Category Archives: Other People’s Words

Your Daily Rage: “Gadgets, Guns, and Guilt-Free Murder”

First, read Cintra Wilson’s article here, then come back when you’ve finished, and when you’re done throwing things at your monitor.

Fun times, huh!  Ready to rage at it with me?  Let’s go!

MY, what a heteronormative heap this is! My primary function as a woman is “to be critical of the corruptions that divide men from themselves?” No, thank you kindly! I believe my primary function is to determine and aspire toward that which fulfills me and enables me to fulfill others in turn. I believe that’s every human’s function. But apparently I’m wrong!  My real purpose is to nag men when they’re “corrupt.”  But that’s only my primary function “aside from childbirth!”  My REAL function is to extrude more children into the world.  Tell infertile women about how they no longer meet their primary function. Tell it to those childless by choice. My primary function is not mandated by my uterus. I do not owe motherhood to my society.

“Then I wondered if the female currency had been unduly diluted by the unprecedented availability and mainstreaming of porn. The scarcity economics through which Pussy had enjoyed a relatively stable value, most of our lives, was suddenly, abruptly clobbered by the internet.”

Does she seriously believe that is all women are, or are worth, to men or to ourselves? That our only value is in our genitalia? While it’s true that all media – not just porn – relentlessly hammers men and women with impossible ideas of perfection, it is ludicrous to assume that sex is the cause or center of it all. Porn is not a “new normal.” Porn is an old, old normal. What has changed is how accessible porn is — and how ephemeral and disposable it is.   Does she genuinely believe that all the personal relationships she mentions, and all the high-profile celebrity affairs, are truly driven by lust and lust alone?  Maybe it’s not just that men sought younger, sexier women to bed — an instinct which is not new to the media-driven culture, mind you.  Maybe it’s that these women were also, as she indicates, equally shallow and vapid, equally uninterested in personal fulfillment, equally deluded by beliefs in perfection and Prince Charming.  Why should any man want to stay with someone who believed she could or should be doing better?  Who would be eternally unsatisfied so long as the man had flaws?  Why would either party accept anything less than their unattainable dreams?

But when people have no deeper understanding of themselves, or of others, and do not aspire to such understanding or contentment, when they are engineered to simultaneously see themselves as deeply flawed and as people who deserve to have and to be only the very best, there seems to be no choice but to get rid of the other person and replace them with something newer, better, younger, more representative of what they want to be.  Women are not being undervalued because men value porn more.  It’s just that people on both sides of the issue are rarely thinking about what they value anymore, because our culture no longer values the very idea of lasting value.  

Instead of addressing the big picture — the way that capitalism needs disposability  and planned obsolescence, and the way it  disincentivizes fixing or accepting the imperfect — she instead treats heterosexual sexual dynamics as the core of the issue. Men don’t throw away women because porn has taught them to only want young, perfect girls. Men throw away women because men and women throw away EVERYTHING. Men throw away the imperfect and women wait for Mr. Right because capitalism teaches us that we deserve The Best, and teaches us that The Best is something we obtain from outside ourselves, not a peace and contentment we find from within.

“Valor, honor, nobility and courage are virtues now exclusively relegated to sports and warfare. Men are not really encouraged to cultivate the interior qualities that have classically defined a warrior/philosopher/poet/ king/hero (or, for that matter, an adult man).”

Well, a fine fuck-you to that. Nobody’s encouraged to seek those qualities anymore, I can say that much — our heroes are now just as disposable as anything else in our culture. But to lay all of this out with the clear implication that these traits are For Men Only? I have just as much ability to seek and attain those traits as any wang-bearing human out there. Who the hell is she to suggest otherwise?  Everyone can undertake the Hero’s Journey.  Everyone can identify with the philosopher king. These are not the qualities of an adult man.  They are the qualities of anyone – male, female, trans*, both, neither – who has reached Apotheosis and the Return.

“Only a close, sustained human relationship, with all of the rigor, ordeal and misery this implies, can actually tell you where the termites live in your psychological foundation.”

So nobody can lead a complete, healthy, and sustainable life, emotionally and physically and mentally, unless they are in a relationship? Because that’s what “only” implies. I’m sure Buddhist monks, Catholic nuns, and other single spirit-seekers would appreciate the knowledge that their psyche is inherently fragmented and flawed, despite and in fact BECAUSE of the fact that they forgo these human relationships to seek a higher truth or connection with the inner and outer world.  She strongly asserts that monogamy is vital to combating the more noxious aspects of capitalism, and holds that polygamy (which she conflates with infidelity) is emblematic of the capitalist drive.  However, in this, she asserts that being single is inherently undesirable.  That the only way to develop and stress-test one’s own psychological foundation is to enter into a long-term relationship.   This is the kind of cart-before-horse inanity that causes relationship problems in the first place: the belief that one NEEDS to be in a relationship, that one NEEDS to define oneself in terms of another person, that one logically cannot know oneself without someone else’s input.  This kind of thing is why people rush into relationships that they cannot fulfill, making promises they cannot keep.  They do not know who they are, much less who the other person is, and they believe it’s the purpose of the other person to help them identify and exterminate the problems in their life.  This is the most poisonous suggestion she could possibly make.  You cannot simultaneously extol monogamy — not even serial monogamy; she rails just as much against divorce as against infidelity — and also deny the individual any ability to know themselves and cultivate themselves while single.

So, in sum, women have no place in seeking valor or honor on our own, and in fact our only purpose is to enable men along their road to valor. We cannot both be single and know ourselves, nor can we be single and still fix the flaws in our psychological foundations.  However, even though we inherently won’t have a complete sense of who we are and what we want, and even though our psychological foundations will be troubled, we must seek a monogamous relationship as soon as possible in order to remedy those problems.  And we must stay in that relationship for our entire life.  Men are the only people capable of the Hero’s Journey, but they are divorced with it completely if they enjoy pornography or play violent video games.  They are also destined to die alone, because apparently no female would ever masturbate, no female would ever play such games, and any person who does either thing should be ashamed of themselves.  Women also do not ever spurn the ideas of Disney princesses, hookers with hearts of gold, or dream weddings.  It is absurd to think that women AND men might be able to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives alone or in same-sex relationships.  Gender is completely binary, and sexual diversity does not even merit a mention.  Also, something about drones and prisons and Goldman Sachs and G.I. Joe.

