Friends are useful for multiple reasons. They’re great for reflecting back to you what image you project to the world, for giving you as much shit as they can inspiration, introducing you to new experiences. Friends provide you so much to help enrich your life. They truly are part of how a human flourishes and human flourishing is an idea that I’ve always thought had real merit to it. We should improve as we grow to become the maximal selves possible. How that gets accomplished may differ from person to person, but clearly one of the best methods of self-actualization and self-maximization comes through our social interactions. Put simply, being social with your friends well help you become the best self possible.
I want to focus more on what friends provide us and what we can provide our friends within this framework of friendship improving people, and that’s belief in one another. Belief has been considered frighteningly powerful when exercised in the service of a greater good. Belief needs some grounding, and one possible grounding is in faith, e.g., “Because I have faith in my friend, I believe in my friend.” But that sentence really doesn’t tell us much other than I believe in my friend therefore I believe in my friend. So perhaps grounding belief in faith won’t get us far, as the distinction between faith and mere belief should be a harder line. That said, in terms of friendship and social relations, perhaps faith is a type of belief that we hold for our friends. For example, when we say, “I have faith in Joe, he’ll pull through,” we’re not saying anything vastly different from, “I believe in Joe, he’ll pull through.” If faith can be described as an unwavering, steady belief in a person, place, thing, or institution, then maybe I had it wrong – perhaps belief grounds faith. But what does this have to do with your faith or belief in one’s friends (and the faith or belief your friends have in you)? Perhaps a quick story can elucidate this.
Playing video games against people provides a chance to compete, talk shit, and demonstrate the kind of ruthless aggression that should be reserved for a fight or a battle of some kind, then the game is over and it’s all done. I don’t know when video games, with the exemplars being Madden and currently the NBA 2K series, became such a part of male (and more and more female) competitiveness. Even guys that don’t play them often still feel the urge not to lose – nobody wants to be bested in a one-on-one situation, even if it’s meaningless. With that backdrop, a few weeks ago a buddy of mine, B, came through and one of the things we tend to do is battle, as competition just brings out a different part of people and friendly competition is the same way. So like normal, we got geared up to go to war and it’s intense because we’re rivals and we like to play fighting games of all kinds – boxing, MMA, wrestling, Street Fighter. My brother once quipped, “Watching two people play a wrestling game is better than watching the stuff on TV – each time y’all punch or reverse, it’s like you actually did it!” But this would be a different day than most, as my roommate came out to join in the competition, challenging my buddy to a game of NBA 2K13. My roommate and I have been in an ongoing (one-sided) battle surrounding 2K13, and as I was about to walk Blaze for a moment, I thought this would be an even matchup (my roommate may be loath to admit it, but right now and for the foreseeable future, he’s not beating me). And amidst the normal banter and shit talking (“I’m gonna yam on ya bitch ass!” “Get that shit the fuck outta here!!” “COOKIES!!!”), I told my buddy, “I believe in you, B. Kick his ass.” Did I really believe in B? Not really. I thought my roommate was going to dust him by 20, mostly because I wasn’t sure how much B had played 2K13 and, like in many things, experience can be an invaluable strength in competition. But I more so wanted to stick it to my roommate by explicitly expressing that my belief, my faith in B’s abilities were greater than my faith in his, if only to rock his confidence and take him off of his mental game.
I returned from the dog walk to see the finish to an exciting contest, which ended when B pulled away in the 4th quarter. Like the hype man I am, I turned on the shit talking for a few moments as my dejected roommate soaked in the reality that he’d lost to the unknown challenger. Then B said, “Man, when you said you believed in me…it really changed how I came at the game. It was like, ‘Shit, if he believes in me, I believe in me too!” He looked over and asked me if I did think he was going to win, to which I responded,
“Hell naw. That was a hell of a win.”
So what’s the connection here? The placebo effect can be demonstrated even in events like video game competition, but was me telling B that I believed in him (even though I really didn’t) and him believing my belief in him to be true similar to a placebo, or is this a different sort of effect that people can have on other people? We are social creatures in such a way that I think there’s a convincing case to be made that what happened, beyond the potentially fluke victory, was a result of a particular effect people can have on each other. Maybe it’s the context that people provide with their beliefs in others – B knew I believed in him and COULD have believed otherwise, namely in my roommate (or neither of them if I thought it was going to be a crappy game). That my belief in him was my choice (or, perhaps, that B thinks it was) and B’s recognition of my belief in him could play a role in that effect that people have on each other.
But it’s worth wondering, why do we believe in people?
 Aristotle is the heavyweight who offers a concept of human flourishing as a good we ought to achieve. One difficulty of this view is determining what it means to flourish. Kant also corresponds with a maxim that if you have a talent, you ought to maximize it.
 Clearly, if you have friends that are convincing you to do things that are anathema to your constitution, then these aren’t the kinds of friends that will ultimately provide you with what you need to become the best self possible. It also warrants asking about the nature of friendship if these are the people we’ve come to consider friends.
