I’m Getting Old – I’m Glad Not to Be Young Today

I’m getting old and I don’t mind. Thank God I’m not young in today’s world. I’m so happy that I traveled while Europe still had open borders and while the only insane gun violence was happening here in the USA with gun nuts who were strictly home grown. I’m not reveling about the changes in the world – on the contrary – it makes me deeply sad. Donald Trump is painting himself more and more as a neo-Hitler figure and the proletariat seems to be eating it up. They are working and getting nowhere and they want someone to blame. They are scared and they need a target to focus on. They need a violent hero. Meanwhile the maniac Islamists are working a masterful plan that our policy wonks and media are helping right along. It’s simple and they’ve said it was what they were going to do. 1)Occupy chaotic zones and subdue them with hard line intolerance loosely based on authoritarian readings of Islam 2) Randomly attack safe areas in the world where Muslim populations live in order to turn non-Muslims into anti-Muslims and then to open their arms to the Muslims they have marginalized. Their plan counts on Western media and governments to drum up fear and hatred of very generalized almost cartoon versions of Muslims as mustache twisting evil masterminds or gullible young brown people sucked into cults easily. The fear/hatred versions don’t offer us images of mom’s cooking beans, kids playing tag, or dad’s working on cars – all of which are more common than the media/government version of Muslims. Ridiculous. And making the world more dangerous and unpredictable than ever before.

Anyway, the borders are closing. It seems like the only young people who are allowed to flirt are the very rich or very good looking. From any of the rest (who make up the vast majority) it is ‘unwanted attention’ or even worse sexual harassment. Thank God I’m married and not trying to find love and companionship in this world.

It seems to me that the world has become much more expensive and materialistic. The barriers to entry are higher than ever before. There is no clear path to success – not even in America. My thought is that there may have never been a clear path – it was an illusion – work hard, keep your head down and your nose clean, do the right thing. That’s the golden path to success – but as our view of the successful becomes more clear (they too, cannot hide like they used to) it becomes obvious that the path to success is much more black. Be merciless, watch for opportunity to climb over the other guy, take as much as you can get away with. Yuck.

There must be a better way. There must be a better place.

Perhaps increased connection and mobility was bound to ruin us.

Where is the reset button?

A Huge Relief – I’m not that smart!

I’ve recently realized that I’m not nearly as smart as I thought I was – it’s a huge relief. It’s been a huge burden to have thought I was such a genius but find myself in situations that no truly gifted person would ever be near. Whether it is dealing with being poor, struggling to support my family, making bad decisions in general, or specific stupid situations – there has always been a nagging voice in the back of my mind shaming me and wondering how a genius such as I could possibly be in whatever situation I might find myself. The answer, as it turns out, is simple. I’m not a genius. I’m rarely the smartest person in the room (unless I’m in a room with some real dunces). I may not even be of average intelligence. You might think I would be sad to realize this – but I’m not. It’s awesome. It explains so much. For most of my life I’ve been walking around thinking I was a super-genius and wondering why the world was so unfair as to give everyone else around me the rewards that come from doing what needs to be done when I was obviously the one who deserved the rewards more. I thought it might be because I was short, but then I’d see shorter people doing better than me. I thought it was because I was balding – but I see balder people doing better than me. I thought it was because of this or that or something else – but always there were people that were more this, that or something else than me achieving more than me. The one thing I never doubted was my own brilliance. I never questioned that I was so much smarter than everyone else. I was so smart I didn’t need to listen. I was so gifted that I didn’t need to study. I was so talented in the brains department that I could get away with what the less cerebral could not. Boy was I smart. Except I wasn’t. Now it all makes sense. All of that gifted and talented stuff in the 1970s and 1980s made a monster out of me. I may have been a smart child but I sure turned into a dumb adult! Thank God I’m lucky! Now, maybe I can turn things around since I’ve figured this out. I’m so happy I figured out that I’m dumb!

The Culture of Distraction

(I wrote a piece on mass communication nearly 8 years ago ( http://www.chrisdamitio.com/a-brief-history-of-the-mass-media/ ) I feel like the article below is a sort of continuation of that discussion. In brief – I would venture to say that things have not gone well for humanity)

I find myself with time to think – but not too deeply – since I am distracted and put off from an in depth continuation of any ideas by the world that surrounds me. At the moment – it is the landlord of my shop – who decided that the best time to paint (and scrape off the sloppy mess he made on my shop windows) was when I am open. This has been going on for months…and frankly, yes, I’m annoyed. It does no good. His view is that when the weather is nice, he should be hunting or fishing – and painting the building I rent from him (or cleaning up the mess from his painting) is best done when it is most convenient for him – without regard to what is convenient for me or my customers. We’ve expressed our views to one another – which ended with him screaming obscenities in my face on the street. I pay him money every month – and that’s how it ends. He knows I don’t want to move my shop – so unless I want to move it – that is where it ends.

