I won’t be staying up until midnight tonight, dear reader. Unless I’m actually doing something, like working on the book or recording something. But that’s it. This stupid decade can show itself out, thank you very much.
N.P.: “Violence Suppressor” – Irving Force
Just time for a quick hello this evening, dearest reader. Hello.
N.P.: “Bang Your Head” – Dope Stars, Inc.
“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic. If words control you, that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.” – Mahatma Gandhi
The explosion of social media in our culture was rather similar to a tsunami: it wasn’t there one day, and by the dawn of the following day, the entire society was completely immersed in and inundated by it. And like an actual Tsunami, exactly no one was adequately prepared for it. Unlike an actual tsunami, however, where people sitting on the rooves of their houses as said houses float down the river that used to be their street know damn good and well that they weren’t prepared for this, people seemed rather oblivious to their total unpreparedness for social media.
The specific problems that social media brought with it are myriad and dire and far too extensive to even begin to list here. What I want to focus on in today’s sermon is one aspect of social media which has affected people and changed their behavior throughout each facet of their real offline lives, not just their online, virtual ones. Here’s the problem: platforms such as Facebook suddenly gave people who had never seen their names in print and never had an audience suddenly not only had a platform where they could be “published,” but they could hand pick their audience and get almost instant feedback from individual audience members. Since those audience members were hand-picked, the likelihood that the feedback would be positive and supportive was extremely high. These things combine to create the illusion that people actually, sincerely give a shit about what you say. Getting multiple “likes” triggers an endorphin release, and people then start Pavlovianly posting more frequently, so as to chase the endorphin dragon they’ve recently discovered. Which, whatever…let people post what they want. But all of that leads to the issue I’m looking at today: Now everybody feels compelled to have an opinion on absolutely everything, there is enormous and inappropriate pressure to limit one’s opinions to the very narrow list of acceptable opinions established by the fascists of the politically correct.
Our society is arguably the most divided and contentious that it’s been in the last 50 years, and I can’t help but think this has something to do with it. When everybody feels compelled to share their opinion on absolutely every issue in the news that day, regardless of the fact that virtually all of that news has exactly zero impact on them personally, immediately or long-term, then we have more to fight about then when, like back in the good old days, you just read the news if you felt like it and no one gave a shit what you thought about it, because they knew nobody gave a shit what they thought about it. And friendships and relationships were based on who you were as a person and things like core values rather than how many politically correct and intersectional boxes you ticked.
What’s weird, and what I think is probably not a coincidence at all, is that now, at the time when virtually everybody ostensibly has their own platform to spout off on any subject and say whatever they want, The Mob (the slavishly militant wing of The Herd”) is presuming to place rather fascist restrictions on what topics can be discussed and what can be said about them, and if you dare violate these ludicrous limitations, you can be doxed, hacked, boycotted, and targeted with death threats, all because a bunch of idiots feel compelled not only to have an opinion about absolutely everything, but also feel emboldened by their “likes” to make sure that other people share their same opinion, lest they be “offended.” [Pith-helmeted socio-anthropological observation: the reason people are so subconsciously compulsively saying, “Right?” after damn near everything they say (other than the fact that they are sheep who don’t fully think form themselves) is that they are so stupidly afraid to offend anyone. So they do a sentence by sentence check in. And they are not stating “right!” They are asking. They are soliciting permission to continue. This is disgusting behavior for adults.] [And also, since we’re here, the whole “n word” and “b word” and whatever is embarrassing. What is this, kindergarten? No, it’s not. I now live in a society where is seems the majority of people are running around telling on each other…”mom! Billy said the F word!” When I was a kid, we used to beat the hell out of anyone who “told” on us for saying a word. And now, everybody’s running around terrified of these same assholes. How could you let this happen. Things were a lot better when people were beating the hell of these self-righteous fucks.]
