Friday, March 25, 2016

Adventures in Mansplaining

Where to start... Where not to start... Is there a way to start? Mansplaining is... dammit, I'm already mansplaining. Umm... women who... crap, there I go again. Actually, no, this is not mansplaining, but I find that such statements are quite often labeled as such incorrectly. So what is mansplaining? I will use a quote so that I do not have to be accused of misunderstanding it or mansplaining it myself:

"to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing."

By this definition, I must be condescending or patronizing in order to mansplain something. Hopefully that is not how my article comes across. In fact, by this definition, even women can mansplain if they are patronizing or condescending toward men or even to other women as they explain something. The "man" in mansplaining does not mean that a man must be doing the explanation. It apparently derives from the fact that it is typical of men to explain things in a condescending tone. Fair enough.

So hopefully it is clear that I am not mansplaining about mansplaining simply because I am a man. But let us be quite clear that this is a derogatory term by associating men with being patronizing and condescending in the same way that it is derogatory to say someone hits like a girl. Not to mention, it is often used in a way that is quite patronizing and condescending meaning that the speaker of the word is often being entirely hypocritical. Before I go any further into the woes of the poor little boys whose feelings get hurt but such word usage, let me explain that I fully understand that women have it worse. This is not a contest to be won, but if it were then women would win hands down. Yes, women have it harder than men. Capiche?

In fact, it is for the sake of women that I write this article. I am not entirely concerned with the upset men as much as I am concerned for what this means for women. If we attest to the fact that the world is predominantly run by men and that women are unfairly treated as a vast intertwined cultural phenomena, does it not make sense that the promotion of change in favor of women is going to be highly dependent on the whims of men? If we do not care for the sensibilities of men and if we "mansplain" how they just don't get it, do we really expect them to respond positively in favor of women? Heck no. Nobody wants to be a part of a movement that they believe despises them. It may be fine to threaten the reputation of a company to get change, but if we threaten the character of a man, they are likely to become all the more steadfast in their position. In fact, that is human nature and not merely manly behavior. Unless we are extremely aware of it and attempt to avoid the pitfall, we are all dangerously willing to dig our own grave of incompetence when someone argues with us.

Having explained all this, I would like to present what I see as a significant problem with the feminist movement of which I support. Not because I am a man and because women are doing it wrong, but because I care deeply for fairness of all humanity and I think this has increasingly valid merit. The long and the short is, we need to stop being condescending toward men. Absolutely. It is hypocritical, rude, wrong, and extremely harmful to the treatment of women.

I believe quite strongly that many feminists are indeed rude and patronizing to men and that men feeling attacked has less to do with misinterpreting the words. I have had many experiences myself where I am accused and ridiculed as a typical shallow male despite being entirely on board for women's rights and even being an active support of them. So allow me to share my most recent adventure in mansplaining albeit fairly minor.

Someone posted this snippet of a conversation as a meme to Facebook. It has no names so I am calling them John and Jane:

John Doe: Instead of claiming to not hate men, think about why so many people think you do
Jane Doe: This is literally an explanation of why. Men grow up in a world where men are always more important than everyone else. Refusing to go along with this and actively prioritising women feels like hatred to men who conflate their unearned position of power with their identity. Maybe instead of obediently supporting the status quo, you should put some critical thought into why so many men get irrationally angry when women want to be treated fairly.

This post receives likes and shares because people take the response of Jane to be a homerun retort against John. But let us dissect this a little further. We know nothing about John other than the fact that he has an opinion which seems similar to what I am explaining: that feminists behave in ways that make men think they are hated by feminists. The response is actually a mansplaination indicating that John does not critically think, that he mindlessly supports the status quo and that he is one of the many men who irrationally get angry just because women want to be treated fairly. Granted, Jane might be right in this case and it is hard to tell without the rest of the conversation and a personal knowledge of John, but if she is wrong and if she is making an assumption which I assume she likely is, then this response is quite rude and uncalled for. This is an example of the very kinds of behavior that make men feel as if they are hated by the feminist movement. Again, we cannot know either way from this meme without more backstory.

What I do know, however, is my response to the meme and the response I got back from it. I responded, "I dunno. I think it's the verbage of things like manprivilege and mansplaining along with claiming men are the ones at fault. It sounds like attacking rather than joining hand in hand to recognize and solve the problem." I had posted nothing before this so anyone reading would know nothing about me. The response I got was, "lol that's a classic example of mansplaining." As we just learned above, this is not mansplaining by me whatsoever. It is merely my opinion. The opinion of a man. And a rather valid opinion as the response shows with its own condescending retort. While my feelings are not hurt and I do not hate women or feminists for this response, and even though this is only one person in this one particular instance, this is a very common response that I get when posting my own ideas about the movement. Mansplaining is used against me as an indication that my ideas hold no value because I am a lowly male in the movement.

