Saturday, August 4, 2007

08/01/2007 The God We've Left Behind

08/01/2007 The God We've Left Behind

What is human happiness? I'm reading Forbes magazine and thinking about this issue. The conservatives in the financial sector see any attempts at limiting free trade or imposing standards on the “free” market as the work of Satan. So I ask; have we come to a point in society where economists now are the ones to show us the path to happiness?

In our schools, we wage war over whether or not to give our children a humanist education or a Christian one. Why have the humanists won? Could it be because corporate America needs engineers, researchers, “creative” accounting? And if the religious “right” get their way, they will be allowed to brainwash kids into believing that God's demands are primarily sexual. Human happiness is furthest from their minds. Who is fighting to teach our kids to be happy? Is happiness about chasing dollars? If there is happiness to be had in poverty, would any of us know it?

If we go to church, can we get a break on health insurance costs? Or if we practice yoga? Or if we have someone pray for us? Or if we have regular sex? Or if we masturbate? Or meditate? Health insurers will chip in for your gym membership, but how far does, “Preventative Care” go? If they reimburse us for leading a healthy life, why not for these things?

As conservatives in the financial sector wail about regulations and barriers to free trade, many of the people that vote the same way are swayed by the very same issues. The simple term, “populist” underestimates their beliefs and intelligence. Though they believe in a free America, they also believe in living a life based on family, hard work and not taking more than you need. In them, the Christian ideal finds it's last vestiges. Yet their so-called allies deride the idea, telling us that shipping jobs overseas leads to a better life for everyone. Measures of income, gross domestic product and standards of living prove it. But for people who don't want to spend all their energy and creativity developing new streams of income, things are more complex. The old standby of, “let them eat cake” has transmogrified into, “let them be entrepreneurs”, and few of those reading Forbes Magazine has their jobs going overseas.

It is a not a matter of process to look back and ask ourselves honestly, “Are we really better off with the progress we've made?”, but perhaps it should be. But as the Christians charge into Iraq, the humanists find new medicines, products and websites, and the capitalists find new ways of making money or losing their shirts, is there a place for someone to ask?

What would it look like if we built our society from the ground up based on what would make people happy, rather than economic factors? Well, what are the things that make us happy? Friends, family. A fulfilling job. Physical health.

So how strange would it be if therapy were part of the curriculum? For health, physical education would be a big part of the picture. Instead of being once or twice a week, it would be every day for at least an hour and a half. “Lunch” would be a class, we would learn good eating habits. Math and science would be limited. You need to know how to balance a checkbook, no more. Instead, networking classes and philosophy, theology. Worship and prayer would be involved, yoga, chanting, dance classes. And students would be encouraged to spend as much time pursuing their passions. Whether that means baseball, being president, or being a janitor.

And age would have nothing to do with it. The old idea that information should be free, all would be welcome in each class. Adults, parents, just people who want to know. Each school would come equipped with a large socializing area where the free exchange of ideas and information would be encouraged via shows, programs (Like Live talk Radio) and town meetings. Classes would be given at all times of day, adults would be expected to take classes rather than deciding that school is for kids. And kids would be allowed to get jobs.

Strange picture? A Brave New World. Such is the sound of trying to make things better. But it's always going to be human nature to play it safe, defend what we have. So human happiness will remain the stuff of fantasy, God a dream to be exploited.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

08/02/2007 Those That Do Not Learn...

08/02/2007 Those That Do Not Learn...

From History are blah blah blah. But those who do are bound for the same destiny. Think about it; aren't we repeating history in Iraq? We tried this government-building in the 60s and 70s in Iran and Afghanistan; didn't work. It all depends, you see, on what you learn.

Let's take this to a personal level to de-politicize it. I once had a co-worker who told me that when she was younger she had a chance to go to Paris, but passed it up to be with her future husband. “If I knew then what I know now, I would have gone.” Months later, she announced that they were divorcing.

So let's take a look at this. This women felt that she had learned from her own history. But let's say things worked out differently. Let's say she had gone to Paris and left her husband behind. Would she always regret leaving behind the man that could have been the great love of her life? Would she forever blame any unhappiness on the selfish act of going to Paris and leaving love behind? If she had left this man behind, would she ever have learned that he wasn't really worth the sacrifice? In the realm of the unknown, anything is possible. To the romantic eye, that which comes from the unknown can only be perfect.