It’s no different than many other aspects of life today. Back in August, I bought three leather bags from an Ebay vendor. Ebay subsequently suspended the seller so I never received the bags and was unable to file a dispute since the seller had been removed from their system. I called Ebay to determine how to get my money back and was transferred to a call center in the Philippines where a girl who should never have been hired based on her English skills, tried to help me and entered a request for a refund for one bag – which I received less than a week later. Since then, I’ve spent hours on the phone with various Filipino call center employees who are trained to appease me but have no ability to fix my problem or even to transfer me to someone who can. I’ve reached the point where a billion dollar company has stolen $40 from me and there is nothing I can do about it. Even if I were to hire a lawyer, my contract with Ebay (and yours too if you have one) specifies arbitration rather than a lawsuit – so I can’t combine with other disgruntled users and file a class action lawsuit or demand damages for the time and frustration this issue has cost me. I can curse and rail at a low level employee who will say over and over “I’m sorry sir, we will file the request for you and then we have to wait 5-7 days” and cannot or has been trained to say nothing more.

Eating my lunch while my ugly landlord looks in the window was unpleasant. I was hungry. I had a burrito I was rather excited to eat. I lost my appetite. I have to stay in the front of my shop – and I can’t make him go away. Cold burrito in the near future sounds much less exciting.

The world is this way. The customer is no longer right unless the customer is a whale (spending millions or billions). Customer service is dead. Your money gets you what the mega-wealthy want to give you and only that. The uneven distribution of wealth has gone to such extremes that your entire paycheck is no longer of interest and can be flushed down the toilet without a second thought by those at the top.

Try to have a conversation without either you or the other party becoming distracted by their phone. Try to sit and breathe without being interrupted by the incessant beeping of our society. Car door, microwave, backing up truck, text message, low battery somewhere, siren, or some other high pitched noise. I’ve been diagnosed with tinnitus – but even without it the high pitch tones don’t stop. I’ve lived in the Arab world – I know what it’s like to be stopped by the call to prayer five times a day, to have everything grind to a halt when it’s prayer time, or how hard it is to concentrate when you are expected to get up and say salaam a leycum every time someone enters the room…but the technological society seems to have one-upped the Muslim world. We are being trained to lack concentration.

On the ebay calls – I have been required to give the same information over and over and over – and then to do it again and again. Is that on purpose? Or is there a reluctance to look at the notes on my account? Maybe it’s easier for the account reps to force me to give the info again than it is to read it on the screen in front of them. I really don’t know. How could I?

I only know that we (the average) have lost something in this century that was a fundamental tenet of the last one. Our money, no matter how little it might be, used to give us a certain amount of respect/credibility/deference – we used to be important because our little bit of money made up a part of the wealth and power of the elites – without it, they would fail. No longer. They no longer fail based on consumers and if they do – they are bailed out by other, larger organizations. My contribution is no longer valuable enough for them to waste more or effort than it takes to hire a third-world teenager to tell me everything will be alright.

And why do we let them get away with it? Because we are distracted. We are constantly distracted by celebrity stories, animal stories, terrorism, economic stories, political showdowns, the latest superhero movie, the new star wars, the newest gadget, the latest health scare and more…not to mention the tweets, texts, calls, facebook updates, and emails…

Have you noticed any of this? Or is it just me?

A Modest Gun Proposal – Curing Gun-Disease

One can’t live surrounded by guns without becoming affected (infected) by them. My views on guns and gun control have changed since moving back to the USA and to Oregon in particular. I still believe a full gun ban would be the best course of action – I simply realize now, it’s not possible. We have a full fledged gun-disease.

Instead, I’ve come to believe that baby steps are a more realistic approach.

1) Ban the sale of all new firearms in the USA. No new guns, no exceptions. We already have more than we have people.
2) Massive perpetual buyback programs offering above market rates for existing guns.
3) Create a controlled system of ammunition sales.

Yes, gun manufacturers would suffer but 1) I don’t care about Colt, Winchester, et al and 2) We banned DDT when we realized it was deadly, we should do the same with guns. Let the gun manufacturers focus on new products – it’s what other industries do when markets shift or disappear.

