Sunday, 30 December 2012

Must be funny...

(This is an old blog from my little archive of things I occasionally write but have nowhere to post them... now I guess I do.)

I've noticed of late that budgetary restrictions are bringing out a side of me that I utterly despise.

I've always hated money, I consider it to be a stupid system, bargaining with what are essentially institutionalized IOU's representing resources we neither have nor can lay any objectively legitimate claim to, using meaningless tokens to represent things which we could just as easily trade directly and without as much risk of fraud or disingenuity.

But the system being as it is, one must either adapt and survive or perish to the folly of one's own idealistic fantasies of a sensible world. And as I adapt, and all the governments and corporations and organizations and other such gloomy buzzwords of drudgery close in like vultures encircling a limping prey, I can see myself turning into something that is at once alien to my sense of identity, and metaphysically horrifying at the same time.

An example,

A month or so ago an old lady in front of me at the grocery store allowed a ten pound note to slip unnoticed from her purse as she fumbled about in that way that ditzy old people do when performing perfectly simple tasks like paying for food, and it see-sawed down like the last leaf to fall from a branch in front of me to the floor by my feet. Naturally I bent down to pick it up, and as I brought it up again I found my palm closing around it as if by its own volition.

Although purely instinctive, I could feel the beginnings of an internal tug of war, as I mentally debated with myself whether to keep or return it. This was barely a split second of doubt, of course, and by the time I had straightened up there was nothing in it, I obviously informed her of what she had done and returned the money.

But that moment of doubt - that is what makes all the difference, that's what I am ashamed of. That person is not who I was raised to be, nor who I have been working to sculpt into the best version of whatever it is that I can for the last quarter century or so. I hate that guy. I look at that guy on tv or in news reports and curse his name.

These financial ingrates, money-grubbing anything for a buck false grinning prats who juggle pennies all day to find the most profitable arrangement, I utterly despise these people. Partly, I suppose, because I never really understood it. Once you earn a comfortable wage why constantly struggle for more?

But more than that is the inhumanity of it, and I don't mean to suggest that capitalism is amoral, simple that to live by those standards alone lacks the spark that gives human beings that special light that makes them unique and remarkable, it reduces man to the mindless rat, scrambling about to gather up as many crumbs as you can, a vacant, unaware look in their eyes as they forage for just one more little scrap.

But now look at me, so pressured by the closing walls of monetary squander that squeeze more and more out of me every day, that cursed ticking clock of inevitability always over my head, a constant reminder of how much time I have lost and wasted, my brain unforgiving in its harsh score-keeping, tallying up one year of failures after another to never let me forget how much work I have to do in so little time.

I've been following the protests in Libya, knowing that there was no other way I could help out, and wanting to encourage this spread of democracy that has seized a world steadily growing in enlightenment, I decided to jump on an email I got from the red cross asking me to renew donations to help them support the people afflicted by the turmoil of the situation.

All I could think as I tried to battle their retarded system that somehow fails to recognize a perfectly adequate credit card to donate just £3 was "just think of what you could buy with that?", the sense of loss from simple trying to part with such a small amount of money, the temptation to just give up at the first hurdle and justify it with some empty self platitude about not taking that £3 for granted made me sick.

My life has somehow fallen onto a set of rails, guided now like a thoughtless train I'm directed throughout my life by people who have money using the fact that I do not to manipulate and control me. The limited choices I have are still just turns being made in a system of dug out trenches out of which there is no observable escape. These actions are guided in such a way that I am now starting to behave like someone I am not.

Tie enough strings to someone and you can make them dance any way you want, but that doesn't mean they can hear the music. I don't want to live in that world, I will not become one of those people. I was taught by decent people to be a decent person, and had to overcome more than a little genetic indecency to become, I will not let the course my life is on tarnish those principles.

The only thing I can think to do is call myself out on it when I let my actions be guided by commerce rather than morality, and make a conscious effort to remain true to myself wherever possible. But that doesn't change the fact that with each passing day, each new debt in a place without work, income, support, help, and no lack of people willing to take you for a mug, a new string gets looped around me.