And in a pluralistic society, what is there to learn, when no truth is agreed upon? Neo-conservatives hail Bush's strength and moral certainty, liberals rail at his obliviousness, lack of knowledge. Democrats point to Vietnam, even as Republicans try to reinvent that war as a success. What do we learn? Russia has given up trying to make free enterprise and democracy work. Conservative economists wag fingers at Putin, why don't they learn from the United States? but Russia fires back; we have. They tried for over a decade to make democracy work, and it didn't. Putin is taking control of government? There was widespread corruption. What is the current President trying to do about corruption in this country? Trying to hide his own, and those of his cabinet. Putin is taking control of the press? Should he learn from us, where our press in slightly more costly than “free”? What are we learning from our obesity? From the crime rate, higher than most other rich countries? Tabbing oneself the world's role model is not much incentive to learn, is it?

In that context I would suggest that what is best for the country might be to re-elect the Republicans to power. Only if there is no one else to blame for a long time can we ever be expected to learn anything. Make no mistake, our President's policies are a repetition of the past. He is doing the same thing in Iraq that we tried to do in Iran. His economic policies are fashioned after Reagan. What did we feel that we had learned from “trickle down economics” when Clinton was elected? Here, we are cutting taxes again (though I find it unforgivable to raise taxes on the poor via the weakening of the earned income tax credit) and building up a debt. Isn't that what got his father sent home? If we are ever to learn our lesson about Reaganomics, we need to see this through. If the Democrats are in power after 2008, then the republicans will always claim that they would have made the necessary cuts to address the debt, blaming their problems on the democrats. Nothing will be learned. If the democrats pull out of Iraq and disaster ensues, as it almost certainly will, republicans will blame the democrats for the entire disaster. Nothing will be learned.

Two things have to happen in order for this country to learn from this time in history. First, it must be a republican who gives the order to pull out of Iraq. Second, it must be a republican who deals with the debt that the current president has created. As the debt continues to pile up, as the bills from the war on terror come in and the higher costs of health care push Medicaid and Medicare higher and higher, this is not going to be easy. The most important thing that could come out of the next election, which is approaching the Superbowl in entertainment value for the masses, is a solid idea of the direction we need to take in the country. It is imperative that the war on terror be sharply defined. What are we doing right, what are we doing wrong. What do we need more of, what effort can we save. With both sides finding their own new spin every day, it's hard; but events must not be allowed to be ambiguous.

08/01/2007 Just A Journal Post

08/01/2007 Just A Journal Post

Lately UM has been battling an increased lack of motivation which has him rethinking things. That's why I haven't been posting much. This weekend I spent Sunday pretty much sleeping. All that sleeping, one would think, would cause one to feel somewhat refreshed, but Monday was almost as bad, though I went to work. The Vertigo is pretty much gone, it's something else that has me down.

Monday at work I was tired all day and still when I got home. I am happy I resisted the urge to go to bed when I got home, which generally leads to bad things. I masturbated before I went to sleep, which I shouldn't do because it doesn't make me tired anymore, just hungry. I started thinking of the beautiful French singer Alizee, one of my favorite people on the planet. But I came for Miley Cyrus, who is just hitting her mid-teens and has become one of the hottest girls anywhere. If they ever invent a machine where you can live out your fantasies, I am gonna get so arrested.

While I had been doing better of late in motivating myself, this weekend I just crashed. I am in horrible shape and still gaining weight. I need fucking steroids. I don't overeat, but I still gain weight. I need to exercise, but I never do. So I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but I need to change something. I used to say in therapy all the time, I need to rebuild myself from the ground up. But it's hard, I am not sure I can change anymore. It seems like when I am not exerting maximum willpower I default to unhealthy things. I need a change.

I am thinking of founding a community of people who would dedicate themselves to exercise and, perhaps, martial arts. That would be a way to motivate myself. Actually, studying people who successfully keep up a workout routine for a long period of time, usually they say that you just have to get used to doing things when you are not motivated. In a community, we could have people challenge each other, motivate each other, wake each other up. This would be a living community of people, we would do it for each other.

