Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cult Of The Sinner

As I was mainlining my daily Olympics fix today, there was one sport I couldn't avoid, no matter how many times I changed the channel--The Tiger Woods Repentant Sinner Marathon.

It was like some demented Groundhog Day movie playing over and over again, with the faces changing from his to Clinton's, to Ted Haggard's, to Spitzer's, to Sanford's. The contriteness! The guilt! And sometimes the wives popped into the scene, barely holding back the urge to bludgeon so clearly etched on their collective faces. It's all such soap opera, such high school meanness, and more than anything--the chance to feel self-righteous at the expense of yet another poor idiot who got caught doing what most people get away with doing.

I felt I was being thrust into the private life of someone I don't know, will most certainly never meet in my life, and could care less about other than as a cultural phenomenon surrounding a game I care even less about. I needed a bath to wash away the feeling that part of the cultural morass called America, still keeps a foot in medieval times where public hangings and spitting on adulterers in stockades was good, clean fun for the entire family.

I also saw it as a clear example of how religion unearths and propagates the most demented side of human beings. This charade of public humiliation we've come to expect as part of the punishment for actions that don't affect us personally, are none of our business, and should have been left back in high school with the rest of the immature crap we were expected to grow out of one day.

But we unfortunately live in a time where anyone who has been caught operating outside the rigid guidelines set by others for everyone but themselves, can never hope to regain control of his life without the public confession, the throwing of himself at the feet of the masses and begging for forgiveness.

We've collectively formed the Church of the Self-Righteous Asshole by refusing to change the channel, turn off the TV, stop reading the tabloids when THE SINNER takes the public humiliation podium and begs for our forgiveness.

We the judgmental congregation wait with stones in hand for an act of contriteness that might fall short of the sin. We listen, we condemn, we gossip, we chatter like a bunch of moronic crows in the hope we can throw at least a couple of those stones, that we can draw a little blood, that we can be the ultimate judge of someone else's life.

But the sordid truth is the only wrong the sinner can do is fail to entertain us, for that is what other people's private lives have become to many of us--a pathetic and cheap entertainment. We devour the details. We swallow the stories, the backroom gossip, the speculations. We know more details about some lame-ass celebrity than we do the members of our own families, and we can't wait to share them over and over again as if each tidbit were worry beads for the terminally stupid.

It makes me question how much we have actually evolved as a species when crap like this takes up so much of our lives.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Corporate States of America presents...

Last week Senator Franken tore into Comcast CEO Brian Roberts over conflicting responses he gave regarding the proposed merger with NBC. read more

And previously a few weeks before, the Supreme Court put the control of elections in the hands of Corporations by giving them a blank check to buy any politicians they want, no matter who the American people would rather have represent them. This decision insured that party affiliation will cease to matter and candidates will represent entities such as banks, Pharmaceutical companies, the Insurance lobby, agri-business, Wall Street, and anyone with the millions and millions of dollars required to run for office as a voice of the "people."

There is no clearer example of how bad this can get than that found in NBC's coverage of the Olympics. Most Americans don't realize what an obscenity this coverage has become because they're not allowed to see anything but NBC's little handpicked circus.

People like me who live on the border with Canada receive in the moment live coverage through Canada's CTV, while viewers in Seattle, 90 miles south, and much of the country, have to wait for taped versions airing hours later. (By the way, my cable service is Comcast which means they are CHOOSING to block Seattle viewers from an event happening in their own backyard.)

And if anyone wants to go online to try and find live coverage, they'll run into a blockade set up by the marriage from hell between NBC and Comcast. There is no live coverage. Between the two of them, they've made sure no one gets to watch any Olympic coverage that hasn't passed through their biases and filters.

As a consumer with a small window of choice, I've noticed some glaring differences in the coverage between CTV and NBC. The most obvious and the saddest for Americans, is that Canada still remembers the Olympics are a sporting event. They try to cover as many events live as possible, and they show taped events only when it wasn't possible to show two things at once. Even then, there's access on another Canadian service for those who must watch their favorite events live.

