Christianity’s Emotional Vampires

Using other people’s pain and suffering as leverage to proclaim your God is disgusting to me.

I think that is why I find Missionaries so unsympathetic.

When the real world is in real trouble and a person trots out a well worn and useless statement about how if we all trust God it will be OK, I want to scream.

NO.  No it won’t. Practical and real changes have to be made in the real world.  Systems need to be changed.  Prayers are not going to change things.  People doing things differently will change things.

And, frankly, when you pivot a national tragedy into a method of evangelization, you disgust me.

Believing in God.  Sharing your faith and comfort with people you know who already believe and would like to share that comfort with you. That is a normal and human thing to do.

But when you take the tragedy in someone’s life and twist it into a way to evangelize your God, you become an emotional vampire.

I’ve been a Christian.  You will not be able to fool me into thinking you are evangelizing for any other reason than to support your own self definition of being a “Spiritual Christian.”  Of being seen by your fellow Christians as being spirit filled.

You are taking another person’s grief and fear and tragedy and turning it into a way to feel better about you.  You are an emotional vampire.

When you manipulate the national events of shame and anger and fear into a moment to evangelize, you are an emotional vampire. You are NOT holy.  You are self involved and deluding yourself into thinking you are being righteous.  Or maybe you know your own hypocrisy but thought no one else knew.

Either way.  I really wish you would stop.

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Racism is Rampant in the US

It’s a thing.

Until this year, I thought it was mostly the hidden things that people in the comfort of middle class america didn’t really perceive.  But that changed this year.  It’s out on the lawn of the White House now.

But anyway – let’s look at the ways that it lives and makes black lives matter less.  The following is from Pew Research:

  • Education: 36% of whites have a college degree, 23% of blacks, 15% of hispanics.
  • Median Household Income:  $77K white; $44K blacks & hispanics
  • Black People and Hispanics are 2X as likely to be poor as white people.

The thing is the gap is growing not shrinking. It’s representative of a systemic problem – racism.

You want to blame it on black people, don’t you?  That was your go to thought.

  • they don’t value education
  • they don’t use money wisely
  • they get pregnant as teenagers
  • they use drugs more often.
  • they are lazy and don’t work.

That’s what you were thinking but don’t say out loud.  Do you know why that idea came to your mind?

Because that’s what our culture teaches us about black people.  It’s not true, but that what we culturally get told by TV shows and Movies and Talking Heads on TV and MEMEs and the list goes on.  We don’t see information that doesn’t fit what we already know, because it takes effort and being uncomfortable to process that.  So we just ignore it.  We accept the barrage of information that provides us with unconscious affirmation of our unconsidered beliefs.

It’s worse than that even.  It is an idea that gets perpetuated by algorithms in our criminal justice system, in the education system, in the credit systems,  in the very studies that look at these things.  Because once the perception exists, it’s just gets built into the models and all assumptions feed off it.

This is racism.  It’s real.  It’s living inside of you and me and every system we navigate in our lives. And it’s sucking the marrow out of nearly a third of our population.

This is why we have to say BLACK LIVES MATTER.  Because the entire system is designed to make their lives not matter, all while we are not saying the N word, so we think we aren’t racist.

The N word isn’t the thing that’s killing our country.   It’s an ugly word with a despicable but absolutely clear set of meanings.  But we have coded it with the entirety of racism instead of it being just one symptom.

Racism is hidden in the decay of assumptions that are feeding police violence, poverty and cultural norms. That’s what is rotting the foundations of our country.  The system is rigged against a third of the country.  That is what is killing the country.

Racism is real.  Stop yelling at the Straw Man Patriotism that is this free speech debate.  Start yelling about WHY these people are taking a knee. RACISM.

Approval Economy

Someone finds something they love on the internet.  They want other people to see this wonderful thing that they love.  So they post it on a site like pintrest or tumblr or facebook.  In return for posting something that other people also like they get approval.  Hearts, or thumbs up, or stars… A way to track how many people approved of their posting.

Social Media is heavily driven by approval.  It taps into on the most fundamental human desires – a need for approval, for validation, for status.

We earn approval from other people’s work by posting some else’s creation.  Basically we violate copyright or at least get close to violating copyright on a mass basis constantly.

