Hashtags and mass murders

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen


I like to think I’m a fairly well informed person, which is odd considering I don’t own a TV. I think the internet via Facebook and my NYtimes app keep me fairly up to date on major happenings, but unfortunately I fell a little behind on the recent mass shooting in Isla Vista, a part of UC Santa Barbra. I had heard something about a shooting there but just figured it was another crazy guy, with sobbing parents… another hallow discussion on gun control… I didn’t need to read more on that.

I was proved wrong a day or 2 later when I saw two aftermaths occur.

One was the typical gun debate. I think one of the dead fathers said something about gun rights and 2nd amendment conservatives got mad. One retorted with “Your dead kids don’t trump my gun rights” or something awful. I’ve already wrote about guns and tragedies. If you like to see that response it can be found here http://https://autobiographyofamaddman.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/fat-people-with-guns/ but it’s not something I’d like to get into again. The only thing I will add is this painfully harsh onion article.


The 2nd and a much more interesting aftermath I found was in rather lengthy status filled by a feminist friend with recent trending hashtags like #notallmen #yesallwomen and #misogynykills and didn’t really understand so I asked some questions about it. Apparently I was being polarizing by not fully agreeing 100% with him and others who posted…because I didn’t know what they were talking about, but whatever it happens, and people are fired up on all sides.

I had to figure all this out for myself so if you were a little clueless like me I’ll catch you up. Apparently this nutcase went around shooting up people (girls) who he felt had wronged him by spurning his advances and making him feel like an outcast. A lot of girls labeled him as a misogynist and rightly so. Apparently then a lot of guys got their feelings hurt and started the #notallguys (not all guys) as in not all guys are misogynist nerds who go on shooting up sorority houses. (No duh) then that was retorted with the feminist hashtag #yesallwomen because all women go through some sexual abuse or discrimination at some point in their lives, Sure I can get on board with that… The fact that does occur, I’m not on board with sexual abuse though.

So where’s the outrage? I see it as the devolution of yet another tragedy that gets caught on side issues. The main side issue being feminists v men rights groups round 1000.  Some articles and blogs I’ve read on it have managed to stay above a fray and have a good unique point of view…the majority of views though are not so much. So here’s where I shake my head and as usual it’s at both sides.

I think it’s a pretty fair assessment that this kid was deranged. He also felt girls “owed” him sex that makes him a misogynist. You add the two together and the mix is never good. You also look at the fact that both men and women can be turned down many many times but who reacts violently about it? A woman can be unattractive with the personality of a wet blanket and be pissed at the world for never finding a guy. She will probably not go on a rampage and write a manifesto. There is something corrosive for a guy who can’t find a girl that eats at his mind. Maybe it’s because guys have a bigger ego, maybe it’s because they’ve been conditioned to see that in movies, video games, and TV shows that the nice guy ALWAYS gets the girl in the end and when that fantasy doesn’t play out in the real world something snaps. In high school remember having to escort a friend of mine to her locker because she was going to tell off a creepy upperclassman who always watched her pack up and followed her out up school because she was afraid she would hurt his feelings and he would go crazy. That’s something I’ve definitely never had to worry about.

The real poo flying was started with the men’s rights groups who got together and started posting #notallguys, making them the center of the debate and not the killer and certainly not about the people that died. Obviously not all guys are like this, and maybe they were baiting feminists (which certainly worked) when they responded with #yesallwomen because yes all women go through sexual discrimination/abuse at least once in their life. And that’s where things officially fell off the tracks. I don’t know if the male rights douche’s responded again and I don’t want to know. This is no longer a tragedy where a crazy guy shot people, it’s now a who’s right: feminists or mens’ rights?

I also don’t feel that talking about how some guys go crazy and kill people is anything controversial. It’s an unfortunate fact about our society. Yes guys shouldn’t feel they are owed sex and that whole conversation is valid.

What my dissatisfaction is, is in this dichotomy between feminists and men’s rights folk that has existed for along time. It’s dumb and certainly not productive. Who cares who’s right? Why do females have to be right and guys be wrong? Why does team men have the upper hand against team female? These are false dichotomies. For me there is no team fem v team man. I’m on team people. Our disagreements shouldn’t be who’s right here? Are women right? Are men right? Sometimes 1 is, sometimes the other is, sometimes both are, and sometimes neither. Our struggles aren’t sexist orientated with men being bad and women being good or vice versa. Are struggles are insanity v sanity, douche bags v good people, and violence against peace.

