Democrazy 2: Expected Joke Title

I’d like to start by dispelling a rumor I’d heard, that my blog is for my Patreon supporters and if you’re not in on that, you shouldn’t bother. Nope, my blog is actually for everyone. If you can see this link, you can totally read my blog. If you’ve been linked somewhere else, have fun! My Patreon is for people who’d like to encourage and reward me for my creative endeavors and occasionally see shorter thoughts that aren’t big enough or developed enough for blogs. They can also suggest topics for me to cover. But mostly, they’re just cool people who think my brain excretions are worth a few bucks a month.

Anyways, the last time I was hitting the topic of the American democracy-that-isn’t, I was talking about how every facet of our voices has been co-opted, ignored, and corrupted, a clear and present violation of the first pillar of democracy. And now I’m going to discuss how one of the cherished portions of American government doesn’t even really exist. The entire idea of the Checks and Balances of Power has been almost entirely eradicated from our system.

Ideally, the checks and balances takes the form of separation of powers. The legislative branch writes the laws, the executive branch enforces them, and the judicial branch decides if said laws are right within our framework. But think about that for a minute. Take some time. When was the last time you saw the executive branch not totally involved in legislation for his party beyond his power to issue executive orders and veto bills? The president is the member of his party with the highest office in the land, and we really expect him to push his own agenda on the entire legislative process. When the ACA was being drafted, Obama was in it all the way. We literally don’t know who actually wrote the bill or who brought it to the floor, it’s ObamaCare.

And who’s in charge of all government policy that isn’t directly tied to congress? It’s the presidential administration and his cabinet. Foreign policy, internal policy, agriculture, housing and urban development, the head of the CIA, all of these are the Administration’s purview, and there’s not a whole lot of oversight from the other branches on these cabinet positions. There may be a senate hearing over misconduct, there might be laws passed to limit things, but in reality, they’re pretty much operating with impunity in their various stations.

So, really, the executive branch’s check and balance system is completely broken and we really expect it to operate like it does. Let’s check in on the Judicial Branch.

One of the more striking international stories recently was the case of Alfie Evans. He was a little boy who, and I don’t know all the details here so I’m skipping them, was in a coma. The doctors at his hospital declared that he would never have quality of life, would never achieve consciousness due to the brain atrophy he’d gone through, and would be reliant on machines to do his autonomous functions, so they decided that it would be in his best interest to pull the plug now rather than wait and see if anything could be done decades down the road as medicine technology improved – largely because that’s incredibly unpredictable and they’d be saving a shell of a person who lacked any higher brain function just in case something might come along. His parents disagreed. The court was brought in to make a ruling. Rome offered to treat the kid and had even sent a life-flight chopper to do so. The court ruled with the doctors, and disallowed Alfie’s trip to Italy. It’s all very sad, but it’s also entirely within British law, and it all makes a great deal of sense when you read into it. However, Americans invested in the case immediately decried it as a failure of social medicine and stated that the government forced its ruling onto parents who just wanted to save their baby. It was quite a bit more complicated than that and I’m fairly sure you can find every bit of information available on the subject if you so choose, but I’m focusing on the American response.

You see, Americans fully understand and believe that Judges are entirely partial, especially towards their side of the liberal-conservative spectrum and are agents of the state who make rulings to enforce the law of the land. In the UK, though, courts are unbiased arbiters of the law, and while appointed by the state, are not beholden to its views. So when the Americans started saying that the UK government willfully killed Alfie to hold onto it’s precious control over healthcare, the Brits were often incredibly confused by that statement, which is why they were terrible at addressing that particular line when it was thrown around. They’d respond with “no, the government didn’t do anything, the court did,” not understanding that over here, those things are considered one in the same for a lot of people.

In tangential news, exit polls on election night in 2016 revealed that about 70% of voters were most focused on the prospect of Judicial appointments. Yes, a lot of people who voted Trump did so because they knew if a Republican was in office, they’d appoint a lot of conservative judges to federal postings. In fact, since Roe vs Wade, who gets to appoint Supreme Court justices has been incredibly important to politically-minded folks because of the vicious cycle of conservatives wanting to overturn the ruling and liberals wanting to block, like it’s a game of tic-tac-toe only it’s about what women can legally do to the proto-humans that grow in their bodies. We, as Americans, think it’s perfectly normal and absolutely ok for judges to rule on major issues by their personal political leanings, and not by what the law says or does. It’s so ingrained that we don’t even find the concept of Activist Judges to be appalling. We are entirely unbothered by the idea that Judges will interpret and change law entirely based on their own feelings on the matters at hand, not by what is and isn’t right or intended by our founding documents which are supposed to be the highest law in the land. Regular people even stating that there are different interpretations to the words in the Constitution is so uncontroversial that they’re regular talking points and party platforms.

Speaking of Judicial appointments, we all know how those work, right? The Executive branch appoints people to fill judicial positions, and the Legislative branch, specifically the Senate, confirms those appointments. But we’ve now been in a position where partisan politics have been using every trick available to them to hold up these appointments for as long as possible in order to ensure the party of their choosing gets to pick the judges going in. Famously, the senate refused to hear confirmations on any supreme court candidates in the last 6 months of his administration, and more recently, the Trump administration has has a hell of a time slogging nominees for everything through the Senate, sometimes on partisan ground and sometimes out of pure vindictiveness or bad nominations. Essentially, the parties want their own people or at least moderates close enough to their own people in positions, and have been doing everything they can to stop nominees that aren’t friendly to them.

And the list goes on. At every part of the whole Check and Balance process, the political parties have manipulated expected action and procedure to make this whole mess of muddied waters of responsibility and usable powers to benefit themselves or at least not benefit the other guys. At this point in history, we are so used to the idea that politicians will make all their decisions and actions based on party politics over rule of law and unbiased views of progress as a society that it’s become a complete non-issue. We literally don’t complain about it unless the other side is doing something we don’t like and we don’t have a solid footing for complaints other than “lack of bias and constitutionally appropriate ideas”. The entire process these days is to stack the deck at every point in the Check and Balance so that you don’t have to actually deal with it, and to make everything harder for the other side to get things done. It’s less a government process and more a boardgame these days. And that’s just fucked up.