This example is fairly weak, I know, but this is just one itty bitty minor example in a vast array of episodes I have had with feminists over the years. I am short on time, but perhaps I will revisit this article and add better examples. I simply went with what was readily available.

When I scroll through a feminist's Facebook feed, I really have to ask the question, "What is most beneficial for the future of women: demeaning men or uplifting women?" I found six posts similar to this one which complains about men and their "delusions". There was nothing uplifting about women at all. No support, no advice, no ideas, no conversation about the issues, or anything about uplifting women--simply complaints about men which is actually one of the very things feminists want to remove portrayal of in media: women talking about men. And then the question gets asked why men think they are hated by feminists. Well, because they are treated like dirt, obviously. Unless, of course, such men do not oppose a single thought within the feminist movement. Men having their own opinion in the feminist movement is met with disdain--I would expect women of all people to understand how that feels since that is a common problem they face. They should know better than any man how terrible it is to be shut out and unheard due to their gender and they should use that to fuel their compassion and understanding when dealing with men even if so many of them do not deserve it.

The movement will grow and it will be successful. Women will eventually be treated and depicted fairly. I absolutely believe this. It is simply a matter of time. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we wish to speed or slow the process. We can make it take longer or we can do what makes it go quicker. Personally, I believe kindness will speed it along much faster since individuals are going to be far more likely to jump on board when not accosted. We can be rude to organizations and media all we want, but we ought to be kind to individuals. This is a grass-roots movement, after all--we need the grass! So let's stop cutting it down already.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Value of Women

I found this cartoon which immediately made me go, "ah ha!" followed by a "wait a minute..." Can it be that both cultures, being extreme opposites, put down the true value of women equally? Of course it can, because they do! Now, don't get me wrong, a woman can freely dress in a bikini or a burqa and not indicate anything about the male-centric nature of the culture. It is not so much about the dress as the stress. In Islamic cultures, women are ultimately forced and coerced to cover up. Not for their own sake, of course, but due to a tradition long established likely for the purpose of hiding the beauty of one's wife so that others will not steal such a man's "rightful" property. Given also that they cannot drive, go to school, or whatever else in many countries, it is safe to say that women are not regardly very fairly. Similarly, the western culture stresses the value of women almost entirely based on their looks and nothing else. Whether or not women truly are viewed this way despite the apparent pressure the women feel to focus on their beauty, all we need to do is look at the Republicans and The Donald.

Trump. Oh, Trump, Trump, Trump. The master of offensive content toward women. Despite the obvious foolishness behind Trumps misogynistic views of women, dare I say that he accidentally made a valid point once? While far from ignored, Trump's point went unheeded and had been immediately placed in the bucket of misogyny coupled with further attacks at his character. I mean, fair enough--Donald is a terrible, terrible man, and his extreme fame in the Republican party shows just how terrible and unconcerned a significant portion of our populace is with the plight of women--but he was far from wrong when he said that a woman's looks were important and referred to the questioner when indicating that she would not have her job if she were not beautiful.

Before I explain further, be it ever so clear that women are worth a lot more than what can be summed in an image. A picture cannot tell the value of a woman by a long shot even though pigs like Trump and his supporters like to think it can. Further, Trump may have been right that the lady in question would not have her job without her looks, but that does not mean it should be this way and that is certainly where the poor-excuse-of-a-man gets off the truth wagon. What I would like to bring up, however, is how we ever-so-unshockingly swing the pendulum too far the other way in saying that looks are unimportant or even that they should not be important at all.

Again, a woman cannot be summed by a picture, or her worth determined by the clarity of her skin and the size of her lady lumps. A woman need not be sexy by cultural (or genetically-induced) standards to be worth something. A woman need not bear children, raise children, or cook anything to be of value. Perfectly valid points are these and absolutely clear they must be. After expressing such quite clearly, we must now allow for the ever-expected "however," however. Even though these things are not the sole value of a woman, they are indeed still valuable aspects to possess. Certainly no man should scoff at a woman who cooks and cleans as if it is of no value. Such things would be valuable aspects of a man as well. What woman would find no joy in a man who takes care of the house and children?

