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To the Grave

Well, here we are.

Doomsday week. images

Is everyone ready for Friday? Evidence to the contrary, this is the date most crazy people whackadoos nutjobs people of questionable little no certain intelligence have earmarked for the end of the world, as foretold by the Mayans.

It grieves me a little, that so many accept so much on so little evidence. It grieves me further when those many, can’t even be bothered to get their own facts straight.

For the sake of argument, here’s a crash course in the Mayan calendar system. It’s way more complicated than the calendar we follow. Think of it more like an odometer than a calendar. Unlike our simplistic date system (MM/DD/YYYY), the Mayans had a whole string of numbers that represented things like baktuns, katuns, and plain, simple tuns. An example Mayan date looks like this: 12.19.19.3.11 (for the record, that’s March 7, 2012).

If you follow those numbers through to their natural progression, guess what happens on December 21? The odometer rolls over. The date on Friday will look like this: 13.0.0.0.0. That’s it, folks. In layman’s terms, what people are so afraid of is the Mayan version of Y2K. Fortunately, no computers run on the Mayan long-count calendar, so there will be no technological meltdowns, like we experienced on Y2K.

Oh, wait…

My morning reading today was replete with articles about people indulging in luxury bunkers, contemplating suicide, even contemplating killing their family to “spare” them the end of the world.

On a normal day, we might look at these people like they’re nuts.

But three days after a roomful of little kids is shot to death by a very sick individual fucking psycho, I think the mental state of these people warrants a closer look.

My wife and I have five kids. We know there’s not a parent on the planet that doesn’t want to reach out and hold onto the parents of Newtown, CT. My heart has broken a hundred times for each precious little child lost, and for the six brave adults who tried to protect them. It has also broken every time some idiot politician wants to talk about gun control. Of course something needs done about this. But other things need done first. Like grieving. Burying those who perished.

There’s something wrong with people. Something very wrong. And we, as a culture, as a society, as a race of people, have ignored it for too long. The root cause of this destructive, evil, senseless behavior is not going to be handled by taking away weapons or buying bunkers. It won’t be achieved through fear-induced mass suicide. The problem is depravity of spirit. People value other people too little, and value themselves (and their “stuff”) too much.

You have only to walk out your front door to witness firsthand the atrocities that humans commit against other humans. How many people in cars tailgate you until you move, then speed by and flip you the bird? What possible reason could they have for being in such a hurry? They don’t need a reason. That they’re in a hurry is sufficient, and damn the poor fool who gets in front of them.

How many battles have you waged to find a parking space in the mall, especially at this time of year? Hell, how many times have you been walking towards the door to Target, and suddenly people rush past you, so they can get there first?

Our culture is incredibly self-centered. Community doesn’t matter anymore. People don’t matter. All that matters is the list of things we need to cram into our busy day. All that matters is meeting our own needs. And if you get in our way, screw you. Because we are entitled to be happy and to have the things we want for ourselves.

Yet for all the cool stuff we have, I’ve never seen a more miserable, unhappy, depressed group of people than those out there, right now. Depression. Anxiety. Mental health issues. These things are rampant – rampant! Take stock: how many people do you personally know who take some kind of anti-anxiety medication, or anti-depressant? Who knows the difference between Zoloft and Ativan? Who has taken one or the other?

We have created a world that is morally ambiguous, bereft of any higher meaning or calling than our own self-interest. Where we place such importance on meaningless work and the meaningless acquisition of meaningless stuff, thereby creating a value system that is – you guessed it – meaningless. We open the door for people to feel stress, anxiety, and depression when life doesn’t work out like they think it should, because it is impressed upon us that we are entitled to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

And these days, it’s worse. These days, we love to flaunt our wealth and happiness all over the internet, don’t we? And those who haven’t achieved what they feel they should have, those who don’t have what they think they deserve, get even more depressed looking at photos of their friends, colleagues, and former classmates on beaches and in exotic locations. We paint a picture of ourselves that makes it look like we have it all – even when we don’t. And many of us get depressed over seeing the “success” of others. Gee, I wish I could go to Hawaii. I wish I had a house that nice. Why can’t I take trips to Florida every year? Those folks fail to realize that pictures are a moment in time, and having stuff or going places doesn’t mean someone is happy. Smiles are easy to fake.