But I am always thinking things like that. I am always trying to outsmart myself. More and more as I get older I begin to think that we really can't deny our nature. Maybe the best thing I can do is eat when I feel like eating and enjoy it as much as possible. And if I die then, well, try to enjoy that, too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

08/01/2007 Why I Am Still A Virgin

08/01/2007 Why I Am Still A Virgin

Thinking back to the episode of “Confessions Of A Matchmaker” featuring the 41 year old virgin John, I am remembering that perhaps the most disturbing part of the episode was watching him trying to explain why he was a virgin. To be 41 years old and still not understand yourself, especially when the problem he has is so detrimental to his happiness, must be scary in a humanist society that loves to give the quote, “Know thyself.” Of course, that's the whole “Dr. Phil” paradigm, that we love to see people who are ignorant about themselves confronted with what we know about them.

And while it may be true to say that most of us don't know ourselves as well as we think, John's case is still particularly disturbing. For myself, I am approaching John's age with the same affliction as he; but I don't count myself with him in being ignorant as to why, though I'm sure none of us would unless we had to. To boot; while John was described as good-looking, I am not so much. One could look at me and easily see that my situation might not be self-inflicted. Though it largely is.

I have been trying to figure out how to write about this. Though I created this blog to record the things that I think and wouldn't say; I also don't want to blatantly give away my identity. I'm sure there are talented hackers out there that could find it out right now, but for most of us I would like to keep things anonymous. So I'll try here to write a blog post that gives some idea of how I got to be a 36 year old virgin without giving away too many personal details.

About my past, I will be brief. I spent the first years of my life living as the only child on the street. No friends. Once a week my mother would bring me a few streets over to play with another child. But I was mostly alone.

My father, as I have said, had a bad temper. I was mostly kept away from him. When I was very young, his tantrums were sometimes quite violent. My mother would take me and escape. But she would come back. The interplay between my father and my mother would play a role in my own development. First, with my father being angry a lot of the time, I learned quickly to stay out of sight as much as possible. Second, whenever my father became angry, my family would become silent and give in to whatever demands he made so as not to make it worse. This continued into my teenage years, even as his tantrums diminished in severity. I was disgusted at this and resented my whole family; my mother for being too weak to fight back, my father for selfishly inflicting pain on us to serve his own emotional needs. While I was very young, I made a decision never to be like him. To this day, I cannot shake the feeling that I am being selfish when I am approaching someone. I see women as tolerating my presence, even fearful of me. I approach people easily if I feel I have something to offer them, like advice. But other than that, I keep away.

Like the guy said in the “40 Year Old Virgin”, “I respect women so much I stay away from them.” When I am out and see a beautiful women, I avert my eyes and feel like i am being civilized, doing her a favor. The problems with this way of thinking are two: first, it keeps me from ever telling anyone I am interested. Second, it's partially true. While most men are at least a little attracted to all women, this is not true of women. While men are better able to overcome their appearance than women, it's true to say I have something to overcome. Hitch might have been right in the movie when he said, “No women is getting up this morning and saying, `I hope someone doesn't sweep me off my feet today.'” But the harsh reality is that it is not me they have in mind when they think of who's going to sweep them off their feet. Girls don't kiss frogs. What would your intuition say about a frog? We are all full of fear when we approach people, and we think we are being judged. While we bay choose to comfort ourselves by saying that we are not, it's not so. We are. Women, by and large, prefer it if I move on, communicating only politely and on a superficial level.

That said, I certainly think I could find someone. Both my therapists and the PUA guys I have read (I think Mystery Method sounded best) have said that I should change my perceptions from asking what the other person thinks of me to asking what I want from the other person and how to get it. But that goes against my nature to a large extent. It's hard to control your thoughts.

And this is all the kind of analysis I often get bogged down in. Why don't I just go out and meet someone? So what if I get rejected a hundred times? Once I find someone, my life gets better, right? Am I afraid of rejection? Both of my therapists say yes. But I don't know. I'm afraid of a lot of things. I'm afraid of going out alone. I have no friends to go with. I'm afraid because I've never been in a singles bar. I don't even drink and wouldn't know what to order. And I see all of this as lowering my value as a man. How can a man take charge of a date if he doesn't know where to go next? Doesn't know his surroundings? And, yes, I am afraid of being rejected. But it's not the first thing on the list. And worse, I can't imagine myself not being rejected. I reject myself, so why wouldn't a women reject me?