If a silver lining can be found in these tragedies it is that frank and honest discussions happen about the causes of these so that we can try and prevent them, the sad thing is they always devolve into shouting matches, unnecessary battles, and nothing changes.

Changing views on Climate Change

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

Most issues come are fought over for some time then solved.

Slavery was once a hotly debated issue, and now no one supports it.
We are all in agreement that the world is not flat.
Mercantilism is dealt with… right? Wait… what is mercantilism?
Gay marriage and marijuana will be legal in most places within 10 years.

But there is one “recent” issue that has been around longer than we think. One that has no agreement in sight. The issue that has been here for the last several decades is climate change. First out in the 80’s as the hole in the ozone layer, then global cooling, then global warming and now climate change. For the past 40 years there has been some scientists that try to address changing trends in our environment.

However these reports seems to have led people to be in several “camps” on the debate.

Camp #1: “Climate deniers” or “Climate change skeptics”
The changes of the name of climate change created “Climate change skeptics” or “Climate deniers” and they will say things like “Oh well first it was global cooling, and then warming, and now it’s climate change… yeah wake me up when the name has changes again” They completely deny any change is happening, and will quote minority statistics that “prove” their view

They neglect the fact that climate is changing in different areas that encompasses more than just an overall warming. More droughts, rising sea levels, more intense storms, and yes a warming climate. So a simple global warming doesn’t really give this phenomenon justice.

Camp 2# “Global alarmists” Completely contrary to camp one. These are the ones who put “100% blame” on humans, they say humans are ruining the planet via trash and pollution and that is causing climate change.

In reality we are doing a lot to hurt the planet and are definitely contributing to climate change, but we certainly aren’t causing it, hastening is maybe, but the climate has been changing for a long time before anyone that is reading this was born.


Camp #3 …something else Then there are those who say of course there is climate change, but humans aren’t doing anything to it. It’s all natural. Their level of human involvement differs but they aren’t quick to come down 100% on one side or the other and depending on where exactly they fall they are the closest to being correct.

Everyone as usual has their own belief, about what is going on, and after listening to dozens of scientists here what I could gather.

#1 Climate change is real. No scientist worth his degree would ever say that climate is static and not changing in some way.

#2a Humans are doing… something. The climate will change with us or without us. Even if we destroyed our cars and shut down our factories tomorrow…our climate would continue to change. Our Earth is the main driving force for our changing climate. The sun and space junk also can contribute to a change of climate in the past, but we can drive cars all day long and our global climate wouldn’t change that much. I’ve also heard scientists say that the Co2 is good for plants (since they breathe that in) and since they breathe out oxygen rising Co2 levels could benefit us as a planet. (Weird right?) All the pollution (generated from burning fuel) certainly isn’t good for the global environment. But the world is big, most of it is an ocean that. It is clear that humans are doing something to the climate, however what is being done and how much harm we’re doing is unclear.

The climate has always been changing. The Earth’s formation was a molten planet that was bombarded with all sorts of space junk. Explosions, noxious gasses, and smog covered the Earth. Then thousands of years later the Earth (relatively) cooled and eventually dinosaurs appeared in luscious jungles where Co2 levels were 5x the levels they are now. Then we had the ice age, the thawing of it, the mini ice age in the middle ages and the Earth has been warming ever since and probably will for the next 150 years.

#3 THAT IS NOT TO SAY POLLUTION IS GOOD. Saying that human effect on climate change is possibly small doesn’t mean we should continue the way we are and pollute. Obviously pollution is bad and by no means does that mean that we should pollute more because Co2 is good for trees. We release more than Co2 from cars and exhaust. And while that may be a drop in the bucket for global change, the local areas are damaged. Smog will make cities hotter but as you move out into the country the average temperature will decrease.

Image No,this woman isn’t walking out of a burning building. She’s going to work in her downtown Beijing office. This is how bad smog can be. Yes, her environment is hotter than most. But downtown Beijing is not the world and smog can be reversed with local green endeavors.