So let us be entirely fair: qualities deemed feminine are not at all to be dismissed as if not valuable in a woman. The problem is that too many men think that women are valued only by these particular qualities and they often undervalue such worth as well. Such qualities are not trifles. But truly, there is no shame in a man desiring a woman who can cook, clean, raise kids, and look good doing it. Hopefully he wants more than just that, but this is no more atrocious than desiring a woman who likes playing video games, has a sense of humor, and enjoys watching Star Trek. They are simply qualities that we, as humans, can be attracted to and there are oh so many different things that go into the value of a human be it male or female. How one looks is certainly a pretty big part of that even if not the only thing.

I hold absolutely no value when it comes to sports. If someone is a sports nut, they will likely find little value in me unless they also value other aspects which I possess. And women who prefer a more well-built and ripped man will be absolutely let down by my physique. I certainly do not blame them since we do not exactly pick who were are physically attracted to. It is innate to our being. Innate especially is the visual appeal of a woman to a man. Studies have shown time and time again that men are (only on average, of course) more visually stimulated than women. Men are simply going to put a high value on the looks of a woman when looking for a mate. Of course, the problem is that men are valuing women based upon looks even if not looking for a mate. Even that, however, might have some slightly valid justification even if it is extremely unfair or even immoral.

Studies have shown that simply placing a picture of a pretty lady on a credit card flyer causes more people to sign up for that credit card. The applicants have no chance of ever meeting this woman, and yet somehow her pretty face reduces their logical and critical thinking skills and makes them more desirous of whatever it is "she" is selling. The pretty face sells the merchandise. And marketers know this. They are not marketing for the purpose of defining the value of women even if that is the outcome; they are marketing to sell a product in the best way they know how: sexual appeal. No amount of us learning to value women in other ways is going to reduce this fact, and corporations are not knowingly going to make such a vaguely-proven moral decision at the cost of their sales. The fact is, beauty in general has value in nearly everything and we are extremely hardwired to enjoy the beauty of a woman in particular. The only problem is if we think that beauty is the say-all and end-all.

We should be wise enough to realize that a cute smile and an hourglass frame is not guaranteed to make a decent person. Such a person could be any number of negative adjectives despite looking sexy. Similarly, a woman not so gifted in the realm of sexual appeal could be any number of positive qualities (including being better at sex despite the appeal) that would make her a far better candidate for whatever she is being evaluated for. The biggest problem I think we face in regard to women is not that we value their looks--it is that women believe that is all we value. And for a large segment of the population, that might very well be the case. Where this comes from is multifaceted but it certainly includes the fact that women are used everywhere as decor and advertising. If the vast majority of female depictions are in materialistic appeal, we are guaranteed to subconsciously draw strong connections between women and beauty rather than anything else.

When we see men, we see them playing sports or video games, being engineers, saving damsels, going on missions etc, etc. Women? We mostly see them being hot and sexy. Sure, there are a few outliers here and there, but it is actually quite difficult to find a movie where two women with names talk to each other for more than sixty seconds about anything other than a man. This is called the Bechdel test. Imagine how easy it is to find the converse of two named men talking to each other. It would be just as hard to find a movie where that was not the case for men as it is to find where it is the case for women. How cray-cray is that? It is crazy how women are often used only as filler for beauty or shallow backstory as if some side-thought that we need moms and girlfriends to help a movie's plot. Recognizing this injustice is only the first step--how we overcome this discrepancy and start showing depictions of women being something more than simply hot is entirely up to us as a society to figure out. Some people are already doing it, but still too many people misunderstand the real problem.

Too many women think they must be as skinny as a pencil or have breasts the size of cantaloupes to be valuable. They get this from the depictions of women everywhere they look and how they are treated by others who similarly derive their opinions from the depictions around them. Marketing campaigns are not going to stop using women to sell their products because we will always value sexuality and beauty. So we ultimately have two options: we can create laws to forcibly stop the use of sexy women (probably not the best solution), or we can inundate our culture with other depictions of women to counteract the overwhelming use of women as art. We can also make this issue more obvious and palatable by explaining it in a more practical manner besides "men are pigs for desiring sexy women," and people could then make conscious decisions in their daily activities to promote alternative depictions of women. An author, for example, does not generally need to have women in any stereotypical feminine roles to sell their books. If they are unaware of the plight of women, however, they are likely to write solely what is familiar and stereotypical: women as decor and housemaids.

