Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Is It All Downhill From Here? Why Flat Earthers, Moon Landing Deniers, and Anti-Vaxxers Represent a Societal Apocalypse in the Making

"I believe..."

Two words that have arguably more power than any other pair in modern parlance. Eight letters that belie an inherent subjectivity that has been subjugated in favor of misplaced, obstinate objectivity. People confuse opinion for fact with an utter lack of appreciation for factual information and undermining the very foundation of knowledge.

As for what I believe--I am of the mind that we are standing at a crossroads--an apocalyptic precipice that threatens to derail literally thousands of years of human societal evolution. We live in an era now where source is irrelevant and where mental laziness has reached its apex; people simply cannot be bothered to expend the effort necessary to find the right answer and will instead accept, unquestioningly, the one that is nearest to them.

I am, by nature, a cautious, curious, cynical person. I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and view the exploration itself as a journey that's equally as worthy as the end destination. I would rather know the exact, factual reason for something than settle for subjective conjecture. I do not crowdsource my knowledge nor do I derive my data from questionable resources. I do not engage in group think or ply my perspectives and purviews from the masses.

I am also, therefore, in the distinct minority--not just of my generation but in American (and possibly global) society, at large. Modern people (not just teenagers and the much-maligned Millennials, mind you) behave like water, following the past of least resistance through their lives. If you observe what is most popular in terms of entertainment, you'll see that the vast majority of it is superficial and evanescent--not meant to provide anything long-lasting but rather an instantaneous, momentary bump in serotonin that is gone before they even realize it was there at all.

A quick glance at the most popular YouTube channels reveals the types of things that people favor today, none of which requires much, if any thought. To expend undue mental effort means to waste actual physical energy and, given how stressed and exhausted everyone is from everyday life, that's something that few people are willing to engage in; this, in turn, has warped the way people approach issues of learning and understanding.

I value factual objectivity above all else in my pursuit of knowledge and understanding. I want to know how and why something is the way that it is and I go with the conclusion that is elegant, requiring the least amount of assumption and providing the greatest quantity of indisputable data; this mindset is what makes science so attractive to me and both organized religion and modern societal thought patterns so repulsive.

The reason that I prefer science for explaining the natural world to me (and, consequently, the historical trajectory of the universe) is because if I question something, there is a definable path that I can follow that leads me, logically, to a conclusion that can often be tested ad infinitum and will perpetually provide the same result. With organized religion, there is an inherent solipsistic tilt that gives me pause: religious folk believe that their religion is the one right/correct/actual one, while completely ignoring the fact that all of the others claim the same thing, with no basis beyond their faith, which is, in and of itself, purely an opinion.

I don't know how many modern people take the Bible as a literal interpretation of the history of existence but I would hope that that population is comparatively smaller than the one that uses the book purely as a spiritual guide. The problem for me with using religious texts to explain scientific facts is that there is an undeniable (meaning that it is true whether you believe it or not, as a matter of fact not of opinion) veracity that can be found in science by way of observation and study that religion simply cannot duplicate. Everything comes back to an opinion: you say that the earth is 6,000 years old, that there were people who were 900 years old, and that all of these things never happened because it doesn't fit with the story; with science, there are verifiable means that prove the earth is far, far older than that, that there is a limit to human lifespan based purely on biology, and that damn near everything from the existence of dinosaurs to whatever else is denied actually happened with direct threads linking them both forward to the present and back to the presumed beginning of life on earth.

Now, with that said, I respect spirituality, which, though being purely opinion/faith-based as well, is something that doesn't need to be debated. Whether or not you believe in a guiding force and how you choose to interact with said deity is none of my business. If it makes you happy to pray or engage in whatever rituals you do--if doing so fills you with spiritual serenity--then that makes me happy. The problem for me stems from people using modern monotheistic religion (opinion) to explain things that are clearly delineated by science (fact).

(Ironically, it's the ancient polytheistic people who put the effort into using their religion to explain the natural world, with each deity corresponding with something they observed and wanted a reason for.)