 I’d say that we do have a firm line between belief and faith, at least in definition. But I don’t think we have it in terms of our normal parlance, particularly when talking about loved ones and friends. Faith, in this sense, is not the sort of faith we think of as in faith in God, but it’s related.
 X-Box Killer from Boondocks is the exception, not the rule.
 Video game competition is largely mental. With so many repetitions, you have a good idea of what inputs will deliver your desired outputs. The difficulty is that people adjust their strategy depending on their mood. Calm players stick with their strategies, emotional players feed off of their environment and MOODY players can be thrown off of their game by talking that shit.
 Which it wasn’t – B’s won 2 of the 3 games they’ve played since. But my roommate took the last two, so they are even competition.
 Like why do I believe Charles Barkley and Michael Wilbon were right in saying publicly their comments about Black people using the “n-word.” It’ll be live tomorrow. Or why I believe that Johnathan Martin’s treatment is another highlight of why sports is an appropriate arena for discussing race. Or why I believe it was hilarious that a lineman and a ref got into last Sunday. But those might be different kinds of belief, and that post is live later this week.
Remember the first time you couldn’t get enough of being around someone? When being with them imbues you with a sense of exploration, wonder, excitement and emotion? For some of us, it takes everything we have not to burst out and yell, “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me!” Others of us go ahead and let that sentiment flow freely, and in either case we are just consumed by our feelings, whatever they might be. It could be that we truly love this person, think we love this person, feel intimately connected to this person, enjoy this person’s company; there are a myriad of feelings and even more combinations of feelings that overwhelm us, alter our brain chemistry, and change our decision making capabilities.
Yup, you get high. On love.
It’s one of the purest feeling highs possible; no synthetic or even grown-from-the-earth drug can compare to the high one feels when embarking on a journey with a new companion. No drug can even fathom keeping you continually high for as long as the journey does. Every step you take while under the influence of drugs is one step away from being under the influence – the opposite seems to take hold for the journey, as each step you take is one that keeps you further under the influence, increasing your intoxication and your dependence on it. If there’s one thing people love about being high, it’s getting high-er the next time around and continually chasing that magic feeling of their first (or best) high.
But the magic fades away after awhile. The appeal of being intoxicated daily loses its luster after a bad trip or a day frittered away being unproductive during peak production season. But we remember the first high, and we remember it so fondly and our drug is still nearby…surely we can reach that high once again, right? All it takes is another hit, right? Just one more hit and I’ll be back in Shangri-La. By now, we’ve got rituals and customs surrounding our journey drug, and as long as I follow the established rituals and abide by our established norms, then maybe I can just get a piece of that high back. Getting the whole high might be, admittedly, impossible to get back. And yet, we yearn for it so badly. We’ll just take a piece of that high, if only to be able to have just some miniscule access to the whole high we know we can’t get back. We yearn for it because we depend on that high to keep our day afloat; without it we feel like we’re drowning and flailing away, worsening our situation. We chase after it because we can’t imagine life without it. But the whole time, we’re chasing an ideal, a fantasy, a one-time moment that cannot be recreated because that was an experience to enjoy and remember, not chase after forever.
We struggle to reconcile these competing forces – our desire to keep being high (while receiving diminishing returns on one’s highs) versus the knowledge that we should stop chasing that high. And here I stand, staring at one of many crossroads in life, knowing that walking between them would kill me and choosing one scares me to death.
Drugs do change and have gotten different compounds added to them to increase their potency over time. The same can certainly be said of people, though increased potency over time can be to your benefit or detriment depending on your tolerance level. Maybe the relationship between you and your drug of choice (person) can change, much as the drugs themselves change. But at some point, you have to know when it’s time to kick the habit. When it’s time to put a halt on everything and re-dress your life in better fitting clothing. Habits form both to our benefit and detriment – when they work, they keep us on task and on schedule. When we keep habits too long without examining them or keep ones that aren’t useful to our current situation, those beloved habits become the things we begin to resent in our lives. But if kicking the habit was so easy, NA and AA wouldn’t have the membership they do across the globe. Sometimes you need help to kick the habit.
All resources are not valued equally, and that unfortunate truth means some methods will work for some people and the same methods will offend other people. When it’s time to kick one habit, oftentimes we’ll substitute a new, healthier habit in place of the “harmful habit.” Some people would argue that cold turkey is the best method, as you go from habit to no habit and release some dependency. But sometimes it’s good for a new habit to form, as it can remind you of what you ought to be doing with your day rather than reminding you of what you haven’t accomplished with your day. It’s a helpful means of re-valuing the things in your day that give you the ability to be successful with your day. Cold turkey, while more difficult, yields the same benefit – your day gets re-valued such that you’re able to adjust and succeed.