I am a strong proponent of uplifting women in positive ways and helping them overcome the false perception that their looks are all that are important. As such a proponent, I think it is extremely important to be clear and precise in how we strive for these goals. In writing this article, I hope to better express the problem without at all indicating the failings of men who are more likely to respond with indignation by a perceived attack. I believe the problem is not men in particular in today's age but a simple propagation of devaluing behaviors via cultural repetition, marketing tactics, and ignorance of the issue. We need not swing the pendulum of misogyny into misandry. Women today are actually to blame to some degree as well who, similarly corrupted by society, focus heavily on their own looks and the looks of others. They continually express the value they, too, place on beauty and perpetuate the failings. We need not blame men or women alone. We are one race and together, hand in hand, we can help our culture overcome this unbalanced depiction of women for the betterment of us all.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Positive Side

I find it is far too easy to get caught up in thinking about the things I wish would improve in the world. So much so, that I find it distasteful when people continually focus only on the positive aspects of life and I often perceive it as blindness and denial. A part of me despises such indifference and ignorance to the suffering of others while another part of me longs for such simplicity in the enjoyment of life. To be free of such a burden of concern would be amazing if not entirely cold-hearted and selfish. And yet, focusing only on negativity does no amount of good to anyone. I feel like it should--it should be a great motivator--but it is not. The fact that it is not is all the more frustrating, and yet it is all the more reason I need to learn to focus on more enjoyable things.

I must learn to balance for my own sake as well as for the sake of others. No matter how right a person might be, if a person is naught but negative, if helps very little. So to offset my years of focusing on what needs changed with the world, I have decide to take a brief moment to reflect on what is already beautiful and perfect. Perhaps I can find solace in the reminder that despite the innumerably horrific events transpiring this very second, there is also peace, and love, and kindness abounding elsewhere. Neither side of good and bad should be ignored for the other. Despite my tendency to stop the pendulum in most matters of life, in this I have failed miserably and have swung the pendulum as far to the other end as it goes. I will now take some time to ponder the other side--to forego what needs changed, and to enjoy what is good already.

I love the sound of rustling leaves as they dance through the wood following the whimsical nature of the wind. With a warm breeze and a blue sky, I could sit and listen forever while chipmunks and squirrels play tag and birds chirp their ever-joyous melodies. The smell of nature envelops me as I am for once in my life entirely content with my insignificance amongst the giants of trees gently creaking and whispering around me. Camping brings a calmness and clarity to my soul as I hear fires crackling and faint voices in the distance as people enjoy simply being. A tent zipping up resonates serenity, simplicity, and quiet friendships. Water can be heard trickling, splashing, and rushing as it traverses the winding path it has carved only a few yards away.

Peace. I absolutely love the sound of peace. Cars and complaints are a distant memory as I soak in the null sounds of nothingness. Yet, as if to complement peace, I love rocking out to powerful music. When an artist expresses that perfect sentiment with a powerful rhythm, life flushes throughout my body. The bass takes place of my heart beat as energy comes swirling in from around me and enters my body. I sing along as worries melt within me and evaporate. Some songs perfectly express my thoughts such that my heart leaps with joy knowing that someone understands what I am thinking or feeling. Music can spur thoughts and creativity while burning-in a hope and a passion.

Nothing matches the feeling of a passion shared. To discuss topics greater than myself in depth with a friend is powerful and moving. Such discourse radiates a care and concern for each other and proudly exclaims, "You are worth my time, my energy, and my thoughts--your words hold value to me." I could talk for hours with a friend who understands me and shares my interests in philosophy, activism, and the deeper contemplations of reality, existence, and the infinite depths of space.

Space. Where imagination runs wild. Infinite possibilities. What creatures lurk in the farthest reaches of the blackest abyss? What beauties untold lie at the edge of comprehension? What technologies await to be discovered and feats of mankind to be achieved? What is possible? What is impossible? What could be and what could have been? The questions and mysteries to unlock are appealing, amazing, and inspiring. Movies and television shows like Star Trek allude to the numerous possibilities of life, existence, and the multitude of possible reinterpretations of events past. So much wonder and so many revelations to be beheld, it boggles the mind with awe.

The being an instrument of joy to others or the hand of help in a time of need brings purpose to my life. Knowing that I have provided a smile to a person's face confirms value to my existence and enriches the life of others. I love seeing genuine displays of affection, love, and concern on a bright and sunny face, or to feel the embrace of one I love and who loves me. I love passion to do what is right and a willingness to lift a hand and support those who need it most. Selflessness, kindness, compassion, and an even temperament are as refreshing as a cold spring on a hot day.

I love creativity and detailed graphical artistry. The realism in video games and digitally enhanced videos is amazing and gratifying. I enjoy taking something old and making it unique and new--seeing outside the box and finding a new purpose or application. I applaud the profundity of words eloquently chosen to express a thought clearly and precisely to all who hear while revealing a powerful truth.

