Continued from last issue…
There is a funny study from Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute that I read lately where “83 individuals were asked to look at 80 images. Some of the images were pleasant, depicting babies and landscapes, while others were neutral or disgusting, such as those that show mutilated carcasses and dirty toilets. ‘Disgusting images, especially those related to animal-reminder disgust (e.g., mutilated body), generate neural responses that are highly predictive of political orientation even though these neural predictors do not agree with participants’ conscious rating of the stimuli.’ The researchers said that a person’s response to disgusting images could predict with high accuracy his or her political orientation. ‘In fact, the responses in the brain are so strong that we can predict with 95 percent accuracy where you’ll fall on the liberal-conservative spectrum by showing you just one picture. This was surprising as there are no other reports where people’s response to just one stimulus predicts anything behaviorally interesting.’”
Are our bodies hardwired to be offended differently? That’s hilarious. We think we get to our own political platforms through reason and intelligence and it’s just biology all over again. I’m not saying this study is an end argument but it’s something to think about. Mebbe this is why it’s so hard to get along within the media complex. Everyone’s trying to say why other people are wrong, and really everyone’s right b/c these things are already worked out for us in a more innate way.
I start to look at the World through the context of it being very, very special. A very individuated experience going on in the midst of all these unknown stars and cosmic winds. I keep going back and back to the fact that we float on a marble in space and isn’t that crazy, let’s keep each other Cozy and Safe, let’s figure out what makes us feel calm and happy and then work out from there. Bill Hicks said “…The problem with the world is very simple. We’re undergoing evolution and all our institutions are failing and crumbling around us because… they’re no longer relevant. Hahaha!! I’d say: ‘Let them go!’ That’s all. It’s just evolution. Evolution did not end with us growing opposable thumbs. Ok? We’re at the point now in history, the first time ever, where we can evolve at will and the way we do it, is we evolve ideas.” Is that what will is, actually? The component needed to literally control our moral evolution? Do we squander will? Can’t we at least set up some scaffolding that we hang our ideas upon?
We need a cultural discussion that doesn’t fire us up but moves us more toward calm thinking. How could we not want that? The feeling I get over and over is that people simply want to be right, within the media sphere. To be able to tell people they are offended. It’s like we demand instant rights for everybody and when someone says or does something shitty, we act appalled and then we publicly shame them. but that doesn’t move us forward, it’s just the biggest vent for our collective rage. Anger is spread powerfully via news stories but not so powerfully when it comes to meme-ing out empathy, cresting more patient dialogues. Why is that? Because embarrassment, guilt, getting intellectually ‘caught’ in harmful thinking turns into a blame game within the media empire.. These are powerful news stories that attack our core identity. I do feel like we’re all trying the best we can. We don’t really want to be angry. We don’t want to be afraid. We reject our own fear so forcefully that our beliefs are thrown into the ring before our willingness to learn. Without our eagerness to learn. From this top-down approach we teach our citizens how to care for one another through political stances, class brackets and legislative platforms. We codify basic human caring, and then move into the world.
It seems like the comment sections are where the biggest battleground is in america now and the media in all its forms is thriving on that. Because people will come back, keep commenting, keep being shocked, excited, looking at the ads, creating a culture that keeps the staff paid and the images flowing. All the info seems to look the same: divisive, bold, ugly, heated, rude- anything that’s polarizing. Is it so much easier to be either/or on every subject? Are we just looking for a good emotional get-off all the time? Somewhere where we can say Yes or No, with some conviction? It feels good, i admit. Our buttons are easy to push because we’re so fucking pent up inside. Only intermittently do we say or do what we truly want, in fear of seeming too bitchy or primitive. Having well-balanced, thought-out communication is not cathartic.