Organized religion, then, is merely microcosmic of the issues we face with society, in general. There is irrefutable scientific proof backed by thousands of years of science that prove that the earth is round, and yet, in spite of this, you have an alarming number of people who claim otherwise. Most are too lazy to offer any explanation that goes beyond something conspiratorial, but the few who do tend to rely on hackneyed, half-assed pseudo-scientific information that either a) is blatantly erroneous or b) is manipulated in such a way to suit their specific purpose thereby voiding the very underpinnings of the theories and facts that they are employing.

As for moon landing deniers, I can understand their position a little bit more. Though I don't personally question the history of space exploration, I do admit that I could see the government staging something like that purely in the name of American exceptionalism (as Pablo Torre put it on High Noon yesterday). Again, though, my aforementioned adherence to the likeliest, most logical solution to a problem leads me to the preponderance of evidence that speaks to the contrary.

I don't understand the degree of the position that these people take. Do they believe only that we never stepped foot on the moon but do not question any other space-related activity? Do they believe the entirety of space exploration is a sham and that we've never left our atmosphere? I'm not sure which is the case for the majority of the moon landing deniers, but regardless, there is incontrovertible evidence that says that we have entered space (the existence of GPS satellites and the International Space Station to name but two). If, then, they will admit to those facts (especially something like the success of the Voyager program, which has reached interstellar space), then how can it possibly be such a leap that if we have humans living in space right now, that they traveled another few hundred thousand miles to the moon?

The thing that terrifies me about people who willingly ignore objective evidence contrary to their position is that they are growing in number. It's not necessarily the subject matter of their denials but more their mindsets that trouble me. It might not seem like a big deal right now but I'm extrapolating to a point in the not-so-distant future where my potential progeny might be dealing with this issue on a much larger scale.

I'm scared of a situation where my grandchildren are in a classroom where the majority of students come from families who say that the earth is flat, that the moon landing (or, worse, Holocaust) never happened. Hell, maybe by that point, even the teachers are of a generation that adheres to those perspectives. Then what?

Look at how modern people react to things now. The umbrage that people take so nobly at every minor issue leads so many to complain and to protest until they get the change that they want. Is it so farfetched to envision a future where such facts as the aforementioned are removed from textbooks? Banned from the curriculum because enough people in the right positions are able to take action to alter history?

Think that sounds crazy? Look at what the Anti-Vaxxer movement has been able to engender--the unsettling number of kids who are entering the school system unprotected. And what's happening as a result? An alarming resurgence in the very diseases these inoculations are meant to eradicate.

Again, though, what upsets me isn't just the nature of these circumstances but more the mindset that has led to them. In steadily growing numbers, people are choosing to take action based upon the dissemination of misinformation--factually inaccurate data--rather than defer to those in a better position to make those decisions (like their pediatricians). Instead, they choose to follow the advice of any number of mom blogs--to cite incredulous sources, many of which have been debunked and yet still persist like a canker sore--because they're inclined to follow the path of least mental resistance.

I cringe as I picture what the future is going to be like for my kids and their kids--a world where an opinion goes viral and becomes cemented as fact. There was a time in the not-so-distant past where reading and writing were skills that were valued for separating the learned from the unlearned--the knowledgeable from the masses; now, we live in a present where those same skills are serving the undermine the very fabric of society...

and I can't believe it.

Monday, June 18, 2018

When Winning Isn't Enough



This flag football season has provided me with arguably the most fun and excitement that I’ve ever had engaging with youth sports. My son was one of the best players on an excellent team and getting to watch him develop as an athlete and a leader on the field was extremely rewarding. My daughter is the youngest and smallest player on her team but she has proven herself (I hope) to be a worthy member of her own team—one that sits a single game away from a championship.

As thrilling as this season has been for me, though, it has been equally disheartening and disappointing. Sarah’s team finished the regular season as the only unbeaten team in the K-2 Gold division, which should be laudable in its own right—and ordinarily would be, if it didn’t happen to be a team comprised of all girls.

I try to keep my opinions to myself and limit the frequency with which I proffer them—particularly on divisive issues. Personally, I feel like, collectively, our society has become way too sensitive; too many innocuous statements and situations get blown out of proportion—diluting the overarching message and dampening the underlying cause by drawing all of the attention onto the seemingly menial issues and instances.

