Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Really?

Posted: January 23, 2017 in Current Events, Politics, Society

I’ve been avoiding posting about the US election. In fact, avoiding such is why I haven’t posted since July. I have friends on both sides of the equation and I really wanted to avoid getting into it with any of them. My conservative friends say I’m too liberal, my lefty friends say I’m too right-wing, which is why I general consider myself a centrist libertarian (please note the small ‘L’). Personally I want a gov’t that is fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and not one bureaucrat larger than it has to be to get the job done effectively, which in today’s political climate likely qualifies me for membership in the Fantasy Island Party.

Now, I would truly prefer to keep all my friends, even the ones I totally disagree with, because life and conversation is decidedly more interesting with them than without them; so, I have been hoping against hope that there is more to what I have been seeing than meets the eye. I was betting that all the insanity on TV and the Internet was simply smoke and mirrors, setting up the “big reveal”. You see, when you work in theatre, even just community theatre, you soon understand what you are looking at is a thin wall of plywood and paint that hides the real work going on backstage, and a big part of me was sure the American election fell into something of that same category.

I was clinging to that hope because I really didn’t want to believe that what I was seeing was actually real. I still don’t want to believe it; but it’s beginning to look like I don’t have a choice. So here I am, blogging once again.

When I got to work this morning the conversation quickly turned to the “alternative facts” comment and one of my coworkers (who doesn’t blog or even comment on their Facebook account very often so I won’t use their name here) made a very good point; it went something like this.

“I get it, you don’t like the numbers, but it would have been very easy to spin this. You go out there and you say, ‘Yes, the numbers were disappointing. We would have liked to be able to say it was the biggest Inauguration audience ever,but it wasn’t and here’s why. Most of our supporters live in the interior and lower states. They don’t make a lot of money because far too many of them are unemployed. They can’t afford to just skip off for a few days and take a bus to Washington. That’s why we’re here. That’s why they elected us. We’re going to fix that!’ But instead of doing that they do THIS? That I don’t get.”

In less than five minutes they came up with a far better official response than Trump and all his advisers could. Or worse yet, his advisers did come up with it and Trump shot it down and they all said, “Okay fine.”

The one my coworker is really confused by is Sean Spicer, Trump’s new spokesman. They pointed out, and I have to agree, that the conversation in the Oval Office should have gone something like this, “I’m sorry Mr. President. I can’t say this. Bending the truth a little is one thing. Spinning the facts to work in our favour is another, but this is stupid! There’s video coverage, photos all over Facebook and Instagram, we can’t sell this!”

But he didn’t. Instead he walked out there and told what amounts to the biggest bold-faced lie in American politics since “I did not have sex with that woman”, possibly bigger, and in doing so has effectively neutered every press release from the White House going forward. Because if they will tell this lie, how can we ever trust another word.

As so it seems that reality television has become the new reality for American politics. Can’t wait to see what the writers have scripted for tomorrow’s episode.

Je Suis Charlie

Posted: January 8, 2015 in Current Events, Personal, Society
Tags: ,

Yes, I am Charlie! We all are.

The massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo (translation: Charlie Weekly; named for Charles Shultz’s iconic everyman) is not just about freedom of the press; it’s about the right of every person to live free and say what’s on their minds without fear!

It’s also about art; specifically, the art of satire. Since the earliest days of human civilization the number one sign of a tyrannical government, administration, monarchy or any other form of leadership is the suppression of criticism. Even Emperor Nero, for all his many faults would pardon the satirists in advance of their performance so they could present their art without fear of not living long enough to get to their next gig.  In fact, the Muslim author, Al-Jahiz, introduced satire into Islamic texts “based on the premise that, however serious the subject under review, it could be made more interesting and thus achieve greater effect, if only one leavened the lump of solemnity by the insertion of a few amusing anecdotes or by the throwing out of some witty or paradoxical observations. ” [1]

So it affects us all; even more so in our new digital, media-enhanced society because so many of us have become publishers of our opinions. For example; I have this blog. I do not have a huge following (according to the stats my largest audience for any given post was 76— not even enough circulation to get Google Ads interested), but as cathartic and/or narcissistic an exercise it may be, in a free society I have the right to express myself here, in this way, without fear of violence to my person.

So do you when you post to your Facebook page, or throw that inappropriate selfie up on Instagram, or even share you Grandmother’s recipe for pork roll ups on Yummly. We are all publishers in one way or another and it is freedom of speech that allows us to do so.

However, freedom of speech does sometimes bite us in the ass. The same freedom that lets us share what is important to us allows others to share what we would consider offensive. The problem is, if we pass laws that prevent the offensive, idiotic, bigots from having their say then that same law can one day be turned around and used to shut us up as well. It’s why I oppose hate speech legislation. As Evelyn B. Hall expressed on behalf of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” [2]

Je-suis-CharlieSo for the next few days I’ve changed my profile pic and cover photo on Facebook to reflect my grief at the slaughter of four cartoonists and their co-workers in France. I’m no satirist, or even really an author, but I have an opinion and I value the right my society gives me to express it.

Je suis Charlie.


 

[1] Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (1976), The Mediaeval Islamic Underworld: The Banu Sasan in Arabic Society and Literature, Brill Publishers, ISBN 90-04-04392-6.

[2] Right now many of you are fuming, “That was Voltaire!” But actually it was one of his biographers Evelyn Beatrice Hall who wrote the line as an example of Voltaire’s beliefs. It’s been miss-attributed to him ever since.

“I think the Net generation is beginning to see knowledge in a way that is closer to the truth about knowledge — a truth we’ve long known but couldn’t instantiate. My generation, and the many generations before mine, have thought about knowledge as being the collected set of trusted content, typically expressed in libraries full of books. Our tradition has taken the trans-generational project of building this Library of Knowledge book by book as our God-given task as humans. Yet, for the coming generation, knowing looks less like capturing truths in books than engaging in never-settled networks of discussion and argument. That social activity — collaborative and contentious, often at the same time — is a more accurate reflection of our condition as imperfect social creatures trying to understand a world that is too big and too complex for even the biggest-headed expert.

“This new topology of knowledge reflects the topology of the Net. The Net (and especially the Web) is constructed quite literally out of links, each of which expresses some human interest. If I link to a site, it’s because I think it matters in some way, and I want it to matter that way to you. The result is a World Wide Web with billions of pages and probably trillions of links that is a direct reflection of what matters to us humans, for better or worse. The knowledge networks that live in this new ecosystem share in that property; they are built out of, and reflect, human interest. Like our collective interests, the Web and the knowledge that resides there is at odds and linked in conversation. That’s why the Internet, for all its weirdness, feels so familiar and comfortable to so many of us. And that’s the sense in which I think networked knowledge is more “natural.” ”

– “What the Internet Means for How We Think About the World” by Rebecca J. Rosen, January 5, 2012.

First published by The Atlantic.

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