The Space that Divides Us


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

divisive

2016 is proving to be quite the divisive year.  With Donald Trump’s far right pandering and Bernie Sander’s constant democratic socialist message there is quite a bit of space between the leading Republican nominee and an insurgent, but clear #2 on the Democratic side. The 2016 race aside, other sociopolitical groups have popped up like Black Lives Matter, Social Justice Warriors, and 3rd wave feminists that have found a home on many college campuses to combat injustices (real or imagined) they see in society.

With that as a backdrop, the University of Massachusetts’s college Republicans hosted a panel session several months ago about how far political correctness has gone and whether or not it hurts the freedom of speech. The panel included feminist author and philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers (whom I’m a huge fan of) Britbart (a conservative publication) editor Milo Yiannopoulos who is also a British, flamboyant homosexual, and Trump supporter, and conservative comedian Steven Crowder. While Sommers is an academic, Yiannopoulos and Crowder are professional provocateurs and were heavy with the insults. The video was dubbed “The Triggering” so that may give you a hint of what happened.

With “PC (political correct) culture” as the topic Yiannopoulos and Crowder where aggressive in their examples of how PC culture hurts the freedom of speech and Sommers took a more scholarly route. Their discussion proved infinitely more interesting by the constant interrupting and insult throwing from the crowd, which ironically was the problem they were addressing. They were being shouted down by people who were not part of the College Republican organization and insulted because their views differed from the social justice warrior crowd. While I detested many of their views, particularly Yiannopoulos and Crowder’s I certainly supported their right to say them and present them, they were invited after all to do this. They could have just sat their and said nothing and proved their point that many of the protesters were blocking their free speech in an attempt to make everything politically correct, but it actually was a fairly interesting video.

This event, and the reaction to it is a small microcosm of what you see played out in a grand stage in America, and it’s only happened on a large scale in the past 5 years or so. Terms like “cis-gendered” “white male privilege” “the patriarchy” “Trigger Warnings” and “Safe Spaces” were not terms in the common vernacular in 2010. Now they are common place in some different groups, mainly on college campuses. I don’t want to parrot the video too much but I agree with the panelists and say the main reason for this are ultra-liberal views are being coddled and reinforced by certain professors instead of being challenged, which is what is supposed to happen to your views in college. But I digress, this post isn’t about the video.

The folks who perpetuate these views are not doing so because they are bad people, in fact they are doing it out of a seemingly noble cause. They want people to not be hurt. They want to eliminate racism, and sexism, and otherisms, which is a great. However, instead of debating ideologies or ideas that perpetuate those discrimination they simply wish to silence them, becoming regressive instead of progressive. This is harmful on 2 fronts:
1. Being silenced doesn’t make anything go away or change anyone’s mind it only entrenches people more and have the silenced side gain more sympathetic ears because they are the ones who were wronged.
2. It hurts your view. People who may have been interested in learning more from a debate have been robbed of that chance. People who share your views may start to abhor your tactics and your “side” suddenly shrinks

#2 is certainly what happened to me. As I’ve said many times on here I’m a progressive person, I certainly want to eliminate racism, and sexism, and anything else that divides people, but the thing I see dividing people the most is this massive attempt at censorship over anything that may hurt people’s feelings. The TV show South Park may hurt other people’s feelings but if people like watching it, it should exist. People who don’t can simply change the channel and I will always hold freedom of expression and speech over someone being offended, and will forever hold myself to the notion that “While I may detest what you say, I will defend to my death for your right to say it”

But of course the social justice crowd is not without their foils. On the other side you have actual bigots, and sexists and with the rise of Donald Trump, and they are all coming out of the woodwork. Some of his rhetoric includes banning the immigration of Muslims, walling off Mexico and making Mexicans pay for it, calling many of the former terrorists, and the later rapists… And this is the guy that beat 16 other challengers for the nomination of a major political party.

It’s a stark and almost comical contrast when you have on one side a large group of people who’s number 1 interest is protecting the rights of women and minorities and people of the LGBT community, who want people to check their privilege and really think about what they say as to not to offend anyone. While on the other you have people attending massive rallies to see what casually sexist, off the cuff remark a presidential candidate is going to make next. This is a man who is not only loved for saying offensive and aggressive things but advocates his followers “beat the crap” out of those who protest and have a different point of view than him. This is the same type of censorship you see with the social justice warriors, who on occasion have threatened and actually assaulted people who have attended events where the speaker is conservative.

