Not Walking Back

I have a bad habit of reworking things I’ve written over and over again when it’s not even that serious because I’m particular about language – and the way I feel about the language I use shifts like the wind for any number of reasons.

Sometimes, I think I could clarify something better. Sometimes, I think something could sound a bit more poetic or have a better rhythm to it. Sometimes, I think something should be shorter or longer. Sometimes, I want to use a particular word or reference something I didn’t reference before. Sometimes, I want to change the tone or theme.

Shit – sometimes, I just don’t like the way a paragraph looks.

Point?

With the internet and social media being ever present and ever significant these days, we’ve become a culture of people scrutinizing every little thing someone posts anywhere they post it whenever they posted it, trying to interpret it as we see fit.

And we’ve gotten used to people deleting or walking back things they wrote in response to the backlash they received for it – which also becomes an object of scrutiny.

Given my addiction to editing posts for what may, at times, seem like no reason at all or my frequent urge to purge that results in me deleting a ton of shit out of the blue, I can easily see people accusing me of walking things back or hiding things in reaction to some external force.

So I want it on record that I never edit my posts over feedback I receive. Any changes I make are because I went back to something I wrote, read it, and said, “Ew.” I’ve now saved you the trouble of trying to make it mean something it doesn’t.

You’re welcome.

Advertisements

The Willful Woe

Years ago, there was a movie called The Players Club written and directed by Ice Cube. It followed a woman’s account of her time as a stripper, and while it wasn’t a memorable film on the whole, there was one scene that stuck with me. If you’ve seen the movie, you likely know which scene it is.

First, I want to touch on an earlier scene for context.

Reggie – played by Ice Cube – and his buddy Clyde are at the club with a stripper named Ebony, who they think they can have sex with – either for money or for free. She’s too drunk to stand let alone consent to sex, but they take her out of the club and pull her down the street.

Clyde jokes about “running a train” on her and Reggie tries to quiet him as he doesn’t want to draw attention.

They reach the car and throw Ebony in. Thankfully, Ebony’s cousin, Diamond, shows up and tells Ebony to get out of the car because “Reggie and Clyde will rape her”. Reggie and Clyde protest, remarking that no one is going to get raped, Diamond is stuck-up, etc.

Ebony says it’ll be okay but Diamond won’t relent, so Ebony finally agrees to leave, which upsets Reggie and Clyde. Diamond tells the guys to let Ebony out of the car before she calls the cops. They comply, calling Diamond and Ebony names before driving off.

Ebony mistakingly believed Reggie and Clyde only wanted her to dance for them. Diamond, familiar with their circle – even having been sexually assaulted by their acquaintance, a fellow stripper named Ronnie – knew better.

Here’s that scene if you want a look:

The main scene in question takes place later at a bachelor party being thrown by Ronnie for her brother Junior. Not wanting her friends to strip for the questionable assortment of men, Ronnie tricks Ebony into going, giving her the impression that there will be other strippers too.

When Ebony realizes she’s the only one, she gets worried and calls Diamond to pick her up. Diamond, however, takes her sweet time since they aren’t on great terms by that point.

Meanwhile, Reggie, who is at the party, is still upset that Diamond got in the way of he and Clyde’s “fun” and that Ebony went along with rejecting them, maybe even insulting them at some point we didn’t see, so he decides to get back at them.

While Ebony is alone in the bedroom reluctantly getting ready to strip, Reggie tells Clyde to take Ronnie outside. He then tells Junior to have sex with Ebony, lying about how she’s easy and willing, that he and Clyde ran a train on her, and giving Junior a condom to use.

Convinced, Junior enters the bedroom to find Ebony half naked and scared, clutching her chest. She tells him she’ll be ready to strip outside in a minute, but he remarks that the real party is in there.

Realizing his intentions, Ebony makes it clear that she’s not there to have sex, she’s only there to dance, to which Junior locks the door and replies, “Then let’s dance.”