I’d like to thank my supporters on Patreon – you know who you are by now – and everyone who reads, even semi-regularly, my brain spatterings on here. It definitely helps me and my mental state to write, and having an audience makes it more pertinent to me. Hopefully I can get fully back on the horse and do posts in a better schedule than “oh shit, the month’s over tomorrow, what do I have?” soon, but we’ll see.

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Offensive vs Offending

One of the strange things to come out of the culture wars of the 10s is a weird argument over the sharing of opinions. I mean, other than ideological battles and literal nazis coming back into view. Man, this decade is completely fucked up, isn’t it?

So, a lot of what’s going around, particularly in the pictures-with-words memes is this idea from the ideological right that everyone’s problem with the things they say is that they’re personally offended by those things. It is, in fact, a big part of the culture there that they’re these brave folks who’re speaking their mind in the face of cultural marxism or whatever and that we need to get over our butt-hurt and be real men or whatever. It’s basically a big joke where the whiny liberal SJW can’t change the channel and ignore the things they don’t like, stemming from a real fear on their behalf that a liberal establishment will illegalize and regulate speech and custom to force everyone into a multicultural viewpoint. At best, they’ll tell you that you have the right to be offended, but they have the right to offend.

But, see, here’s the thing. No one has to be offended to say that something is offensive. To be offended is to feel personally insulted and/or attacked, which, in the eyes of the right, means that you’re incapable of controlling your emotional response to things, and therefore immature. To be offensive is to state or agree with values that are not in line with those of society. I don’t have a dictionary handy, so those are the best definitions you’re going to get. In essence, “offended” is a personal problem, and “offensive” is a societal problem. For example, if you were to call someone a “sleepy-eyed Jew”, that would be offending them, because you’re belittling someone on a personal level. If you did it in public, that would be offensive, because you’re also implying that there’s something wrong with being a Jew – otherwise it wouldn’t be an insult, which you’re clearly using it as. In essence, a gross opinion is like a penis. You can show it to people in private, and if they like it, it’s fine. If they don’t, you’ll probably offend them. If you show it in public, it doesn’t matter how many people like it, because whipping your dick out in public is an affront to decency. Here’s where that might get tricky for some people though: the way someone lives their life or loves other people is not an affront to decency as long as it doesn’t harm others or involve a lack of consent. Being homosexual, transgender, bisexual, nonbinary, liberal, socialist, communist, fat, ugly, non-christian, atheist, poor, covered in bees, wearing religious dress, in a bikini, protesting, or any combination of these things is not inherently offensive, and not any more or less offensive than being heterosexual, white, male, conservative, capitalist, conventionally attractive, thin, christian, rich, not covered in bees, wearing business attire, wearing non-revealing clothing, counter-protesting, or any combination of those things. Holding an ideology of harm to others based on those things, or even wearing the costume of someone who does, is, however, offensive. Which is why Nazis and white nationalists/supremacists are held in about the same respect as the Westboro Baptist Church. Actually, even less so, since the WBC is terrible at recruiting and hasn’t been a real physical threat to people in their protests.

And yes, you have the right to offend. You have the right to be offensive. Congratulations, I guess? But so does everyone else on American soil (Yes, even visitors and immigrants. The Constitution’s inalienable rights apply to everyone, not just citizens. That’s the “inalienable” part.), and we all have the right to respond to offense and offensiveness. And weirdly, someone telling you to shut your bigoted mouth is not a suppression of your first amendment rights. Which means that if one were to say “All black men are violent thugs,” then I can respond with “That’s deeply offensive and has no part in modern civilization,” without being offended by the original statement. And I’d be right because the United States is not a white ethnostate and in a nation as diverse as ours, harboring bigoted views holds us back and continues to enable racist/misogynist/anti-gay/etc. systems that we’ve been fighting for decades to dismantle.

And I feel stupid explaining that offensive and offending statements are different because the people who most often laugh about snowflakes being offended by their statements are the same people who fly into a rage when folks disrespect their sacred institutions of God, Guns, Soldiers, Cops, and Flags. They demonstrate that they fully understand the difference, but because they use the terms “unpatriotic” or “unamerican”, they haven’t made the actual connection in words. They still might not, and continue arguing that we liberals are just mad or butthurt and trying to force them to change. I mean, we are trying to get people to change out of bad ideas, systems, and schemes, but not specifically into an echo chamber of liberal thought – largely because, like any other giant umbrella term, liberal thought encompasses so many overlapping ideas that it can often be self-contradictory and will only be neat and tidy in the most general sense, much like conservative thought. But so it goes, since it’s 2018 and we have to explain that things that were bad 70 years ago are still bad today.

I’d like to thank my Patrons Connor Garrison, Sean D. Fegan, Erik Peters, Althea Peters, Hoyt Fischbeck, and Rebecca Fegan, for continuing to support me and my works, and I’d hope that after reading several of my posts, you would also consider joining my Patreon and getting the benefit of sometimes hearing my thoughts on smaller things that aren’t full blog posts.

Democracy is Something We Believe in, for Some Reason

We spend a lot of our time talking about democracy here in the US, which is hilarious since we’ve never really had one. Sure, we’re a republic, which runs off representative democracy, but even then, we’ve done everything in our power to ensure that we don’t have a democracy and rationalizing our actions against it as necessary to preserve it. It’s like we’re building a house, but deliberately leaving out the foundation and load-bearing walls while insisting that the lean-to that we’ve ended up with is better than the house because the things we’re leaving out can be used to destroy the house we wanted.

For a democracy to work, you need the unfettered voice of the people. That’s something we’ve literally never had though. When the Great Experiment started, they restricted the vote to land owners, and the electoral college was put into place to actually do the voting. Because the average person was considered too uneducated and easy to sway to actually be trusted with voting. By the time they started letting the popular vote happen, they were still excluding women entirely, except for legal land-owners, obviously, of which there were a few. After women’s suffrage, there came the fight for minority voting.

While black folk in particular were technically allowed to vote, the establishment put everything they could into place to roadblock their votes. Poll taxes, grandfather laws, all the Jim Crow laws were there to keep black voices out of the voting booths because everyone knew that if the black populace were allowed to vote, they’d do everything in their power to reverse the systems of racist oppression that had been built up over centuries by then. And by “reverse”, we don’t mean “remove”, we mean to actually reverse things so that the oppression would swing the other way. And as much as the founders were sure that the common man would vote for anyone who promised them anything, regardless of how likely they were to do it, the United States in the Jim Crow era were sure that the black population would vote for anyone who promised them any measure of equality, no matter their capability. That’s such a deep-seeded belief in America that a hundred years later, during the terms of Obama, those charges were leveled again.

