The Devil and Ideology

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If I seem obsessed with evil lately, it’s only because it’s an important idea to understand. Evil takes many forms, and one of the most prevalent being ideology.

You see, the devil–or whatever you want to call that malevolent part of humanity–isn’t a guy with horns and a pointy tail living in a place full of fire. And the devil doesn’t do stuff to you or force you to do stuff. It’s worse.

The devil makes you choose, of your own free will, to do stuff that’s bad while thinking it’s really, really good.

Tempter . . . seducer . . . dare I say it, the champion of convenience.

This is how we get a world where, for example, babies are killed in the womb in the name of “liberation,” and we all just go, “Meh.”

The worst part of this, the most devilish of all, is that, since no one likes to change their minds, ever, any such behavior that leads to bad results is nearly impossible to reverse.

I’m sure you can see the connection between devilishness and ideology now.

Ideology, and we’re talking political ideologies here, box you into a way of thinking that’s tough to break out of, no matter how consistently bad the outcomes are. It’s the old saying about how when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail come to life.

Ideologies can be useful. They provide a framework for seeing the world, for conceptualizing causes and effects, and for proposing solutions.

In a way, though, they are like science, or at least what science should be: constantly tested, constantly revised, and in danger of being falsified. In short, they should be flexible in light of new information and evidence.

Instead, ideologies become rigid, entrenched, and oddly antifragile. Indeed, it seems that the more holes you poke in a given ideology, or the more flaws you point out, the stronger its adherents devotion. They become highly dogmatic and, dare I say it, cult-like.

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“But Alex, aren’t you a Christian? Isn’t religion just another ideology?”

In short, no. Christianity is (1) a highly individualistic religion, (2) not concerned with political structures, (3) is reliant on a person’s own actions and faith for salvation, and (4) doens’t require forcing every other person on Earth to live the exact same way you do. Other religions might be more akin to an ideology–I can think of one, in particular, that just can’t seem to keep itself out of the news–but I leave further discussion to the experts.

Back to the secular, and smellier, realms of law and politics. Whether you’re a hardcore free-marketeer or a Marxist, your answer to everything is more of the same. The market-worshiper is just as apt to lament “We’ve never had really free markets!” as the communist is to whine “We’ve never had real communism!” And in both cases, there is a strange belief in the magic power of laws, as though laws are powerful spells that can compel proper behavior if only we use the right combination of words!

More, more, more. Hammer, hammer, hammer. Continue reading “The Devil and Ideology”

What Can You Give Up?

Yet another American institution has become a flashpoint for political controversy. This time, it’s professional sports. I’ve already written about the firestorm Colin Kaepernick started last year when he decided to protest what he saw as America’s continued unjust treatment of blacks and other minorities by kneeling for the National Anthem.These protests have intensified this year, at least during the first few weeks of the NFL season.

I refrained from writing about this, because hot takes like these are rarely useful and serve to be mostly nothing more than empty virtue signaling with no mention of a solution to any such problems, perceived or otherwise. There’s also typically a debate about free speech, which no one, including me, seems to understand fully anyway.

All I know about free speech, the rule of law, and everything in general involving man’s relation to government is this: Power is really all that matters, and the illusion of self-government will exist until it becomes too expensive to maintain. He who has the guns, wins.

America’s done a pretty good job with the illusion of self-government because we were founded by people who believed in the illusion too. But I digress. The takeaway is that this is the world we live in, so we need to know how to navigate it.

If you’re sick of politics in things like professional sports, your movies, your place of worship, your workplace, and other forms of entertainment or spheres of your life, what do you do? If there are no alternatives, you can create alternatives of course. You can also vote with your wallet. This doesn’t have to be an organized boycott. You can just . . . give it up.

Think about all the stuff we do in life that really doesn’t matter. That’s mere entertainment. Do you really need to know who beat whom in which sportsball event, or which character raped/murdered/lied to which other on Game of Thrones, when most of the people involved in the production of both events probably hates you merely for your difference of opinion?

Back to sports. Of all American cultural institutions, it seems to provide the least value. Let me explain before you jump down my throat: I’m making a distinction between participating in and spectating.

  • Participating in sports. Important. In addition to athletics helping promote a healthy body, they inculcate mental toughness, teamwork, pride and ownership, self-discipline, and being gracious in both victory and defeat.
  • Spectating. Watching. Sitting, eating, and drinking. Maybe getting drunk. Cheering for laundry, for players and owners that do not care about you. Obsessing over trades and stats. Letting the outcome of an event literally govern your thoughts and emotions.

