulness. Don’t blame the comic book community for the Donald Trump presidency. I already explained who is responsible for that fiasco (https://empatheticwriter.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/a-lack-of-respect-the-path-to-a-trump-presidency/), and comic books have nothing to do with it. It is a stretch of infinite proportions to lay his election at the doorstep of the comic book community, considering that they are an extremely diverse group of people.

But really, his rant, which I am now matching (or surpassing) in length, stems from a lack of maturity. He and people like him are too concerned with how others view them. They’re afraid of being judged as childish, so they put down the things that they perceive as childish. But to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, it is immature to be concerned with seeming mature. You don’t have to like comic books. But you don’t have to put others down for liking them either. There are some things people find enjoyable which I never will, like being manipulated by the media or making fun of sub-cultures. Read comic books. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change whether or not you’re a functional adult, but being a rude, inappropriate, jealous, bitter, and passive aggressive person does.

Oh, But Somehow Sports Are Different?

Bill Maher is a part owner of the New York Mets?! What happened to not applying our intelligence to stupid things? Huh? Sports are different? No, they’re not. They’re games! Basketball games. Baseball games. Football games. Need I continue? There’s even a myriad of virtual versions of these games. Children play sports more than adults do! And they’re a great way for families to spend time together (playing them together, not so much watching one family member do it or watching someone else do it). Playing these games for fun is great! But the professional and academic versions are full of ethical issues. Is it right that a university should make so much money off a student that could be injured while playing for them and that student never see a dime for their talent and work? No, it very clearly isn’t. I don’t like sports myself, but I don’t begrudge those who enjoy playing them from doing so. I do find the voyeuristic tendencies of professional and academic sports to be less beneficial. Maybe it helps as a release for the us vs them mentality which is instinctive to focus it on football teams as opposed to countries or people of differing races. Maybe, but I’ve never heard of video gamers rioting in the streets the way some sports fans literally do. Listen, it’s okay to enjoy sports, watching, playing, etc. It is. Just like any of these other industries it can be an exercise in working out parts of your brain that otherwise wouldn’t get attention. But don’t pretend like sports are serious and all these other things aren’t. What people enjoy isn’t up to us to decide and there are benefits to all of these so-called childish forms of entertainment, including sports.

The Damage of a Brain without Play

Throughout this, I’ve kept saying that the brain needs play. I could go into very specific details on that, but I will allow this guy to say it for me instead:

So, Maher, Did You Learn Something?

Every one needs to relax. Enjoy the things you find enjoyable and don’t worry about whether or not others think it is mature. Don’t be ashamed of the things you find enjoyable. Don’t judge others for the things they find enjoyable. Being overly concerned with appearing as others expect of you or in judging how others appear is the not the mark of being mature. It’s the mark of being superficial, shallow, archaic, and immature. Entertainment mediums are not important enough to judge others by. When it comes to entertainment, we shouldn’t be arguing over whether or not we should enjoy it, but about the quality by which it is made and the success of its intent. So enjoy your good middle grade and young adult novels, enjoy your good animated movies and TV shows, enjoy your good video games, enjoy your good games, enjoy your good comic books, and if you’re in any of these industries, love what you do, put your utmost care into your creations, and people will love and care about them too.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2018 in Social Issues

 

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Ethnocentricity and Gender Violence: Where Sense8 Failed

I was quite upset last year when I found out there would be no more new episodes of Sense8, especially when the last episode ended on such a kickass moment. But a year on, I realized an issue with the show that I hadn’t noticed when actually watching the show. There were glaring issues that were present in my mind as I watched the show. But this one that I’ve more recently thought of is quite possibly the biggest issue in the crafting of the show. And that is the issue of the whitewashing of Kala’s experience in India to be basically the same as any privileged American woman. Spoilers below.

