Pre-Posturous Humanity

peacock

Ever see a peacock strut around thinking he’s hot sh-tuff? Ever see a man doing the same thing?

Much of our culture is posturing. I don’t know why I never noticed it before. From rappers to politicians to kids on the playground, we put a lot of value in posture.

The problem is, it’s all a facade. I act tough to make the middle schoolers I drive around behave, but honestly I’m not the ogre I pretend to be. But when you’re getting stared down by three 13 year old girls, you have to out-mean-mug them to gain any semblance of respect.

Pretty much all the “urban” culture I’m exposed to daily is about posturing. Renting a Lambo for your rap video is a cliche for a reason. Being boujee is a lifestyle to so many people you’re almost weird if you aren’t. Those who can’t afford the appearances resort to physical posturing to make themselves larger than the next kid.

Social media and the blogosphere are perfect examples of posture over reality. Nothing is real online. Every post is carefully crafted to give the best impression of the poster. Even humility isn’t real online, we are too good at the humble brag.

Politicians are masters of the practice of posturing. Party squabbles are nothing but posturing. Nationalism is itself the biggest peacock. Everything in politics is about the appearance of being the bigger, badder character on the block. Get the biggest bomb, have the biggest economy, have the biggest army, anything you can do to make your homeland the biggest.

But posturing is silly. You are not that big. In fact you’re probably just as shattered and broken as the next guy. Most of the time the more extravagant the peacock the more fragile the ego. The higher the mountain the harder they fall so to speak. This applies to bullies on the bus, to politicians, and even to nations.

Perhaps the better policy is less posturing and more honesty. Perhaps we should all start admitting our weaknesses and help each other with our strengths. Perhaps we could all posture a little less and be humble instead.

But that, to the world, is preposterous…

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Detoxifying Humanity

Has anyone not seen the Gillette commercial? I’ll wait while you watch it.

It’s pretty amusing to see who is getting triggered by this ad. Many are acting like this is an attack on masculinity.

But I didn’t hear that word in the ad except for a few background overlapping voices. Is this ad really an attack on masculinity or is it an attack on terrible people in general?

To be fair, the ad is aimed specifically at men. You don’t see ads like this aimed at stereotypes of women being catty or nagging. Instead, you see ads which tell women they are ugly and not good enough, which is just as bad if not worse. Not to mention the classic “sex sells” concept in advertising, use women as bait and people will line up to buy your products. Even the ads that claim to stop shaming women for their choices carry the subliminal message that they really should choose Product X instead of doing Y.

While some may say it’s a bad PR move to imply most of your customer base is aggressive and rapey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what they are trying to tell men. In fact I see no reason to be triggered at all by this ad. As one of my friends joked, he was only bothered by the fact it “barely scratched the surface of” human depravity. Ads like this should force introspection. You should ask yourself “am I like that?” If you are, change, if you aren’t, be glad and help others to change.

So why aren’t men just being introspective over this ad? Why are so many of them fussing and claiming their masculinity is being attacked? Definitions are important. Words don’t mean much anymore. “Masculinity” means different things to different people. It’s a cultural concept with a moving definition. Most of the left wants to define it by vices. The right by virtues.

None of the vices I have seen associated with the term make me think of the male gender exclusively. A jerk is a jerk is a jerk. A female jerk is just as horrible as a male one. Being a domineering, tyrannical adult-child is also horrible (but you never see the term “adult-child” just “man-child” do you? Hmmm…). Even though there are some hormonal influences that predispose the two sexes to different levels of aggression there is no logical reason to assume it’s a purely male tendency. Women can be and are frequently just as aggressive as men. Just this week I have witnessed an equal amount of bullying from girls on boys as boys on boys and boys on girls, it’s a universal problem. Being aggressive is a bad quality in anyone.

Unwanted sexual advances are just as awful from a woman as from a man (trust me, I’ve experienced both). Despite common myths, men, especially young men, do experience sexual assault and rape. The numbers are not as great, but the crime is just as egregious.

Likewise, all of the virtues I see attributed to “masculinity” are virtues we should laud in all people. Where but in the most tyrannical and oppressive places in the world is bravery, courage, strength, nobility, intelligence, and a desire to defend righteousness considered bad traits for a woman to have? Who decided character traits are dependent or associated with genitalia and chromosomes?

Being a good man means being a good human being. It means channeling one’s passions into productive and creative pursuits. It means building others up with love. It means being humble enough to admit you have feelings and emotions and you are capable of empathy, sympathy, and compassion for others. Being a good man means using your strengths for good, not evil. Do not harm others. Do not worship violence and destruction.

To praise the fact that men are “destroyers” and conquerors of nations is merely praise for worldly vain-glory. Destruction and enslavement of others is hardly something to be proud of. We should be working for a more peaceful world, not a more violence prone one.

