Drop Dead Cynical

I have no time for cynicism.  I keep as optimistic a view as possible.  Why?   Because to do otherwise is potentially lethal, for me in particular.  My depression gets very bad at times, about as bad as it can get.  I don’t need to poke at it like a lethargic badger, hoping for some reason that it won’t wake up and chew my face off.

I dreamed last night I attended a democratic convention and people were going hog-wild for that little weasel Rand Paul.  (With an apology to weasels for the comparison).  Anyone who’d even LOOK in his direction doesn’t have the faintest fucking idea what’s really going on in this country.  Of course, that applies to all the big ‘L’ libertarians, who have a problem with reality, and a utter lack of knowledge about history.  We tried their prescription.  We call it Dickensian Britain.

I could get into the whole liberal and neo-liberal thing, and why they’re different, and why neo-liberals aren’t really that different from neo-conservatives, and why they’re not really like modern liberals at all.  Originally, liberalism, or liberality, was about expanding freedom.  Period. And originally that meant economic freedom with those who had need of it.

But it became clear that giving them carte blanche didn’t work very well for everyone.  People were exploited, sometimes to death, and pollution became a very real problem rather quickly.  With no regulations at all, companies dumped all manner of toxins into the environment.  It’s a big planet, right?

Like I tell the right wingers–as large as it is, our planet is STILL a finite system.  Just as you can’t pee in a corner of a pool and expect it to stay there, you can’t pump pollutants into the atmosphere and assume they won’t build up, even if they DO happen to avoid directly damaging their local environs.

They’re putting out a LOT of money to propagandize climate change, to confuse the issue for the ignorant voter–or non-voter, for that matter.  Idiots without a lick of science who try to argue the point as if they actually understand what’s going on.  Because they’re spoon-fed the opinions of those who are paid to give them their opinions.  POX News doesn’t deal in facts, it deals in opinions, and our modern media seems to be fine with this.  POX is not a news organization.  No self-respecting “journalist” should act as though they are.  POX, aside from their obvious bias, makes itself part of the news and that violates every journalistic tenet I learned as a teen, back when I thought I wanted to be a journalist.  Before I realized I don’t really give a shit what other people do unless they’re hurting people.  I’m not a snoop.  As it is I tend to see and know things I’d rather not, without even trying.  I’ve come a long way from the extremely literate but socially awkward kid who didn’t understand other people.  Now I see them all too clearly and often I’d rather not.

A familiar aphorism suggests avoiding talk about politics and religion in “polite company.”  I’d say we’re way past the point where that’s acceptable.  Far too many people are frightfully ignorant and happy that way, effectively selling us and future generations down the river because they either don’t give a damn, or they mistakenly believe they’re powerless.

The only reason we’re powerless is because we allow ourselves to be.

Single-issue voters piss me off too.  We’re all fighting different heads of the same goddamn hydra.  The left in this country is far more fractured than the right.  While they have only a few sectors to concern themselves with–the profiteers and the religiously deluded, for the most part.  As long as they can get these people on the same page, or close to it, they’re golden.  Democrats, on the other hand, have to deal with a thousand smaller issues.  Environmentalism, animal rights, human rights, GMO labeling, income inequality, net neutrality, gun control, reforming the justice system by ending the drug war, etc…

All the right has to say is “Profitability, God, and Guns,” and the right lines up behind them like toy soldiers set by a child’s hand.

People are always saying there’s no difference between the parties.  My bullshit detector disagrees.  Everything the Republicans do is designed to manipulate.  There’s no real interest in discussing things or looking for genuine resolutions.  And now for the next two years we’re going to have to watch them attempt to sabotage and dismantle every decent thing we’ve ever accomplished.

I don’t want to hear this is the fault of the party.  If you’re going to pretend that they have equal access to the media, and are treated equally by the media, we have nothing to say.  The Sunday shows produce conservatives at something like three times the rate they do democrats, and very rarely are those democrats of the most liberal or progressive variety.  And given that there are roughly 90 members of the Progressive Caucus it’s telling that the only one who ever gets any airplay is Bernie Sanders.

It’s why Liz Warren and Bernie are as important as they are.  They’re the only progressives the corporate media bothers to pretend even exist.  And so the bitch becomes “Why aren’t more democrats like them?”  Well, there are.  You just don’t hear about them.  It doesn’t serve the agenda to give them a voice.  It’s bad enough they have to occasionally showcase Bernie or Liz.

