Identity, Community, and Purpose


 

I spent too much time writing this today.  And it went off course as if the robot sent me the wrong direction on GPS and I’m going the long way now instead of the most direct route.  I mean, I’ll still get where I’m going, but it’s going to take longer and the scenery isn’t all that good.

Let me bullet point now.

I was watching Face the Nation yesterday.

The panel at the middle of the show included the woman who made the highly watched Vice episode on the rallies, an ACLU member, and Christian Picciolini who founded Life After Hate.  To ensure everybody knows what that is, I’ll simply ctrl-c and ctrl-v.

Life After Hate is an American nonprofit organization co-founded in 2011 by Christian Picciolini, a former neo-Nazi. Its mission is to help people leave hate groups, particularly white supremacy groups. In January 2017, the Obama administration awarded the group $400,000 as part of a grant from the Department of Homeland Security Countering Violent Extremism Task Force. However, DHS advisor Katharine Gorka and other aides of President Donald Trump decided to discontinue the grant in June 2017.

Picciolini had some good things to say.  And this is the point in which I get the title for this post.

Dickerson asked Picciolini why these groups exist.  The response was, “Ideology is not the driver for radicalization.  It’s a search for identity, community, and purpose.”

 

Isn’t that what we all want?  A little purpose?

The next part of my inefficient path was about religion.

And then I started talking about a post I wrote years ago with my musings on why people join ISIS.

It is all about quality of life and purpose.  It’s all about that.

And now I’m thinking about a post I wrote some time ago about racism.  Just pay people well.  Eliminate judgement.  Eliminate holding people back.

Too many of my posts have died a death I’m not willing to allow this one to die right now.  I can string words together, but it’s easy to untie the know and allow them to all fall off.

I’m going to tie this knot right now.  Keep these words together for now.

The problem with all of our society is greed.

The problem we have is that people want community and purpose.  They seek this with groups that welcome them in.  Right or wrong.  We all want to wake up thinking that there is a purpose today.  All of us.

The oppression people experience creates a disconnect.

If we raise the lowest level up and actually try to get some form of equality, we will find that our society will be better off for it.  Instead we spend all this energy idolizing the wealthy and the crazy.

It’s counterproductive.

And it leads people into places we shouldn’t want.

Because all anybody wants is a sense of identity, community, and purpose.  We can provide that, right?

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Know Your Role


This is a post about media in our capitalist society and the damaging impact it has done to the world in which we live.  I’m writing this as a person who resides on the far left of the spectrum.  If you believe that politics and policy reside on a two dimensional line.

Now it’s your choice if you wish to read on.

The media acts as if it’s America’s muse.  Delivering to it what it really wants to happen by thinly veiling their intentions as news.

The media sat down and read a book on how to play jedi mind tricks like Yoda, but isn’t really good at it.  Did Russia influence our elections?  We don’t know, but will examine the situation for the next four hours solid.

The media pretends as if they are the parents in the room, but refuse to admit that Santa is not real when confronted.

I don’t think any of this is really news to the people of this country.

This is why Trump has not lost the support he had a year ago.

This is exactly why all factions of politicians can take shots at the press.  This why virtually nobody but centrist thinkers are skeptical of reporting.

The media convinced America that Iraq was necessary.  The media didn’t warn America of the pending recession even though it was blatantly obvious what was going to happen.  They put Donald Trump on television constantly and gave him unlimited airtime.  The fact that the press was negative toward the orange wonder only gave Trump supporters the proof they needed.  The media continues to push this Russian story.

The media has not focused on jobs or DAPL or the continued dealings of an unchecked Wall Street.  They have tried to run the narrative by reporting on what they want you to hear.

And the people who are struggling day in and day out have lost all interest.  People, it turns out, just want to make ends meet.  They just want a job and health care and an occasional vacation.

You continue to tell us that each tooth means a quarter under the pillow in the morning, but we are like a teenager whose eyes glaze over with each and every statement which has happened.

The media is not the muse.

The media is not Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The media is the boy who cried wolf.

The media is Eddie Haskell.

America wants to know what the angle is with each and every story that runs.  Especially when it has been aired for months and nothing has happened.

No smoking gun.

Stop telling me that you’re reporting on my best interests when you’re not.