I am fascinated by the energy and innocence of youth unhindered. To see them smile and laugh at the simplest of pleasures is relaxing and uplifting if not perplexing. The sweetest sound in the world might very well be the laughter of a child, and the most profound emotion arising from the deepest guffaws with a friend. Laughter with a friend might very well be the best of all things I love, and yet balance is always the best underlying joy. If not for the serenity of peace, music would lose its power. Balance of mind is a beautify thing and balance of body can demonstrate such tranquility. Balance in opinions, thoughts, and actions can bring ever more joy and satisfaction. There are many such things I love in life and I recognize that I just might be better off for giving them more attention while not neglecting my passion to make a difference.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cheery Rainbows, Bunnies, and Sunshine

(you didn't really think I'd post about something happy, did you?)

Edit: While I believe my anger and frustration depicted below is still spot-on, I wonder if my isolation is due mostly to my response to it. Hmm...

I have recently decided that my personality could be defined with the word "activist." I see problems and I want to fix them. The word itself, I perceive, is not looked upon favorably. When people think of activists, they likely think of picketing, yelling, fighting, and perhaps even hating. At least, that is what I think of when I hear of someone being an activist. Feminists are "feminazis" and PETA goes around bombing animal test sites, right? Those black lives matters people are cop-haters and thugs looting and pillaging, and so on. Activists get a bad rap. And yet, I find that I am one and it seems I am incapable of changing it.

I am not a very common activist, however. I have no one particular fight such as women's rights, black rights, gay rights, etc. I care about them all. I would label myself as a justice activist or a truth activist which sounds really shallow, arrogant, and stupid. Still, I have no better words for it. When I see lies, I feel an overwhelming urge to squash them. I have learned to do so with tact, for the most part, but this does not prevent a barrage of insult and hatred from every corner of the world. Lies are often emotionally charged outbursts and logic rarely helps against such behavior. At least, logic does not help immediately. I have the hope that such people will calm down eventually and reminisce on the words I had so graciously bestowed upon them. Of course, I never get to see if that is the case.

What I get to see on a day to day basis is hatred, insult, and worst of all: indifference. I care so much about truth and using truth to better the world that it pains me deeply when I see people rallying toward lies with emotionally charged propaganda. It hurts all the more when others do not care that this is happening and label me as an instigator for trying to speak up for those who need it. People unfriend me from Facebook because they do not want the controversies. I am ignored and shunned while living a life of isolation within the very group of people I wish to help. It has been this way my whole life as I strive for truth.

It so amazes me in a bad way that people are so thoughtless and careless for other people. So many Christians, for example, believe that the world is going to burn in hell for eternity and yet they do nothing. They lift no finger to change it. They are simply glad they won't burn themselves and go watch TV. It baffles my mind. We live in a world filled with so much hate and injustice and the consumers of the world simply sit idly by while condemning me of all people for caring. They prefer their Hallmark cards and cheery rainbows, bunnies, and sunshine so that they can ignore all the crap in the world. Why be reminded that people are losing their heads for their beliefs? Why be reminded that women and children even within our own cities are being kidnapped and forced into sex slavery? Why be reminded that every year thousands upon thousands of people die of hunger? Who cares that civilizations are sewing shut the vaginas of 12-year-olds so that it can be proven they were virgin upon their wedding night by plowing through it and revealing a mess of blood and producing extreme anguish for the girl? Who gives a crap, right?

The very people who should care are the ones being bought out or brainwashed by media to vote outside their best interests. Those who do care are the ones labeled as heretics and as divisive entities of hatred. Those who care are cast out or murdered much like the supposed prophets of the Bible and even Jesus himself. People cannot stand an activist. They want to hide away in their homes and pretend that all is well with the world and they hate all who tell them otherwise.

It is a very lonely life being an activist. A very lonely life indeed. There is nothing worse than being alone and hated when there are thousands of people around. Worst of all, I cannot become so ignorant and blind myself so that I might live more fulfilled. It is a part of me that will not go away. I am forced and destined for as long as I live in this shell, to be concerned about injustice. All I can do is hope that indeed a difference is made even if I never get to see it while living out my life in exile. The land of the free and the home of the brave? More like the land of the ignorant and home of the shallow. I wish I could give up in my anger and frustration, but even now I simply care all the more. This cannot stand and people need to wake up to the plights of others and start caring. It is honorable to care even if the world rejects and figuratively crucifies those who do.