Anyway, that’s not the point of today’s sermon. Here’s what I think: the vast majority of people, like almost all of us, were woefully ill-equipped to deal with it. The Internet should have been an extension or augmentation of our real lives. Instead, people suddenly saw a platform for themselves the likes of which they could never have previously hoped for and unfortunately, they felt compelled to use it. So rather than simply setting up an online identity as an extension of your already established real life identity, people saw these two identities as totally separate. But I’m the online world, they have a platform. Not so in the real world. In the real world, they have their spouse and their job, and the kids don’t count because they don’t care about what you’re talking about anyway. So suddenly you have a platform where you can now be “published“ anytime you want. You can say whatever you want. And you get to choose your audience handpick them. And your audience is made up of like minded people who you know share your ideas and will wake the things that you say. And the more likes you get the more encouraged you are to continue to say the same thing that you have been saying for years. In the real world before you even had an email address, when we would talk on the phone or I would come to your house, you would never have sat me down and showed me pictures of what you had for dinner last night.
People have strong and strange reaction when they ask, “So did you hear about [insert celebrity, athlete, or politician here]? What do you think about that?” And I tell them I don’t. I may or may not know what they’re talking about, but I do not have an opinion on the matter. They don’t really know how to react. And if they try to force the conversation, By saying something like “this is going to finish their career“ I say simply “I don’t care.“ Sometimes they seem hurt by this. Sometimes they seem offended. Now is as good a time as any for them to learn that I don’t give a rat’s ass if they’re offended by something I say while their trying to force me into some banal conversation I have no interest in being a part of. What makes things worse is the knowledge that these are not people looking to have a reasoned and civilized discussion with you based on facts or logic or anything real but rather how you feel about something, and what your emotional reaction says about you.
For an accurate barometer for measuring this horseshit, one needs look no further than the daily headlines that pass as “news” today: “blah blah blah ignites fury over blah blah blah.” “Outrage triggered when so-and-so used some word.” I’m old enough to remember when headlines were just factual statements that invited you to read the accompanying article if you wanted further details. Nobody gave a shit about how anybody felt about it. Millennials and their ilk cannot make a statement that doesn’t begin with, “I feel like…” Who gives a shit how you feel? I got in the habit long ago of dismissing/ignoring anybody who opened with, “I feel….” If you insist on qualifying your statement, open with “I think….” Better yet, though…don’t qualify it at all: just make your statement with papal ex cathedra and absolute certainty. It really freaks people out. This insipid emphasis on feelings is what gives the politically correct their “power.” Never mind the facts…that what you said made some idiot somewhere feel badly is reason enough for them to try to silence you.
Look at this nonsense: “…sparks backlash,” “…fury grows,” “…stirs controversy.” Rather than reporting facts or even patronizingly analyzing actual events, the “news” is now a rumor funnel about how upset people are about certain carefully chosen, self-serving topics.
I started school when I was 3 and was in school almost constantly until I finished grad school when I was 24. I later became a college instructor. All that time in academia acclimated me to the idea that I will decide what I’m going to talk about and have opinions about and focus on on any given day. So today I’m going to read whatever book. Tomorrow I’m going to try to finish writing this one pesky chapter of my book, and finish setting up a digital workstation for recording music. And if I talk to friends, that’s what we’re going to talk about: what did we do today. What’s going on in our lives, Funny stories. Venting about the spouse. Whatever. But we decide what those topics will be. Most of the herd seems to get their conversational marching orders from whatever is going on in the most recent 24-hour news cycle, with “news” here being define not as significant global events but Hollywood gossip and how “outrage was triggered” by some totally inconsequential thing. It’s just weird. I’ve listened to small groups of people spend hours talking about something called Kanye said on stage the night before. Or the type of season some athlete is having. Who gives a shit? What did you say last night that is worth noting for whatever reason? Maybe it was just funny. Good enough.
Turn off social media. Quit reading the news. Giveth not a shit about people who have no effect on your life, people whom you will never meet and who truly could not give less of a fuck what you think about their latest attention-seeking stunt.