I hope you’ll take my word for it that what has happened this season, with this team of young women, is not trivial or dismissible. Instead, it is atrocious, disgusting, and indicative of what a sham the purportedly progressive purviews are that people claim to have regarding women in this country.

Throughout this season, this Broncos team has been scoffed at—derided and outright dismissed by everyone from kids and parents from other teams to competing coaches and, sadly, even the commissioner of the league who, on SEVERAL occasions, had the gall to pompously predict that the girls had “no chance whatsoever” of beating the team in front of them.

And yet that’s all they did. Repeatedly. Girls’ teams, coed teams, all boys teams. Whatever team they faced, they didn’t simply defeat—they absolutely destroyed them. These weren’t fluke victories—squeaked out with some miracle occurrences: they were blowouts. The Broncos more than DOUBLED the entire scoring output of the combined efforts of EVERY TEAM THEY FACED. They outscored their opponents 190-78 based upon the posted scores (which are actually underreported).

Despite all of this—yesterday at the field, my wife overheard several different parents—some even on my son’s team—saying after they lost, “well at least we didn’t lose to THEM [the Broncos].” That’s been the sentiment all season—that this team somehow doesn’t belong—that they’ve had things handed to them. People are saying that a Super Bowl victory would be great because it might engender an all-girls’ league.

To me, that’s utter bullshit. This Broncos team is proving exactly why there SHOULDN’T be an all-girls’ league or division. They’ve beaten more all-boys teams than all-girls ones. Why, then, shouldn’t they have the opportunity to compete with “the best,” (a.k.a. the boys) when they’ve not only demonstrated an ability to win but dominated?

The reason why is simple: too many men in the world still think of women as being inferior. Whether it’s in one tiny way like their driving skills or a more egregious, deep-rooted sentiment that speaks to the very core of their capabilities, misogyny is like a virus that is thriving in this country.

“What’s the big deal? It’s just sports, man.”

What’s the big deal? These girls are between 5 and 8 years old, they’re playing in a RECREATIONAL sports league—one that’s supposedly all for fun—with absolutely nothing at stake. No cash prizes, no national press, no glory other than the sheer joy of competition. Despite ALL OF THIS, they have faced nothing but dismissive commentary when they’ve won, questions about the very validity of their playing in the first place—snide comments, hurtful “jokes,” complaints about their schedule—all of this because they are winning. Because they are beating boys teams. Because they are ruffling the feathers of the long-established tradition of males playing out on the field and females being relegated to the sidelines.

The saddest part in all of this---and certainly the most telling—is the fact, from its inception, this has been a coed league. Some of the best players have been girls but apparently, in small doses, that’s acceptable—probably because there are other equally talented boys to capture the adulation and adoration. There’s never been an all-girls team like this one and a sickening majority of men are incapable of recognizing the beauty in what they are achieving.

I’ve heard people say, “Well they don’t have daughters so they just don’t understand,” and, while that is true, it’s still a cop out. Many of these men have sisters and female cousins and most, presumably, have or had mothers, aunts, and grandmothers—women who have had to face the same type of vitriol that they themselves are spewing. But here’s the kicker—the worst part: all of these men that are engaging in this conjecture have kids playing in the league…which means that most of them if not all of them have wives, girlfriends, or even exes who are women—the mothers of those children.

If these men can sit there in judgment about a group of 5-8 year old girls, then what the hell do you think they really feel about those wives—the other women in their lives? If they are rankled by the idea of young girls succeeding against their sons, then what are the odds that they would champion adult women earning positions and higher salaries in male dominated professional industries? Breaking barriers in professional athletics? Securing equal stature in damn near anything that ACTUALLY matters in life when they can’t even do so with a group of kids in a just-for-fun football league?

You want to know why it matters and why it bothers me so much to have experienced this this season? It’s because this is just the start of what these girls are going to face in their lives. It’s the molehill that’s going to precede the mountains that each and every one of them are going to be forced to climb simply because too many men are too fucking insecure to admit not only that women might be equal to them, but that they might actually be superior to them.

This season has been a microcosm of what the rest of these girls’ lives are going to look like. When they’ve been faced with a challenge, they’ve been told that they stood no chance to win. When they’ve succeeded, it’s because it’s been made easier for them—that they were somehow gifted an advantage of either an easier schedule or a team not having all of its players.