People who post a photo or a gif or whatever aren’t making money on it, but their use of it may have a negative impact on the market of the original work. Basically, they get approval that should ultimately belong to the creator.   But that approval has value.  Because we all seek it and it is one of major engines of the internet.

Ultimately, most social websites are media trading platforms where people get paid with approval status.  Many of them using some form of reblog feature to create a viral spread of the content.  So even if we never take someone else’s work and post it, we will often reblog a thing because we like it and because we want people to identify and validate us with this thing we like.  dragons, stock car races, classical music, etc.

We all do it. It’s how most of the internet works. Various websites earn money from our approval seeking behavior, so ultimately they make money from our posting of someone else’s work. There’s a lot of ethical implications of that ecosystem which pervades the internet.

I think the law is going to have to evolve a bit to adjust to the internet. There are so many subtle variations to how we slowly suck life out of makers by seeking approval for ourselves through their work. And that approval ultimately belongs to them, but they don’t get it. And in the internet world, approval has a value because we seek it.

It has monetary value because the act of giving approval is the act of seeing and those eyes will also see advertising content.  And there is the actual dollars that big media companies are siphoning off hundreds of thousands of creators all the time.

I think that approval has a value to be considered in some copyright case.  The way the internet works now, each individual creator has to track down each case of their work being used on a site like facebook and then go through a convoluted process requesting that it be removed.  It takes days to weeks.  In that period the website continues to earn money and the person who posted continues to earn approval.  All of it vampired off a maker who is quite probably drowning in these instances.

The internet has offered a great market for lots and lots of makers.  But it also exposed them to millions of vampires.

Depression is Not a Choice

This idiot.  This Egotistical Moronic Attention Whore wrote a whole pop psychology thread about how – depressed people just need to be happy and change.  Just do it.

Mr. I don’t have a degree in any field related to this but I kick box and have a large following so I MUST KNOW  SOMETHING, RIGHT?

You know what?  It’s not just him.  Tumblr had a whole month where they put non professionals into their Q & A to answer questions about mental health.

Because our culture views mental health as a thing anyone can advise anyone on.

Do you know why I don’t talk about my ongoing nightmare of mental illness in real life?  Because of this shit.  Because my illness would then be subject to everyone’s foolish and uneducated thoughts.  I would be branded as just too lazy to change.  Enjoying my sadness.  And just to blame for all of the nightmare that has been happening in my life for 10 years.

And you know what?  I DON’T NEED THAT SHIT.

And fuckwit up there, with his kickboxing degree is telling me that it’s all just fake.  That my life’s nightmare is all a big self inflicted hoax.

FUCK HIM.

He will go though life feeling like he is MR. FUCKING INSPIRATION. When in fact he is a like a hideous cancer of insidious doubt and self hatred inflicted on people with depression.

Do you know why he did this?  FOR ATTENTION.  LOOK AT ME.  GIVE ME HEARTS AND RETWEETS.  LOOK AT ME.  He is an attention whore entirely oblivious to the attack he just launched inside minds of thousands of humans.

DEPRESSION IS NOT AN ILLNESS ABOUT SITUATION.  It’s a mental state that continues no matter how fucking good things are. The best that can be said is that you manage better in different situations.

But believe me, for no particular reasons, I will feel better one day than another.  I will plunge into an abyss for no particular reason.  No doubt my life can aggravate it, like a germ will infect a wound.  But the germ would have been harmless without the wound.

But no matter the situation, the depression remains.  It ebbs and flows but it’s still there. Always.  And probably forever.

Fuckwit Andrew is the pus from the crusty boil on the worlds asshole.  Others wished him some terrible karma for his wrongheadedness.  But I wouldn’t wish this mental state on Trump. But I do wish he would shut the fuck up.

I don’t mind if people are attention whores, but don’t destroy other people for attention.

The Civil War was about Slavery

I am just dumbfounded that I’m having this debate with people.

Apparently it’s a wide spread belief that it wasn’t about slavery.  Today it was someone on Twitter.

The other day it one of the young ones at work.  Hates Trump but was one of the not-a-racist but don’t spread hate people.  So naturally, I shared my thoughts.

In that conversation, he came to the civil war wasn’t about slavery because the emancipation proclamation didn’t happen before the war.

I’m not going to preach that the Union was filled with social justice warriors.  But I’m not going to back down from the reality – Slavery was the crux of the matter.  The push to end slavery caused the south to secede.

