World

A little perspective after a long time

*Note: There are some elements of this entry that some may find disturbing, or possibly even trigger-worthy.  Read (or don’t) with caution if you are the sensitive type.

I know, I know… I’ve been gone a long time.  Life is like that;  It ebbs and flows.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t write professionally (at least not on a creative level) or I would be accused of following after a certain author of thrones.  Anyway, It took a couple years for this cycle to settle, and now that it has… everything is fine.  And that’s it.  Nothing is wrong, and new stuff happens from time to time, but for the most part, I’m just doing my thing; day in and day out. My companions from my previous cycle (and even the “adjustment” period) have almost all fallen away.  Some will come back eventually, and some will not.  But for the time being I have my new cave by the lake, my work in the contrasting enormous palace nearby, my cats, some friends I see every so often (whom, I’m growing a greater appreciation for as others move on) and… me.
It’s not about time any more.  I have time.  I finally caught up on The Walking Dead (holy shit…) and I’ve been addicted to certain mobile games involving hunting small creatures in the real world and fantasies that are final at home.  So time is there… money is still in recovery but improving daily. What I realized is missing (much like in my personal relationships) is passion.  I don’t feel inspired by anything.  The world is beautiful, and I am privy to exceptional sunsets on a daily basis.  These bring me peace, but they do not light a fire.  There is no fire.  I’m not depressed, things are generally good, I’m just… here.  It’s kept me from writing because I need to have something I feel strongly enough to write about.  It’s kept me from photography because I’m still backlogged almost a year (sorry Jess.. I put some more up yesterday but I realize my pace is horrible…) and while I love the photos I put up when I do work on them, it’s honestly a struggle to get myself to sit down and focus on them.

JCamBW

At least sometimes I look alright doing it…

I know, this is a lot of whining and problems that are really not problems.  A year ago at this time I was trying to figure out if I was going to have a place to live next month, so I understand that I’m not really having real problems.  Ironically, it might be the intense focus that work requires of me that keeps the inspiration from showing up at the end of the day.  Chicken or the egg?  Be that as it may, I am virtually alone and uninspired at the moment, and while I’m making an effort to branch out a bit, it may be some time before life picks back up again.

With that said I want to share a story with you.  This story makes all of the above whining seem even more ridiculous.  The point is not to shock you or make you feel bad, the point is to help people like me, who are really doing pretty okay, keep perspective and be grateful for the blessings they have, even if inspiration feels a little short.  Having time to worry about inspiration or passion IS a blessing in itself.

As mentioned above, I work in a literal mansion.  My boss is such that he parks his seaplane (yes, seaplane) in the back yard, on the very nice lake that is shared among the local (rich) community.  Though it is not the point of this article, I want to make a point of assuring you that my boss is 1. Generally a good man.  2. Gives a GREAT deal of charity and pays a great deal of taxes without complaint.  -and- 3. Does not come from a wealthy family.  He’s built and earned what he has, more than once.

Anyway, as his Executive Assistant (you can call me Alfred) I assist in running his business, finances, calendar, estate, grounds, etc.  So as mentioned I spend the majority of my time in this huge, immaculate home.  Another staff member of ours – let’s call her Jan – comes once a week with an associate of hers to do a full cleaning of the house, laundry, etc. She is originally from Jamaica, in her late-40s, and her and I have a friendly, joking, semi-abusive relationship.  My boss has known her for over a decade (before he even moved into this mansion) and has treated/paid her well consistently.  He is even looking into the best way to provide for her retirement in the future, as she has never had her own means of obtaining one.   Not that she’ll need it anytime soon, because while she’s easygoing and friendly, she’s also tough, I mean really tough.

tumblr_m01jkv5IyZ1qb0oluo1_250

Our cleaning lady would kill you son.

I’ve visited Jamaica before via cruise ship.  I know, I know, that’s not the “real” Jamaica. But all you need to do is book an excursion that takes you out of the tourist area and if you’re paying attention you very quickly get an impression of the reality many native Jamaicans face.  While there are most certainly well-developed, colorful, historical towns, hotels, and restaurants, just outside the walls of the tourist area in Falmouth, things get progressively bleaker until the reality of literal poverty is staring you in the face.  They make the best of it; You could see people smiling, laughing, and living, but they have adjusted, or have never know the extent of the comforts and security we have here in the US (despite us needing to be made great… again…)

Jan, and her family are from that kind of life.  She’s happy to be here with her longtime friend, making a life for herself and her daughter here in the US that would be near impossible for the rest of her family back in Jamaica.  She sends them money and support, and shows me pictures of the gatherings she attends when she goes to visit them.  She is especially proud of their Sunday clothes, when they get dressed up for church.