Wake up and care, people. At the very least stop rejecting those who do care for they are the ones who can make a difference even if you do not want to. Of course, this is just one more injustice to be ignored and is likely to go unheeded. Perhaps only unheeded until I die, though. Everyone prefers the voice of a dead activist, it seems, when they suddenly become perfect beings and saints. What utter nonsense. We need to honor people while they yet live and I will continue to make that my life. I will help make this world a better place even if the loneliness kills me. It does not have to be this way, of course. One good friend could make all the difference. Alas, there are truly that few people who give a shit about anything which always brings me back to the question: is it me? Am I the problem? But every time I ask and ponder, the answer is a resounding no as I realize the number of people being abused and mistreated. It is not me. It is the rest of the world. This is my Fool's Errand. I will forever work on fixing this.

::end rant::

Monday, March 14, 2016

Is Wealth Inequality Really a Problem?

I tend to extensively ponder the wealth gap in America. I find it strange that so many people do not understand why this gap is a problem while equally pondering if it truly is so obvious. If I were to guess, I would imagine that people believe in the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality of trying hard to succeed. They hold on to this idea that if a person tries really hard then they, too, could be a rich bazillionaire.  There is certainly some amount of truth to this mindset which is perhaps why it is so easy to believe even to the detriment of society and even themselves. They probably also see the consternation of people speaking out against it as a jealous attack on the rich as if rich people are bad simply for being rich. They accurately see that as crazy-talk, but that is not exactly what is being complained about. The complaint comes from us having no chance in hell to become anything greater. Or have we? This is where I struggle.

We all know the underdog stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and so many others. We hear of overnight success-stories for things like Flappy Bird or Angry Birds. Surely, if we just came up with a good enough idea, then we could also have such success. But these people are not the norm. We all know these people only because they indeed got rich and famous. The true story is in those whom we do not know. Millions of people have ideas, work themselves to death, or risk it all in hopes for their big break. Some of them have great ideas and some of them have not-so-great ideas. Even those with the great ideas rarely become anything more because the probabilities are entirely stacked against them. Some people win the lottery, sure, but the average person quietly and invisibly struggles to succeed clinging to the hope of success. They might actually be better off buying lottery tickets.

What odds are truly stacked against them though? I see it as obvious yet confusing all at the same time. The obvious part is that if I wanted to go out and design my own car and build it, there is absolutely no way at all. I have no money to do so. And I could shout my ideas to every forum known to man, but nobody wants my ideas. They've got their own ideas and mine are probably not as unique as I might imagine. So I do not stand a chance at making my own car company. I picked up a children's book the other day and it surprised me to note that even such a small and simple book had over six people working on it not to mention the entire printing company. It named an artist, a writer, a producer, an editor, the chief director and sub-director and whoever else. With so much input and talent, there is no way for someone like me to even compete in a children's book market unless I came up with one heck of a novel idea (no pun intended). And even then, I would have to somehow get people to know about my novel idea which requires advertising (i.e. lots of money).

Here is where it gets confusing for me, however. As I just explained, no one person does all the work of anything. At least, not usually. It takes thousands of people to make amazing cars, movies, and video games. Together, we accomplish so much more than we ever could alone. So where do I get off thinking that any one of us needs a greater chance at doing something great or competing as an individual? Individuals rarely can compete. If I had a million dollars, I could maybe make my own business, but there are already successful businesses out there. It would be extremely hard to compete with them without being a gajillionaire and having significant experience running such large businesses. This is where I get to thinking that success does not come from a great idea fanning out to the world, but rather by working up the ranks of ladders already put in place. Unless, of course, a person is lucky and wins the quick-shot-to-fame lottery. When I think of it this way, I realize that I started poor and worked my way up using loans and government assistance. Now, with enough effort and desire, I probably could become the CEO of a company. If I don't, it is probably because I had no desire to be such or simply did not have the skill set. If I do desire it, then I feel like there is a potential based solely upon time, my skills, and my effort. It sounds to me like things are working the way they ought, right?

And yet, despite all this, I cannot help but realize the cost of a mistake. I received a degree in Computer Science. I am interested in so many more things, however, and I would love to study psychology or even quantum physics. These things are not within the field I chose and I am now in a position, given my degree, that would not pay my way for further education in these fields. Even if I fronted the money myself or go back into debt the way I started, I am now married with four children and I have a particular way of life. I cannot quit work to go back to school for the fun of it, and I cannot adequately try to go back to school while taking care of my family and working. These courses would be during the weekday which would also be impossible due to work until online-schooling becomes more mainstream. In short, I am stuck. I cannot do what I would really like to do. I can work my way to the top, but only of a limited set of companies and it would not exactly be what I am interested in. But okay, boo hoo. I have a great job, my family is surviving, and I can only become a billionaire in a less satisfying job. I cannot currently achieve all my hopes and dreams perfectly, but once my children move out I could probably make some sacrifices and do what I really want. But what about everyone else?