But we got through it and everyone’s got the right to vote, right? You know how this goes, when you start a paragraph with a question, the answer is almost always “No.” Did you know that in most states, convicts and ex-cons can’t vote? I don’t have the actual statistics here, but for most Americans, one of the rights you permanently give up when you get convicted of a felony is the right to vote. No matter the crime or circumstances, a felon becomes a second-class citizen upon conviction. They get to enjoy most of the protections of the constitution and our laws, but they have absolutely no say in how they’re interpreted or made. And considering that our incarceration numbers top those of actual totalitarian regimes, that’s a lot of voices that are being systemically silenced in this great democracy.

Oh, and we’re still working on revitalizing the Jim Crow laws, only they’re just going to apply to all poor people instead of just the descendants of slaves. Instead of poll taxes, we’ve been pushing Voter ID laws, which insist that voter fraud is such a problem that your voter registration card is no longer good enough to vote with, you now have to get a state ID or driver’s license, which everyone who supports this sort of thing doesn’t seem to think is such a big deal, since they’ve likely never had to choose between getting a laminated picture card or groceries in their lives. And then they’re reducing polling places, weirdly by cutting out the ones in poorer parts of cities, which means that if you’re interested in voting and you live in those areas, you have to find a way to travel across town to the nearest polling station, on a day you probably can’t take off because election day isn’t any kind of special day to shitty jobs. Oh, and not just reducing polling places, they’re also interested in reducing hours of operation, so if you jump through all the hoops and stand in line for upwards of four hours to place your vote, you might just get turned away anyway because it’s after closing time.

On top of all that, there’s the systemic hindrances to the people’s voice. Not only is the elctoral college alive and well in a day and age where we could literally count 300 million ballots overnight, but the two-party system we’ve built and maintained works to actively disenfranchise and brainwash voters into a faction system of Us vs Them. This is because the only possible way anyone could agree with every plank of a party’s platform is if every plank is in direct opposition to Them. Since you don’t want Them to win, you rationalize and conform to the thinking of Us so that you can support everyone running against Them. That’s why the two parties line up along “liberal” and “conservative” lines, so they can appeal to the most people possible to start with, and create instant enemies out of the other side.

They’ve had a couple hundred years to perfect this system, which is aided by our First Past The Post voting system, where whomever wins the most votes wins the election. They don’t even need a plurality of votes or any other benchmark, if anyone gets a single vote more than the others, then they win. Such a system all but guarentees that two parties will dominate, due to math and social science telling people that voting for smaller parties is a waste of a vote, since they’ll never win enough to enact the changes they want to see in the world. In fact, a FPTP voting system also guarantees the creation of parties, since capturing the majority of the vote is more efficient with a larger organization dedicated to such. What everyone fails to understand in American politics is that the Parties don’t exist to change or enforce a social rule or even to maintain or progress the laws that already exist. Parties exist to capture and maintain their own power. If any party were to maintain a voting lead long enough to make sweeping changes to the system, the first thing any of them would do is to make it harder, if not impossible, to run against them, establishing a political hegemony that is unassailable. And the knowledge of that fact, although it’s deep in our thoughts but rarely brought forth, is what keeps us swinging the vote left and right as the wind blows.

And we’ve seen plenty of that already. The RNC ran a program through the 00s, I think it was called Red Book or something like that, where they pushed enough people into enough positions to gerrymander the hell out of most of the districts, making it harder for non-republican wins everywhere they could. Because, quite simply, it doesn’t matter how many people any particular Representative represents or where they’re from, as long as they’re wearing the right colors when they show up to Washington, because there only numbers count and if you’ve got the majority, you can get more done to make sure you stay in power longer.

We have other avenues that aren’t ballots to make our voices heard though, and those are also being shut down and shunted away bit by bit every year. Protests have to be registered and licensed these days, you know, for public safety and stuff. The major protests, like the RNC and DNC conventions are only authorized in special “First Amendment Zones” that are generally completely fenced in and located far away from the convention proper. Regular protests are beginning to be shut down all over the place, because the people in power know that a protest only works while the people en masse support them, so they spend a lot of their time creating and exploiting cracks in the public trust of said protests. Frequently, they air out the bogeymen of the parties, stating that Antifa or nazis showed up to support the protest, stating that vandalism and violence happened – whether or not it actually did, and charging protestors with disruptions to normal operations. In just a couple of days of the Oklahoma Teacher’s Protest, the governor has already told people that Antifa was involved and a state senator told people that protesters had vandalized the capitol and blockaded senator’s doors, both in efforts to pull away public sympathy for the protest. Not that there’s any evidence of either accusation, because that doesn’t actually matter. In this day and age, where no one reads more than headlines and opening paragraphs, people wouldn’t find out their first impression was wrong until someone put it in the headline somewhere. And then, they wouldn’t believe it because everyone’s convinced that only their own preferred news sources are not lying to them. Even more worrying, several states have legalized vehicular homicide when protests block roads, because getting to and from work on time is vastly more important than someone’s life, especially if you don’t agree with them. All of this adds up to an active suppression and deterrent to protest, peaceful or otherwise, which undermines an important avenue of our voice, particularly when the offered solution to not being heard is to run for office and be a part of the system. Which is something that’s far outside the grasp of the normal citizen these days.

I intended to do three pillars of democracy, but I noticed that this is over 3 pages already, so I’ll hit that up down the road in later parts.  Thanks for reading, and if you’re into reading things like this and want to support my struggles with my addiction to life, check out my Patreon and consider donating to it.

Hey, Ben, what do you think of ?

I get that question from time to time, probably because people think I’ve got a lot of taste when it comes to music and they’d like to validate their own choices. I’m not going to deny that, I’ve spent years cultivating a reputation in music selection, partly because I really like music and always have and partly because I’ve spent most of my life trying to be cool and popular. I like to think that I’m succeeding finally, but that’s not what brings me to writing this. Actually, what’s spurred me to write this is the need to get back on the writing horse and to stop procrastinating it like I have been for the past few months. But, I figure if lots of people are asking about my opinions on music, I might as well run some FAQ through here, because there’s plenty of you who know me who don’t really know me.