In leaping from attacks on capitalism to attacks on very specific elements of media and culture, she belittles women and their purpose as strongly as any simpleton senator, she undermines men, she rails against certain implications of gender roles while heavy-handedly endorsing others, and she disregards the personal integrity of anyone who leads a life of solitude.  All the while, she forgoes any discussion of what connects those elements, what drives them, how they in turn drive capitalism and drive its Perpetual Dissatisfaction Engine — Dissatisfaction which both creates and is created by the undue sense of Self-Entitlement that lurks closer to the heart of these interpersonal and cultural issues.

For a person to treat a relationship or a person his- or herself as disposable is shameful.  It indicates an inability to accept flaws or imperfections in the other, it may indicate a lack of desire on the other’s part to fix or even address those problems, and it indicates a lack of communication that would enable both partners to understand and accept each other, flaws and all, while they grow and mature and seek their goals.

But our culture teaches that our flaws are more outward than inward, and that they can be remedied by seeking something new.  That our inner dissatisfaction comes from dissatisfaction with our goods.  That we are represented by our goods, that we are what we wear, what we drive, what we watch, what we listen to.  That we should think about our goods more in terms of What This Says About Us than What It Does For Us, and we think about What It Does For Us far, far more than we think about What We Can Do With It.  It is a heresy to stop oneself and ask “Do I want to have or do this thing, or do I want to be The Kind Of Person Who Has And Does This Thing?”  We are made to think these are  — and should be — one and the same.  We are more manipulated by our tools than manipulators of them ourselves.  

We don’t fix anything anymore. When something breaks, or gets damaged, or has flaws, we throw it out and get a new one.  Whether discussing computers, phones, shoes, clothing, or cars, it’s often easier, cheaper, and usually more advantageous to just get a replacement instead of repairing the old one.  In fact, more often than not, what’s being thrown away simply can’t be fixed — it’s engineered to be unfixable.  It’s made with hidden screw-holes that require proprietary tools; it’s made to self-destruct when tampered with; it’s just too cheap and flimsy to be worth sewing or patching or darning or cobbling.

And, worse, if our goods show the signs of patches and repair, they make us look like we’re Not Rich, which is one of capitalism’s greatest sins.

What about designer jeans with holes in them, you ask?  What about “vintage” style tees, already soft and thin and faded when you buy them off the rack?  Aren’t you paying extra for the status of owning something that looks like it’s been around the block a few times — something that looks “authentic?”

Yes, and that’s exactly the issue.  Because that very pre-worn nature means that the clothing will be less durable as time goes on.  They will rip so much that they don’t function as pants; they will fade and fray and be useless as shirts.  The prestige is not just in saying “I can afford these expensive objects.”  The prestige is in saying “I can afford to buy expensive objects that have already been damaged enough that they have only 30% of their utility left.”  It’s tearing and wear that are valued — there is no trend for patches.  There is no trend for mended seams.  There is no trend for artfully sewn-up holes.

Patches and visible repairs also make us look Not Young, which is another sin of capitalism.  We’re old enough to have had these objects for a long time, and for those objects to have become worn and damaged.  If our items are old, then we too must be old. This is why it’s trendy to buy new vintage-style items, but it’s a mark of the mildly countercultural to buy actual thrift clothes.  Feigned authenticity is more desirable than actual age, actual wear, actual damage, actual ugliness — the actual admission that the styles of even one decade ago are now so undesirable as to be subjects of mockery, something that can be worn as a joke, or to assert an understanding that modern trends are just as ephemeral.

And yet actually sewing your own clothes is still largely considered something well beyond the popular/counterculture dynamic and squarely in the category of things done by poor kids and losers.

Because the biggest issue of fixing the old or making things from scratch isn’t just being Not Rich and Not Young, it’s being Not Busy.  Capitalism works best when a person’s time is worth so incredibly much that it’s more expedient to spend money than to spend time.  This critique of How You Spend Your Time can be heard levied against all sorts of fringe groups, from DIY enthusiasts to foodies to computer nerds to artists.  Why spend TIME on these things?  Don’t you know how much your TIME is worth?  Your life is short, and you are running out of TIME.

And so it’s no surprise that we treat other people as we treat our objects.  If that person shows age, shows wear, shows the scars of a life lived hard, shows eyes that have seen both too much and not enough, shows calloused hands and wrinkled faces, lines where years of emotion have visibly etched themselves into the flesh, that person is clearly Not Rich enough to get cosmetic surgery, to get a new nose and new boobs or new hair.  That person is clearly Not Young anymore.  And that person has clearly spent too much time doing things that didn’t have a goal of maintaining youthful perfection — not enough time exercising, or moisturizing, or doing makeup, or doing anything else to conceal their bodies.  They’ve spent too much time doing other things they value more than the way they look, the way they feel, the way they act.   Therefore, their very appearance is proof of the passage of time, proof of the ephemeral nature of life and beauty, and is therefore undesirable.  And if we define ourselves by what we own, and if a woman’s place, particularly, is as an object or tool by which men are to be satisfied and kept in check, an object or tool by which more children enter the world, then yes, a man will discard that woman as swiftly as he’d disregard any other outmoded product.

And if there are flaws in the relationship itself, flaws in what motivates each partner as a person, or motivates them both as a couple, flaws in how one copes with the world, copes with these very processes of aging and feeling obviated, we are not taught to fix these flaws.  We are not taught to admit to having them.  Youth is valued, and age is valued by the degree to which it still has the appearance and abilities of youth.  Experience, understanding, and wisdom are irrelevant, because our culture thrives on an inability to learn from past mistakes and a willingness to make the same mistakes over and over again, forever believing that the Next Big Thing will solve all our problems.

And so people throw away relationships when the other person gets too human, too old, too real. They reach out to someone else who is more of a fantasy, abandoning it again when the genuine human frailties show through.  Monogamy isn’t in opposition to capitalism, like she asserts.  It, too, is just another instance of seizing onto whatever sounds best at the time — most self-affirming, most reflective of the you you’d like to be, most useful toward one’s own ends — then enjoying it and using it until it’s expended, then seeking out the newest model.  Serial monogamy is monogamy, too. And whether that’s done while still in a relationship or after a divorce, it’s the same concept of expending / disposing / replacing, frequently with something that more closely embodies the fantasy of what they want in someone else and what they want in themselves.