You get this in any form of entertainment, really. Look at comic books, right? Even if you don’t care about them, the seemingly deliberate destruction of the industry to parrot an incredibly narrow, though highly influential, strain of far-left identity politics is stunning to behold, and instructive to how this happens across many such industries. The writers and artists have made it clear that they don’t care about storytelling. So why be a fan? Why devote time and money and energy to it?

Everything is a business. Your favorite musicians, artists, athletes, writers, actors, and so on, all want to get paid. They care about you inasmuch as you will give them money. And if you’re a participant in any of these endeavors, you likely feel the same way. And there is nothing wrong with that.

We used to live in a world where creators gave the audience what it wanted. The debate as to whether that leads to high or poor quality isn’t worth getting into here. But I think we can say that there are certain universal human principles that make for good storytelling, the kind that people want, but will still allow for maximum creativity on the part of the writers and directors and actors and everyone else down the line. Hollywood used to understand this. Not anymore.

People, all people, can engage in whatever speech they want. Let’s stop pretending that some speech isn’t deemed more important or acceptable than others though.

This all gets me thinking about what I can, and have, given up, and why. Continue reading “What Can You Give Up?”

Unpaid Product Review: Bombfell 

Logo for the company Bombfell

For someone who sure enjoys dressing up, I really do not enjoy the experience of shopping for clothes. At all. I’d liken it to a dentist’s appointment, except I don’t hate going to the dentist.

How you dress does have a huge impact not only on how others see you, but how you yourself feel. The right outfit–and it sounds dumb but it’s true–can fill you with confidence. And it doesn’t just have to be an outfit that looks good on you; it’s also important to make sure that it’s an appropriate outfit for the situation.

Given that I have to suit up every day for work, and given that I like to dress well, you can easily see how my aversion to shopping for clothes can create some challenges.

My wife picked up on this as well and signed me up for a service called Bombfell. Bombfell is one of those “We pick a bunch of stuff and send it to you every month” deals that have been really popular with the urban millennial crowd for the past ten years or so, and as with anything trendy, I’m immediately skeptical. But seeing as how Bombfell is free to sign up for, is free to quit at any time, and places no obligations on the customer to purchase any of the clothes they send, I figured I’d give it a shot.

And you know what? Three months later, I’m still using it.

A package from Bombfell. Note that the bag is resealable for times you want to return clothes.

So how does it work? Continue reading “Unpaid Product Review: Bombfell “

The Only Way Is Forward

There’s a funny thing about time: It’s a one-way street, theoretical physics and sci-fi aside. 

And it moves so fast

You are going to get old and die. There is nothing you can do about this. Stuff will happen between your birth and your death. And eventually the sun will expand, engulfing the entire inner solar system, up to and including Mars, in its fiery bosom, before exploding altogether. The end. 

But we have a few billion years until then. 

I saw a great line recently, something akin to “Your life is two numbers and a dash in-between. Make the dash interesting.” I like that. 

Born at point A. Die at point B. Kick ass between. We’re all in the same boat and no amount of potions and serums and computer programs will change this. 

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, we just crossed over into the year 2017 a few days ago, and while it’s pretty arbitrary, it’s just as good a time as any to take stock and plan ahead. 

That’s right: There’s nothing wrong with goals per se. And yes, the arch-cynic here is looking ahead. 

(Reminder: I did not do this in my New Year’s Eve post).

For the purposes of this site, I would like to continue writing about various topics of interest, only using personal experience as a springboard to interesting themes. Expect the writing schedule to be a little more “normal,” i.e. 1-2 posts per week. 

I would like to get some writing published in 2017. I have one novel in the hopper ready to go, another almost done, and my NaNoWriMo novel to finish (it turns out that 50,000 words represented the first half of my story). 

I’m thinking of following the examples of my pals Rawle Nyanzi and Russell Newquist, among others, and going the indie or self-publishing route. 
I also have some professional and personal goals, but again, won’t be sharing them here other than in vague terms as a launching point for something else. 

I’d like to revise some earlier posts. I have done a few, but there are plenty more to go. 

And as always, there’s the overarching question of “why?” Why do this? Why write? Here are some answers:  Continue reading “The Only Way Is Forward”

The Year The Masks Came Off: Celebrities, Lies, and Why It’s Good to Know Where Everybody Stands

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Entertainers should just shut up and sing right?

Nah.

In the past, I would have shared this attitude, but not anymore. First of all, I have no problem enjoying somebody’s art even though their politics may differ from mine.

What I dislike more is being lied to.

That’s right. One of the things I’m thankful for this recent year and a half is that peoples masks are coming off, whether their entertainers, public figures, or my fellow citizens.