What follows is a shot of Reggie and the other “men” standing outside the door listening as Junior brutally beats and rapes Ebony. Sickened by what they hear – though not enough to intervene, apparently – the men slowly start to exit.

Unaffected, Reggie eyes the men funneling out of the room as if he doesn’t understand why they’re put off. Ronnie and Clyde return just as they’re exiting and Ronnie asks where Ebony is.

Reggie says, “Ask Junior”, following it with a quote that perfectly punctuates the brutality of the scene. “Oh yeah. Tell Ebony we understand. No do mean no.”

You can watch this scene as well and keep in mind that while it doesn’t show the sexual assault, hearing it may still be upsetting:

By the way, for anyone wondering why I bothered to describe the scenes if I was going to post links to them, it’s because users sometimes take videos down and not everyone will watch them anyway.

Now on to the meat and potatoes of this post.
Why did this scene bother me so much?

Two reasons.

The first is obviously the violent rape, but the second and most important is the fact that Reggie sent Junior in there knowing what would happen all because he was pissed he didn’t get a little ass and his ego was hurt.

Of course, he didn’t know exactly how things would end up. He wasn’t clairvoyant. But he did know Junior was unstable with a history of violence, so it was likely that sicking him on an unwilling female participant in that context would have predictably violent consequences.

You would assume that’s a no-brainer, but there are people out there who somehow think Reggie wasn’t setting Ebony up to get attacked and that he was as unnerved by it as the other men in the room despite being the last to leave and his heartless callback to being cock blocked by referencing that no does mean no.

Regardless, this post isn’t about The Players Club.
It’s about the Trump administration.

I know, I know. You’re like, “Whuuuuut?”

But this is what I do. I tell stories. I draw parallels. And I do that because more often than not, people have difficulty accepting certain information or understanding a certain perspective due to bias specific to that subject.

Changing the subject removes that bias from the equation, allowing people to think more freely and critically – and when you ultimately bring it back to the real matter at hand, they will have hopefully retained a bit of what they learned from the parallel you drew.

So what’s on my mind?

Well – when questionable policies proposed by the Trump administration are announced or when members of the administration say sketchy things that relate back to the direction they’d like the country to go in, it’s become common for people who aren’t keen on Trump to claim that this administration is trying to dismantle America from the inside out.

It’s a pretty bold accusation – that the folks in power are willfully trying to destroy our country. But when you consider the kind of shit that’s happened throughout history on both a domestic and global scale, it isn’t exactly implausible. Moreover, I can see how some concerned Americans would get that impression.

Look at people like Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Scott Pruitt – the Secretary of Education, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency respectively.

Not one of them appears to be qualified to hold their position. It could even be argued that they’re the exact opposite of qualified – like appointing a pedophile as the Director of Children’s Safety or making someone who believes there’s nothing in your closet the President of whatever’s in your closet.

And it’s so obvious how mismatched they are – not only in respect to their (lack of) relevant qualifications but also when comparing the intended functions of their departments to their personal opinions and political history – that you can’t help but think their misaligned appointments were intentional.

Because no one in their right mind would think they’re great candidates unless the whole point is for them to be bad ones. Just like no one in their right mind would send a violent sex offender into a bedroom to sleep with a girl who doesn’t consent unless the whole point is for her to get attacked.

In case that parallel went over your head, one could say that America is Ebony, naked and bare, fearful of its future, desperately clutching its dignity, only to have Trump usher a shitload of Juniors into the room. The only question is why?

We know why Reggie did it.
Why did Trump?

I ask because let’s assume for a moment that those who believe this administration wants to tear our country down are right. That the government is trying to get America to cannibalize itself socially while methodically dismantling the foundations of a thriving nation – healthcare, education, infrastructure, economy, civil rights, environmental safety, et cetera – under the guise of improving those things.

What’s the endgame?