Harmful habits can curtail our own flourishing, and nobody in good conscience should prevent their own flourishing. There is no reason to keep yourself down in order to support or maintain a harmful habit, much like there is no reason not to flourish to the best of your ability. But I understand the difficulties – I once kept feeling bad every time I had to get off of the phone with one of my drugs because the drug would sound saddened like I was leaving her every time we talked. Feeling remorseful as though I’d committed harm to the drug influenced how I then dealt with the drug, giving it more time (rather than finding an alternative or holding firm to the line) and as a result, I didn’t flourish how I would have wanted to with her. I was under the influence and was influenced by the same thing that had me under the influence to begin with, which keeps you even more intoxicated. She would ask me if I was unhappy but I never felt unhappy, just undersatisfied. The high wore off and the moment arrived where I wasn’t sure about taking another hit because the last one just didn’t do it for me, for whatever reason. But it’s difficult to deny a drug when it’s sitting right in front of you. Especially when you know how high you once got and how great it once felt. But that’s how you know you’re chasing a high…and that it might be time to kick the habit.
It was a brisk spring evening and after class, a buddy and I were hanging out at a local bar. Usually when he and I talk, things inevitably come to some sort of race discussion. And no, I’m not the one bringing it up (usually). And yes, he’s white. He’s also the kind of white guy that’s aware of the social boundaries but does want to push them, at times just for the sake of argument. He’s also second generation immigrant on one side of his family so he offers a unique perspective on cultural issues. He’s never offended me even though we’ve had some very good back-and-forth on contentious issues (such as his claim that African-Americans is not the right name for the current group of slave descendants – claiming simply American would be more accurate because the connection to Africa was, unfortunately, severed. I responded that ancestry is enough – Korean-Americans trace their ancestry back to Korea, Filipino-Americans to the Philippines, etc. Due to the severed connection, African-Americans might not be able to claim a certain country – hence Kenyan-American designating someone born in Kenya, not in America – but both on good faith because of the severed connection and ancestry, the title still fits. We went back and forth about this for awhile). This particular repartee was no different, as he took a swig of his beer and asked me, “Why can’t white people say the N word? Read more »
I’m tired of it. There is a mentality that’s growing among us all and it threatens to ruin the fabric of everything good about human life. Much like a rotten apple, those purveyors of the…condition infect others with its allure of a better life for others. Nobody is immune to its charms, much like the devil convincing a poor soul to do his bidding. Truly, this condition is like a plague – if it is allowed to continue to spread, we will be overrun by these wasteful fools and life as we know it will end.
What could cause all of this calamity, you ask? Why, it’s simple…
LAZY BITCH SYNDROME.
Yes, Lazy Bitch Syndrome, or LBS for short, is everywhere and spreading. People of all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds are becoming lazy bitches. What exactly is a lazy bitch, you ask? Someone who refuses to work themselves into independence and prefers to
rely mooch off of another person or persons. Here’s an illustrative example: Read more »
Welcome to a new addition to the blog – “Ask Mr. Philosopher,” where your favorite philosopher answers your questions about ethical situations that we all find ourselves in. I know, philosophers don’t actually have much use in this scientific and techie society, but science won’t inform you about what you ought to do. Technology can help you find answers to questions but it won’t help you develop your moral values. What technology can do is get you into trouble if your partner doesn’t share the same moral values, also known as “what’s right and wrong.” So here’s a commonplace situation:
Your significant other left their phone on the bed and left the room.
How many of you would pick up that phone and start “playing” with it? You know, looking around to make sure you have nothing to worry about?
The answer, I think, is a ton of people would do just that if presented with that situation. They don’t find anything and they don’t get caught doing it, so the moment passes. We all know, however, that if the same situation popped up and you DID find something, all hell would break loose and you’d feel justified in addressing your significant other about what could be foul play.
For many people, this is the reality of dating life in the technological era. Privacy continues to be eschewed in favor of catching criminals in the act, prior to the act, or finally, after the act on the assumption something illegal MIGHT be happening. In the tech age, everyone’s guilty of doing something they shouldn’t have been doing even before they do it.
With stuff like this, whoever is doing the searching really is acting like the police – looking for evidence to nail your ass to the wall with. Unfortunately, everybody’s watched Law & Order so they think if I find evidence, then you’re guilty. Even in the case of phone searches, there’s still a right to an illegal search because, and I quote, “It’s not your damn phone.” Even if you do find something that may be wrong, the searcher is also in the wrong because you went snooping and invaded the searchee’s privacy.
So the question is: Are you ever justified in going through someone’s phone? The answer is rarely, but we will find a way to justify any action so long as we stand to benefit from it. The justification just won’t be strong, and here’s why:
The searcher’s argument looks something like this;
1) If my significant other is doing something s/he shouldn’t (according to me), I have a right to know,
2) My significant other is likely to do something s/he shouldn’t do (according to me),
3) My significant other is likely not to tell me if s/he did something s/he shouldn’t have done (according to me),
HENCE, I’m justified in looking through my significant other’s phone (on a regular basis).
This is the most basic argument for why it’s ok for me to look at the phone, through Premise 1 could have a 1a that explains why you have a right to know. Even though it’s predicated on being in a healthy, successful relationship, that doesn’t necessitate that you have to know A) everything your partner is doing, or B) that something your partner shouldn’t do, according to you, is a wrong action.