Mental health is an issue, though I feel like the gun proponents use it as a deflector issue to preserve existing gun laws. Here is a common sense solution – marijuana prohibition is ending – let’s make it official nationwide. Slap a federal tax on marijuana sales and use the revenue for 1) administration of sales 2) a massive increase in community mental health outreach and free resources.

We’ve banned ivory because it’s sale directly threatens elephants – we should take these modest steps towards healing our gun-disease because it directly threatens us and our children.

In Regards to My Books

At this point – I’m not a huge fan of my books. The exceptions being Douchebags, Fags, and Hags which is pretty damn funny. Liminal Travel offers some pretty good insights into the spiritual realm. I wouldn’t bother reading any of the others – since the characters (even when they are me – or perhaps especially when they are me) aren’t very likable and don’t offer much in the way of useful information or deep thought. I hope that somewhere down the road a bit, I manage to pull a really good book together.

The Technological Point of No Return

I am a neo-luddite. I make no bones about it. I have come to believe that technology – in particular information technology is a bad thing. And – for the most part – I think we would be better off without much of the rest of what we call technology as well. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a green anarchist touting some future primitive ideal – I am a fan of our vaccines, of fire, of the printing press, and many other things – there is such a thing as positive technology. I, however, am of the opinion that most technology has turned out to be a negative for the majority of the human species (not to mention for every other species on Spaceship Earth).

Unfortunately, most technology has been used for one of three purposes I see as negative. 1) Greed and wealth accumulation – i.e. unchecked capitalism and exploitation 2) Command and control of population increasingly including the shaping of opinion, idea, and day-to-day activities 3) Maintaining the status-quo – i.e. keeping power and wealth where it lays, preventing societal change, keeping the technological society alive and well.

Barring an event of grand enough proportion to shut down the electricity on a massive scale and thus allow a ‘reset’ of human society, I fear that we may have reached a technological point of no return. Even as I write this – the forces in control of our thoughts and minds are rallying to protect and expand the power of the technological control state. Facebook (among others) is deploying wifi broadcasting drones to extend the mind control of the web to even the most remote reaches of the planet. Elon Musk is in the process of creating batteries which enable the technological state to power itself indefinitely from off grid – thus providing protection from the near certainty of future attacks against electricity and fossil fuel infrastructure and resources. We are very near, the technological point of no return.

Coffee Shop Crush

John wore a yellow hat and that made him stand out. He’d read about the idea in Lady’s Man Magazine and when he looked in the mirror, the effect was spectacular. So bedazzled was he with the heightened sense of being someone special that he failed to notice Taylor was wearing red socks when he sat next to him at the coffee shop. Taylor had seen the idea on a popular website which had also suggested that he shorten his pants legs so the socks would be more obvious. Taylor felt funny but was sure that he was getting more smiles and nods from young women on the street than he had pre-red socks/flood pants. Taylor was young and handsome. Most women smiled or nodded at him regardless of his red socks. He didn’t know that today. He was far too focused on the results of his red socks. Brenda smiled and nodded at him every day at the coffee shop, but today she decided that it was a mistake. She’d seen an infographic on Facebook which said that men who wore bright colors tended to be self-absorbed and misogynistic. Brenda posted a status update “Ugghhh…cute coffee shop crush proves himself to be a pig.”
John saw his yellow hat reflected in Brenda’s phone as he stood in line for a coffee and was slightly taken aback to realize he looked like the cowboy from Curious George. Then he noticed the words ‘coffee shop crush’. He set the yellow hat down on Taylor’s table and walked out of the shop. Over the next weeks he put together a blog, a website, and an iPhone app called Coffee Shop Crush. From the beginning it was a huge success. Within two months John was swimming in money and being interviewed on tech websites. He had beautiful women begging him for sex. Then someone posted a picture from that coffee shop before he’d taken off the yellow hat. It quickly went viral. It was a matter of minutes before someone had connected the hat with the ‘lame’ ‘pick-up artist’ magazine article John had originally read. In his next interview the first question was whether he read the Lady’s Man Magazine. All it took was his positive answer.
Coffee Shop Crush was destroyed by negative publicity about its misogynistic founder. Snarky graphics and jokes played through the feeds of Brenda and everyone else. A dozen opportunistic young women who had been on dates with John (and twice as many who had never met him) wrote expose’ about how creeped out he made them feel. John jumped from a bridge. He was dead. The internet quickly forgot about him.
Taylor wore a yellow hat and that made him stand out. He’d heard about the idea on a popular website and someone had left the hat on his table a few months before. When he looked in the mirror, the effect was spectacular…..