If anything, the constant negative coverage has actually empowered Trump and his base because the media is being proven to be the biased machine that has always been perceived they are.

I don’t like Trump’s agenda.  I think the Republicans are awful people.

I think the fact that the media reports the way they do is proof that capitalism is a dysfunctional system that needs better checks in order to be successful for the common person.

The media reports on the concerns of the wealthy and empowered.

The media runs cover when they are supposed to be exposing the truth.

Trump’s approval rating has gone down, but not really below the level of those who supported him in the first place.  The fact is that the media has strengthened the views of Trump supporters.

The fact is that the media and Congress are so out of touch with the common person and their needs that people have no choice but to rally against their own interests.

They are basically saying, I saw you hid the eggs, dad.

We all believe what we want to believe.  There are so many ways of getting exactly what we need to hear in order to justify our beliefs in today’s world.  And the only people to blame for some of the misinformation that is being spread by alternative news sources is the misdirection and misinformation being repeated on the television supported by large money on any given day.

I realize that corporations are now people.  But they really aren’t, so they need a face.  They need somebody to represent and present their views so that they can get what they want.

That’s why Sean Hannity, Joy Reid, Rachel Maddow, Wolf Blitzer, and all the rest even exist.  They were invented and propped up in order to push the agenda of the people who cut them checks.

Not to help the people who need help most.

If CNN really wanted to cut Trump down, they should go after policy.  They should report what happens.  They should report on jobs.  They should create a narrative conducive to helping the average person.  No sensationalism.

The centrists are licking their chops at an impeachment hearing.  Best ratings ever.

They should not weaken our system any more.

So I encourage you.

Find a reliable source.  Find news.

And to the media:  just fucking stop.  You’re turning the country against their own interests.

Noise of the World


As I sat there with the headphones pressed into my ear holes and the mist of the waterfall drifting over my face, thoughts passing through my head.  These hikes to someplace have become quite regular for me.  Pack the dog up with some food and ensure my camera and phone batteries are charged.

And.

Headphones.

That’s my topic.  Or at least the springboard to my topic.

When I was a kid, we had to get those ones with the foam covers and that little wire shaped to hold them over our head.  They are, as most things, much better today.  Much more flexible.  Much better sound.  Much more prevalent.

Let’s face it.  Nobody has to lug around a Walkman.  Nobody has to create mix tapes.  Nobody has to haul around all this equipment.  Or a boombox on their shoulder.

Go to the store.  Walk around and notice how many people of various ages have headphones in.  Connected with wires or Bluetooth, all these people are walking around listening to music or books or news or podcasts or probably nothing at all.  Depends on their reason for having the headphones in.

Thoughts lead me to believe there are two reasons for headphones.

I figure that there’s a good chunk of people who are trying to let the noise in.

I’m guessing there’s a bigger percentage of people who are trying to keep the noise out.  They want to be oblivious to everything and everybody.

Is that guy in line at the grocery store really captivated by his Facebook feed?  Or is it simply his way of avoiding having to create small talk or be friendly to the cashier?  Does he think it makes him look important?

We see it everywhere.  People trying to avoid the noise of the world.  Sucking themselves into their own little shell.

I’ve known people who told me they do not actually have any music on when they wear headphones.  They do not receive any calls.  They just want to be left alone.

I’m not going to lie.  I keep my headphones in when I go the store.  If I’m already wearing them.  If I’m already out on a walk.  But I’m letting the noise in.  Nothing brings me greater piece.

But there is a part of me that realizes me doing this is also to keep the noise out.  I know this.

I hate all the noise.

Static.

White noise.

Ear hole clutter.

We live in a world where the neighbor no longer has to look through the kitchen blinds in order to find out what is going on.  Bewitched would have a whole new set of plots these days.

Your neighbor is announcing everything.  Your neighbor is blasting it on every social media and your neighbor does not care who reads or hears it.

We all have leashes electronically tied to us.  Everybody thinks they should be able to get a hold of you at anytime.  For any reason.  All the time.

I don’t need that noise.

All that static.

That constant invasion of gossip and garbage.

This isn’t progress.

I changed my phone number over a year ago.  Didn’t give it to many people.

No static at all.