While they praise their athletes, they are fair about it and show as many of the other competitors as possible. Their coverage is like the Olympics of a few years ago when everyone gathered to watch their favorite events live...even if they were televised at 3 am. There were dead times, there were athletes from obscure countries, there were unrehearsed moments. And there was excitement, anticipation, fun and a sense of the whole world watching at the same time.

This was the spirit of the Olympics, an event that began as a break from war and hostilities to put on an athletic event that allowed nations to compete with each other and bring honor to their nations in a peaceful manner. And it is a spirit the Canadians clearly understand and share as much as possible with anyone who wants to take part.

In contrast, NBC/Comcast do not see the Olympics as an athletic competition. For them it is a marketing event, a chance to herd "viewers" into a common pen they have no choice of allowing themselves to be herded into if they want to watch the show. Once in this pen they are bombarded with advertisements and messages designed to sell you everything from drugs to your next president.

And their coverage is filled with jingoistic praise and slogans for the individual athletes--as long as they are American and have a wealthy future of many endorsements waiting for them. Everyone else is irrelevant, unless they come from one of the many evil empires America has to keep thumping its chest over, so the sheep will continue to give them even more money for war. Then it becomes hero vs. villain, a real comic book depiction of what other countries take as a serious athletic competition.

American commentators talk incessantly through the events, chattering inanely about petty gossip and endorsement futures, while the Canadians remain respectfully silent except for the moments when they explain the technical aspects of an event as if they had an intelligent audience interested in what they have to say. American commentators talk as if their audience was a captive test group for the corporate marketing departments who study the right buzz words to win the consumer dollar.

This is sad because the Olympics were meant to be a time of peace when all nations came together for some good, old-fashioned fun. It's a shame that in America, that fun has been handed over to the corporate ringmasters interested only in financial gain and propaganda.

I wish everyone had the opportunity to watch the Olympics as they were meant to be watched. It might end some of the cynicism, the divisions, the mean-spirited attacks on each other that seems to grow bigger each day. But then, maybe that is what the corporate interests fear. They can only profit from hatred and division. It's their bread and butter and they're not about to give it up.

But you can fight back by writing to Senators such as Al Franken and letting him know he has your support at preventing a merger between NBC and Comcast because with their Olympics coverage they've given the American people a very clear picture of why this merger is a very bad idea. And it's your right to have what our neighbors to the north have so skillfully demonstrated is the right of everyone to enjoy--a sporting event meant for the world to share together in real time.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Bully Culture

As I read about Goposaur Shelby's blanket hold on Obama's nominations (read more), I was reminded of this creepy kid I went to school with when I was about ten or eleven years old.

He was a big, hulking, sullen mass of walking resentment. We all knew he had a shitty home life, but back then, considering the school and the neighborhood we were in, who didn't? He always harassed the youngest and the weakest, terrorized the shyest student, and mocked the most helpless. He lied, cheated and stole to get what he wanted. He got angry if he didn't get his way, and he implied what he believed was the only truth and those who believed differently were idiots, living on another planet, or commies.

Acording to Bully Online, he was a classic bully who fit the following characteristics:

* has never learned to accept responsibility for their behavior

* wants to enjoy the benefits of living in the adult world, but who is unable and unwilling to accept the responsibilities that are a prerequisite for being part of the adult world.

* abdicates and denies responsibility for their behavior and its consequences (abdication and denial are common features of bullying)

* is unable and unwilling to recognize the effect of their behavior on others

* does not want to know of any other way of behaving

* is unwilling to recognize that there could be better ways of behaving.

The shameful bullying engaged in by Shelby and his Republican Party is symptomatic of the cultural illness that has taken hold of this country. We have become a nation of bullies where one person can hold the rest hostage until he or she gets their way. This is not just the seedy realm of GOP political operatives and their ethically challenged enablers, but has infected just about every aspect of our society.