If they win the Super Bowl, I’m sure it will be more of the same, but if they lose? The thought of the sick, smug delight that so many of these fathers will rejoice in fills my veins with acid.

But I guess that’s just something they’ll have to get used to, isn’t it?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Role of Parenting in Modern Mass Shootings

Whenever I'm faced with a situation, I try to approach it analytically and with a critical eye. I take the available information that I have, stand it against any presumptions or assumptions I might make to the contrary, and do my best to find the solution or truth somewhere in the middle ground. I trust my gut instincts rather than my emotions--employ logic and reason wherever possible.

With regards to the latest school shootings and the consequent rash of reaction on social media, I feel compelled to take the same approach in examining the issue. Scientific inquiry oftentimes necessitates the use of both constants and variables to determine the underlying cause or nature of a situation. By employing that approach with the school shootings, we can reach the following conclusions:

Education and school buildings along with student bodies represent a constant; we have had them on our soil well before we even became a nation.

Firearms and firearm ownership are also constants; these too have been guaranteed in our Constitution and have been a part of the fabric of American culture since our country's inception.

The variable, then, as I see it, is society itself--the mores and purviews that inform us, collectively, and the parenting that informs our children, specifically.

My point is that, for the past 242 years, we have had guns, we have had kids in schools, and yet, historically, we have not had drastically high numbers of incidents bringing those two things together. If anything, the very notion didn't jump into the collective conscience until the Columbine shooting happened--an integral moment in our societal evolution as the rise of the Internet and eventually social media was beginning to build steam.

If schools and gun ownership have remained the same, then what has changed? To me, it's obvious: our society itself is what is leading to these horrific atrocities. And, really, should that come as a surprise to anyone with two brain cells to rub together?

Look at the way modern life occurs versus merely twenty years ago. Back then, you would get bullied IN school by the SCHOOL bully. You would come home and find refuge. You might even talk to your parents/siblings/friends about it but, largely, it remained a geographically bound issue: once you left the school grounds, you were free to recover from the mistreatment and figure out how to cope with it.

Now? The most insidious abuse occurs OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL ON TOP OF whatever bullying is going on within the school's walls. Modern children (CHILDREN, for Christ's sake!) spend a great deal of their time on social media--whether it's Snapchat or Instagram--Facebook or Twitter--they exist largely in a world that caters to the cowardly--people who are emboldened by anonymity or at the very least the physical distance that the Internet realm provides them. These modern children are ill-equipped to deal with the responsibility of inhabiting such a realm (and it IS a responsibility--too many parents fail to recognize that) and, as a result of their lack of coping skills, they find themselves filled with rage and sorrow and no constructive way to expel the emotions that haunt them everywhere they go.

But I don't blame the kids--not in the least; after all, they merely learn from us. Look around you the next time you go out to eat at a restaurant. Take note of how many families are at a table together and how many screens are lit up. Children--hell, toddlers and INFANTS--sit there with devices shoved in front of their faces. They are completely disengaged not just from the conversation but from reality around them.

And who's fault is that?

It's the same damn people who do the same damn thing! The reason so many parents think nothing of how much time their kids spend on devices that are turning their brains into pudding is because they, themselves, think nothing of spending their own time doing the same thing. There is NO reason that a child should be sitting at a dinner table with a fucking iPad or iPhone watching videos, playing games, or otherwise being detached from their lives.

The reason it happens is at once obvious and appalling: it's a cop out--the easy thing to do. Our collective attention spans are approaching zero as are our levels of patience and abilities to cope with negative situations. These parents don't want to be bothered with expending the additional energy required to corral their kids when they're out to eat or, worse, to find more constructive ways to get their kids to do what they want them to do at home (do you have any idea how many times I've heard, "Oh, I don't know how you do it! So and so just refuses to eat dinner without his/her iPad!"

...

Are you fucking kidding me?

You're a goddamn parent! It's your RESPONSIBILITY to parent your child, whether you like it or not and whether you want that responsibility or not. I cringe every time I hear someone say shit like that--things like, "I have no choice," "(s)he won't let me," "they just don't listen." Who the fuck is in charge here!? Is it the kids or is it the adults?

