Ten Years Ago

I want you to think back ten years. Think back to where you were, and what you were doing. Think back to what you believed, and what you thought, and what you knew to be true.

Now, I want you to talk to that younger self. C’mon, c’mon…just do it. If I can talk to my (fictional) characters, you can at least talk to yourself!

Okay, now that you’re talking, I want you to tell yourself a couple of things:

1) Bill Cosby is going to prison for rape.
2) Donald Trump is president.

Congratulations, you just gave your younger self an aneurism.

Look, in all seriousness, if some physicist discovered time travel tomorrow and sent3C6C2F46-2C1E-4CB7-9DF0-B691D26A89C8 a note back to his younger self, who the hell would actually believe any of that? Idiocracy was NOT supposed to be a documentary!

I’ve been asked about the “predictions” and assumptions I make in my writing. I’ve been doubted and debated about them a great deal, in fact: about endemic poverty and exploitation, about drugs and sex, and about hopelessness and despair. The future, folks have said to me, is going to be different, it’s going to be better.

E67DAEED-FFE6-4200-91F0-546E04C7F8B5So, just which of my assumptions are in any way less likely than #s 1 and 2 above?! Reality is — always has been, and always will be — far stranger than fiction, but humanity…humanity is even worse.  We always find new and improved ways to screw things up.

One day we will have spread throughout our solar system. One day we might travel, even, to the stars. Hell, one day we will very likely beat the diseases and disorders and problems that so plague us physically today. But even with all of that, even with all of the technology and advances, we won’t change one bit just who we really are.

To refer to a previous post, we humans will always bind ourselves with Marley’s chains. Whether our chains are those of greed, or of ignorance, or of hate and intolerance, that clanking and clinking will follow us not just for the rest of our days, but also for all the days of our children and grandchildren…because, like every generation before us, that is the legacy we have left them.

And people wonder why writers drink…

Back To Kindergarten With You!

I made a mistake this weekend.

Umm…

Okay, so that particular opening ain’t terribly helpful, let alone surprising.  Maybe I should elaborate: I read the comment section on a news story. And not just any news story, but one about Barbara Bush’s funeral.

Now, look…in many cases, I like comment sections. I’ve mentioned before that they are far-and-away the most entertaining part of any story about “flat earthers” — or any conspiracy story, really — and they can be seriously fun to peruse at the end of sports stories.

B39BD0E7-46E5-43D8-B357-D8F7E46516C3They can also, from time to time, provide a counter-balance to the biases and editorial slants that all writers bring to their stories (whether consciously or not). Unfortunately, those same comment sections can also be the worst cesspools of hate, anger and utter vitriol on the face of the planet.

They are also a pretty damned good barometer of just where I fear our society is headed.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter who you like or dislike. Just as it doesn’t matter how much you like or dislike them. That’s your business. Liking someone who I don’t has no bearing on your worth as a human being, nor on our ability to be friends. That’s just plain common sense…or at least it should be. Any person who decides another is stupid — or evil, or malfeasant, or any of the other insults folks like to throw around — based solely on their politics and who they like, however, is the problem.

I can hear what you’re thinking right now: but those are online comments, those are the anonymous posturings of weak, vicious people who would never have the “courage” to utter anything like that in real life…

Maybe.

Cute siblings teasing each otherSadly, I know far too many people — good people, in general — who fall into that very same trap to have any real confidence in humanity. I know far too many people who can watch or read a news story, and attack one side or the other in the most virulent, personal manner. I know far too many people who do judge the “worth” of others based on who they voted for, or who they read, or who they support.*

*Do I REALLY have to mention again that this is in no way absolute? David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, and the rest of the dangerous psychos, have no part in this discussion. See my posts about Roy Freaking Moore if you want insight into my limits…here, here and here.