I am not the only person to have made a bad choice in life. And who can blame anyone for bad choices? We cannot see what the future holds and we all start out quite foolish until the harsh lessons of reality reap wisdom within us. Some people never went to college and instead got married and had children right away. Others might have indebted themselves into a spiral they cannot escape without the better job which they can never attain without a degree. Even I could not pay for all of my school without a cosigner on my loans and not everyone can get that cosigner. There are so many things that might keep a person down including simple incapability. Not everyone is endowed with the mental acuity to achieve a stable life. It is not like they chose to be that way, so should they really suffer for it? In the end, what is extremely clear to me, is that the bottom 50% of our society needs a heck of a lot more support than they currently have. Even if this means a few people get more than they deserve, I find this far more palatable than even one person having to steal ketchup packets from fast food restaurants in order to make tomato soup for their children. It is far more palatable than requiring people to work sixty hours a week just to make ends meet. We can do better than that and I think that better starts with addressing the wealth gap. If more people have the freedom to do what they truly want to do, we can get far greater ideas and products. And our people could be far more educated, far less stressed, and life could be that much closer to paradise.

To explain the wealth inequality, this video does an amazing job. It is far worse than people realize.

The Drumpf of Floxtown

Once upon a time, a long time ago
The Flox had it bad and it went just like so

It started in Floxtown, a small little place
Where they harvested floxom, a metal from space

Everyone gathered as much as they could
The Flox who tried harder got more as they should

The Flox traded floxom for toys and for bread
Some would get floxom for thoughts in their head

So long as a Flox had something to sell
They gave and got floxom and all went quite well

But one day it crumbled and Floxtown went sour
When one terrible Flox learned how to get power

This one little Flox had floxom to spare
His mom named him Drumpf and he hadn't a care

With Floxom aplenty he spent to make more
By giving out loans to Flox who were poor

If poor Flox spent wisely, they'd pay off their debt
But more than the loan much to their regret

This extra they paid came from others, of course,
And Drumpf got yet more and more in great force

Over time Drumpf had earned nearly all floxom found
He then paid for laws to keep safe and sound

Some Flox got wise, oh yes, they found out
That they had not a chance and they started to shout

Floxom they earned would come from the others
Rarely from Drumpf yet oft from their brothers

Floxom would move from one Flox to next
But Drumpf would make more leaving less for the rest

Scoffing and mocking Drumpf shouted as well
"I work hard for my floxom! Get away, you smell!"

Drumpf started writing and posting throughout
"Beware of the Commie-Flox who do nothing but pout!"

"They hide in the shadows, lift no hand to work,
They'll steal hard-earned floxom as they quietly lurk!"

"If you try really hard, you can be just like me
But they want it all and they want it for free!"

"The reason you struggle and the reason you're poor
Is Flox like these Flox who always want more!"

The Flox were now fearful after reading the posts
So rather than Drumpf, they feared wise Flox the most.

The wise Flox tried saying "That's not at all true!
We work long hard hours, we are all just like you!"

"But think for a second, how can you compete
When we are all struggling just making ends meet?"

They tried to explain with their voices sincere
But Drumpf's voice rang out far louder and clear

No floxom themselves, the wise Flox seemed lost
They could not post posters at such a high cost

Flox could all say what they want, what they will,
But Drumpf could speak loudest by paying a bill 

Forever mistaken and misunderstood
The wise Flox were helpless to do any good

Drumpf spoke all he wanted and tricked all the Flox
To vote into power himself, the sly fox.

The times got worse, and worse they got
But little by little the wise grew a lot

Growing in numbers, the Flox shouted loud
Revealing the truth and removing the shroud

But what could they do with a system in place
To keep Drumpf secure and their needs erased?

That's when he appeared, a savior for Flox
He rallied the wise and spoke on a box

"It's not right," said this Flox, "It's quite wrong," he contended
"Look at me, I'm so rich, I rule the world," he pretended

"All Flox need a chance, we all need to eat
We need education, our health, and our sleep.

"We cannot continue no matter how hard we try,
If we keep on like this even Drumpf will soon die.

"Floxom means nothing if we Flox can't survive
What will Drumpf do when there's nothing to buy?

"Together we live and can reach for the sky,
No more sleeping in mud if together we try!

"My name is Bernie and I'll clean up this mess
Rally 'round me and I'll do my best!"

