Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Enemy is Us

Here’s a thought:

Any view is defined from the opposing end of that view’s spectrum. The idea came to me, while I was entertaining guests at a birthday party for my daughter. I was able to “geek out” with a couple of guests, and in the pursuit of doing so I heard someone tell me that “most comics are left of center.” The context for the statement was that there was a particular group that was advocating “right-of-center” comics, but that they were met with fierce opposition from within the community. (I wasn’t aware of this, but I assume that all hell broke loose because of it.) I found the idea odd, that we need comics written “right-of-center.” No comic book writer/film critic/author writes content that establishes a worldview based on their enemy’s characterization of them—that is, I wouldn’t specifically write a book that was “liberal” because a critic of mine suggested that I was “liberal.” I would assume that they would write a story that reflected their own beliefs. I write stories that discuss things that interest me. I am not out to incite arguments. But I write what I write because I find that content interesting to me.
I find, that when someone (person B) characterizes your views (person A) as their opposite, what is happening behind the scenes is an instilling of existential competition, to validate beliefs of the original critic (person B) as valid, or more valid. I see this a lot in religion because I am a Christian and people are often insecure about their faith (myself included). I see instances where a layman witnesses same-sex marriage become validated by popular culture or reads about a scientific finding that sheds doubt on aspects of Christian orthodoxy, and their initial reaction is to characterize the supporters of those positions as being in opposition to his/her own. It’s therapeutic, ultimately, to be validated by creating an enemy. The stakes are higher now. And because enemies ultimately “lose,” we are invigorated when we read or hear something that sheds doubt on our opponent’s position.
The unintended effect is that we create our enemies as a toxic pursuit to escape our fears, rather than confront them and try to make sense of them.
What should we do, then, to avoid this?
Sorry, I have no idea. But I have thoughts.
See, going back to my opening point. If I write something that inadvertently challenges the worldview of another person, the onus is on that offended party to confront me and ask me in an understanding way why I have that position. Because I am not intentionally trying to offend someone. I’m, in most cases, just writing a story, or creating art, that resonates with me. The specter that we create of our enemies is a strawman that we sling mud upon rather than making an attempt to bridge the gap and attempt to understand any view different from our own.
Another interesting example: there was a time when I thought I was going to be a pastor of a Christian church. The unfortunate thing about this, was that I was very involved with the viewpoint of a certain pastor and I had purchased all his books and followed all his sermons. When I would confront a viewpoint that was different or, worst, in opposition to this pastor, I would write it off as poor scholarship on the opponent’s part. Then I was told an interesting anecdote as I was venting my frustrations our on my sponsoring mentor. If you read one author (his works in total), then you are a clone. If you read two authors, you’re confused. If you read three authors, you begin to develop an ecumenical understanding of knowledge pertinent to that topic.
This applies to everything: cooking, knitting, philosophy, politics, video games, religion, film, etc. What I don’t want you (reader) to take away from this is that your viewpoint is invalidated, or diminished, once you’ve reached this point of ecumenical understanding of your topic. What I desire you to take away is that people believe certain things because it’s personal to them, and there is a story behind that belief. When enough people are like-minded, they coalesce into a larger entity that takes core values (but not all of them) and synthesizes a new position that lacks the multifaceted explanations of certain beliefs.
In light of social media, I am convinced more and more that Facebook and other platforms are a cancer to our ecumenical understandings because they have condensed conversations and familiarity into statements and surface level understanding.
Chew on that for a bit.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Internet Society