I stepped back and simplified.  And I didn’t care who it offended.  I didn’t care who got upset.

I’ve been happy about it.

I finished my walk this afternoon.  Me and the dog.  Headphones in.  I’ve been finding so much new music lately.  My drug of choice.

I took pictures of the landscape around me.  I tried to change the settings for a fluid waterfall.  I guess I need I need a stabilizer.  Add it to my list.

I never heard when somebody walked behind me on the trail.

It’s okay.

I was at peace.

And I’m not sacrificing any of this peace.

No matter how upset somebody may get.

fluidfall

What is the Deal with February?


I woke up this morning in a way that I often do.

Thinking about shit that doesn’t really matter.  At all.

But that’s the way the brain is designed.  I use the word “designed” loosely.  As if there is a designer.

If I truly believed there were a designer of the brain, I’d probably wake up trying to determine why such an engineering flaw was pushed through.  I mean, there had to be a a series of approvals and designs and redesigns which landed us with the model we are working with today.

Had a car been developed with all the flaws the human mind carries, a better model would have been introduced by now.  One with more safety features and more economical and with tinted windows.

Engineers can be an odd breed.

When I was quite young, I would query the meaning behind the calendar.  The Gregorian Calendar.  Why?  A word too many children dispose of as they get older.  We could use a few more why questions and far less blind acceptance, but we get beaten down.

It is what it is- the cop out of our time.

I had real issues with the calendar when I was a child.

Why are some months 31 days and some 30 and what is the deal with February?

As I got older I applied some math.  There are 365 days and if we divide seven into that, we learn that there are 52 weeks in a year.  And one day.

I never could understand why we could not do anything with that day.  Should be able to hide that day somewhere.  Or make it up at a later time.

Using deck of cards math, we know that there should be 13 months of four weeks each.  There should be 13 weeks of four seasons.  Start the year of with the season of spades and end with hearts.

And then do something with that one day.  We’ll call it a sandbag.

I looked up the calendar before I started writing this.  I decided not to learn anything.  Some people have really put some effort into their wikipedia entries.

I applaud them for this.  But it’s a slow clap that ends quickly.  We all have our things.

Here’s what I got:  Pope Gregory was finding a way to accommodate when Easter falls and on and on.

I’m guessing 13 was an unlucky number.

I’m guessing they all were trying to find a way to keep the number to the highly overrated number 12.  The Bible is full of magic 12 and seven stories.

History loves those numbers.  Even if we have to fit those numbers into the story.

History is full of so many superstitions.

Yet another design flaw had there ever been engineers.

And that’s what I woke up thinking about.  Not just some cheesy story about how I was curious why the calendar was designed as it was or how the foot was poorly designed or other engineering defects.

I was considering how one of the human mind’s greatest flaws is how we try to fit our expectations into the world we experience.

This is also the engineering flaw of religion.  There was expectation that humans are the center of the universe.  There is an expectation that there is something more for humans that there is for the common animal.  There was expectation that good things will come thanks to karma.  There was an expectation that we need to justify the events which happen to us- the book subtitled everything happens for a reason.

Engineering without analysis.

Also the design flaw of most governments.

Watch as every single politician does a little dance to create an argument which supports ideas which fit their little world and avoid walking out of their comfort zone.  They support ideas which are selfish and actually bad for the rest of society.  We demonize everything which we don’t understand.

Stories of Newton and how he struggled with his own observations of the world because they didn’t fit well with his Catholic raising.

Why wouldn’t we simply start each month with the full moon?

Why wouldn’t we measure it out in easy to understand concepts?

We does it bother me?

Our people and their ability to be apathetic is insanely frustrating.

By the way, another giant engineering flaw had I ever believed in an engineer.

After lying there in bed for a while on my day off, I took in very little Sunday morning programming.  A show and a half.  All I can take.  Each show filled with politicians and panelists all doing the same thing.  Waltzing their words in time and rhythm with a Billboard Top Twenty feel.  They’ve convinced themselves they are right even if they cannot possibly be.  Playing the hits of the day and trying to cash in on all the latest talking point trends.

And, meanwhile, nobody cares.  And everybody cares.  So the whole world distracts itself.  And convinces itself it’s correct.

