Gossip Sucks

Gossip has been on my mind lately.

It was brought up at church that gossips won’t inherit the kingdom of God. They are put in the same category as adulterers and liars and thieves. I never really gave it much thought, but I’ve noticed quite a bit of it going around at work and in the culture in general. I suppose it’s always been there, but for some reason it has been more noticeable to me lately. Probably because of the mention at church. When you start looking for something, you’re guaranteed to find it.

What constitutes gossip? Is merely relaying information about the actions of someone gossip? Or is there a malicious intent that makes it gossip? I think we all know that one person who just can’t wait to tell us the juicy news about so-and-so and what they’ve been up to lately. Is that person a gossip? Is the news media gossip? Is pretty much everything on social media gossip?

The dictionary defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as true”. Given this definition I’d say we could call gossip lies. The facts may be true but then again they may not be. The entire purpose of telling them is merely to malign the character of the person you’re gossiping about.

So yes, probably most of what is on the news and in social media is gossip.

There is a bandwagon effect underneath most gossip. Those who share or indulge in the gossip are only sharing the “information” favorable to their own team. The source of the data is unimportant. What matters is that it confirms the suspicions of those sharing it. Sex abuse scandals are fraught with this kind of gossip. If you believe the accuser you share all the nasty details of the accused. If you support the accused you smear the accuser.

True justice is lost in gossip. Due process shuts down, mired in the tedious, nasty points of each side. Everyone loses, some more than others. The case never ends either, even if the courts are done with it. Years down the road there will still be fingers pointing back and forth and rumors being ruminated on.

The worst part about gossip? You know the person sharing gossip with you is most definitely gossiping about you. Heaven forbid you end up on the receiving end of someone’s poor opinion created purely out of the mouths of others.

Be careful what you listen to. Be even more careful what you pass on.

Some Thoughts On A Saturday

Again my brain is too ADD to focus on one topic at a time, so here are a few to chew on:

Outrage Porn and Social Media:

I was kicked off Facebook for a week last week. Not by Facebook mind you, but by my wife. She changed my password and I was only allowed on to share my blog posts. As grumpy as I was at first I’m glad she did it.

I did not realize just how much time I spend on there. Every spare moment is spent mindlessly scrolling through the newsfeed blindly clicking reaction buttons. And for me most of what shows up in the feed is nonsense trolling or posts designed to stir irritation. Or click bait.

So much of what is out there is nothing but outrage porn. Someone posts some video or article or screenshot of a Tweet that has something horrible in it. Everyone else jumps on board and rants about it. They too share it and on and on it goes. Outrage porn is not quite click bait, it’s more akin to virtue signaling.

Basically outrage porn is designed to outrage who ever views the content. People who post it are basically saying “Look! Look at me! Look how outraged I am! Aren’t I special?!” Well, no, you’re not really special if you’re angry about something that most people are angry about.

It’s not just Facebook where you find toxic people. Pretty much everywhere you look you can find them. Go to work and people are disgruntled. All they want to do is gossip and complain. It gets old quickly. I could very easily be dragged down into the office politics and misery of these people but I prefer not to.

Productivity:

Not being on Facebook gave me the perfect opportunity to put energy into productive pursuits. I managed to write more. I engaged in some of the creative activities that I had been neglecting. I got on Instagram, which is wayyyy better than Facebook in terms of posts to get angry about.

Who knows, I may self-impose the next hiatus!

Like this baby right here!

Posts and Editing:

In the past I would just write my posts and never look at them again. I might tweak a few things here and there before posting, but heavy editing to ensure clarity? Ha! My thinking was “If you read it and don’t get it, you just don’t get it, there is no helping you.”

Then my wife started reading my posts and critiquing them (not mean critiques though, helpful ones). She offered to edit my posts from now on. You will notice that she edited the post on Wednesday. That post turned out to be a very successful post. Who knew that someone who knows me so well could interpret my words better than me? She does a much better job than I do of understanding me sometimes. Now that I think about it, she is often my translator when people have no idea what I’m saying.

I think I will go back and edit some of my old posts for clarity. From now on, with the exception of this post, I’ll have her look over my posts before I subject others to them.

Righteous Indignation:

Since I was on the topic of outrage. There are some things in the world that you should legitimately be angry about. The latest law in New York and the push for a law in Virginia allowing abortion up to birth is something that we should be outraged about.

However, I’m not sure the best way to share my opinions on the subject. I could make posts on Facebook about it which would lead to endless arguments and the anger from my friends who mostly don’t know what they’re talking about. Or I could post it here and maybe ten people will read it. I have written about it before and the stats are pretty sad.

