Consider The Source: Bloggers As Life Guides

Social media is a great way to develop a following. People who may be introverted off the web can blossom into stars on the internet with the click of a “POST” button. Since the days of the AOL free trial CD, the world wide web has been a place where utter cowards could be emboldened, social outcasts could become the part of the “in-crowd,” and people who thought Caddyshack was deep could become life philosophers.

As romantic as that may sound (or not), I’m afraid that many of these electronic mavens have begun to warp the minds of their followers. What used to be largely for entertainment purposes only has turned into a cult-like bastion of bad advice being passed to the young and/or naïve.

I’m not talking about beauty bloggers who recommend products that are sure to offer a Sammy Sosa finish to brown-skinned ladies everywhere. That’s dreadful, but makeup can be washed off and you can start over. But, there are highly influential writers and bloggers who can often be spotted offering terrible life advice to their (usually) homogeneous reading audience. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but that people are shaping whole ideologies around what they read on blogs and FB pages. Ideologies eventually become behaviors, and then none of us are safe.

So, as a public service, I’ve decided to give you clues as to whether or not you should take the advice/teachings of your social media “faves” seriously.

  1. What is the logical possible outcome of following their advice? If the outcome of following their advice leads to poverty, illness, incarceration or severe emotional upheaval, ignore them. I can guarantee that they will not be contributing to your GFM campaign for bail, rent money, antibiotics, or your “self-care” retreat. You may experience the warm n’ fuzzies reading their account about how their scheme method worked for them but if in the real world, the risk far outweighs the reward, it’s best to skip it.

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  1. Have they or are they doing what they are saying you should do? Anybody who suggests (or even co-signs) that something they would never do is okay is a bullshitter and shouldn’t be trusted. For example, the “pro-hoe” movement that gained popularity last year. The premise is that well…the tenets of “hoeism” should be celebrated and those who participate, given high-five cause…empowerment. Sounds nice and inclusive but then, I noticed that some the biggest endorsers of the “pro-hoe” movement were women who had to preface their applause for “hoeism” with, “although it’s not my choice….” Hmmm…..why would you applaud a philosophy that you spurn?

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  1. What are their credentials? I’m not even talking about degrees and certificates. Picture it, Facebook, 2017. A prominent male SJW telling women how they should feel about bathroom bills. Enough said.

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  1. How has their viewpoint worked for them? What is the fruit of their years of work and discovery? It goes without saying that it makes no sense for anyone to take advice from someone whose own life isn’t a replica of where the advice-seeker wants to be. Would you hire a poor financial adviser or a routinely single or oft divorced relationship expert? Probably not.

Lastly…

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  1. Follow the money. By now, I’m confident that most of us know bad advice when we hear it. Our personal sensitivities may get us to travel to the other side of good sense, but, we know. If the person offering you…um…guidance, can’t say two words without asking for donations for their…um…wisdom, you may want to re-evaluate their platform. While I agree that those who teach deserve a wage, if they were that profound, they’d set up a consulting company instead of asking for money for information that can be easily found on Google.

Follow who you want. “Like” who you want. Read who you want. Just exercise caution before you become an –ite of theirs and find yourself on the opposite side of functional. But, what do I know? I’m just a blogger!

Why Not a Driver’s License? My Thoughts On The Changing (and Disturbing) Metrics of Cool

A FBF of mine sent me screenshots of a heated argument about “gender fluidity” a couple of weeks ago. In it, there was a young lady who called herself a man and was quite adamant that her rights were at stake should one of the many “bathroom bills” be passed by her local government. I visited her page. She noted that her pronouns are female (she/her). On one of her pics, she was modeling her new bikini. She had a post about acrylic nail designs. She received lots of positive responses to her post.

Maybe three days later, I was asked to share a GFM thread (I never do, BTW). I read the person’s narrative. It was full of buzzwords. This person needed donations because “capitalism” and some kind of “antagonism” had conspired to make them unemployed and as a somethingqueer person, they already knew that finding another job was going to be a task that would “trigger” their mental illness and cause them much “trauma.”

Three weeks ago, I was sent a link to what seemed like a GFM festival with at least 300 people asking for donations for anything from rent to groceries, to tuition. Because I notice trends, it didn’t escape me that every other person had some kind of mental illness, felt that work is a curse, or was…let’s say nonplussed…in regards to their identity/sexuality.

I haven’t missed the fact that a number of real issues have started to be used for attention and personal fundraising. Somewhere, in the midst of the revolution, people have learned how to game the system; ironically just like they claim the 1% takes advantage of them through capitalism. It’s interesting to watch a person become a mentally fatigued, battered, quadri-sexual, single motherfather™ with bunions and only a can of tuna in the pantry when they need to come up with a few hundred bucks. Surprisingly though, a mere 48 hours before, they were just Brad.