One-one was a race horse. Two-two was one too. One-one won one race. Two-two won one too.
N.P.: “Anita” – The Nuns
I was in I don’t remember which undergrad class listening to a lecture delivered by one of my more brilliant professors when the idea of not identifying as a member of any group or class was implanted in my mind. Like most 21-year-olds, I didn’t really know who I was outside of the various roles and identities assigned to me by myself or others. I don’t remember exactly whom the professor was talking about, or even if it was an individual or a group, but whomever they were, I remember they were the most rugged of individualists, philosophically. They did not identify themselves as subjects of a king or citizens of a country. They did not identify themselves as members of their families. And they certainly didn’t identify themselves by anything so surface and irrelevant as sexual preference or clothing choice. Whomever it was, I liked them. and their rationale made sense to me. Most of the other students in the class didn’t really bother putting themselves through the exercise…they seemed to busy trying to scribble notes, thus missing the forest for the trees. But I did it So I went down the list: I’m not identifying myself as an American [note…I would never deny my Americanness, nor would I deny any of the other traits listed here…this is just an exercise to help one drill down to an actual identity, as opposed to the one based on “membership” in various demographic groups assigned by a society which insists on viewing and valuing people by placing them in sort of demographic buckets…but for the record, I am and always will be a very proud American citizen sworn to support and defend our Constitution. Fuckin’ right.]. And but so anyway if I define myself as not a citizen of my country, not a resident of my state or city, not a member of my family, not by whatever job title I may have at the moment, and as something that is far greater than my actual name, something far greater than something as trivial as my physical characteristics, my sexual preference, then whatever is left must be the “essence” of whom I actually am. I found the entire exercise incredibly liberating back in grad school, so much so that I kind of held on to it this day.
One result of this is that when I meet new people, they find the “getting to know you” phase of things rather difficult to navigate with me, and they usually give up, which only makes things more difficult for them as they do not have enough information to categorize me the way they categorize everyone else in their worlds. ‘Twas always thus, though people seem far more uncomfortable these days simply because they don’t seem to know what the hell to do mentally with someone who not only insists on “identifying” as part of some demographic group, but seems reticent to even share such information. It makes living in a world controlled by identity politics rather…lonely. Speaking as one, people who intentionally resist categorization tend to seek out other difficult-to-categorize people, because they are simply more interesting and appear, at least, to have a little more depth that than rest of the unwashed “I know, right”-bleating herd.
This entire phenomenon…of suddenly finding myself as someone who intentionally resists categorization in a society who’s population’s main social priority seems to be militantly categorizing themselves…has contributed greatly to the feeling that I am entering The Matrix every time I leave the house. Even worse, it’s made people unbelievably boring.
“Swamp Thing” – The Chameleons
I was looking over a list of classes and seminars that need teaching today and I swear to you, dear reader, that I read the title of one seminar as “How to Get Over Your Fear of Public Spanking.” Needless to say I instantly went to click on that one, because though I’ve never taught such a thing in the past, I am confident I could teach the shit out of. At the end of the course, my students would not only get over whatever fear they might have had before, but they would likely be demanding that all their spankings be administered or received in public, Of course, just as I was going to click, I saw that the listing actually said, of course, “How to Get Over Your Fear of Public Speaking.” Which I could also teach, but it won’t be nearly as interesting. Now that I’m thinking about it, I might propose such a seminar…sure, public speaking is humanities number 1 fear (over both the dentist and death), but I’m certain there are plenty of people who would probably not be comfortable at all either giving or receiving a good, formal adult spanking in public.
N.P.: “1234” – Emigrate, Benjamin Kowalewicz
Thank Christ that’s over.
N.P.: “Year Zero” – Ghost
One more day of this nonsense and then it’s over. Finally. Thank God.
N.P.: “Going Red” – KANGA
I’m gonna be so glad when Christmas is over.
N.P.: “AAA – Remastered” – Strapping Young Lad
This brief posting is brought to you by Christmas. Christmas is such a pain in the hole.