In fact, I should say that I’m not sure you can make a good case of having a healthy, successful relationship if you make this argument because it’s clear that searching a phone displays a lack of trust. That’s effectively what Premises 2 and 3 are for – my significant other is going to do something wrong and not tell me. Granted, there may be a moment that could give one legitimate pause as to if foul play is occurring that could shake your trust in your partner. A swaying branch in the wind is far different than a broken tree limb on the ground because the branch still has life. The moment phone checking becomes a norm, without a shred of evidence of foul play, you’ve become like a wiretapper following the PATRIOT Act, invading privacy in service of your own greater interests, including correcting your partner’s behavior! Incredibly, there are people out here treating their significant others like children, figuring that if my partner knows I go through their phone, my partner won’t do things I won’t like because my partner knows I’ll find out about it. As though that model works wonders with adults, who are much more resourceful than children, on average, and give many fewer fucks than children, on average.
If the trust is so broken that you feel the need to search through someone’s phone, then the relationship wasn’t doing well to begin with. There’s a paranoia that must set in when somebody goes past the point of no return with their phone search, because you don’t read a phone like you read the news – you’re looking for something. Anything that will validate and justify what you’re doing because flat out, you wouldn’t want it done to you. And that’s why the justification struggles; it’s looking for evidence to convict without evidence of a crime.
There are three main reasons, aside from the “it’s not your damn phone” argument, that phone searching should be considered tech taboo -
1) What’s next? My email password, my Facebook password, my blog password to check my comments and make sure I’m not flirting there? This is a slippery slope for the relationship – the searcher will always assert, “if you have nothing to hide, you should give me the password.” Even if there’s nothing to hide, there’s still something to preserve – my privacy! You don’t need to see the email my Dad sent me about his time at Freaknik, that’s not for your eyes! He sent it to me, not you! Similarly, any text messages, Facebook messages, Twitter DMs, and emails were all sent to me, not you, so why are you trying to see what is literally not meant for your eyes? Privacy means trust, and generally trust implies both giving it and receiving it – this is not a one way street.
2) You wouldn’t want it done to you because of the slippery slope from #1 and the invasion of privacy. We all have things we don’t want our partners to see, with good reason (at times). You go into my email, I don’t want you to see that my boss kicked my ass on a project I didn’t do well on! That’s not a conversation I want to have with you, otherwise I’d have it with you. You, the person searching, have those same emails and texts that you would rather your partner didn’t see, even if they present no threat to the relationship. You can say, “I don’t have anything to hide” but it’s bullshit and we both know it. It might not be an affair, but we all have things we’d like to keep to ourselves and you would feel just as violated as your partner does, checking your phone on a regular basis. And quite frankly, it’s disrespectful and can feel like a slap in the face.
3) Even if you find something that’s potentially problematic, how you found it won’t help matters – your “rightness,” because you found the evidence of wrongdoing was done via a wrong act yourself, invading your partner’s privacy (whether or not it’s done regularly doesn’t diminish that it shouldn’t be done). As #1 and #2 explain, by revealing that you found the forbidden fruit, you also reveal that you went through the phone. Even if you find potential evidence of an affair, your partner will have a claim that what you found doesn’t matter, it’s how you found it. You hurt your partner before you found out your partner might have hurt you…and thanks to misunderstandings (see below), potential problems get blown out of proportion as false evidence of wrongdoing. Ultimately, the chances of productive conversations for your relationship arising out of you searching your partner’s phone are slim to none.
SIDEBAR: All of this is so far based on a committed relationship between two people. If no exclusivity commitment has been made, all of this is moot. There isn’t any justification other than “he told me he was making death threats” or something like public or personal safety. Trust is still being built at that stage – if you’re concerned that the person you’re dating has somebody else, think about making the commitment rather than going on a witch hunt. Witch hunters don’t yield good partners; they’re always looking for another witch to burn.
The greatest fear I have is that these events are predicated on people assuming their partner is keeping something from me, as though it’s a bad thing. Right to privacy is important for a reason politically as well as romantically. This is part of the problem of dating in the technological era, which is that boundaries are being disintegrated. Thanks in part to the boundless (literally and figuratively) Internet, privacy is not what it was just 15 years ago. The concept of privacy was rocked when Facebook became the go-to social networking site and we collectively placed our lives on the boundless Internet for everybody to view, comment, and poke. Not to say that these technological advances were bad – rather, they’ve been incredibly useful (especially for people who like to snoop around without being caught). People feel less restricted in invading your privacy – “you put your business out there,” they’ll say. “Facebook stalking” exists as a term for a reason; it’s an accepted behavior that we chalk up to the amount of content you put out there. Still, with the amount of misunderstandings (“She’s not your friend, don’t lie to me!” “He’s not your coworker, don’t give me that!”) that are easily possible by reading conversations that don’t pertain to you, and with such a huge downside of getting caught in the act, this particular action just doesn’t seem to be the best way to alleviate your concerns about foul play.
