Lessons from binge-watching AMAZING RACE

Tonality sinks more ships than flapping lips, and triggers more reactive explosions than the thing said.

History, geography, and basic manners are neglected studies these days.

Judging people by superficials–their accents, background, nationality, religion, physical attractiveness, or skin tone–is always going to be mistaken.

When there are no rules, sometimes people still choose to play fair.

Travel agents sometimes make mistakes: Best deals you find yourself on the Internet.

White-, American-, Age-, Religious Belief-Privilege are obnoxious throughout the world.

Sometimes bickering is annoying to listen to, but is how a relationship works. 

People become pessimistic to fend off the anticipated ravages of disappointment.

Emotional abuse takes many forms, some more passive than others, but still mean-spirited and destructive.

The most common exclamation on the Amazing Race is a toss-up between,”You got this, Babe!” and “This is ridiculous!” A close runner up, usually in a whining tone: “This is so haaard!”

People often mispronounce things, which can be funny, but the funniest so far was the gal in Africa who pointed out a troupe of bamboons. 

Sometimes mean people win. 

On Fallen Heroes

Heroes… perched on pedastols, enthroned, enshrined… And suddenly one day they come toppling down, to be charged with heinous behaviors, to be run out of town on a rail in a suit of feathers and tar… Or we just tear them down on principle, for daring to rise above the ordinary, pitching stones at anyone someone else has elevated to the Hero’s height.

I have a theory about Heroes.

First, they don’t make themselves. I have heard of many a celebrated hero who didn’t want to hear it, who denied the charge outright. Why? Because they know themselves what they are made of, all the flaws and foibles that make them no more than human. They know that the moment that made them Heroes was a fluke, an unthinking response to emergency. Or that they took that crown from some other, nicer person who simply didn’t get noticed. Or that they actually cut some corners, even cheated to come to the event they are praised for. They know the whole story. And they have their own human issues.

So, why do we make Heroes? Why do we want Heroes so badly?

I believe it’s because we miss our parents. Not the ones that deprived us of candy, or made us come out of the pool, forced naps on us as kiddies, and grounded us as teenagers. Particularly, not the ones we discovered were not all-knowing, all-wise, after all, and could not beat up the bully next door in our defense, would not trust our judgment, our choices, our opinions…

When we discovered that our parents were merely human, we mourned the loss of the Parent we had believed in, trusted, enshrined in our hearts from infancy when they were our sole means of survival, well-being and comfort.

The Hero is the replacement for the lost Parent. And the cycle of recognition, veneration, and disillusion is the same. The problem lies in our self-deception that we are perpetual Children who need someone bigger and stronger to assure our safety and happiness in a world of threats.

We have to stop expecting other human beings who do remarkable things to be that perfect lost Parent. We can recognized their extraordinary deeds, their above-average accomplishments without expecting them to be demi-gods on all fronts. We can throw them a parade, put them up on stage in spotlights, praise them for a season… and then let them return to their own quiet homes, their privacy, their humanity.

We can spare them and ourselves the anguish of cleaning up the pieces when they fall crashing from the pedastol, we can spare them and ourselves the need to punish them for failing to be perfectly what we wanted and so imagined them to be.

We can warm to their humanity when they prove human, after all, embrace and comfort them when they fumble; even love them because of the many ways they are not better, stronger, grander than ourselves. We can release them from the popular expectations that they will be heroes every day, all their lives.

We might also think better of ourselves, our own competence and potential for the extraordinary: We might forgive our parents, and accept our own adulthood.

Gender-Flex

So, I have been thinking a lot about this for the past little while for reasons sociological and personal, and this is where I have arrived. Top of the hill? Or a plateau on the way up? Don’t know. The view is good enough from here, for a while.

  • It doesn’t matter if your maleness or femaleness is a matter of birth records or genetics. It doesn’t matter if it is biological or choice.
  • The point is, if someone wants to live as a particular gender, a tolerant and civilized society can live with it without freaking out.
  • If someone later changes their choice, that is also their right to do without justification to anyone else. How it affects others close to them is between them and the others, no one else.
  • How it affects anyone’s relationship with the Divine is also their business and no one else’s. No one else’s!
  • Public bathrooms should be gender-neutralized. So many of them are now single-user now, anyway, how hard can that be?

Because We Can

Why do we make stuff that actually in the long run, diminishes us? Why are we so proud and excited by what we clever monkeys can make, like machines to do work for us, like AI to do that humans used to do?

Think of the jobs loss, think of the boredom of forced retirement and unemployment; think of how those still working have to compete with tech so that everyone has to move faster and be always multi-tasking to keep up… No wonder people burn out mentally and emotionally, no wonder so many people need pills and drugs to stay in the race. Like the White Queen told Alice, we have to run and run just to stay where we are! 

It isn’t just human workers being replaced, it’s life being mechanized. The more machines are integrated into our lives, the more our own habits of thought and action come to resemble the mechanical. Machines don’t have humanity; Artificial Intelligence has no empathy; words of greeting and caring from computer voices are meaningless, even deceptions, a pretense that someone cares where there is, in fact, no one there in our interactions.

I am not saying all machines are bad, that all aids to work are dangerous. I am not saying that computers or computerization is an evil in itself. I am not against the evolution of technology.

am saying we should be aware: we need to pay attention to where we came from, where we are at, and where we are headed, and make some considered decisions about what really makes life better and what only makes it faster.