The Characters

Some characters had very personal issues while others had issues that dealt with major national and global issues. Sun, who lived in South Korea, had to deal with the fact that no matter how good or capable she was in her life, she was often seen as inadequate based on her sex alone, and her brother could be the worst person imaginable and still be considered better than her. We see this in her decision to sacrifice herself to the law to hide her brother’s embezzlement of the family’s company funds. We also see this in the fact that to compete in her favored martial art, she had to do so under an assumed name and eventually quit competing altogether. Nomi was a trans woman, who had to face her family’s rejection and even the rejection of other women of her identity. Her mother continually dead named her whenever her family deigned to contact her. And some feminists saw Nomi as a man trying to take more from women. Riley’s issues were much more personal. She had to deal with the underbelly of club life, but most of all, she had to deal with her grief over losing her husband and child. Wolfgang had to deal with the gang life of Berlin, trying desperately to both stay alive in a dangerous world and carve out a place for himself in it. Lito, living the predominantly Catholic and highly toxic masculinity soaked Mexico, had to hide who he was from the world in order to continue the career he loved. This was definitely the most turmoil filled of the character issues. Capheus had to deal with the difficult task of getting his mother AIDS medication and surviving the very dangerous violence of poverty-stricken Kenya and possibly corrupt government. Will, a Chicago cop, had to deal with the very adversarial nature of policing an area that hated the police and divisive community that both wanted help and was suspect of it. Kala was asked to marry the son of an affluent man who owned the company she worked for and deal with meshing her religious family with his non-religious family.

Some of these storylines grew and development or were dropped entirely by the end of season two. Eventually, Sun just worked to murder her brother, Nomi spent most of her time in hiding from the law but also developed a better relationship with her sister, Riley had a pivotal moment wherein she had to at least stop suppressing her memories of her deceased family but then simply spent season two helping Will, Wolfgang continued to try to find himself a place in the organized crime of Berlin, Lito was outed and his Mexican film career was ruined but his career was opening up in the US after giving an amazing speech at a Pride parade, Capheus was pushed to run for a political position to help his community with integrity, Will developed a heroin addiction but also spearheaded the fight against the shady organization after them, and Kala married her wealthy paramour and found out that many of their poorly produced meds went to the areas that needed them the most, such as Kenya.

Gender Inequality and Violence in India

Back in college, I took a course in Global Women’s Issues which covered problems that women faced the world over. For example, FGM in Africa or Bride Burnings in India. If like me, you’ve paid attention to the gender violence that goes on in India, you would notice that it hasn’t slowed down much. First off, women are not highly valued in their infancy but many communities in the country cannot afford numerous children. As such, there aren’t currently many women in India. Counter to most statistics elsewhere, men outnumber women in India. Recently, the NYT covered this subject, but the number of women there is trending upward. But not only are women outnumbered by men, but due to the lack of plumbing infrastructure, there are many public bathrooms throughout major city centers that require people to pay for their use when defecating. Last I read, men’s bathrooms far outnumbered women’s bathrooms beyond the male to female ratio, and since it is hard for a woman to prove whether or not she had only urinated without a major invasion of her privacy, going to the bathroom costs women money more often than men. These two things seem minor, however, in comparison to the violence perpetrated against women in India.

First of all, I had previously mentioned Bride Burnings which involve the killing of a young woman recently married for either her family not paying a dowry, not paying enough or more in the dowry, or when the husband dies and the husband’s family does not wish to pay or care for the young bride. These women are not killed and then their bodies burned. They are burned alive. Unfortunately, the India government, mostly local courts, has turned a blind eye to most of these murders, with a conviction rate of only 33% in 2008.

More commonly, rape is a very prevalent crime in India, despite the idea that it has one of the lowest rates of rape of all countries. This is because rape is not often reported in India. One of the most known incidents was the rape and murder of a student on public transport back in 2012 in Delhi. A male friend of hers was badly beaten during the incident and all six other men, including the bus driver, raped her. She was also violated with a metal rod, severally damaging her internal organs, leading to her eventual death. After this, the public outcry against this kind of extreme gender violence broke out into protests, the demands of which included better safety for women in India. Fortunately, the court did convict the rapists of multiple charges, including rape and murder. All levels of the Indian government got  involved, including the parliament. But this didn’t change too much, as not even a year later, another student was gang-raped. But the men who raped this woman in 2013 got the death sentence, so the government was trying to make rape less and less appealing to gangs. But even as recently as this January, an eight year old was raped and murdered by eight men including two political party members. There have even been reports of mass rapes, which included children and elderly women. The anger over all this gender violence once came to a head in 2004 when a crowd of about 200 women lynched a rapist who called one of his victims a prostitute. The women had stated that he had been bribing the local authorities to prevent arrest or prosecution.