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I understand the hustle. Financially, asking for money you didn’t earn is a crapshoot so you have to make the best plea possible to get as much as you can; especially from strangers. Those who make up complex personas on the internet strictly for “likes” and friends are running a similar hustle. I mean, who’s going to “like” or follow you if you’re just who you are and live a typical life? That will never get you invited to the party, right?

For all my understanding of the game, I think it’s a little sick. There are people who have been diagnosed with terrible mental and physical illnesses. They are struggling, not because they don’t feel like waking up before 10 in the morning but because they have physiological aberrations that hinder them. Feeling bummed that you can’t eat at Chili’s this week or your boss won’t let you take Friday off doesn’t justify you telling everyone that you “struggle with depression” or are “oppressed” and trying to make people feel sorry enough for you to open their wallets.

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Being a woman and preferring pants and football or being a man who has an affinity for wigs and makeup, doesn’t make you “gender fluid”, trans, queer or any of the other identities that people battle with internally and externally every single day. You are not Ricky Vasquez (look it up). This is real life and real life is not about who you can con into letting you sit at the cool kids’ table for the 12 hours a day you’re on the internet.

Your parents telling you that if you’re going to live in their house, you need to keep your room clean isn’t the same as you living in an “abusive” household. Trying to get empathy (and/or cash) from people with that lie when there are people who are really in abusive households and can’t go anywhere, is quite distasteful.

 

Being cool used to be about having a driver’s license, owning the newest gadget or possessing some remarkable talent. The fact that 20 and 30-somethings are feigning illnesses, abuse, dysphorias, and all other manners of dilemma in order to make up for the fact that they weren’t part of the “in” crowd in high school is rather macabre.

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I know it’s fun to ride the wave, especially for the more insecure of us; but while you’re riding the wave, you may be treading on someone who doesn’t have the option to jump off the erratic jet ski like you do. If you want to collect e-friends or dollars, that’s your choice. Just come by it honestly.

 

A Forgotten Principle: How Otto Warmbier’s Death Highlights a Common Problem

Almost two weeks ago, Otto Warmbier, the man who visited North Korea and committed a crime while there, died due to injuries sustained in the North Korean prison where he was being held after being found guilty of his crime.

By now, we all know that the white American public, including the acting POTUS, Donald J. Trump, has expressed sadness, outrage and offered their sympathy to his parents. Trump and Warmbier’s father have even gone as far as to blame former President, Barack H. Obama for Warmbier’s fate. Many white amaericans were even angry at people who refuse to care about Warmbier around the same time that many of them sat stone-faced as the officer who killed Philando Castile (Jeronimo Yanez) walked away with a “not guilty” verdict after shooting him for doing nothing wrong – really.

This entry, however, is not about the bright pink elephant defecating in the corner of the room. This blog is about the forgotten principle that most of us (should have) learned in our formative years: actions have consequences.

I don’t know how Otto Warmbier was raised and I don’t know what kind of person he generally was, but his situation gives me a base to form a series of presumptions about both issues. Maybe he missed the lesson on reading and following directions (the poster was on a floor for employees only). Maybe he missed the lesson about not touching what doesn’t belong to you without permission. Maybe he missed the lesson about not stealing. Maybe he missed the lesson on respect for other people’s property. Maybe he missed the lesson on respect for other cultures/societies’ rules. Maybe he missed the lesson on thinking before you act. Or maybe, he missed none of those lessons but just didn’t care to take them seriously while he was under the jurisdiction of another country’s laws. Who knows? It doesn’t matter.

 

Otto Warmbier’s story is a great example of the fact that once a decision is made and acted upon, all the consequences that come with that decision are set in motion. Perhaps the hardest part of dealing with that fact is that we never know all the consequences that are attached to our actions and we don’t know if or when they’ll play out. According to a fellow traveler, when Warmbier was arrested, he had a “semi-smile” on his face. He never thought that what he thought was a benign action would lead to arrest, conviction, imprisonment, likely torture, and ultimately, his death. Oftentimes, we dance around that truth in the name of political correctness or in the interest of self-esteem, yet it’s still one of the inalienable laws that govern the universe.

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In a larger context, we should all be able to see how our choices often determine our trajectory. Many of the people who have taken the “he shouldn’t have done that then” stance have areas in their own life where they are making wrong turn after wrong turn and try to blame their undesirable location on some wicked overlord destined to crush them. While it may not lead them to Otto Warmbier’s fate, they are still going nowhere fast.

I will neither dance nor mourn the death of Otto Warmbier, but the people blaming former POTUS Obama or Kim Jong-Un or the tour company or anybody else but Otto Warmbier for his death are missing the part where a grown man elected to misbehave and paid the ultimate price. If only we could all consistently apply that simple principle.