I have tried online personals, didn't happen for me. I sent out a lot of emails and got no response. I've said it before, I think online personals are a rip-off for men. Women browse the torrents of emails they receive with the same jaded eye they would Karaoke singers or wallpaper. In a sense, it is a return to a more primitive time. Once primitive peoples used to have mating rituals in which the men or women would woo their potential mates with a mating dance. Now the men woo the women with words in an email, sometimes before they even know what the women looks like. And while many on either side of the gender line would say that this conflicts with our humanist idea that the best man for the job should get the job, none of us really can stop.

But that view is likely a much because of my own failure as anything. I kept a profile for more than a year, sent out many emails. On I got absolutely nothing, my profile might as well have been disabled. On yahoo I did a bit better, three responses that went nowhere. A few of the women I emailed actually appeared to ban me as they disappeared right after I emailed them, which seems particularly nasty, but there it is.

So I've tried. But it's hard. The first day I had my profile up on, I didn't sleep that night. I had no idea the silence that was about to hit me. Composing emails is an excruciating experience. I am greatly stressed as I compose and normally the ads I read give me little to comment on. The inevitability of rejection makes the whole thing seem pointless, and as I browse the ads that say to me over and over again that they are looking for a guy with confidence, a sense of humor, someone who knows what he wants, someone thin, it becomes even more obvious that most of them are trying to filter me out. That's precisely the kind of negative thought that many would say is a self-fulfilling prophesy. But it's not. I didn't think myself fat. Confidence may be something you can fake, and faking successfully then leads to sincere confidence, it's difficult to approach women knowing you have to pretend to be what they want.

It's past a point now where I am even planning to do anything about it. I have been planning all my life and I'm not sure I even care anymore. While I am sure that I want love in my life, I am not sure I am willing to do what it takes to get it. For all the reasons I mentioned, and the obvious reason that I am humiliated by the fact that I am destined to fumble like a teenager in romantic situations and sexual ones, this is all harder for me than for most, though it's hard for all. There is no question in my mind that I can also be happy alone. Maybe that's what's best for me. I should probably concentrate on doing the things that bring me pleasure and just trying to be honest with people rather than going for love.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

07/28/2007 God As A Panel Of Celebrity Judges

07/28/2007 God As A Panel Of Celebrity Judges

Moving into the another Presidential campaign, the subjects of religion come, once again, to the forefront. As a mormon tries to win the nomination from the Christian party, and as they and we grapple over who most has the concepts of universal justice in mind, or whether or not our attempts to subvert racism are in line with our humanist values, the debate remains maddeningly superficial. With our outgoing President being one who fits staunchly into the category of “religious conservative” and our future seemingly wide open, thought must be given to our own values; where they do lead us, and whether or not we are being congruent with them.

I have heard many say, “If Jesus were on earth today, they'd put him in jail.” I rather believe he wouldn't be such a threat. After all, preaching today in the desert or on the street makes you just one of the many voices who no one listens to. Getting into the mainstream media costs money, and preaching that we “turn the other cheek” and that “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” is not exactly what that is about. Today's prophets are propped up with corporate funding; and no one who preaches peace, or suffering poverty to get into heaven, or self denial as a way of getting in touch with God as the ancient Christians did, is making anyone any dollars.

But while conservatives try to push their religion on us and liberals ignore the benefits of religion, does anyone realize that we are already living the totalitarian dream of a national religion?

All Bow

The first amendment's conceit, “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion”, is gone. Bush has seen to that, though he isn't alone. The fact that so many of the people on the right see the constitution as the Bible's appendix lets us know exactly how much respect our Constitution really commands. What's actually written on it is the stuff of trivia now, as is the “Sermon On The Mount.” But the right is not without it's thought, creativity, or merit.

Family Values Expressed On A Spreadsheet

When religious conservatives tell us that America is losing the values that made it great, they generally mean “family.” So family is a good place to start. Now, the subject of family and what conservatives really mean when they say family values, is no narrow subject. But in the line of understanding our national religion, it becomes rather enlightening. The original Christian concept of the family was conceived as somewhat of a compromise, you see. Though it's hard to find anyone admitting it today, the ancient Christians were unabashedly asceticist. That is, weaken the body (through starvation, deprivation of pleasure, of sex, of everything), strengthen the spirit. That's almost unconscionable to us today, but would we have an obesity epidemic if we embraced asceticism? Of course, we wouldn't have 25% of the world's economy, either.