To give this an anecdotal, personal slant (since this is a personal blog): I have more than once mentioned my own libertarianism, and the fact that I voted for neither “side” in the last election. Yeah, I’m that guy, the one who “threw away” his vote on a third-party. If you think I don’t get judged and attacked by both sides because of it, I want some of what you’re smoking…

The bottom line, to keep this on the topic I started with, is that a person is neither evil nor insane simply because they believe differently. Barbara Bush was not a Nazi, nor was she the wife and mother of mass murdering war criminals. She was a woman of dignity and strength who tried her best to reach out to all Americans, and to be a wife, mother and grandmother with whom we could all find some common ground.

To those who DID post the comments: whether you like her or not, whether you agree with her or not, dehumanizing and attacking a 92-year-old who just passed says far more about you than it does about her.

I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s time for our entire society to go back to kindergarten and start over…

 

Build The Whole Person

Just how many news stories can there be saying “kids are fatter today!”?  Just how many stories do we have to see and read attacking kids today for being shamefully “weak” and “lazy”?

Who, I have to ask, raised those kids?

Who created the system — the dynamics and emphases — that surrounds those kids?

Here’s a clue — it ain’t them.

If kids today are screwed up, it’s because we did it to them.  We took away recess and P.E. — the”official” times when kids learn about fitness and exercise — because those classes & times were “wasteful” and “non-educational”.  Then we started attacking the kids for not exercising enough.

We cancelled music, and literature, and government classes, then we got mad when the kids had no idea who Mozart or Shakespeare or Hamilton were.

We blamed the kids for their “weakness” and “failure” without the slightest twinge of guilt or shame at our own blatant hypocrisy.

Great example we’re setting.

Look, for all the popularity of educational buzzwords — not to mention the shortsightedness of, well, pretty much everybody — “building” a good student ain’t that hard.  Hell, let’s cut through the bullshit and just be honest: we’re not necessarily building students in elementary and middle school, anyway.  We’re helping to build people.

And right now, we’re building people trapped in that miserable hell that lies between bureaucratic inertia and political talking-points.  We’re building people who see value in nothing other than regurgitating information for a test…who see value in nothing other then pro forma academics for the sake of box-checking in a “permanent record”.  What we are not building — or, at least, what we are passive-aggressively discouraging — is curiosity and understanding.  What we are not building are well-rounded and intellectually honest people.

And that’s a fucking crime.

I’ve mentioned before that I think there are a number of things folks should know, or at least have experienced, in order to consider themselves educated and civilized.  Literature, art, math, science, music…if you don’t have an appreciation and basic understanding of all of these things, you are a one-trick pony, and one-trick-ponies are something to be pitied and avoided, not admired.

If we want our kids to actually have a chance in the world — the same chance we had, as a matter of fact — we need to offer it to them.  We need to give them the same opportunities we had.  We need to focus not on the “war” between STEM and liberal arts, but focus rather on the basics that build the person:

  • Plenty of unstructured play at recess for elementary school kids…and daily P.E. classes for middle and high schoolers.
  • Classes to learn and understand music and drama and art.
  • Classes on literature and history and languages, right alongside math and science.
  • And last, but most certainly, positively, definitely not least: vocational classes.  When I was a kid, over the course of five years from 8th grade to graduation, I had classes in woodworking, metalworking, electronics, auto repair, and forest firefighting.  I wouldn’t trade those for all the “STEM” in the world.  And, shit, I probably shouldn’t even talk about the fact that my school offered — and I took — something so “wasteful” as a class on “Home Economics”.  The basics of cooking, sewing, and a handful of other things.  All I will say is that, to this day, I both love to cook, and am very good at it.  Draw your own conclusions.

I’m going to save for a future post my thoughts on the current trend towards “mandatory” college for all, but I do want to tout the value of even a small amount of vocational training.  I learned things in those classes that I still find valuable today…as valuable as all the calculus and chemistry I learned, and far more valuable than the bullshit of the “standardized tests”.

In the end, if our kids — any and all of the current younger generations — are disappointments, it is not their failure, it’s ours.