You Can’t Sit With Us…Anymore: When Popular Becomes “Problematic”

Here’s a story:

Once upon a time, there were two Facebook friends. They connected over their love of free samples and hating people who say that working is a good way to make money. They enjoyed most of the same fan pages too. For years, they got along swimmingly. They even racked up mutuals. It was one big happy Facebook family.  One day, their favorite fan page had a discussion about the conditions at a chicken farm in Goodluck, Mississippi. One friend responded that it was sad but they’d still be getting their 3-piece mixed with biscuit for $5 on Wednesdays like they have for years. A mutual saw the comment, screenshot it, and posted it on their page with the instruction that anybody who has that person on their list delete him E-ME-JET-LEE! The friend who had shared their third Go Fund Me campaign that fiscal year, held their secrets and talked shit about somebody with them in PMs was now trash because their dedication to seasoned fowl made them too “problematic” to be friends with any longer. The rest of the friends all deleted the chicken-eating friend and forced him into hiding. He came back three months later under a new name in hopes of rebuilding his Facebook life.

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. Every two months, a social media “fave” is outed for doing, saying or thinking something that the Facebook Committee of Dubious Logic & Morality™ deems problematic. For those of you not quite acquainted with the FCDLM™, being problematic basically means that you believe things that though they may be true, don’t make people feel good these days; and you just may be the reason the world will destruct in 5…4…3….2… The drill is that once you find out one of your friends is problematic, you’re supposed to disavow them, defriend them, and then let everybody know that they, too, should stay away from this monster.

The people who are into this kind of behavior think they are performing a public service. They think they are saving the rest of us from a future full of disappointment and headache by telling us to evacuate the building before there’s even a crack. All they’re really doing, though, is making themselves look like reactionary 7th graders. I’m sure the loose definition of “friends” these days has something to do with it. I mean, the people I consider friends would have a hard time surprising me with their socio-political beliefs. But even if your main locus of friendship is the world wide web, it’s okay that your friends don’t agree with every single thing that you do or think; it’s even beneficial if they don’t.

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But let’s back-up. 80% of the time, the person we’re supposed to stay away from didn’t really do or say anything that egregious. Your longtime friend, from Facebook or otherwise, saying “women menstruate” is not a phobe in support of the mass exile of trans people. You just have to pretend like they are because you’re afraid of how other people will perceive you as their friend. Some “male feminist” playboy you met on a social justice page getting you to pay for his bus ticket, food and lodging, and then talking you out of your panties while he’s “Netflix n’ chillin’” with 5 other women at home isn’t the capital offense you want it to be. Your feelings are hurt and your face is cracked because you realize you didn’t use good judgment and need someone other than yourself to which assign blame.

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The purpose of friendship is not to make you feel good about your bad decisions; nor is it to garner “likes”, followers or views on an app. Unless we’re talking about something especially heinous (I mean, if you’re friends with R. Kelly, you need to let that go already), you have to seriously evaluate whether or not your friend being pro-voucher or anti-tax is enough to drop them completely. Different friends and types of friendship should mutually provide different benefits. I’ve found that when philosophical disagreement are at play, it’s wise to remember why you developed a friendship with that person in the first place.

For example, I have a friend we’ll call Cherry Colastein. Her political values most closely resemble that of a Libertarian. I think it’s unrealistic to totally eradicate taxes and count on religious entities to provide the things that the various welfare systems in the country do. I also have a friend we’ll call Proteinia Shakelton. She is probably the most far left person in the country, although Guiness hasn’t called her yet. If it were up to her, the country would resemble a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and the Garden of Eden. In her world, money wouldn’t even exist. I think that goal is the stuff that unicorn dreams are made of and completely impractical.

Yet, I manage to maintain functional friendships with both of them. I’d never give up the non-hater in Cherry or the academic intellect of Proteinia over a political difference. We’ve learned the skill of compartmentalization. Cherry knows not to invite me to her Libertarian functions. I know not to invite Proteinia to gatherings with more of a right-leaning tone. We all know not to broach certain topics with each other lest the conversation turn into DEFCON 5.

It really is that simple.

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With all the talk these days about being triggered and the apparent trendiness of frailty, one would think that we’d be finding reasons to retain our friendships as opposed to getting rid of them when there is no ascertainable harm in keeping them.

Maybe our reliance on social media is slowly killing our various types of intelligence. Perhaps the cliquish nature of pages, groups and accounts has impeded our ability to deal with the differences of which we claim we want everybody to be accepting. Perhaps our ability to defriend people in an instant or have an online cheerleading squad without even a semblance of a true connection with other human beings has turned us into people who find even the smallest variance too uncomfortable to bear. Either way, at some point we’re going to have to realize that the liberation we claim we want is not going to come from lockstep interactions.