In cultures where women are not valued as equals to men, rape tends to be pretty common. Rape has a much worse impact on women and communities where women are not valued as equals, because a woman’s body and virginity are the way by which the majority of the society values them and how they are able to create livelihoods, not as prostitues but as wives. Rape damages their worth in the society and lowers the number of women considered viable for marriage even when the overall number of women is already too low. One would think that the act of rape would result in the worst possible punishment in communities that bases women’s values on their bodies’ worth as wives and mothers, and while India, the nation, is trying very hard to fight against rape, local governments are fighting against the tide to punish rapists to the maximum limit. The tide is shown below. It shows absolutely and without a doubt what rape culture looks like when it runs amok.

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The American Gaze

The average American has no idea about any of those issues in India. Feminists tend to know about it, and some other people have a general vague idea about these problems. But American news tends to focus nearly entirely on the United States. A person typically really has to dig to find out what’s going on in other countries. It’s not because interest in other nations went down. It’s that a wider American audience was wanted for the news so more US stories tended to get a wider view. So when most Americans hear about another nation, they tend to put an American cultural context on it. And the American cultural context is almost impossible to untangle from slavery, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement. The United States literally sees most things in Black and White, even though those aren’t the only races in the US, let alone the world. Sometimes jokes that are meant to be about regions are seen as racist against Black people. One great example of this is the Brittish conductor’s firing from an American music festival for making a joke to his long-time friend from the South about his possibly wanting grits. This friend happened to be Black. A White woman overheard the joke, which was long-running between the two who traded barbs on a regular basis about what the other one culturally was more likely to consume, assumed it was about his Blackness, then reported it. The music festival never once asked the person who was supposedly subjected to this so-called racism what he thought about it. Their administration made a unilateral decision and fired the conductor. This is far from an acceptable way of handling an accusation of racism. If one simply ignores the cultural differences between Americans and Brittains, but just looks at the fact they didn’t ask the Black person if it was racist, but decided for him that it was, that can be considered racist to the extreme. But the fact that the conductor was Brittish is important. We hardly acknowledge that other countries and cultures have a different and unique history with Black people, let alone consider the interplay between other races. We often don’t pay attention to those issues that affect other minority groups in other countries. We don’t hear about them either, because the US media focuses almost all its minority attention on how Black and White people interact in the US only. As such, the average American tends to apply this filter to all issues in all countries without knowledge or context. You can see such reactions to the attempt to protect women on transport through segregation below. I’m not sure if this will actually help, especially considering the aforementioned victim who died was also raped by the bus driver, but I understand that they are trying something.

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I appreciated the fact that more informed tumblrs were willing to share their information. But since we don’t know the sex of anyone on tumblr, we can’t say for certain that those who brought up segregation were all male nor that all of those who were informed were female. It’s surprising who is and is not informed of other nations’ issues and violence against women. To me, the funnist and most ethnocentric comment is that it reminds them of something “everyone” has learned in school. Do people truly believe that all the intricacies of US history is taught in all other countries in the world? Because that’s just ignorant.

Sense8’s Failing

My real issue with Sense8 in connection to all the above problems is that Kala’s story is whitewashed. It’s about a woman feeling pressured to marry an affluent man (something that still happens in the US) while she’s in love with another man (another thing that happens in the US) and dealing with a pharmaceutical company’s unethical practices (definitely happens in the US). We get a glorified love triangle. To not even mention the very real physical dangers that women in India face, when the show seemed to pride itself on showing the issues facing people of specific demographics around the world, is an unforgivable oversight. And if it was a conscious decision to do so, then the show wasn’t nearly as progressive as it liked to appear. We need more awareness of these issues in India, not to have them glossed over in a TV show that could have exposed a global audience to the gender violence in India.