Let’s just say I oppose all abortion and I find the latest developments pretty disgusting.

That’s it for now. There are other things bouncing around in there but they will have to wait. Soon, brain, soon…

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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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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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The Flame Blame

(C) Ed Hall, Not used by permission. I hope he forgives me. Heck, who’s reading this anyway?

“You might like my latest cartoon” came the message from my political cartoonist acquaintance. I’ve been following him for some time and while our politics rarely line up I at least appreciate his passion and willingness to push buttons and boundaries.

But this time he really pushed one of my buttons.

I’ve been standing on the sidelines and avoiding conversations about the wildfires in California. The few places I did comment with my knowledge and opinions didn’t seem to get anywhere. People have decided to look at the whole situation through whatever political worldview they have chosen for themselves. Even the wildland firefighter community on social media has collapsed into bomb lobbing and insult hurling.

Everyone wants to blame someone.

My cartoonist friend (and the environmentalists) want to blame climate change (and the Republicans). Yes, weather does play a major role in the spread of fire, and in the availability and moisture level of fuels. But just like you can’t blame an ice storm for car accidents, you can’t blame the climate for wildfires.

People are the cause of accidents, whether they be car crashes in an ice storm or devastating wildfires in a drought. The ice did not make the driver crash, the driver’s response to the icy road caused his accident. The climate did not create the devastation, the policies and practices of people in response to the climate created the devastation.

When Trump blamed the fires on lack of management he wasn’t entirely wrong. There is horrible management going on in many of the forests around the country. Much of that mismanagement is concentrated in the western states, particularly the three bordering the Pacific ocean.

Environmental groups, loggers, ranchers, and developers have been knocking heads in that part of the country for decades. The lobbyists for these parties have all gone to the Federal government to get their way in the land management game. Full fire suppression, a lack of timber thinning, a lack of controlled burning, and an explosion of building in the wildland interface are all polices and practices tied to these groups and their lobbying one way or another.

But just like you can’t blame the weather, you can’t blame mismanagement. Because mismanagement has a root.

Blame lies squarely on the concept of Federal ownership and management of land. The Federal government was not created to do such a thing and is not capable of doing it effectively.

Better put: land is best managed by the people who own it and live on it. Those are the people with real skin in the game.

When land belongs to everyone it becomes fodder for political ends. Public ownership means that I get to call the shots for land thousands of miles away from me. This is usually land I will probably never see, and ecosystems which I may never study or understand.

But locals know the land. Locals know what happens when you manage the forest one way or another. They live in it and derive their economic well-being from it. They have a vital interest in making the whole thing work. Mismanagement has direct and dire consequences upon them.

Ironically it is often these locals who lobby the Federal government to do what they wish because they don’t get along with the other locals. The ranchers don’t like the loggers, the loggers don’t get along with the recreation special interests, and no one gets along with the environmentalists. And no one gets along with the Fed either, because while trying to please everyone, the Fed enacts and carries out policies which please no one.

So while the ranchers are happy to have cheap (ie Federally subsidized) open range grazing land they are not happy with the fences the environmentalists want put up to protect the watershed. And the loggers are content to log land managed by their Fed friends but they are not happy with the ranchers for burning up timber while trying to improve grazing conditions. The environmentalists are happy to have a giant monopolized force machine to restrict all human action on nature but they are not happy with… well… anyone.

We should get the Federal government out of the business of land management and turn it all over to the locals. Let the local loggers and the local Hippies and the local ranchers sort it out amongst themselves.

At least then when it burns out of control we know who to blame.

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Dailyish Thoughts #96

“Dumpster fire” is a pretty useful phrase. There is not a better term for so much of what’s going on in the world around me. Not that my life is personally a dumpster fire, but the toxicity of the people I have associated with lately can only be described as such.

Dumpster fires have nasty smoke, spew sparks which light other stuff on fire, and stink to high heaven. The opinions and manners of the keyboard warriors I tangle with are also largely nasty, ignite passionate (and ignorant) debates, and…well… stink.

My gluttony for punishment prevents me from abandoning these people unfortunately. I do hope to channel some of my displeasure into intelligent and well thought out posts.

But for now my brain is simply a pinball machine of thoughts.

Thank you wife for listening to me try to sort out this pinball madness and clear up some of the emotional constipation it has caused.

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Count, Count, Count Again, Gently Through the Crap

Oh Florida, you’ve done it again. What is it about Florida that so many people simply cannot count? Is it all the missing fingers and toes from unfortunate alligator encounters?