 

 

Checking My Privilege: ‘Cause I Ain’t Got Shit Else To Do

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that at 5’10.5”, I have tall privilege. I know that the ability to reach the top shelf at Tom Thumb has put me in a position of social privilege and that my evil pituitary gland has allowed me to wield power over those who did not have the opportunity to grow as tall as I did. I vow to use my tall privilege to rally for complimentary step stools on all aisles in all grocery stores across the nation.

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that as a meat-eater, I have diet privilege. I know that not having to explain to people that I only eat nuts, seeds, and pretend cheese puts me in a greater position to enjoy life and through time, I have contributed to the oppression of vegetarians and vegans alike. I am heartily sorry and from now on, any function I attend or throw will adhere to the 3-cup a day recommended minimum of fruits and veggies so that all guests will experience the equality they deserve.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I’m subscribed to pretty much every streaming service available and therefore, have television viewing privilege. I know that my ability to catch my favorite shows with little or no commercial interruption fuels the 8-station epidemic in less fortunate communities. I realize that many, many, many people have to borrow passwords in order to experience the programming I do with my own account.  I promise to take a moment of silence for all the people relegated to community access television and their local Fox network before every binge session to try to right the wrongs this has caused.

I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have coupon privilege. I have both a Tom Thumb Reward Card and a Kroger Plus Card….plus the apps on my phone that let me in on special deals. I know that the free vine-ripened tomatoes I got today (with purchase of same, limit 2) is a luxury that many people will never experience. As penance, I will rescue everyone I encounter who still shops at Wal-Mart by showing them the way that they too can shop at Tom Thumb…or anyplace other than Wal-Mart ‘cause…Honey, no.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that every athletic shoe I own is New Balance. I don’t really know how that’s privilege but I’ve seen memes that mock white people for wearing New Balance and since they have white privilege, I figured I “minus well” throw this in for good measure. *shrug* F*ck it! Y’all don’t know my arches!

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have big hair privilege. I know that it’s a struggle to find elastics and other hair accessories that are reliable and cost-efficient. With my big hair privilege, I have been oppressive in buying these items three at a time and causing a shortage for the less privileged. I am committed to keeping my hair in goddess braids until women all over the world have elastic equality.

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I, The Wayward Daughter, do solemnly check my privilege. I acknowledge that I have electronic privilege. I counted and I have approximately 8 ways to talk smack on the internet at my immediate disposal. Because of this, I hold an unfair advantage over many people who only have their phone or computer on which to talk smack. AT&T would literally have to chop my wires which, in a war of words, makes me better outfitted than North Korea…and even then, I’d just go up the street to Starbucks and use their Wi-Fi….which I guess is another privilege. Anywho, I resolve to only talk smack from one device per day because I believe in fairness.

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I sincerely hope that by acknowledging and checking my privileges that I’ve helped hasten the day that we are all free. Won’t you join me?

Regards,

The Wayward Daughter

 

Missing The Point: My Issue With Deservedness

When I was in 5th grade, I went to a performing arts school (they called it a “vanguard”). One of my arts was theatre. That year, the big production was Alice In Wonderland. I wanted to play the role of the Queen of Hearts. I auditioned for the role three times. Two were private auditions with just the other students in theatre. The last audition was semi-public consisted of the drama teacher/director asking myself and another young actress, (we’ll call her Truly Wacken), to repeat the same line, “OFF WITH HER HEAD!” over and over and over again. Each time, Truly Wacken got worse. I was steady and consistent. The spectators were in awe of my performance (not bragging, just true). The next day at school, before I even had time to warm up my sausage biscuit, I was informed that Truly Wacken had gotten the part. Although I received a main part, I was NOT going to be the Queen of Hearts. Anybody at school who had seen any of the auditions was in awe that Truly Wacken would ever be selected for that part. I wanted that part. I “deserved” that part. But, I didn’t get it. So I acted my ass off in the role I was assigned.

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For several weeks, I’ve been thinking about this concept about what people do and don’t “deserve”. Most often, we’ll see the argument of merit in reference to poverty. Social justice writers will make posts and articles that contain “poor people deserve” somewhere in the first paragraph and go on to tell us that they “deserve” everything from fresh fruit to a cellphone to an iPad, also called “nice things.” Some articles even say “poor people deserve” luxuries (which seems to be subjective because I don’t consider a smartphone a “nice thing” or a “luxury” but many people do). The aim, as far as I can decipher, is to smack down the notion that those with more substantial financial resources shouldn’t be the only ones who get to experience the superfluous trappings of modern life.