Maybe they were planning this in another season, but the show was cancelled and I don’t believe that they were planning it, because it’s not even in the background. Kala behaves as if rape isn’t a possibility in her life, going to public places alone and without some kind of defensive device all the time. Even most of her clothes are very Western by comparison to what some of the women in India wear on a day to day basis. I just can’t help but think that this is a great disservice to the women of India. I’m not saying Kala needed to be raped on the show. I’m saying that it should at least have been a topic and fear that she had to deal with on daily basis. Instead, her experience and story feels very Western, and while Western women still worry about rape and rape culture still exists in Western societies, the degree to which Indian women must deal with both is in a much greater extreme. This needed to be shown. Realizing how much this subject was ignored in the show in favor of a love triangle really bothers me and I will most likely not watch the show again, as I have other cancelled or completed shows, because it is just plain bad writing, which is sad considering that Jessica Jones deals with rape in such a poignant fashion.

But What Do You Think?

Were there any other topics that you felt this show ignored that were ripe for showcasing? Were there other shows that ignored a major issue in a culture? Do think it’s purposeful or an accident? I’m interested in what you have to say on the subject.

 

I’m Not a Female Writer; I’m a Writer

I remember once during my grad school time, I took a class on creative writing theory. One essay we read was by Langston Hughes, and in it he said that the young black writer who doesn’t want to identify himself as a black writer is wrong. Of course, discussion followed. I was against this idea. My professor hit the nail on the head when he asked me if I want to be identified as a “female writer”. I gave a very quick and very loud, No! in return. I’ll explain why this is so important to me.

To Be Identified Is To Be Qualified

We don’t say that Stephen King is a white writer or a male writer. We say he is a writer. Some may say he is a horror writer, and that is a qualifier of a different sort, but with all the minimization that the genetic qualifiers are used with. Identity social protest and politics are very in right now. I’ve never been behind them, and I’m not behind them in art either. When our identity is put before everything else, it pigeonholds us. It’s a qualifier. “Miceli is a female writer” vs “Miceli is a writer”. It’s clear to me that one of these implies that as a writer, I’m not on equal footing with others. It implies “less than”, a niche, a special case. We get the same thing with athletes and scientists. It’s not necessary to say a person is a woman. Let other people figure it out on their own.

To say that Stephen King is a male writer is to suggest that we can’t expect good women from him. But his first novel blows that theory out of the water. To say that he is a white writer is to suggest that we can’t expect him to understand the issues that ethnic minorities face. That’s also disproven. To say that I’m a female writer is to suggest that you can’t expect good male characters from me. Empathy is supposed to bridge these gaps. It is a writer’s greatest tool and we can stop qualifying people at any point.

The Womanly Effect on Writing

Well, being a woman has an effect on my writing in the same way that being a man effects a male writer: minimally, if you wield empathy correctly and well. I have no control over the sex I was born with, nor even with the sex I identify with; however, I’m a strange person. I don’t get along with most women. We often have less to talk about. I don’t wear makeup, and I get haircuts every two years. I hate fussing with my appearance and don’t like kids. This is basically the opposite of most women I know. I do identify myself as a woman, but about as much as I identify myself as a human being. All of us are human beings, and a little more than half of us are physically female. It’s what I am. It’s not who I am. I have other things that I feel make up who I am a little stronger than those two things. Those are foundation, not home.

I have a learning disability. It made me incredibly different those around me. It made learning how to read and write so much harder. Yet all the rewards were so much sweeter. I am an atheist, not by choice (it’d be easier in this world to believe and I tried), when everyone around me was devout. I had to discover Christianity and discover that I didn’t believe in it, nor anything else resembling creation, the divine, or an afterlife. I more recently discovered that I suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and had to learn how to deal with that. These things more greatly explain the kind of person I am and explain the kind of writer I am a lot better than simply being a woman. Being a childfree woman has more of an effect than just being a woman.

Being a woman is so simply a part of me that it is hard for me to focus on it. Just as I imagine being a man is hard for men to focus on. I think only people who want to simplify themselves focus on their genetic differences. It’s easier to feel like you’re part of it all when you can pick out others who look like you and feel the same things you do. But I identify with no one and everyone, because everyone feels differently and feels the same. I think that’s what writing and art is supposed to show us, which is why what the writer is doesn’t matter, just what they write.