The other day she pulled out her phone and was showing me pictures of her son and some of their extended family still living in Jamaica.  She has never married, and when I asked her if her children were intentional she just smiled at me as if I were Jon Snow and knew nothing.  In this particular photo set though, I commented on her son’s sense of style.  Even by US standards, he was decked out in a dark suit with a light purple tie, matching vest and sunglasses to complete the look.

Purple Style

That style.

That was when she casually showed me the next picture.  It was of a young boy (I think she said he was thirteen) hanging from a tree by a rope tied around his neck.  Her nephew had decided that his life there wasn’t worth continuing, and… before they took him down, they took photos.  She continued that her son was wearing his best to that boy’s funeral because he had been like a brother, and it was the best way to honor his life.  The whole time she spoke casually and easy about this, as if this were just another part of life like a thunder storm or the flu.  But then, for a lot of people in the world, possibly even the majority, it is.

Many of us in the US live blessed lives.  Absolutely we have poverty, I’ve shared with you before that I was homeless at times growing up and have memories of getting food from the food bank to eat.  But much harder than I ever had it is the racism that is still coming to light, when growing up as a minority here (especially if you’re poor) can be, literally, deadly.  And while a lot of us see it on the news here, and it is wrong anytime, anywhere, in some places it’s so common that it’s not even a headline.

My point is not to say that we don’t need to get better as a culture in the United States (or wherever I end up should Emporer Trump come to power,) because we do.  We have to be better because we have infinitely more opportunity than so many more places in the world.  If there’s anything the human race is good at, it’s squandering its available advantages by focusing on trivial things (like… not feeling inspired…)  But that photo of the boy hanging from a tree, because life was actually very hard there and he couldn’t make it, is something that reminds me of this responsibility.  It gives a lot of perspective to how blessed the majority of us are here and reminds me that, at the very least, first and foremost, I (we) need to do our best to not be a part of the problems in our own culture.

14047351_10154468276252264_5432744295936588239_o

This.. should be appreciated.

People like Jan can come here, and work hard, and probably never have a life as decadent as my boss (or possibly even me.)  But because she has an inherently different perspective, and the appreciation for the many things we take for granted (including our way of life itself,) there’s a good chance that she may often be happier than those of us that lose our perspective from time to time.  Happiness is relative.  That’s why people with far more money than a windbag like Trump are secretly (or not so secretly) miserable.  Meanwhile those who give away what little they have beyond their own survival enjoy happiness that eludes the majority of the world.

There’s no recipe for it either. It’s individual… relative. Giving away everything or becoming a monk won’t make everyone happy.  Nor will winning the lottery (as people have demonstrated over and over) or becoming famous.  I believe the secret (even if I’m having trouble with it currently) exists in curbing your expectations and being as grateful as possible for the blessings you have. We deserve the good things that happen to us, on whatever level (so long as you do not intentionally harm somebody for those things.) There is no need for guilt, just gratitude for whatever good things come (as opposed to the trap of being sad about what does not.)

It is an unavoidable truth of this world that some people live through horrible circumstances, and maybe the silver lining (no, I’m not saying it’s ever worth it…  it never is) for those who can overcome those things is the ease with which they appreciate simple things that others might well take for granted.  Everyone has a story, and sometimes by learning about others, it helps you put your own in perspective.

Advertisements

Let’s Talk Politics…and Trump… Fuck.

I’m going to swear a bit this post.  I don’t want to talk about politics.  In fact, I really, really don’t like politics.  There’s only one good reason I pay attention to any of it: I’m going to do my duty to vote, and I want to make an informed decision.  But I really hate talking about it.  You know why?  Because politics, along with sports (I’m looking at you Cowboys fans,) online PvP video games, money, sex, and love, have the ability to cause normally rational, intelligent human beings to completely lose their fucking minds.  Granted, in the case of love (and let’s admit… to a lesser degree great sex…) the insanity might be worth it.