#4 What does all of this mean? Should we sit on our hands because the climate will change without us helping? Should we invest in green tech? Should we carpool more? Should we buy property in Miami? We should prepare, reduce, and adjust.
We should prepare for what WE KNOW is coming. Climate change. Strengthen our flood protections on the coasts before our coastal cities are gone.
We should reduce our burning of fossil fuels, think of renewable energy sources, and find ways to help our local environments so that the Earth overall can heal.
And adjust our thinking. There are no serious “climate deniers” there are only those who do not want to deal with the facts, because dealing with the facts will cause us to act, maybe even the government to act. And there are those that think that whenever the government acts it’s wrong…but that’s a whole other issue.

The sad fact is that when people get ready for a “climate change” discussion they will put out their view point first to establish their position. Those who believe in climate change will try to establish themselves as a rational person who believes in science and logic and most importantly someone on the left.

Those who deny climate change will try to establish themselves as a rational person who sees that all the reports on climate change are not the same and they don’t go with the flow of modern science because for them the facts don’t add up. And most importantly they will establish themselves as someone on the right.

You’ll hear “I’m someone who supports liberty and industry….and I’m someone who supports science and the environment…and I support this…and you support that… and” STOP! How much have you actually learned and researched and how much are you parroting from your favorite talking head?

Ideology is the enemy of free thinking

…I should do a post on that. But it’s true. We get into these ideological bubbles (and I’ve been guilty of this too) where we establish ourselves on some side of the political spectrum and absorb all of their thoughts in exchange for all ones we’ve had before. And if you say anything contrary to even one of those liberal/conservative views you are no longer seen as part of that group. For most people being part of that group is important so those free thinking ideas that go against the group are either kept quiet by the original thinker or shouted down by “allies” in their group.

So does this post make me a climate denier or alarmist? You can label me whatever you’d like, I choose neither. Climate change is an amazingly complex subject that is more than just graphs or charts, Al Gore, government grants, human contribution, millions of years of global climate change, Co2 levels, other airborne chemicals, and nature.

In the end it comes down to are you a free thinker and do you take in all the facts that are at your disposal, or are you shackled by an ideology?


Climate is an issue that everyone including, myself would benefit themselves by learning a lot more on. Some of the information from this post came from a podcast known are The Joe Rogan Experience with Joe Rogan and his guest Dr. Randall Carlson. Carlson gave a lot of unique views on the subject that you won’t see on TV or any science report. Neither a denier or an alarmist and an overall great podcast. I would fast forward to 55 mins or so if you want to get to the relevant content but you’re also welcomed to watch the whole thing.

What’s the Point of Professionalism

History is the autobiography of a a mad man – Alexander Herzen


Turn on your local news. Watch the first story. How is it presented? How does the lead anchor talk? I guarantee you it’s not how you and I talk.

Why is that? Why do we have to adopt a phony way of speaking under some guise of being “professional.” Is professionalism the modern version of being elite? Is there some social Darwinism scale of talking where “professionalism” is the top of it and people who say “dude” falls to the bottom?

Here’s Brian Williams from NBC nightly news. I think he’s an alright guy but NOBODY TALKS LIKE HIM! Nobody except other newscasters. But he has projected that “professional” voice and does it better than anyone else. If a friend of mine came over and started talking like him, I would ask what is wrong with him. No one talks like that. It’s not normal, it’s not natural. That voice is the product of work to remove dialect and some perceived version of informality.

It’s not just with the news though. Commercials function the same way. I’m always amused in the awkward ways that the seemingly lay people know all the side effects of some new drug pretty. The best commercials are the ones that have the most realistic premises and dialogue. The ones with people taking baths with their spouse on tops of mountains for NO REASON, or cartoon depictions of mucus terrorizing your sinuses are more liable to confuse me than get me interested in a product. I know I’ve showed this clip before from the movie The Truman Show but it’s just so creepy and artificial.