And, yes, they frequently reach out to their own inner fantasies, using them more and more as a crutch.  It doesn’t even matter what that fantasy is.  Maybe it’s a sexual fantasy.  Maybe it’s a fantasy of wielding guns and swords to save the world.  But maybe it’s a martyr syndrome.  Maybe it’s a belief in religious or cultural superiority.  Maybe it’s keeping up with the Joneses.   Maybe it’s a fantasy less about what you hope to be, and more about what you fear. But, whatever it is, it perpetuates that drive toward believing oneself to be undeniably and objectively valuable and simultaneously believing oneself to be somewhere irrevocably behind where one Should Be.  It keeps you running like mad just to stay in the same place, simultaneously believing that something better is just around the corner and that it should have come to you already.  It keeps you unsatisfied, unfulfilled, unable to even explain to yourself why you feel this way, or to realize that you feel unsatisfied at all.  You will dispose of everything you can, replace everything you can, buy everything you can, in hopes of finding the secret.

But so long as it’s something that perpetuates that drive toward dissatisfaction, it’s nothing but cultural spackle — something with no purpose but to give a false sense of fulfillment and a false sense of repair.  Something that exists to smooth out all natural variation, to make a bland and neutral surface — a surface that’s receptive to whatever somebody else wishes to paint you with. To make you feel, believe, and know that your true self is weak and unworthy — and that you are only beautiful, only strong, when painted.

Wilson does not challenge us to seek our true selves. She does not fully address how culture motivates what we keep and what we dispose.  She does not encourage us to look at the way capitalism tries to sell us ourselves.  She just tosses out these sexist assertions, throws in a peppering of jabs against porn and video games, adds some scary noises about Wall Street and drones and prison, jumping from concept to concept without ever saying anything concrete about what she thinks one should do, how she thinks one should live — except, of course, for the sexist parts about what a woman’s purpose may encompass.  At every turn, she misses the chance to clearly address the disposability and entitlement at the heart of so many of these issues. And I can only guess that it’s because she isn’t able to pin it down as such.  That she, too, believes herself to be simultaneously enlightened and unfulfilled.  That she finds more value in what she can throw away — like capitalism, or women’s liberation, or sexual freedom, or coherent thesis statements — than in what she can cultivate.  As a result, this article becomes just another kind of spackle, and she only wants to coat us with a different kind of paint.  

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Other People’s Words: Sam Biddle Hates Everything

(Fair warning: this is not just a rant, but one of those high-powered caffeinated 3:00am-and-onward rants that I may not even remember clearly in the morning in the mid-afternoon.)

Gizmodo contributor Sam Biddle has the following insights to share in his article, “It’s OK To Be A Hater Because Everything Is Bad.”

The opening salvo:

Almost everything is bad. Usually, really bad, and not even bad in an interesting way. Tech is no exception—if anything, tech might be the worst of the bad. The Internet? Gross. The people who use it? Ugh. And it’s fine to hate it all.

The final blow:

It’ll go on like this forever, because people will never change, but technology will only get faster. Well, we might change, in that technology is turning us into ever-stupider, ever-strunger-outer attention anorexics with a thirst for nothing but meme gristle and Internet lists. Before we implode from the psychological strain strains of saying, doing, making, buying, sharing, and generally slathering about the worst ideas and products in the history of humanity, let’s all agree that it’s OK to whine. It’s OK to say that things are terrible, because they are. It’s OK. It’s true and it’s OK. Try it with me. Try it with me and then go to hell, because you’ll probably share a Scumbag Steve pic later today.

In between, he rails against various material goods and kinds of people who buy such material goods and such peoples’ focus on popularity and, somehow, on Internet culture.  The Internet is gross and ugh and bad?  And how, Sam Biddle, staff writer at!  And how.

But I can’t say it’s an unfamiliar sentiment.

I remember being a kid and seeing how my parents never seemed to enjoy anything, or have fun with anything. And how I wasn’t supposed to enjoy things either, because none of the fun stuff was necessary. They got by without it. So I could, too — whether I liked it or not. (And no sir, I didn’t like it, and grew to cope with being a perpetual alien to my own peers  – not by embracing my own unique qualities, but by resigning myself to the futility and giving up on social acceptance. But that’s another story.)

I remember being a disaffected and misanthropic “tween” and teen, who wanted to believe everyone else was stupid or inferior somehow.  All those normals with their Abercrombie shirts and their iPods and camera phones and their low-cut flares.  What sellouts, what dupes. Despite my virtually nonexistent self-esteem, I still at least wished I were better than them.  In times of more clarity, I just wished that the preponderance of people valued the same kinds of things I did – things like “preponderance” and other cool vocabulary words, for instance – and would value me as a human being to some degree as a result.

All throughout childhood and high school, I remember telling myself that I wouldn’t be like that when I grew up. I’d know how to have fun, and wouldn’t hate myself for doing, wearing, or buying something unnecessary sometimes, if it were still a useful thing that I thought I could enjoy for a long time.  I told myself that I wouldn’t be content with being bored and dismissive of the world around me. That I wouldn’t have a knee-jerk contempt for novelty. That I would know how to separate “squandering” from  “frivolity” from “mostly practical, but also fun,” instead of lumping them all into the same category and turning my back on it all.  I thought there was always something of value, something to think about, something to learn, from everything in our culture.  Maybe I only started to think that because I was seeing it all from the outside, or because I had to maximize the value of whatever pop-cultural fragments I had access to.

But I knew this much: I didn’t want to grow up to hate everything all the time. I hated everything and everyone already. How could I let that same miserabilism, that same stoicism, that same ennui run my life when I was finally an adult, free from the peer-pressure pressure cooker of school life, and finally free and independent enough to make my own choices?

Why would I want to?

Who would want to live with this much bitterness and contempt in them?

I don’t know what the author’s damage is, but it must be something. There could have been a whole article here that said something meaningful about critical thinking skills, about arguments from popularity and arguments from authority, about the apotheosis of the ignorant and the cultural concept of idiocy as freedom.

Instead it sounds like a sad old man shaking his cane at these young whippersnappers and their headphones, and all these newfangled iPads. Back in his day, ain’t nobody needed any iPads. They used a desktop PC and didn’t move their bodies for ten hours a day or walk on the grass but twice. and, by gum, they liked it. It’s not making any argument for why these things, or more accurately these people, or far more accurately these thought processes are bad/faulty/lacking — it’s just I Hate This. Codgery, curmudgeonly I Hate This, with a not-so-subtle subtext of You Should Too And If You Don’t, You’re What’s Wrong With The World.

I Hate This As If Hating This Will Make It Better For Me Or For Anyone.

It occurs to me that this is why people don’t listen to such arguments. Because griping about young people and new technology and other new stuff is Just What Old People Do.  That’s why the young have a knee-jerk contempt for authority: they see them as speaking only about Things or about People These Days, the outward manifestations of which can hardly be expected to stay static, but completely unable to draw parallels between their pasts and the young peoples’ presents.  They’re too distracted by the material differences to recognize the cultural and emotional touchstones.