But politics… no.  Especially with the oh-so-supportive social media aspect if full-force, politics brings out a shit-ton of negativity that will, for the most part, accomplish absolutely nothing good.  I’m not talking about the people using it to fuel Bernie Sander’s “grassroots” campaign.  That’s “good” social media, and I applaud the proper use of the medium to send a positive message.  Instead I’m referring to the vast majority of armchair patriots that talk endless amounts of shit and spam Facebook with all the baseless, bias, and very likely completely unresearched articles they can find.  The more you argue with them, the more rabid and less reasonable they become.  People who are normally friends say unspeakable things to each other, families are divided, and even the workplace can become tense when you boss’s politics do not align with your own (I’ve had personal experience with this… fortunately not currently.)

women-who-seek-to-be-equal-with-men-lack-ambition-2

Okay… you got me there…

But this election season, shit is getting real, and it’s damn scary.  I’m not going to be able to progress much further without talking about my stance, so I should tell you that historically I’ve been moderate (you know.. the “grey area” after all..) but I lean toward the democratic side pretty much because I love women and want them to be able to do what they want as equals to men (which… they always have been… why it is taking so long for the world to figure that out is beyond me…)

This season choosing a side between the right and the left is easy.  Because this season the republican side is all kinds of fucked up.  Not since Sarah Palin have we seen a group of candidates so utterly disgraceful and representative of the republican party’s need to dismantle itself and remember what it’s supposed to stand for.  Say what you want about G. W. Bush’s handling of 9/11, the fact is he brutalized the economy and led us into a severe depression.  But that pales in comparison to the potential damage that the current republican candidates could do…  Especially Donald fucking Trump.  All of these guys, especially him.. make Mitt Romney look like a shining, angel-winged beacon of hope if only based on the fact he came across intelligent, articulate and capable of being reasonable.

In fairness, some of the candidates we started with could have proven themselves.  John Kasich hasn’t appeared utterly insane, just too quiet.  And at one point before he dropped out, I was appalled to find myself thinking that Jeb Bush was the most reasonable and feasible of the lot… another fucking Bush…  But none of that matters, because of Trump.

51PVF6F8F2L

He actually looked a little less douchy…

A little over  a decade ago (ugh) I liked Trump.  The Apprentice had just gained popularity and my girlfriend (at the time) and I would travel to our friend’s house to watch his tough-guy image and signature hand gesture as he fired that week’s failure.  It was television, but it had some valuable lessons about doing what it takes to survive in the real business world and managing your resources.  At the time you could almost see Trump as a guru-style, hardcore businessman that you could learn from.  Over time, however, the shiny innovation wore off and the gimmicks they attempted to freshen up the show only served to make them look more desperate.  Perhaps that should’ve been an early warning.

Four years ago, Trump talked about possibly running, and people thought it was funny.  He had gained some political notoriety by questioning President Obama’s birth records, but neither he nor anyone else thought it was a serious gesture.  To his credit, he tested the water and perhaps that time he knew it was too cold for his taste.  So he took a back-seat in the political arena for a little while.  Later he said he regretted not running and that he could’ve beaten Obama “easily”.  Sure Donald.  Regardless, it was all a funny “what if”.  Nobody seriously thought he would run, and even if he did there’s no way he’d be successful in the political arena.

Oops.  We completely underestimated the number of racist, xenophobic, hate-filled, ignorant, scared, easily manipulated, complete fucking idiots that populate the supposed “greatest country in the world.” (Yes, I also loved the speech from the opening of the Newsroom… for the 501st time when it was posted on Facebook “new”… again… Aaron Sorkin is a genius… moving on.)  I’ll give Trump credit for this: he knows his audience.  He is preying on all those that are alienated when we try to move ahead as a society.  Equality for people of color?  Fuck you, I’m voting for Trump.  Women are equal to men!?  Fuck you! I’m voting for Trump!  Accept those terrified, starving, fleeing, refugee TERRORISTS into MY country!?  Fuck you!  I’m voting for Trump!  Basically anytime we’ve given a stupid white (often) redneck male a reason to feel like he’s not the king of the world, Trump is stepping in to be their savior.