This fakeness doesn’t just live in the TV though. In “professional” settings we act and talk in a certain way. We can dress up in these ties (which I’m convinced future civilizations will ridicule them like we ridicule the once popular powered wigs) and nice suits and act professional 9-5 then they go and loosen up and become real again at happy hour. We find it funny or interesting when we see “professionals” break their character. Type in “TV news bloopers” and you’ll get 1000’s of results where we see these professional anchors breaking out of their fakeness and becoming real people.

In “professional” e-mails we have to alter our speech and diction to make sure it sounds “better.” If we speak like we normally do, we may be taken not seriously or it will reflect poorly on us.

Which is weird when you think about it. In most aspects of our lives, from our children stories to biblical parables honesty is always the best policy. We’re taught that it is ALWAYS better to be honest because that will make people respect us, admire us, and like us.
Yet when it comes to being “professional” we have to pretend to be someone we’re not. Are our real selves expected to be so awful that it’s just a safe bet to act and talk like this arrogant, self-important, loudmouth, or a “professional?”

What would happen if we all just continued to talk like we normally do in all facets of life? Professionalism is a set of standards that we normally wouldn’t adhere to. Unless you act, dress, and talk like a “professional” when you wake up til when you go to bed you’re not being yourself.

When dealing with people I’ve seen that it’s usually better to level with them as a human and not a customer or client. Realness or being yourself is a refreshing and rare commodity. Whether you’re a teacher, doctor, coach, lawyer or any other profession that has profound human interaction acting like a person instead of a professional zombie will forge a better connection with those who you’re working with.

Picking Off Moderates

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen


All things in moderation right?

Not In the modern political and sociopolitical landscape. In there, there are often only two solutions presented to a problem or two views to have on a topic. There is conservative solution and the liberal solution. As if those are the only two possibilities. I often find this right/left dynamic insulting to the issue itself, to people watching the debate and not fully correct.

But this is the way that has been working for both political parties for at least the past 10 years. Running to the right/left has been a shrewd political move. Hell CPAC is a extremism cheer leading exercise for conservatives. As if there is a prize for who can be the most extremely conservative. Extremism is often seen the same as having values. Moderates are seen as wishy washy wet noodles who don’t stand for anything. They get this stereotype because… it’s often true. Moderates are the “establishment” politicians who won’t rock the boat. They’ll keep a steady pace and get better committee posts and move up the ranks. 

To combat that groups like the Tea Party have sprung up to challenge these establishment goofs on the right. So far the left example was the Occupy movement…which didn’t turn out so well. 

I’ve come to find that in most cases the truth lies between two extremes. However you take any “ism” (racism, feminism, transgenderism…etc) and there seems little room for moderate in between being for or against. Scientists and researchers have found inconvenient facts in these that those on the left and right don’t want to hear but don’t come from conservative or liberal minds. Confused? Here’s some examples.

Racism: It’s great to be anti-racism. I think that people should be treated equally regardless of race. However, there are some reasons why certain races excel at certain things. If you look at any sport (minus hockey) it’s dominated by black athletes. Why is that? Why is the 1% of the 1% of the best NFL/NBA/MLB players black even though they make only 13% of the U.S. population?  

The answer is from slavery, where the biggest and strongest black slaves were forced to procreate. For generations and centuries this went on. Now we have many black people who come from that heritage excel in sports. Is that a pleasant fact that makes a lot of people happy? No. It’s uncomfortable to talk about and admit. The CBS commentator “Jimmy the Greek” was fired for espousing such thoughts…albeit he did it with poor articulation but that remains an uncomfortable fact for people to take in and goes against the equality mantra that we’re all the same. Does that make me a racist for addressing a fact? No, but not all people will see it that way.

Feminism: It’s great to be a feminist. Girls and boys are equal, cool. Breaking down forced gender roles for those who don’t want to fulfill them is good. If a boy wants to be a sensitive poet and a girl wants to play rugby…they should be allowed to do it with no objections. But trying to make a gender-less society where masculine and feminine become meaningless terms (as some feminists want) is where it becomes too extreme. 

Men (generally speaking) have bigger frames, poor micro-muscle control (in fingers and toes) but better macro muscle control (arms and legs) This is why guys generally enjoy playing contact sports, have poor handwriting and don’t always make the best dancers. Men also produce much more testosterone than females. But less estrogen. This is why guys tend to be less emotional than girls and fight more. You can find many exceptions but I’m just speaking generally. Again, it’s not very en vogue to talk about the biological differences between men and women, but they exist. This doesn’t make girls better than boys or vice versa we all have different biological gifts and weaknesses but that’s okay. It doesn’t make us bad or good, it makes us human. 