Growing up, I’d look at the villains in movies and comic books whose goal was to destroy the world and I’d think, who the hell wants to rule over a decimated wasteland full of suffering citizens? I’d rather rule over a world that’s powerful and prosperous because I’d be powerful and prosperous by extension. I’d reap all the benefits it sowed.

Then I realized it’s a matter of necessity. Few if any villains enjoy the idea of presiding over a crumbling society. They just recognize that a crumbling society is easier to rule.

People busy fighting for food, fighting for medicine, fighting for shelter, fighting for work, fighting for rights, fighting each other, won’t be fighting their oppressors any time soon. Even if they wanted to, they wouldn’t have the means to do it. Not the resources, not the knowledge, not the strength.

And it’s not like those villains are forced to endure the misery themselves. They don’t live in that wasteland. They don’t even have to look at it if they don’t want to. They always have some fancy fortress or mansion on a hill or walled-in city or some other place cut off from the despair around them.

They have their education, their infrastructure, their wealth, their food, their health, their freedom. Taking those things from everyone else is a small price to pay for control because it isn’t a price they’re paying anyway. It’s the victims footing the bill.

When’s the last time you came across a villain who was fine sacrificing themselves and all of their creature comforts to see their evil done? Someone willing to suffer for their power in the way that some suffer for their art? It’s a red flag, you know. Policies that don’t negatively affect the ones making them. Just saying.

Maybe the endgame is unchecked authority.
Maybe the endgame is unfettered wealth.
Maybe the endgame is unending war.

Who knows.

Regardless, I understand there are Americans who think the Trump administration is doing a bang up job and I’m not here to argue with them. This post isn’t about them.

It’s about the worry many Americans have that the decisions being made aren’t being made in ignorance. That those in power know exactly what will happen to those who aren’t because they’ve designed it that way.

That the increasing struggles of the middle class and the ever present crushing of the lower aren’t unintended side effects. That the in-fighting and the fear mongering and the division and distractions are strategic.

That making people responsible for government agencies they can only, by nature, ruin, is simply another way to destabilize the power of those agencies while simultaneously abusing it.

And that they’ll continue down this path of cutting off America’s nose to spite its face despite protest from millions of Americans who don’t want to be screwed by the upper crust because our leaders understand no means no.

They just don’t care.

 

 

Represent

I was thinking about people I’ve met who were born and raised overseas. You can learn a lot about other places from those who are actually in that environment, keeping in mind that what you’re learning is still being filtered through a particular lens – albeit a closeup.

One constant is how often we develop a perception of things we’re not quite familiar with or have never encountered ourselves by way of the media. Rather, from the information, ideas, and imagery we’re exposed to – the majority of which is derived from the media.

It’s something I always come back to when listening to people who’ve never been to my country and/or never spent time around my race talk about what they think we’re like. Because when asked why they believe what they do – where they get their ideas from – the answer is always the same.

Western media.

What we’re exposed to dictates our worldview more than anything, and that extends to the way we view ourselves. Every second of every day, we’re consuming information. Pictures and words. Feelings and thoughts. And we internalize that data. We adopt it into our existence and into our translation of the world around us.

What we’re exposed to becomes the building blocks of our social language – the way we understand our environment and communicate with each other through that understanding.

Most of that happens subconsciously, but there are times when we’re aware of specific things that have an effect on how we think. Sometimes, we can even pinpoint the very moment something sparked a change or planted a seed. Beyond that, it’s like those things have always been there.

How many of you are insecure about a feature of yours or a perceivable trait? Maybe it’s a body part or your body as a whole. Maybe it’s an accessory like glasses or braces. Maybe it’s the way you talk or walk.

Do you remember the moment when that thing became an insecurity? When the switch flipped, turning something you didn’t think about at all into something that was all you could think about?

What happened?

In many cases, the answer will be that someone said something to you about it. In other cases, the answer will be that something you heard or saw prompted you to become insecure in spite of nothing being said to you directly.

Either way, insecurity is a product of your environment. You were exposed to something, directly or indirectly, that – in reality or in your mind – defined a particular trait as a flaw and you internalized that definition.