Drumpf was now silenced and his words did no good
The Flox got together and booed where he stood

Bernie was voted to be the next ruler
He cut down bad laws that were made by the fooler

He made things more fair for each Flox alive
So no Flox just lived, no, now they thrived.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Don't Flee Trump - Embrace the Masses

I would like to formally apologize for supporting a toxic mindset of fleeing the country should Trump be elected. Many people are pondering similar action and I would like to plead with everyone to stay their ground. I do not wish to use war metaphors, but I lack any better words than to say there is a battle for the mind in this country. A battle for progression versus regression. A battle of superstition and mass hysteria versus scientific and rational thought. Such battles are never won by retreat but by perseverance. The battle is not actually with mankind at all but rather with concepts, ideas, and cultures that shape minds and alter opinions. It is akin to a sickness which grips our country and we need to stick around to mend it. And mend it we can. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes diligence, and, most of all, it takes a willingness to speak up kindly. And by speak, I truly mean speak.

The internet is a great place to obtain information and to present information, but I have come to understand that it is not the best place for sound discourse. This is best done face to face where the person we are speaking with has the opportunity to read our emotions and see our thought processes. Text is cold and generally unemotional. The reader, on the other hand, will add a significant amount of emotion from their own perception. Emoticons, word choice, and punctuation can help with all this, but let's face the facts: punctuation means squat to the mass populace incapable of using the proper your or  you're. A smiley can be sarcastic or friendly and bold text could be an important data point or just an ignorant remark of self-importance. In text, it is far too difficult to tell which is which and an opposing view will always be read with an air of stupidity. We need to engage people on a personal and friendly level where they can read our emotions and be more willing to hear us out. It is simple to brush off and scoff at a Facebook post, meme or email, but it is difficult to scoff directly in the face of a friend, family member, or even a stranger.

So I implore everyone, do not leave our country as it appears to crumble. Headway has been made time and time again and it continues to improve albeit slowly and sometimes with a few staggers backward. We can influence people for the better with the proper technique and we do not have to abandon ship just yet. Meet with people. Talk with people. Go out of your way to discuss the things that really matter. If we are kind in our disposition and regarded as generally intelligent, people who appear to be closed-off will likely still consider our words until such a time as they perceive it is their own conclusion. Sentiments run amok which people latch onto and make their own. As an entirely unrelated example, I have found so many people who believe they are unique for "realizing" that "no one" is considering the ethical and moral disposition of self-driving car choices. I assure you, people are indeed thinking about it, and yet so many people believe it is their own idea after conveniently forgetting that someone else first made the claim to them and it sounded good to log as a personal revelation. We are all guilty and we are all influenced by the sentiments around us. But we can be intentional with the sentiments we emanate for others.

Personally, I have had enough of the poo-flinging. I've had enough of the complaints. What are we going to do about it all besides run away? The people of this country need help. They need positive influence and role models. They need to see better ways with their own eyes. They need to peek outside their bubbles and hear opposing views from a kind face. We will get no where with insult and condemnation. Leave that for the masses bought-out by the media they consume so that it becomes clear which side is in the right: the kind side. Forget social media arguments and embrace the reality of a person. Recognize their need and the influences which shaped them. Be an artist and shape the world rather than allowing the world to shape you. Do not flee, but stay. Think. Reason. Relate. Educate yourself. And if it is not too overused and Hallmarkesque: Love, dammit.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Other Side

None dare enter, and why should they try?
It's a mountain of darkness presiding inside.
Choking gases and fog growing ever more dense
No joy, only pain, and it grips so intense
A loneliness naught to be comprehended
Expression of thus is ne'er apprehended
People abound yet there's no one around
Silly notion so it seems, silly notion so it sounds.
Glib words and retorts breed forth a great fear
That all of the woes are true and quite near
No place for a voice nor a whisper to soothe
Condemnation's apparent lack of care this doth prove
Hiding in shadows with spotlights aimed true
One cannot escape, enveloped in blue
Such a problem beheld always viewed from the back
What is the deal, what is the lack?
To try is to fail with ever more gruff
So many fads, take a look, the skin's just not tough
Bobble heads, all, which shake on a truck
Applause is unheard, eyes roll, good luck
Blank stare, bored face, uncomfortable gaze
Chin up, buck up, be not so crazed
Drugged, plugged, emotionally mugged
Spiraling spirit, as if phallicly slugged
Rich getting richer, poor getting poorer
Happy getting happier and sad, sad still more
Downers are drowners and worth not an ear
Hallmark lies, sweet lies, to this do they steer
Shrugs over hugs, sports and weather uplifted
Big talk's a waste, data cannot be sifted
Enter not to the woes of another position
Think not of the ways, their ways, you are missin'
Don't stop for a second don't dare start to listen
The match need not facts, the match is for pissin'