I’m not trying to assault those with depression or anxiety. In fact, I’m one of those who suffer. My anxiety is health-related, not stemming from Facebook envy. I wish my friends every success and honestly, I hope at least half of them are actually as happy as they make themselves out to be. Personally, I’m comfortable with where I am. Don’t need to flaunt. But I have major anxiety problems, mostly health-related, that have ironically led to actual health problems. I’m not ashamed of the anxiety, but I am frustrated with the world that has allowed such things to take root. I empathize with those who suffer, because I’ve spent many years suffering. To a degree, I still do.

Which is why I feel I’m uniquely qualified to point out that, hey, these things are real. As real as cancer, as real as heart disease, as real as influenza. Which means they are also treatable, when they’re identified. Therein lies the rub, though. Most people are content to explain away strange behavior in loved ones. Most people wait too long to seek treatment, or to intervene and recommend treatment for someone they know is having problems. “Oh, it’s just stress.” Well when “just stress” is left unchecked, it can push people into developing real health problems. Or push people into taking a weapon and taking a life (including their own). But we are content to ignore it, until it’s too late. Which shows that we have not yet reached the point where it is socially acceptable to have a mental illness.

Folks, there are people out there in this country, maybe in your town, who are thinking about ending their lives, and the lives of their families, THIS WEEK! This. Week. Because they are afraid. And they are depressed. They have no hope. And there are others out there who are contemplating taking a gun into a crowded place and opening up on people (already there have been 2 incidents since the awful tragedy in Newtown, CT. One was an averted crisis, the other took place at a shopping mall [no deaths, thankfully]).

This isn’t about weapons. It’s about a broken world. A broken race of people whose priorities are so skewed and distorted, that the idea of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a luxury bunker to assuage their own paralyzing fear, is more important to them than the suffering of an entire community whose children were just brutally slaughtered. In the midst of a very real, heartbreaking tragedy, in the midst of death and pain, people are still thinking about themselves. About killing themselves, or others, to avoid some imaginary apocalypse, popularized by self-absorbed, fear-mongering idiots and spread like wildfire by a culture over-exposed to information without context and obsessed with only looking out for themselves.

The human race is sick. If you are a believer, you know what that sickness is. You know it has a name. If you’re not, then perhaps it shall suffice to simply say, that it is sick. People do not value other people. They only value themselves, their own happiness, their own gain, their own safety. Community, unity, brotherhood are failing, replaced with “I’m entitled. It’s my right.” For those who disagree or stand in the way of what I believe and what I want, there is no compromise. There is only hatred – cries of heretic and traitor and idiot and how dare you! If your beliefs don’t align with mine, you’re a moron unworthy of life, and I hope you die. I’ve seen comments like this. Heard them. It’s disgusting. Self-focus in the extreme, often disguised as being “progressive.”

This is hard for me to write. I’m a product of this culture, too. I’m self-centered. I hate crowds. I tend to think people are idiots unless they prove otherwise. But you know what? That’s not a healthy attitude. It’s the predominant one, but that doesn’t make it healthy. It’s arrogant, pretentious, and judgmental, and it says a lot more about me than it does about the people who feel its wrath.

We once thought it was better and nobler to take the high ground, to be kind to others just for the sake of it. How much more noble is it now, that so many take the easy road? Anyone can hate. There’s nothing special there. But it does take something special to show kindness when you are shown none. To show mercy when none is granted you. To show love to those deemed unlovable. Because even that fucking psycho very disturbed person once sat in a Kindergarten class room, and came home to his mommy and daddy to tell them about his day. Would gun control laws have stopped him, as an adult? No. But maybe understanding what was wrong with him could have.