While there are still people who don’t belong to either extreme, these people are shrinking as each side grows louder. Sometimes tribe mentality is too strong. But these too sides are obviously incorrigible. One side wants everyone to be sensitive to the emotions of everyone else and the other goes out of its way to offend people. If there was a neutral person, each side may be able to get them to understand their point of view. However, if a social justice warrior tried to get a Trump supporter to understand what a trans-gendered person is would be a major hurdle, and even if they were successful explaining that, going to the next level of explaining why the trans-gendered bathroom laws are bad would be more than they could take. In contrast a social justice warrior will stick their fingers in their ears until a Trump supporter finished his rationale about how immigrants are mostly criminals. It has reached a point past debate.

The divide first started with President Obama when congressional Republicans wanted him to fail and be a 1 term president because (depending on which side your on) “he didn’t want to work with Republicans” or “he’s black” and it’s only gotten worse from there. From having leaders openly rooting for our leader to fail, to shutting down the government, and the rise of the tea party and PC culture we’ve become more of a divisive nation that any time in recent memory. With Donald Trump heading into the GOP convention and colleges that are now graduating pro PC college students the space that divides us is bigger than ever.

Sinning Boldly and Laying it on the Line


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

martin-luther

There was a concept that I was taught years ago called “sinning boldly.” No, it’s not doing egregiously bad things with pride. It’s from a letter that theologian and founder of Lutheranism, Martin Luther wrote. In a letter he said to “Let your sins be bold.” Certainly he didn’t mean to only commit the most offensive sins but something else.

He meant to try. When coming across a problem there are 3 decisions that you can end up making. You can make a choice and it effectively solves the problem, you can make the same choice and it does not solve the problem, or you can do nothing.

Obviously we would all like to be in the situation where we make correct choices. But we can’t always make the right decision in life. Sometimes we go left when we should have turned right, it happens.

It may seem like the other two options are equal. Making a wrong choice or no choice both leaves us at square one, with a problem. But while they are equal in where they leave you they are not equal in character.

Let’s assume that you are offered what could be your dream job. However, this job is across the country. It’s a new company and could possibly go under if it doesn’t do well. It pays very well, has great benefits, and you would be doing something you love. You look for apartments in the area and they’re all pricey and you would have to sign a year long lease at all of them. There is a level of risk and reward with this.

You have 3 outcomes. 1. You take the job and it works out. The your high rent is no problem because of your new paycheck. the company survives and you become very successful.

2. You take the job and it doesn’t work out. The company doesn’t survive and now you’re locked in an expensive apartment and you don’t have the income to thrive. You have to find a new job fast and you know it probably won’t pay as well and you don’t know anybody.

3. You don’t go.

In option 1 and 2 you make a decision. You take a chance, and that is what life is all about. In life we have to risk things. We risk our relationships, our success, our financial Independence. We don’t do it in a reckless way. Should you risk your family by developing a heroin addiction? No. But we have to risk some things sometimes to get the reward. I wouldn’t think highly of someone if they told me they had a chance to take a dream job but decided not to go because it might not work out.

Sometimes the best thing we can do it put ourselves out there. To lay it all on the line. Maybe it’s telling someone how you feel about it. Consequences be damned, tell someone how you feel and if it doesn’t work then at leas you tried. Maybe it’s taking that next step at work to be considered for a promotion if it becomes available. To put out everything you done for it to be criticized in the hopes of your work being good enough. Artists do it all the time. Being able to quit a “normal” job and entering the competitive field of music/acting/show business is one of the hardest decisions to make.

The biggest thing people are afraid of is being vulnerable. That’s because it’s so precious. Relationships grow the fastest when people allow themselves to be vulnerable with each other. My friends and I have grown the fastest together when we cope after a tough break up, the death of a family member, and with other tragedies. We are there to listen, to cope with, and when the shoe it on the other foot, to reciprocate. The same can be said for my romantic relationships, show each other through spending time with each other that we care so we can let our guard down. Would a relationship last if there was a constant emotional wall up? Could one even be started?

Sinning boldly means to put yourself out there.  Laying it on the line. It’s not a guarantee of success and it may blow up in your face but… you won’t live a life of regrets. Laying it on the line with someone you hope to be a significant other can leave them laughing at you. You drop out of college and enter the NFL draft but you blow out your ACL in your 1st game. These decisions will burn but you won’t lay awake at night wondering “what if”

Sinning boldly (and responsibly) will leave you with 2 results. Success and or living free from regrets.

