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The Bravest Act
I'm the Slime Coming Out of your Inter-Net
I stopped watching YouTube regularly years ago when their algorithm began feeding white supremacist and other hateful videos. Now, Reddit has become just as toxic; no surprise that the company who had to be publicly shamed to stop sharing child porn is now a hate group recruitment tool, and has been for years. If you subscribe to innocuous groups, you can largely avoid it, but if you click on “what’s popular,” you will be inundated with videos of people behaving badly. These include YouTube pranksters who are essentially young men trying to start a fight with strangers on camera, and then yelling “it’s a prank!” before they get shot, the infamous “Karens” treating service workers terribly, bad drivers, and teenagers acting out.
These are no better than “news” that focuses on crime when it is at a low in most areas; it is fomenting fear and hatred to sell ads. Of course, we do have problems out there. Teachers are already disrespected, and given the responsibility of controlling kids addicted to their phones, they are subject to angry reprisals. Some teachers are awful, using racist slurs, and then getting students suspended for reporting them.For every group of unruly teens out there, there’s a surly old white dude with an AR-15 standing near a school because “he’s exercising his rights.”
So, there’s something to outrage everybody. And that’s the point.
Much like TV news focusing on it-bleeds-it-leads reporting, their job is to keep you watching their ads and spending money, donating to causes and politicians who will do nothing about it, because they get donations when you’re scared.
Frank Zappa knew the score when he wrote about ‘70s TV, with “I’m the Slime.”
I followed my own advice: Turn it off, and go outside.
Sunday, I hung out with my family; I had planned a bike ride with my sister and her kids, but with my bike in the shop and her garage a disaster thanks to some lovely home remodeling going on, we played baseball at a local park instead. It was a good time! I can finally hit. I couldn’t hit for crap in Little League or high school. I can’t catch for crap because I have lingering remnants of a wandering eye.
My niece is going through phone withdrawal as her mom tries to rein in post-pandemic use. So I made a bargain with her. I’d leave my phone, if she left hers.
We had a good time, but she got bored of being in the outfield while her brother learned to hit, and she sat on a bench.
Both me and my sister asked if she was okay.
Because we had not seen someone sitting without a phone, simply … thinking … for nigh on ten years, now. She didn’t even have a book! What could she possibly be doing?
Oh no, you can’t be alone with your thoughts! Who knows what could happen?
You might daydream, which is how I composed early drafts of stories back when I used my brain. Now, if I’m walking somewhere I’m listening to a podcast. Maybe one like Hidden Brain, which introduced me to Dacher Keltner, the author of Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.
I’ve been yammering about the sense of wonder for a while now. The benefits are great, and if you feel like you’ve lost it, Keltner has simple suggestions on how to find your weakened awe muscles and recover them. If you aren’t ready for the book, the podcast episode is a worthwhile listen. It has a confusing title, but this is the one with Keltner:
I was talking with my sister, one of the most compassionate people I know, as we walked to the park. Online behavior has made her cynical about people, because it rewards nastiness. And I think that humans are basically compassionate and generous. We see this during disasters; we come together. We do not turn into rioting, ravenous creatures who kill each other, we help one another. But this does not serve the narrative of the ruling class who want us to keep from banding to make them pay their fare share, so we only see footage of people stealing bread during floods, and not the people with canoes helping rescue strangers.
Follow the money is the best advice in any investigation or line of thinking. And who benefits from showing the worst side of humanity? The people who own the armies that protect the wealthy, that’s who. Because otherwise you might question why we need uneducated steroid-ingesting armed men with white power tattoos stopping and frisking everyone who doesn’t look like Chris Pratt. Philly just elected a Black woman who wants to bring back stop & frisk, and who pilloried the “academicians” who say it doesn’t reduce gun violence. She also wants a full-year school year with no summer off, for reasons. I will admit that Philly’s 500+ a year homicide rate needs to be addressed, but I don’t think stop & frisk is the way to do it. Police who live in the community, walking the beat, might be a start. The Inquirer op-ed tried to spin this as a vote against extremism, but it’s just more authoritarianism with a friendlier face.
It’s not all gloom and doom. Jacksonville Florida ejected their Republican mayor, they are sick of their governor’s grandstanding. We are in the middle of a battle, and the GOP is losing. They are now pushing an increase in the voting age to disenfranchise the young people who vote against their hateful ideology, claiming that 18-year-olds should only be able to vote if the serve in the military or pass a “civics exam that all immigrants take.” Yeah, except they are born citizens; the right has wanted to restirct birthright citizenship for a long time. They know they are losing, so they are changing the rules. We forget that the “excesses” of the French Revolution came after the landed gentry wanted to deny the working class—who stormed the Bastille and spilled their own blood to start the revolt in the first place—the right to vote unless they had a certain amount of money and land. It took several further revolts, and an emperor in between, before they had a democracy. Our future is uncertain, and the ruling class wants us hating each other so we are afraid, and eager for more authoritarian rule.
I told my niece as we walked to the outfield, “time for some stupid adult stuff.” I said that being nasty or mean only seems cool; but we really do it because we are afraid. She’s a snarky ten-year-old with a dark sense of humor, much like I was at that age. I said it’s okay to make jokes, but when you’re nasty, it’s a safety mechanism. Smart people see that you are doing that to cover up your fear and weakness. Being nice, on the other hand, requires that you be brave. People can hurt you when you are nice; it can be scary to be nice, and vulnerable. That’s why compassion is the truest form of bravery.
That is why the rich and powerful are so afraid that we will embrace our natural compassion and work together. All they have to sell is fear.
And I’m not buying. Are you?
Actually happened, Missouri.
Actually happening, Maryland. “Nothing we can do,” says only nation where this happens regularly.