The other day I was at work and one of my co-workers sent me a link about the recent mass killing in Canada regarding self-proclaimed “incel” Alek Minassian, who praised the killing of students at UCSB by another “incel” named Elliott Rodger. I use the terminology in quotes because it’s a nonsense category of humanity, one that was created by malignant sociopaths and absorbed egomaniacs.
On Reddit, there was a forum dedicated to these kind of people. These who are faceless and plain, and take out their anger on the women who won’t sleep with them by writing depressing, bemoaning tracts of prose better suited to the stylings of a melancholy junior high on Deviant Art than a twenty-something still living at home with their parents. (My dig at Deviant Art comes from personal experiences, so there.) Fortunately this forum was removed from Reddit some months ago.
                This is a trend ongoing. There are many online forums that are steeped in this type of incestuous talk. What’s impressive is that I was introduced to this kind of thing long ago when I was a kid. I grew up with the internet, with 56K dialup, 4.5KB per second download rates, and simple HTML websites that took two minutes to load in Netscape Navigator. But there I was on forums, in AOL Instant Messenger, and observing first-hand the capricious and devilish stylings of some of the most despicable people I had ever encountered.
                Even I was the victim of online bullying.
                But that’s a story for another day.
                What I still try to understand is the phenomenon of “flame wars” and other types of vilification on the internet. We say a lot of things that we don’t mean, or we have the courage to do things that we otherwise wouldn’t attempt in the company of others. I think vloggers and youtube broadcasters are a great example of the latter: a group of people emboldened by the lack of social repercussions received from face to face conversation. In the right context, these people have become influencers and speakers in a larger conversation. (At the same time the lack of credentialing has led to a conflagration of unsubstantiated observations that bring the layman / laywoman to bad conclusions. This is also a conversation for another day.)
                Internet bullying is like a network loop. It’s recursive. Ego exits the speaker and enters the Other. The Other responds with ego and enters the Other. And on and on it goes. The internet is puzzling like that. There is so much good that the internet brings us. Open and constant information. Limitless education and tutorials in dozens of practices. Extending communication to those halfway across the world in seconds. And even exposing virtuosity for the least of our number to elevate them to incredible heights. But these are not really highlighted upon in the current climate. Right now the internet is a cesspool of thieves, blackmailers, bigots, terrorists, and sexual predators. Information is suspect and, in many cases, counterfeit, spread by people without qualifications. Unprecedented movements in communities lead to the deaths of others or, at the very least, their defamation.
                I mentioned the network loop before… People often say that charity is the best remedy for those needing a better reference. This is because, instead of thinking about ourselves and being trapped in a constant loop of self-preservation, we begin to see others as ourselves and the gap between “Us” and “Them” closes. This whole blog entry really has been about extremes, two sides with an immeasurable distance between them. Breaking the loop, in the context of the sociopath and the internet, is really bringing down the artificial wall of anonymity. When we are confronted with people that are different at a distance, it’s much easier to discredit them than if we are up close.
                So maybe the cure is to see eye to eye, face to face?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Thoughts on Ads

I’ve been up to some shenanigans lately with running ads for my books, finally after Spirit of Orn has been published for 4 years and I’ve begun to take current projects more seriously. Tall Men: And Other Tales inspired me to “go big or go home” and “big” I did, spending something like $180 on advertising via Facebook.

In light of Facebook’s recent controversy over the use of personal data to enhance the potential revenue stream from ads, I stand to gain from the system they architected, and I feel almost dirty after the fact. This has led to a lot of introspection, especially considering that I plan to run more ads as time goes on.  What I came to realize is that I’m not sympathetic to Mark Zuckerberg after all the suckerbergs he has made of us. However, I find his datamining incredibly powerful and worthwhile.

Here’s why:

To get a voice in the continual and tumultuous shouting contest that is the internet (and advertising in general), many have written tutorials and given seminars on marketing strategies to showcase and advocate for a product. The most effective way to do this is the “grassroots” approach. That is when a small minority of people become influencers. They loudly advocate, adding new converts to the product that they feel resonates to them on a personal level. I remember my days back when I interned at my local church where this model was depended upon exclusively. But, alas, I’m too busy to even get outside, unless it’s the gym or work. I have a full time job, a wife, a young , infant daughter, and any extra time I have available I invest in producing content. Availing myself to ads is then a great option simply to let people know that I exist, that I’m out there. So while I think large corporations leveraging personal info to invade our lives with their merchandise is by nature duplicitous, I am hopeful that people can be empowered to get relevant content out there and in front of the people that really appreciate it.  

Ultimately, by using ads I want people can get to know me. I’m not the most lovable person, but I’m passionate about what I do, and I enjoy sharing that passion with other people. Chances are, if you are reading this, you are one of the people that responded to my invite to like my Facebook page recently in my last marketing campaign. Though there will eventually come a time where I can’t reach out to everyone, at the moment you have my attention.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Unintended Sins of Socialism

I’m not super political, despite what my posts may suggest. Though I touch on the current state of affairs (no pun intended) rather often my stance on American politics has always been the long term model: that either in my lifetime, or the lifetime of my future generations, America will fall as Rome did or be subsumed into a larger planetary entity, utopian/dystopian or otherwise, like Star Trek’s Federation of Planets or Warhammer 40,000. There are basic rights that every government promotes for the electorate, and regardless of which political spectrum one resides, the ends are achieved one way or another. The unregulated and anarchistic model of the fiscally conservative, remarkably similar to Mad Max (only with etiquette and manners in the slaughter of the innocent), is a favorite among most that already have wealth. Still, the basic principals of American free-market capitalism are ones deeply rooted in American traditions of entrepreneurship and free enterprise. There is elevated importance in the responsibility of the average citizen to “pay attention” and not “fuck up,” lest they willfully confine themselves to the proletariat strata for a generation or two.