If there is one thing this election cycle has revealed (hint: it’s not the winners of the races) it’s the fact that politics brings out the intellectual dishonesty in all of us. Neither side questions the insanity coming from their own ranks.

On the Republican side you have candidates and other officials jumping on every rumor. Every time a rumor flies about a new box of ballots being found in the belly of an Everglades python they jump on it. When it turns out to be just a box of office supplies, they just chuckle and pretend they knew the whole time. Every inconsistency is met with “Fraud!! It’s fraud!!” Turn on your conservative radio and they are talking like every law in the books was broken. Sure, some were (and of course the Democrats don’t seem to mind), but the more I look around the less I find to substantiate the claims.

The Democrats aren’t much better. Not only is law breaking acceptable when it works in their favor, everything is racist when it doesn’t. EVERYTHING. When you come in to vote officials make you sign a pad and they check it with your state issued id. It’s a silly system admittedly, because our signatures can change over time, but it’s not a particularly race related system. They almost turned my wife away. I cheated by looking at my license and making sure it was the same. But because some non-white people were turned away it must be a racist system. I won’t even get into this notion that “white Americans would simply not vote for a black man”.  Just because your candidate is black and he lost does not mean you can immediately run to the race card.

According to some in the media, Broward County voters are stupid. They can’t find the boxes on the ballots for each race. Maybe people just didn’t want to vote for anyone in that race? Maybe because the choices both sucked? I personally voted for Willie Nelson. I’m now positive the Democrats are going to say I must have meant “Bill Nelson”. Honestly though, if you can’t find the box, and you didn’t notice it and think “Gee, I didn’t get to vote for a senator, maybe I should double check this thing” you probably should do your civic duty and stay away from the polls altogether.

And doesn’t anyone find it unnerving the fact that ballots can get misplaced so easily in the first place? What happened to the concept of chain of custody? Why are precinct workers driving ballots around in their personal vehicles? Every time I have to get a drug test for employment I have to sign a bunch of papers signifying I understand the chain of custody by which my pee will travel to the drug testing site. Why isn’t the same care given to ballots? Both parties act like voting is some sort of sacred act, yet no one questions the way the sacred relics are handled. If my non-drug-tainted pee has to be kept under lock and key and guarded 24/7 by guys with guns (hyperbole much?) why aren’t ballots?

I don’t normally post about this kind of stuff, but this is way too entertaining. Maybe by the end of the week we’ll have a winner.

Or maybe by Christmas….

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Dailyish Thoughts #93

Information overload is a very real thing. BInge watching and social media threads are especially deep sources of wayyyy too much information. And 90% of it is antagonistic nonsense meant to provoke emotions instead of rational thought. The modern level of discourse doesn’t want debate over ideas and philosophies. Feelings are what matter, and feelings are best provoked by continuing to poke people until they burst. Poke people with enough negative ad hominems and eventually they will get violent toward whatever character you want.

So today was an overload. I consumed too much and I think too much about what I consume. Sometimes this results in a good product. Sometimes it just makes my head hurt. Today was the latter.

Onwards into tomorrow (today now). Let’s see if we can get the house clean on my only day off this week.

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Dailyish Thoughts #91

I did my act of violence today. Defensive violence that is. And like many acts of self defense a few blows made it through. You win some and you lose some.

Florida has proven itself a bit bipolar, or super lazy. Vote for tax caps but not decreases. Vote against socialists but in favor of militarizing the police. Vote for the “rights” of victims while effectively taking Constitutional protections from defendants. Not to mention unintended consequences: the hundreds of dogs which will be euthanized because they will be out of a job, all because people want to “protect” them.

Oh well. It’s time for bed. Can’t wait to see the responses of the psychos tomorrow.

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Dailyish Thoughts #90

Tomorrow is election day. I have missed the early voting window. Woops. I gotta make my cheat sheet in between training and working. Chances of actually getting to the polls? Fair to nil. But if I do, I promise to report how it went.

Training for what, you ask? Today was my first day of school bus driver training. I’m already knee deep in rules and procedures! Oh well, I’ll figure it out.

Today’s real adventure was watching a jerk in a big lifted truck drive away after rear ending someone. Word of wisdom for the next time you try to do this sir or madam: don’t stop at the light right next to the person you hit. Pictures were taken, plate numbers recorded, and police called. I suspect you’ve already been visited by a deputy. Or just you know… Admit your mistake and stay at the scene.

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