Donald-Trump-Shrug-570x329

When not talking about the size of his peni..err.. hands.

And I only wish that were his only demographic… but there’s a number of other people, who I can only assume are either evil businessmen in league with him or sheep-like people that feel scared and/or weak that are drawn to his strong bravado.  But it’s false bravado, and anyone with a brain can see that.  He talks “YUUUGE”, but anytime he’s asked a question requiring substance… a political plan, or international relations, or even his stance on white supremacy (seriously…) he balks.  If he doesn’t have something offensive and strong to say that will support and fuel his masses, he tries to talk around the question with pure nonsense.

But it doesn’t matter.  Trump has tapped into something primal: hate.  Initially, the republican party got behind it and rode the wave of his popularity.  They assumed he’d ride out his fame and settle into their ranks.  But as is the case with many a horror story, they created a monster, and the monster outgrew them.  Now they are faced with a very difficult choice; Let the monster have his way, or revoke their support and draw the ire of his legion of followers (the majority of whom were originally republican voters.)  They know Trump will turn his followers on them, he has grown very, very good at inspiring and feeding hate… to the point now it has begun to become violent.  So now those that fed him are at his mercy, watching in horror as he strikes down each of their other champions until the only one remaining is as comparably frightening as Trump himself: Ted Cruz.  I wish I could say this is bad as it gets, but it’s still in it’s early stages.

160125114628-donald-trump-quote-shoot-somebody-large-169

Or.. you know.. launch nuclear missiles…

If Trump wins the republican nomination, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I will be legitimately afraid of the outcome of the presidential race.  Sure, in the past I haven’t agreed with certain candidates, but this is the first time I’ve ever felt like a candidate represented everything that was wrong with humanity.  If he becomes the leader of the “free world”, then I honestly believe the free world could be doomed.  He will almost certainly destroy our ties with long time allies such as Mexico (you know… the giant wall and all…) and the majority of Europe (who already hate him.)  Further, it’s not unrealistic to see him forging ties with China and Russia, not for the sake of peace or creating a better world, but for the sake of money.  Assuming that doesn’t create conflict through infighting and power struggle,  it could very quickly turn into intimidation, invasion, and oppression of countries that posed any sort of threat to the new “Axis of Evil..err.. Greatness”, and a very ugly, very nuclear third world war that could change life as we know it… forever.

Now I realize that escalated quickly, and it sounds very far fetched, but look at what has been incited by this man so far.  We’ve got him offering to pay the legal fees of his people who attack anti-Trump protesters at his rallies.  The situation I described above is just a massively amplified version of that.  What happens when Canada says “Hey there… you’re being a dick to your people and we are cutting off trade with you.”?  He’ll retaliate, and he’ll encourage his people, his country, to violence.  Here’s the thing folks, as soon as we give him those codes, as soon as we put him in that house, it only takes one moment of defensiveness and false bravado for him to make a decision that will literally change the face of this planet.  That shit is real, and it is scary.

Maybe I’m overstating the situation.  I really hope I am.  Some people say that Trump is just saying all of this to win the popularity contest and as soon as he’s elected he’ll change his tune.  But I don’t think so.  I’ve seen him in the board room when the people are watching him.  As President, he would know the people, most importantly his people, will be watching him, so he’ll act “strong” even if somewhere deep down the last of his moral compass is telling him it’s a bad idea.

q49d7dtThat’s the long and the short of it: Trump is already in over his head.  He doesn’t know how government works, he doesn’t know political leadership, and he sure as hell doesn’t know constitutional law.  All he knows is that the USA is one big business and if he’s the leader he has to keep lying and acting tough.  So he’ll try to dismantle the parts he doesn’t understand and shape it into something that lets him make all the decisions like he has in his (arguably) unsuccessful corporations.

I saw a movie once where another leader came to power and did the same thing.  That leader’s name was Palpatine.  Unfortunately, the real-life version we’re faced with now is just as evil and greedy, but not nearly as powerful or intelligent.