Working towards freedom


History is the autobiography of a madman – Alexander Herzen

pride-and-prejudice-book-cover-by-jessica-hische

Call me tacky but many “classic” literature novels bore me to tears. Catcher in the Rye glamorizes being socially weird, lord of the flies is unrealistic, and even though I never read the great Gatsby, the movie didn’t impress me. But the one that I can’t stand the most was “Pride and Prejudice.” It’s setting in England in early 1800’s where baseless classes were set up and that was all everyone worried about, doesn’t interest me and seems contrary to the culture to the American dream. The dream being that if you work hard enough you’ll “make it” and have the quintessential beautiful spouse, white picket fence, and the “2.5” kids. Unlike in “Pride and Prejudice’s” time period where you were stuck in your class. Thank God those days are gone…

Except they’re back. A recent study came back that said in modern America it is now harder to escape your economic class than it has ever been in the country, including colonial times. And of course the idea of working to get ahead seems laughable. Does the single mother who works 3 shifts and 80 hours a week as a waitress work more than a stock broker? Does the coal miner breathing in carcinogens work harder than the hedge fund manager?

The trend of children out pacing their parents in terms of income and education are dropping dramatically and other studies have come out where your parents education is almost the sole factor of what their children’s education’s level will be. Which is great for the children of doctors, lawyers, and executives. Not so great for the children of everyone else.

If we think of the middle class as a ship, or a passage to wealth it appears to be a sinking ship. Some people are in life boats and will get to the promised land, but most are getting dragged down. My parents, who were able to afford me a comfortable life with 1 parent working and the other having the option to work or stay home are now in their 50’s and working harder than they ever have in their life. A bread winner losing their job will do that to a family.

Wages have shrunk, hours are being cut, and more and more people are finding it harder just to get by. Job loss, a healthcare crisis, and other set backs can easily set a “middle class” family backwards, and there are few remedies for getting forward.

There is more education of course, but that takes time, money, and is close to impossible if you still have to work and take care of kids. There are solutions proposed by governments like a minimum wage increase, but that’s just a band-aid on a bullet wound. Minimum wage is what few people make and doesn’t affect people making just above minimum wage.

Poverty ends up being a type of slavery. While it’s not literally slavery it does severely limit your life. It’s hard to travel, eat well, and have leisure time if you’re always working. Not only that, but people are willing to put up with worse conditions and less wages and consider themselves lucky. Why? At least they have a job. But when you’re putting in time and effort to merely sustain a minimal existence, what’s the point? What can be done?

The answer of how to is for businesses to invest in their employees. It’s not something you can enforce or pretend to do. It’s something you have to believe in. There are some jobs out there that believe their employees are valuable and not just cogs in a machine. Costco is one that offers good wages, benefits, and a good chance for advancement, I’ve also heard of cafes that do this. Being a teacher is also one. While there is a lot of extra work involved than just the “business hours” of teaching school systems will provide benefits, retirement plans, and will provide many opportunities for educational advancement. Most states require that you advance your education.

But we can’t all work at costco, liberal cafes, and be teachers. Why more business don’t invest in their employees is beyond me. If you feel valued you’re more likely to like your job, if you like your job you’re going to perform well, and a job that has employees performing well will prosper.

I can remember being out to eat one night where the waitress was pleasant and happy but heard her comment to another worker that she can’t stand it here. Knowing that her smile was more or less a facade made me less likely to want to go there again. But places I’ve been where I know the staff and know the enjoy their job makes me want to frequent those places because I enjoy being in that atmosphere.

The middle class didn’t happen by accident. The middle class is planned. It usually takes democracy, bargaining power by employees, and low levels of inflation. Once employers see employees as people and are invested in them we can begin to advance in our class again. Otherwise wages will be stagnate, prices will rise, and people won’t be invested in their jobs. Life can be overwhelming, and work is inevitable, but instead of working to survive, we should be working to thrive. Not working and still being a slave to poverty but working for freedom.

The shackles of ideology


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

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Why are there problems in the world? Is it because some people are simply less intelligent than others? Or maybe some people are just nice, while others are mean? To me, the answer is ideological pride.

It’s the same reason why Facebook debates go as far as debates on the Senate floor. Even from this blog I’ve seen people disagree with a post (or in some cases one line of a post) and then engage me in debate. On the surface it would look like it is me engaging with one person but then”likes” start popping up on our comments and other people chime in to defend me or another and sides develop and it usually becomes toxic for a constructive discussion. In one case a couple months ago a friend made an entire post refuting a line of one of my posts which was all “shared” and “Favorited” through our mutual “friends'” tumblr and wordpress accounts to laugh at my “idiocy” and act snarky in their “rightness.”

It’s a symptom of the hive-mind. We have a point of view and that POV is so strong that we become unable to believe that we may be wrong at all. We find conformation bias in instances that we are proved right, then we brush off or attack instances in which our belief is challenged. 