I get it though, you don’t want to be played like a fool in case your partner is doing something wrong. Trust need not be blind, you say. That’s true, but it also doesn’t need to have one eye open. While unfortunate, there are people out here who will abuse your trust and it behooves all of us to be on the lookout for those people. If something does indeed seem out of place, ask about it. But know this – whether you follow your partner to make sure s/he is where s/he said s/he would be, go through their Facebook posts, look at their Twitter mentions or go through their phone, you have opened up a can of worms of distrust on your end that can’t be easily closed. Distrust in a relationship leads to poor decision making and regrettable events daily. Snooping starts you down a path that doesn’t end well. I’m not saying be naive about your partner, but I am saying that snooping should be considered an equivalent of arming a nuclear weapon in your relationship. It’s not a button I would push unless the circumstances are dire, and even then nobody enjoys the nuclear fallout.
Welcome to the “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” edition of IGNANT Friday. In the past couple of weeks, more than enough #ignantshit has happened, from the Grammy Awards to the Harlem Shake. In fact, I’ll start with those…
I’ve never been a gigantic Jay-Z fan, but I respect his talent both in the boardroom and in the booth. I don’t need to sing his praises – he’s gotten all the accolades and turned himself into a true mogul. And he just clowned with the award winning speech of the night at the Grammy Awards:
I learned about this through Twitter as it happened and I was rolling! It’s a new day when they bring the Dozens to the Grammys. Easily the most IGNANT award speech in Grammy history.
Keeping with a New York theme, these Harlem Shake incidents are getting out of hand. I saw a bunch of these pop up and kept thinking, “Nope, I’ve seen that dance – I don’t need to see it again.” Until one day I found this gem and discovered things were not what I thought they were.
The guy in the sleeping bag had me in tears, but what kind of army has the time to do a Harlem Shake video? Go save somebody!
The people of Harlem, however, aren’t sold about the merits of this new version of the Harlem Shake.
On a completely different note, the FBI has some problems with agents using their phones for improper reasons. You just cannot make this stuff up, (which includes an agent sleeping with a drug dealer and lying about it under oath! That means they straight up asked you, “Did you sleep with this drug dealer?” They don’t ask questions they already know in court, and then to top it off you get caught by your cell phone? Why didn’t they check it earlier?! All this Federal ignance just makes me smile.) but the Feds continue to show that their unscrupulousness knows no bounds.
Bloomberg Businessweek might have pulled out its most ignant cover in history, with caricatures of people of color in some stereotypical manners. Everybody tweeted that it had to be a joke, but this is the new cover, folks. That’s a pretty inflammatorily ignant cover.
Finally, Black History Month will be over shortly and over the past few years, it’s seemed like it’s been glossed over publicly – something you’re mandated to mention and recognize, but the weight of it seems to have dwindled a bit. But don’t tell that to the good people in Mississippi, who made Black history earlier this month by abolishing slavery. You read that right – on February 21, 2013, slavery was formally abolished in Mississippi. In fact, without the movie, Lincoln, this “clerical oversight” would likely have continued to go unnoticed. This was probably their plan to improve public relations with African-Americans in the state – abolishing slavery for a new generation.
Like normal, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @mrphilosopher3 with Ignant material from the web, or any good stories, and the best stuff gets posted on IGNANT Friday. Have a great weekend, all.
There’s an old Chappelle’s Show skit about the Player Haters Ball – a group of pimp-like men who excel at talking trash in the most hilarious of ways. The ball was actually an awards banquet, and instead of applauding for award nominations (such as Player Hater of the year), people would chant, “Hate! Hate! Hate! Hate!” Hating on people was awarded in this forum, as well it should have been – the “I’ve got to go put some water in Bucknasty’s mother’s dish” line still cracks me up. But unfortunately, the real world has dipped into when player hating goes too far.
This morning, I was doing my YouTube news updates (because the news in Memphis either bores me to death or tells me about too many deaths) and I ran across a Rachel Maddow segment from earlier this week and another segment featuring former Gov. of Vermont Howard Dean on the Last Word from the past couple of months. I’d also seen a column on CNN.com by LZ Granderson about this particular issue, but hearing it and seeing it helped to solidify it.
People root hard for the good guy, but they root even harder against the bad guy.