So for the love of god people, vote for anyone other than Trump.  If he wins the republican nomination, and you’re a republican, then I ask that for the sake of your party and your country, you vote for the democratic candidate (either is better… and maybe we’ll get into that in a future post.)  The republican party has already all but denounced Trump unofficially, so if you vote for the opposing candidate, at least you know your party has time to regroup, develop a new strategy, and maybe unify into something that better represents the conservative people of this country.  This round was a disaster, we all know it, but if you vote for Trump on principle (or don’t vote at all…) the country as we know it may very well cease to exist, and the republican party might not get another chance.  How’s that for the lesser of the two evils?

Generations

A young man I know recently posted this quote I’ve seen a few times:

“I am a millennial. Generation Y; born between the birth of AIDS and 9/11, give or take. They call us the global generation. We are known for our entitlement and narcissism. Some say it’s because we’re the first generation where every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. Others think it’s because social media allows us to post when we fart or have a sandwich for all the world to see. But it seems our one defining trait is a numbness to the world. An indifference to suffering.”

While this is technically untrue (Gen Y is defined as being born in the early 80s and the virus that causes AIDS in 1983), the fact that he would feel the need to post this in reference to he and his era made me think a little.

Being born in 1979, I’m technically a member of Generation X but I fall into the grey area on that is the area between the end of Gen X and the beginning of Gen Y (one ends and the other begins in the early 80s.)  According to the internet (the authority on all things true…) Generation X is described as:

“People born between 1961 and 1981, are highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family oriented. The study dispels the materialistic, slacker, disenfranchised stereotype associated with youth in the 1970 and 80s. Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Gen Xers are less likely to idolize leaders and are more inclined to work toward long-term institutional and systematic change through economic, media and consumer actions. Compared with previous generations, Generation X represents a more apparently heterogeneous generation, openly acknowledging and embracing social diversity in terms of such characteristics as race, class, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”

Oh John, you romantic slacker you...

Oh John, you romantic slacker you…

Pretty good right?  Well it would be, if it were entirely true.  Let’s look at some of the pop culture that reflects that generation (X): Movies like The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, Empire Records and even Kevin Smith’s Clerks defined Gen X young adults growing up over two decades.  What did they really say about us?  All were essentially young adult characters who were more interested in philosophizing and falling in love than actually settling with a long-term career and family.  Sure it’s fiction, but that still sounds a little more accurate when I recall my high school environment and the years after.  It’s a generalization of course, and the majority of us have turned into functional, comfortable members of society on some level.  But generally speaking generation X was whimsical growing up, and eventually they got really good at it.  So good, in fact, that they brought the rebel, non-suit, out-of-box mentality to corporate America (and the White House…) and created some of the more innovative and successful companies ever, many of which specialized in consumer technology and quite literally paved the way for the very traits that defined the following generation.

But what’s important to remember here is that generation X had a pretty slow start.  They started in the shadow of the post WWII baby boomers in an era where space travel was a magical, advanced reality from a distance, but beyond that their worlds were very small.  They lived in communities and had long-developed routines from the generations that came before them.  They rebelled against this by really not doing anything for a long time.  They slacked off, and they dreamed of doing something different, and easier than what was always done. Only years later as they came into their prime and felt the desire to leave their mark on the world, did they focus their mental abilities on developing better ways to productively do less. That’s right kids, modern technology was developed and advanced by Generation X to make it easier to get by while being lazier.  At work, at home, for entertainment, the Gen X folks created more ways to get things done without really doing anything.  Naturally, the whole world adopted these revolutionary ideas, and the world that once was vast and localized became much, much smaller and connected.  So the stage was set, for Generation Y.

They call us the global generation.” 

Well... it's gotten a lot smaller...

Well… it’s gotten a lot smaller…

 Yes indeed, that’s more accurate than it’s ever been.  With the world (excluding those at least directly walled off) now connected, any person, anywhere is literally a few button pushes away.  With that comes information some people never ever dreamed existed as well as realities about the planet and the people that inhabit it that many could not imagine and would rather have not known.  The world is small now and it’s innocence is lost.  For anyone that is connected, the bliss of ignorance is essentially destroyed.

“We are known for our entitlement and narcissism.”