 Any other government today seems to be defined and judged on the merits of the former model, that any other interpretation of continental Enlightenment ideals and French populism is somehow an incomplete or misinterpreted execution of the classical models of Adam Smith. I once heard a Libertarian say “of all the imperfect models, capitalism is the best possible of all evils.” I wanted to follow up on his spurious assessment with probing questions like, “Don’t you have NO JOB, working at a church off the tithes and offerings of others (aka Biblical Communism)?” or “So have you never taken advantage of paid-vacation, employer health insurance, 8AM-5PM workdays, or OSHA requirements to ensure manufacturing procedures are in place to ensure a safe work environment?” I needed to remind myself in the moment that this particular specimen of Americana was one that lived in a family of protesters and activists, generally a class of people that have no firsthand experiences of those they advocate for.

(All of my friends who advocate for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour have never had the privilege of working in a factory or washing dishes in a corporate kitchen. Now that I make in excess of $15 per hour, I recognize that a McDonalds employee earning an income within spitting distance of mine is an insulting proposition, given the bevy of soft skills and advanced tasks that I exercise on a daily basis. If anything steps should be made to control the artificially inflated value of real estate, which is often the primary economic drain on a household income by far.)

Though during the 2016 election, there was a lot of talk about various aspects of what I would consider “Nordic Socialism” being proposed as new legislation, deploying such benefits such as paid maternity leave, single payer healthcare, and the raising of a minimum wage. Having been to Norway, learned Norwegian and studied social, economic, political, and religious history of the land, and not simply read or watched a two minute video on the wonderful-world-of-the-other to inform myself of a complex, yet rich history of nationalism in Norway (Syttende Mai, for example), I have a close idea of why the miraculous social systems work so well across the pond. I can also explain, or  approximate, the uncomfortable rise in Neo-Nazism, Extreme Nationalism, and the public awareness and subtle racism implicate in their multicultural programs and state naturalization bureaus.

Assuming first the fallibility and stereotyping inherent in television and media, on second reflection the television and film of Norway is very cognizant of the current issues plaguing Norway, many being existential in nature. Popular television programs like Lilyhammer depict Americans (ie outsiders) rigging the naïve and bureaucratic for their personal gain, employing spirited 1920’s era prohibition imagery to sell an overtly capitalist establishment operating under the nose of highly regulated and strictly monitored socialist businesses. A film, Troll Hunter, offers a similar satire of Norway’s turnkey bureaucracy, as well as the troubling and duplicitous stance the Norwegian government takes on conservation. (In this context, the trolls being rounded up and executed represent the bear populations in Norway—it is illegal to hunt bears (as they are protected) but perfectly legal to exterminate them if they wander to close to human settlements that are often being built progressively deeper into the countryside. Troll Hunter is a more subdued parody obviously. Lilyhammer, with its breadth of content (canceled after 3 seasons), more can be said of its self-awareness of the current political climate of Norway, which is schizophrenically tolerant and intolerant of refugees and immigrants seeking a better life.

According to Lilyhammer’s depiction of the Nye Arbeids og Velferdsetaten (colloquially known as the N.A.V.), Norway expends a tremendous amount of energy to invest in migrant populations, offering retreats, counseling, language courses, and eventual naturalization upon completion of the coursework. Whether or not this is fantasy, I have no idea. However the people that I chanced to meet with in Norway were directly involved with these programs, at least in the local municipality. To those that are tolerant, there is an expectation to help support the new arrivals. This attitude, often derided as “multiculturalism” by conservative Norwegians, indicates that there are non-vocal expectations for immigrants, namely that they assimilate quickly, and without retaining their original expressions of culture in favor of their new homeland’s values and traditions. More so, the popularity of asylum and immigration requests have created migrant communities that live in reasonably adequate housing projects, though with the attached stigma of being “the other.”