Animals Who Pray

But the asceticist church decided that the majority of people (most of whom were slaves at the time; illiterate) were too animalistic to live the holy life that God wanted for us: the celibate life. So as a compromise, the church asked the people to marry, and dedicate their sex life to one person, in the context of raising a family, and as a means of keeping one's desires under control. This thought predates the idea of romantic love by many centuries. You were, of course, meant to “love” your wife. But not romantic love. The kind of love that you have for anyone, even “thine enemies”.

So fast forward to the present. The church has compromised again, and not just with the humanists. The idea of romantic love is now commonly accepted as the main reason people marry. This seems innocent enough, but actually is the root of a lot of the trouble. You see, by abandoning the idea that marriage was a way to get closer to God by reigning in one's desires, and to control the uncontrollable human sex drive to make society a more peaceful, orderly place, the church abandoned the value behind marriage. By abandoning that value, the dogma of marriage became an empty practice. If marriage is about romantic love, then why not marry another man? Or your sister? If they are your soulmate, then why not? And those that argue against the idea of marrying for romantic love, what do they have to say to us today? If the church accepts the idea of romantic love, then how do we ever recover the values that made the dogma alive?

The Skeleton Church

And marriage and family is not the only place that the church has been forced to abandon it's values. Where would our economy be if we practiced self-denial? If we didn't have Christmas? If we turned the other cheek in Iraq? If we didn't allow divorce? What is the engine that drives capitalism if we accept our lot in life as a means of getting to heaven? If denial of our urges leads to a closer relationship to God, how do we justify those cellphone bills? Internet porn? Our obsession with Paris Hilton? Our addiction to iced lattes?

Values Of The New Church

Yet while the Christian right has lost the values that fuel it's dogma- the old, now empty, tenants remain. And for a reason. They are the now tenants of capitalism. Why, if Jesus said, “turn the other cheek”, would anyone try to call themselves Christian if they support the war in Iraq? Especially given how conservatives so often equate opposing the war with insanity? The answer is, first, that humanism has scored a huge, decisive victory over Christianity. Even Christians believe in humanist values over the church's. The second part is that Humanism itself has been subjugated by capitalism. Our values must be in line with our values. The latter referring, of course, to monetary value. Capitalism, for all it's romance about rewarding innovation, has yet to find it's own words. Instead, it uses the values of the past. Or, some of them, anyway. So “humanism” is a capitalist value, the same way Christians think that the constitution is a Christian value. And where humanism doesn't benefit capitalism, it is disposed of. Ditto Christianity.

The reason Christianity still exists is that it's hard to develop enough irrational fervor whilst adhering to a philosophy rather than a religion. So the Christians, who name themselves for allegiance to the man who, again, said to turn the other cheek, charge into Iraq with the passion of men whose fears have been spiked. The new Christs are the talk show hosts, politicians, bloggers, propped up by the contributions of billionaires who stand to gain more market cap by investing in this piece of the media. It's unlikely Bush or Rush would have gotten humanists to go into Iraq by telling them that Muslims are out to get them. So religion still exists; it is a powerful tool of control, and of profit.

Corruption Isn't Just For Breakfast

As the new prophets are bought and paid for, the humanist concept of objectivity is also lost. Our outgoing leaders are still on corporate payrolls; as corruption at the local levels are common and accepted.

The new test of truth is exploit-ability. We go to school now to gain skills, not knowledge. The Greek's belief that knowledge should be free to all so that we can fulfill all human potential is considered nakedly illegal if not immoral (just watch the beginning of any DVD). Karl Marx may have been wrong when he said that all history has been about class struggle, but he was right when he said that the bourgeoisie “has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous `cash payment'”.

With our national religion turned into just a name we rally around, the crucifix just another flag, it is now safe for business to support. Here, nationalism, then, can sleep soundly next to Christianity, and even have a mutually beneficial and gleefully incestuous relationship. Stripped of it's values, Christianity becomes something to be exploited, and thus can enter the realm of modern truth along with pornography, HDTVs, software, Ipods, antidepressants, celebutants, blogs, Reality TV, fast food, and gourmet coffee. The fine art of Bread And Circuses, finally perfected to a point where it encompasses all we see, including our own deception.