What they should really be known for, is being born to a world that nobody else ever has been.  Do you think people were never entitled before you?  Far more so.  And narcissism has also existed since people discovered their reflection.  For somebody to suggest that generation Y is any worse is just silly.  One look at the class-based societal structure that dominated much of the world throughout the history of civilization will show you a great deal of very obvious entitlement and narcissism.  The only difference Generation Y has shown, is that they accept it as a flaw, and don’t care to hide it. They are the first generation born with the ability to broadcast everything they are to the world, their perfections and flaws and celebrate it.  In short, they give zero fucks about the labels anyone places on their humanity.  Gen Xers started it by rebelling against what was always traditionally “proper” on a massive scale, and generation Y is simply taking it another step further.  Humanity is, and always has been flawed.  Generation Y is just not buying in to pretending it’s not.  They are the most real generation we’ve yet encountered.

“Some say it’s because we’re the first generation where every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. Others think it’s because social media allows us to post when we fart or have a sandwich for all the world to see.”

Don't worry humanity, a little visine should clear that right up!

Don’t worry humanity, a little visine should clear that right up!

Unfortunately, being real is not all fun and games.  While Generation Y has produced some of the most brilliant and revolutionary minds possibly ever, the flip side is that they are rapidly dismantling the curtain that so much of humanity had pulled over themselves in the previous generations.  When that curtain is pulled back and that light is cast, the reality of humanity, possibly even the majority of it, is ugly.  With the world connected, there is nowhere to hide, so the ignorance, lies, brutality and utterly pointless evil of humanity is exposed over and over again, every day.  Many ignore it by focusing on that “fart” or “sandwich” that was posted instead.  Some recognize and passionately speak out against it.  Some actually do something.  But the reality that Generation Y has to face more than any generation before it is the constant reminder that humans generally suck, and there’s no simple way to fix it. No longer is it the good guys vs the bad guys like the Allies and Axis.  Now it’s “our ideas vs your ideas, and we’re both wrong, but let’s see who is less wrong.”  It’s no different than it ever was throughout history, but now it is seen and cannot be unseen.  Now it stares Generation Y in the face.  

“But it seems our one defining trait is a numbness to the world. An indifference to suffering.”

This is also nothing new.  Before perhaps, a great deal of blissful ignorance took the place of numbness or indifference.  But what really happened is that Generation X created the tools to remove the pretty wrapping, and Generation Y cut it away.  What faces them was an ugly, festering wound that had always been there and they realized they (like all the generations before them) were causing it.  It isn’t numbness or indifference to the suffering, it’s more like hopelessness.  It’s more like “Oh jesus christ.. it’s everywhere.. it’s the whole world.. it’s ME.. how the hell can I possibly fix THIS!?” This realization is quite literally paralyzing.  It forces people to just keep doing what they were doing, or following who they were following, because if they don’t find something to do in order to distract themselves or feel like they are helping, they risk falling into fear, despair and depression.  It’s not the first time people have discovered humanity’s penchant for terrible things, but it’s the first time it’s been a forced global awareness.  That, is what Generation Y has to face.

Like THAT guy.  He knows what he's doing.

Like THAT guy. He knows what he’s doing.

So, how do we fix it?  God? Though many still attend and have their faith, religion is no longer the blind fix-all it oncechampioned itself as, and the more progressive religions admit that outright.  Our “leaders”?  Well American politics is questionable at it’s absolute best because even a good person at the top has to listen to what represents “the majority”.  We have to face that said majority is more often than not controlled by a majority of people that are part of the problem.  At the same time though, we’re well past the point of no return in terms of society.  Without outside intervention (ie: catastrophe or act of god) there is no way to “reset” the rules of the game.  No, there is no clear way to fix it.  Thankfully though, more and more people from Generation X and Generation Y (and even those before them) are trying.  I think the best way any individual can do anything at this point is find the people who have learned the rules of the game, are doing what they believe are the right things the right way, and then follow them.  

But first things first.  The feelings that spawn the quote from the beginning of this article are the challenge that Generation Y must overcome.  What the quote said is not the problem, where it came from is.  What I mean is that nothing rings more true for Generation Y, the aware generation, than the need to face themselves.  Before you can be a part of any solution, you have to be certain you’re not a part of the problem.  It may sound cliche’ and zen-like, but when a huge amount of individuals learn to be all the things so much of humanity has not traditionally been: straightforward, peaceful and especially honest.. then the world will notice and just maybe the world will change.  Maybe it is a little narcissistic, but you have to fix you first, end of story.  Perhaps that will be the legacy passed on to the next generation.