The unintended sins of socialism then beget racism, ethno-centricity, neo-naziism (in Norway’s case), nativism, aggressive nationalism, and homogenization of culture. The irony is that in the United States we exhibit the same tendencies but out of ignorance and generational gaps in thinking. The United States is a well blended, cosmopolitan nation with many segregated communities that in microcosm exhibit the inward focus of Socialist principals. (Socialism only works if the communities involved are small and tightly knit, with a common culture that unites the people with traditions and regional narratives.) We best see the signs of this when one culture oppresses another, or a dominant culture sequesters themselves inside self-styled ghettos (suburbs, gated communities, rural-agrarian homesteads).

Yet for all the complexities and difficulties implied in socialism (which we might as well acknowledge as bureaucracy integrated with society under the principals of social contracts), the benefits far outweigh the consequences. In a country so expansive and large, and having agreed reluctantly in the past to disband the Articles of Confederation, and other “state-centric” forms of government, the only sensible way forward is with the assistance of government oversight and regulation. This isn’t for the sake of touting an egalitarian system from person to person, but for repairing our roads and making sure our hospitals, residential buildings, and civic structures are built to code. Or, more importantly, insuring the safety of the food we eat or the air we breathe. Granted there are instances of bureaucratic complexity and red tape, but the benefit of being in a democracy is that these rules can be changed with active government participation. In other words we are without excuse. And if we don’t like it, then get the fuck out. Every citizen has a responsibility to advocate for the quality of life of their neighbors and community. That, in essence, is the spirit of socialism.

Friday, March 23, 2018

One Year at the Comicbook Store

During my tenure at Sequart Organization I authored a misguided piece that, while genuinely motivated, brought up the hardships of traditional publishing industries currently, suggesting that comics would eventually befall the same fate. I suggested that Amazon would slowly price out and out-distribute local comic shops (specifically trade paperbacks and hardcover editions), ultimately replacing an inefficient platform (similar to how Walmart defeated the local grocer in the mid-west). What I didn’t anticipate was the vehement backlash the article produced, mostly due to my use of a photo of a large and successful comic book store. (Which reasonably implied that I was coming after them.) After profusely apologizing, I ate my words and reader criticism.  Since then I’ve reformulated and reassessed my perspective of the “local comicbook store,” even going so far to patron one for an extended period of time. And while my initial assessment hasn’t much changed, I have encountered a variety of interesting takeaways from my time spent supporting my local comicbook store.  What prompted this you ask? I had to give up my 5 issue pull-a-month habit because of personal finances. So, why not reflect. Right?

Store community, Store feasibility:

My first impression of the store was of the admirable community that surrounded it. It reminded me of my days spent at the skate park in the town where I grew up. There we hung out in the pro shop and watched grainy footage of teens doing “sick” moves on government property, ate nachos with pennies we scavenged, and watched Wayne's World on VHS. The comicbook store was a watering hole where people gathered to talk, socialize, pass the time, play games, and (occasionally) buy things. The shop catered to a wide audience, featuring not only comic books and related accessories, but also board games, baseball cards, and painted models. All this served to attract a wide base of people, however schizophrenic in direction.  Meanwhile, another store up the street featured what seemed to be exclusively comics and board games. The latter I regarded with less suspicion.

My impression was mixed. (I am a loner I admit, which doesn’t really help me in any attempt to be a part of a community.) As someone who barely has time to read the books I buy, it’s difficult to commit in the activities of a surrogate church of pop-culture. When asked to participate, it was always an imposition. I really wanted to go, to be a bit player in the unfolding drama, but it was too much. It’s a “kids” game. (“Kid” an operative term for anyone without pressing responsibilities.  They weren’t always 13 and under.) The people that worked at the store were nice and very helpful. I enjoyed being around them and kicking around hypothetical storytelling and hero mashups. The only thing lacking was tact. A 12 issue plot twist was revealed to me as I was purchasing the comic, as if I had the ability to read a comic before even purchasing it for myself. It made me a “sad panda.” It also didn’t help knowing that the store was always on the cusp of going under.  Right off the main boulevard, I couldn’t begin to comprehend the cost of rent for the storefront. Every employee working there was on minimum wage and without benefits.  And there was no official use of inventory software, so pulls that I signed up for were lost several times and I had to wait for backorders to come in more than a few times.  A good friend of mine, older, wiser, told me stories about the local comic book store in his hometown, where the store was run by one person and had absolutely no insight into their cash flow. Also, it was an under-the-table operation. On the contrary,  that my store had multiple employees was admirable, if not impressive for an independent installation. I often wondered if my shop too was a cash operation, given how much of the inventory was used. 

