Push the Button

Did you ever see the 2009 movie The Box?

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No, probably not. It didn’t do so hot at the box office, and from what I understand it wasn’t all that great. But the premise is horrifying.

Based on the short story “Button, Button” by Richard Matheson, he of I Am Legend fame, the premise of The Box is simple: Push a button in a box, a stranger you don’t know will die, and you’ll get $1 million. Simple, yet chilling. And it asks a question that lots of good stories plant in the reader’s mind: what would you do?

Well, we actually have a pretty good idea of what people would do. Take a look at the wonderful world of Internet activism.

Crusaders for truth and justice–their version of it, at least–want to utterly destroy their targeted opponents. Doxxing, ruining their livelihood, ruining the livelihoods of their family members, making life difficult for their friends and associates, forcing people to disavow the target as friends or face similar repercussions . . . whatever. It’s just another person on the other side of the screen. You never have to look them in the eye when you stick the knife in their belly.

Push the button. Someone you don’t like dies, after a fashion. Oh well. You didn’t really know them anyway.

It’s vicious, it’s sociopathic, and it’s scary. These are the kind of people who, if given the chance, would laugh as they tortured you to death.

This is a very unwelcome strain in American culture. The personal is political, right? Everything is a political battlefield.

Worse, it seems like you’re not allowed to have any past. Old posts on Facebook or statements on Twitter will be dredged up to be used against you. What if every off-hand, thoughtless comment you might have made many years ago got used against you in your forties because it’s saved forever on the Internet?

(Note: I am aware that I do this too. Because I’m not going to unilaterally disarm myself. Hypocritical? No. Just dealing with the world as it is, not how I wish it would be).

What if you’re marked for personal destruction simply because of who you voted for?

What if you’re not allowed to use a service because of some position you hold?

What if you’re not even welcome to partake in a favorite hobby because those involved in it don’t happen to like your personal beliefs?

It’s pretty hard to argue for civility when those screaming the loudest for it are those the least likely to act it. Like everything, cries for “common ground” and “being civil” are cynical ploys to get the other sucker to lower their guard and take certain tactics off the table.

So what to do?

Continue reading “Push the Button”

Death to Fans

Remember that time Led Zeppelin got a negative fan reaction upon first playing “Stairway to Heaven” in concert, and Jimmy Page cast a satanic hex on them, sacrificing a young virgin live on stage in the hopes that the Lord of Darkness would consume anyone who didn’t support what the band did 100 percent?

Or when Paul McCartney, upon hearing negative fan reaction to the Beatles’ Revolver album, called anyone who didn’t like it a “bloody tosser who lives in mum’s basement and is probably a closet fairy” as he sipped his tea and nibbled on a biscuit laced with LSD.

This also brings to mind John Hughes’ response to people who didn’t like Uncle Buck (yes, these people exist), when he hired actual hitmen to hunt them down and beat them within inches of their life until they posted ads in the newspapers talking about how his movies were the greatest things ever.

And lest we forget the time William Shakespeare famously told a crowd who booed the opening of Hamlet to “kindly fucketh offeth and dieth, thou fouleth Nazi-eths.” But then again, Shakespeare had a massive lisp, so everything he said sounded kind of funny.

(Note: I’m not too sure about all these details, but they probably happened.)

Oh wait, no they didn’t. Because artists from Bach to Rembrandt to Jack Kirby to Prince actually did care about their fans–also known as “the people who pay us money to keep producing our art”–and didn’t piss all over them. Because these people, and many others, for all their quirks, weren’t hate-filled and mentally unstable.

Okay, a lot of them probably were mentally unstable. But they didn’t take it out on their fans! Continue reading “Death to Fans”

Stay Alive

I really don’t like to be topical, but celebrity suicides make me sad. Any suicide makes me sad. And this isn’t just “Alex hopping on the anti-suicide bandwagon to make himself seem sympathetic.” No, I’ve been banging this drum for a while.

Mental illness is terrible. Depression is terrible. I liken it to a demon (maybe the demon?) getting his hooks into you and poisoning your mind with the sweet song of self-destruction. And it is an alluring message, one that we tend to romanticize in our art.

Whether it’s cultural (I think it partly is) or something else, everybody in America lately has suicide on the mind.

I’ve had my own struggles with this, believe me. But I don’t want to get into my life story here. I want to underscore yet again how this is a silent killer. Many who kill themselves seem outwardly to be fine, to have it all. They don’t always mope around wearing black, talking about how they’re going to do the deed. Often, they seem like regular, stable members of society.