Just a taste of the primary document evidence

It was slavery.  The mechanism that many people use is “it was about state’s rights.”  Yeah.  It was about the state’s right to keep slavery legal.  The issue was not just some nebulous state rights vs Federal encroachment.  It was very specific to the slavery issue.  Calling it state’s rights is a careful misconstruction of the root cause.

I don’t even understand how we are debating this in 2017.  What I find interesting is that in debating it, there is a sense in which the person who insists it wasn’t about slavery is implicitly suggesting that slavery should have just kept going.

You MIGHT be able to convince me that in an alternate universe, Buchanan managed a compromise that led to the slow phase out of slavery.  But that is not how capitalism works in this universe.  Capitalism always leverages itself for money and easily reweaves it’s morality around acquiring and keeping more money.  And slavery was a money accumulator.  Even if you ignore the deep cost savings of near free labor, there was an entire economy around the slave trade.  Capitalism was the biggest chain around slavery and the only thing that was going to break that chain was a strong clear cut.

In any case, Buchanan did not achieve his compromise and Lincoln had no stomach for it and the South knew it.

S. C. Posey, Lauderdale County, Alabama, speaking to the Alabama Secession Convention on Jan. 25, 1861:  “Mr. President, the fierce strife we have had with the Northern States, which has led to the disruption of the Government, is a trumpet-tongued answer to this question.  They have declared, by the election of Lincoln, “There shall be no more slave territory–no more slave States.”

Southern states seceded because of the issue of slavery.  Their economy, their culture and their identity was deeply tied to the institution of slavery.  They were willing to fight to keep them.

Deserving

It’s a concept that humans created. Deserve comes from the human need for justice, for reciprocity, for a clear line of choice.  It’s not inherent to the universe.  No one deserves anything in vast universe of things.

We are, we exist, we die. And all the parts of us, the little bitty parts that make us will just keep on going.  Atoms will make new bonds and reform into new things – without any recollection or emotional link to the person that is you.  Would the atoms that make you be more or less deserving than you are?

We want justice.  We want fairness. But the universe did not spawn in some giant balanced equality where all our efforts and all our character is weighed and a portion equal to some nebulous but personally experienced fair amount is meted out to each of us.  There is only time passing and entropy unfolding.  And none of it has any inherent reciprocity.  None of the atoms is deserving or not.  They exist but they don’t have a qualifying existence.

BUT.  Entropy and time did create, in this brief moment and space, humans.  And within those humans in a nearly universal instinct of fairness, justice and reciprocity.  This has been built into our social structures and we have written laws and courts to enforce them.  We also have unwritten but even more powerful rules.

And those unwritten rules are everywhere.  The sense that people deserve what they get is part of it.   Rules that define deserving.  Rules that defining the ways you earn what you deserve. Each of us weighing our lives and other people’s lives in some mental scale that has more emotional value than clarity of definition.

But those rules are all just made up.  They evolve with cultures and civilizations. Humans have an instinct for reciprocity and we project that instinct into this entirely imaginary idea of deserving.

If you dismantle the idea of people deserving things, you start to see how broken our cultures are.  How we use punishment in many overt and subtle ways to keep a hierarchy inside of our civilization.  To keep a few people at the top and the rest of us in a scaled ladder to the bottom.

We use the idea of deserving to keep people in poverty.

We use the idea of deserving to put people in jail instead of helping them change.

We use the idea of deserving to dole out food and shelter and medicine.

We use the idea of deserving every day. In our own lives. In our own choices.

We project this qualifier on every person we know.  And we weigh their worth.  A worth that is ENTIRELY imaginary.  And yet given power by universal acceptance.

Well. Hello.

It’s been awhile.

There’s definitely a layer of dust on this blog.

 

I write most of my thoughts on tumblr.  It’s my comfort zone.  I know a core group of there.  But I think the biggest reason I feel more comfortable over there is that the environment feels different.

Over here it feels like most of the folks I see are putting people in the sitting room and serving tea.

Few if any people are crying in pain from the various disasters that are drifting through their lives.  They are talking about the disaster in the past – ie it’s a thing I overcame.

No one is venting their anger at spouses.  They are telling humorous stories of spousal quirks.

People aren’t talking about how they can barely breathe from anxiety or how they can barely move from depression.  They talk about how they manage it.

Nothing about their addicted family member beating them.  They are talking about their kids or dogs.