Transgenderism: This one hasn’t gained as much acceptance but I’m fine with it. You’re born a girl but feel like you’re a boy…that’s fine do what you feel you need to do. I’ll never understand why or how but I do understand you should at least feel comfortable in one’s own skin and that’s important to all people. However once we try to over-accommodate people who are transgendered certain uncomfortable to address problems arise. 

If a transgendered person goes to a prison where do they go? Should someone (born a boy) but want to be a girl go to a male prison? If they look like a girl in that person it will be very dangerous for them. But if that same person was at a woman’s prison then that could be dangerous for girls in that prison with a male inmate. Often the wrong choice is made and tragedy ensues. A transgendered male (born a girl) attempted to fight in a male league in an MMA fight. She thought she was a male and had gender reassignment surgery. He was beaten within an inch of his life. Despite feeling male, biologically he wasn’t. He had a female frame, smaller hands, narrower shoulders and less testosterone (which is a huge factor in fighting) Being against him fighting in a male league isn’t trying to “hold transgender people down” it’s acknowledging our biology over our psychology. 

These are just three examples in which there is no apparent room for most people to be moderate. If you aren’t fully on board you’re seen as racist, sexist, homophobic…etc. I’m listening to a podcast right now where an acclaimed scientist is talking about how climate change is so immense we’re doing little to stop/hasten it but that we are doing some things. He’s not a climate “denier” or “alarmist” he’s a moderate guy that is bashed by some in the scientific community for not being “all in” on climate change. 

There are certainly times to be extreme or have full conviction on something. I had a professor who said the truth is NOT between two extremes, citing that President Obama IS a U.S. citizen and there is room for the middle there. But he’s an extreme guy and there are few instances where he’s right. When proposing a good idea like… abolishing slavery, renewable energy, helping to organize a community. Those should be done in true earnest. 

I’ll leave you with this final thought:

It is great to get on board with good causes and beliefs that help people. It is important to never to be so far entrenched in them that pragmatism goes out the window and you alienate those who could be allies just because they’re only 80% with you and not fully. 

Girls on a Pedestal

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen


We’ve all crushed on someone that we’ve perceived as being “out of our league” Or that one girl/guy from your 6th period bio class that prevented you from learning anything about dissecting frogs because of their ridiculously distracting good looks. Ever happen to you? Sure, happens to everyone. 

Sometimes when the stars align we get a chance to date that person. I’m guessing it probably didn’t work out though, or maybe you mustered up your courage, spilled your guts and got rejected right? Each gender has that fatal flaw of why a relationship like that doesn’t work out. Girls, (more often than guys) have the “I want what I can’t have” complex. Where they may want some guy, get him, then get bored since the “chase” is over. 

Guys (more often than girls) do something much more self-devastating. They put their girl on a pedestal and what happens next is in between a train wreak and a love story in reverse. 

So let’s say you (as a guy) beat the odds and get that girl to go out on that date or agree to be your girlfriend. Great job! Most guys want to do whatever they can to keep that dream girl. This is the fatal flaw. Girls are not ballerinas (unless they literally are) that are on a pedestal to be fawned over, admired, and worshiped. Putting the girl on the same level of an infallible Goddess and yourself as the lowly guy isn’t attractive. It might be attractive at first. What girl doesn’t like a guy who is “romantic” at first and sweeps her off her feet? But every day isn’t a romantic day. 

There’s a very fine line between being a romantic and being a psycho. Going on romantic dates every so often, flowers out of the blue are good, and frequent communication is a must. But… if spending every waking moment with your girl, giving presents for all occasions, and texting every hour, small and sweet romantic gestures can quickly turn into a court order. 

Relationships are all about equality. There has to be give and take. If you don’t view yourselves as equals than you’re either egotistical or have poor self esteem. Neither of which contributes towards a healthy relationship. Again, having a date night every week or every other week where you dress up is fine, hell it’s great! But some days are sweatpants days, which are fine too. Enjoying someone when they look their best is equally as important as when they look their worst.

