Category: Society (page 1 of 4)

Keeping Your Sanity in a World of Chaos

Keeping your sanity in a world plagued with chaos is a challenge. People are angry as fuck and one more slight inconvenience might be enough to make them erupt.

I’ve never seen people this angry before in my entire life. It’s like they’re constantly road raging, even when they’re just sitting around doing nothing. It’s bizarre and terrifying.

The hyper-connectivity of social media has awarded us the ability to stay closer to our friends and family. It has practically nullified the need to have high school reunions, to make long distance phone calls or to leave your house and actually go visit someone.

I think social media and networking is fantastic, I really do, but it comes at a price.

Constantly being in your own mind can be a dangerous thing. That danger can be intensified when you’re also in the mind of other people.

You see, when we’re on social media, people tend to showcase their true thoughts. The filters that “polite society” once enjoyed are not so commonplace anymore.

Once upon a time people pondered “oh, I wonder what that person really thinks?” Today, ’tis no mystery. You’ll know exactly what other people are thinking once you get on Facebook.

The social media craze has led to an influx of political awareness, debate, and exposure to massive amounts of information (and misinformation) that quite frankly most people in the world simply were not used to before.

Awareness, discussion, debate and education are great things, don’t get me wrong. But having so much avalanche at you at once can be a bit overwhelming, and it’s causing people to go absolutely mad.

One of the founders of Facebook unleashed a diatribe against his own creation. He warned people that social media can be psychologically devastating.

He’s right, I believe it can be.

So what’s the solution? To shut social media down and descend back into the thoughtless lemmings most of us were before the craze?

Being apolitical and nihilistic may seem like a comforting thought to some people, hell, it’s a soothing thought to me sometimes as well. It’s not the right way to go, however.

We all have political opinions; there are people in power discussing and voting on your liberties right now. Being political is part of being a member of society, it’s part of being an adult human. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.  We can’t just unplug and tune out completely.

We live in a world wrought with peril, war, death, disease, oppression, injustice, brutality and in some places a total suffocation of basic human rights. There are atrocities happening on a geopolitical scale that cannot be ignored. We also, according to Steve Pinker, live in a time with the greatest amount of positive possibility ever.

We have to do something, though. We have to find some level of balance that keeps us in harmony with political involvement and maintaining mental clarity.

If you overload the mind, it will turn on itself quickly.

The key is balance. Meditate, learn a martial art, write, compose music, exercise, leave the house, turn off the phone once in a while and experience the people in your life organically and in reality. Whatever your passion is that brings you clarity, calmness and satisfaction.. do more of that and less of whatever is making you crazy.

We will be no good to ourselves, to progress, to affirmative change, or anyone or anything if we collapse under the weight of our own rage.


Dear White People Netflix Series Review

I recently finished watching Season 2 of ‘Dear White People’, a socio-political satire series, on Netflix. I didn’t know what to expect from this series going into it because of all the negative reviews I initially read about it, but in my opinion it’s a tremendously well-written show.

It turns out the flooding of down-votes on the Youtube trailer were from snowflakes who were triggered by the title of the show, not necessarily its content. Go figure, right?

A side note before we get into this review: don’t review something that you haven’t actually watched! Just please for the love of fuck stop doing that.

Dear White People is sharply written and well directed. The dialogue is witty and intelligent and the story itself is intriguing and entertaining.

What’s interesting to me is that the writer, Justin Simien, delivers social critique over various facets. Simien doesn’t focus his criticism solely on the archetypal, privileged, ivy league conservative. Throughout the series much of the criticism surrounds the tenets of progressive and liberal orthodoxy as well.

The characters in ‘Dear White People’ are so accurately written that occasionally I forgot I was watching a Netflix series.

In my early twenties I was heavily absorbed in the punk rock counter-culture lifestyle. Although I never attended college, my interest in art, film, politics, philosophy and sub-culture often led me to campus functions back in the day.

During the early part of the 21st century, the Baltimore “underground scenes” started to merge.  Parties in the late 90’s, for me, were primarily composed of punk rockers. A few years later it wasn’t uncommon to see punks, art school hipsters, indie/emo kids, skaters, hip hop kids, rastas, and hippies all together in one place.

The Baltimore “scene”, albeit predominately white, was racially integrated. As such, there would always be that overtly anti-racist white girl who would hilariously attempt to make sure everyone knew how P.C. and non-racist she was.