I get it. As much as some assert that society hates poor people, I think that there’s also a belief that poverty is a sign of righteousness (which is probably why people who haven’t cracked a Bible since the Bicentennial seem to know a lot about how Jesus would react to poverty and capitalism). And who doesn’t “deserve” the best of the best of everything if not the righteous and suffering, right? There’s also that envy thing but that’s for another time.

But, I think the people who argue deservedness are actually arguing the wrong point.

First of all, if you ask the average person what they “deserve”, you’ll get mostly fanciful responses. 9 out of 10 people, no matter how many terrible things they’ve done, will say that they “deserve” to be millionaires with an ultra attractive spouse, Einstein-ish children, a palatial home and the ability to eat whatever they want and never gain weight. Basically, when we get into the game of what people “deserve”, we’ll be hard-pressed to get an honest assessment from anybody.

Secondly, it’s my belief that what someone “deserves” has less to do with what’s obvious and more to do with a set of intangible factors. Gandhi and Mother Teresa are examples of people who performed virtue but underneath their public persona, were involved in some highly questionable and even downright ghastly activities and philosophies. They aren’t the only ones. Do any of them really “deserve” to be lauded as they are?

Third, what people have or don’t have (or the capacity to have or not have), is based largely on a range of outside variables like their employment, their family size, their education, their habits, and other personal choices that we are told are nobody else’s business. Yes, some of us will have to work harder or longer for those things, but that’s an inescapable fact of life that doesn’t somehow qualify us for martyrdom.

Fourth, the notion of someone deserving something operates within a set of standards that I don’t think we, as a society, are clear about yet.

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Maybe the better argument is what people need, not “deserve.” I postulate that by focusing on what we need, we are in a better position to take ownership of getting those needs met. Fixating on what we think we “deserve” is a waste of time, mainly because it implies that responsibility for our life is in someone else’s hands. For the die-hard advocates, deciding what those for whom you do your activism “deserve” isn’t going to benefit them the way advocating for their needs will. Similar to those driver’s education cars with breaks on both sides, the goal should be to address their immediate need and give people the tools they lack to access the things conducive to stability long-term.

I have to question a mindset that looks at someone who has a problem with procuring stable housing, feeding themselves, accessing clean water, and healthcare and decides to declare that that person “deserves” cable. In fact, I wonder if these deservedness advocates actually know people who are really poor. I feel confident in saying that someone who can be described as “poor” or at/below the poverty line is not worried about not being able to stand in line for 8 hours for the newest iteration of the iPhone.

It turns out that Truly Wacken’s mom was donating hundreds of dollars’ worth of costuming to the Drama department and that’s why she was chosen to play Queen of Hearts (she also kind of resembled the Queen of Hearts but that’s extraneous shade). She was going to get that part no matter what. Though 5th grade me was ticked off at having been passed over, I needed the experience of being the best and still not winning. I needed to learn that me just being wonderful (by my own evaluation or that of others) would not always be enough. Over 20 years later, I’m still alive to tell the tale.

Most of us have heard someone say that the world owes each of us nothing. Whether or not you agree with that doctrine personally, the fact remains that it’s not about what we “deserve” but about what we have; and what we choose to do with what we have. It takes far more than us thinking we “deserve” things for them to actually materialize. Poverty, suffering, loss, unfairness, trauma are not new phenomena. These things make us neither deserving or non-deserving. They merely confirm that we’re human.

 

Picking Your Battles: In Defense of People Who Just Don’t Give A Damn

I’m a woman. Words like, “nurturing,” “caring,” and “accepting” are all commonly used to describe women. There is an implicit understanding that women are the ones who should bend over backward and support everyone, even when doing so is completely thankless and without benefit. Add Blackness to that same womanhood and you have the expectation that you should go hungry, sleep outside, march, come in early, stay late, and pretty much sacrifice your own standard of living to make sure other people are comfortable. In social media speak, it’s referred to as “muling.”

We can all attest to having that one (or one hundred) social media acquaintance who claims moral superiority because we dare talk about someone’s Oscars gown instead of multiple posts about the newest tragedy complete with footnotes and multiple links. They start hating you when you point out that laws aren’t necessarily based on morality, reparations were never on Obama’s “to-do” list, “just start a business” isn’t a feasible economic plan, weed isn’t a cure-all, and unconscionable decisions are pretty much a part of the presidential job description. Their final straw is when they post about a two-time felon and violent criminal being killed by a prison guard and instead of following their direction to call the governor of that state, you post about the 2 for $24 3-wick candle sale at Bath & Body Works. You are then DELETED!