There are always trendy and useless products.  There are always trendy and ridiculous-looking clothes.  There are always idiots.  There are always cheats.  There are always TV shows that seem to herald the end of all civilization.

There are also always people who overreact to the “threat” posed by these specific products/bands/media or their consumers/fans.

But products are products.  Stuff is not a statement.  If someone buys stuff to make a personal statement about themselves, that’s probably a little absurd. If someone buys stuff because they think it will make them More Like The Kind Of Person Who Has This Stuff, yes, that’s absurd and a little sad.  But if someone makes a moral and intellectual judgment about someone else based on the stuff they own, presuming that the purchase means they bought it because – and only because – they’re trying to be The Kind Of Person Who Has This Stuff, that’s significantly worse.  You are buying into the stuff-as-statement pretense, too.  You’re believing they’re either That Kind Of Person, or that they aspire to be That Kind Of Person, instead of acknowledging that, of the various but still limited options, someone decided to purchase that particular piece of stuff for some reason or other.  Maybe it’s a logically sound reason.  Maybe it isn’t.  But you don’t know what it is just by looking at the person.  If you think you do – positively or negatively – you are just as duped. You are not better for owning different stuff.  You are not better for not owning any such stuff.  You are not worse for not owning stuff.

Stuff, stuff-buying, and even stuff-as-statement, is not the point Biddle is even trying to make, I don’t think.  I think he does have a point in all that ramble, but he’s dancing around it.  Rather, he chooses to rail against these specific currently-trendy products (and the people who own them) and means of communication (and the people who use them,) instead of talking about the timeless but preventable characteristics of shoddy thinking, where the lessons actually are.

Why would he do this?

Perhaps because people don’t want to admit that they once liked or coveted popular and frivolous things, too. Or that they once wanted to be “cool,” and have had to content themselves with the fact that they can now be no more than “pretty cool, for an adult.” If you can look at how ridiculous youth culture is now, you can feel advanced and wise, and can also feel pleased for yourself that you didn’t fall into the trap of looking as trendy-foolish back when you actually had the chance. But for some reason, it’s easier to not only detach from popular culture, but rage at it as you do. It makes the dividing line clearer, for the sake of everyone who cares… which is mainly only you. It makes it a lot more clear to others that you aren’t one of Them. You aren’t one of those people who define themselves by certain things they buy – you define yourself as one of the people who HATES people like them, and who buys certain other things instead!  It’s easier to hate. Easier to hold things in contempt, to waste time and thought and energy on loathing what you can’t change.

That’s why 60-year-old-men and 16-year-old Goths sound surprisingly similar – and similarly wearying – when they talk about mainstream culture.

Biddle is correct when he vaguely, loosely, tangentially alleges that youth culture lacks self-awareness or the ability or willingness to use critical thinking or reason (as implied by his very loose allusions to the arguments from authority and popularity, and the fact that the Monster cables he derides are indeed the homeopathy of the electronics world.)  But it’s not just the youth, and it’s not just the Internet. It’s everywhere.  Hell, by this very emotion-driven and material-goods-focused screed that makes sweeping generalizations, appeals to ridicule and to spite, he’s doing this, too.

He’s not helping.

He is, in short, part of the Bad.

Even if he’d approached his actual complaints directly, the author would have had a hard road ahead of him. Primarily because the youth culture and Internet culture that Biddle so derides has a little phrase of its own:

Haters Gonna Hate.

A “hater” is, in its original usage, someone who, for whatever reason, won’t allow another person their own happiness or success, and instead must cut that person down. Someone for whom nothing is ever enough. An irrational grudge, generally. But although it started out specific, as a way of brushing off hostility and unwarranted criticism, “Haters Gonna Hate” has developed into a brushing-off of not only hostility but also virtually any kind of reaction other than agreement and encouragement. It’s an automatic and unthinking dismissal of virtually any unpleasant response. Yes, it also gets applied to people making well-reasoned arguments. But it goes further than the similar “Everyone’s a critic,” in a way that is symptomatic of the greater critical-thinking problem Biddle so very tangentially attempts to sort of allude to (I think.)

“Haters Gonna Hate” recontextualizes any criticism, critique, correction, or even any comment into an emotionally-driven argument. Its persistent use evinces the fact that people, especially young people, are not equipped to diferrentiate a rational argument from an emotionally-driven attack. Moreover, it implies a difficulty in rationalizing other points of view.  It presumes that the criticizer must feel jealousy or actual hate – that nobody would possibly have any other reason to give anything but praise.  Therefore, “Haters Gonna Hate” speaks to a deep-seated sense of self-entitlement. A strain of “I’m okay just the way I am” that’s somehow been bred for aggression, becoming “Fuck you, I do what I want.”

To such people he describes – presuming, for a moment, his sweeping generalizations of selfishness and immorality and inhumanity were actually founded – Biddle would be seen and dismissed as a hater. He seems to embrace the idea of this – or at least he would embrace it, if his joints weren’t acting up and if he weren’t fresh out of liniment. (No, he isn’t even old, but he speaks as if he wants a head start.) He welcomes hating.  In more than one way, he invites contempt. Because, intentionally or not, Biddle IS making only an emotional argument. He’s not actually calling for discourse. He’s not calling for reason. He’s not calling for anything but whining and hate, not realizing that his semi-strawman targets are already well-prepared to dismiss it.

Another related concept among that so-despised youth culture and Internet culture, “drama” generally consists of somebody doing something emotional and irrational, then refusing to acknowledge the consequences, the irrationality itself, or the legitimacy of any complaint. It’s sometimes a result of the inability to contextualize or to plan, of an underdeveloped sense of empathy, or of difficulty accepting and recovering from unexpected hardships.  Sometimes it’s intentional attention-seeking.  Regardless, the “drama queen” seems to thrive on such conflict in lieu of almost any other kind of interpersonal interaction.

Biddle’s screed is no bold dramatic monologue, addressing conflict, reasoning through problems, making difficult choices, reaching a conclusion, and taking a stand.

It’s just drama.

(And possibly even trolling.)

Drama is also not exactly a new phenomenon, and its spread has only been easier as communication has grown more pervasive.  There are scores of avenues to spread gossip, rumors, and general unsubstantiated crap, most of them with ever-lowering barriers to entry.

However, it might be argued that the self-entitlement mentality and lack of critical thinking skills that spur drama (and therefore spur the “Haters Gonna Hate” defense mechanism) seem to be more pervasive and more shameless now than in the past.  Which is also not a new sentiment.

But is it any wonder that it seems true now more than ever?