Proud to Be a Woman and My Name?

First of all, my name is Alex. It is not Alexis, Alexandrea, Alexa, or Alexandra. My first name really is just Alex. Yes, people have thought that I was male before meeting me on occasion. This doesn’t usually bother me too much. I am not proud of what I didn’t accomplish. I didn’t accomplish being a woman. That doesn’t mean anything. I didn’t control it. Genetic chance doesn’t seem like something I should be proud of. I’m proud of the things I do. I’m also not ashamed of things out of my control, like genetic chance. It doesn’t make any sense to me to be so. I feel like pride and shame should be wrapped up in actions, not chance. So I’m proud of this blog, my Patreon, my published play, the awards I’ve won, the stories and poems I’ve written, the actions I’ve taken to help others.

I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar?

I care about women’s issues. I  also care about men’s issues. I care about poverty issues. I care about animal cruelty. I care about messed up beaucracity. I care about everything that feels like it is hurting another living creature. Some are higher on the list of emotional response, such as women’s access to sterilization in the US and animal cruelty or the treating of animals as property. I don’t necessarily let these things guide my writing however. Instead, I let my writing guide itself. Will it be effected by these things? Of course, they are all in my head, and what’s in my head invariably comes out in my creations. I don’t sit down and say, “I’m going to write about animal cruelty”, unless I’m writing here in this blog or for a paper. In my creative work, I’m writing from an image or a character first, not an ideal or an injustice. Let the work be interpreted as audiences are wont to do. I know I interpret work I experience.

I’m Simply a Writer

The end goal of equality should be to be seen no different than someone who is different. Of course, that doesn’t apply when I go to the doctor, except that the doctor should still see me as someone who is smart enough to make decisions about my body. Overall, though, I am simply a writer. This is who I am above all things. I’m reading about Jonathan Swift right now, and I keep having some eerie feelings while doing so, because his attitude is so much like mine (Everybody can fuck off, but I worry that you’re being treated like shit). He lived centuries ago, in a different country, and with a different set of sex organs, but I keep getting the idea that I would have loved this man and also never hung out with him, just as I never hang out with anyone. I don’t like people when they are in front of me, but I certainly care about them. This seems to be something a lot of other people feel, and it doesn’t seem to be effected by gender. It’s an example of how characteristics transcend obvious genetic differences. They can also transcend cultures and times. We can all find something that connects us to someone else. Anyone else. We can all empathize, if we try, with everyone in the world. And that effects my writing more than my sex.

 

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Buying vs Renting: The Great Debate of Society

I keep seeing articles about how Millennials aren’t buying homes and how it is hurting the housing market. Most of us know, however, that the reason most Millennials are not buying homes is that they aren’t in a place of financial security to justify making that kind of leap. So many of them just keep renting. I, myself, have rented five different homes and bought one home, but when I first got the idea for this blog post, I hadn’t gotten into even considering purchasing personal property for a myriad of reasons. Having now been on both sides of this issue, the benefits and detriments of each is pretty obvious. Here’s why renting or buying may be the best option for a person.

Benefits of Renting

You Can Leave a Little Easier

When you rent, the time that you’re stuck there is wholly dependent on the lease you signed, but there is always a clear end date. So if life changes on a person, as it is wont to do, such as a new job, a job loss, neighborhood goes to crap, or the rent goes up, a person only has to holdout until a specific date and after that date there are no more strings tying the person to the rental. Some people see this date as a detriment because they may not be able to hold out until that date, but it is better than owning a home in that regard because when a person needs out of the home they own, offloading that home could be immediate or take years, and in all that time the person will still have to pay their mortgage or property taxes, insurance, and utilities, even if they aren’t physically in the property anymore. So renting is definitely for people who are not sure about where they will need to be in the next year or even the next five or ten years.