I’m in love with our language.  It infuriates me to see it used to convey bullshit instead of information.  When the purpose is the obfuscation of the facts rather than illumination, it’s a betrayal of everything we should stand for as a culture.  Accurate information is vital to the continued existence of a democratic nation.  Feeding the people disinformation is what our new media is doing.  The fifth estate was supposed to safeguard our backs, and, thanks to deregulation and media consolidation, it is now the most likely wielder of the knife.

The right wing clings to their guns, thinking that those guns will help keep them free, all the while they stand there and allow the chains to be clamped to their flesh.  Chains of willful ignorance, of anti-intellectualism, of greed and baseless fear of “strangers.”  Manipulated by the simplest levers, they charge forward without bothering to question.

On the other hand, liberals question everything.  Back in the days of AOL, I once used the “Question Authority” as a signature, which drew snark from the right wingers.  Many honestly don’t grasp the necessity.  Of course, these are the people whose children are molested by authority figures because they assume power, wealth, and prestige are granted to those who deserve them, when the case is often quite the reverse.

Power attracts the corruptible.  It is not an earthly reward for holy behavior or thought.  It rewards ruthlessness.  And as long as you keep your ruthlessness within the bounds of the law, or, at worst, below the level of a retaliatory lawsuit, its rewards are far greater than the risks.

I’m not all that angry at the Democrats.  Sure, they were a bit spineless, but it’s not as though we’ve made sure they know we’ve got their back.  We don’t.  Well, some of us do, but too many folks are fair-weather friends and allies.  When the going gets tough, many liberals get weak in the knees.

And for all of you who complain about the massive deluge of campaign ads in the two weeks before the election (quite aside from the fact that they’re negative, since that’s been proven to work despite our alleged hatred of such tactics) I can tell you how to end that.  Educate yourself.  If people were actually informed about the candidates and issues, they’d stop shoveling steer manure every election season for those who can’t be bothered to get off their ass and do their own due diligence about such things.

You know how many campaign ads I saw?  One or two.  That’s it.  Why?  Because I already knew what was going on, I FF through the commercials, either by going strictly from the DVR, or by giving myself a ten minute window before watching something live on TV, allowing me to pause it and then use the slack to jump commercials later.

I’m generally optimistic, despite my growing misanthropic tendencies.  I don’t think all people suck… just roughly half of them.  And then mostly because they’re sleepwalking with little concern with how their behaviors and choices affect the people around them.  It’s especially ironic when people are screaming about someone they don’t even know having the right to an abortion while ignoring several tons of toxic garbage dumped into our rivers.  Their priorities stink.  Worry about something that only affects a few people, yet ignore something that can affect millions.  Where’s the sense in that?

I’m personally sick of people who can’t tune in and turn on.  We’ve got a problem with foxes in the henhouse and we’re going out and buying Purina fox food rather than chasing the damn things out.  Doesn’t say much about us, does it?  We lived in what could have been the greatest nation in the history of mankind, but we’re throwing it away out of selfishness, greed, and an inexplicable fondness for ignorance.

I’m disappointed in a LOT of people right now and it’s really hard for me to “be nice.”  I don’t want to “be nice.”  I want to make it perfectly clear what the stakes are here, how the last thing we need is another gilded age and it’s damn well time for us to stand up and stop being polite about it.

It’s one of the few things I judge people on.  Are you hip to the machine?  Are you working against it somehow?  Are you politically aware and active?  Are you tuned into the world and people in general, even those who aren’t like you?  Does humanity trump profitability and justice trump law?

It does for me.

We’ll know we’re getting somewhere when we no longer spend billions to re-elect a congress with a 10% approval rating.  Until then I’ll be biting back snarls and snaps.  Except when I don’t.

I don’t have time for pessimism or cynicism.  Either help us fix things or get the hell out of the way.  People standing there telling us that it doesn’t matter or that we can’t do anything can go take a long walk off a short pier.  And keep swimming.

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Beyond the Baton: Cops, real and fictional.

Someone did a survey years ago.  It turns out that people don’t like real cops doing the same things they cheer them doing in the movies.  As if they understand there’s a difference between giving them the fictional ability to bend or break rules without consequence.

That’s because they realize that there’s a big difference between this happening in a writer’s imagination and this happening in real life.  In fiction, when the cop goes hell-bent after the bad guy, it’s the bad guy.  There’s no one going “what if it’s not the bad guy?”  Unless, of course, it’s a plot twist and you’re meant to ask that question.  But let’s be honest.  99% of cop movies and shows give us the image of cops who have no problem bending the rules when it suits them to get the bad guy.