People seem to prefer to leave public comments for everyone to read. The walls of modern society are full of virtual peepholes and tagged timelines. Perhaps there could be loopholes here instead; a wide-open helpful hint model of positive support. Social media has honed a methodology to obtaining followers/friends. Somehow ‘follower activity’ has become a part of socializing. Facebook is all of media in a nutshell. But it is each one of us who reads, who watches.. Facts are handpicked and the answers are spoon-fed to us. We search for conflict in all corners of the world and broadcast it for some reason into our living rooms and headphones. Conflict. Not tranquility. The bad news does seem to interest us more. We become obviously stimulated by terrible news. But we look at it like it’s our social responsibility! To know about bad news.. Not just that it’s current, but that it is more responsible and important to know about than other news. News is a word that is concerned. It has a furrowed brow and gravitas. We must remember that we are excitable, but we do not thrive on agitation. Conflict may portray us at our most animated but at the end of the day we seek equilibrium. Equanimity.
“The problem with Political Correctness is that everybody becomes a victim. No topic is safe. Humor is a human invention that helps us make sense of disasters and atrocities that are out of our personal control.”
-Austin F (youtube)
And I would add, it’s inherently political. Who does this language serve, the people or legislative efforts? I would love for people to be able to say what they want. But when our systems are oppressive, making us wary of one another, we can never really be correct…It turns us from humans into politics. Where does our heart lie? I want big change, deeper than the current paradigm. But in the meantime, I want to add to the conversation and stress that it’s not even about words.. It’s emotions.
“Either everybody’s wrong, or everybody gets to say what they want.”
Where this line of reasoning slips a bit is thinking about children and youth. Kids hearing words that are derogatory, that are used to insult them. We can agree that this does harm. Children are just beginning to build protective factors, to believe in themselves. But even here the most important messages are mostly nonverbal. It’s the body language, tone, inflection. If a child goes home and asks their parent what a word means, it isn’t the definition that makes the child understand the harm. The child felt the negativity regardless. As Susan Parenti said, “The rough approximation is the exact truth.” We already know this, so making the power be about words and not the behind-the-scenes anger becomes self-defeating. There are precautions that need to be taken with children and adolescents, so they can grow up knowing the difference between words and power. To fully realize it’s not words that harm, it’s intention; the fear behind the communication. At every turn. Speak on the fear! Unfortunately not every adult has great protective factors either so how can intent and context be woven into our national discussions? This is what needs to be fostered, in all of our lives, in all of our industries. We are creatures who want. And at the very root of it all, we just want to know we’re Ok. Because we don’t know, without someone giving us information, without someone reacting to us. It’s what keeps us here.
Murder. Nigger. Rape. People. Oil. Man. This is what throws us into war and condemnation. Faggot. White. Fat. Evil. Bitch. Hate. This is what throws people into opposition and fighting. They’re powerful. By that I mean- I’m looking back and seeing the words I just typed and they’re almost rude. Simply the writing or uttering of some of these words is considered offensive. But- the power comes from the meaning that streams From Us out to these words.. We are extremely visual. But what is the meaning? How do we fight this? Will laws change hate (fear)? Where does the hate come from? Within the media conglomerate now, the words themselves auto-select the headlines and the argument and counterarguments are formed from there nearly immediately! Why are we letting that happen? Why isn’t positive support used as a framework in the media industry? Because the competitive business angle fucks up positive regard. Because media in a money-fueled system becomes bat-shit. Cute cat pics next to the latest beheading next to sitcom previews. Let me tell you how important positive support is. B/c you get screwed up after too many bad messages. You begin to doubt your direction, your courage. We are the systems that created The System, and we need the system to provide us with assistance, while we’re here, from the largest institution to the smallest. Positive support isn’t there to aid in nurturing a person’s self-image; it’s integral to their growth. It is irreplacable.We know this Inside, but this isn’t our cultural narrative.
“When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.”
A comedian mentioned how people say hurtful things when they are angry. And then get called out for the hurtful thing. Like when Jonah Hill called some paparazzi following him a faggot, the story became about that word. Now maybe he has a problem with queer peeps, but what is the media asking us to address? Jonah Hill’s language or the tribulations of his celebrity status? Do you see how paparazzi made the story about the word he used, and not about them stalking someone all day? And we buy it. We talk about it. But we talk about what media wants us to talk about. I place myself on the queer spectrum so maybe I can look at this ‘news story’ as one that I may have a bit of a stake in. But could I instead bring it back to the fact that we don’t even know this dude so why are we forced to have an opinion on him? Isn’t that forcing us to pretend that celebrities have legitimate power in changing the world for the better instead of being part of the problem? Could context shed a light on how completely vacuous this story is? That it starts with celebrity first, social issues second? Are we being cared for here? Are we being supported?