Advertisements don’t just talk up their own claims and run the viewer through a gamut of fallacies and appeals to emotion – they also bash the competition by name. No more “Brand X,” no more “the leading brand,” no more slightly-different spoofs.

In the 80s and 90s, talk shows featured histrionic freakshows of namecalling and chairthrowing; from the 2000s to the present, it’s “reality TV.” Both purport to demonstrate how people respond to criticism or to conflict. Both tend to rely on subjects with a disproportionate sense of self-worth who cannot acknowledge their own shortcomings, no matter what.

And then there’s the 24/7 cable news quandary, where a lack of verifiable information is no longer an impediment to continuing coverage. Where user comments are reported with the same authority as journalists’ observations, because  opinion, speculation, and hard data are rendered virtually indistinguishable – it’s the attention that matters.

Anyone can write anything on the Internet, and one can easily pick and choose one’s own news sources to get only the information with which they’re already inclined to agree.

It’s not just the media, either.  Good sweet unmerciful crap, don’t get me started on political “discourse.”

Or on parents who simply don’t know how to teach their children, give them guidance, set an example, or otherwise help a child learn any sort of structure, self-discipline, empathy, or understanding.  Possibly because they don’t have those skills, either.

It’s all added up to teach people to value attention for its own sake.  The more undeserved the attention, the more it becomes a grotesque point of fascination.

We have more sources of information than ever before.  More choices, and more freedom to remix, satirize, recontextualize, and otherwise augment that information.  Short of some revolution that annihilates the Internet (and with it most of our economy and social structure,) that’s not going to change.  It does not have to turn us into, as Biddle says, “ever-stupider, ever-strunger-outer attention anorexics.”  It will require – already does require – nuance and the ability to parse multivalent statements.

Information can’t all be taken at face value – that makes you one of the literally unbelievable people who can’t distinguish an Onion article from a non-satirical article.

Information can’t all be dismissed out of hand – that makes you one of those people who thinks they’re always right in the face of all evidence.

Contrary to Biddle’s insults, regular Internet users are probably more likely to navigate this information successfully, out of familiarity and necessity.  Learning how to identify trolls, detect sarcasm without intonation or gestural cues, recognize reliable sources of information, and identify common hoaxes requires a certain kind of information literacy.  Moreover, it’s been among the Internet culture – which is rather more broad than Biddle acknowledges – that I’ve personally found the strongest reactions to mainstream media culture.  Before denouncing memes entirely, Biddle would have done well to observe what kinds of content are given the “I Don’t Want To Live On This Planet Anymore” reaction.  Intolerance, vapid pop music, idiotic statements, poor grammar, Twilight, and other offenses are all given this summary rejection of not only the post itself but of the mainstream culture which created it.

So, the problem is not “information overload.” It’s not the Internet. It’s not technlogy. It’s not the media; it’s not consumerism; it’s not capitalism.  It’s not the kids or the adults, the democrats or the republicans, left or right, high culture or low culture, elitists or idiots.  The problem starts and ends in the three pounds of matter within every individual skull, which processes that information, processes other information around it, figures out how to perceive the world, and figures out how to act upon it.  The problem is – always has been, and always will be – a lack of or willful suspension of critical thinking especially when such thought would create cognitive dissonance with one’s sense of self-entitlement.

There have always been those who thrive on conflict, outrage, attention, and fear, in lieu of empathy, acceptance, humility, and wisdom. No matter how much you whine, no matter how much you hate, your contempt and your loathing will not challenge or change them.   It will not change you, either, except to make you more of the kind of person who can’t stop thinking and talking about how much you hate everyone and everything and how everything’s gone downhill.

Yes, this will make you sound more like an adult.

No, It does not make you sound more mature.

It certainly does not make you sound more wise.

It might make you feel better though.  And that’s okay, though I question the mechanics.

Refusing to acknowledge large swaths of unpleasant or inconvenient reality might also make you just as detached as the people you vituperate.  And that’s okay, too – if you’re going to make rude and sweeping generalizations, maybe you’ll be happier keeping to yourself?  But I suspect that, if you feel this angry, it’s not because a bunch of young dumb brats have somehow displaced you, but because you’ve let yourself grow so estranged from what you value, and maintain such a tenuous hold on it yourself, that you’re able to perceive a total stranger wearing expensive headphones as a threat.

Maybe what you really want is for your intellectual values to be shared and reaffirmed.

The funny thing is… these strangers don’t have to share any of your intellectual or moral values.  They really don’t.  They’re okay with making what we might see as mistakes all the time.  They’re okay with looking stupid.  Or being stupid.  Or not even being able to acknowledge their own stupidity.  And they’re probably happier than us.  Remember, they probably don’t even care what other people think, as long as they’re happy.  And there’s not much we or anyone else can do to change that.  Even if we – individually or culturally – did a better job of equipping them with the intellectual tools, and the knowledge of how to use those tools, and even a social structure that better rewarded people who used those tools and used their intellects, it would still be up to the individual to actually use them.  Do they owe it to themselves to think well and wisely, spend well and wisely, live well and wisely?  Sure.

But they do not owe it to you.

If you acknowledge this, and you’re ranting anyway, maybe you’re really trying to reach out to other people who are already like you. Smart, angry others.  Frustrated, disaffected others.  Others who are tired of feeling all the shame and humiliation that these materialistic simpletons refuse to feel.  Others with whom you might commiserate, here in this dystopian world-gone-mad of Monster cables and Honey Boo Boo Child and swag, here at the end of all days.

I don’t speak for anyone for myself, but I’m tired of misery, private or shared.  I’m tired of whining.  I’m tired of hate, hating, and haters.  I’m tired of drudgery and deception and excuses and shallowness and injustice.   I’m tired of nihilism and tired of those who only enjoy things ironically. I’m tired of antiheroes and impossible ideals.  I want to see sincere, self-aware pursuit of individual goals.  Even if those goals are ridiculous.  Maybe especially if those goals are ridiculous, so long as they’re also positive or at least mostly harmless.  Whether it’s a thesis paper on ancient Greek philosophy or a Viking longboat made out of cereal boxes, I want to see people who know what they want to do, even if they don’t know why they want to do it, and DO THE HELL OUT OF IT, and feel accomplished of the thing that they did as a result.  I don’t want to see people stop being proud – I want them to stop being proud of STUFF and stop being proud of MONEY and stop being proud of ATTENTION and start being proud of what they’ve done and earned and made and meant.  I don’t want to see people being bleak and apathetic and backsliding into sarcastic 90s nihilism as some pendulum-swing response to “swag.”  I don’t want to see hipsters playing games with authenticity and clinging to irony as plausible deniability.  Admit that what you like may or may not be popular, and may or may not be popular among some other subgroups as a direct result of the original popularity value, but that you like it anyway.  Just like what you like anyway.  If it’s not hateful or harmful, like what you like, do what you do, and do what you’re like (if you’re lucky.)

