The democracy of modern narcisism

It seems like every week we now see a new article, or an old one making the rounds again, telling us that the end is near, because millennials are doing [insert your preferred activity]. The most common one that comes up is that Kids These Days are so obsessed with their smellfies and their instergramers that they are literally destroying the world with their obsession to capture and shares their lives online.

Full disclosure – while a millennial, I almost never take selfies of any kind. When I do, I post maybe 1% of them, usually because my dog is involved and not to share him with the world is basically a crime.

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Bonus points if I’m not there at all.

I do not have a flickr account, instagram, snapchat, and whatever else Kids These Days are using.

The argument seems to go that our generation is somehow more vain that previous generations, more coddled, more needy, and every other pedantic way of saying that this generation, by virtue of nothing but its birth into a world created by the previous generation, makes it the Worst Generation.

But is narcissism something new? Definitively, no. While many of my compatriots would take this opportunity to take a jab at our favorite villain, this was absolutely also not invented by Baby Boomers.

Humans are just narcissists. How else would we have grown as we have, from a few hundred thousand smart monkeys to the most powerful species on the planet? We did it because we figured we were better, straight from the caves. What is art if not an attempt to rationalize our minds, to express ourselves, to leave something of who we are behind – assuming that this would of course be of value to someone down the line.

Before there were cell phone selfies, people took selfies on their desktops, like savages. Before that, people took them with their film cameras. We’ve been taking selfies since the invention of the camera, and before that we commissioned artists to paint our portraits, stared at mirrors, our reflection in glass or lakes, or drew stick figures with coal inside a cave of us catching that deer like a badass.

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So self indulgent.

Then what has actually changed? Simple. Cameras cost money. Computers, back in the day, were quite expensive. Commissioned paintings were only available to the wealthy. We used to only see the remains of the upper classes because only they got to make anything that lasted. At most, we would see the bones of the poor. Even their homes, made of poop and hey (true story), didn’t last long enough for us to know them.

Now, everyone has a voice. Everyone gets to commission a painting of themselves and hang it in their digital castle to be admired by… Probably the same number of people, really.

If this is end of humanity, then it is an end millennia in the making. But maybe this is just the next stage for us, one where people learn that they don’t have to have money or come from money to matter. I’ll happily take the blame for that.

Is Netflix’s Daredevil sexist?

To be honest, I thought this was pretty cut and dry. In fact, I gave up on the show 20 minutes in because the sexist cliches were as overpowering and nauseating as a teenager using Axe body spray.

But time and distance cool heads. With the second season launched, I decided to give it another go, to see if I had judged a bit too early. Mostly, because I’d seen very little discussion of this subject online. People wax lyrically about female-led shows being this or that, but I think we assume too quickly that a show with a male protagonist will be sexist by default, and that lets a lot shows get away with a lot of short cuts that shouldn’t be acceptable in this day and age.

So – four days and two full seasons later, here is an analysis of the show with a feminist lens.

DISCLAIMER: There will be some very minor spoilers. Also, this isn’t about whether the show is GOOD or BAD, that topic has been covered thoroughly elsewhere.

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How we mourn divisive figures

 

There’s an old saying: You don’t speak ill of the dead.

Of course, people use this phrase as an absolute, but it never is. There were no think pieces about Bin Laden painting him as a man devoted to his cause – even if we disagreed with that cause. There were no think pieces about the men responsible for Brussels and Paris. When a criminal gang shoots up another criminal gang, there is no outcry asking to be civil and speak well of them.

It’s interesting how we judge others so harshly for their personal feelings about the loss of a life based exclusively on our own personal feelings. The worst of it tends to fall on those that don’t abide by the niceties of speaking well of the dead.

We’ve seen this become especially relevant as divisive figures pass on in a time when more and more people have the freedom and ability to share their feelings, whatever they may be. The deaths of people like Rob Ford and Antonin Scalia, who lived their lives zealously supporting a way of life that does not benefit everyone equally, especially trigger enthusiastic and often uncivilized discourse between people saddened by his passing and those that are relieved.

People are not two dimensional, though. They have different facets and they show those facets when and where they choose. There is no one in the world that we know completely, maybe not even ourselves. We see what people want us to see and depending on who we are to that person, we will see a vastly different side of them than someone else.

 

So invariably we all mourn differently and for different things. We may well be mourning different people entirely without knowing it. Some see no reason to mourn the deaths of people like Ford and Scalia, citing the harmful political and legal decisions as well as rhetoric that has made their lives more difficult. Some know a kinder side, funnier side, or whatever else to the same person and mourn the loss of that. In an equal society, both of these feelings absolutely must be okay. A free society depends on our ability to differentiate between our personal feelings and a matter of public policy.