Hey, Ben, what do you think of MF Doom?

I like Doom. I really do. He’s got a style and flow so unique that it’s impossible to bite. He’s got lyrics that are smart and layered and deep. But, well… ok, so a few years ago I got my hands on his entire discography up to that point. It was like 16 full albums of material, from all his own stuff to his collabs to albums he produced, and instrumentals for most of them. After a few days of listening through it to make sure it was all good though, I ended up pulling it out of my playlist entirely. For starters, there was so much there that I was getting a Doom track twice an hour at minimum. And then, there was all the recycling. 16 albums worth of material, and like 20 beats between them. Doom reused beats all over the spectrum. Hell, that Fishscale album he produced on for Ghostface? Doom tracks. It’s like he’s infinitely talented with lyrics and flow, and finitely talented with beats and production.

What should I listen to instead?

Oh, don’t throw out your Doom, just be more selective. Get Madvillain and any of his other collabs, grab some of his solos, but don’t go all in, you’ll suddenly find yourself bored hearing new stuff over old beats.

Hey, Ben, what do you think of 5 Finger Death Punch?

I don’t like them. Look, nothing about them is really phenomenal, they’re just a metal band that figured out how to market themselves better than most. What do they do? They make homages. Homages to the military and those serving. Homages to those that came before with their covers. I once joked that 5 Finger Death Punch is the best-selling cover band of all time, because the vast majority of songs by them that I’ve heard have been covers. In fact, I made that joke at a Karaoke night I attended for a friend’s birthday, because I’d just heard the fifth cover of theirs being used as a backing track. So why is everyone buying their stuff? It’s warm and comforting. It’s metal with singing instead of screaming, calmly plugging away at the stuff you already like. It’s a bunch of rock guys telling the world that they support the troops in the same way those country singers did last decade.

Look, they’re obviously talented, since they don’t make bad music – which is not to say that the people in the atonal music scenes aren’t talented, btw – but they don’t make excellent music. It’s really kind of bland for metal, to be honest.

What should I listen to instead?

Do you like Hatebreed? Have you ever actually listened to Hatebreed? Have you ever listened to Hatebreed while working out or doing anything that requires determination, self-reliance, and effort? You should. I used to work out to Hatebreed and I think the only reason I never killed myself with exertion while doing it was because I kept counts for reps in my head. Otherwise, I might’ve worked myself to death with one fist in the air and a snarl on my lips. Which would’ve honestly looked really weird while doing bicep curls.

Hey, Ben, what do you think of Mumble Rap?

It’s not my thing. However, I was binging a bunch of videos from HipHopDX on youtube last week, because I really like how Murs breaks things down, and it appears there’s a giant generation gap thing going on in the hip hop community these days, with the GOFs (Grumpy Old Fucks) claiming that the new stuff isn’t real hip hop, and the kids doing the things kids tend to do. Mostly pissing off GOFs, to be honest. And here’s the thing, there’s shit in every generation. There’s gold in every generation too. Let me tell you, there were guys in my youth that said the new shit we were into was crap and couldn’t hold a candle to the stuff they liked. And most of the world thinks of the 90s as the best era for hip hop.

So yeah, this new stuff isn’t my thing. But when you look at the flagships, guys like The Migos and Future and whatnot, you’re going to notice things if you’re paying attention. To outsiders, it all sounds the same, but really, it’s that everyone’s trying to sound like them. Before they hit the scene, in the scramble of every musical generation to kick out the old and bring in the new, lots of styles and sounds were tried, but the minute Migos’ hits landed, they stuck and everyone knew that’s what was going to happen this cycle. The moment someone copied Future’s style, we all knew that was what was going on. If they were flukes, they would’ve dropped one and done like so many before them, but they’re still going strong, bringing along others in their wake. But really, all of us Old Heads spend our time beating about how the new shit is meaningless compared to the old stuff and that the new shit is just being made to make a buck, right?

Reminds me of the 00’s, when we were all bitching about Ringtone Rappers, guys and groups and sometimes ladies who were making their beats and songs just to sell them as ringtones. Reminds me of the early 90s, when we were all pissed at Hammer for being a sell-out from the word go. Reminds me of a lot of things, really, but mostly that we didn’t care when the guys we liked figured out how to merchandise, reminds me of when RZA put together the soundtrack of Ghostdog: Way of the Samurai and we all thought that was dope as hell. Reminds me of the struggle for decades, that it’s ok to make money doing what you love, but only if we don’t think they’re making it just for the money. Or if we think it’s really dope. At some point, the rest of us GOFs have to realize that we’re just a bunch of hypocritical idiots clutching onto nostalgia for stupid reasons.

What Should I Listen To Instead?

If you like it, listen to it. It’s two thousand fucking eighteen now, the only things we should really be ashamed of are universal taboos and unadulterated evil. If you’re looking for newer hip hop that’s not what everyone else is blasting, though, try Dälek (pronounced like Dialect). They’re one of the founding groups of the industrial hip hop subgenre, making interesting beats and mixing them with lyrics about what’s going on. It’s not quite the CNN that Public Enemy was, but if you’re tired of guys waxing poetic over their stacks and banging your girlfriend and want some new sounds in your head, check them out. Or, you could, you know, go check your favorite MCs and groups from the 90s, a lot of them are still doing stuff. Public Enemy, for example, released an album last year.

Ben, What do you think of Disturbed?

Ok, no one actually asks me what I think about Disturbed, but generally when they come up in conversation, people are under the assumption that I like them and are incredibly surprised to find out that I don’t. And this usually happens every time a new single comes out, the last time being that Sound of Silence cover he did. I would say “they”, but I never got the impression that anyone other than David Douchebag was involved in that track. And that’s my entire problem with Disturbed, that it’s just a backing band for Douchebag, making stuff just dangerous enough to be metal, but not hard enough to stay off the radio. From track 1 of their first album, you would be hard-pressed to find more than a couple of bars that Douchebag isn’t making himself known on, like we’d forget he existed if he took a breather. Now, I got no problems with a guy who uses his voice as an instrument, doing more with it than just singing. Hell, my favorite musician is Mike Patton, who’s done more with his throat and mouth than every woman you’ve heard of who’s changed her name to a combination of their first pet and the street they grew up on. But the only times Patton’s been on every bar of a track is when it’s how the song’s been written. On the contrary, Douchebag’s all over every Disturbed track, as if his voice is every part of every song and the band just kinda shows up to keep him company on stage.