Another engineering flaw.  The brain is so easily influenced.  So easily infiltrated.  So easily affected and corrupted.  The human brain is vulnerable.  And we are all so stubbornly rigid.

Because we grew too old to ask why.

It’s currently June.  Somebody decided to make June a 30 day month.  Once upon a time we needed a 12 month year.  Based on this 24 hour cycle, we knew that there were 365 days most years.  The seven days of the week named after the seven things we could see in the sky.  Named after the gods we named the sky after.

 

Because we engineered it all into a neat little package.  We had to.

It’s about the expectation and how well we can fit our needs toward them.

The thing is that it works.  It’s a successful strategy which will continue as long as these poorly engineered vehicles of life house the poorly engineered motors trying to justify the navigation of life.

We displaced the gods.  Not the days of the week.

Be good.

It’s a music and nature day.

When Will We All Stop Being So Angry With Each Other?


When I get out in the world, I like to watch.  I watch people and how they interact with one another or how they look at each other.  I like to watch presentation.  We all present ourselves a certain way on purpose.

I used to enjoy sitting in the back of class so I could watch the people in the classroom.  Watch how the other students present themselves.  How they wanted the teacher to notice them.  How they made faces at another student’s words.  How some completely avoided all interaction altogether.

I was mistaken as shy often.  I was just observing.

So let’s sit back and take in the world in which we live.

Those in power like to tell us this is the most divisive that our human brains have ever allowed us to be.  While wholly untrue, they are not wrong.  The divisiveness begins with those in power, and that’s the magic.

They point the gun.  Society pulls the trigger.

Information is our friend.

I believe that when people look back at this world in which we reside, they’ll point out all the ridiculous amounts of propaganda and declare people too uninformed to generally make an educated decision about anything.

I’m not afraid of anger.

I’m a huge fan of that Rage Against the Machine line.

My anger is a gift.

Anger is necessary.  It’s what allows you to know something is wrong or that something must change.  But anger has to be toward the right people.  All that anger is like ammunition that gets shot out after the trigger is pulled.

Anger, if not aimed correctly, fans the flames of everything which is making this world so difficult to live in.  The crossfire can be devastating.

I’m not angry at people who voted for Trump.  I’m not even angry at the people who didn’t vote and allowed Trump to get elected.  Their skewed view of the world hasn’t been adjusted.  We all know people like that.

I’m not mad at people who vote anyway they vote.  They are honestly doing what they think is right.

I will, however, get angry if a person thinks it’s okay to be angry at me for simply believing what I believe.

There’s the breakdown.

You can be mad.  You can throw a fit.  Throw it the right direction.

While society is busy fighting against each other, those in power are finding more ways to do whatever they wanted in the first place.

This is a world of distraction and fighting in a world where reason has lost all place.  And instead of insisting on reason, we push the strange agenda of dividing even further.

Our anger should be toward a lack of education and compassion in this world.  Our anger should be toward the fact that the country which is supposed to be the leader of the free world carries narrow minded views without batting an eye.

Our anger should be at those who are in power using their power to get more power.

Our anger should not be directed at society.

All these little bullets shooting across the world are only making everybody fire back.  It’s counterproductive.

It’s an interesting little world in which we live.

But it’s only interesting if you’re allowed to watch from the back row as if it’s theater.  I’m afraid I’m not back there taking all this in.

Haters


There was a show I recorded about a year ago on ESPN called Haters: The Anatomy of a Rivalry.  The show focused on baseball rivalries and was very well produced.

In it, Dodger fans insulted the appearance of Giants fans and Red Sox fans questioned the intelligence of Yankees fans and on and on.  I saw it as much more than that though.

I viewed this as a decent look into the mentality of human beings.

We need a villain.  Always.  You want to activate people, get them to hate something or somebody or an idea or something so abstract as a baseball team.

Over 140 years of Major League Baseball and we are focused on a team of somebody else’s choosing.  We are focused on so much hate.  The Dodgers and Giants were once in other cities.  They once played when only white people could play.  Most of the players are not even representatives of the cities in which they play.  Today especially.  The teams moved and ensured the other would move as well in order to keep up the rivalry which got fans to engage with the game.