I find it hard to believe that real cops aren’t influenced by this somehow.  I also wonder how much the rest of us are influenced, given that when we’re put on juries, we’re front-loaded to trust the police, even though the fact is most of us have no reason to.  If you have any question that police lie, just post “police perjury” in your search bar.  Whew boy can the folks in blue perjure the hell out of themselves.  They’re better at it than criminals.  Of course, it’s easy when you walk in and everyone assumes you’re telling the truth right out of the gate.

We’re primed to.  We watch television for escapism and adventure by proxy, and there are few professions that seem more dramatic to us than cops.  Oh, we can get by with lawyers, doctors, politicians, and a few other professions where conflict can seem larger than life to the average viewer, but we do love our cop shows.  Hill Street Blues, Blue Bloods, Adam-12, Dragnet, Barney Miller, NYPD Blue, Hawaii 5-0, NCIS, CSI, etc…etc…etc…  I can’t begin to imagine how many different cop shows we’ve had.  Weird one-offs like Life and Life on Mars.  The gritty dramas like The Shield and The Wire, with “gritty” standing in for “realistic,” though I question any such designation.  Cop shows would have you believe that every idiot wants to get into a gunfight with the cops, and, no, we’re actually a country where most criminals know it’s a pretty damn stupid thing to do.  Now cops seem to be more likely to be shot by a political renegade than a criminal.

And you know what I’m saying.

We love these tv families, these fictional teams of people thrown together to do what we perceive as a particularly dangerous job (detectives almost never get shot, or even shot at, btw).  It’s a testament to the writers and the actors that they can create such a feeling of camaraderie not only between the cast members, but also with the viewing public.

I just wonder how much of it blinds us to the realities of the situation.

I’ll leave you all with one final question.  How do you think most of your fictional cops would handle something like Ferguson?

Life goes on. Or does it?

There’s something monumentally transformative about going from a relatively athletic, physically fit martial artist to a seriously disabled person in less than ten years. I’m pretty sure anyone could kick my ass now. I wouldn’t necessarily bet in my favor against a 13 year old girl who wanted to give me a drubbing.

I was never the strutting type, but it used to be much of what confidence I had was rooted in my fighting skills. Other than writing, it was the only thing I was ever really good at. And now it’s gone. Oh, the knowledge is still there, which is either comforting and frustrating, depending on my state of mind. I wanted to teach my kids what I knew and I was robbed of that ability, which sucks. The best I can do now is to share what’s in my head with them, and I can say my eldest is already a much better man than I was. I was fundamentally broken when I reached adulthood, though I knew it not. It’s taken my life so far to put me back together. The irony is that as my body failed, everything else finally started to heal.

I would have thought, if I’d been asked ahead of time, that losing my ability to fight would have cost me something in terms of confidence. That I’d somehow feel like half a man. In some respects I am certainly diminished. If an emergency arises, I can know longer react swiftly, an ability that has saved my life and others in the past.
I think I’d be a candidate for someone who wanted to carry a gun to feel “safer.”

Let me put it this way. When one suffers from chronic debilitating pain and depression, one is not made safer by the presence of a firearm.

It might also seem as though I’d grow more timid, but it’s quite the opposite. I no longer really care what people think of me. After spending most of my life with social anxiety, it’s actually quite liberating. You’re welcome to your opinion. I’m not obligated to give a shit.

I am getting quite curmudgeonly, according to some of my friends, and I suppose that’s true. I have little patience with bullshit. Plenty of bullshit from other sources, I don’t have to listen to any one source in particular.

A friend once told me of the concept of “ego-death,” supposedly a shamanic step when you realize you’re not going to live forever. When you accept your own real death and come to terms with the idea that you are not, in fact, eternal as you are now. The acceptance of mortality.

Now, honestly, only three things matter to me. My family (adopted and otherwise), my writing, and the struggle.

My conversation with my youngest the other day, despite the fact that we disagreed on the point, just solidified my respect for him. He is certainly his parents’ son, just as our eldest is. But unlike both his parents, he wasn’t ever broken. As long as he dedicates himself to discovering truth rather than just accepting what he’s told, he might go on to do great things for humanity in general over the next fifty years. It’ll be people like Logan who save our asses, if anyone can. The fact that he’s a jock will make him extra competitive, the fact that he’s good in math science will make him invaluable.

Right now my mind is beginning to turn to the question of humanity’s survival. I see us as being a tipping point. We will either move out into the solar system and begin exploiting the resources there to make up for our dwindling resources here, or we will implode and kill most of us off in a great die-off.