If the music were phenomenal or life-changing, that’d be forgivable. But, since I’m bitching about it, you can clearly infer that I don’t think it’s either phenomenal or life-changing. It’s fucking boring is what it is. If you tune out the vocals it’s just monotonous rhythms with expected breakdowns. Imagine metal music less exciting than Metallica’s middle albums. Imagine four guys getting together to write that and saying “yup, that’s exactly what we’re going for!” It’s like Disturbed is composed of the most loyal session guys ever, who also go on tour, except unlike session guys, they write the music themselves. In fact, the only way anything from Disturbed makes sense to me is if Douchebag just walked into the studio, shouted the entire song into the nearest mic, and then hired some other guys to fill out the song later.

I mean, they’re not /bad/, but to me, listening to Disturbed sounds almost like listening to an elevator music record being played on a player that had the needle replaced by the biggest dildo you can imagine.

What should I listen to instead?

Try Faith No More. They released a new album in ’15, the first since they broke up in ’97. It’s really fucking good.

Ben, you hate Nickelback, right?

Nope. I think everyone just hates Nickelback because it’s a meme, much the same way everyone’s freaked out by clowns now. If you ask a clown, though, they can tell the difference between the actual coulrophobics and the people who just think they are, since the phobics are actually very apologetic and anxious while the pretenders and loud and they seem to be almost getting off on the fear of clowns thing like it’s a particularly dangerous rollercoaster.  What I’m getting at here is that the hatred of Nickelback is more like a meme than it is a matter of taste, much like coulrophobia.

Seriously though, Nickelback isn’t bad. They don’t even suck. They started getting serious hate shortly after their first album and yet they continued making albums and selling the hell out of them. By now, they’re so well-known as the butt of jokes that they’ve gotten in on the joke themselves, taunting people on twitter who bitch about them with jokes about how they’re here just to torment people. And really, after all this time, with all the shows they play and all the hate they collect, you can’t really say they’re doing this for the money. If they were, they would’ve tried a different tact and found a sound and look closer to what was popular and then burn out in the aftermath of trying to be something they’re not. Instead, they’re just doing the same thing they’ve always done, which means they have to love it.

That doesn’t make me a fan, though, they’ve never really made music I wanted to listen to, but they haven’t made music I didn’t want to hear either. But I don’t hate them. I might’ve, once, but I’m pretty susceptible to trends amongst my friends and the people I idolize, and that’s just a failing on my part.

So, should I listen to Nickelback?

Eh, give it a shot and see if they’re your thing, listen to them without thinking of them as Nickelback. You don’t have to like it, I know I don’t. But you don’t have to hate it either.

I would like to thank my Patrons for continuing to support me regardless of what a shiftless layabout I am being, and remind the rest of you that you can get on that train too for as little as $1 per post, so you can feel like you’re making a difference in the life of someone you may or may not know. If nothing else, I can buy toilet paper with that.

Highly Controversial Topics That Make You Go To The Comments Before Reading The Article or Fake Girls Do Exist

I suppose everyone’s wondering what I think about recent events. I don’t. It’s kind of an ongoing horror show that we’re all stuck glued to like Alex in Clockwork Orange, except instead of the incomparable Ludwig Van playing over the top of it, it’s a recent Grammy-winning hit written by the same three guys that write all the pop songs that has been formtested and designed for mass appeal. So if I don’t seem to be paying anything out there any mind, it’s because my ears and eyes are tired of it and my mind wandered. Sorry.

And here is where my mind wandered: For a couple of decades now guys in the dorkier parts of society have been lamenting the Friendzone and Fake Geek Girls only to be told by horribly shocked members of regular society that those things don’t really exist, which, due to how our brains work in the face of unpleasant and contradictory information, has only hardened their resolve and turned this lament into a bunch of boys-only clubs that they festoon with trilbies and a disdain for greater societal movements. But I’m about to tell you that they do exist, but knowing about them in specific is largely pointless since they’re really part of bigger problems that we’re already supposed to be guarding against as a civilization.

Let me start with the easier of the two to work on, the Fake Geek Girl. The cultural definition of the Fake Geek Girl is the girl or woman or otherwise female-identified person who gets into nerd cultures because they’re apparently cool and she wants to be the queen of the nerd people, but doesn’t actually know any of the nerd stuff. For reference, and sanity’s sake, I’m going to refer to them all as “girls” while meaning the entire female spectrum because holy shit, ya’ll, that’s a lot of keystrokes to use to avoid looking like a douche every sentence. Lately, the Fake Geek Girl (FGG) designation is mostly being thrown at cosplayers and streamers largely on the basis that these girls are attractive, smart, and socially adept, and therefore they’re probably pulling some kind of con because those types of girls are not at all interested in nerdy shit. And while that’s historically true, if, by “historically” you mean “anecdotally” and by “true” you mean “reasonably suspected given one’s experiences in high school and the media portrayal of things, which should already be suspect because high school is a cesspit of teenagers desperately trying to figure out who they are and the media is a cesspit of old people trying to sell things to teenagers using formulas that have worked for decades.”

You see, the Geeks won the culture wars in the 00’s, but Geek Culture is incredibly reliant on the whole culture being an anti-mainstream culture. So while we have the biggest video-game, geek-movie, comics, STEM-orientated celebrity culture in recent history as the mainstream culture, the culture itself will not readily admit it, since it’s a culture for shut-ins and the socially maladept. Geek Culture is, itself, a counter-culture, and typically when counter-cultures go mainstream, they explode in popularity and the former die-hard members kinda just quit because there’s just no point anymore. We’ve seen it before with Punk, Grunge, Hippy, Yuppy, Hip Hop, Hipsters, Goth, and many more just in the last 50 years. But unlike a lot of counter-cultures, Geek Culture self-identified it’s belonging by it’s interests, which were often not things that only existed because of the culture. Punk rock may have died a few times everytime it got popular, but an interest in mathematics has been around since before numbers were invented. Comic books have been around since the 40’s, and geeks basically adopted them and took them away from the young kids that they were originally designed for. The geeky way to be involved and interested in the fundamental aspects of the universe is exactly the same way any other scientist or philosopher would go about it. Doctor Who and Star Wars weren’t made for Geeks and would’ve existed without their devotion. The notable thing about Bill Gates and Steve Jobs isn’t that they made computers, since computers have been around in some form or fashion since automation was conceived, it was that they remained in control of their creations instead of building them for someone else. I suppose we could add the Woz to that too, but he’s generally forgotten in much the same way whoever it was that ran Apple during that weird period in the 90s while Jobs was out making Pixar and whatnot.