We are a sick nation, and right now we’re a grieving nation. These little ones deserved better than to be cut down at the very beginning of their lives. Those six adults demonstrated that more noble ideals do still exist out there, laying down their very lives for their beloved students. And our brothers and sisters on this rock deserve better than to be scared out of their wits by a fictional apocalypse. We’re all humans, for crying out loud. We’re all people. Fellow travelers toward the grave, as Dickens so eloquently wrote. We have to watch out for each other.

Just days away from the end of the world, and you know what? Things are looking pretty dark. Maybe it really is time for the end. After all, what is an ending, but a new beginning? And what better time than Christmas, a season that for many denotes the birth of new life?

Even the contemporary Mayans (yes, they still exist, and they’re laughing at the doomsayers) look to this Friday as a day of renewal. The start of a new cycle, and the end of the old. It’s an important time, yes. But not because it’s the end of all things. Rather, because it’s a new beginning for all things.

So, yes. Perhaps it’s time for the world to end. Perhaps it’s time for the people of this rock to start thinking differently. Because this sickness is killing us. This self-centered, ego-centric, “don’t care about anyone but me” attitude is going to destroy this country and this world eventually.

So, let the world as it is end. And let us have a new beginning, where people matter to each other. Where we watch out for each other out of respect, and can coexist as people with different ideologies and faiths. Reach out to those who are hurting. Remember the parents of Newtown, whose Christmas morning will be the hardest they’ll ever face. Remember those who face this weekend with fear. They don’t need our ridicule for being stupid, they need our support to heal and understand. Start recognizing that mental illness is real illness, and that those people need help – BEFORE it comes to shooting up a roomful of children, or teenagers, or a campus of college students, or themselves.

There will always be evil. And preventing every tragedy is impossible. But in the world we’ve created for ourselves now, without a moral compass, without absolutes, is a world in which evil can thrive more fully. Remove that, and you remove much of its power. And the only way to do that is to realize that the thousands of faceless people you see every day are just like you – they have their own lives, stories, and struggles. They are not worthy of your scorn or irritation. Their lives are more valuable than your Christmas list and your to-do list and your fancy new car with leather seats and a built-in MP3 player with GPS. Even though you’ve never met them. Even though they may not have even existed to you five minutes ago. Even though they may disagree with you on religion, politics, or any number of other things, their lives are still precious. Even if they don’t hold the same courtesy towards you.

Perhaps this is a tall order. Perhaps the dream is too big. But it is Christmas, and I’m just a big kid at heart. And kids dream big at Christmas. (Trust me, I know, I’ve got 5 of them dreaming bigger dreams than we’ll ever be able to afford!) Besides, when we aim high – even too high – the mark we do hit is much greater than when we lower our standards. So, let the end of the world (as we know it) commence. And if, all evidence to the contrary, the apocalypse does come on Friday, at least we’ve all got a front-row seat to the end of it all. That’s one hell of a Christmas gift.

Merry Christmas to those who observe it, happy holidays to those who don’t! Here’s a little parting gift to my more conservative-leaning friends. Enjoy!

Mayan_Cartoon3

 

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Invasion of the Cartoon Characters

“…he that laughs at me today will have somebody to laugh at him tomorrow.”
– Seneca

Unless you’re living under a rock, or if you’re one of the few who don’t have a Facebook account, you are probably aware of the latest internet meme to sweep the nation.  The latest craze is to replace your current profile picture with a picture from a cartoon show that might have found some resonance for you during childhood.  Ostensibly, the goal of this meme is to generate enough buzz about the act of thousands of people replacing their profile pictures, that it will draw some attention from the media.  This, in turn, will lead to an opportunity to raise awareness about child abuse.

I’ve read a number of different reactions from people on the matter.  As you can well imagine, opinions range from indifference, to condemnation, to misinformed accusations.  Since I am among those who have changed their profile picture (Voltron: Defender of the Universe now greets visitors to my page), I thought I would take a few moments to clarify why I chose to join in and perhaps offer some insight (and debunk some myths) regarding the phenomenon.

