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Posted by on in Uncategorized

I have Facebook. I've "unfollowed" about two thirds of my friends to avoid a constant barrage of complaining on my newsfeed. I spend about ten or twenty minutes a day seeing what everyone is up to, then I move on.

I put a hammer to nails, spend time with my family, pet my dog or make dinner. Leaves sprout out of the hardwoods in my front yard, the sun rises and sets, and rain feeds my tomatoes and strawberries. 

The real world seems to operate smoothly without social media. All of the plants and animals and natural processes continue completely uninterrupted despite the latest trend on Snapchat, and the world very much resembles itself in spite of trending topics on Twitter. 

A general sense came over me as I looked out a tree full of cherry blossoms that the real world couldn't care less about social media, and that perhaps, nothing actually happens on social media. If something important happens, you'll hear about it elsewhere, and won't be able to avoid it, and for everything else there is social media.

Rather than an industrial revolution that changes the patterns and habits of everyone everywhere, or the creation of the internet that allowed all information to be accessible to everyone at all times, social media creates a parallel universe that has practically no effect on the real world. Real events happen, and are subsequently reflected and distorted fun-house-mirror-like in the world of social media.

And so, people who spend a large quantity of time on social media aren't actually participating in real life; rather, they exist in the alternate universe of social media, where nothing actually happens, and nothing actually matters. Some people still say, though, that they can't live without Facebook or whatever other platform is their favorite, but the truth of the matter is they can only live without social media, life only happens outside of Facebook. 

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Imagine if our lives depended on continued military intervention in the Middle East. If the troops came home, there would be no food on the table, and the lights would go out. We would die, cold, starving and confused.

Fortunately, this is not the case.

In fact, there is really no traceable benefit at all from the continued military occupation of various spots in the Middle East. Every now and then, there is a London beheading, Paris shooting, or a Brussels bombing in retribution for the ongoing war, and this is the only identifiable impact that the ongoing war has had on everyday life in the West. Politicians and other cheerleaders for the war will say it would be so much worse without the ongoing air strikes, but this cannot be proved. What can be proved is that the stated motive of all recent terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States is the Western intervention "over there."

If this were the first time this had ever happened, I could understand the reflex to continue fighting.

But anyone over 40 has already seen this movie, and it was called the IRA. The Irish Republican Army waged war against the British as they occupied Northern Ireland under Operation Banner. Banner ran in earnest from 1969 to 1998. 30 years of arrests, fighting, and policing by the British Army did practically nothing to end the carnage, as thousands died in mass killings that continued into 2002. 

But suddenly in 1998, the British left, and people under 30 scarcely remember that there was a terrorist organization of Catholics setting off truck bombs in Western Europe on a regular basis. The Irish Car Bomb is now just a drink, and no one at college knows where the name came from. After the occupation ended, they faded away and all but disappeared.

It is likely that we will see Operation Banner unfold again, over and over, until the West withdraws its own troops from the Middle East. If the prize for staying were more precious, if continuing to fight meant continuing to survive, it would be worth the destruction at home. But, it is nearly impossible to justify even one Belgian or American death for all the benefit of this endless war. Death, it seems, is the only fruit that this particular tree seems to be capable of bearing.

Even after we leave, the attacks will likely continue for years, as was the case in Ireland, but eventually they will stop. If we continue to fight, however, the fighting and killing will never end, as was also the case in Ireland.

 

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Donald Trump famously praised himself for his "great relationship with the blacks", and was almost universally ridiculed for it. Maybe it was the perfect ridiculousness of this statement that brought a larger societal problem into focus for me.

In his magnificent crassness, Trump highlighted the issue of lumping together every individual of an enormous group on the basis of gender, skin color, religion and a host of other identities. Maybe it was the article "the" that made it so clear. "I have great relationships with many black people" wouldn't be nearly so tin-eared as saying you have "a" single great relationship with "the blacks".

His exact words aren't clichéd and well-used, so they rang loudly. However, we hear the exact same statement from supposedly sensitive types referencing "the black vote" or "minorities" and tend to think nothing of it. But, say something like "the red-headed vote", and you immediately identify the problem. 

Expecting all people with black skin to think, vote, and act alike is the pinnacle of racism, in the sense that it strips a person of their personal identity, and applies in its place a prefabricated racial identity. Or gender identity. Or national identity. Or religious identity. Or sexual identity.

Cementing a fixed identity based on inborn traits to everyone but white males creates a caste system, and predetermines to a large extent the opportunities allowed to each group (of course, with the exception of white males, who can do whatever the hell they want until they break off into one of the typecast subgroups). Allowing this typecasting to take place is toxic to everyone except white males, and everyone but white males stand to gain a great deal by asserting their individuality and rejecting the idea that "the black vote" or "women's issues" define them  perfectly.

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It is natural for many people to want to muzzle the people they disagree with. Rather than debate, or tolerate, or ignore, there is a large contingent that would just as soon forcibly shut up their dissidents with the aim of creating society in their image, no exceptions.