The Cost of Comics:

One thing that I’ve come to love about used bookstores is the thrill of the hunt: finding a missing book in a collection for pennies on the dollar or discovering new content without the trepidation of having to dump a bunch of capital to invest. One of my biggest complaints for supporting a comic book shop was the fact that used trade paperbacks, despite being worn and handled, were charged the full MSRP. It was incredibly frustrating. I found myself constantly price checking comics against Amazon. (Before you condemn me remember that I have a right to do this as a consumer. Also I have a fucking budget.) When supporting a local comic shop is akin to supporting a charity, feeling like you are getting gouged defeats any effort in winning over possible donors. Not to mention, each of these books were traded in tremendously depreciated in value. (i.e. a $25 book is worth $5 in store credit, etc). Even selling a book for $10 yields a $5 profit. That said, anything new I purchased was typically a matter of time and availability. Do I pay $30 for something that’s $20 on Amazon? The answer to that question was typically one of the following: is this going out of print soon, should I “treat myself,” or is this worth the hassle of waiting for a strategic, non-prime Amazon purchase?  


I think that comic book shops make their dollars on browsers-turned-buyers.  Not much more to say here. I have a weakness for Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, and I would typically buy anything that my store had available that I didn’t already own. Needless to say, the comic store always beat me when I came in to buy a $3 issue and walked out with a $40 trade paperback included.

Incremental storytelling :

Lastly, and probably the most compelling reason I stopped buying was because I didn’t like reading incomplete stories. The tradition of pulp fiction is getting hooked and waiting for the next installment with baited breath. For myself, I always found I was constantly having to go back and re-read stories to find out where I was. Also it’s easier to spot filler narratives: arcs and issues deployed just to pass the time while the main event is coming. Initially, I was hooked on the Rebirth stories when they first started coming out because of the Watchmen crossover event tease. Little did I know that, almost a year and half later, I would find myself still getting breadcrumbs and nothing in the way of morsels. In the meantime the stories were OK, but not memorable. Any memorable floppies felt easily discarded because they were full of adverts as well as they weren’t easily distinguishable on a bookshelf due to their lack of spine.

(My first foray into comics were full stories captured in volumes that I marathon read. I never fully adjusted to reading floppies because there was no momentum in the narrative.)

(These are just throwaway examples, no pun-intended.)

 In sum, I feel more vindicated returning to the fold of trade paperback purchases after my experiences of sponsoring a shop. It was a really interesting, enriching experience, but at the end of the day my allegiance is to what saves me money. Why? Because life is expensive...

Monday, March 12, 2018

Giving Up Ghosts

I am planning on giving away a few books to my good friend and fellow writer Desmond rather soon here.