I was thinking about this because I came across a post online that I don’t feel like finding again. Paraphrasing, it said that if someone creates a TV show featuring a cast full of what I personally refer to in America as the dominant groups (e.g. white, straight, Christian, etc.), it doesn’t make the show creators bigots, and it doesn’t mean they hate other groups.

In the same vein, if someone does the opposite, creating a show with a cast comprised of everyone but the dominant groups, it doesn’t make them social justice warriors.

The post ended with write what you want or some such thing, and I agree with the basic sentiment. Don’t jump to conclusions. Sometimes, the way a film or television show is cast is just a creative decision. Not everything has a hidden agenda, good or bad.

That said, something doesn’t need to have an agenda to send a message, and when the message it sends is symptomatic of a greater problem or serves to perpetuate a greater problem, the fact that it may not have been purposeful isn’t really the point.

The point is what I’ve been rambling about: Internalization.

Given that what we’re exposed to plays such a significant role in our worldview and the way that we view ourselves, it’s in our best interest to expose ourselves to things that will have a positive effect on said perspectives.

Unless we prefer a stagnant society full of miserable, self-hating, other-hating, intellectually deprived individuals that are neither progressive nor productive, in which case, that’s cool too.

But – if for some totally insane reason, we want to enrich ourselves, then we need to surround ourselves with enrichment. If we want to expand our knowledge, then we need to surround ourselves with new knowledge.

And if we want to improve our worldview and the way that we view ourselves, we need to improve the way that we represent the world and ourselves in our environment.

That’s why, as much as I believe that we should write what we want – both literally and figuratively in terms of what we put out into the world – I also believe we should want to write things that in some way make society better.

That’s why I think it’s important for people to be mindful of the message something sends to those who are exposed to it and the potential impact it has on society as a whole. It doesn’t start and end with the question is there an agenda here and it isn’t just about intent.

We understand that a narrow mind is often a sheltered mind. We point fingers at cultures deemed barbaric or archaic because we see the negative effect of what they’ve been exposed to (or not) and we recognize that broadening their exposure is a part of the solution – a step towards a more well-rounded, civilized existence.

So why do we fight against broadening our own?

Everything around us contributes to the brainwashing we experience from the day we’re born to varying degrees. This isn’t news. And we’re (hopefully) aware that most of the social problems we have stem from this non-stop conditioning and involuntary internalizing of what we’re exposed to in our everyday lives.

Yet we don’t want to limit the things we say, do, or create. We put freedom first to a fault. It’s a part of our cultural identity as Americans, and to make up for it, we pretend that something’s okay as long as it’s not intentionally wrong.

In this case, that it’s okay to repeatedly feature an all-dominant cast and narratives that revolve around their perspectives as long as it’s not because you’re prejudiced.

Sure, it’s been proven again and again that a lack of representation has a long-lasting negative impact on the self-image of those who aren’t represented (or are represented poorly) while simultaneously contributing to them being valued less and/or perceived less favorably by those who are represented or by outsiders…

… but as long as it’s not on purpose, it’s fine! Why deviate? Because it would improve those attitudes? Quell those negative effects? That’s dumb!

I say all of that to say this…

The old adage that things don’t happen in a vacuum is an overused cliche for a reason. It’s one of those things that’s so true, it’s hard to imagine a world in which anyone alive would ever need to be told that, and yet everyone alive needs to be told that.

Everything that we say and do matters.
Everything that we see and hear matters.

And it’s a self-serving cop-out to excuse yourself or anyone else from what you contribute to that collective by saying, “It wasn’t intended to have this effect.” You didn’t intend to have diarrhea when you ate that burrito. Did that change the fact that you shit all over the place?

Long story short, we can’t complain about the awful things going on in our society or in our homes or in our relationships while at the same time giving a pass to the very things that, by and large, serve only to trigger or perpetuate those undesirables just because we don’t have a problem with the catalysts themselves.