Defending sexual aggression from either gender is pretty disgusting too. To act like words and actions are merely joking around and those hurt by them should lighten up is an attitude for thugs and tyrants. God created sexuality to be a wonderful thing, do not cheapen it by making it a joke or a weapon (or as advertising). Our sexuality is one of the most vulnerable characteristics of us humans, one that is easily damaged.

Instead of trying to detox “masculinity” specifically, why not work to detox all of humanity of it’s vices and sins? Instead of getting triggered by an advertisement that is trying to tell you to behave better, why don’t you look at yourself and ask if it’s true?

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Toxic Stupidity

inferno

I was going to write about the Gillette commercial. I was going to write about what a real man is and what good people are. But you know what? There is enough of that out there.

There are enough voices shouting at us, telling us what we should be, how we should act, and even what we should look like. The world shoulds all over us every minute of every day giving us impossible standards to live up to. Even if they aren’t impossible to attain, it gets old to be reminded day in and day out how horrible we are.

“Suck it up, buttercup” is a phrase frequently intended to toughen up the weak. But the concept that the world is rough and the best way to survive is to develop an equally tough skin is lacking. Numbing yourself to the world’s awful is not a way to make the world better.

We don’t make the world a better place with “righteous aggression” either. Carrying signs, shouting slogans, yelling at people online, and living our life in outrage at the crap does not make the crap better. Attacks merely result in equal and opposite attacks, and the peacemakers are caught in the middle eating all of it.

I might still write about the Gillette ad next week. Because the discussion is a needed one. But for now I just need to go cool off and let go of my righteous aggression.

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Advice From a Bus Driver

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It’s been a long week. One of those weeks that have put a few more gray hairs into my beard. I started my bus route this week. Most of the kids are well behaved, they get on the bus, they sit down, they don’t yell and terrorize each other. But one school… oh… wow…

Here’s what I would say to them if I could sit them all down in a room, with no traffic or schedules to distract us:

Dear middle-schoolers:

First off, I’m not here to be a guru or to be your parent or your coach. I’m just here to drive you home safely and efficiently.

I am not mad. I am concerned, really. I care about you, and not just your safety on the bus. I care about your character, I care about your potential, I care about your future. It’s not a cliche to say you are the future of this world. You literally are the future.

To the ring leader. The Boy Scout. The one who will probably have a referral by Wednesday of next week. I was there once. I know the dirty jokes, stupid dares, and pranks that happen in camps and meetings all across the country when you think the adults aren’t paying attention. You are young and naive and you will do every thing you can to test the boundaries around you. But you are also trying to impress your friends. Don’t think I haven’t noticed your sudden quietness and semi-respectfulness when certain peers get off the bus. Here is some advice: if you have to act like an asshat to impress your friends, they are not the kind of friends you should have.

To the ones of you calling me old and “that white guy”, I’m probably younger than a lot of your parents. This gray hair is a result of stress and anxiety of raising five kids your age and younger. I’m not old, I’m learn-ed. And why does it matter one lick what color I am? I don’t look at you and take note of your skin tone, I couldn’t care less. But I do look at you and notice your behavior. Young and ignorant behavior has no color bias. Stop making a big deal out of race and I guarantee you will go further in life.

Now about your respect of others, I can’t wash your mouths out with soap. I can’t change your language in the short time I have with you every day. To be honest, I don’t care if you are loud or use “adult” words (do you kiss your mother with that mouth?). I have five kids, I know noise. I’ve learned to tune out the nonsense and key in on emergencies. Or in your case the insults, the disrespect, the meanness. You’re at a competitive age. You compete for attention, good or bad. You believe that tearing down others is the best way to climb to the top. Again, I get it. I was your age once. I said some horrible things to others.

Want to climb to the top? Have some respect for others. And yourself. You disrespect yourself when you tear down others. Be better than those around you, and bring them up with you. Out-do each other in awesomeness, not cruelty. That way you all succeed, or at least none of you are destroyed before you have a chance to get up.

Most of all, dear children, I have this advice: sit down, seatbelts on, windows up.

Safety is first on this bus.

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Music and Art Monday, Jan 7 2019: Home To Roost

Hello all, short post today. It’s been awhile since I gave a recommendation for a band, because honestly it’s rare that I should find one that I like enough to recommend.

Today’s recommendation is a new album by a local band I would have never discovered had it not been for a mother’s gushing pride. An acquaintance of mine from the life drawing sessions I attend noticed my Nirvana t-shirt and asked if I liked them. She said “you have to listen to this band, they’re like Nirvana. And my son got writing credit because he plays on this song!”

I like localism. If there’s one trendy thing I’m guilty of indulging, it’s the trend to try out all the local stuff, from breweries to restaurants to record stores and art galleries. So I said what the heck and gave Viewers Like You’s “Home to Roost” a listen on Spotify.

First impression? “This is not at all like Nirvana!”