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
We learn by relating to other people and that isn’t always easy. We get confused, misunderstood, offended. Learning isn’t all just thinking. It’s verbal, it’s action, it’s a process, it’s experimenting. To be offended assumes a moral law, but words don’t get played across the board evenly. People joke and say ‘I’m gonna kill you!’ and even though kill is a harsh word it has become powerless. A turn of phrase. Why? This is all well and good, opening up nuance, recognizing context. But what if it’s a standup comic making light of rape? Is it allowing us to laugh at a horrible thing? Or is it making someone in the audience feel really uncomfortable? Certain words rivet our attention and these words change (and grow) over time. Comic Dave Chappelle walked away from his own comedy show in part due to laughter he heard from the crew while rehearsing a sketch. Like they were laughing at him, not with him. It changed how he viewed the context of what he was doing. Even laughter is nuanced. Of course it is. How can we politicize it? Let’s not. Being offended is working with hurt feelings mixed together with bits of stress and anger. It’s important to break this down mostly because of how people present their being offended verbally. Being hurt is feeling hurt. Anger begins as well, but it almost alwasys shuts down learning, on both sides. The comics that are working this out, that are externalizing secrets and trauma and allowing people to laugh at the horrors as well as the little things provide us with an opportunity to feel safe laughing. Getting it out. That’s what I think it’s there for. It’s not for everyone. All standup comics are not for everyone. But laughing within this context is natural, childlike. I believe we need to be purposefully immature at times. But I can’t say that words don’t cause harm to people. I thought I could reason it away, but I can’t. Hurt is hurt, and people have power to hurt or heal. I can however, point out that I believe some venues should be safe spaces to be unsafe with language. Our media outlets push the national discussion of ‘hot button’ topics down our throats in a way that grabs our visceral imagination and not our loving hearts. That’s the slow road to tyranny and another form of forced repression. Making things mandatory…
What puts comics on the spot, in the end, is that it’s a paid gig. The big names wouldn’t be so well known if there wasn’t a market there. Money enters the picture and slowly begins to call the shots. In every profession. This is why whatever we do that puts a buck in someones’ pocket strengthens a system which strangles, shoots and holds people back. Money is violent, not language. That discussion is not put on the media chopping block, so much. At all. But the manipulation of context has steered us away from placing the blame on all the emotionally immature hoarding that has defined every epoch of our species. It’s a game that tries to make us in-fight more than fight the power. Time to evolve. Again. Positive Regard needs to run the game, not wages. An idea that admits violence, admits fear- but moves on with organizing anyway because it deals with the validity of Emotion. They are running the game anyway. Suppression makes us want to give up, let go and surrender. Surrender to depression, nasty thoughts, anger, judgement, drunkenness…But we don’t. We watch other people go through that shit and build an economic world around it. I used to think tv desensitized people, mebbe made ‘em violent. But that’s secondary. The precursor is not having an environment that puts television and media in its place, in context.. Someone who showed you that ‘this is just tv not real life.’ The national discussion is out your doorstep, not online! When people miss that part of their upbringing, then a muddled, social reactive attachment is what sets the scene.
