Uncivil Society

How do you know it’s time for a divorce? The answer is different for every couple, but sometimes taking to the streets and smashing and burning stuff when you don’t get your way is a good sign. 

I’m obviously talking about this week’s U.S. presidential inauguration, culminating with the actual swearing in of our county’s new president today.

And people can’t talk about this without losing their minds!

You might be screaming “Not my president!” at the screen right now. Sure. Okay. But reality being what it is, he is your president, like it or not. 

And one half of the country clearly does not like it, to the point that they’re trying to stop the swearing in from happening. How, I’m not quite sure, but it sure sounds violent. 

There are two certainties about politics though, which you need to keep in mind:

  • There is fraud in every single election going back over 100 years. 
  • Everybody wants integrity and ethics until their guy gets in office. And then it’s time for defense mode. 

You’re dreaming if you believe otherwise. 

Like I’ve said before, people (read: rioters) are governed by their worst-case fantasies

Listen: Nobody will be rounded up into internment camps. That seems to be everybody’s biggest fear. But it is not going to happen. 

    And yet here we have rioting based on fantasies. 

    Even if things start going really well for the country, expect more rioting and agitation for the next four years. 

    I find it hilarious that so-called anti-fascist movements the world over are some the most violent, fascisistic, and yes, racist and hate-filled people around. 

    Anyway, my point is this: I don’t see how the country will ever “unite” or “heal.”

    I mean, it’s not even policies at this point. It’s fundamentally different views of human nature.

    This divide has been there for generations, but I would say that the year 2000 was the turning point. It might be irreconcilable now. We’ll see, but I’m not hopeful. 

    The days of each side wanting the same thing, but differing on the approach, are over. The end goals are completely different. 

    Decent people on either side can coexist. But there are enough radical, violent, and well-funded nutbags with evil intent around to ruin things for everyone. 

    Good job. 

    So what happens after Trump is sworn in? I don’t know. All I can hope for, as I did on Election Day, is that nobody dies. 

    Of course, someone did die on Election Day. Because this is America in the 21st century. 

    Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade

    And check out my Instagram here

    Theater of the Mind

    There is no more powerful force than the human imagination. People live their lives according to what they think is true more than what actually is. 

    No kidding, right? It’s a pretty good heuristic: “That mean-looking son-of-a-bitch over there with the knives and stuff sure looks dangerous…think I’ll stay away from him.”

    But there are also those, shall we say, less-than logical manifestations of this tendency. 

    Let me provide some context: I work in DC. The presidential inauguration is in a few days. You can imagine the talk swirling across the country finds itself here. 

    And I have to laugh at a lot of it, even though a lot of it scares me. 

    Scares me?

    It absolutely scares me. Because some people’s actions are guided solely by what they imagine is the case. 

    There are people with important, high-stakes jobs like airline pilot, doctor, and lawmaker who think that we are one step away from having things like internment camps and death squads. The one-hundred percent think–no, know–that slavery is this close to being reinstated. 

    And how many times do people tell you “All X are Y”? “All Christians are bigots. All Muslims are terrorists. All blacks are criminals.” And so on. 

    Again, this goes back to heuristics: One bad experience with a group taints one’s view of them, yet one good experience never changes anybody’s mind for the positive. 

    Survival. I get this. But letting our imaginations get the best of us has huge implications 

    When somebody thinks they’re Napoleon, we sent them to the loony bin. But act like we are all dead if we don’t pass a certain piece of legislation right now, and you become a national hero. 

    And back to Inauguration Day: “All Republican voters are evil and Trump is Hitler reincarnate. Let’s throw bricks at them!”

    Which leads me to an important point: If we all live based on what we think is going on, who is right? What is what?

    I don’t know.  Continue reading “Theater of the Mind”

    Universal Truths

    I’m old enough to remember when Martin Luther King, Jr. was a universally beloved figure by pretty much all Americans, and as important as the man was, as well-loved, was his message. 

    There was no debate. He was thought of as a great man–and he was. There is no denying it. Read his words. Look at his actions, and those of his followers. He wanted black Americans to be treated as human beings. 

    And he was right! His movement successfully played on white Americans’ sense of decency, showing them what violent racists were doing to peaceful blacks. 

    And his message spoke to our aspirations as people and as a nation. How could America be a beacon of freedom and liberty if one group of people brought here as slaves, no longer slaves, were still treated like third-class pariahs? 

    A great man. A great message. We all knew that, even in predominantly white places like central New Hampshire. 

    Now? Nope. Radicals ruin everything. MLK lost, I’m sorry to say. Look at the country: Are we closer now to judging people on the content of their characters than we were in 2008? 1998? 1968?

    I’ve seen a definite regression the past 20 years, the first black president–which was huge and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise–aside. 

    Everybody hates each other. Okay, I know, not “everybody.” But enough. Check the mood. Check the culture, which is the most important driver of everything. MLK lost. His vision lost. 

    Every race blames every other race for their problems. Atavism rules. 21st century tribalism. America is becoming Balkanized among these lines, and its ugly, and it’s not going to end well. 

    Progress!

    That’s the funny thing about history: Things that we’re once universally held can be cast by the wayside seemingly overnight. And yet some things persist. Dr. King’s legacy should be one of them. 

    Follow me on Twitter @DaytimeRenegade and Gab.ai @DaytimeRenegade
    And check out my Instagram here

    There’s Nothing Wrong With “Idols”


    Lots of talk against idols. 

    Of course, if you’re a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim, there are deeply serious prohibitions against idolatry (and no, neither iconography nor Jesus Christ are “idols,” so knock that argument off).

    What about “secular” idols? Celebrities, politicians, atheletes, and other people who inspire is to do great things and whom some of us, gulp, seem to worship. 

