On Trolling and Trolls and More

It’s been a strange trip since the internet arrived. I remember the first time I saw the internet in about 1993 on Marine Corps Air Station New River – Corporal Hansbury showed me how he could use his computer to talk to base ops and how he and the duty NCO there would exchange jokes … Continue reading “On Trolling and Trolls and More”

It’s been a strange trip since the internet arrived. I remember the first time I saw the internet in about 1993 on Marine Corps Air Station New River – Corporal Hansbury showed me how he could use his computer to talk to base ops and how he and the duty NCO there would exchange jokes over a chat relay. I thought it was neat.

In 1996 I used my first cell phone at the radio station I worked at. In 1997 I got a Yahoo email account. By this time it was pretty normal to prep for our morning radio show using an ‘online’ service. Around 1998 the internet was really blossoming.

I was in my 20s. My favorite writers were irreverent and anti-pop-culture. I was convinced that the best way to get people to see the real vulgarity in the world was to shock them with vulgarity. I even wrote a song called vulgar. It was all about how words weren’t vulgar but the world was with pollution, war, wage slavery, and other ugliness. It was a pretty good song – but not one that most people want to listen to. I discovered chat rooms. I became a troll. For a little while. It was fun to bait people and then torment them. It was awful – now that I think of it. At the time – it seemed harmless – it seemed like it was just playing with a computer, not making someone feel bad. It took me a while to realize there were real people on the other end. It was about the time of Friendster and Napster and MySpace that it hit me. I started meeting people through the computer. That made a profound difference.

Too bad I got so lost in that perverted form of winning. There’s a lot I could have done during that time as the internet grew. Instead I developed a blog called fukn.us Fucking Us. I started an online bookstore called Fukn Books – silly move. I thought I could be an acceptable form of offensive. Offensive was a way I shouldn’t have tried to go at all.

The truth is – I’m mild mannered. I’m polite. I’m nice. Perhaps unbelievably, I’m a bit of a prude. Maybe that was what I was fighting all along. I don’t know. I think that’s the problem with trolls though.

Like me – they hide behind a screen trying to project themselves as something they are not. They use false names and false avatars. Maybe they are really creeps – but my gut suspicion is that they are mostly just frustrated people living in this artificial world of ours with all of its artificial boundaries and weird invented rules. Here we are – advanced fire making primates quickly building the walls of our cages higher and higher. I like to think I’m fairly intelligent – but when I try to comprehend the difference between 1993 and 2015 – I’m not sure that I can. I lived it, but I don’t think I really understand it. I know I’m not alone.

I used to think that my grandparents saw the greatest changes in human history. They went from horse drawn carriages and telegraphs to men on the moon and broadcast television. I feel like I may have already surpassed them. I lived through the last years of independence from electronics. Those days are gone now. The days of kids freely playing in neighborhoods.

A friend came in my shop today. He’s a holdout on technology. Doesn’t even have a cellphone. His car broke down two days ago 12 miles from town. No one stopped to help him, not even the police. He had to spend the night in his car then walk back to town in the morning. My aunt and uncle talk to their adult children every day – when my cousin didn’t answer her phone over 8 hours – they called the police. It turned out she was hiking. When I was a little kid – we were frequently out of contact with our parents for 10-12 hours every day we didn’t have school.

I’m rambling a bit – I know it. It’s all connected though. I’m not defending trolls – I don’t like them either. I’ve got a friend on Facebook who seems to still be stuck in it – he’s still single, doesn’t have kids – maybe that’s a part of it. He’s a nice guy, but he always responds to things with lots of vitriol and f-bombs- looking for a reaction – I think, but then again – maybe he’s not the nice guy I remember anymore. Maybe he’s unhappy with the world and where he is in it.

I’m tired of being unhappy with the world and where I am in it. I’m tired of being pissed off and bitter about life. Actually, I’m happy with life. Life is interesting and fine. Maybe that’s why things are starting to be more clear. I hope so.

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?

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.

Vago Damitio’s Predictions for 2015

Once again – I’ll try my hand at predicting the future – and once again I’d like to start by telling you that if you want to know the future – you have to go there.

My predictions for 2014 weren’t all that close – but I did score a few hits. Let’s look at those first:

1)A Duck Dynasty party called ‘Quackers’ did not form.
2)Gold did indeed drop but not to the $700 I had predicted.
3)There were several crazed gunmen but none attacked the supreme court.
4)Syria’s civil war DID spread into Turkey and surrounding areas most notably into Iraq with ISIS – but not significantly into Lebanon.
5)Obamacare did fail, but not formally as predicted
6)Miley Cyrus did not overdose
7)California did not conduct a tax revolt against the USA
8) The internet did not wake up and call everyone on their cellphones.
9) America was not won over by a homeless singer
10) My predicted Twitter religion did not appear and dominate as I predicted.

Now – on to my predictions for 2015

1) This will be the year of the “American Fall” – there will be a serious attempt at disunion in the USA come autumn
2) The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) will make dramatic advances in Lebanon, into Baghdad, and also into North Africa via Libya and Algeria.
3) North Korea will detonate a nuclear missile on a Pacific island – most likely the uninhabited islands north of Japan
4) The price of gold will drop below $700 before autumn and then rebound above the $2200 threshhold before year’s end
5) A reality video game show where contestants compete live for top tier position will make it to the airwaves and become the entertainment phenomonon of 2015
6) The internet will wake up and give a very dramatic “Hello World!” speech
7) A secret Russia, China, Iran, Syria, and Turkey military and economic alliance will be revealed.
8) Amazon.com will be subject to a number of anti-trust suits from cable television providers, retailers, and the music industry
9) A major airline disaster will happen as a result of unregulated drones in a major U.S. urban area
10) The cost of milk will go up nearly 300% by year’s end. This will be a huge problem for those looking for a cheap latte or those with many youngsters.

That’s it – As always – the best way to see the future is to go there – so let’s wait and see.

~Vago