I don't like what I'm turning into, and if I am to preserve myself, I'm going to have to do something drastic. I've always for some reason shied away from making large decisions, perhaps something about the commitment or change errs me away, or maybe my geek-conditioned brain is just terrified of the lack of save points in case I screw up - but in hindsight it's only when I do make a drastic change that my life has ever taken turns for the better.

The questioned is, which turn do I take? More exits are getting blocked off with each passing moment. Perhaps, time to stretch my wings, and escape the trench altogether? It's up to me. Maybe I just needed to hear myself say that, to believe it.

Oh, and here's a funny titbit for you - the red cross uses captchas to validate your donation. I mean seriously? They have to, what, make sure there are no spambots trying to part with their hard earned cash? We don't want free money from your sort, go on back to 4chan.


Saturday, 29 December 2012

Pride in prejudice, attack of the social police

I want to talk a little about pride today.

I am an artist, at least that’s how I typically define myself when prompted (in which I include my proclivity for writing), and I am damn good at it. Not the best, not even close to the best, but it is the thing I am best at and I am good enough to consider it something to be thankful about.

I take pride in what I can do well, I see this as a good thing. There are a lot of people who see pride as a bad thing, and take it upon themselves to hammer that negative trait out of your brain for your own good. I have encountered this many times over the years, and never with pleasant results. Reflecting on those experiences, I find myself wanting to articulate the problems with certain mentalities, and hopefully paint some kind of picture on how people can rise above them.

Now I just proudly announced that I’m a good artist, and this is an apt place to start, because many people consider that kind of behaviour to be an oddity of some kind. As I just explained, most people who would otherwise consider themselves to be decent people, would have difficulty recognizing the distinction between confidence and overconfidence, and thus see the need to stamp out any sign of it the moment they see it. I’ll explain the cause of this reaction later on.

To that end a bizarre social protocol has developed in the civilized world that forms under the flawed premise of a mutual understanding that confidence is inherently bad. The short of it is that in keeping with this unwritten rule it is understood that one should not behave in a confident manner, and that one should doubt oneself to excess, even if it leads to harming of one’s own self-image. That protocol is modesty.

I hate modesty, and let me just be clear why. I’m sure many people will disagree with this (and not easily), but I define modesty as the ritualistic social trend of shaming your assets. It is the expected behaviour of pretending to be ashamed of what you can do well. In fact it’s such a well integrated social norm, that it’s difficult for most people to look at this concept with a fresh perspective in order to see it the way I do, so let me clarify.

In a typical social setting when one is given a compliment, it is often expected (by which I mean it is more familiar and anticipated, not that it is outwardly demanded in any way) that one reacts with some form of trivialization. E.g. “I’m glad you like my painting but it’s not that good, ___ is a much better artist than me”, etc.

When someone behaves with open and brazen confidence this is often treated, and almost universally viewed with some degree of resentment. You might open your mouth to disagree here but before you do I want you to put yourself in that situation and be honest about your gut feeling, you’ve got some guy proclaiming his vast skills and how good he is at doing what he does, there is at least some small part of you that probably builds a small, but distinct association between that person and the feeling of dislike.

If not, then I envy you for your social adjustment – which is of course the whole problem and segues nicely into the next issue – envy.

It is my belief that this entire protocol came into existence through a convoluted process of envy melding with the tribal instinct that is built into our species. You see it is virtually unavoidable in any living conglomeration, but especially among humans, that we form some kind of tribal society. Get any bunch of humans into a room for long enough and a small community will be the inevitable result.

But just as with a pack of wolves or a litter of puppies, there is also a pecking order established. You have the alpha, who clearly defines his or her role early on, and then you have the subordinates. The alpha isn’t a bad guy, he is merely following the evolutionary imperative, he was the strongest, so he gets the first portion of food, he gets to choose his mate, he gets to decide what we do because all of that will ensure his survival and the propagation of his superior genes.