All sports try extremely hard to create a rivalry which will stimulate their fans and create excitement.

And revenue.

The local NFL team’s fans are more interested in railing on their rival and their rival’s fans instead of showing genuine support.

So here we are.  Moving on from sports, which serves as a fine distraction which I welcome.  Life is too hard to live without distraction.  Tell me I’m wrong.  It’s all about balance.

This post, however, is about villains.  It’s about hating.  It’s about having an enemy.

I see it more and more and it needs to be discussed.

People tend to vote against something instead of for.  People tend to argue against.  People tend to seek validation in rallying against.

This has been shown repeatedly over the years as we split off into rival groups and exasperated with social media.  See the term “libtard” and tell me what that was supposed to mean and if it’s a valuable argument ever.

Hillary Clinton lost because she ran a campaign which failed to show any clear vision.  Instead she ran against her opponent by dismissing them.  Sanders had “pie in the sky” ideas.  Later, she argued that a vote for her was a vote against Trump.  She never truly laid a clear foundation of ideas.

Remember those Deplorables and Basement Dwellers?

Meanwhile, Trump chose to run a campaign which at least had vision, but was still a campaign against.  Make America Great Again is a complete attack on those who were or had been in charge.  It was villainizing (I have a red line under that word, but I’m leaving it) the current system.  Completely running against Obama by declaring he made America anything but great, it was a campaign driven on fears and hatred.

Today they argued the travel ban.  Trump repeated his disdain for Muslims during the campaign trail.  He has made them the enemy and people eat it up.

I don’t care for the religion myself.  I don’t care for Christianity either.  I don’t hate the people.  I hate the actions.  Religion can be seen as a problem, but the solution is not intolerance.

We love to compartmentalize.  We love to create enemies out of people who are really seeking the same freedom of life as any of us.  We love to hate.

Trump wears the idea he has “haters” as a badge of honor.

Watch the discourse from slightly left of center.  There is a battle to demonize both the extreme left and the right.  This isn’t healthy.  But they are creating rivalries on two fronts.  They are creating an entire universe in which their philosophy is being attacked from every angle.

As if they are Batman, Trump is The Joker, and progressives are The Riddler.

I believe that people want a superhero, but their heroes cannot be “super” without making somebody else out as a super villain.

The more super the enemy, the more super the hero

In reality, the world is full of mediocre bad guys and the discourse is run by those people almost entirely.

Here’s what needs to happen.

People need to start determining where their needs overlap.  Tolerance needs to be exercised.

We have decided that politics is similar to sports.  We have taken the bait and determined that regular everyday humans are the enemy.  We have decided to fight this battle on a weird level and nobody is fighting for the needs of the common everyday human being who is struggling to live and pay bills and take a vacation and hold a job.  Good luck retiring.

Our enemy should be common.  Our enemy should be that which keeps us from a humane quality of life.

We need to take an honest look at ourselves.

The Hatfields and the McCoys never learned their lesson.

If I go back to the show I lead this post with, it ended with a Red Sox fan watching a game in person with a Yankees fan.  A very humanizing thing to do.

We are likely to never completely agree on much, but we need to at least start focusing our intent better.

We’ve created villains and haters where they don’t really exist and that’s just simply bad energy for everything.

A Tale of Two Parties


It was the best of times.  It was the worst of times.  People were the richest they had ever been.  People were as poor as they ever been.  It was the most diverse of times.  It was the most intolerant of worlds.

And I’m tired of my own cliche already, but it’s valid.  It just is.

In The United States, we believe there are only two ways of thinking.  Or, rather, we want to limit thought to only two ways.  Anything outside of that is considered extreme.  How the two parties have considered thought outside of the accepted party lines has been different.

Let me start with the Republican Party.

The Republican Party was challenged in the last decade by what was considered The Tea Party for a long time.  Now it’s called the Freedom Caucus.  Basically branching off of the Republican platform, The Tea Party decided to work from within the Republican Party.  This is a departure from the Libertarian Party of years past.  The Koch Brothers learned their lesson from a failed run at national office in 1980.  Why work against the two party system when you can take over a portion of it?

The idea, at least from my perspective, is if The Tea Party was able to take over even 10% of the party, they would have influence.  And here we are today, the Freedom Caucus can take the party from a majority in both the House and Senate to a minority quickly.  That makes them extremely powerful for such a small percent of the party.