You know how often you'll see my kids playing on my phone at the supermarket? At a restaurant? In the car? Entertaining them with electronics--appeasing their appetites for virtual distractions?

Never (or as close to it as possible). I don't allow it. I won't allow it because, in my eyes, I can't allow it; the consequences of so seemingly simple and innocuous an action are so far reaching that most people can't even fathom the ripple effect.

And guess what: my kids survive just fine. No tantrums--no whining. Hell, they don't even ask! In fact, if they DO ask, I remind them of the importance of self-control, discipline, and entertaining themselves rather than allowing a device to do it for them.

Do you know why it works? It's not magic, I assure you. It's the fact that I am unequivocally, unquestionably, in charge. It's undeniably still a democracy--they have voices and are encouraged to speak up, respectfully, when they have opinions on things--but, ultimately, I don't give them even the slightest opportunity to think that they run the show. I rule with an iron fist that can be as soft as velvet or as strong as steel but, above all things, one that is consistent.

That really is the key to all of it: consistency. My kids know what to expect from me every time we go out somewhere (or really in most situations in general). There's no wiggle room--no gray area. There's no "suddenly THIS time it's okay to play on daddy's phone but then the next time it's not okay." It might seem counterintuitive to folks who are afraid to step up and be hard on their kids (though, in truth, it's not being hard at all--it's doing what you're supposed to be doing) but children actually thrive when they have structure like that, even if it diminishes their perceived happiness.

I know this not just from parenting but from teaching too. I was lucky enough to teach in a school that had its student body representing the absolute worst, most dangerous areas of New York City. My classroom was filled with kids who were in gangs, who found themselves routinely suspended for fighting and otherwise engaging in violence. I treated every one of those kids the same way and, for the most part, they excelled. I had the toughest kids confide in me--ones who terrified their schoolmates simply by looking at them coming up and giving me pounds and high fives in the hallway.

How did I do this? By having high expectations for them, strict rules for them to follow, and the belief in them that they would be able to achieve the former AND honor and follow the latter. Did it work for every kid? Of course not--but the results that I did enjoy were remarkably encouraging.

With parenting, the percentage of success is even higher because, well, they're your kids! You spend far more time with them and both of you are far more invested in the circumstances and relationship because of your filial bond. The problem though is that you actually have to be hard on them AND consistent.

Nowadays, though, everyone takes the easy way out with things because damn near everything has lost its value. When I was in high school, very few people that I hung out with had beepers let alone cell phones. We would make plans at the beginning of the week for the weekend--arranging a meet up at the movies or the mall or even just at someone's house. Do you have any idea how low the rate of canceling was back then? It's so disconcerting to compare making plans back then with doing so today.

I love everyone that I have in my life and I truly enjoy spending time with them. With that said, the vast majority of people outside of my very, very small circle of closest friends are absolutely AWFUL with following through on plans. I'm not exaggerating when I say that out of the last FIFTY times I engaged in the process of making plans with people--meaning individual "let's meet up and do this at this place at this time" plans--I successfully met up with those people fewer than a dozen times. That means that fewer than one in every four conversations actually resulted in a get together.

Many times it's people bailing at the last minute but far too often it's a text/online conversation that goes almost exactly like this:

Me: "Hey! Good to see you!"
Them: "Hey, absolutely! How are you? We should totally get together sometime."
Me: "Definitely. When are you free?"
Them: ::gives availability::
Me: "Great--I'm free on all of those days. Just let me know which one works for you and I'll be there!"
Them: ::silence::

Maybe it's just me but I think that the higher likelihood lies with the way people interact with each other, especially online. Such little value is placed upon conversations and interactions because there are just simply so damn many of them. We say things we don't mean "Let's get together!" knowing that we can easily either forget about or actively dismiss them without much consequence, if only because, again, it happens so many times!

People's impulse control has diminished severely since the advent of social media; it's all about instant gratification with an emphasis upon whatever makes us happy, regardless of anyone else's feelings. People bail on plans with disheartening frequency, frankly, because they found something else that is more appealing to them. There's no honor anymore--no sticking with your word because, well, no one else does either. Plus, online interaction has become a surrogate for actual physical interaction (having a "conversation" on Facebook amounts to the same thing as spending time with someone in person).