But, it’s perfectly acceptable for people to like things that are obsessed over by a counter-culture as soon as that culture becomes mainstream – and honestly, it’s perfectly acceptable to like them even before the mainstreaming, and it becomes easier to outwardly express those likes without mainstream society scorning those people and shunting them into the box of oddities. The problem is that Geek Culture is still so anti-mainstream that it can’t accept that people who don’t fit the traditional mold for these things, so it tries to call out and drag those people who do. Thus, the FGG thing, where any girl who likes “geeky” things is called out and challenged for their supposed role in the culture.

That said, however, there are actual FGGs. But they’re not sinister girls trying to steal the culture now that it’s cool, like everyone supposes. They’re marketing ploys. They’re women and agencies that have noticed that niche associations tend to get them more attention, especially in fields that are already saturated with near-indistinguishable clones, so they focus their brand on things that reliably get numbers. They’re like porn, and in many cases they are porn, trying desperately to be heard and seen in the sea of flesh and desire that already exists. You could already find porn of every niche and fetish you could think of as far back as porn has existed, but the availability of the smaller niches was always lower than the demand, but expanding into those niches has always been hit-or-miss on the risk/return calculations, since the markets are never as big as they could be for the amount that could be produced and anything dumped into those markets would cost resources that could be used for more steady income streams. Basically, you could try to tap the clown porn market, but if sales didn’t cover the additional costs of new costuming, paint, bicycle horns and floppy shoes, then it was a total loss of good film and time.

Now, however, with the Information Age in full swing and the internet absolutely flooded in content, it makes a lot more sense to jump into niches than it did before. And with this content expansion, and the rise of geek-centric culture, it makes more sense to tie yourself to that niche to get extra hits than it does to avoid it and attempt to compete on the regular markets. So, agencies are pretending to be more geeky than they are in order to get better numbers, and with the internet celebrity culture and personal branding business opportunities that exist now with people using public platforms to run their own business of themselves as the products, FGGs are now people cynically trying to get your attention to get more money by pretending to be into the things you’re into. Which, in the whole of things, isn’t really that much different than Doritos trying to get you to buy their new things by blasting Busta Rhymes and Peter Dinklage at you, or Pepsi’s weird street protest cash-in with the Kardashian girl who wouldn’t be caught dead near riot police unless there was some kind of lucrative pay-off involved.

And now, let’s talk about the Friend Zone. Now, if I were doing this as a talk instead of a blog, I’d be looking out over your amassed faces and see mostly concern broadcast back at me, while quietly hoping that I don’t fuck up all the time and energy you put in thinking I’m so cool and forward-thinking by saying something that turns it all around and reveals something ugly about myself. Well, wait until the end (he says, knowing this is how all bad conversations start).

So, the Friend Zone is one of the most contentious topics in the social spheres to date. It’s not only indicative of continuous systemic sexism, but also largely beholden to old-fashioned gender roles. Most people won’t even discuss it because they feel it’s quite obviously a bad idea to hold, but there’s always some people down in the dungeons of own persecution complexes who keep reviving the idea (do note that I’m not getting in-depth into these things because I’m actually also working on an article about the new counter-cultures). And, in the general sense, I agree that the Friend Zone is a stupid fucking idea that should’ve been left behind when we started thinking of women as people.

So, to explain, the cultural definition of the Friend Zone is a relationship between two people, where both are good friends, but one of them has unrequited romantic feelings and ideas about the relationship. In general, the Friend and Romantic are a woman and a man, respectfully, but since it’s 2018 already and we should be acknowledging more gender roles and relationship styles, so it also could be two men, a gender-fluid person and a transwoman… you know, whatever you want there, but the cultural standard is the woman-man relationship and that’s what hits the memes. And in the meme here, the Friend appreciates the emotional labor put into the friendship by both parties but doesn’t see it in the frame of a romantic relationship. The Romantic, however, sees their labor as the building towards a romantic relationship and feels it’s unfair to be treated as just a friend. And really, the fact that the Friend Zone is named and pretty much the only things one needs to say to explain the situation should be enough to show that it’s an incredibly prevalent idea.

So that’s the Friend Zone everyone knows about, which plenty of people have broken down and refuted and wrote thousands of lines of text about, so I don’t feel I actually need to talk about that anymore. What I am here to talk about is the actual malignant friend zone which nobody seems to be talking about ever.

In every society since the birth of societies, there has been a section of the populace that finds it easier and beneficial to simply use others for their gain through empty promises. Con artists, politicians, sales people, all those professions that exist to dupe marks into forking over resources to get as little as possible in return. One of the most maligned, of course, is the Gold Digger, which is traditionally a woman who holds affection for others only as long as those others are paying the Gold Digger’s living costs and keeping them in a better-than-average life quality through their gifts. Now, imagine a Gold Digger that, instead of dating or marrying a Mark to gain the gifts, picks up Romantic friends and teases them out to gain their gifts. Instead of performing perfunctory emotional labor to gain the gifts the Gold Digger desires, they do what they can to make it seem like if enough labor is put in by the Romantic that things will progress the way the Romantic wants, but also that their friendship is also dependent on the gift-giving labor that the Romantic brings. The Gold Digger has no intention of moving the relationship out of the friendship area, and has no compunction about dropping their Romantic if their gifts cease. The Gold Digger who’s set up in this fashion can also keep a lot of Friend Zones going in this fashion, where the traditional dating/marrying methods risks losing their victims if more than one is in operation at the same time.

Of course, there’s also bound to be some Friend Zones done malignantly simply to enjoy the emotional labor of the Romantic, but those seem less evil than the Gold Digger Friend Zone.