I’m as tired of stupidity as anybody else, but I’m also tired of tedious self-important misanthropes wrapped in a threadbare cloak of intelligence and a homemade crown of moral superiority, who – instead of offering even the most condescending advice on independent thought to these lost little iPad lugging lambs – spend their time flogging those who have fun the wrong way or who have the wrong stuff. You who would do this, you have the Curse of Greyface upon you.

Fun is not the opposite of work.  Happiness is not the opposite of honesty.   Hope is not the opposite of truth.

And hate is not the cure for selfishness, for stupidity, for arrogance, for irrationality, or for anything but serenity.  Your hate changes no one.  Your whining means nothing.  It is not a clarion call for reason and discourse.  It will not crumble the halls of the media.  It will not humble the unjustly proud.  It will not even clearly or thoroughly express your own discontent.  It will only make you another loud, angry talking head, spouting into the cacophony – a willing part of the Fear And Outrage Machine.

So I see Biddle’s challenge in the final lines, and I raise it.

Let’s do more than whine. Let’s do more than hate. Let’s say something meaningful instead.  Let’s make arguments without anger and hypotheses without hyperbole, and politely tell people off if they won’t do the same.  Let’s learn logical fallacies and teach them to young people – as part of government/econ classes, at least, and ideally as early as elementary school. And also teach self-esteem that doesn’t assume everyone’s awesome all the time, but also teaches how to give and receive constructive criticism.  Let’s stop teaching kids that “stupid” is a bad word – and teach them what things really are stupid, and why.  Let’s regain our tolerance for thoughtful pauses and change the channel on shouting matches.  Turn off the TV, don’t feed the trolls, and do things for the sake of genuine personal satisfaction – not attention.  Let’s presume everyone else is as civil, moral, and intelligent as we are, until they prove otherwise – even if they’re carrying an iPad or wearing something we think is funny-looking.   Let’s not confuse censorship for civility, or vice versa.

It’s okay to say that things are terrible.  Believe me, I do.  And I’m no optimist. But it’s even better to recognize exactly what is terrible, why it’s terrible, and to do your part to not be terrible yourself, and to figure out ways to be awesome instead.

The media may take away the lives of children and of the vulnerable inside and out; it may behave irrationally, distort the world, deceive you, tempt you, try to define your dreams, ask you to fear, and reward you with only more reasons to cower – but, like Jareth, it has no power over you, and it’s mostly made of our own imagination.

Maybe we can imagine ourselves something else.  (*ahem*Internet culture*ahem*)  But something more… well, real-world.  Maybe we can.  Maybe we can’t.  But hating, whining, drama, and perpetual conflict – and our cultural fascination with them – are why things are where they are.

I don’t believe they are how we get back out.

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Some Faith In Humanity: Bikers Against Child Abuse

There is a biker gang on the rise, in America and in countries around the world. Its members are known to each other only by their road names — names like Chief and Nytro and Tool and Bigg Dogg.  They are  fearless.  Relentless.  As Karina Bland warns us, they are coming for the children.  The most vulnerable children.  The abused children.

They are the Bikers Against Child Abuse, and they are coming to give these children strength, comfort, support, and vigilance.

“Even kids know that nobody messes with bikers. Bikers look big, and strong, and mean, both in real life and in how they are portrayed on television and in films. They are easy riders, sons of anarchy, not afraid of anything. And they take care of their own.

A child who has been abused by someone bigger and stronger knows too well what it feels like to be small and vulnerable. BACA shifts that balance by putting even bigger and stronger people – and more of them – on the child’s side.”

Formed by a licensed clinical social worker and play therapist, the BACA is a group of bikers who’ve all passed rigorous background screenings and training.   The children they protect get road names too – helping to safeguard all of them from vengeful abusers.  Whether it’s by being on-call, 24/7, to stand vigil in a child’s driveway overnight when he can’t sleep for fear of an abuser, or going on “Neighborhood Awareness Rides,” or accompanying a child to court when one must testify against an abuser, the BACA is there.  Each child gets two “primaries,” two main contacts who they can call or text whenever they need someone.  And each child gets a t-shirt, denim vest, do-rag, and photo of themselves with the group, tangible reminders that they have a strong and vigilant family.

As wonderful as this is, it’s saddening as well.  Not just because it’s shameful that child abuse happens in the first place; not just because an abused child has to cope with such trauma.  But because the BACA’s response is so simple, so straightforward, apparently so effective – and so unlike what anybody else does.

When an abuser comes pounding on the door, of course the child’s guardians will call the cops.  But what can they do?  Even if the abuser is still there when an officer arrives, there may be little that can be done.  Maybe there’s no protection order, and knocking on a door is not a crime.  Maybe they just park the car on the street outside a child’s home, and parking in a legal zone is not a crime.  And if the abuser has left by the time the cops show up – almost certain to be a long time, if there’s no blatant threat of violence to the residents – all the cops can do is to take some notes and go back to their rounds.  Maybe the kid’s got a caseworker.  But that caseworker might have hundreds of kids and a severe case of burnout.

The BACA, on the other hand, will stand guard all night, if need be.  To deter an abuser from coming back, and to protect the family if a few big, stern bikers is somehow an inadequate deterrent.

It might seem like vigilante justice, at first:  a group of people who think the law has failed, and who take matters into their own hands to punish wrongdoers.  But that’s far from the case. As their mission statement says, “BACA does not condone, support or participate in the use of aggression, violence or physical force in any manner. If, however, ANY person should seek to inflict harm on one of our BACA Members, we will respond with commitment and loyalty to protect our Member.”  They don’t rough up abusers.  They’re out to show the children that violence is not strength, that aggression is not power, that no matter what somebody’s done, nobody has the right to mess with another person’s body in any way.  But they do tend to be strong, and they are willing to stand their ground and fight.  Whatever it takes. As long as it takes.

Unlike cops who have more important crimes to concern themselves with, unlike guardians who still have to go to work or do the housework, unlike caseworkers who have more cases than can be handled, the BACA will stand guard as long as it takes.  They will do nothing BUT stand guard. In shifts, if need be.

“Fast Track’s grandfather says he learned more from Pipes and Sassy about such things as how to navigate the child-welfare system and how to file for a restraining order and guardianship than he had from the boy’s state child-welfare caseworker.”