I may have a bit of the misanthrope in me these days. Let’s say I don’t have a lot of use for about fifty percent of the population, near as I can calculate based on my observations over the years. But I don’t want the human race wiped out, or even close to it. I don’t tend to care for those who do. I am, despite everything, an optimist. I like to think there’s a purpose behind sapience beyond destroying ourselves because of our own myopathy.

We need people of vision to set a course to a workable future. I’d once dreamed of being one of them, but broken people rarely rise that high. I’ll settle for being an attempted voice of reason in the chaos.

And hope my sons can hold it together, for themselves, long enough to have a decent life. Because what my generation is leaving behind (and I think most of you know how much I blame Gen X for this–well, Gen X and the younger Boomers, anyway). If you don’t, you haven’t been reading my stuff.

Maybe ego death is in the realization that the only thing you’re leaving behind is your genetic heritage, and that’s in their hands, not yours.

Poseurs

One of my issues with the gun goons is the whole “I’m a badass” routine. This attitude that says that just because you own a firearm and can hit a paper target at a certain range you’ll be able to deal with an emergency situation in which your gun will be useful.

It’s a thing a lot of young martial artists get as well. The strutting, “I can kick anyone’s ass” feeling you get the first time you face down a couple of people and come out on top. When you conquer fear and your hard-won skills deliver you through a confrontation. It’s heady.

Of course, the big difference is the amount of work it takes to gain one sort of confidence, and the lack of it necessary to get the other kind. If you have a gun your confidence is artificial, certainly nothing you’ve earned. It’s conferred by a single mechanical object, a tool, that may or may not be the best tool for the job.

To be honest, I don’t worry THAT much about concealed carry. I doubt most people need to be carrying a weapon. The vast majority of people will never encounter a situation where it’s going to be of enough assistance to justify it.

I get frustrated when talking to these people because so many of them truly have no idea what it is to carry a weapon into conflict. ANY kind of weapon. You find most people who carry weapons professionally, particularly those who have had to use them, do not tend to agree with the whole “Everyone should be carrying weapons” idea. They’ve seen what happens when weapons are used maliciously or irresponsibly. Their culture is almost always far more respectful of the weapons that civilian culture in general. They understand their uses, and their risks. The guy who buys a gun because he can and struts around with it strapped to his belt who’s had no training at all?

To quote: “That’s about as useful as teats on a toad.” Should they actually NEED to use these weapons in a crisis situation, most of them will fail because they literally have no muscle memory to fall back on. Every action has to be mentally considered before taken. This is a HUGE disadvantage, particularly if one is dealing with “bad guys” who have some relevant experience.

Not only that, but someone openly carrying is an obvious target. If I planned to commit a criminal act and entered a public area, the first thing I’d do would be take out anyone else who’s armed. This serves two purposes. It ends any threat they might pose and adds to one’s armory.

This is the same reason I didn’t practice martial arts in public, especially as I got older. And I certainly didn’t teach in public. We usually worked out in as private a place as possible. No reason to advertise what skills one might have.

Of course, I was taught this crap by a force recon Marine. His rule was that you NEVER gave away any advantage you had. If you had a weapon, it was wiser to conceal it than wave it your opponent’s face. A weapon no one knows you have is far more useful than one they do.

In the end, it’s little more than posturing. And posturing not only makes you look stupid, it might lead someone to believe you’re more of a threat than you actually are, and then where will you be?

Calm down. It’s just a theory.

There are some who theorize liberalism is an evolutionary step. For the first time in history, there are people who actually give a damn about people with whom they have nothing in common. People who look different, sound different, smell different, act different, love different, live different, and worship different. Liberals are okay with that. As long as they’re decent people otherwise. It’s not the differences that matter, it’s the similarities.

Liberals realize that despite the differences in location, skin color, diet, religion, and whatever else, most people are just trying to live a fulfilling life and provide an opportunity for their children to have a better life than they did.

It’s not normal for humans to care about people outside their clan. This is a relatively new development, and I suppose if there’s a case to be made for it as an evolutionary divergence, the jury’s still out about whether it’s a survival trait or not.

I will say this, though. Liberals are aware that what we do to the planet affects everyone. Conservatives are still concerned that someone they don’t know might want an abortion.

Yeah, sometimes it seems like they’re not that bright. But maybe they’re just the ones we’re leaving behind? Homo neanderthal to our homo sapiens? Or homo sapiens to our homo liberalis.