‘Dear White People’ effectively calls out the hyper-progressive social warrior on crack. Little did our friend in Baltimore know, that her boisterous virtue signaling was actually a form of low-key racism.

Many liberals wrongfully assess that conservative automatically equates to stupid and uneducated. Simien, on the other hand, displays praiseworthy integrity in how he writes his conservative characters.

Sure, if you travel out to middle America or down south to a small town, you’ll definitely run into the stereotypical pearl-clutching, bible-thumping, uneducated conservative redneck. It’s quite different, however, when you’re talking about an Ivy League conservative.

As a freethinker I’ve debated liberals, conservatives, anarchists, libertarians, communists, Marxists, anarcho-capitalists etc.etc. all of whom demonstrated strong intellectual capability.

‘Dear White People’, while clearly having an agenda (naturally, as that’s the point of satire), doesn’t deviate from its attempt to offer fair observation. People criticize the series as being top-heavy, one-sided and racist against white people, but I think it’s a lot more balanced than they are choosing to perceive it as.

There are a couple of things I disagree with Simien on (namely that in context of dark humor and satire, there should never be justified censorship) but overall I think he makes exceptionally well articulated points throughout the series.

I recommend and encourage people to watch this series with an open mind and let it provoke thought, introspection and self-realization.

Art is About Free Expression

Art for me has always been about free expression. There shouldn’t be any social or political prerequisites in order to be an artist.

Recently I read an article in Reason Magazine that highlighted the lives of Libertarian art dealers/collectors living in New York City. They were somewhat of an outcast couple because of their economically conservative views.

The art world essentially has two main categories; contemporary (modern) and classical. It’s often the assumption that modern art is for “liberals/leftists” and classical art is more for “conservatives”.

When these two factions begin to intermingle, there’s sometimes friction.

There’s a long history of classical artists headbutting with modern artists and vice versa.

Hitler hated modern art, but he loved classical and religious art. So much did he despise modern art, he coined a new term for it: Degenerate Art.

Adolph Ziegler and the Nazi Party organized  Die Ausstellung “Entartete Kunst”… ‘The Degenerate Art Exhibition’ in Munich in 1937.  The exhibit housed over 650 works of modern art that were confiscated from German museums. 

The purpose of the exhibition was to showcase the art with written explanations of why the art was degenerate. They wanted to show how the art contributed to what they thought of as ‘ills of society’.

The smear campaign against modern artists had a long-lasting affect. ‘Degenerate Artist’, is now sometimes used as an endearing term that modern artists will give themselves. It’s a sort of punk rock middle finger to totalitarianism.

As many of us know, however, ‘the left’ nor ‘the right’ is free from authoritarianism.

There was an effort in the late 1920’s to oust surrealist artists and exclude anyone not willing to commit to collective action. There were 3 manifestos of surrealism written, known as the manifeste du surréalisme, which essentially laid out the ‘rules for surrealism’.

Excluded members fired back with a counter-attack sharply criticizing Andre’ Breton (the author of the surrealist manifestos) in the pamphlet Un Cadavre.

To summarize: you basically had surrealist artists who thought the surrealist avant-garde movement should be used as a tool for communist revolution. Other artists and writers thought the movement should be apolitical, and focus only on releasing the creative potential of the unconscious mind.

Throughout history we see there have been many attempts to exclude, censor or defame artists who didn’t align with the political majority of the given movement.

Art should be about free expression. It shouldn’t matter what style the artist utilizes or if they are a communist, a capitalist, a liberal, a conservative, a christian, an atheist and so on and so forth–it’s still art.

Art is the physical creation of what the mind sees and feels. It’s something, to me, that transcends political affiliation. You can’t put rules on free expression.

Photo Credit: Luis Quiles

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Religious Baker

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of Jake Phillips of Masterpiece Bakeshop Ltd. You can read the Supreme Court’s decision in its entirety here.

Phillips argued that he was not discriminating against same-sex couples (he countered that he would sell them any other baked product) but rather that, on religious grounds, would not print a cake that would celebrate same-sex marriage.

Despite his objection, the CCRC (Colorado Civil Rights Commission) found Phillips in violation of State Law.  The CCRC ordered Phillips to make policy changes to his company that would include the printing of same-sex marriage cakes. The contention would prompt Supreme Court intervention.

In this article I don’t want to get into lengthy details about the case or legalities. The question I want to focus on here is:

‘Should business owners be neutral or should their religious or political beliefs take precedence?’