Morality As A Commodity

And with our morals now baseless conclusions founded more on feeling than the rational thought of the humanists, morals also become exploitables. All over the place is judgment. Talk radio presents it's host's paid for judgments of the news of the day. Dumb criminals, celebrity politics, liberals, get skewered. Reality TV gives us a panel of judges, telling the participants how to be a better supermodel. Happily, it's never us being judged. But at least we have some sort of authority telling us what is right. Don't we?

And as our immoral neighboring countries who don't care about freedom crack down on government and media corruption, our own government reveals it's own corruption both by being discovered and blatantly hiding that which hasn't been. As the circus plays on, as the government and the businesses that own them conceive of new ways to extract more money out of a nation in debt to it's eyeballs, can we ever begin to think again about the concept of universal justice outside of using the concept to inspire fear and racial hatred? Or the idea of fulfilling human potential outside of maximizing value and efficiency? Or just plain being freaking happy? Is this the world God intended? Did God really create the world to obscure himself?

A “Christian nation”, where the weak are left behind?

Friday, July 27, 2007

07/27/2007 Tyler, My Eyes Are Open

07/27/2007 Tyler, My Eyes Are Open

As someone who is isolated and tends to communicate little, I have a natural hypersensitivity to other's gestures. I tend to interact via these gestures rather than the traditional method of conversation. Thus I exist in somewhat of an Underground apart from Dostoyevsky's UM, I exist in the shadows of perception. In this way I know people better in some ways, but worse in others. That is, I can isolate their actions from their rationalizations better than most, but cannot predict what they will say as others can. Nor do I know mundane details, like their favorite ice cream, or their pasts.

I seldom go anywhere other than work and out to eat. Because there are few women where I work, any possibility of love comes from restaurants or shopping. Much of this is to my detriment, as I don't spend much time with the opposite sex and my spirit is somewhat weaker as a result. I feel less in general. The love that others have inspired in the past is a memory. And even when I think of it, I only remember the words I used to describe it, seldom do I remember how it felt. When I go out these days, any young woman who is above-average looking appears to me as a goddess, anyone else as an obstacle. That's cruel but I have a hard time changing it, and it becomes difficult to make friends as most people are the obstacles. And most women who I am attracted to intimidate me. I end up not looking at them rather than follow my natural inclination to fawn over them as a means of preserving my dignity. Of course, I must also confront the knowledge that I am an obstacle to many of the people I run into, including many of the women I am attracted to.

The one I have the biggest crush on now is a Waitress at a take out restaurant near where I work. I first noticed her because she had such a great memory. I also noticed her appearance, and of course she is lovely, but only upon seeing her many times could I fully comprehend her loveliness. She is small, with small, delicate shoulders and little tits, with a lovely shape to her face. She is completely misplaced as a waitress. But I am sort of trapped in my solitude with my need to interact with her. Sometimes she remembers my name and asks me how I am, and I feel alive. At other times she gruffly asks, “Can I help you?” and I feel like I don't matter. It seems like this often depends on her level of relaxation, where if the place is crowded she hurries me and if not she engages in more casual conversation. But of course, it always hurts to be treated like an obstacle. I would love to put my hands on those delicate shoulders and kiss that lovely face.

There's this one guy at work that I keep tabs on. He's funny. I think I mentioned before that I believe he's snooped around my computer when I wasn't looking. He reminds me of my father in that he has a bad temper, though his is not to the same degree. He is emotional, and this sometimes causes him to act selfishly. He is also very organized, extremely talented, the hardest worker in the place, and the only one who seems driven to establish his own individual identity. I have been wondering, though, if we would clash. This seems inevitable, as we are conflicting personalities; he with his temper and need for organization, me with my curtness and subversiveness. We rarely talk, only saying “good morning” and “good night”. But I'd be surprised if that lasts. He has yet to find a way to confront me that jives with his values, and a guy like that will likely never confront me unless he really believes he's right. So it's a stalemate for now. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

People tend to make simplistic judgments on others, we all seem to think we can read each other. People often see my quietness and interpret it as weakness. When they take me on, they are often surprised at my ability to defend myself, and either respond by taking offense or trying to ally themselves with me. Snap judgments is one of the greatest obstacles to any human interaction, be it in the workforce or in romance. We all fear people who may hurt us, and this causes us to analyze anyone we meet and intuit, or interpret, anything we see. Often this leads to judgments that are not based in any kind of reality. Nice guys do, sometimes, finish last. Abusers seldom lack people to abuse, lest they be robbed of their moniker. Are human beings cursed to misunderstand each other by always seeing through the lens of fear? But then, I have my own defenses as well.