It’s the reason the Miami Heat were hated/loved/vilified/praised/held to an impossible standard/fairly judged by that standard two seasons ago. It’s the reason the Darth Vader-esque Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are hated by everybody that’s not in New England. It’s the reason that many fan-based sports narratives exist and continue to – as much as I wanted the Ravens to win the Super Bowl because I’m a fan of Ray Lewis (sidebar below on the appreciation of Ray-Ray), I also HAD to root against the 49ers as a division foe of my St. Louis Rams. As hard as I was pulling for the Ravens, I was pulling harder for a 49ers loss than a Ravens win. Likewise with how I (and most St. Louis sports fans following the ’01 NFL season and the ’04 MLB season) root hard against the Patriots and Boston sports teams in general. It’s just preferable to see them lose, and reasons for that will vary, but if I’m subjected to a Jim Nantz/Phil Simms snoozefest of commentary sandwiched between a lovefest for Tom Brady against the hapless Miami Dolphins, then eventually I just want to see the Dolphins beat the shit out of the Patriots for the good of all involved (Nantz/Simms have to do actual commentary on the game, not just the Patriots, for example). I hate on the Patriots, and it’s admitted. It’s still irrational, (it’s been 12 years since the Super Bowl and the Cardinals have two World Titles since that loss) but it’s still just part of my normal modus operandi. It’s not with much vitriol, mostly in jest, but I can’t help but enjoy when the bad guy in my world loses.
SIDEBAR: Ray Lewis was involved in a double murder situation 13 years ago during the Super Bowl in Atlanta. Terrible as that situation was, Lewis pled down to obstruction of justice and turned his entire image around to the point that nobody talked about his double murder situation except for one mention by Terrell Owens in the mid-2000′s trying to paint the picture that he (T.O.) had been unfairly portrayed as a bad person by the media. Nevertheless, another football player, Leonard Little from the St. Louis Rams, did kill someone while driving under the influence (BAC of .19) and didn’t serve a day (convicted of manslaughter with 4 years probation and 1,000 hours of community service) in 1998. Little quietly retired 2 years ago and nobody brought it up. Donte Stallworth killed a man on camera driving under the influence a few years back (and came back to play with the Patriots later after serving 30 days for DUI Manslaughter) and Josh Brent killed Jerry Brown drunk driving this season. We don’t even know if Ray actually killed anybody. More importantly, he did what Michael Vick and T.I. have been after since their first major stints in trouble – a successful turnaround in his public persona from wild-eyed bad boy from the U to the Godfather of the NFL. Big ups to #52 getting to go out like John Elway and Jerome Bettis.
So what does this have to do with President Obama? Well, the White House released a picture of the President skeet shooting. First of all, if you didn’t crack a smile when seeing that headline somewhere about the President skeet shooting, then we either have a generational gap or you just don’t have even a sliver of a sense of humor. More importantly though, Obama has made an appeal to the mass, minority group of Americans that simply hate Obama for not being more like them, in some manner or another. Granderson’s piece makes this point, and I think rightly so – when he was challenged on his birthplace, which obviously had to be in America otherwise he isn’t qualified to be President, he deferred on the topic until he actually produced his birth certificate…while already President. So of course, it could be a fake birth certificate, created after the election to hide his real birthplace (presumably somewhere in Africa, but because this mass minority group of haters doesn’t want to appear racist, they just say “not in America”). Now it’s the gun control issue – even though he’s being charged with taking away the 2nd Amendment, which is as American as apple pie
and racism, he still reaches out to show people that he’s not anti-guns, he’s a skeet shooter for fun like everybody else. And of course, since it’s after the fact, the picture has been called a fake. He just can’t win because he’s not American enough, and that’s to be expected, unfortunately. Barack Hussein Obama, on name alone, will get more side-eyes and raised eyebrows than George Herbert Walker Bush, because one sounds and looks distinctively foreign and the other looks more like what’s down the street. He doesn’t look American: what with all of that brown person swag he has, he looks like he’s from somewhere else and isn’t supposed to run this country. Mind you, this is after he gave McCain/Palin a historic election night ass whooping and after he delivered a Rock Bottom to Romney/Ryan (back-to-back popular vote wins). Obama continually tries to prove that he’s the People’s President to a group of people that aren’t willing to give him that claim, and they more than likely never will. He’s the bad guy in their story – it wasn’t always so much that they loved Romney, it was that they hated Obama. They hate what he stands for, his policies, and they think he changes everything they hold dear about America. Anybody who’s NOT doing those things or is willing to stand up to their bad guy is a good guy. Good guys and bad guys might be simplistic terms, but they reflect the general feeling you get from people when you hear about President Obama. The reactions aren’t always measured like you see on TV, but just gut, visceral reactions ranging from, “Extremely glad to have him as President” (regardless of policy record) to the social media hate seen on Election Night that had many Black voters even more encouraged to vote. Why? Because this was how they could support their good guy in this particular instance, and more importantly stick it to their bad guy and shut his fans up (“their” here refers to the group of African-Americans who voted for Obama, roughly 93% of Black votes). In a very unique way, hate on Obama (which should just be a hashtag to any inflammatory remarks made about the POTUS, #hateonObama) reminds me of how good guys and bad guys can change in the world of wrestling. It has to be the only hope Obama has as to how to get the haters to cheer you.
Shawn Michaels was the bad guy of the WWF in the mid-90′s. Not only was he one of, if not, the best performers the business had, he was also an incredible antagonist. He was the guy you loved to hate – knew he was good, could back it up, and would rub your face in it. He was booed, especially through 97-98 as he became the top bad guy in the company. But he was so good, he would still win, even as a bad guy. Getting his comeuppance didn’t happen until a rocket called Stone Cold Steve Austin launched. (One could adjust this story for the ’10-’11 Miami Heat.)