No amount of limiting speech seems to have made the world safer, though. Just look at it broadly. The violence creeps about inside our communities still, stomps the world with our wars. Could it be there’s something else that directs our fear besides words? The brutal world exists today, just a different type of brutal than in our past. Everyone needs to remember, often, how unjust this system is- not forget it- we can go back to our lives but we need to raise this discussion until we’re all feeling it in ways that are relatable worldwide. Then this idea energy will work. Not from one focal point but broadly from all points. When you want to get your message across in a live news interview you keep repeating your statement over and over so that’s the only quote they have to publish. This is the way the comment section can form a new context and provide a balance to all the reactionary messages. Shut it down or use it against itself. We can stick it to the media there, create a culture below the article that is filled with easy options for the society we want, that places the blame on money and how it uses us now more than we use it. On how far we’ve let money steer us off course. Comment jamming. Yes, love is the answer, but you can live and die without love. A cell and some food could be your life. Love is the answer but information is our ground base. We seek and search, inside and out. The obstacle that we truly struggle against is our own nuanced anxieties. They rarely get contextualized outside of a therapy session. Nervousness. How not to get swept up in it. We’re panicky. We’re mortal. The media forms aren’t really helping us out with that one. I wonder why rent is still half our paycheck or more, I wonder why technological Advancements have not made our work day shorter by this point. I look at each of us within the framework of our limited time here and wonder why success does not include more leisure time. I wonder why we have to use these amazing bodies for most of our waking life in service to industries that don’t seem to be working very well in the first place.
I think some of this refusal to work with peoples’ language and behavior patiently, this urge to publicly shame, is coming directly from ‘being entertained.’ American Idol wants the most talented performer to come out on top and it is posited as a race. If you suck you are told to just give up on your interest. No one wants to see mediocre performances, no one is interested in encouraging confidence, we just want to be so blown away that we cry. Just a cathartic moment at the end of our day that isn’t even our own. Many reality shows do the same. Creativity and effort are not encouraged so much as pushed aside to find the cream of the crop, the one in a thousand. Where does that leave us? We see the best of the best videos of people doing amazing things watered down into endless top-ten lists! We seek and search for the most impressive feat, the most heartwreching story and we are left with little patience or interest in learning about our individual arcs of exploration. We don’t care about back story. Background. We don’t shine a light on the person toiling along in averageness. That doesn’t sell. And so we again and again are shown the most sensational, polarizing stories until we become culture-shocked into knee-jerk reactions.
If we want to adopt safer, more positive words then we need to learn new ways of framing our speaking. I think that is simply checking in with your gut, your body. Reflect on your comments, assess your conversations and then make sure you believe in yourself. Speaking with your perspective. This is a mature angle. It’s not something that happens regularly. And it may be challenged by someone else’s point of view. You may have to defend what you believe. This is where anger gets out of control, again and a gain. But move forward. Don’t just read an article, question the context. If our answers are coming from a deeper reflection we will see the cause and effect clearly, and begin to think On Systems, not In Categories. I believe this will lead us to a natural responsibility, a thoughtful self-governance. Not a responsibility based upon energy-sapping guilt, but on seeing the spectrum of how we got to now, of acknowledging the centuries of chaos that are our history. We must support ourselves across all societal platforms. It can’t be about dividing people on issues anymore; the dialogue has to be on what drives the world; the context and nuances of Fear. The revolution would be about us uniting around That word- THE word. Fear. It doesn’t have to be televised but it certainly could be. The only way to move forward with this chaos is by deconstructing the tools through which we communicate. Finding the ways in which our systems destroy all our patience, the ways in which it make us angry on purpose, to keep interest up in the infotainment world. It is a very, very profitable business. Speak on that. Comment on it. There may be a lot of different reasons but I bet we’d boil down the big ones pretty quick. Be the headline you want to see. Comment sections are power and this power is completely squandered right now.
After money-exchange provides for our basic survival, money is an open, exploitative form: markets rise where interest lies. I hear more and more about ‘the marketplace’ and how it decides what works for society and what doesn’t. ‘The Marketplace,’ like it was a true and balanced decision maker for our values. That’s a dangerous assumption, in my eyes. The media market is only as big as it is because again, we are these creatures of want. So when do some of these protective factors rise over money? How will a new decision come to the fore, to control money, not be controlled by it? That’s the big point that can’t make itself! That’s the “YOPP” in Whoville. I am forming the context for That question. And when enough of us form that context, money will either become obsolete, or be put back in it’s place.
(Listening to Birchville Cat Motel, Fennesz, Muslim Gauze, DBridge, Peter Christopherson, GAS, Wolf Eyes, Ink Mink)