The thing that connects us more than anything else in this world is the love we feel for the people closest to us, so though I can’t bring myself to mourn the men themselves, I can empathize with those around them that saw a person they loved suffer, who will carry fond memories and what ifs for as long as they live. That is a difficult thing to do, no matter who you’re mourning.

But a free society must allow people to feel what they feel, and share those feelings in however way they see fit (so long as it is legal, of course). You can’t force someone to be sad for your loved ones just as they can’t force you to be sad for theirs. Personal memories of someone do not make the whole of that person. To mandate that people only speak well of the dead is to do a disservice to the complexity of that person, to the people left behind to deal with and understand that person’s legacy, and to history, which must remember things as they truly happened, rather than the sanitized way it is often recorded.

Our future relies on our ability to walk that fine line because our freedoms only matter if they’re present across the board, not just when we like it.

 

Raging Against Trump Makes him Stronger

There has been a lot of hate aimed at the republican party lately, even from within. A bulk of this anger has been directed at Donald Drumpf, self-made bankruptaire. Of course, he makes it easy, but that is sort of his plan, isn’t it?

Here’s the thing – Drumpf’s success, as has been pointed out ad nauseum all over the internetz, is based on his ability to appeal to emotion rather than logic. So why are we all trying to reason with people who clearly feel that normal logic has betrayed them. These are folks that have been lied to by politicians for years, and screwed in the process. These are folks that are, in many cases, worse off than their parents – likely in part because their privilege isn’t the black Amex it used to be.

The thing is though, that until we try to see the world from their perspective, until we recognize that the reason Drumpf, Cruz, and Rubio – all nutjobs in their own right, are so popular is because of a fundamental problem with the way we perform democracy, we will continue to polarize.

I often think about Daryl Davis, a African-American man who went out of his way to befriend Klansmen. His wisdom, his courage, his bottomless heart in the face of hate. I think the best way to take away the power of people like Drumpf just to be a bit more like Daryl. So let’s stop mocking Drumpf fans and try to understand them, because hate only breeds hate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totally selfish reasons to care about #blacklivesmatter and #oscarssowhite

With the drama around the Oscars controversy and the pretty terrible things some have said about it, I thought it would be a good idea to write a post to help people who do not see the effects of racial inequality understand why it matters, even to you.

So, if you’d like to know why, dear white reader with zero personal stake in racial equality, you should still really really care about it nonetheless, read on!

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Where are the interracial relationships on TV?

As a devoted TV lover, I consume immensely unhealthy amounts of TV. In the past couple of years, I’ve been thrilled to see interracial couples appear on TV, especially when not even ten years ago Will Smith couldn’t bang a white woman on the silver screen because apparently audiences weren’t ready for it.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the awakening I’ve been hoping for. With a precious few exceptions, the majority of interracial couplings on TV are a stepping stone, temps, or ways of showing off how totally not racist a character is by introducing an ex that isn’t white.

Is that progress? Well, at least they’re showing up at all now, so that’s something. There are now couples like Captain Holt and Kevin on Brooklyn 99, Jane and Brad from Happy Endings, Jasmine and Crosby from Parenthood, even Ricky and Lucy from I Love Lucy.

Meanwhile, the majority still fall into the former category. People are fawning over Jessica Jones and Luke Cage (who make an awesome duo), but with Cage getting his own show, we know there is nothing long term in store for those 2. Then there are shows like Scandal and Community that will just rotate love interests as often as a pair of socks, so any pairing is temporary. Unsurprisingly, shows featuring people of colour prominently seem better able to manage the mind blowing possibility of people of different heritages finding common ground.

I guess my issue with this is the implicit insinuation that interracial relationships are a phase. The white girl brings home a black man to scare her parents type thing. As if it can never be the end game, just a stepping stone to the real deal when she grows up and marries an accountant of the same faith and skin colour.

I think this is what people mean about not seeing themselves on the screen. It’s a bit like being told by a close family member (and who doesn’t feel that way about TV?) that your choices are invalid, that who they are is invalid.

And that sucks, because love is colour blind.

Well, time for some re-watching.

Soulmates don’t exist, and other good news

I have great news. Virtually every relationship portrayed in the media is terrible. Why is this great news? Easy – that takes away all the pressure of trying to make yours look like them.

Here are some common myths about relationships we see in movies, TV, video games, comics, etc and why it’s awesome that they’re not true.

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