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Unfortunately, in this era of heightened social consciousness (real or feigned), many of us refuse to deactivate our “Care” lever, and those of us who do, are often lambasted for doing so.  It just isn’t politically correct to not give a damn. If you don’t lie prostrate at the altar of social outrage about pretty much everything, you’re “part of the problem,” “stupid,” “denying your privilege,” “evil/cold-hearted,” an –ist/-phobic or some combination of any of the above. As we progress (technologically), we can be updated within seconds of everything newsworthy that happens almost anywhere in the world. This makes for a constant barrage of natural disasters, war, and bombings. It also means that we get a steady stream of sob stories, over-exaggerated cries for attention, and plain ol’ bad news. At some point, it’s just too much.

Is the IDGAF Club wrong for deciding to divest from this perpetual cycle of acrimony completely and mind their own business? I don’t think so. Further, I don’t believe that one has to throw themselves headlong into every social movement we’re presented with to be empathetic. One of the things that is repeated over and over again by SJWs is the requirement that people feel and be safe. Yet, we don’t think about the fact that for many people, it is safer for them not to invest tons of emotional and mental energy, let alone physical, into problems that are 1) ancient, 2) likely irremediable, or 3) wildly remote. In fact, a lot of the SJWs who want everybody to be concerned about everything and everybody should probably take a care sabbatical themselves (but that’s another blog post). Trying to be a caped crusader for others when you can hardly get your own life in order is imprudent and ultimately harmful.

The IDGAF Club has mastered one of the best life skills there is: picking their battles.

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As a BW, I choose to focus my concern on Black women and girls. I wish everybody well in their respective struggles, but I can’t be bothered with everything that every group deems unfair; especially when those same groups have historically disregarded the struggles of my own group. The rate at which Black women are killed by intimate partners is shameful. The numbers concerning the sexual abuse of Black girls is terrifying. That’s worth my outrage. That’s worth my energy.

The fact that there are kids who can’t afford school lunch is sad. The newest gentrification crises is a bummer. But, you probably won’t see me at a march, not even a town hall; and there usually has to be a dire situation to get me to sign a Change.org petition. It’s not that I don’t care about anything. I’d just rather be selective about the problems that I spend my time, effort, or resources on.

We’re no good to any movement if we keep trying to jump into every movement.

 

When Seeds Become Plants: Betsy DeVos As Karma

Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education has caused quite a stir. I watched her confirmation hearing and it was awkward. If her confirmation hearing were a sound, it’d be the snapping of a limb as it hits the concrete and breaks. Question after question, she struggled to give answers that were relevant to what she was asked, let alone satisfactory. I watched as senators representing several states each took their turn passing and spiking the football that was Betsy DeVos. If I were Betsy DeVos’ friend, I would have offered her some Sleepytime tea and Vick’s.

Of course, despite being a clearly unqualified candidate for the position, she was confirmed. People were and still are upset. I’m not. I’ve been mulling this over in my head and at some point, I think it’s time to admit that there’s merit to the notion that the value you assign to something is the value that other people will assign to it as well. What if Betsy DeVos is karma?

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I know that some of you may call bullshit but let’s sketch this out. It’s no secret that America has become pretty anti-intellectual. I’m sure we can all remember the video where the white teen in Duncanville, TX stands up and rants against the teacher about the fact that they ‘don’t do anything’ and then he storms out. Teens and adults all over the internet cheered him on. I think the teacher (she may have been a substitute teacher by some reports), was suspended. People were all amped up about this student who became a modern-day Norma Rae and performed that small gesture in favor of students everywhere (I guess).  I’m willing to bet though, he didn’t proceed straightaway to the library and go on a quest for the knowledge of which he believed he was being deprived.

What we also see are statuses and graphics blaming the US education system for not teaching people a myriad of things from how to do taxes to how to fill out a check. People can no longer write complete sentences without confusing simple homonyms. Watch Judge Judy for a week and you’ll hear “tooken” (as opposed to “taken”) at least 4 times followed by Juditha’s (my name for her) admonition that “TOOKEN IS NOT A WORD!” If that’s not enough, this country, the self-proclaimed “greatest country” in the world, elected Donald J. Trump, a man with absolutely no political background or governmental knowledge (obviously) whatsoever, to be president.

At some point, we’ve started to believe that it’s somebody else’s job to give us everything, even the knowledge in our head. Society claims over and over again that education is important. Parents swear that they want the best for their children; but as someone who has worked at various schools, public, charter and private, I’ve seen some of these same parents argue with teachers and administrators about the expectation that their children come to school with the minimum level of preparedness. I’ve found myself on the phone with a parent wanting an explanation as to why the school doesn’t provide pencils, paper, colored pencils, and everything else on the annual school supply list while her child regularly showed up in the latest popular threads. I’ve had one too many exchanges with parents who swore that a ¾” binder or $5.00 safety goggles were out of reach while rapidly fluttering their perfectly done eyelash extensions and wagging their expertly manicured fingers. The free tutoring was either too early or too late or on the wrong day. Guess who wanted conferences at the end of the semester when their child basically needed a magic wand to pass though?