“‘There are things I can’t do as a therapist,’ Wahlheim says. She can call Child Protective Services or the police, but there isn’t always enough evidence to put away an abuser. And although she can help young victims recover mentally, she can’t protect them physically.”

And that’s why it’s needed.   The kinds of terrible things that nobody wants to talk about are happening all the time, all around us.  Even when a child is bold enough to speak up, the system is overtaxed.  Cops can’t stand guard for eight hours when a child has a nightmare. Neither can a caseworker.  The system, as it’s set up, cannot help everyone.  I can’t find the article I was reading, but I know I saw one once where a state’s child protective services department was proud of having split up fewer families than any other state – but it had one of the highest rates of death by neglect and abuse. Even within the structure of the law, more attention seems to be paid to quotas and bureaucratic procedures than common sense or basic needs.  So why NOT take matters into your own hands, if you have the time, the strength, the capacity, and the commitment?

This isn’t vigilante justice.  It’s vigilante compassion.

And while I’d love to see more of it, I’d obviously like to see less of it at the same time.  I’d like it if this weren’t necessary.  Again, not just because I wish the abuse weren’t happening – but because I wonder if the communities themselves couldn’t offer similar protection, filling in those gaps that the law leaves behind, in such a way that the vulnerable members wouldn’t need to call upon some group outside either system.

There are non-terrible people in the world, exceptional people and ordinary people, all around us.  Neighborhoods full of families, childless couples, and singles.  Neighborhoods – but not communities.   Sometimes you don’t know who lives across the street, or in the apartment next door, or the mobile home next to you.   I’ll be first to admit that I don’t.  But why is it that, in a situation like this, it takes a group of people outside the law and outside the community to give that kid a sense of being protected, a sense of being part of a bigger and stronger family than the unit they live with?

Because I’m the sort of weirdo who LIKES trying to answer rhetorical questions, I’ll delve into that.  But it’s a little bit tangential, so if you’d rather skip to the end of the rant, here’s yer warp pipe.

Small image of the green Warp Pipe from Super Mario Bros.

I find it disappointing that communities themselves don’t come together more, and that even the people we live closest to and see most often aren’t necessarily part of our Monkeysphere.  Since almost every kind of residential area now seems to be an apartment complex or one of those grotesque vinyl-siding subdivisions in the iron grip of a homeowners’ association, not just a string of houses on a street, it’s disappointing that these places don’t use that centralization to the residents’ advantage.  Especially since we’ve got that magical thing called The Internet.  I mean, come on — there are forums devoted to people who roleplay relationships between Vocaloid singing-synthesizer personae, but my apartment complex doesn’t have a forum for its residents to talk to each other, or even a freaking Facebook group.  Through forums, Skype chats, virtual environments, and Facebook, I connect with and even organize events with friends all over the world – but if the owners of this leaky-ceiling’d sweltering humanhive want to organize a pool party, they leave a flyer on the door and hope it doesn’t catch fire in the midday sun.

It’s pithy to say “We’re more connected than ever, but we’re even more emotionally distant.”  But there are ways in which it’s true.  What’s less awkward, buying a used lawnmower on Craigslist or asking to borrow your neighbor’s?   What kinds of stress might it defuse in a family if their community actually communicated like one?

Having this connectivity would not stop abuse.   There are no simple pushbutton solutions.  But y’know, if people who are literally stacked on top of each other in the same freaking building, or smashed together in a row of identical houses on the same stupid-named street, were given some way to get to know each other, know each other’s situations, and help each other out even with the simple stuff, maybe it would go a long way.  Abuse isn’t always caused by Pure Evil in a person; it can be a parent who’s just so stressed and so desperate that they don’t realize what a terrible damn thing they’re doing as they smack their kid in the face with the soup ladle.  Don’t get me wrong: stress and desperation are NOT excuses for abuse – but they are contributing factors.  If there were more community support — if Mrs. Hernandez two doors down could fix that damn flickering ceiling light the super won’t do anything about but that’s been driving you crazy for weeks, or if Steve in #62 could watch the kids for a couple hours while you did chores without having to worry about the pitter-patter of little feet where you just freaking mopped — maybe the people living there would feel a little less isolated while being surrounded by people.  A little more open, a little more trusting, a little less stressed, a little less desperate.

As for the kinds of abuse that DO seem to come from calculated malevolence, maybe a more interconnected community would help someone feel like they had more people to turn to – or at least more people who might notice if something seemed wrong.  (Or maybe not.  Thanks, Genovese effect.)

Small image of the green Warp Pipe from Super Mario Bros.

I’m not saying we should turn all apartment blocks and neighborhoods into communes, and I’m not saying everyone has a moral obligation to babysit someone else’s diarrhetic rugrats, or give their stuff to that bozo next door even if you don’t need it anymore, or miss a shift of work because you’re trying to protect a kid from a damn psychopath. I’m not trying to spout bullshit platitudes about how “it takes a village.” And I’m definitely not saying that a family affected by abuse should alert everyone in the neighborhood about that intensely private trauma.

But if you were interconnected enough with your community that you knew something like this was happening…
If you knew because those people saw you as someone they could trust and talk to, not a faceless person behind some numbered door…
If you knew that you could help, just by watching out for a black Ford Ranger with a crack in the windshield…
If you knew they’d help you out just the same…
Would you still ignore the thumping next door and call it “someone else’s problem?”

I know parents who won’t let their children play outside, because they don’t trust their neighbors.  Not because those neighbors have done anything wrong – just because “you never know.”  Parents who sincerely believe in poisoned Halloween candies and razorblade apples.  Parents who teach “Stranger Danger” despite the fact that it’s bullshit and that 95% of abductions, murders, and molestations are perpetrated by somebody the child knows.  Parents who mistake fear for safety.

(And I’m not even going to go into the parents who are afraid of terrorists, or germs, or vaccinations, or “chemicals,” or who are racists or bigots, or any other hyperbolic and irrational fear that they think is necessary to their safety.  All I’m gonna say is that, just as plonking your kid down in front of Sesame Street isn’t enough to help him learn or become engaged with the world, plonking yourself down in front of any cable news channel isn’t adequate to engage or inform yourself about the world, either.)

If you just teach a child that all strangers are scary and aren’t to be trusted, how do they learn how a stranger becomes a friend?  How do they learn to trust someone?  How do they learn when a trusted friend, adult, or authority figure has betrayed that trust?  Well, it’s possible that they don’t, and they go from being the kind of kid who believes in Stranger Danger to the kind of teenager or co-ed who thinks she’ll be raped by a bush-lurking stranger if she walks alone at night: equally ignorant of the fact that most victims know their attacker.