Twenty years ago, AOL was still nascent and other online means of communicating weren't even available. If you wanted to interact with people, you really had two options: get together in person or speak on the phone. Some folks might equate the latter with social media due to the geographical separation but there is a glaring, undeniable difference between having an actual, physical conversation over the phone and even just texting: you have access to real-time emotional reactions. If you say something hurtful (or happifying--it doesn't have to be all gloom and doom), you're not only privy to the immediate impact of those words--you're responsible for the consequences at that exact moment!

These younger generations--the ones who are shooting up schools and crying out for help--are growing up in an environment that offers very little meaningful development. They're told or shown literally from their infancy to find meaning/entertainment/anything online rather than being encouraged to explore the actual world on their own. Kids in 2018 watch OTHER kids opening and playing with fucking toys as a form of entertainment.

Please--let that sink in for a minute.

How utterly, abjectly pathetic is that? I'll bet you many people don't see anything wrong with it though! Never even gave it a second thought!

"What's the harm?" they'll ask.

Seriously?

The harm is that these kids are being taught to value things of absolutely no importance whatsoever--to prioritize these little bite-sized morsels of fast food existence that will sate them just long enough to pursue the next one. They're not being encouraged to use their OWN imaginations--to ask questions about the world and to seek their answers. They're not being told, tacitly or otherwise, that their parents or society as a whole believes that they can do things for themselves but rather that they should be watching others do those things...and somehow they're supposed to be fulfilled by this?

Give me a break.

People are so out of touch with themselves let alone their kids or other people in general that it feels like life has become a lost, meaningless cause. They are unwilling to expend the effort--to take the difficult road not even purely for the sake of the experience it will be provide but the very tangible, tactile results and rewards that such a course provides. They are failing their own children and failing themselves in equal measures by not stepping up to the plate and actually parenting them--engaging with them in real time, in actual space.

Encourage your kids to spend quality time with people in person and to stop wasting their lives on Snapchat, Instagram, and whatever other dozen social media outlets they're spreading themselves across. Stop acting like your hands are tied--like controlling your children (whether they're toddlers, teenagers, or anything in between) is an impossibility or, worse, is someone else's job. Stop seeking sympathy because your kids don't listen to you when your absentee parenting don't merit their damn respect in the first place!

You want these kids to stop picking up guns? Have them put their fucking devices down first and stop spending so much time online. Then, give them the structure and the support that they'll need to navigate this crazy cesspool mindfuck of a society that we have created for themselves. Don't worry about fucking your kids up--about them not liking you or about you being their friend. Be their parent first. Show them what leadership looks like--give them something to aspire to. Embody the change that you want to see in them--in society at large.

There is absolutely no reason that an elementary school or even junior high school child should have unfettered, unsupervised access not just to a device like a smartphone or tablet but specifically to apps that encourage negative communication and emboldens keyboard cowards. These kids do not have the mental faculties and emotional maturity to navigate the turbid waters that social media presences represent. There is something about things like Facebook and the like that excites the darkest, most primal, primeval aspects of ourselves. We've proven in the past two years that most ADULTS don't even have the self-control to use these things properly and we're somehow expecting that children--particularly hormone-riddled adolescents--are supposed to figure it out for themselves?

Bullshit! If more parents demonstrated not just an interest but an actual presence in their kids' lives--in ALL aspects, particularly online--then so many more of the warnings signs that are out there would be picked up upon! You're not being intrusive by demanding to look at what your kid is doing online--to see how they're interacting with others through social media nor are you being cruel or antediluvian by outright denying them access to those things. What you're being is a good goddamn parent--one who not only cares about YOUR child but all those with whom they interact, by association.

How else can you explain things like the following:

"An American Airlines employee saved two young girls from getting on a plane to meet someone who authorities suspect is an online predator. The girls, 15 and 17, hoped to travel from Sacramento to New York to go spend time with a man named “Drey” they met on Instagram, KOVR-TV reported."

Social media isn't inherently evil nor are the devices that we access them from. The problem of course is the way in which we use these things and the lack of importance that we place upon regulating them within our own households. Too many people are allowing their children to use these things in a decidedly adult manner, oblivious to the responsibilities that are inherent in maintaining an online existence. There's no oversight--no authority other than that which is formed within those virtual communities and conversations.