But not all bullying is obvious. The kissing cousin of the Political and Schoolyard Bully is Little Miss Entitlement, who is otherwise known as "I have an opinion and will make your life hell until it becomes your opinion as well." She (or he) has perfected the meme that in other times what was considered rude, nosy, none of your business, or excessive interference in someone's personal life--is now the holy grail of good for you as wielded by Joan of Political Correctness.

Here is a perfect example: A school in Kirkland, Washington has censored parts of Snow White because, as they ironically claim, it encourages bullying and other not so nice behavior. (read more) It's freaking Snow White, not little Miss Sunshine! But in their perfect vanilla world, I'll bet the evil stepmother is merely having a bad day and we should all be more understanding of her shortcomings, because in their world no one ever has to take any responsibility for their own actions. It's ALWAYS someone else's fault.

These people would never in their addled little imaginations ever see their own actions as bullying. They would never understand that by censoring something instead of explaining it, they are raising their children in a world that does not exist. They are sheltering them from truths that will whack them smack upside their poor deprived little heads the minute they have to live in the real world. They will never understand this because the idea they might be wrong, that their ideas might be wrong, that their actions might be wrong, would never occur to them. They are always right, which is what bullies also believe.

And they share this obsession with forcing others to live in a world they made for them, with the ultimate bully cult: religion. What do you want to bet those who made that decision for EVERYONE'S children, also share characteristics with the really whacked out religious loonies who engage in things like shunning, ostracizing, and denigrating anyone who might believe differently? How closely do they fit this description from the Wikipedia page on bullying?

" aggression or indirect bullying is characterized by threatening the victim into social isolation. This isolation is achieved through a wide variety of techniques, including spreading gossip, refusing to socialize with the victim, bullying other people who wish to socialize with the victim, and criticizing the victim's manner of dress and other socially-significant markers (including the victim's race, religion, disability, etc)." read more

I think being called stupid by a character invented in the 30's pales in comparison to their method of handling it. I suspect they're just looking for an excuse to control, convert, and manipulate information that already suits what they believe, just like any politician with an agenda, any crazy christian looking to inflict their version of imaginary playmates on everyone else, and any bully looking to intimidate the weaker kids into giving up their lunch money.

But the biggest damage done by bullies is the festering wound religion has opened up in this country. It has become a political tool used to manipulate voters into supporting the agenda of corporate sleaze balls. It has become the ultimate bully that treads on the individual rights of citizens, inflicts its agenda on politics, schools, the media, and people's personal lives.

What especially defines it as a bully is that no matter how much power or influence it has, it always wants more. For a bully nothing is ever enough. There is always more lunch money to steal, more humanity to destroy. A bully will not engage you in discourse but will shout you down, beat you up, and then proclaim him or herself the victim.

I believe this disgusting takeover of our country has come about because of the enablers who are like that Kirkland school. No one wants to stand up to a bully, and they count on that. They shout. They whine. They intimidate. They threaten to sue. They hold meetings where they reinforce each others biases.

Isn't it time to make these people grow up? How about if the next time some whiny ass Christian comes up and claims persecution, instead of walking politely away or being reluctant to attack their "personal belief," why not stand up for your rights to have some beliefs of your own? Why not say fuck you and your bullshit? They sure aren't shy about making what you believe seem evil or wrong or not worthy of the air it takes up to express it. Grow a pair and tell them to go back under their rock where everyone thinks the same as they do, and you will believe what you want, thank you very much.

The next time some corporate whore of a politician decides to throw a temper tantrum to continually fatten his own bank account stuffed from corporate "donations," why not get on the phone to him or her and remind them who they're really working for, and if they don't get it, vote their asses out?

And the next time some Little Miss Entitlement whines to you that rules and standards set by them are for your own good, remind them you also have rules and standards and it's time they really practiced some equality and lived by yours for a change. If not, then replace them. They are not the boss of you, even though they think they are. They're just schoolyard bullies who grew up and got someone to pay them to continue to be schoolyard bullies.