The point is, everyone is subordinate to someone, and almost everyone has a subordinate, a runt of the litter. And no matter where you go in human culture, you find examples of the superior beating on the [perceived] inferior. But why do we do this? Because we covet the role of the alpha. We want to be the top dog, to experience what he has.

Because we humans are intelligent, we want to usurp that position, to take what we don’t have. We have the intelligence to know that he has the survival advantages and our own genes demand that we do whatever it takes to survive. But I don’t want to bore you by focussing solely on the genetic side of this, what’s far more interesting is the complex psychological response to this.

In seeking to experience what the alpha experiences, we generate prejudice. We seek out flaws in others and punish them for those flaws. You are weak, evolution demands that you be fodder to keep me on top. Your inferiority makes me superior. Only by doing this can we appear flawless, or at least... less flawed. And that’s what sets the entire vicious cycle into motion – it’s all PRETEND.

The ones who punish others are the ones with the least confidence in themselves. Those who bash and hack away at the self esteem of other people most likely crave to feel like the top dog because they are so tired of feeling like an underdog. They want to feel superior because they feel inferior, they are infested by an inferiority complex that forever saps away their sense of self worth, and at the end of the day, even when you are on the bottom rung, you can still look down on someone else and feel high up.

So you’ve got all these people gnawing away at the self confidence of everyone else, who then feel inferior and so do the same to others, and over time you end up with this surreal stalemate wherein everyone knows and quietly obeys the unwritten rule that confidence is bad and should be avoided. Whenever someone deviates, we rain down hell on them, whenever we have an opportunity to feel confident, a subliminal hysteria kicks like a raid alarm alerting you to something potentially dangerous, and so you play it down.

People should play down the things they do badly, not the things they do well. In every other example of human culture, we try to lessen the impact of bad things, and make the most we possibly can out of the good things. But when it comes to personal achievement? Oh no, that is wrong, you shouldn’t feel like you achieved something because then you will look egotistical.

I get called egotistical *all* the time. Most people don’t even understand what they mean when they say it, mind you even when “correctly used” it’s something of a misnomer but that’s besides the point, they just habitually utter it with mindless dead eyes as some instinctual response to being proved wrong or seeing something they don’t like, like it is the default position of being in an uncomfortable situation that you must try to lash out at someone else where you think you can hurt them most (which of course leads back to the inferiority thing).

However, those who know me well are always trying to *encourage me*, and break through my self doubt. Now you wouldn’t be able to convince the haters of this even if you tied them down and forced them to watch every second of my life for ten years, but there it is. Those who see me for what I am see me in the exact opposite light to those who make a snap judgment and decide it is their responsibility to bash out of my head what dangerously depleted levels of confidence remain.

However, when I talk to other people I am more often than not, a sarcastic (though usually for comedic effect) elitist bastard, who is quick to pounce on the poor grammar and/or stupid ill-conceived opinions and beliefs of others. Are you seeing the connection?

Earlier I admitted to envy, then to self-doubt, and now elitism, so it goes without saying that despite my recognizing and understanding the cycle that causes this unbreakable chain of events, I am not immune to it. So why don’t I learn from it? Well to a large degree I have, as I said earlier I am happy to renounce modesty as an archaic and oppressive ritual, and despite the fact that ripping on others still invokes the heightened sense of self-worth that dispels insecurity (and it does) I try to focus this instinct with purpose.

I only ever use those situations to try and encourage thought, because I truly believe that everyone, even the stupidest of us, have the potential to start using our brains and escape the middle ages. I don’t want to change anyone, and wouldn’t even if I had the power to, but sometimes all someone needs is to be shown a door to recognize that they have the ability to go through it and change their way of thinking. I’ve been shown a few doors in my time that changed my life, to know that this is a power to be used responsibly.

Like everyone else, I still covet the alpha position. Though I am intelligent enough to know that even if I had it, I would continue to pursue it. Genes don’t come with an off switch. But we can, however rise above the unusual redundancies that come about through the oil and water mixing of our base genetic drives and our higher intelligence. With a little thought and consideration (like only being an asshole to assholes and even then only with constructive criticism) we can generate a frame shift in the way those cycles envelop us, and turn them into useful tools.