Birthright

Knowledge is power. Lack of information, or the wrong information diminishes our real power as it increases our sense of helplessness and desperation, makes us angry until it seems our feelings are the only force we have to defend ourselves. This desperate anger is the fuel of mobs, it is the madness of violence as an imitation of control. It is disastrous to trust only our feelings untempered by reason and knowledge.

Long ago humanity chose intellect over instinct, to be responsible for our own lives and well-being, to make our own decisions and choices, right or wrong: We opted for adulthood. We chose to use thinking, logic, experiment, deduction to guide our way through a world of mysteries. 

But within every adult is still the intuitive, the impulsive, the impatient child. It is the balance of ‘adult’ and ‘child’ that makes us human beings. And that, right there, is our birthright.

“Trust me… I’m from the Government.”

Part of the anti-vax problem stems from lack of trust in authority and claimed expertise. It is part of the American Dysfunction, that we expect to be lied to, gas-lighted, taken advantage of by those who are meant to protect and serve. We have witnessed and suffered too much corruption, too much plain incompetence and malfeasance. These are not necessarily under-educated or stupid people. They simply and passionately do not trust what they’re being told by authority.

This is also a reason why people don’t vote, why they resist education and deny science. These are people whose choice as they perceive it, is to collude with those who abuse them, or refuse to lie down and take it: to be dumb suckers or weak victims, or courageous rebels. 

I am not saying these ‘solutions’ are justified, I am pointing out the repercussions of authority consistently abusing its power; of out-of-control capitalism cynically shaping what we think we should want and have; of corporate profit-over-people strategies of withholding information and outright lying to take advantage of our ignorance; of power-institutions whose first purpose is to build and protect the institution and create pliability in the people whose money will fund the perpetuation of the institution, whether it is governmental or religious or educational.

The solutions lie in our own power to question, to learn, to be aware. We have to ask the right questions, we need to diligently seek answers and sources of information that are free of corruption. We need to critically assess what we’re told, to consider well the credentials of our sources, and their true interests.

We need to know where to go to educate ourselves when the government-managed educational system lets us down. We need to read, to do our own math, to do our own research, to find and recognize reliable sources so we can check up on who is telling us to give them our energy, our money, our support, our trust. Understanding the basics of scientific method, we can see where the ‘scientific authorities’ go off the rails, to catch the misinformation whether it stems from incompetence or design. We need to use our distrust, to drive us rather than to shut us down. We need to make sure our children also know.

Fourth of July, 2019

I have mixed feelings this Fourth.

You who read me here, you know I am a practical progressive, believe in compassion and justice, and utterly deplore the current administration’s  delusional justifications for its program of malicious mischief. With the anti-Americanism rampant throughout Trump’s cabinet and appointees, it is embarrassing to be an American, these days.

It is shameful that more rational and humane voices are drowned out in the mob’s chorus of nationalistic fervor. These years will be named in history as the era of White Supremacy empowered by massive ignorance and greed. It is the era of toxic capitalism, as evil a thing as the toxic socialism: they both create chaos in their extremes, in which there is nothing but growing desperation for the majority of American citizens; and desperation is a root cause of rising suicide statistics, of escapist entertainments and distractions, of losing our grip on civilization. 

But that’s not the whole story.

We are in a time of wakening, of growing awareness of the beliefs that have bound us to tribal thinking, and every day thinking, caring, and the acceptance of responisbility move us towards a higher level of civilization than technology has ever achieved on its own. 

I read a quote yesterday, an assertion that America’s true greatness lies in our ability to see and correct our faults. Adding that, however far from them we are at a given moment, this nation strives towards the ideals stated in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, I agree.

I believe that this mad era will pop like a noxious swamp bubble, that we will claw back our humanity and wisdom; for another generation or two, the best of what we are will override the worst, until our children’s children’s children have forgotten what we are remembering now: that it is our responsibility as adults and as citizens to keep an eye on the flow of power and to keep it from bursting its boundaries and flooding catastrophically again. That will no doubt happen again, because there is nothing like success and well-being to fuel complacence, and the taking-for-granted of blessing earlier generations bled for.  

After all, we have been here, exactly here, before. If you doubt it, do some research on The Gilded Age. There are some excellent documentaries on Amazon Prime.

So today, the 4th of July, 2019, I will be figuratively and literally be turning my back on Trump and his imitation of power, his imitation of the authoritarians he looks to as role models. I keep faith with those who think and careand take on the responsibility to rise above the swamp sucking at our feet. Every day, more of us awaken to the atrocities this administration perpetrates, and there are more of us than of them: all we have to do is vote, and vote smart. 

That’s what this day will be about for me, today, and tonight, every fireburst in the sky will be light blasting away the darkness.

*******************************

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

****************************

(excerpt from WH Auden’s SEPT 1, 1939)


HELLO!

After several years of blogging on a paid site–http://blogit.com–and a few years editorializing on Facebook, it’s time to go beyond those limited landscapes and head cross-country.

What I publish here will reflect my own considered opinions, beliefs, and philosophies derived from a lifetime of experience and observation. My intent to stimulate reconsideration of cherished old beliefs–whether to update or confirm–in myself and in my readers. I am happy to discuss, clarify, explain my ideas with courtesy and respect to anyone who approaches with courtesy and respect. That we agree is not required, but civility is.

If you are inspired to post manifesto-style comments, please get your own blog, and only summarize your point(s) on mine.

If you are moved to share excerpts of my writing, please ask first.

CIEL