Shawn Michaels took a 4 year hiatus and came back as the best good guy in the 2000′s. From 2002 until he retired in 2010, Michaels was not the just a good guy but THE good guy in terms of wrestling. He played the role of the Wily Vet, not afraid of using some tricks to stay ahead but still plenty talented to get the job done. Nobody booed Michaels for nearly a decade in his Hall of Fame career. (Heat get through their booed period to become dominant on path to title.)
President Obama, if he’s really trying to appeal to the mass minority of haters, has to be doing so with the hope that how the public receives him changes like it did for Shawn. Because facts don’t persuade this minority – he’s the bad guy, so of course these aren’t reputable, trustworthy facts. Not like it wouldn’t be because the U.S. Government has a history of being effective at giving untrustworthy information. Why Shawn was the bad guy was for a number of reasons – jealous of wanting to be like him, his brash arrogance, his cockiness, and his lack of humility come to mind as a few. Why Obama’s the bad guy ranges in reasons from he’s not an American, to he’s not a Christian, to he’s trying to repeal the Constitution, to he’s Black. So anything that the bad guy says won’t be trusted and he’s already the bad guy for reasons that aren’t all necessarily under his control. So you can’t actually out-logic these people; they already assume you’ve made a fallacy.
To the people that hate President Obama, the rest of the country is cheering on a bad guy like he’s a good guy and it’s confusing to their sense of good and bad (in the sense of “good and bad guy”). More than that, you can’t rationalize with hate – you can’t shake me of hating the Patriots (however tongue-in-cheek or real the hating is), just like you can’t convince a guy in Montreal in November 1997 that Shawn isn’t a terrible bastard, just like you can’t get the mass minority of Obama haters (the MMOH) to GET that Obama’s not the bad guy. Unfortunately for President Obama, Shawn Michaels broke his back in the line of duty and came back (albeit, 4 years later) for him to get the nod as a good guy by the public. So perhaps the POTUS will be a good guy to the MMOH after he’s President and somebody else gets all the vitriol.
Good guys win in wrestling eventually. Bad guys win in wrestling at some point. But ultimately, the good guy always wins. That’s the way the story is told. So the MMOH is just stuck in a period where their bad guy is champion. The good news for them is that in 4 years, Obama won’t be their bad guy anymore and their good guy will get a chance to take the title. The good news for the rest of the us who don’t throw unnecessary shade the President’s way? We’re guaranteed another 3 years with a good guy at the helm.
I woke up yesterday in a sublime mood. First semester back was all done, except for the grading, and I had a relaxing day to look forward to. But when I got a breaking news alert on my phone that there was a shooting at an elementary school, my initial reaction was that I couldn’t believe that children that young were being so bullied or had so many problems that a 6-year-old would shoot up a school. Then I turned on my television and NBC News had taken over on NBC, letting the public know that over 2 dozen people had been shot in an elementary school and the shooter was an adult. My mouth dropped. None of us, even the craziest of us, would shoot up an elementary school, I thought. There’s no rhyme or reason to it and we’re searching for explanations and more information. As the information continued coming in, it became evident that our country was going to have a tough day. None of us could understand what would make a young man kill his mother and shoot two classrooms full of children, and we worried about our own children. School shootings have been perpetrated by the attendants of the school, not by a random outside adult – there is no good defense for this situation. This is everybody’s worst nightmare.
A paper I wrote just this Wednesday dealt with the theme of extreme evil and collective responsibility. Something interesting that came out of the paper was that we appear to have different reactive attitudes when extreme evil is done by an individual rather than a group. We are aghast when one person has, what we would call, a moral failure and commits such an unspeakable act as murdering children. Our reactive attitudes, better understood as emotional responses, are appropriately negative. After we find out more about the background of the person, our attitudes may change toward the person. Maybe we find out somebody abused him severely as a child, or some other such tragedy befell him. It wouldn’t excuse or condone his extremely evil actions, but it at least gives us a rationale and a way to try to avoid the same tragedy from unfolding again.
He seemed to be a troubled, suburban kid but what he’s done made no sense. Dare I say, it never will. Perhaps this does reflect back on our inconsistent relationship with gun control or why we need to treat people better so that they won’t resort to these acts. Maybe it just signals the end of the world is coming.
I’m not really joking, but I’m not completely serious and that could be because of the magnitude of the statement and how ludicrous it sounds. These events have been more and more frequent – purposeless killing of innocents because they were in the wrong gathering place at the wrong time. A movie theater in Colorado changed how we can enjoy our experience of full captivation while enjoying a film; a mall in Oregon changed how we approach holiday shopping or even just a place of relaxation; and now an elementary school in Connecticut has changed our relative feeling of safety when we drop our children off at school.