I want to know peoples biases. I want to know people’s likes and dislikes. And I want to know whether they hate people like me or not.

You see, there’s a huge difference between a difference of opinion and outright hatred. The former is manageable. It’s possible to coexist with people you disagree with, because you can be civil. And there might even be areas of common ground. But even if there aren’t, it doesn’t mean you have to hate each other.

But if there is outright hatred? That’s manageable to. It lets you know who to avoid or who not to spend your money on.

I’m big into free speech. This is why things like the Hamilton/Mike Pence incident or Green Day once again popping their mouth off or Kanye West ranting and having mental breakdowns don’t bother me in the least bit.

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Colin Kaepernick another NFL players want to kneel during the National Anthem and be disrespectful towards this country? Fine. That’s freedom of speech. And if people don’t want to go to NFL games or watch them on TV, that’s freedom of speech too.

If Kanye West of Green Day lose fans, or have irreparably damaged their brands, oh well. That’s America. That’s the risk you take when you stepping into the arena.

Michael Jordan, a Democrat, apocryphally said “Republicans buy my shoes too” when explaining why he did not want to publicly support Harvey Gantt run against Jesse Helms in 1990.

Whether he said this or not, it’s obvious that Jordan’s lack of activism had something to do with his bottom line. Is this good? Bad?

It’s neither. It’s a personal choice. The same way consumers have a choice whether to spend money on things based on politics alone.

I can think of two celebrities who manage to go about their politics publicly without being arrogant asses about it: Denzel Washington and Gary Sinise. Washington, a Democrat, and Sinise, a Republican, support their causes and candidates and yet retain their status as non-controversial, beloved actors because they are respectful to the public at large, who ultimately pay their salaries.

It’s a simple equation for celebrities: Don’t insult your audience. And yet . . . Continue reading “The Year The Masks Came Off: Celebrities, Lies, and Why It’s Good to Know Where Everybody Stands”

Bowie, Zappa, and Prince: What We Can Learn From Music’s Wonderful Weirdos

Not too long ago I posted the following poll on Twitter:

Okay, barely anybody responded. That’s not the point. The point is that these three men, David Bowie, Prince, and Frank Zappa, were all viewed weirdos or oddballs for their music, their styles and tastes, and their personal lives. But what if those weirdos were on to something?

What if those weirdos were really only perceived as “weird” because the rest of us are so boring?

Maybe being weird let these three men break free from the shackles of conventional wisdom and achieve success on their own terms.

I admire these three men greatly, both for their musical talents and the way they lived their lives (minus the drugs in Prince and Bowie’s cases). Their lives have been examples to me, and are more similar than they may appear on first blush.

Whether you like their music or not, the lives of these musicians teach some lessons about life and business that can be applied to scenarios outside of the music world.  Continue reading “Bowie, Zappa, and Prince: What We Can Learn From Music’s Wonderful Weirdos”

Millennials: We Are a Symptom, Not the Problem


When you have children, your thoughts turn towards the generation gap. The most visible example of this is the current case of Millennials versus everybody else.

Hello Im a MillennialFull disclosure: I was born in 1981, so depending on who you ask, I’m either a Millennial or a Gen-Xer. But my parents were young Boomers (too young to be hippies) who had me at a very young age, so I tend to lump myself in with the Millennials despite being a good 15 years older than many of them. As such, I’ll be using the pronoun “we” when referring to Millennials.

“They’re spoiled!” the conventional wisdom goes. “They’re entitled! Mentally fragile!” And so on.

In other words, it’s trendy to bash Millennials. We all do it. But stop and think: We didn’t emerge from the womb the way we are.

In fact, it’s pretty clear that bad choices made by the older generations have created the millennial “monster” they now fear. And that monster doesn’t like them either.

And you know what? The older generations totally deserve it.

Further, it seems like a lot of Millennials are waking up and getting wise to our situation and how to make it better.

In order to fix a situation, you need to diagnose the problem. The issues facing Millennials are those that have formed every person since the dawn of time. People are a product of their parents and the society in which they live.

Parents

The parents of Millennials meant well in a lot of ways, but to be fair, did overly coddle their kids. But these parents–many Boomers, some Gen-Xers–were coddled by their parents, who also can’t escape blame.

A large part of this coddling is the belief that the good times will continue forever just because, and you’re owed a decent standard of living for just existing. 

Bad habits get formed. The wrong lessons get taught. Safety and security become virtues.

Yesterday’s rebels became today’s conformists when it came to raising their children.  Continue reading “Millennials: We Are a Symptom, Not the Problem”