It's time to buy a broom and clean up some messes you helped cause by being too nice, oblivious, or indifferent. If you want to live in a Democracy, you're going to have to build it from the ground up again. It's what happens when you let the crazies take over. You have to clean up the really shitty messes they leave behind. Maybe next time, you'll pay better attention and speak up sooner and louder and you won't have to get on your knees to scrub the shit out of the floorboards.

Too Stupid For Science shirt
Too Stupid For Science by godless_heathen
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Thinking For Yourself

I start my day by reading different blogs that represent several points of view on the daily topics. Many of them are billed as Progressive, Liberal, Left of Center, but what keeps them from being a choir singing the same song in different keys are the comments sections. They are a veritable stew of Democracy in action--messy, loudly argued in caps and emotional opinions, and always filled with wonderful twists on old ideas that actually make one think instead of simply sucking in and then shitting out.

This is something that separates the Goposaur/Right-Wingnuts from everyone else on the web. On the blogs I read, anyone can post in the comments section. You don't have to ascribe to the basic tenets of the blog perspective. You can vary from the entire Left of Center dialogue and post just about anything you want, whether it is as a member of the extreme lunatic arm of right wingnut teabagging crazies screaming about birth certificates and Socialism, all the way to semi-rational if misguided points of view that center around the delusion the last decade was one of unheralded peace and prosperity thanks to the dumbest president who ever occupied that office.

As much as I disagree with some of these posters and think they're barking up a tree rotten in the center from decades of unregulated free-market thievery, I believe they have as much right as I do to post their opinion. This is a vastly different perspective found in most right-wing blogs that ban a poster at the first sign of thinking differently, at the first inkling that the talking points are not being swallowed whole and passed on in unfiltered chunks.

They are terrified that someone will come along and disturb the carefully tended group think they spent months cultivating. They are afraid the sheep will wake up and realize they've been manipulated and used. They do not want to take the risk that the talking points carefully written by their masters will actually be read and discussed in an intelligent and unbiased manner. So they ban all dissent, all ideas that are not locked into the party line and communal mind.

This kind of lockstep thinking is why I could never be a Goposaur, and most certainly never a teabagger who squeals about independence but spouts verbatim talking points that are so cut and paste cookie cutter, you can type them into google and find them all over the web without any variation. Where is the independence in such regimented thought control?

It is pathetic and sad. It is mind control that is robotic and unforgiving. It is stripping all individuality from the person and turning him or her into a piece of machinery under the control of corporate handlers.

I will never be the kind of person who can take orders from someone without question. I could never check my individuality and choke down talking points I'm then expected to go post verbatim on every "enemy" blog on the web. I couldn't ever let someone own my mind or expect me to be a voice for them and not ever speak with my own. That is not what I was put on this planet to do. It is not me.

I am someone who prefers to do my own reading, to do my own analyzing, to do my own thinking. And when I do post a comment on a blog it is because I came to it on my own with the information I gathered on my own. I would never ever let some clown like Rush Limbaugh tell me what to think and I certainly would never go and post his talking points instead of my own.

But then, as a Progressive, Liberal Democrat this kind of thinking comes with the territory. The umbrella has to make room for everyone or we foolishly don't feel we have a right to call ourselves a Democracy. We can't exclude people for any reason because that's not our right. It defeats the whole idea of America if we say only one class of people gets the rights and privileges of citizenship and the rest get only a token piece.

It is why we support equal rights for people of all colors, gender, sexual preferences, and spiritual beliefs or lack of them. We take Democracy seriously and we don't believe it benefits the sacrifices of our founding fathers if we give up our individuality to goosestep to someone else's ideology.

And those talking points? I'll write my own, thank you very much. It's my right and obligation as an American to speak with my own mind, my own words, my own beliefs.