The bigger picture is pretty big.
We should try looking at it from time to time.

Taylor, You Bitch!

I went to replace the battery in my electronic scale this morning when I realized it uses one of those button cell lithium types. I probably have every kind of battery on the market dumped around my place in bowls except that one and it took me back to something I think about quite a bit. It’s the idea that a society can be primitive or advanced and the question of how we quantify that.

I think the average person would consider us to be pretty “up there” – not quite Atlantis material, but certainly no Apocalypto. Still, I wonder how progressive our progress really is. What is the purpose of advancement? Is it about moving forward or is it about moving closer to a goal? Because if there’s a goal, what is it and how close have we really gotten?

When I look around at all of the incredible technology we’ve developed and the speed at which we’re evolving as a species because of it, there’s one frightening truth that stands out:

All of it can be negated by the flip of a switch.

We’ve progressed beyond the point of sustainability, because the technology we depend on to maintain and preserve life as we know it by and large requires power.

We always talk about resources and the fact that projections paint a dismal picture of what the future will be if we continue to consume things that are finite, but we only ever seem to speak of the loss of power in the context of science fiction.

When I say “power”, I’m talking about electrical energy.

In my opinion, mechanical energy is the only truly sustainable energy we’re capable of harvesting – and what I call sustainable isn’t to be confused with renewable. To me, renewable energy replenishes itself. That doesn’t make it sustainable.

Take solar energy, for example. It’s probably the first thing called to mind when you think of a renewable energy source, because like Annie said, the sun’ll come out tomorrow! But we’ve already seen a number of limitations to solar energy, the most obvious being that we don’t always have access to sunlight.

Then there’s the matter of the technology required to harvest solar energy and convert it into electrical energy. Technology we incidentally wouldn’t be able to manufacture without the electrical energy it makes.

Renewable energy is fantastic and necessary, but when I call energy sustainable, I mean that it’s a source of power requiring nothing more than our power – manpower – and what we’re able to build from the natural world. Because those are the only two resources we’re guaranteed by logic to always have:

The planet we live on and ourselves.

If we lost either of those resources, this discussion would no longer be a discussion because there wouldn’t be anyone around to discuss it.

Ancient civilizations may have mastered engineering with a focus on mechanical energy because they weren’t advanced enough to utilize electricity and/or didn’t know what it was, but which is more primitive?

A society capable of thriving for hundreds or thousands of years without any of the electrical boons we require just to get through the day, or a society like ours that would collapse practically overnight if its primary power source were eliminated?

Which infrastructure is more advanced? Certainly not ours, given the destructive potential of something as absurdly simple as pulling a plug.

I’m likely in the minority with this sentiment, but I think we’ve progressed so far that we’re going backwards – and not only in terms of technology.

Look at what happens when there’s a blackout. Things start to break down immediately. The food is gonna spoil! We can’t see in the dark! Everybody scramble for flashlights and supplies and eat like you’ve never eaten before!

Kill the power in the middle of a heat wave and old people start dropping like flies because there’s no A/C, and you better hope that generator kicks in at the hospital because a lot of folks in there are only alive thanks to the machines they’re hooked up to.

We know what happens when there’s no internet for five minutes. Imagine what would happen if it were permanent – if the internet stopped being a thing entirely?

Of course, it’s never as bad as all that and we make it through these brief moments without power by falling back on more primitive ways of doing things. Why? Because the more primitive ways of doing things are sustainable.

Doesn’t that make them better?

If we got the whole “progress” thing right, why do all of the solutions to modern-day problems resemble the past?

I’m not saying the advancements we’ve made are bad or that we shouldn’t have made them. I’m just putting it out there as food for thought that we may be shooting ourselves in the foot by continuing to move forward in ways that make us this dependent upon things that can be rendered useless this easily.

Indulge my stupid little mind for a moment and look around you. Take a walk through your house. Down the street. If we no longer had electrical power, how much of what exists in your environment would still serve a purpose? How much of what you own would still have any functional value?