It's like a modern, digital version of Lord of the Flies. No matter how mature our kids might seem to us, they're still children and as such they need not only our love and support but our guidance and structure too. They need to learn from us what matters, truly, in life and what should be relegated to leisure time and entertainment. We have to hold not only our kids accountable (that's a separate issue entirely--this pandemic of "not my kid" mentalities that shirk responsibility and onus ownership) but ourselves for the consequences of our inactions.

If we all made ourselves aware of what was going on in our kids' lives beyond what we can see--whether that means peering into their virtual realms or simply encouraging them to discuss the aspects of our lives that we are not readily privy to--then maybe we could solve many of the issues that could potentially lead to tragedies like the ones we've seen. You're never too busy to take an active interest in your child's life no matter what you do. Turning a blind eye or failing to expend the effort to know--REALLY know--what is going on inside of their hearts and minds (let alone their phones)--is an active choice.

We need to start making better ones if we expect to see any real change in these horrible events.

Friday, February 9, 2018

A Microcosm of Modern America


Ever see this commercial? If not, give it a quick watch.




What did you see? I suppose that depends upon your degree of proclivity towards moral umbrage. I really liked the song and went looking online to see if I could find the name of it so that I could buy it. This was what I found instead:

"I would like Verizon management to review a Fios Quantum TV ad where a pre-pubescent girl is fetishized with red nail polish, red lipstick, 'Lolita' type sunglasses, and a bikini, to look as though she's twenty-five. The child is barely ten years old. Do you believe that masquerading a pre-pubscent child in the trappings of adulthood to market a product is okay?

In this moment of cultural awareness, WOMEN are speaking out about being preyed upon sexually — and Verizon management's approval of the overt-sexualization of this child must be understood for what it is —'bait'.  When a young girl is 'fetishized' as a means to signify 'DESIRE' it is offensive.

Your ad has struck such a negative chord in me, that every time I see it, I become angrier.

Women do not want to see their children objectified in advertising.

Verizon (Fios Quantum) does a disservice to our intelligence by continuing to run this ad."


My first thought was, "Wait...what?" I was so lost because I didn't see any of that in the ad. And yet, the further along I scrolled upon the page, the more indignant commentary I encountered:


"The current FIOS ad depicting a young girl as an object of sexual desire is repulsive on its merits, and doubly so given the current social climate.  Objectifying a prepubescent girl for the sole purpose of promoting your products is blatant exploitation.  The national conversation concerning the behavior of Roy Moore should have been enough for your executives to reject this ad campaign as tasteless and inappropriate.  We are FIOS customers and are very disturbed by your choice of subject material."


Then, out of the ether, voices of reason:

"No we aren’t. She’s a girl in a swimsuit in a pool. I came to look for the song."

"You have got to be kidding, I see a young girl floating around in a pool and dont see anything wrong with it and you see something sexual lolololol. So I guess every young girl around a swimming pool with a swim suit on is wrong in your eyes? This thread is unreal and just plain stupid."


Now, to this point, I began to view the thread as merely a dichotomy of perspectives--two sides that reached drastically different conclusions about the same objective material. I respect people's inherent right to think for themselves (when they do) and to express the viewpoints they have reached through their own internal decision-making processes...

...but then I got to these two comments:


"Agree that this is a terrible commercial.  It sexualizes a young child to look like Lolita.  Why don't more people complain?  This is a pedophile's dream.  I hate it.  Fios should be ashamed as well as the advertising firm that produced it."

"Absolutely appalled by the audacity of this company.  Continuing with this disturbing ad.  After the backlash from your own customers over this commercial you choose to continue running it.  So this ad isn't meant to sell us a product as much as an idea?  One too disturbing for this dad.  I'm leaving verizon and encouraging others to the same." 


There, in those two admissions of abject horror, lies a microcosm of everything that is wrong with our country right now and the reason that we are so utterly separated as a nation. People walk around agog with their mouths open asking how the hell we got to be in the position that we are in--how people could elect someone like Donald Trump into office.

Seriously?