It’s my belief that business ethics should be based around the quality of the product and/or service. A business owner’s focus should be just that; business.

At a cursory observation this doesn’t seem all that controversial, but in fact, it is. I know my stance on this is controversial, and it’s okay for us to disagree, but here is what I would like people to consider.

I believe a cake baker should print cakes for homosexual couples even if they are religious. (not forced to, but by default hold that position.) Printing something you disagree with is not an endorsement of the idea, but rather merely you providing a service.

Your role as a cake baker doesn’t have to coincide with your religious or political beliefs. These are your “business beliefs” and those beliefs should, in my opinion, include performing the service you offer to anyone willing to hire you.

If you can legally print an image on a cake, then you should print it. This is the responsibility of the cake decorator.

I’ve made this argument before and the most common ‘quickfire’ rebuttal is: “would you bake a swastika cake for neo-Nazis?” (Yeah, that’s where people always go, they always bring up Nazis.)

This is a great question though, because homosexual marriage cakes don’t bother me (I am not religious), but I am, however, vehemently against National Socialism and neo-nazi ideology.

Baking a neo nazi swastika cake would disgust me and I wouldn’t want to do it…but would I do it anyway?

I know this answer would probably make some people want to bash me over the head with a brick, but I would bake the cake.

I’d bake the swastika cake with the same level of professionalism and care that I would bake any other cake with.

Why? Because I wouldn’t allow my political beliefs to supersede my business ethic and service to the community. I might think your ideas or beliefs are abhorrent, but when I am assuming the role as a cake decorator I am fulfilling my responsibilities as a cake decorator.

I understand this is a controversial position to take, but neutrality in business is important.

The marketplace would get too hectic if every business owner started losing the concept of neutrality. There would be people saying “oh, I’m not gonna print those shirts, they’re too liberal” or “I refuse to make these business cards because they’re too conservative.” etc.etc.etc.  It would just turn into a shitshow.

Just remember, business owners, if you wont do it, someone else will.

Stop Exploiting the Homeless for Your Youtube Videos

We’ve all seen them on Facebook. The carefully planned video featuring an “altruistic” dude giving money to a homeless person.

If you read the comments on these posts, the majority of people are singing praise to the person in the video who is seen dispensing a (usually large) sum of money to the homeless person.

Peppered into these comments are a few brave souls who challenge the social media mob mentality and call bullshit on the entire stunt.

“Ah, who cares if they’re filming?… they’re still giving them money!” is a response I see often when people point out the exploitative nature of these videos.

I’ve been extremely fortunate and privileged to know many kind, caring and generous people in my life. I’ve been moved by the selfless and charitable nature of these individuals. They have done beautiful work in offering time and service to their communities; particularly to homeless, seniors and people less fortunate than themselves.

There’s something quite different, however, between these people I have known in my life and the people I see on Youtube videos “helping the poor”….

They don’t fuckin’ film it and post it on Youtube.

Why might a person go through all of this trouble to make sure they’re rolling the camera while they’re “generously” giving large stacks of cash to homeless people?

The reality is that they are shamelessly self-promoting, self aggrandizing and monetizing their videos: they earn a percentage of the revenue Youtube earns from advertisements.

The dudes I’ve seen in these kinds of videos are some of the most condescending, arrogant bastards I’ve ever seen in my life… and this is coming from a condescending, arrogant bastard– so you know it’s pretty fucked up.

These assholes view the homeless as nothing more than props that enable them to foster a self-serving image of egalitarianism and philanthropy. Don’t be a sucker, these disingenuous creeps don’t give a shit about the homeless. All they want is quick fame, quick cash, and some hearty ass kissing.

Hey look, I don’t have any problem with someone wanting fame, cash and praise… but earn that shit. Don’t go out there and exploit people who are going through some real, rough shit in their lives so you can be an overnight internet hero.

How many times have any of these internet celebrities gone out when there were no cameras rolling and actually did something good for somebody? I’d really like to know. I would really like to learn that they actually cared and were donating their time and effort. I’d love to be proven wrong on this.

There are people out there who have no interest in helping anyone. Hey, that’s their right and I won’t even judge them for it. If you truly want to help people, then that transaction, that act of generosity, should be personal… not filmed so you can receive accolades.

I’m not a religious guy, but there’s a passage in the bible that I like that says “lend expecting nothing in return.” I think we could all learn something from that.

Stop exploiting the homeless for your bullshit, self-promoting Youtube videos.

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