Those things reflect the type of technology that will move us forward into the next phase of our evolution. Improving upon those things, taking cues from those things, is how we’ll refine ourselves to ensure we progress in a sustainable way.

Everything else is glitter. Breakthroughs that allowed us to grow too much, too quickly. Shiny luxuries that created needs to fill.

Or maybe I’m just mad that I gave away my perfectly good mechanical scale for this electronic piece of shit that needs a fucking battery.

Conditional Unconditionals

A few months ago, a friend sent me this article about Melanie Gaydos – the woman with ectodermal dysplasia turned model. What I was going to say about it in my journal back then, I suppose I ended up saying to my friend instead, but I’ll let you in on the conversation since it was sitting in drafts.

My friend’s comment was how weird it is that the fashion industry – her industry – can make someone’s pain fashionable. My comment was how weird it is that the fashion industry is willing to “make a statement” by insisting that someone with deformities most consider objectively hideous is beautiful and/or worthy of aesthetic highlight, yet it would die before making the average person off the street a model.

That is to say, what I find funny is that they’d put someone who looks like they’re shriveling away from an aggressive flesh-eating disease on the runway before using someone with – say – a muffin top. It’s laughable, really, that this is seen as progressive.

Hey, friends! We know you condemn us for introducing and reinforcing standards of beauty that could best be described as pointless or absurd, but as those sentiments gain traction among the spenders and social awareness continues to trend, we’re breaking those rules!

We’re not just obsessed with appearance as we dictate it! Our industry is creative and inclusive and we’re committed to redefining what it means to be beautiful! To project standards that are less damaging to the esteem of the very populace that continues to feed into us as if we’d be the authority on anything without their susceptibility!

The only rules they’re breaking are the ones no one would object to without feeling like shitty human beings, ergo they get a free pass. What’s meaningful about breaking a rule you’d catch no flack for breaking? They aren’t redefining anything if they’re doing what they already know they can get away with without redefining anything.

Is this thing on?

The industry doesn’t have to change its standards that emphasize thinness and malign being bigger, for example, even with plus sized models who, as far as many I come across are concerned, are just a necessary commercial evil.

Why?

Because no one feels shitty for putting overweight people down. That’s the atmosphere we’re in. Fat shaming, in spite of being openly recognized as fat shaming, is acceptable to those who do it. 

No one thinks twice about saying, “Eww, why would you use her as a model? She has a gut! Sorry, but no one thinks fat is attractive! Skinny people just look better and that’s a fact whether you like it or not! Just being honest!”

How many would say the same about someone suffering from a medical condition with such impunity? Who would be equally “honest” about the “facts” and say that Melanie is ugly? That no one thinks Down syndrome is attractive? That people without vitiligo just look better? Only bullies, right?

The industry knows it can slap these people in a magazine or send them down the runway and get nothing but pats on the back for it while changing absolutely nothing about their prevailing beauty standards.

They didn’t break the rule. They made exceptions to it for the sake of novelties granted a stay for being tragic. The industry improved its reputation without actually improving itself.

Win-win!

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s wonderful that models like those I referenced got an opportunity to do something they were always told they could never do and that others are inspired by it.

I’m not so awful that I don’t see how that’s a good thing nor am I implying that they aren’t worthy of modeling independent of (or in light of) their conditions.

It just tickles me that those who fancy themselves less superficial – more evolved – because they can supposedly see beyond such ailments to appreciate a talent and beauty that transcends our overblown ideals are the very same people who can’t look past a fucking pimple or double chin.

Call me jaded, but I’m not moved by yet another tall, skinny model who happens to have a disease the industry can capitalize on in the sentiment department. When the agencies and the advertisers and the brands all make a sweeping change to their long established criteria for talent, we can talk about progress.

Until then, feel free to skip me over when they “redefine the industry” again by signing a quadriplegic.