It’s better to teach kids how to recognize abuse itself – and to teach them to speak up if it’s happening to them, or to a friend –  no matter how much they trust the person or people involved.  That what matters isn’t how somebody looks, or how well you know somebody, or how well you think you know somebody; what matters is who that person is on the inside, and how they treat people.  No matter whether they’re wearing a black leather vest or a black liturgical vestment.

You don’t have to be a big burly biker to protect a kid from an abuser.  You don’t have to be a licensed therapist to help a vulnerable person feel safe.  You don’t have to be a cop, or a social worker, or a lawyer, or a judge.  You do not have to get a degree in anything.  Just talk to people, extend compassion, offer whatever you’re willing and capable of offering, respect their boundaries and acknowledge your own, and be there.

“The whole backbone of what BACA does is showing up,” Rembrandt says. “We show up when we say we are going to show up, and we do what we say we are going to do.”

Line drawing of Freddie Mercury, hand upraised. Text: "SOME FAITH IN HUMANITY / HAS BEEN RESTORED"

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Other People’s Words: Tycho Brahe (aka Jerry Holkins)

From A Matter of Scale, today’s Penny Arcade newspost by Tycho Brahe (Jerry Holkins):

You have to get back on the horse.  Somehow, and I don’t know how this kind of thing starts, we have started to lionize horseback-not-getting-on:  these casual, a priori assertions of inevitable failure, which is nothing more than a gauze draped over your own pulsing terror.  Every creative act is open war against The Way It Is.  What you are saying when you make something is that the universe is not sufficient, and what it really needs is more you.  And it does, actually; it does.  Go look outside.  You can’t tell me that we are done making the world.  

Say whatever you want about Penny Arcade, but this man writes truths.  This cuts to the heart of why it’s hard to go through with something, or even to begin.  It’s the temerity of telling the Universe that you have looked upon it and found it wanting.  Of deciding that the fault is not in YOU for wanting something the Universe As-Is cannot provide.  And then, most audacious of all, asserting not only that this should be made, but that YOU should be the one to make it.

At each step, it’s more logical, more reasonable, less vain, to shut up and think you’re in the wrong.

“It’s probably a stupid idea.”

“If it was a GOOD idea, it would have been done by now.”

“Maybe it’s already been done, and I just can’t find it.”

“It’s not like anyone else would want this, anyway.”

“Maybe it’s an okay idea, but it’s not like I could actually pull it off properly.”

And you can think all these ideas at the same time.  The cognitive dissonance is barely noticed: on some level, you realize it’s all saying the same thing.  In different phrases, with different gauzy veils of “reason,” they’re all just saying NO.

Even if you’ve tried anything before, you can so easily use all your prior failures against yourself – any and every other thing that never got off the ground, never got finished, was finished but never got the recognition you hoped for.

This is even before the stumbling blocks of What Other People Would Want, or What Other People Would Think Of Me, and What If Screw Up.  This phase seems like a confrontation between You The Creator and the Concept, or You The Creator and the Universe.  But it’s only a confrontation between You The Creator and yourself.   Trying to justify – or argue against – inflicting your will on the world.

But each idea is its own.  Each day, each hour that goes by, you have learned something, gained something.  Your perspective is slightly different.  Whatever the success or failure of anything else you’ve ever tried, you were a slightly different You then.  You’re a slightly different You now.  Maybe that doesn’t mean you’re better overall, or good in general, or worthy to even have the ideas you’re having.

But you have the ideas anyway.  Your brain is the one with the set of associations, the attitudes, the experiences, that would allow this particular idea to be sparked when a few seemingly-disparate chunks of brainmeat all light up at once.  And this might seem to be proof that you shouldn’t go through with the idea, because who else could understand?  Who else could grasp the idea?

Maybe this is the trick.  It takes a certain kind of mind to generate the idea from nothing.  Or, if you prefer to think of inspiration as coming from Somewhere Else — and, logical as I may try to be, damned if it doesn’t sometimes seem more logical — it takes a certain kind of mind to catch and hold that idea, a certain weaving-pattern of thoughts and emotions and experiences and attitudes and associations that can sift that thought from some collective-unconscious ether, that can catch it and hold it long enough to act upon it.   But while other people might never have that idea on their own, that’s not to say they wouldn’t get it when presented with it, once fleshed out.  They might not have the idea — but they could get it, as soon as you show them.

Others never do understand, of course.  And others get it, but have more refined experience and knowledge, and will tell you all the ways in which you’ve done a disservice to the idea and to the Universe in general.  But you can learn from that and apply different techniques in the future, or choose to let certain ideas slide because they’re unworthy.

Or you can just keep doing as you do, as best you can, because you can.

Which seems like the very height of selfishness.  But it’s almost all or nothing:  if you don’t try, then what are you? What are you for? I know what it feels like to think of myself as The Thing With The Ideas In It.  That nothing else really matters about me except for my ability to have ideas, analyze them, express them, and relate them to each other.  To love my ideas but loathe myself, and to doubt that I could adequately perform what seems to be my only natural function.  And I know it’s way too heavy to think things like “Who am I, really, if I do or don’t do this? What kind of person should do this, and am I that kind of person?”   Whether or not you have an accurate self-perception, these thoughts only bring on doubt and guilt and fear.

But maybe it’s easier to address the negative:  “Am I doing this, or not doing this, because I’m trying to be somebody else?”    Whatever you think you are, whoever you think you are, whatever you might want to be, whatever you might think you deserve, you still probably have some sense of self, and some awareness of whether or not what you’re pursuing is You or not.  Listen to it. Maybe you’re only doing the idea, yourself, and the Universe a disservice if you’re trying to stomp yourself down, or view yourself and your accomplishments through somebody else’s filters.

And yes, it’s terrifying.  Yes, it opens yourself up more than you may be ready for.  Yes, it’s possible that you won’t be able to handle it. It’s easier to assume you’re going to fail, and it sometimes seems more logical, too.  But if you’re going to insist to yourself that you will inevitably fail, maybe it’s better to think that you’ll fail at your success.  That you’ll make something awesome and fail to market it well, or you’ll make something awesome and say something stupid about it, or you’ll make something awesome and be unable to communicate the meaning clearly, or you’ll make something awesome and otherwise embarrass yourself and objectively prove yourself unworthy forever.

But maybe that’s still better than not making anything at all. Because, regardless of what you may think of yourself, maybe the Universe needs more You.

Maybe it even needs more me.

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