This is true in almost any issue people hold dear to them.Take poverty for an example. One may look at the problem of poverty and lament about the poor. Saying that they just need a hand up in society, some help to integrate into middle class America. Others will take a completely different view, looking down on them saying they need to simply stop being lazy and just get a job. Seeing them as self imposed victims of their own poor decisions instead of victims of a something more systemic.

Both people will agree poverty isn’t good but will have massively ways to fix it. One is a hand up model while the other is one of self improvement. Certainly there are thousands of anecdotes that give each side credence, but those only help each side dig in their heels instead of seeing any evidence of proof of the opposing idea.

Person A who believes in hand ups/outs will look at people who have come out of poverty to success like J.K. Rowling and Steve Jobs as proof that they are right. That they are just one of the majority of people who receive help and then ascend their poverty. Person B on the other side look at those and see them as exception to their rule and will point out people abusing the system as the majority while Person A sees abusers as the minority.

I’m sure you don’t need my help to figure out which one we would call a “liberal” and what we would call a “conservative”

While there are many differences between conservatives and liberals, there is one similarity that both sides generally share. They are both slaves to their ideology. If someone identifies as either one of those they become an adopter of a plethora of stances, some of which they don’t even realize they had. 

We get wrapped up in ideologies or beliefs and different “isms” (liberalism, conservatism, racism, feminism, theism, environmentalism, animal rights…ism?) and we sometimes fail to acknowledge that anything in our beliefs could be wrong. Not saying that if you practice any of these values that they are not correct or have anything valuable to teach us (with the exception of racism) but being so entrenched in any belief can lead to blindness of any other way of thinking.

Ideology is the enemy of free thinking. To put yourself in the “ist” camp is good, you have decided to take a stand for something. The best way to hone your articulation of the reasons why you believe in what you do is to engage in others who believe the same way AND those who differ. I find that many people do too much of the first one, and hardly any of the 2nd. And I’m not talking about when a token liberal goes on fox news and is verbally assaulted and talked over (or when a conservative goes on MSNBC to do the same) The reason why even the mildest beliefs can’t gain traction is all the connotations that are put on something.

How is liberalism supposed to look attractive when they can be portrayed as pro aborting, pushing a “gay agenda” down families throats, anti-religious and anti-white.

Or conservatism when it’s portrayed as racist, rich favoring, unsympathetic, anti-science, and anti-diversity

Or feminism when it’s seen as women > men

Or environmentalism when it’s seen as people who want to bomb corporations that pollute the environment.

These sort of connotations to these beliefs are 1. Not true except for the most extreme proponents and 2. Prevent us from understanding the other side. If I were a liberal why would I have an open exchange of ideas with a conservative if I think that they are racist? Racists are so wrong about race so they are probably wrong about other things. The person is probably evil and I don’t wish to do anything with them.

We go down this line of thinking when dealing with anyone we don’t particularly like. These assumptions are easier to make when we put ourselves in an “us” v “them” group.

Ideology is a shackle because it forces us to have viewpoints that we might not have. We want to be part of a group but might not be accepted if we stray too far from the mainstream. The thoughts of:

“I want to be a Christian but don’t want to condemn gays”

“I want to be a liberal but am pro-life”

“I want to be a conservative but don’t mind higher taxes”

“I want to be an environmentalist but I let my AC run all day”

are common in many people’s mind. We all want to belong somewhere and be accepted, but we may not agree 100% with the views and values that makes up that group of people. We may agree 90% but that last 10% is unique to us. At the end of the day we want to be individuals, have our own views, and free ourselves from the shackles of our ideologies. 

The Challenge of Living Dangerously


History is the autobiography of a mad man -Alexander Herzen

Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce you to the heart attack grill! It’s a fairly popular novelty restaurant located where everything is for show: Las Vegas, Nevada.

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Here you can choose 1 of 4 types of burgers, appropriately named the single, double, triple, and quadruple bypass burgers. Clearly it plays on the very real fact that eating fatty foods like cheese burgers will clog your arteries and require one or more of those lovely surgeries. So instead of trying to switch to less fatty oil, or smaller portions, they double (or quadruple) down on this gimmick and just goes all out and makes their burgers the biggest and fattening that they can be. 

As if that wasn’t enough they have the waitresses dress up as nurses, who are younger and prettier versions of the actual ones that they will be seeing later when their heart gives out. And just for kicks and giggles they let anyone over 350 lbs. eat free. and have successfully added 9,982 calories in their granddaddy quadruple by pass burger.

Almost…10…THOUSAND…calories! IN ONE BURGER! 

Imagemmmm right?

Now, I’m a big supporter of a single payer health care system but with this restaurant in operation I’m kind of glad we’re not. Tying your wallet to these people’s guts…not a fun balancing game. 