What’s Included

A lot of rentals include extras. Perhaps water and trash are included. Perhaps they include internet and/or cable. If these things are important to a person, it can be helpful to shop around for those things per rental. But pretty much universally included is maintenance. Nearly every rental property comes with at least one maintenance person who will come to fix issues as they come up, like plumbing issues, broken large appliances, heating and cooling problems, and such. They often also include pest control. The reason these two things are most often included in a rental is that they help prevent the rental from being unrentable once the current tenant moves out. It is to the rental management’s benefit to maintain and keep the place free of infestations. Especially in the day and age of the internet review. One review that mentions flooding, heating, cooling, or infestation issues can drastically lower a rental’s value. Homes do not usually have this kind perk. Nothing is included. Maintenance and pest control are completely up to the owner and no home includes a utility. The middle ground for an owner is to get a home warranty, which is basically an extra cost that covers most pest control and plumbing, appliance, and heating and cooling. Depending on what a person is willing to pay, it may include more. This is must for the buyer who doesn’t know diddly-squat about home maintenance, but that doesn’t change the fact that the home owner has all their utilities and entertainment costs on top of their monthly mortgage.

Perks

A lot of rentals come with a few things that cost a lot of money to lay out in a home, such as landscaping, a gym, a playroom, a pool, or a hot tub. These are great things to have, but to put them in a home, a person needs a lot of extra square footage and acreage. This adds to the price tag of a home and getting all or any these into the home also costs a lot of money. Even buying a home that comes with a pool preinstalled costs more than a home without a pool. But there is more than just a financial cost to set these things up and maintain them. There’s also the time cost to maintain them. Pool and hot tub maintaince takes a lot of time, and knowledge. A rental can push all this financial and temporal cost off of a person with all of the perks of being able to use them.

Security

Some rental properties come with a security patrol and/or gated access. This can make it harder for something to happen to your car and can make you feel safer walking to the mailbox, gym, or pool. To get this in a purchased property, the price tag on the home goes way up. Most rentals have to have one or both of these to be competitive, especially in major metropolitan areas. In this same vein, delivered packages can be taken to the rental office to be picked up later, which helps prevent said packages from being stolen by neighbors. Homes often face issues with package delivery, but a big part of this is the delivery service itself. Some companies have no problem leaving packages at doors, whether or not there is an office at which to drop off the package instead. But a rental has a higher chance of safe package delivery with an office involved than a home without a secluded front.

Benefits of Buying

Less Rules

Rentals come with so many rules. To some extent this can be a benefit to the tenant, but some of them can just be frustrating. You know those perks I mentioned? Well, guess what? You can’t use the pool or hot tub after eight at night and you have to wait until eight in the morning to use them. They even lock up the pool area at night. What if you want to swim laps before you go to work? Well, too bad. So sad. Hate your kitchen? Better move. Would like a garden? You can have a max of three pots on your balcony. Want more than one pet? Not at this place. Purchased homes usually come with way less rules. Homeowners’ associations care about the front look of a home, but inside a private yard and inside the home, the owners can do anything they can afford. General laws still apply, so no loud parties or meth houses still applies.

Make It Your Own

There’s basically no reason to paint your walls in your rental. You’re going to have to repaint them when you leave or pay out of your deposit or above your deposit for the rental owner to do it. Even if you hate those beige walls, they will haunt you for months and months until you can’t stand it anymore and unfortunately, you know that every freaking rental you look at has those same beige walls. Look! There’s one that isn’t, but hey, they are prison grey, so that’s not really an improvement. Rentals are quite possibly the most average and least unassuming residences ever. They lack character. Nearly all of them. And there’s no reason for you to change it because you don’t own it. When looking for a home to buy, you can focus solely on the look of the outside because that’s the only part you most likely won’t be able to change. The inside? Paint the walls as black as your soul if you want; it doesn’t matter. Even if the previous owner painted all the walls chartreuse and your eyes feel like they might burn out of your skull, it doesn’t matter because before you move in, you can just paint them that lovely chocolate brown you’ve always wanted. Also in a rental, any minor damage you cause is immediately a castrophe. “They’re going to make me pay for that hole in the wall from me tripping on my bag!” Versus, the same minor damage isn’t great but doesn’t feel like a parent is going to come screaming out of the woodwork at you, demanding money to fix it. You can fix it at your leisure. It still sucks, but it doesn’t make you feel like a child.