Nothing about failing to pay bills.  They talk about it being tight and this is a great cheap meal.

No guilt about how selfish they feel for being angry at the person they are being caregiver to.  Just the martyred exhaustion of caretaking.

In tumblr, or at least in the group I follow, there is much more of a reality spread.  It’s not the sitting room.  It’s the family room that hasn’t been cleaned in 2 weeks.  People are talking about the stuff that is too ugly to say in real life.  Because it’s there and it’s hard and sometimes you need to say it.

Most of tumblr is a large visual reblog machine.  But there is a very small subset of people who have formed a community.  And it’s just people being real.  We talk about our lives and we scream about politics and we post kitten pictures and we spout our opinions or we share our interests.  Sometimes we bicker.  It’s friendship.

I think I stopped coming here because while I do post quite a bit of non-personal stuff on tumblr, it’s also where I share my dirty family room.   It feels like home.  People who have seen my life deteriorate and implode and slowly get built back up to this point and have never made me feel less than supported are there.

But it’s dying.  Fewer and fewer people go there.  And I need to find a new place for my family room.

I refuse to do Facebook.  I won’t show my family room to my real life friends and family.  I don’t trust them with it.   They can see a sitting room version of me.  And I really don’t care to invest the effort in constantly cleaning up the sitting room to show them.  My life is hard enough.  Having to construct a virtual sitting room for a constant stream of visitors is not where I want to waste my energy.

Perhaps, if I show my family room here it will be OK.  But it doesn’t feel like it will.  Possibly because you all didn’t watch the arc of turmoil that has been my life for the last 8 years.  But mostly because showing your family room to people who invite you into the sitting room feels awkward.

But maybe that’s just me projecting.  I have to find a new place for the Family Room.  Tumblr is dying.  And my need for a place to share remains.

The Ease of Condemning our Connectivity

People are always looking at their phones!

No one just lives, they have to take a picture and post it!

Why don’t people stop looking at their phones and just be present in the moment??

That’s what you hear people talk about, that’s what most of the think pieces say that I’ve read.

It’s easy to think because until 10 or so years ago the lifestyle that we lived didn’t exist and so we have nothing else to compare it to.

And maybe that is true.

But think about it differently for a moment.

Never in our whole history have we been so connected to each other.  So able to reach out and just touch each other with thought and images.  Either individually, with texts or phone calls, or in mass, with social media.

We connect with people, we feel each other’s joys and worry and laughter and fear and curiosity and sadness.

Is that a bad thing?

Would we have been able to generate $34 billion in crowdfunding if we didn’t have these connections?

How much music have you learned about because someone posted it on social media?

How many artists have you discovered?

How much art have you bought or funded through Patreon?

How many more people in how many different parts of the world are you tethered to through that phone?

And how many times has the support given to you on the screen been the thing that helped you through a moment?

We are connected.  Connection is not a bad thing.

It’s not all sunny days.  There’s lots of issues.  But the fact that we carry around our phones and want to connect our existence to the larger one that exists in our phones is NOT really a bad thing.

I’m not convinced that people are so disconnected with the moment because of the phones.  I lived most of my life without a phone and I’m not particularly addicted to it now.  I don’t check social media on it except in waiting rooms.  I live with you guys on my laptop.

But I don’t live my life present in every moment because I’m not checking my phone.  I live in my head, easily distracted by daydreams and memories and worries.  And I’m not unique. Most humans were not super present in a moment before phones.  It’s just wasn’t as obvious.

I would not be surprised to find out that people with phones are more present in the moment because they are looking for things to share and connect. Where as I’m just drifting through, only aware enough to keep from falling into holes.

The phones aren’t the end of civilization.  They are just the newest iteration of it.

Imagine the future historians

Looking back at us.

People worry that our time in history will be a blank.  That our electronic life will degrade and be erased.  So there are active efforts to create archives.  To curate a picture of our existence.

Imagine how much there is.  If you have kids, you’ve probably already taken 2000 pictures of them so far this year.  Maybe more.

Heck, maybe it’s 18000 pictures.  For many of us taking pictures of our daily lives is just part of how we live our lives.  So 18000 pics a year is probably not unreasonable.

But the archivists, they are just trying to curate a historical record.  They don’t want 18000 instagram photos.  They want a few representative ones.  And I think that’s a mistake.