And so, in a culture of supposedly free speech where this isn't legal (yet), we instead have "political correctness" where social pressure is applied to people who don't toe whatever party line is being applied at the moment.

The story goes that after an endless parade of euphemism, careful expressions and purposeful waterings down of ideas are foisted on the people by an enlightened few, paradise shall follow soon after. But, of course, we're talking about people here, so paradise is never found. Instead, the mandarins who came up with "mentally-handicapped" decide that they need some more press, so they come up with "differently-abled", or that Halloween costume depictions of a historical figure are insensitive. Maybe the term "mandarin" is insensitive.

So, rather than promoting a polite society, it does quite the opposite. Political correctness only serves to supercharge the old, insensitive speech and habits of the past. 

By making simple words and ideas completely taboo, they become completely taboo, which in a world of gigantic, Photoshopped naked people having simulated sex on every imaginable screen, billboard and printed article, is an awfully rare concept. Practically nothing is forbidden except politically incorrect speech, and that makes it tremendously powerful.

In the 1970's, a flamboyant racist might be discredited, as Earl Butz was in 1976 when he privately remarked that "I'll tell you what the coloreds want: a tight pussy, loose shoes and a warm place to shit." He resigned, and that is about right in my opinion. It took zero courage to privately say what Butz said in 1976, and so it only revealed his massively poor opinion of black people.

On the other hand, in 2015, when a person picks up this glowing Excalibur of wild, vulgar ideas, people can't help but stand slack-jawed in amazement as someone actually has the gall to publicly say such things. 

The national attention and breathless coverage of the unapologetic Trump campaign is amazing, as he drives his 10 million ton gaffe-train through the now-delicate national psyche, throwing out Mexican rapists and banning Muslims all along the way.

Unfortunately, it belies audacity and fearlessness to defy political correctness and say bigoted things. Perhaps it also belies stupidity, but for the billions in free press that Trump has been getting, it mostly seems to be clever. A careful Trump campaign would have gone nowhere.

Before the advent of social shaming, a bigoted statement only spoke negatively about the speaker. Now the speaker is ensconced in a sense of social rebellion, plucking the forbidden fruit, and appearing to have a great deal of courage, foolhardy or not.

If someone uses politically incorrect language, you might be right to assume they mean what they say, since there is tremendous social cost assigned to using it. Such language is expensive, powerful and rare, and it holds more effect over people than any other speech. Rather than muting the bigot, political correctness has only served to attract attention to and amplify the bigots words to a much greater extent than ever before.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Much like every other organization created by old white men for the benefit of said old white men, Hollywood is chiefly populated by old white men, and their slightly less-old white male protégés. And, much like every other organization created by old white men for the benefit of themselves, it is currently the target of a large number of social justice warriors that would like to see the color, age and gender of those at the helm changed. More often than not, there seems to be a sense that the old white guys need to be unseated, or some sort of entertainment-industry affirmative action program needs to dictate quotas to the industry. This is, naturally, nonsense.

So what is the solution to getting more movies produced and directed by women and racial minorities, starring women and racial minorities? More women and racial minorities should make movies. It is currently legal in all 50 states for women and non-white people to purchase and use cameras, and then distribute their movies to every person on earth with an internet connection. Near-professional level equipment can be bought for a few thousand dollars and video editing software is pre-installed on most computers. Let's not forget that the Blair Witch Project required a camcorder and some teenagers running around in the woods. It made almost $250 million at the box office.

In Hollywood, there absolutely are wild racial stereotypes for any character other than a white male, there are almost only flat female characters who exist exclusively to lend credibility to the male hero, and there is a near total absence of anything other than white male directors and producers. This is a fact. Tellingly, there are many blockbuster movies that don't pass the Bechdel Test, where two named female characters have a conversation about something other than a man. That is ridiculous, but to expect a bunch of old guys to change their tune when that tune has made them billions of dollars is also ridiculous. If there is a market for movies involving interesting female characters, or Asian guys who don't use computers and math to help the white male lead, the barrier to entry has never been lower.

Instead of waiting for geriatric men to stop making prequel sequel sequels to a successful franchise they started 25 years ago, and hoping they bend to pressure from Twitter users to stop casting a younger version of themselves as a hero, it is incumbent on the disenfranchised movie-lovers themselves to make the movies they wish were being made. Will the special effects be worse? Yeah. Will you star alongside Brad Pitt on your first Youtube short? Probably not. But, most everyone in Hollywood today got their start making crummy short films with zero budget. Importantly, though, they made crummy short films people wanted to watch, and their empires were born. The rest of them didn't make it.

With something like 85 percent of the world population being non-white, and slightly more than half of everyone being female, there is no shortage of potential audience. So, instead of nagging at old white dudes to change the industry that has been so good to them, it's time for everyone else to start telling their own stories. The time has never been better, and it has never been easier to reach an audience.

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