But the Republicans allowed this power grab by embracing the ideology as acceptable even though they enjoyed their neo-conservative grip on the party during the G.W. Bush years.  They allowed it because they were willing to do anything to block Obama from accomplishing anything.  They allowed it because they were willing to accept the extreme in order to get a majority.

And Obama was blocked from doing virtually anything.  And then called the most divisive president in history.  Repeatedly.

The Democrats have been met with challengers more than once as well.  The Green Party sprouted as a challenge to the neo-liberal thought process that gripped the Democratic Party.  Both Republican and Democrat challenges were presented after eight years of party control.  The Green Party grew because those left of Bill Clinton felt that he did not do enough to advance the agenda of the people and didn’t resist war.

The Republicans were challenged after eight years of Bush and their disappointment of the endless wars and increasing debt.

The Democrats were once again challenged after eight years of Obama.  This time the battle came from within the party.  Much like the Freedom Caucus took power years ago.  The Democrats handled much differently.  Refusing to give up any power to the challengers who felt they were not doing enough, the neo-liberals and corporate Democrats fought back marginalizing Sanders and his supporters.  I documented this often.  Not understanding the success of the Republican Party before them, the Democrats shot themselves in the foot by telling populist voters to get on board or get left behind.

I’m not feeling like I’m saying anything I haven’t covered or you don’t already know.  Background is important.

The Republicans, although divided, have at least been joined in bringing down anything to the left of them.  It also helps that the far right has had regular access to media outlets pushing an agenda through radio, television, and internet.  Let’s face it, Limbaugh, Hannity, Glenn Beck, and now disgraced Bill O’Reilly all pushed a far right agenda which helped promote nationalism, lower taxes, war, denying climate change, and this idea that white people were losing rights somehow.  They also controlled media outlets while attacking media outlets as left and liberal.  Shrewd.

The Democrats were unwilling to join in this way, and as a result, moved further to the right by adopting many Republican policies as their own.  The media outlets pushed the neo-liberal agenda as common sense and helped the results we have.  Let’s face it, much of where we are is because the Democrats refused to hold their ground.

Today’s world finds the Democrats demonizing people who are both to the left and right of them as a result of the last election.  They attack those who they marginalized last year for not simply getting in line and allowing their choice to win the election.

Now that I’ve said all that, let’s dismiss the idea that a two party system even makes sense.  Let’s dismiss the idea of left and right.  These are made up ideas to get you to take sides.  These are made up labels.

Democracy should provide democratic choices.  It shouldn’t be team spirit.  The problem is that America doesn’t have a true ground up democracy which allows for people to truly be involved.  Especially with the passing of Citizens United years ago.  The agenda is dictated from the top and the people are then tasked with choosing sides.

Marches and rallies will not accomplish anything.  The House and Senate only report to those who pay for them to have the jobs they have.  And if anybody loses their job in Congress, they can turn that into a lucrative career as a lobbyist.

I know, I know, anybody can complain.  Anybody can point out problems.  Pointing out problems is not the point of this writing.  In order to outline a solution, the problem must be clearly explained.

Here’s the problem:

leftright

We’ve been conditioned to think of the world as two opposing forces.  A constant battle of us vs. them.  You are either with us or against us.  It makes it more fun, but it’s not a very good way to represent thought.  Not by any stretch.  And I can understand that maybe the point is so that dangerous policies and points of view don’t take over the system.

Somebody would be in a position to remind me that Hitler was elected.  He was elected because people were desperate.  If a good system is working, people are not desperate.  They are not starving.  They have jobs.  People are not taking radical chances.  But all people need to be represented.  So forcing people to be starving without any opportunity to get out of poverty is a poor system.

People also have this innate desire to label one another.  It’s a far easier task if there are only two possibilities.  When we start looking at more than two sides, it’s way more difficult to demonize.

I think the system was probably reasonable- outside of slavery and women not being able to vote and only home owners could vote and on and on- back when it was written, but I think anything decent should evolve.  Anything decent should be looked at.  And remember that list above before telling me what the Founding Fathers intention was.  I think we know.

Solution next….