The real problem of this is that it attracts the same people. People who CHOOSE to get their food there. Maybe they can stop, and they will…when they die. One customer died at the restaurant while consuming the fearsome triple-bypass burger. 

It reeks of the insanity of addiction. The insane choice that vice is better than life. Forget food. Forget the heart attack grill. Addiction is a much bigger issue than that. 

This past week we witnessed the unfortunate circumstance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman dying of an alleged heroin overdose. An acclaimed actor, and a great human being. People will say it’s a shame, and it really is. But I think his death highlights why the subject of addiction is such a sticky situation.

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Addiction is never a fun subject. In it end, it claims people we love. Some are less sympathetic and say “they chose to do (enter addiction here) in the first place”! The common narrative goes They try it, then they get hooked. Then they ruin their lives, right? 

Smokers will tell you, and have told me the live for their smokes.

They

love

them.

They know they are ruining their lives. Some coffee drinkers will tell you they can’t even be human until they get their grande frappe enema. 

And it’s the same with the patrons of The Heart Attack Grill. They WANT the food. Yes, it’s part of the addiction but they liked the feeling their vice gave them in the first place. I smoked cigarettes for a little for a summer years ago. Then I caught myself driving and somewhat craving on. I never touched them since. 

Others aren’t so lucky. 

The real way to tackle addiction is with help, the way people get help is legalization. Now, I realize the ramifications of legalizing some drugs. “More people would do it” or “they would do it more openly” …ect

False. If heroin was legal, would you go and shoot up? Would you really? No, drugs are already things that people get. Keeping them illegal really saved Hoffman’s life right? Once they are legal maybe the pill that neutralizes the withdrawal effects of heroin wouldn’t be illegal? Yes, there is a pill…deemed illegal to use…because it cures something you can only get by doing something illegal.

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The Challenge of Living Dangerously is a challenge spoken of in hush tones, and audible sighs. It is a challenge that can’t be solved in a 12 step program, or with will power alone. The challenge of living dangerously isn’t whether or not we can afford to deal with addiction, is can we afford not to?

R.I.P. P.S.H. 

The Freedom to be Insane


History is the autobiography of a mad man – Alexander Herzen

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In American life there are 2 types of people. Owners and workers. No, this isn’t going to be something about “fighting the power” or “the man” But there are different levels of freedom that people have. The freedom to do what they want, the freedom to say what they want, the freedom to make mistakes, and to do things in general that may be bad but can and should be learned from. We are censored by so many different facets of life and we don’t even realize it. 

For example I am and have been in leadership roles in different organizations and in different fashions. If I had a gripe about that institution, such as the people in it, parents, kids…ect I don’t have the freedom to complain because that wouldn’t be becoming of a leader nor would it help me keep a job. 

Even if I had no complaints with the job, my lifestyle or the choices I make could be taken as something that the owners of the job would not want a person in that position. For example let’s say I was engaged in some sort of “fight club” scenario and worked as a drone in an office. I show up with scars, cuts, and bruises. This has Z-E-R-O effect on how I am at my job. I still show up on time, I do my reports, am cordial with the co-workers… Other than maybe some ringing in my ears, my job wouldn’t be impacted by my personal life. I probably would be asked to leave though. What I did on my off time wouldn’t fit the mold of what that job’s owner would want me as.

So in a sense many people are in that box. Once they’re off the job they should essentially be allowed to do as they please (assuming it doesn’t adversely affect their job and isn’t criminal.) But this isn’t a fairy tale, this is life and EVERYTHING you do can be scrutinized, criticized, and used against you. I have to worry that things I say may offend people, when I really don’t care. I have to worry about making sure my conduct is up to par, regardless of where I am because that could get back to people that hire me.

Again, not saying I want to go out and do these crazy or bad things all the time. It’s the principle of the matter. It’s like the NSA scandal. Do I have things to hide from the government? Not really. But I’m happy they’re snooping in my private life? Hell no, it’s an invasion. It’s the same here. I want the freedom to do some craziness but not have it be held over your head for the rest of your life. Sometimes (believe it or not) I hold a few opinions that may be unpopular in hypersensitive circles.

The only way out of this is to become “the owner.” Make a name for yourself, be ethical, and have an understanding with a good amount of people. An understanding that we are all insane. We all do our own crazy things that we are forced to hide because of society, our friends, our families’, or our careers. I’m not talking about shooting people, but who isn’t going to make mistakes in their life? And who should be punished for mistakes or crazy things they do? The point is owners jobs can’t get fired. Owners of their lives can weather criticism from those they love. 

Who’s expectations do you live for? Yours, or others?