Some depression can be situational, alleviating when the extreme stressors have been removed or overcome. Others are chemical or spiritual or I don’t know. I don’t know why it happens. I don’t know how it happens. All I know is that it’s a terrible thing.

At our cores is a deep yearning for oblivion. Many of us chalk it up to the fall of man in the long ago days when the first humans disobeyed God and were cast out of paradise. Our ultimate ancestors had the free will to decide between the human or divine, and we all know how that turned out because we’re living with the consequences.

Maybe that’s not your style. Maybe you don’t believe in anything save for what you see here in front of you. Maybe you don’t think there’s anything when you die and existence is a waste of time. Even so, something is keeping you from doing the deed. Don’t discount this! Maybe it’s evolution or chemicals or whatever. Don’t let go of it.

Find that one thing that keeps you going. It could be spite, it could be your pet, it could be that thing you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.

Turn this depression, this burning passion for self-destruction into fuel.

Talk to people–not necessarily doctors, just people you know and love. If you don’t have anyone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. They’re great people who care. Trust me.

Go to church and talk to a priest, even if you’re not a Christian. They’re there to listen.

Talk to people you know from on-line. The Internet is a wonderful tool for connection. Use it!

Don’t give in to your existential despair. That’s what the enemy wants you to do. Fuck the devil. Spit in his face. He’s a bastard and nothing he wants for you is any good.

How do I know? I just know. Because only pure evil could convince someone that taking their own life is a good thing.

Stay safe everyone, and stay alive. God bless, and I want the best for you (even if you hate me).

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

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A Plague of Free Thinkers

Ever since a certain music superstar of a certain chromatic disposition tweeted out his approval of the a similarly melanated individual’s cognitive workings–a person who happens to occupy a different spot on the political spectrum than most of her co-colorists–“free thinker” has been bandied about by a whole lot of people to describe themselves.

It’s an utterly meaningless term that is so smarmy and self-righteous it makes me want to puke.

Everybody on Earth think’s they’re a free thinker. Every one. Unless you are literally under some form of mind control (for example, under threat of physical violence or imprisonment or other harsh penalties for not expressing certain viewpoints), all of us think we arrived at our viewpoints based on thinking freely about all available options, looking at things from every side’s perspective, being open-minded, and so on.

The only problem is that it’s all nonsense. We have a plague of “free thinkers.”

People have biases. People have trouble overcoming biases. People are often not even aware of their biases. People also almost to a man think that they’re smarter than the average person, or even the above-average person, on every topic imaginable–call it Dunning-Kruger if you must, but I like the term illusory superiority.

I ask you again, then, what makes your thinking freer than that other guy’s thinking?

More often than not, the measure of the other guy’s status and ability as a free thinker is how well the other guy’s conclusions match with your own. If that proverbial other guy agrees with you, then wow! You’ve found another free thinker! But if their conclusions don’t align with yours, then I guess they’re just an unthinking, brainwashed buffoon. There can’t be any other explanation, right?

If you can’t see the problem with this line of thinking, then you are a part of the problem.

This line of thinking is what demagogues and propagandists of all stripes and persuasions use to build and condition their little armies–and sometimes their big armies–into believing that they are utterly right about everything and the other guy is utterly devoid of humanity. And when you have a scapegoat who’s not even human, the only sane, rational, and good answer is to completely stomp them out.

If you’ve ever wondered what can drive somebody to get really violent over a difference of political opinion, well, here’s part of the answer.

Being right feels good. This explains the asinine “We’re on the right side of history!” argument political terrorists use to punish those who disagree, because they’re obviously on the wrong side of history, and wrong is bad and needs to be exterminated.

The answer isn’t to be full of constant self-doubt and hold nothing ever to be true. This is a different kind of plague, one that we see writ large in the majority of modern European societies. They have questioned everything about themselves to the point of bottomless self-loathing; they don’t even believe their own societies should exist anymore, and are acting accordingly.

And let me tell you, I’m sure all of them think they’re the freest of free thinkers who ever freely thought.

And they’re right. They can probably explain to you how they reached their conclusions.

This, I think, is the distinction between “free thinkers” and “not free thinkers”–if you insist on using this terminology. Not whether the person agrees with you, but whether you can actually explain how you reached a conclusion and why.

Continue reading “A Plague of Free Thinkers”

Being Nigel

I recently expressed some of my dissatisfaction with my current career:

It received much more of a response than I expected, but I stand by this statement 100 percent. And it’s not “yardwork” per se that I enjoy (though I do). It’s actually creating something and doing something that does not involve wallowing in minutiae while sitting at a computer for eight or more hours per day.