To get back to where I promised I would be at the beginning of the post, though, the deliberate and malignant Fake Geek Girls and Friend Zones do, in fact, exist, and the primary reason they’re not discussed as much is because they’re not culturally traditional forms of the memes. The Fake Geek Girl is a marketing/branding ploy while the Friend Zone is perpetuated by con artists, which are both things that people in a functioning society should already be on guard for and know to recognize the signs. That it continues to happen, along with other marketing and con artistry shows that, as civilization grows and changes, so do the Users and Manipulators who live within it.

 

I’d like to thank my Patrons for keeping me alive for another month, or at least more sane than I would’ve been elsewise, and remind you that if you’d like to support someone who writes his thoughts into a blog for the sheer joy of having people read them, you can go to my Patreon and pledge some money.

January, the Worst Month

January is a long, torturous desolation of spirit and mind, driving us all slowly mad with it’s shrieking winds and long periods of isolation. There is nothing in January but silence and freezing death for any of us to look forward to. January sucks.

January starts with a hangover from the biggest party of last year. Whether it’s a literal hangover or just exhaustion from the previous day’s activities, the month and year just start out on the worst possible notes. It’s the first day that you realize that all those promises you made for the new year probably aren’t going to happen, as you drag around your semi-comotose body to all the things you have to do that day, because although New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest and most celebrated nights in the year, no one gets the day off. Unless the first falls on a Saturday or a Sunday, you have no chance to recuperate and begin your year scratching off the silly self-improvement items on your new to-do list. So you begin the year behind, trying to catch up and generally managing to stop doing some things or pick up new habits for a few weeks before you become too overloaded with all of life to keep it all up.

It’s not just a bad start for what is supposed to be a brand new year, but it’s also the dreary half of winter. December may have the actual solstice, but for much of North America, Winter runs from about mid November to late February, putting January right smack dab in the middle of the whole thing. And while November and December have their fair share of winter, cold, and sometimes ungodly amounts of snow, the world is spinning down into Winter still and the world is still somewhat bright and cheerful during the worst of the days. The sounds of Christmas and the promises of the holidays keep our spirits up through until New Year’s Eve, but come January, everything’s been dead for months and the cold fingers of desolation reach through to everything. A December snow is fun and filled with play and lights. A January snow is just misery piled on top of the icy misery that has been settling into everything for months by then. And with the dearth of holidays to look forward to in January, the hope we could cling on like planks of wood in an icy river we’re slowly drowning in are gone and the best things to look forward to are in February. In fact, the only major holiday other than New Year’s Day in January is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which is quite possibly the most somber holiday that doesn’t involve war or veterans on the entire calendar. Hell, even President’s Day is a shopping holiday these days, but MLK Day is a time for quiet reflection over a great man that no one understands or knows actual quotes from.

Then because it’s such a bitterly winter month without much going on except procrastination and failure, it’s the month we tend to spend almost entirely indoors. Other than obligations and brief times out to keep our spirits up, we’re spending most of our time at home and covered up, trying to avoid the weather and all the other miserable people out there who would rather be at home catching up on TV than stuck in traffic with you. In January, we binge our shows, watch specials and awards shows, and when we go out, we go see those Oscar-nominated movies everyone’s talking about because the theater’s nice and cozy.

Is there any way to fix January though? Well, actually, there’s something we could do. May was a pretty dull month for most of my life, the only real celebration being my birthday and the only holiday being Memorial Day, which, like Labor Day, was a grilling holiday, but with a parade and flags. And sometime between my childhood and my adulthood, we added cultural holidays to the month that grew in popularity as the culture expanded. Obviously, the Cinco de Mayo celebration has gotten huge, and turned into a Drinking Holiday like Saint Patrick’s Day, except they serve cervesas and sombreros rather than green beer and shamrocks. And then there’s the Geek holidays: Star Wars day on May the Fourth (be with you), and the huge mega-geek day of Star Wars Anniversary, Towel Day, Geek Pride Day, and The Glorious 25th of May, which unfortunately falls on the same day as my birthday, flooding my feeds with hundreds of people who are celebrating everything but my birthday – which is faintly depressing, to be honest.

However, the point is that we could just find something notable in some culture somewhere that we can celebrate in January to liven up the month. Or, as I’m quickly finding out, you could just make up holidays and have them recognized by influential enough people that they become interesting quirky observances. While doing research for other holidays we could add to our calendar, I stumbled upon a set of 80 holidays that Thomas Roy, an actor no one has ever heard of, and his wife had made up that have been solidly included in prominent calendars and are even noted as official observances on Wikipedia. The list includes things like Dimpled Chad Day and Yell “Fudge” at the Cobras in North America Day, which is to say that none of these holidays they made up are serious at all and yet people still report them as if they’re real things. These completely made-up holidays get pages of reporting every year, but none of us are out there getting shit-faced and screaming obscenities at riot cops in the middle of the town square for them. We should change that, grab a holiday weekend sometime in the middle of the month, chug whiskey like it’s maple syrup, and set some cars on fire.

Because anything would be an improvement over the January we already have.

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Apocalyptic Stupidity

Even in my semi-isolated state without home internet and it being too cold to regularly check it from my favorite wifi spot, the news comes to me. It may be late, it may have already been completely disseminated and discussed and deconstructed by the time I get it, but I get it, eventually.

There was a missile scare in Hawaii the other morning, which turned out to be a false alarm because someone pushed the wrong button. But it was a legitimate scare to most of the population living there and anyone watching the news at the time. That’s worrisome. You see, had it been any other political climate recently, then everyone would’ve thought it was a hoax or a mistake of some sort. But over the last year, it’s become apparent to many people that some really unstable people are now in charge of the buttons to the missiles and they’re throwing a pissing match at each other over Twitter. Thing is, though, that Trump has always believed in shows of force to keep people out of his way and cowed to his demands, while North Korea has almost always relied on being unstable and doing crazy things to get their way, and everyone in the world knows both of these facts. So, when recently they both tweeted at each other that they have their fingers on the buttons, and Trump smugly said his was bigger, we were all very suddenly reminded of everything that had gone on in the pissing match between North Korea and the US. We remembered that their failed ICBMs reached the Sea of Japan, we remembered that their last nuclear test made an expert say “oh shit” on twitter, and we remembered that Trump is exactly the sort of guy who would get pissed off at everything taking so long and launch his nukes pre-emptively. So when the alarm was sent in Hawaii, people didn’t just shut it off and go about their day, they cowered in the closest things they had to shelters as their families tried to call them. We remembered the fear that had plagued the entire nation during the height of the cold war, and we realized we were ill-prepared for the consequences of bad foreign policy in a post nuclear world.