First, let’s clarify one thing: this meme did not originally intend to become part of a campaign against child abuse.  In fact, if you do your homework (here’s a cheat sheet), you’ll find it began in Greece a few weeks ago, with the original intent simply being to see how many non-human faces would appear on Facebook.  Just a typical, run-of-the-mill meme.  Nothing special.

However, as tends to happen, folks began to modify the message; first to give it a deadline (Monday) and then to add the child abuse footnote.  It’s unclear where the last part came in, but it seems to have come to the forefront of the movement, at least here in the U.S.A.

So, I think we can lay to rest the idea that this is a hoax created by pedophiles, since the child abuse element was added after the fact.  In all likelihood it was started as an innocent addition to the “game” by a well-meaning person who was trying to be positive.  We may never know.  But we can safely say that it’s not a hoax.  And hopefully we’ve also learned to research what we hear before we buy it wholesale.

So what of this “fight against child abuse” angle?  Is it worth it?  Can it be effective?  Or does it just give ignorant trolls the chance to ironically post cartoon images of Bart Simpson being choked, and Pedobear?

When the internet community is galvanized, change can happen.  We saw this just a few weeks ago, when Amazon.com pulled a book off their site that was, essentially, a guidebook to pedophilia (including instructions on how not to get caught, and how to get a lighter sentence if you do).  Initially, Amazon refused to pull the book.  The negative backlash in the press was so profound, they eventually buckled and pulled it from their site completely.  This was facilitated in large part by two Facebook groups (one of which I am proud to have been an early member of; one of the founders is a good friend of mine) that unified the outraged citizenry and provided some degree of focus for their efforts.  In the end, Amazon saved a bit of face by removing the book – but we shouldn’t pretend they did it for the right reasons.  They did it because they knew they were going to lose money.  But, motivation notwithstanding, this scenario is a perfect example of a united group of webizens taking on a cause and coming out victorious.  Could the same thing happen here?

Unlikely.

At most, the “child abuse” footnote to the game will get some local media coverage and maybe start a few meaningful discussions about child abuse prevention.  It’s possible it could ignite the fire under some activists, or kick-start programs for victims.  The most likely outcome is that it will fade away in a week or two, like every other meme in the brief history of meme-dom.

Did dangling the “child abuse awareness” carrot attached to this message inspire me to change my own pic?  Sure, a little bit.  I’m not deluded, I know it’s not going to change the world.  But there have been some demonstrable effects, as seen around the web (here and here for example).  The child abuse addition may have been an innocent footnote, but it has since morphed into the primary concern of the game.

The criticism I have read regarding the cartoon invasion trying to raise awareness for child abuse is completely unwarranted.  Nevermind that it wasn’t the original intent behind the game; even now, it is meant to be a simple, easy gesture to show support against abuse.  It’s not an attempt to stop abuse completely (as much as I wish that were possible, I don’t think that will ever happen).  It’s simply a show of support that the issue needs attention.  And if that attention does bring about some positive steps for some community, somewhere, that’s great.  If not – well, there’s still no harm done.  At worst, it’s simply another meme sweeping the nation and perhaps inspiring a few enjoyable strolls down memory lane for GenXers like myself who miss the simpler days, when Voltron, G.I. Joe, and the Thundercats stood ready to do battle against evil, and when The Real Ghostbusters kept the monsters out of our closets.

I do hope this inspires some people to become involved in preventing child abuse.  I’ve got five children myself, and I know several people who were physically and sexually abused in their youth.  It’s heartbreaking, and very difficult to recover from.  Yes, more needs done.  No, an internet meme is not likely to have a major impact.  But it might have a small impact.  Either way, it seems pointless to criticize people for taking part in a meme whose real purpose was just to have a bit of fun.

If you do want to take steps to end child abuse, there are many organizations who, unlike a passing internet meme, are dedicated to raising awareness and educating the public year round.  I encourage readers to get involved and take steps that are more tangible and meaningful, if this is something you feel passionate about.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go stream some more episodes of Voltron from Netflix.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2010 in Facebook, Uncategorized

 

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