I think there is a deeper value to our 18000 pictures per year.  That maybe curating is NOT a good thing.

We have posed pictures and artwork from MOST of history.  We have mostly curated historical records because the vast majority of humans did not have the knowledge or the means to write their own records and thoughts.

But now.  We document so much individually. It’s not a complete picture, obviously.  But it’s a much more REAL picture of human life than has ever previously been recorded.  It’s pictures of us being us in real time.

Imagine how absolutely fascinating it would be to see CCTV footage of a busy street corner in London or Beijing from 1000 years ago!   Imagine being able to pull up an ancestors instagram and see their garden and their baby and their dinner!    If only!

I think about how I pour over old 1880s photos of street scenes in NYC.  I want to just SEE what it was like.  What the people were doing and how they lived. I find it so much more fascinating than the posed pictures. We are the first to provide that level of minutia to future generations.

Maybe it will degrade.  But I bet technology will find a way to preserve it better.  And as long as we continue to be technologically advanced, our massive documentation will be valuable and interesting.  Better because it wasn’t curated.

Regulations in the Financial Industry are Necessary Burdens

Quoting from NPR’s article : House Passes Bill Aimed at Reversing Dodd-Frank Financial Regulations

“Hensarling’s nearly 600-page bill would defang Dodd-Frank by repealing the so-called Volcker Rule, which prevents government-insured banks from making risky bets with investments. It would also scrap a requirement that retirement advisers put their clients’ interests ahead of their own, which goes into effect on Friday.

Perhaps the biggest partisan flash point — the bill aims to scale back the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFBP, to regulate large banks and payday lenders.”

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again.  THIS IS A BAD BAD IDEA.

The financial industry is not going to self regulate.  If the world learned anything from the subprime mortgage crisis, it’s that the Financial Industry is going to do whatever makes the most immediate money.  Period.

But on a personal note, let me ASSURE you that the financial professional that you deal with for your investments is just a sales person.  He or she was hired solely because they are good at sales.  They would be just as good selling waffle irons or cars.  They have the barest, sketchiest understanding of the financial instruments they claim to advise you on.  They only know how to sell it.

And worse than that, they THINK they do understand.  If there is a financial planner who reads this, they will assure me that this does NOT apply to them. They have letters after their name because they passed tests.  NOPE.

The people who build the financial instruments that the sales person you deal with sell, they understand it.  Mostly.  But they are not interested in you.  They are interested in creating a product that is easy for the sales person to sell to you.

It really doesn’t matter if these are individual financial investments or large bank investments.  The ABSOLUTE key to the instrument they are designing is HOW EASY IS IT TO SELL.

They want to make money.  They are NOT worried about your financial future.  They are NOT worried about the economy except how it will effect their particular products financial appearance.

They need the product to look good.  That is why the subprime mortgage thing happened.  They took a thing that is risky as hell but makes a decent amount in the short run, and repackaged it in a way that is easy to sell.  HIDE the moving parts, hide the risk – sell the numbers that look good.

So smart people create a product that is easy to sell and hides all the working parts, marketing people learn enough to come up with a sales pitch.  They then teach sales people how to sell the product without spending too much time actually explaining the product.  And the buyers buy that pretty pretty number that sits on top of every sales pitch.

I dealt with these financial professionals from a home office for many years.  The number of times I explained to highly successful sales people how the product ACTUALLY WORKS was astounding.  They don’t need to know how it works to sell it to you.

In the 90s nearly every insurance company in the country was the subject of a class action lawsuit for their sales practices.  For overselling the future values and benefits of universal insurance.  That is what self regulation is – paying out lawsuits is negative feedback.  The industry should self correct.  But No.

They are still selling universal insurance as an investment.  And the sales people still don’t understand what they are selling.

Do not doubt that they will repackage those subprime mortgage bundles and sell them again quite successfully if we deregulate.  Because they have very very pretty numbers on top of an opaque package that buyers don’t understand.  Even bankers.

Financial Services Companies don’t want products that will benefit the buyer. They want products that are easy to sell. It’s not that they are against benefiting the buyer.  But that isn’t their focus and if they aren’t regulated to consider it, they won’t.  Making money is their focus.

Regulations are cumbersome and expensive for the financial industry.  But let me assure you.  They work.  They force the industry to consider the benefit of the buyer.  They limit their greed.

DO NOT LET THEM do this.