This has been a difficult year, and yet after a few weeks we move on, as another tragedy or problem happens. The cleanup crew arrives and yesterday’s problem becomes today’s talking point. Gun control comes on the front line when we haven’t made enough about the cameras and microphones being stuck in little children’s faces after they’ve witnessed the kind of horror most of us won’t see in our entire lives. We talk of human dignity and needing to treat people better but these kids were objectified in a similar way as the man whose photo was taken just before a subway train ran him over. That picture was front page news, just like putting those children on camera – to speak to a nation of millions about how their place of sanctuary was just desecrated – was prime time material. But that will pass on too, as sensationalized journalism keeps the 24-hour news cycle turning.
School has long been considered a safe haven. Up until the digital age, where bullying turned into its own two-headed beast, school kept you out of trouble, out of the streets, away from where things like shootings and stabbings and unspeakable violence took place. It’s like a church – you don’t shoot up a church, it’s desecrating holy ground and is generally considered bad form. Then I remembered the Rwandan genocide and a quote from my paper describing how the Tutsis fled to churches and the Hutus found it even easier to kill those huddled in one place, especially a church. Unspeakable acts have been ever-present and something, just something, must change. In this case, the issues that must change are:
1) It just cannot be this easy to get your hands on guns. Then again, if he was psychologically stable when he got the gun then how can we prevent someone from breaking down and then committing a terrible act?
2) We have to treat each other better. If everyone participates in a collective uplift of one another, these issues wouldn’t be so prevalent – we would have more respect for human life. Then again, we have evidence across human history of wanton disregard for human life while acknowledging its importance. Human dignity skepticism, that we will not achieve that collective uplift, has merit here.
With regards to 1), gun control laws have always seemed relaxed thanks to the 2nd Amendment. The right to go hunt? Sure. The right to protect one’s self? I’m alright with that, except in Florida for obvious reasons, and only on one’s own property. But certain weapons just aren’t needed for either case. Cracking down on gun control would be very helpful, consider the bill that got passed in Michigan for conceal-and-carry being ok, as well as in Illinois. Make it illegal to carry a gun around – you can’t outlaw guns, but you can outlaw how they get used. Give more psychological evaluations prior to owning a gun – even if they lie to the evaluator, there’s still a chance of being able to stymie the process of them getting a gun. Do something, because this is getting to be more like the Wild West rather than the modern technological era.
But wait a minute. We have plenty of gun control laws and more importantly, plenty of illegal guns. Just like we have a War on Drugs and Celebrity Rehab as a show about people getting off of illegal drugs. Cracking down on gun control won’t necessarily crack down on illegal guns, and those cause just as much violence as anything (remember the assault weapons ban?). With gun control, as @efowl314 said, you can do something about this problem.
A collective uplift of human dignity? As much as I don’t want to take up the skeptical position, I feel like it’s the only one that seems right and this is why the world might be coming to an end. Even with all of our social and technological advances, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, we can connect with diverse people across the world. My friend told me this morning that she went on Instagram and it just seemed like everybody was hating. That resonated with me. How can we desire a collective uplift of dignity when, on a daily basis, we feel justified in denigrating the dignity of others? Unless one is a sociopath or a psychopath, we generally acquire a basic value of human life, if only through our own living of it. Our meaningful interactions with others change our worldviews, we come to value those relationships and value other human lives as a result. This doesn’t matter when (I’m paraphrasing Brian Williams of NBC News here), “you have a disturbed individual who is determined…there’s not much you can do to stop them.”
This raises the question – if we all value human life and all stand to gain from a collective project of uplifting human dignity through compassion, why the hell haven’t we done it yet? Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy and we come together and support one another, in a true embodiment of the dignity of the human spirit. The pride I take in seeing strangers helping strangers is incredible – that is the essence of the human spirit at work, in my opinion. Yet we have not taken the more precarious steps of turning those strangers into our brothers and sisters, on a daily basis. To develop that compassion we should all show for one another. Instead, we live in fear now – fear that the next time we go to a movie it may be our last; fear that the next time we go to the mall it may be our last time shopping; and the fear that when I send my child to school, it will be the last time I see him or her.
This is why the world just might be coming to an end. I’m at a loss as to how we can better accomplish the goal of uplifting human dignity when we never seem to have a collective impetus short of tragedy to begin the project. And even when we begin the project, we never continue it to its true finality, the kind of finality where yesterday ends with no news of over 25 lives ended and countless more affected. We can control the gun laws – we can vote and lobby and ultimately come to a begrudging decision that leaves both sides equally happy and mad. But, in an ironic twist, we can’t control collectively treating each other better beyond reaching out and
hoping praying that your action spurs that on in another.
Perhaps the world ending is a good thing. It could mean the end of this fear-laden era we have come to be comfortable in, and the project of uplifting human dignity is undertaken with the goal of maintaining the uplift. These would be welcome ways to end the world as we know it. But after what we’ve seen this year alone, culminating with yesterday’s horrific events in Newtown, our collective sense of safety has been altered in such a drastic way that we don’t know what’s coming next. That may be the path toward the end of the world as we know it.