Do not be ashamed to admit what you can do well. I acknowledge and even frequently rant about the need for humility in the world, but humility and shame are not the same thing! You can go through life not thinking yourself superior to everyone else without having to make yourself feel inferior to them and miserable. Confidence and overconfidence are vastly different mentalities with a football field between them, it’s not hard to distinguish the two.

This world does not need less people who feel good about themselves, our society will not benefit from its population holding down their heads and averting their eyes from their talents. Stand up and be proud of what you can do well, announce it to the world, flaunt it, and when you see someone better at it, be happy for them! Or better yet learn from them. You don’t have to be the best in the world at what you can do, you can be just as happy knowing that it is the best thing in the world that YOU can do. Pride is not a sin!

And when you do this, and you get someone muttering about how full of yourself you are, don’t bother reacting with hatred or anger, don’t bother feeling ashamed or embarrassed, just go to that person and ask them what they can do well, and compliment them for it. Everyone has something, something they enjoy, something they are good at, something that moves them. If we all focussed on that, rather than the fact that we don’t have what they do, imagine what the world would be like?

One of the biggest problems is that people feel like they wouldn’t change anything by changing their own attitude, it seems futile, so why bother? Well the world is made up of individuals. So just remind yourself of the last time your world was changed by the words of another, the last time someone made you feel bad by criticizing you, or trampled over your confidence, or even how good it felt when you were last complimented, even if you did try to reject it.

That one person changed you, and then you probably changed other people as did they and so on. So think of the difference that one single person like you could make to the world by turning things around? If one person can affect you like that, then you can affect others just as easily. It’s easy to change the world when you are at its foundation.

Wouldn’t it be great if the only thing we didn’t all take pride in, was prejudice?

Welcome to Founder's Fort

Greetings, and welcome to my Blog.

It's been a long-ass time since I last did one of these, my old ones are still floating around there somewhere, but I've decided not to pick up where I left off, and instead focus on moving forwards with something new.

I'm not anticipating a huge following of this blog, in fact it's entirely possible that almost nobody will ever read a thing I say. The reason I'm writing it is more for my own benefit. I do a lot of writing, in forums, on Youtube, in debates and in my personal projects, but all of these writings tend to follow the same themes, with the exception of my fiction.

However I have a lot to say about many other topics, and never really seem to have the medium to share these thoughts that plague me. It doesn't matter who reads it so much as getting it off my chest, and if people do come to read it, that's all the better. The name of this blog is something of a running joke between myself and those who know my work fairly well. I do have a tendency to be... a little verbose.

However, I've spent long enough apologizing for this and attempting to condense my thoughts into something simplified, dumbed down and just generally castrated. I'm tired of it. I don't actually think that taking the time to be thorough and detailed is something to be sorry about, so now it's time to flex my wings, so to speak, and cut loose.

I've spent long enough running around in circles that seem to sail the fringe of mature, adult discussion like a spider desperately trying not to get swept down the drain - and while I care for the friends I have made in those places I do not see that growing up and actually putting thought into what you say is something to be avoided or hidden under the bed like a dirty secret.

If, perchance, I am too long-winded for you, then feel free not to read my blog. I will not, however, be censoring myself for the benefit of short attention spans any longer. Don't get me wrong, I don't judge you if you are one of these people - ironically, so am I. It's true. I can write and babble on for pages and pages but when it comes to reading something someone else has written, well my patience dwindles.

With that in mind, I will be updating this blog as regularly as I can with substantive posts. You'll find them more like essays than mundane "I just ate a sandwich" type stuff, though if I do develop any kind of following in time I'll probably post an update if anything especially life-changing should befall me.

In the mean time, please feel free to read my posts and if you wish to share them you may do so with impunity, provided I am credited as the author. I hope at least some of my ramblings will appeal to you. Thanks for reading. :)