Which is not a bad thing. Viewers Like You (look them up as “Fernway” on Facebook) sounds a lot like All-American Rejects, Phantom Planet, and another Jacksonville local band Yellowcard. It’s happy music for the most part, with a twinge of emo here and there.

Top songs? Definitely the band’s single “Anamnesis”, “Absentee”, “Back to Life”, and the track my friend’s son plays on “Worth Your Time”.

While I love the guitar riff in “Perfect” the lyrics are a bit cringey.

So give it a listen and see what you think! The band has gone from 39 monthly listeners to 68 since Wednesday, let’s see if we can get that number up!

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No-stalgia

My carefree childhood, I was such a dork…

What is it about the past that we think was so much better? Why is it so easy to sit in a current rough patch and think “I wish I was back in such and such a time”? Was the past really that great?

I watched the CNN produced documentary “The Nineties” on Netflix last week. Despite living up to the “Clinton News Network” nickname (that man could do no wrong in CNN’s eyes), it did make me miss some of thatdecade’s better features.

The thing I miss the most is the popular music. I’m not up to date on the latest pop music, everything modern I listen to now is “weird” to most people. Most people meaning my wife, her opinion is the only one that matters. The rare time I do get to hear current hits I gag a little. At least in the nineties the mainstream was trying to be creative and make something people had not heard before. Now it’s just repackaged garbage from some other time and place. Just because that time was often the nineties doesn’t mean they do it well though.

Other features of the decade? Was it really that great of a time? I started high school in the final year of the decade, so my memories are a jumbled heap of childhood memories and silliness. Comparisons are easy to make though, one doesn’t need precise memories of events to remember that some stuff just plain sucked back in the day.

I definitely don’t miss dial-up internet. Yes, kids, there was a day when the internet wasn’t “on” all the time. You had to pay by the minute, and those minutes did not produce much more than a page or two of TEXT. Pictures? Come back after you have gone to the kitchen for a Surge and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. I remember the first time I heard of Ethernet, it was a mind blowing concept.you meqn the internet is always connected? You can watch movie clips on it?!

Cell phones? As a kid i only knew one person with a cell phone and it was corded and attached to a bag. You could not watch movies on it or play Candy Crush”. The only cool feature on a cell phone back then was “Centipede” which could be played on a black and green screen. You could play it for days though without charging the phone. My memory could be a bit skewed but I swear those phone batteries lasted for-ev-errrr (if you don’t get that reference, you’re killing me, Smalls).

The movies were better then. I mean, they actually had to try. CGI was limited to Star Wars (and it was bad), so Hollywood actually had to build sets and scale models. And aside from the epic that was Titanic, not every movie was a three hour highly involved action sequence. You could watch an hour and a half movie and then go about your day. After you returned the video cassette to Blockbuster of course. If you were kind you would rewind. If you were a jerk… Well…

You didn’t have to commit hours to sitting around binging on TV shows either. What was on TV was what was on, you didn’t get to pick, and you definitely didn’t get to skip commercials.

For some of us TV was called “Cable” which despite being roughly the same technology as today, was nothing like it’s current counterpart. There were no DVRs and no easy index channel which could take you directly to the channel of your liking. You had to wait for the preview channel to scroll through allof the channels and then manually get yourself to the show you wanted.

Most people had a VCR, which, if you had a degree in engineering (or nursing, as did my mom), you could program it to record something. But.It had to be on the right channel. It was largely just used for playing movies, not recording them.

If you didn’t have cable you had to stick to the old rabbit ears and a non-digital *gasp* signal. Which meant you got like six channels. You missed out on Nickelodeon, the beginnings of the Cartoon Network, and all the major 24/7 news channels.

Which reminds me:

The politics haven’t changed.

The 90’s was full of political scandals. But they seemed to move a lot slower than current scandals. Even with 24/7 news networks coming onto the scene the slower pace of information streaming (well, it was dial up, there was no “streaming” as we know it) meant that you could watch the news and not be suffocated in useless data. There was only so much new stuff to report so you could watch an hour and pretty much get it all.

I certainly don’t miss the outfits or the hairstyles. Except for the grunge. We can keep the grunge. Bring back flannel already!

What were we thinking? And she’s going to kill me. Also: Epic 90’s album cover material!

I will be happy once modern fashion gets out of its 80’s slump. That is a decade I am too young to be nostalgic for. Except for Reagan, who isn’t nostalgic for Reagan? There I go with the politics again…

I will probably always be sappy and sentimental, it’s just my nature. But closer inspection reveals that the past wasn’t really better than the present. Sure, I was a kid and responsibilities were fewer and stakes were lower. But if I were the me of today living then would I find it better? Probably not. How would I make money? How would I talk to you on this blog? How much smaller was the world back then?

It’s nice to think back on those days, but I’m content to see what the future will bring.

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