Whether it’s girls, work, or life. Don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Hold yourself in high regard and others will follow your lead, including your dates.   

How to kill a movement

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen


When I was a student at Towson University a… let’s call them “odd” (to put it politely) group invaded the campus and made international news.

It was dubbed a White Supremacist group almost as soon as it’s charter was established and officially called Youth of Western Civilization. It was meant to celebrate everything about “Western Culture” (whatever that means) In spite of the fact there is no “western” culture (but rather a dozen or two microcosms that incorporate different ethnic groups and cultures. French culture is different from Italian culture, which is different from German culture, which is different than New York culture, which is different than South Carolinian culture…etc.) they tried to celebrate the more dubious distinction of “white culture.”

Now Towson is a diverse suburb of Baltimore and the campus is right on the Baltimore City line. There is a very active black student union, gay student union, Iranian student union and many other groups of minorities who have formed their own diverse groups. It’s also a hub of liberal idealism, so as expected, there were protests after protests whenever they held even the smallest event. Police had to attend any meetings just to ensure violence wouldn’t break out. In one of my several discussions with Matthew Heimbach he told me about how he and members of his group had been victimized and threatened numerous times.

During one such encounter I walked by a small table the group had rented for their self-proclaimed “straight pride day,” in which they were selling “Straight pride shirts” and two independent protests where being held in the same, small courtyard. I felt compelled to talk to Mr. Heimbach, and had a cordial discussion/debate on what he was doing and whether or not it was right. I learned he was a staunch Catholic, and even said he feels he would have more in common with a black man from Mississippi, than a white man from New England. He had this faux Southern feel to him even though he was from a wealthy Maryland suburb.

Image ah here he is…

Anyways…long story short. In the Spring semester their academic adviser stepped down because “white power” and “stop white genocide” was written with chalk all over campus and it was a “chalking violation.” The group resurfaced the next year as the proposed “white student union,” which was never officially a recognized student group since no other faculty members would agree to be their adviser. That caught the attention of even more local media outlets, VICE news, and even some Taiwanese satirists.

So what’s the moral here? What’s the lesson learned? Bad movements tend to die on their own, but protest gives them new life. Heimbach and his followers knew the Towson University policy on student organizations, as well as the law pertaining to them backwards and forwards. He knew what Towson could and couldn’t do and was poised to sue, should the university slip up. The natural outcry from minorities and liberals on the campus was expected as well and led them to play the victim, like he did with me when we talked. Threats of rape for their female members, murder, assault, and other acts where conveyed to him and his group, which only grew their numbers with those who sympathized.

This isn’t Selma in 1963, Kent State, South Africa in 1990, or Gandhi’s India. Those absolutely needed action to rid an evil. What was here, was some privileged and delirious college kids. Heimbach knew that if any of their opponents crossed the line, they would be dealt with harshly by the law. As I would read the college paper where there was almost always something written from or about them on a weekly basis I shook my head in the emotional response.

Yes, what he was doing was wrong.
Yes, the response was human.
Yes, they needed to be stopped.

But no. Outright protest only gave them exposure to co-opt more followers and increased the chance of an incident where they could really play the victim. As my friends and I would discuss it I told them people just need to calm down and wait for them to slip up. Let them rise or fall on their own merits not because Towson shuts them down or something. That spring, it happened. Some freshmen members forgot to fill out a chalking permit, chalked racist terms and their adviser stepped down. They made themselves fail. That made their attempt to regroup under a new name and act as if they still had good points even harder.

This should be the process for all movements that people find questionable.

Occupy Wall St. (OWS) is a movement I generally supported at first and it’s unclear whether their criminal elements were egged on by the cops via “agent provocateurs” or just by dummies in part of the movement but their opponents held out long enough and eventually became discredited because of a few people that raped, assaulted, robbed, and…defecated places. Low level of protest by it’s critics and the movement killed itself.

The Tea Party is another movement that isn’t entirely discredited but is losing steam. They held their rallies and had their candidates elected but eventually bigoted cries came from some of their members and whenever that happens in a movement people distance themselves from it. (See Cliven Bundy)

There’s a time to fight when true injustices are committed by an institution or a movement.