I was very impressed by Alan Moore’s Neonomicon and Providence series. Like his other occult works (Promethea comes to mind), Alan is doing best what all writers do, which is justify their worldview through their respective mediums. After all, our desires inform our writings. We pen what we desire to be true. Grant Morrison took mushrooms and saw aliens and other dimensions. Neil Gaiman, a Journalist originally, wants normal folks to understand their sometimes almost supernatural imprint they make on the world, and why their uniqueness makes the world delightful. Alan Moore, is exactly who he appears to be in his writings: a disgusted and vengeful man that desires the upheaval of the status quo in favor of non-conventional society influenced by hermetic thought. (Given how DC and Warner Brothers have treated his intellectual property, I am not surprised in the least.)
                Providence and Neonomicon are powerful works. They are intertextual, metaphysical expositions on the nature of consciousness and waking madness. When I purchased them, I was solely throwing my money at Avatar Press on the basis of Moore’s reputation alone. Providence is in many ways a prequel of Neonomicon, following the exploits of a gay jew, who has eschewed a comfortable life in New York City as a Journalist to pursue a mystery cult after the death of his lover. The characters and overarching plot of Neonomicon find their fulfillment in Providence’s three volume narrative, consisting of a standard length comic followed by handwritten journal excerpts from the protagonist. The later aspect of the storytelling is, I suppose, the root of the elements of existential horror that are interwoven through the narrative. Robert Black, our protagonist, writes from his perspective completely unaware of the secret world of occultism up until the conclusion. It made me wonder how he could be so dense. But could I have been so willing to accept the cosmic nihilism awaiting the subsequent generations?
                 Horror as a genre today, especially in the context of film, is sort of a celebration of gross-out, grindhouse films of the 70s. But there is little about them that is “scary.” Sure, there are jump scares, moments where you need to catch your breath and take stock of your surroundings. But all these things are transient. If anything, they are cathartic, but catharsis implies an ultimate end to the experience. Moore’s horror is far different. So different, that I need to give up these books altogether from my library.
                Moore’s works are largely apocalyptic, narratives preoccupied with the end of things. This is both sad and fortunate, considering the bevy of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives that have saturated the market. (I’ve made great effort in my own writings to not give in to the seductive hooks presented by this genre.) Many follow the formulaic establishment-being-overthrown narrative, and we watch society degenerate into a mire of violence and oppression. The saving grace is always the lone hero, who vows to restore stability. These stories dominate the market, obscuring the actual stories that truly horrify us, hence myself giving up Moore’s work from my bookshelves. His work is existential, of course, but also claustrophobic. You feel trapped in his world after reading, and after so much time spent in his alternative histories, the real and unreal blur.
                One of the aspects of Providence that really impressed upon me the most was the pseudo-biographical treatment of H.P. Lovecraft himself, revealing—very deliberately—his repugnant private self. Robert Black’s twice-made-outsider status conflicts heavily with the source material he is placed in. And Moore wastes no time in establishing the disillusionment of Black, a devotee meeting his hero and being gravely disappointed. I myself was enthralled with Lovecraft’s celebrated works, though very soon realized that I was enjoying the work of an anti-Semite and white supremacist. Moore and I seem to be on the same page, Black’s revulsion being Moore’s and vice-versa.
                Why then must I give up the text?
                There’s just so much anger buried in it.
                I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s too dark, too hopeless. As I aforementioned, an author’s work very much reflects who an author is, deep down. There are desires and motivations that go into drafting any story. I feel that when I write, for instance, that I am trying to investigate something about myself or the society that I find myself in. For Moore, in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it was nostalgia and reverence for the penny dreadfuls and turn-of-the-century travelogue narratives of adventure and danger. In V For Vendetta, he was denouncing the seemingly authoritarian government of Margaret Thatcher. In The Watchmen, in the wake of 80s revisionism in comic books, Moore borrowed the identities of forgotten Charlton Comics characters and told the world what would’ve really happened if the Superman was American. All these starting points are acceptable and well founded. They are critically acclaimed for good reason. But Providence and Neonomicon is hardly that. They are something different, something darker. And they need to get the hell out of my house.

Monday, February 26, 2018


Ignore the title for now. It'll make sense later. 

Lots of good new this week. I’ve never ran Facebook ads before. I went in with little expectations. My results were a little too good to be true, though the actual book sales remain to be seen for week one. (I won’t know that for at least three weeks.) I reached a total of about 2600 people. 206 “Likes,” 8 “Shares,” the latter two are the most important. I had the opportunity to extend the campaign over the weekend, but opted not to. Typically the highest traffic days on the internet are Monday and Tuesday mornings between 8am and 10am. Between that and finishing Underground Airlinesa solid alt-history slave narrative—I feel fairly accomplished. All that is left is to finish Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, and I can finish book three and begin writing, possibly, a spinoff novel for Tall Men. The key, as I’ve said time and time again is being productive and not making excuses. Don’t call yourself a “writer.” “Writers” post their shit for free on Deviant Art. “Author” is a coveted title that I’ve always owned, because I believe in what I do. “Authors contribute to the cannon of Western/Eastern literature. They participate in the global discussion of genre and literary theory. That’s an extreme, zero-to-sixty mentality, but, then again, I’ve always been an extreme kind of person—all in, all out. But I digress.

It's bubble of non-offense I give offense to

I catch myself in the act often, that is agreeing with myself. This self-congratulatory exercise makes me comfortably numb, as in the Pink Floyd song about heroine. Being “on the same page” is an addiction that I find myself struggling to combat, especially within the medium of social networking. While I have some conservative friends, they aren’t really “conservative” in the almost pejorative sense that would inform the opinion of a “liberal” or a “democrat.” (In quotes as well because these terms too are just conventions used to typify the positions and beliefs of certain segments of social/political discourse.) Though I’ve met some of the conservative ilk (my father included), and had wonderful and challenging discussions with them, this line of open communication hardly lingers beyond conception. In fact, it disappears. Like the ephemeral dust devil in a vacant lot, there seems to be substance to the conversation, but only moments later it dissipates into nothingness.