<shrug>

Fuck Apathy

I wish people would stop calling it apathy. It’s not apathy. If they were apathetic, they wouldn’t bitch. It’s disenchantment. It’s disaffection. It’s the belief that no one cares WHAT they think, that the whole thing is kabuki.

Not apathy. Stop calling it that. You’re obfuscating the true problem here. It’s not that people don’t care. It’s that they don’t think they matter. They don’t believe their votes matter. They believe, falsely, that “all politicians are the same,” or that “both parties are the same.”

This is NOT “apathy,” and if they keep calling it that I can only assume that the pundits, politicians, and media people are deliberately misinterpreting the obvious in order to pursue a specific agenda of continuing to disenfranchise these people.

I once read that the Hopi, when introduced to our system of “democracy,” were quite baffled by it. They saw it as incomplete, at best, because they didn’t believe there was anything to be gained by leaving a disaffected minority out of the conversation. They didn’t play by the “winner take all” policy, but the “everyone gets something out of this” policy.

Part of the problem is a lack of effective education. I don’t know what the fuck our schools are doing, but they’re not teaching civics in any way, shape or form. Neither did ours, come to think of it. That’s why most Americans don’t really know shit about the way our government works. They’re not learning it in school, and clearly there’s no reason for the media to want to educate the people.

Of course they’re disenchanted. They’re being manipulated, lied to, stolen from, worked half to death, and distracted by meaningless babble the rest of the time. Those who have the most going for them usually have the most on their plate. And are generally encouraged to take on more.

The one thing our kids need are effective bullshit detectors. They need to be able to recognize bullshit when they hear or see it. And the only way they can do that is if they’re actually taught critical reasoning.

How many of them know they’re missing something vital yet don’t know what it is?

What are we going to do about it?

Dear Sniveling Pissant

AKA Carl Gibson
AKA @USuncutCG

You know what you’re like, friend?  You’re like a lazy, ungrateful spouse.  Or, given your age, more like the lazy, useless teenager you can’t get to move out.  You stood by and watched the kids trash everything and spent your time bitching at the only people trying to clean it up.  Then, when the time comes when it’s your responsibility to weigh in, you sit out and blame the Democrats.

Some thirty years ago or so a group of right wing Christians decided the Republican Party wasn’t doing enough to move their agenda along.  Oh, they played a nice tune, but it was clear to these people that they were merely using the religious sentiments of part of their base to get votes.  They never meant to actually pursue any of these goals.

Well, these right wing Christians decided to infiltrate the Republican Party by toning down their rhetoric and becoming stealth candidates for city council and school board races.  It was in this way that they built a secondary party machinery to challenge the official Republican Party machine.

Here we are thirty years later and they have serious leverage on the business wing of the Republican Party, even though the business wing knows damn well that many of their objectives are downright dangerous.  Doesn’t matter.

On the other hand, they could have done what “progressives” such as yourself have done, Carl.  Try to play politics from the outside which, in the end, we see has accomplished what, exactly?  What did Occupy achieve?  Oh, it changed the conversation a little, but not by much.  We’re getting more mileage out of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders than we’re getting from the ghosts of Occupy at this point.

Oh, waah.  The Democrats weren’t able to attend to your agenda this last few years.  Gee… I wonder if that had anything to do with the campaign of obstruction set against them.  Seriously, dude, reading your “open letter” (if that’s what you want to call that long whine) I was left wondering if you still blame Obama for not being able to close Gitmo.  Despite the fact that every step in that direction was stymied by Republican obstructionism.

See, that’s been my litmus test for the types that “blame Obama first.”  I think he’s fought a good battle, as have many of the Democrats.  Like the Progressive Caucus, roughly 90 progressive members of congress who go to work every day fighting against the kind of reactionary radicalism that defines the modern Republican Party.

You don’t get to sit it out and bitch that they’re not good enough for your vote.  Every single democrat, even a fucking Blue Dog, is one fewer Republican.  They march in lockstep, or haven’t you noticed.  One of the great things about liberals is that we don’t.

Despite people like you who seem to think we should.

Gee… the elected politicians restrained by politics and law are to blame for the fact that you’re a shitty citizen who doesn’t engage in our most important civic duty because you’re “disaffected.”

Fuck you, Carl.  And thanks for all the Republicans.  When they’re stripping another old woman of her healthcare, we’ll be sure to point right at you.  Hope you’re happy.

I’ll repeat something I’ve said many times before.  If “voting your conscience” (this includes not voting) makes it more likely that the vulnerable will suffer, you don’t actually have much of a conscience.  You’re just a self-satisfied, self-righteous, destructive little prick.

Chew on that, asshole.