    Now, things get be “idols” too (Drugs? Money? Bloodlust?), which can obviously be problems. 

    But let’s get back to people. Putting faith in human beings is bad, isn’t it? It’s harmful to be so obsessed; it’s common knowledge, after all. 

    But you all know how I feel about the conventional wisdom. And I have a confession to make here:

    You see, Frank Zappa helped me get through high school. 

    Now I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t you a guy who routinely mocks celebrity and celebrity culture? 

    Yes. Yes I am. But I’ll tell you what I dislike more than celebrities: A lack of balance. 

    Back to Mr. Zappa.  Continue reading “There’s Nothing Wrong With “Idols””

    Rituals and Reverence

    One interesting thing about age is that the more you live, the more you start thinking and believing the opposite of what you used to. 

    Take me, for instance. I used to think rituals and reverence were silly, relics of a bygone age. And mind you, I grew up, and remain in, the Greek Orthodox Church. This is a denomination dripping with rituals and reverence. 

    Us being Orthodox, we can’t just, say, read from the Gospel: We have to have a huge, gold-encrusted book that gets ma dyed around the church, complete with intense. And then we sing about it.  

    And don’t get me started with the ceremony surrounding the entrance and blessing of the Holy Gifts. 

    And so, when I was in my late teens and trying on the atheist hat (it didn’t fit), I found all of this pomp a rich target for mockery. 

    And maybe it is.

    But the older I get–and the more (kind of) serious I get–I appreciate the rituals and the ceremony more and more. 

    I thought of this in church recently with my own son, who managed to somehow sit through the service the way I somehow used to with my own family. 

    Not that there isn’t a lot to keep your attention: Orthodox churches are painted with vivid iconography, the clergy wears elaborate shimmering vestments, there is mysterious Byzantine chanting, and the smell of incense permeates the entire building. 

    In short, both the physical space and rituals are impossible to ignore. 

    And then I got to thinking why the church draws me in more as I get older. I think it fills a need that much in modern life doesn’t. 

    It provides seriousness. It provides awe. It provides reverence. 

    All of these things are in short supply everywhere. We–and you bet your ass I’m including myself here–are flippant, we are sarcastic and irreverent, we take particular pride in being iconoclasts, poking our finger in the eye of all things establishment. 

    And we never, ever, take anything seriously. 

    So church then scratches an itch for me that I couldn’t easily name, and that’s the desire to take something seriously. Without somehow feeling awkward about it. 

    And lest you think this is a purely religious thing, rituals help foster an air of important to secular things as well. Look no farther than militaries through history…the rites, the traditions, the somatic markers.  They get it. 

    Athletics are rife with ritual. So is the Anglo-American court system. And don’t even get me started on martial arts or I could write a whole other post.  Continue reading “Rituals and Reverence”

    The People Dressed in Grey

    What makes a leader? The ingredients of leadership are likely different depending on who you ask. But as this speech by William Deresiewicz, given to West Point’s 2009 graduating class suggests, solitude and the ability to be alone is a huge part of it. 

    Solitude and leadership…a very interesting concept. 

    It’s not exactly a recent speech, but it’s a powerful one. And it heavily references one of my favorite books, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

    The references to Conrad’s masterpiece resonated the most with me, not just in the idea of solitude and the importance of being alone with one’s thoughts, concentrating on ideas, and thinking things through–a diminishing trait in this technological age, especially among the younger setnd it’s importance to leadership, but in how Conrad discusses what doesn’t make a good leader:

    In between is the Central Station, where Marlow spends the most time, and where we get our best look at bureaucracy in action and the kind of people who succeed in it. This is Marlow’s description of the manager of the Central Station, the big boss:

    He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold. . . . Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy—a smile—not a smile—I remember it, but I can’t explain. . . . He was a common trader, from his youth up employed in these parts—nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust—just uneasiness—nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a . . . a . . . faculty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even. . . . He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him—why? . . . He originated nothing, he could keep the routine going—that’s all. But he was great. He was great by this little thing that it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause.

    Note the adjectives: commonplace, ordinary, usual, common. There is nothing distinguished about this person.

    We all know this guy: The nobody who seems to do nothing yet tells everybody else what to do. The kiss-ass who somehow rises through the ranks. The boss you never want to let slip anything remotely contrary or controversial for fear it will reach the ear of the exact people you never want to hear it. 

    In short, Bill Lumbergh from Office Space

    Inspiring uneasiness…

    Doesn’t it seem as though people like this run the world? Why? Continue reading “The People Dressed in Grey”

    Constraints and Creativity: What Old Nintendo Music Can Tell Us About Thinking Outside of the (Old Gray) Box

    I like to listen to music while I work, primarily instrumental stuff so I don’t get distracted. Usually, this is classical and other orchestral music, but lately I’ve rediscovered the magic of old video game music. 

    That’s right: I’m talking about 8-bit Nintendo chiptune soundtracks. 

    And at me tell you, in addition to the nostalgia factor–many of these themes are forever seared into my memory–the music is just plain good. There’s a reason why it sticks in the memory so: compositional genius. 

    Genus? Yes. 

    In order to both avoid boredom and capture the mood of the, albeit, primitive by today’s standards games, the music, usually a minute or two long per theme, sometime shorter, had to be catchy and not annoying. 

    And let me tell you, these composers, the great ones, were able to do his masterfully. This is even more impressive given the hardware constraints of the console they were working with. 

    Interesting, right? It’s almost as if the constraint on their resources lead to an increase in creativity Continue reading “Constraints and Creativity: What Old Nintendo Music Can Tell Us About Thinking Outside of the (Old Gray) Box”