This particularly bothers me, and I’ll list a few reasons why:

First, typically those who are “conservative” or “liberal” conceive of themselves as being agents on a larger political stage, burying their own identity into hot-button issues and fetishizing the objects of their unknowing worship (guns, birth-control, legislation, et. al.). While there are implied, expected behaviors that emanate from these exterior labels, the partisan participation in government stands as the most prominent feature of these two groups. Democracy, our current form of government, hinges on the open line of communication between all citizens (excluding members of the above terms, because they undermine this whole process). But rather than be challenged by opposing viewpoints, we consign ourselves to the echo chambers of our collaborators, engaging in one-sided, non-offensive exercises of mutual agreement. While there are a many things that “conservatives” believe, of which I do not, these beliefs are founded on life experiences and ethics unique to another segment of society that we, the outsider, have no familiarity with. For example, there is legitimate cause to value the hard work put into founding a farm or a small business, but we must attempt to understand the values of someone raised in section 8 housing and their position of continual despair and stigmatizing, how that affects their productivity and “success”. We must also not lie to ourselves (ie “I deserve X because Y” or “because of circumstance X, I should have Y”) and think that we, the individual, are outside of the mutual agreement made between each citizen—that is, to be putting back into the social, financial, and political systems what we receive. In reality we are all in the same boat, same country, same brotherhood/sisterhood. So we must listen to each other with empathy and patience, or else risk demonizing a person. Just like the army, we are only worth as much as our weakest member. Instead of ostracizing the weakest, we ought to invest into them and become stronger for our efforts.

Secondly, if we remain in our tight-knit circles of group-thought, the ultimate end is abject cynicism. Facebook is the most regretful offender of this as an unrelenting disseminator of information. Most of it is bad information, or poorly structured. Worse, our reputation is invested into our opinions, our “voice” is quantified to metrics, our validation meted out in concise, impersonal injections. So, in an effort to be right, we willfully take liberties with the truth, equivocate, and outright lie vindictively—most of the time, that is. Other times, when we share information that confirms our bias and worldview, the information may be correct, but the supplier poorly states it, thereby making it confusing and allowing all kinds of people to draw seemingly disparate conclusions. On the spectrum of news and content, we are sensitive to the most outlandish of this kind of information: some of it true and most of it false. I see it all the time in my feed. Hyperbolic bullshit of the highest order! What is more frustrating: seeing things objectively true, but the information being ignored and kept under the roiling waters of false information. When I earlier mentioned that cynicism is the ultimate end of being in a bubble, it is because of the above. Seeing the truth trampled, day in, day out, brings us to despair and disillusionment: the latter being the seed and the former the water. When it all blooms the cynic bursts forth into the light, then bitterly turns in having had enough of this shit.

The last aspect, of why living in a bubble is noisome and detrimental to being a human being, is that we always live long enough for us to be the villain. This requires less explanation, as it could just be another addition to my previous point, but typically, after seeing your own side “lose” so many times the next logical step is to become dissatisfied with the position. Sick of seeing your side unable to fix gun-control legislation? Eventually, the thought will enter your mind: “this party does nothing for me. I need to leave it,” and one will start actively looking for information that confirms their new bias. Conversely, one grows older, accumulate some modest prestige, some possessions, earns a promotion at work, and then disparagingly look down on those around you for their apparent inefficacy. (Looking back on the idealists, we scoff and call them naïve and positivistic.) Then, like a thief in the night, your sentiment for the poor disappears and is replaced by a nagging need to register for the Republican Party. I can’t think of a different scenario for the contrary position at the moment, but you can catch my meaning.

Why this is on my mind is because I look back on the great movements of history longingly, while participating in my own folly. The great movements and events of yesteryear (The Civil Rights Movement, World War 2, The New Deal, etc) where Americian came together to accomplish something, are long gone due to our willingness to participate. Even if we are, we focus only on those who share our views. I am reminded of this as I see people tearing each other apart and the future, once imagined bright by people such as Gene Rodenberry, now is murky and stagnant.

Anyways…  That’s it from me.

Back to work!