Mortgage Payments

Comparing a mortgage payment to a rental payment for a place in the same area for the same square footage, a person can see how buying can be financially better. A thousand dollar rental can have a five hundred dollar mortgage. Of course, that doesn’t include any utilities, but does often include homeowner’s insurance, property taxes, and sometimes the home warranty. It does take a lot of research and a lot of smarts to make sure that the mortgage is the best one for the home and for you. Predatory home loans swept the market leading up to the housing market bubble burst and far too many people got taken for a ride. Mortgages are not something to be entered into lightly and a person should really get a smaller home to be able to cut their housing costs in half to make the purchase worth it. If done right, this switch can be very beneficial. Some may wonder why rental prices are so high. It’s not just what the rental may include, but the risk involved in renting to people. Another current issue effecting the prices of rentals is AirBNB and similar companies. People with the cash can make a hefty profit by renting a bunch of apartments and always have them on AirBNB. This lowers the turnover rate on rentals, resulting in a scarcity issue. With the same or possibly more people wanting to rent fewer properties, the value of each one goes up. AirBNB was not designed for this secondhand market wherein this was the only way some people make a living. It was designed so that people could rent out their homes more easily for short term stays as an alternative to hotel rooms. Rental companies are seeing a piece of the pie too, so they aren’t against it. In fact, some of the people doing this on the side work for the rental companies. This is mostly happening in major metropolitan areas, so rentals in smaller areas are only seeing the normal property tax and maintaince hikes that come with rising values and older properties.

Middle Grounds

Renting a House

A standalone rental house can give a tenant a little more privacy from the rental owner and neighbors. It still gives the benefit of maintenance but takes away the typical rental benefits of included bills, perks, and security. If privacy and a quieter environment are more important than those things and the ability to leave by a certain date is still a requirement, this can be a good choice.

Renting a Room

This is often done without contracts. I suggest that you demand a rental agreement with rules of conduct anyway so as to not get any surprises and that the person renting the room can’t just kick you out. Getting those two things will lock both the tenant and the owner into following the contract. It’s better for everyone if the lay of the land is clear from the beginning. A room rental also comes with nearly all lack of privacy. A bathroom is usually shared with other people in the home and parking is often a problem. It’s more like living with family or roommates in college and often results in arguments. However, it is usually cheaper than renting an actual apartment or a mortgage payment and can still come with some perks, such as a pool or some gym equipment if the owner has it.

Buying an “Apartment”

In other words, purchasing a condo or townhome. Some of the responsibility of maintainance falls on the HOA, and they do enforce some rules. Certain specific renovations might be against those rules and some may need to be approved. It may also come with a gated community, a pool, a hot tub, a playroom, landscaping, and trash service. The home owner gets the benefit of the lower mortgage payment, the “make it your own” mentality, and sometimes even a yard at smaller condominiums. It’s like buying a mini-home, except it also usually comes with the close neighbors. HOA fees go up and down depending on how much they have to maintain; gates and pools cost more, so the fee is more if the community has those things. The only utility that’s usually included is trash. Everything else is up to the homeowner. A middle level of privacy and enforcement of some rules are the biggest factors in if this is right for a person.

What Should You Do?

At different stages in our lives, we are ready for different characteristics from our homes. Figuring out which is a higher priority and what we really want is a very personal thing. It is effected by the market and what you need right now. Still in college? Rent. Looking for a job out of state? Rent. Got your dream job? Start shopping for a home. Dream job doesn’t pay that well? Shop for less square footage. Want all the perks but don’t want to take care of them yourself? Get an apartment. Want privacy and need to be able to leave? Rent a house. You can see how it really depends on you. I do not suggest buying a place unless you are financially ready and are settling down. People often say that buying a home is the right thing to do once a person is out of college or once a person gets married. That is typical, but if you aren’t typical, there’s nothing wrong with that. It is okay to not ever buy a home. It is okay to wait to do so as well. It’s really up to you. Make the decision that is best for you.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2018 in Consumer Rights, Social Issues

 

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