But how do you kill most movements? Movements that are controversial will fall if given enough time to eat itself, futile protests only help them get their message out, and become allowed to grow.

Give Spoons, but Don’t Spoon Feed

History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

Image side note: Has anyone else realized I’m using babies a lot for my starting picture. Not intentional,  just kind of weird how that works…

At the faith based outdoor ministry camp/retreat center (that’s a mouthful) that I live and work at my jobs are varied. One day I could be raking leaves, the next I’m painting buildings and sometimes on the weekends I get to take a group, of usually middle aged kids to the “challenge courses” that we have, and oversee their undertaking. These courses require teamwork and are challenging to most people…thus that’s where the “challenge” part of their name comes in. The challenge courses can consist of an entire group making it over a 7 ft wall, fitting everyone on a small box for an amount of time, using boards to cross a “swamp” and others. In the summer I’ll have a group of kids who will do them while me and another co-counselor watch, which is the best scenario. However, during the school year they are always accompanied by adult chaperons.

With another counselor we know we have to let the kids work their challenge out on their own, but with their parents or chaperons watching them, they feel compelled to shout out solutions or tips on how they would solve it. Of course a 44 year old adult would have an easier time with it than a 12 year old boy. BUT THAT’S NOT THE POINT! I have to politely inform the man or woman that it is better to have the kids solve the challenge on their own that having their parents tell them the key or hold their hand along. 

I had a particularly “hands on” group of parents today who lugged down ALL of their kids’ water bottles for them, and would help push the kids over the wall, (after I told them not to) thus not really letting their kids think for themselves on how to solve the problems.

I get it though. Parents…amiright? They want their children to have it all. To solve all their problems in a second, for them to never cry, always be happy and have an amazing life. It is NOT prudent to have an authority figure to just give answers or solutions to someone who needs them without having them work at all. It is not helpful for a student, to have a teacher to ask questions then answer them for the students, it is not helpful for a child to never solve any childhood problems by having a parent solve them all for them, nor it is helpful for anyone in society to get ahead without breaking a sweat here an there.

And this is a crux of the issue that you’ll find in politics, society, and economic inequality. Where do you draw the line between helping and learned helplessness? There is an old proverb many of you probably have heard that goes “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime” depending where you fall on the “government assistance/political spectrum,” your answer to the starting question will be different. Those on the right will talk about pulling oneself up by their own “bootstraps” and not having any assistance. Those on the left will speak of the benefit of government assistance and the need for programs to help those less fortunate as the key to success.

As usual both sides are wrong… or are half right. It is an indisputable fact that no one gets to be where they are based on 100% their own decisions and hard work. There are no 100% self made men. Maybe 90%, but not 100%. Even if you had a guy, pay his way through school, think of a product, buy a building, and make money he still didn’t… make the roads to take his product to stores, police his stores so that no one breaks in, teach himself business practices, build the building himself…etc he used the work of other people for him to become successful. 

Everyone needs some level of help. Whether it be from parents, teachers, coaches, communities, or even the government. We are the result of thousands of lives and experiences. But again… where do you draw the line? When is helping hurting? Clearly if you give answers all the time to a child, that child will never learn to think for themselves. No one is meant to live at home forever where mommy and daddy can always be there for you. Eventually someone can receive too much help they become helpless, and learned helplessness is a condition where you learn to rely on others for everything because you’ve believed that you can do anything yourself.  

So no one can make it with 0 help, and no one can make it with 100% help. The answer is in the middle. In school, we are taught something, we go over it, then we are assessed. We aren’t just assessed on things we have never learned. When you learn to ride a bike we start with training wheels, then we take them off, we don’t start with a two wheeler. Football players start off playing pee wee or youth football, we don’t send 6 year olds to the NFL. 

Life is a continual process. We are taught something, we practice it, we perfect it. Whether it’s treating others well, learning another language, or making a living. I say don’t spoon feed people what they need, but there is nothing wrong with proving the spoon and setting them on the path to their “food.” When that lesson is learned they will reach in their drawer and give the next kid down the line a spoon and set him on a path so that we all may be fed.