It's because of shit like the above! For the past fifteen years at least, there has been this growing sense of moral indignation and entitlement among people (mostly of liberal sociopolitical leanings). This, consequently, has led to ever more boisterous, vociferous voicings of complaints about, well, everything!

Somewhere during the last two decades people stopped being capable of accepting the fact that, just because they don't like something, a massive change is warranted. Far too many people cannot simply be in disagreement with something--or even just to hold it in disdain and derision. No--whatever the object of their opprobrium is, it must change simply and solely because THEY are offended by it.

Look at the first of those final two comments. That question that's asked--"Why don't more people complain?"--is EXACTLY why Donald Trump got elected. TOO many people complain! About anything and everything!

So many conservative Americans have endured an unending barrage of bellyaching at the hands of their liberal brothers and sisters--a never-ending stream of complaints about everything from the environment and global warming to gender and racial rights. It's not enough for those individuals to be upset with something--they have to force their viewpoints upon everyone else. Their outrage is at once palpable and puerile.

I ask, instead: Why don't FEWER people complain?

When did we suddenly become so ridiculously thin-skinned? I thought that we were pretty damn tough, as a people, and yet, time and again, the village idiots become the town criers, prattling on about whatever latest thing has "offended" them. Isn't it said that when everything is offensive then nothing is?

How about the guy in the second quotation?

"I'm leaving verizon and encouraging others to do the same."

Seriously? Over a fucking advertisement?

And yet, this speaks precisely to what really serves as the underlying, subconscious core of the issue: our collective lack of self-esteem and skewed perception of value. I explored this issue back in 2015, somewhat satirically, but the point remains the same: people have lost sight of things that truly matter and no longer pursue things that provide actual fulfillment in their lives. They'd rather chase the ephemeral, evanescent serotonin squirts they get from social media and the safety and comfort of like-minded people than actually go out and improve themselves--challenge themselves, risk failure--engage in activities of meaning.

The guy who is leaving Verizon is sending a tacit message of superiority--one that is echoed, unconsciously, by millions of people in millions of way every day. What he's really saying is this: "This [the ad] is morally objectionable and I, being a being of higher moral value and more discerning taste, cannot allow myself to be dragged through this societal mud and must instead adhere to my strict code of ethics that elevates me above the rest of the swine [who, in this case, enjoy the ad or don't find anything wrong with it]."

In other words: if you don't leave Verizon then you're a terrible person and, because this guy IS leaving, it somehow makes him better than you [and everyone else who chooses a different path].

Here's the problem with occupying the moral high ground when it's as rocky and unstable as this: you risk falling and looking damn foolish when you start dancing around, drawing attention to how noble you are.

This moral knight is making a stand with this Verizon ad but I'll be you anything that he breaks a hundred ethical codes every day either without realizing or it choosing to ignore them. People like this forget that they're human and thus fallible. They think nothing of judging the shit out of something inane and innocuous like a television ad and then ignoring the very real rules and regulations that comprise our society. Do you think this guy holds the door for people at the store? Does he stop several feet BEFORE every stop sign he comes to? And uses his turn signal every time?

Probably not.

And therein lies the rub: this selective morality. The moral fabric of our society has become more of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel rather than a verifiable codex laden with absolute terms. People think nothing of reaching conclusions without engaging in any hermeneutical analysis--forgetting that theirs isn't the only viewpoint nor is it necessarily the right or defensible one.

Me? I see a precocious tween attempt to effect adulthood has she sees it (as evidenced by the macaroons where most kids that age would be wolfing down Oreos and the like). She is attempting to appear older than she actually is--thus her expression of disgust for her younger brother, who, clearly, has no trouble embracing his youth.

Or, as another contributor put it:

"I think she's a cute kid trying to look and act all grown up as she shows disdain for her childish younger brother."

Just because you're offended by something doesn't make you right! Not only that--just because you're offended, it doesn't mean that anything needs to change. Only when people save their outrage for matters of true import will we begin to bridge the gap that exists between the two American factions. Until then, we will remain a nation divided--crippled by the sniveling drivel of those who cannot bear to use their analytical energy to examine themselves critically rather than to find ways to force society to change to fit into their very narrow views of how the world should be.