There is a deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the contemporary office job. This is for two main reasons:

  1. It is highly unnatural; and
  2. There is little to nothing to show for your efforts.

Where’s the sense of accomplishment in shuffling through emails? What pride can there be in spending hours contributing something infinitesimally minute to some project that you have no ownership over and does not affect you?

And in the case of law, everything is air. Everything is made up. A law doesn’t exist. It’s a shared fiction that everybody agrees to abide by under pain of financial injury or physical imprisonment. However, these things can be changed relatively quickly–today’s wrong is tomorrow’s right.

Plus, it all keeps coming. All of it. There is no end to the busy work.

This can’t be unique to law, but at least some other jobs probably provide a more tangible sense of accomplishment. I think of somebody working on creating software, or designing a building, or even a guy on an assembly line or out landscaping: At the end of the day, you’ve created a thing. I know it’s easy to romanticize physical labor, and I know it often doesn’t pay as well as our wonderful brand new “service economy.” But hear me out.

Remember the movie City Slickers? Remember when it’s “Career Day” at Billy Crystal’s character’s son’s school and the other dads have interesting jobs, but Billy Crystal’s character, who sells advertising space on radio stations, finally admits that he “sells air”?

That’s a lot of us out here today. Men, especially. No wonder Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby decide to do something traditionally masculine and become cowboys. It’s a comedy, sure, but there’s an undercurrent of something real there.

Some days, I have an overwhelming urge to fight. I want to fight and get hit and hit other people and not know if I’m going to make it. I want to bleed as much as I want to make others bleed.

Other days, I want to go out in the forest, chop some trees, and build a house. Or a palace. Or make a castle out of huge rocks. Just because.

Although I hate the term “midlife crisis,” because it’s usually used to mock men who are unhappy with their work situations, the feeling is totally understandable. And I’ll tell you what I think it stems from: doing what we were told we should do. Continue reading “Being Nigel”

They Fought for What?

My grandfather fought the Nazis in World War II as a member of the United States Army. His older brother lost his life in the same war when his ship went down somewhere in the English Channel. My grandfather died in 2009, the victim of an enemy even worse than Nazis: leukemia, which is really just a different kind of cancer than Naziism, but deadlier because you can’t fight it with bullets and bombs.

(For any idiots ready to scream “anti-Semite!” or “Nazi sympathizer!” at me because I referred to cancer as worse than Naziism, kiss my ass. You’re the kind of people this post is directed at.)

I think long and often about what, exactly, my family and millions of others have right and died for over the years of this country’s existence. What would my grandfather say about the land he gave up his youth to fight for?

I know, actually. He’d be even more utterly disgusted by it than he was in 2009.

A former colleague fought in Somalia and other God-forsaken parts of the world when he was a young man. And for what? To paraphrase him, a bunch of his buddies–poor white, black, and Hispanic guys, mostly from the South and the Midwest–got limbs blown off, or worse, for some kind of misguided peace mission.

My best friend’s brother almost died several times in Iraq. His best friend did die, victim of an IED some jihadi that the US probably funded planted on a well-known route used by coalition forces.

And for what?

As the nature of what even being an American changes (or is deliberately obfuscated, depending on who you ask), and America finds itself unable to decisively win any conflict against enemies foreign and domestic, it makes you wonder about the legacy brave men and women gave up their lives for.

What did they preserve or save? Continue reading “They Fought for What?”

American Blasphemy

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing irreverence to God, or any other deity if that’s how you roll. But it also applies to anything considered sacred. And while we’ve abolished blasphemy laws in the West, at least as applied to Christianity (yay, I guess?), we still have blasphemy laws up the wazoo and don’t kid yourselves.

Sacred cows are alive and well in these United States. I’m going to speak blasphemously here, but let’s just say that your personal feelings and attitudes towards sodomy and it’s practitioners or baby killing, or even firearms ownership, can make you a persona non grata here in America . . . if they’re the wrong decision.

If you are of a certain chromatic disposition, saying the exact same thing as another can either be a-okay or complete verboten, enough to remove you from polite society.

You don’t even have to say anything mean or hateful. Just “wrong.”

Meanwhile, it seems like the only religions that have any sort of protection against verbal assault, no matter how mild, are either of the indigenous variety, or the one whose adherents get rather stabby/bomby at the merest hint of criticism.

So essentially, blasphemy laws, the current state of which in America is a weird and deadly combination of the hecklers’ and assassins’ veto. Continue reading “American Blasphemy”