There are, of course, other things that are bothering me, which make the whole scene lately something I’d rather just ignore. It was recently released to press that Trump had had a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus way back in March. For those of you unaware, the Caucus is really just a bunch of senators who are black. Ideally, they’d be pushing black issues and representing majority black districts, so it would make sense to create a voting bloc to protect mutual interests, but that’s not entirely necessary for entrance. So, they had this meeting, discussing policy, and one of the members of the Caucus (it’s not currently known who) told Trump that his plans for Welfare Reform would be very bad for his constituents, “Not all of whom are black.” Trump reportedly replied, “Really? Then what are they?”

This is being pushed around with the headline that Trump is unaware that all welfare recipients aren’t black, and there’s plenty of statistics being thrown around to back that up. But really, the entire story is in that one little paragraph, which is being expanded to hate-bait (yes, I just invented that term, it’s clickbait that you fall for because you hate something.) claiming that President Trump is basically just like your racist uncle who thinks all black folks are on welfare and muslims are going to make you get rid of your dog after setting up a No-Go zone in your city. That man is easy to hate, his simplistic ideas of the world make you feel smug and warm about how woke and smart you are. That man is the buffoon you can laugh at with your friends, making inside jokes about his life and family and how mind-bendingly stupid he has to be to believe all that shit. But I think the facts of the matter are much more complicated than all that. To me, two things are apparent. Firstly, that Trump doesn’t know what the Black Caucus is, and assumed it’s a load of senators that represent black districts. Which kinda makes sense, after decades of gerrymandering designed to give Republicans the edge district to district and the fact that we, as a society, tend to self-segregate to the point where most of our neighborhoods are absolutely teeming with people who share an identity with us, it might come as a sort of surprise to find out that black senators serve districts that aren’t all black. That’s perfectly understandable for most people, sure, but the guy who was surprised was our sitting president, who seems to be completely unaware of how our system works. And what I imagine most people are missing is the fact that a senator felt the need to tell the sitting president that his constituents include non-black people in an effort to get more support out of him. This was in March, so it was less than two months into his presidency, but after a year-long campaign of xenophobia and classism, you could expect some lingering doubts about the feelings of the man in question, but you’d think once they got into the oval office, they’d be dealing with things as diplomats or at least as businessmen, not as regular guys trying to convince each other to support their pet causes. Again, if you’re just skimming through and wondered why this paragraph is so long, not only did Trump respond to “Not all my constituents are black” with “What are they then?”, but a senator felt the need to tell him that his constituents weren’t all black in order to sway Trump away from welfare reform. Like it was a hostage situation where the only reason Trump would care is if some of those people were his. And I guess, in a way, it is a hostage situation, where the Republican Party has decided that safety nets for the poor and disadvantaged are cutting too much money out of their own personal projects so they want to pare them down in the name of welfare reform. But that’s a thought for another time.

The other thing that’s been bugging me lately is Eric Trump. Young Eric, you might have heard, has been waving around the Shadow Government conspiracy everywhere he can. If you’re unaware, the Shadow Government is the idea that there’s a select group of elites who actually control the federal government and they’re the ones responsible for all the things you hate about it. Most recently, he’d taken a screenshot of his twitter follow recommendations, which were Obama, Hillary, and Ellen Degeneres, and shared it idly wondering why twitter would want him to friend those particular people, ending with the hashtag #DeepState.. Of course, the people and publications that follow those sorts of things had a field day, making jokes about how Eric thought Ellen was part of the Shadow Government, etc. But that’s just silliness, he obviously meant that the Shadow Government was in control of Twitter and suggesting he become friends with known liberal powerhouses. Which seems like silliness, sure, but it’s worrying silliness. The son of the President, who has a position in or near the administration as we speak, is telling people that there’s a secret liberal over-government that actually runs the government. This is either the biggest lip service to a wackadoodle conspiracy since Trump himself was flogging the Birther Movement, or Eric showed up at the White House and found out that the President isn’t actually the most powerful man in America and that he doesn’t actually get to make all the decisions. It could also be a mixture of the two, of course. Most people would be fairly shocked to find out how little power the President actually has, or that the 537 people we elect for government don’t actually do everything. Sure, there’s Secretaries in the President’s Cabinet, and we don’t vote for the Supreme Court, and of course the CIA and FBI and the Armed Forces and Homeland Security all have their own leadership that reports to the President, and the IRS and Secret Service, and the various Department heads, and NASA has their own people, and by now you’ve figured out what’s going on, that every arm and finger of the federal government is run by appointed heads who keep things running and does what they can to benefit the agency in question and the agency’s stated goals. That’s how the whole thing’s designed, though, a fragmented web of agencies and departments that answer back to leadership that has to answer eventually to our elected officials. The operation of keeping the nation and it’s government running is far too much work for a few hundred people, no matter how talented they may be, so instead we have bureaucracies to run most of the aspects and the people at the top mostly monitor big projects and budgets.

So what this boils down to is one of two things, either Eric is completely in the dark about civics and thinks that a cadre of liberals are secretly running the government his father is the executive of, or he’s drumming up more support within the farther reaches of the party by allying with some of their conspiracy theories so that the masses can believe that when things aren’t going their way, it’s due to the actions of a sinister agency instead of, say, the actions of a functioning republic with checks and balances for power usage. Or it’s a mixture of the two, again, but either way, it’s vastly more stupid than anyone thinks it is.

Really, that’s the take-away for all of this, everything that’s screwed up here in just the past week or two is stupid, but not simply stupid. It’s not the stupidity you can just laugh about and move on with your day from. It’s vastly more stupid, it’s fatal stupidity. It’s the kind of stupidity that distracts you from your driving, causing you to rear end a parked car at 50 miles per hour. It’s the guy who asks you if the rope tied the piano is levitating, causing you to stare at him slackjawed long enough to lose your grip and drop the piano on him. It’s nuclear stupidity and hopefully it won’t kill us all.