***Pause for accusations of shaming, classism, elitism, and three-headed kitten scenarios***

There’s a lot of worry about what DeVos’s intentions towards public schools are. Public schools are known to be resource-deficient in comparison to private schools. They are also known to show poorer academic performance results amongst the students than those of private schools. Many believe the former and the latter are correlational, if not causational. People are concerned that public school students will receive even less education if DeVos has her way. That’s not necessarily an irrational fear, as you get what you pay for and public school is free. I’m concerned, however, that people haven’t figured out that it’s unwise to lay the whole burden of becoming educated on school (of any type).

grades

Despite what the tenets of the modern SJM may suggest, many times what you get is a mirror of what you give yourself. We’ve argued (absurdly) for years about whether or not teachers get paid too much. We started hiring unqualified post-teenagers at lower salaries to teach and that pissed us off too. We pretty much force teachers to fill in the financial gaps that the districts, government, and parents won’t. We tried to make teachers responsible for students not performing well on tests. We tried “no retention” policies so that students who were ill-equipped were passed on to the next grade anyway in favor of their (and frankly, their parents’) self-image. We created free assistance programs and then blamed poverty for people not taking advantage of them. We decided that homework was too cumbersome for students and that it was too much to expect parents to actually help their children with it. Parents blamed their children’s teachers for not teaching them…everything. Students blame the education system for not teaching them things their parents should have taught them, (all while being pissed that they can’t use their cellphones in class). The curiosity that is supposed to provoke people to learn enough to be able to think through a question has turned into a quest to be given the answer in 0.42 seconds.

We whine about it. We feign outrage about all of these students getting out of high school and having to take remedial everything in college because at best, they memorized just enough to get through the tests they had to take from K through 12. And after that, we turn around and do the exact same thing: decide that the school system we just ranted against is 100% responsible for making sure the next generation of students don’t become the next crop of Fredo Corleones.

Fredo

In that vein, is it any wonder that a country that constantly devalues education ended up with the head of the Department of Education being someone who is unclear about the difference between growth and proficiency? Does it matter when we don’t care about it either? Maybe all of those years of being totally ambivalent about education has come back to bite us in the ass.

Glossary

Three-headed kitten scenario©: (coined) a usually fabricated event that is used to make someone’s actions seem less ridiculous than they actually were.

Ex: Jane said condoms failed when each of her three children were conceived. That sounds like a three-headed kitten scenario to me.  

Heavy-chested: High-Passion, Low-Logic Politics

Recently, a friend and I were having a conversation about politics….kinda’. The discussion was more about the ways that what our parents called the civil rights movement has started to sprout branches and become what we call the “social justice movement” complete with its own “warriors.”

That conversation grew legs and we began to talk about how the modern social justice movement seems to change its rules every single day without rhyme or reason leaving all of us with the little red laser dot square on our foreheads so that on Monday, you can be a social justice darling and by Wednesday, the same people who elevated you, are calling for your head.

For all the good that today’s social justice movement is doing and aims to do in the future, I can’t help but notice that it’s heavy-chested. By heavy-chested, I mean that it is full of passion but light on logic. This lack of logic isn’t only observed in the individual merits of each particular ask, but also in how any perceived breach is addressed.

Commonly, the claim is made that this is all about respect. Nobody has to agree with your point of view but they must respect your right to feel that way and your humanity. But, in the thick of things, when those points of view are challenged, it’s not uncommon for a mob to be unleashed, equipped with insults and think pieces about why this varying opinion is sure to help hasten the coming apocalypse.

The most recent example of this is Chimamanda Adichie. When asked by an interviewer about her thoughts on transwomen, Adichie gave a very balanced answer. She noted, in part, that natal women have different experiences than transwomen who lived at least a part of their life as boys/men and experienced life in that way. Of course, the mob was summoned ASAP and she and her comments were labeled “transphobic” amongst other things.

thinking-cap1

 

If your first reaction to her comment was to call her or her comment “transphobic,” you are probably one of those people who are all romance but little thought. If we examine what she said with our brain, we see nothing but truth: someone who has lived their entire life as a woman will indeed have a different experience than someone who lived a part of their life as a male. Someone who has been thin their whole life will have a different experience than someone who has been overweight their whole life. Someone who grew up middle class will have a different experience than someone who grew up below the poverty line. These statements are not hatred or bigotry. They are not ignorance. They are not –phobic or –ist. They are logical conclusions. There isn’t an essay, think piece, or “dragging” committee that will change that.