Usually when i say hello to someone I try to make eye contact first. This is due to the fact that historically when I say hi to people I startle them. I am so quiet that people don't expect me to say anything. But for this guy I'm keeping tabs on, he often averts his eyes when I come in, and I can't get him to make eye contact. Sometimes when he says hi he sounds angry, like he'd like to tell me off. Other times he seems genuinely happy. It's hard to tell what's coming next. I'm not really afraid of what will happen. But I find all this interesting. Guys who get mad easily tend to be guys who have a lot of fear in them. Anger covers fear, and his organized approach and tendency to believe in rules solidifies that impression. If he is snooping in my computer, this could be an opportunity to have some fun.

Suppose, for example, that emails kept conspicuously on the desktop (he's an older guy and may not find them otherwise) reveal that I am the member of a secret organization that has stolen a device from the US Government that can control the weather. Then suppose that we are going to strike the US by sending Hurricanes into Florida (if you're thinking that that's going to happen anyway, that's the point). Then suppose Al Gore is working for us, trying to convince people that this is all due to Global Warming, not terrorism. He'll buy that, he's conservative. You get the point.

It may be because I am an outsider inside their walls, or it may be because I am so damn weird looking, but whenever I walk into a room people get a look on their face that is a combination of witnessing a circus spectacle like Siamese twins and being caught with your hand in the cookie jar. Silence allows people to imagine the worst, and they often do. What am I to them? A serial killer? Someone who can see into their mind and know the truth about them?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

07/23/2007 Dogs And Dawgs

07/23/2007 Dogs And Dawgs

Listening to the radio on the way to work on Friday, the announcers were running down the list of accusations leveled at popular athlete Michael Vick. They are reading from a 19 page document innocently released by the police detailing the charges against Vick.

The charges are gruesome and don't need to be recounted in full here. But I would point out that one of the announcers stupidly said that Vick would have been better off if he were accused of Human Fighting. When I remind all of you that a couple of the charges included having a “rape stand” for breeding the animals and killing the ones that don't measure up in the ring by slamming them to the pavement, I know you'll understand that if he were doing this to humans then it would be a historic disaster on the level of the Holocaust. Further, the announcers were incredulous when callers began to point out the similarities between this case and the recent case involving the Duke University Lacrosse players, who were accused of rape and promptly convicted in the media, only to be exonerated by DNA evidence. None of the grotesque stories they read off indicate any special evidence that Vick was guilty.

Then at work, as I'm running machines, I'm reading an article in Newsweek about the other side of the world. In the article, “Where Radicals Call The Shots” in the July 16th issue of US News And World Report, Philip Smucker writes:

In town, you will not find Hollywood or Bollywood thrillers for sale, but vendors hawk DVDs, mostly al Qaeda productions, showing the beheadings of traitors.”

Isn't that nice, to know the two sides of the world are so alike? In the west, we present spectacle in the form of words, justified by moral judgement. In the Middle East, it's to present the consequences of betraying an organization that fights the perceived oppression of the West. In both cases, people crave spectacle. And in both cases, the spectacle has to be presented in a way that is congruent with the values of the culture. Mr. Smucker does not tell us what is in the adults section of these vendor's operations (one must think that Paris Hilton is alive and well there), so one begins to wonder why al Qaeda decided to upgrade to DVD from VHS in the first place. But the whole thing is a good demonstration of my comparison between saying you're right and the other guy is wrong and saying you don't have an accent.

Here in the West, we do like to use words to present the worst of our images. In order to Jive with our values, we must either use words or present the spectacle as fiction. Also, we often bring up these words in the context of making a moral judgement. In the Middle East, it is enough to hamper the quest for freedom against the west. But in both cases, the need for spectacle persists. It just takes different forms. Perhaps that's how we can forgive our dim friends in front of the mics. We will never stop craving spectacle; if they don't give it to us, we'll find someone who will. They really couldn't be expected to learn from the past, they are prisoners of the present needs of the audience. What moral dilemmas exist in Pakistan I cannot say, but I hope that there are some who object to gaining pleasure from the brutal murders of others, as well as some idea that this is not what God, or Allah, ever wanted for us.