We may not like what logical statements imply. They may make us uncomfortable or hurt our feelings; but what is, is. You are well within your rights to listen and read everything with your heart if you choose, but I posit that in doing so, you’re setting yourself up for a ride on the emotional rollercoaster to your personal hell.

This modern movement is purportedly predicated on truth but it seems that in many cases, the closer someone gets to the truth, the faster the blades on the outrage machine spin. But, the modern social justice movement isn’t the only place this emotion-laden approach is taking over. As a self-described Centrist or a member of what I’ve heard called the “thinking Left,” I’ve observed both sides of the spectrum become increasingly zealous up to the point of complete imprudence and/or delusion in expressing their world views (ie. “alt-right”).

My theory is that when the truth doesn’t fit the narrative, it’s much easier to take off that thinking cap and pluck those heartstrings to lull themselves into obtuseness instead. Unfortunately, I don’t see how a strong movement can operate that way for as long as it takes to reach its goals.

What happened to balance?

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I know that people may find it hard to believe, but your views can be questioned or challenged without there being a malevolent underbelly. Someone can disagree with you and simultaneously wish you no harm at all. It’s possible to have distinct solutions to a common problem without any of those solutions being inherently evil. It’s possible to be friends with people whose solutions differ from your own. It’s possible to solve common problems without extremism in either direction. There’s no need to block a friend of 5 years at the direction of your fellow SJW who saw where they “liked” something “problematic.”

It is often said that the goal is a seat at the table. Even if the goal is to destroy the table and start over, that’s going to require a cogent foundation upon which to build.

By the way, someone somewhere read this and is mad that I used the word “natal” in the 5th paragraph.

Something to chew on.

Are You or Aren’t You? My Questions About Open Letters

Open letters.

You see them often. A random customer berates another random customer for being fat and ordering a milkshake. A parent’s child wasn’t invited to the birthday party because they wear glasses. A staunch Conservative makes fun of a patron for using food stamps at WalMart. You name it, you can find it. Even celebrities choose to air each other out in public prose. Open letters are the tools by which people on the receiving end of anything they consider abuse become Paul the Apostle within 24 hours and compose the most erudite and heart-wrenching letters you’ve ever read to someone 99.9997% of us will never know (and the writer usually doesn’t know either).

Open letters, for me, have always been a little like a soap opera treatment. They are constructed for the voyeur in all of us. And while I respect people’s right to chastise strangers in writing on the World Wide Web, I also find open letters a little confusing.

For example, most open letters come on the heels of someone being “shamed;” fat-shamed, poverty-shamed, height-shamed, French fry-shamed. It doesn’t matter. Pick one. Person A is “shamed” by person B for some reason and instead of Person A just putting Person B in their place in the moment, Person A decides to recap the event for all of us on their Facebook page and then put Person B in their place.

element-of-confusion-tee

 

The confusing part for me is this: if Person B “shamed” you in public, why would you write a letter and tell all of us what happened? Wouldn’t that only further the shame? I mean, when Person B shamed you your only audience was the 20 other patrons in the immediate area. Now, 99373999873 of us know that you busted the last pair of jeans in the largest size at Target while you were in the dressing room. The former, you can live down in 20 minutes. The latter, especially if it goes viral, will cause you to re-live that moment over and over again for at least two weeks. Are you ashamed or not?

The next question I have is what people who write open letters hope to accomplish. Do you want the random person who “shamed” you for using real cream instead of soy milk at Starbucks to see your open letter, remember they’re the rude prick you’re talking about and then release their own open letter apologizing to you? Do you hope that your letter will thrust the person into deep introspection? I can guarantee you that 1) you were probably one of 5 people they did that to that week, 2) they had the same two minutes you had to tell them off in person to forget that they were rude to you, and 3) 99% of the time, they don’t actually care and would probably do it again.

Is your goal to let the rest of us know that there are people out there who are rude, judgmental, inappropriate, or just standard issue assholes? Well, most of us who have passed the age of 14 already know that. In fact, many of us are related to those people and what you experienced once at Forever 21 happens to others on a regular basis.

attention

Perhaps, it’s the attention that lures people to bring 988277492 screen names into their beef. I happen to feel that it’s hard to shame someone for something that they own as a part of who they are. With that said, people who write open letters clearly haven’t made it to that stage. I may be wrong, but my theory is that though they are still struggling, the prospect of finally having even 20% of the 98727582746 people who will read their open letter come to their defense against a nameless bully makes them feel a tad better about their Achilles heel.  Plus, these days, people will do anything for 15 minutes of internet fame (even if they claim to be embarrassed by it).

In the future, I’d like to see the assholes strike first. I look forward to the day when I can read a viral open letter from the person who did the “shaming.” That would be a pre-emptive strike I wouldn’t mind seeing. It sure as hell promises to be a lot more interesting.