You are not pretty enough. You are not thin enough, or blonde enough; you are too old if you are over 30, and too young if you are under 20. Your boobs are too small and your ass is too big. Your skin is not smooth enough, your hair should be a more vibrant colour, and your eyes need more definition. You can lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks, you should be ashamed of your ethnicity (no matter what it is), and you are too young to have crow's feet. You shouldn't be so clingy, but you should be more devoted. You need a low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb diet. You need a personal trainer. You need better make-up, better creams, better cleansers. Being pretty doesn't matter if you're smart. Being smart doesn't matter if you're pretty. Have sex and you're a slut, don't and you're a prude. It's every woman's goal to find a sugar-daddy. No woman should rely on a man.
Your dick is not big enough. Your back is not broad enough, your arms are not strong enough, your legs do not carry enough weight. Your abs should be more defined. Your ass should look better in jeans. You're not committed enough to your woman. You're too committed, and therefore, a pussy or a creep. You should skip the eggs and have a protein shake. You don't make enough money, you focus too much on your career. You should stay young, but stop acting like little boys. Grey is distinguished. Old is pathetic. You should be more sensitive. Real men don't cry. Trying to fuck a woman makes you a potential rapist, not trying to means you are gay or lame. You should be tough, but violence is wrong.
These are the messages we have been raised with, these are the images we have been fed. No matter what we are or how we look or what we do, it is not the right thing. We can never hope to be the right weight, the right height, the right disposition or the right age. A single pound, a single year, a single opinion can make or break us as human beings. And we buy into it. We ignore the fact that Cosmo is placed right next to the chocolate covered impulse isle, and that Men's Health appears parallel to extra-large condoms and liquor. There is no more well-researched psychology than targeted advertising, no greater science than consumer relations. Capitalism is built upon our insecurities, and the worst part is, we know that, and we buy (literally) into it anyway. We accept every criticism, we appeal to a perfection that is quite intentionally impossible to attain, and we cannot even blame our ignorance or conditioning at this point. We are well aware, very much awake, and wholly privy to the situation, and we still march proudly into it. Male or female, gay or straight, left or right wing, thin or fat, pretty or smart, black or white - whatever we are, it is the wrong thing to be. It is, at the very least, not quite good enough, and at worst, a perversion of humanity. We are told via magazine, religion, education, and T.V. show how very unworthy we are, how much we need to change to be even close to acceptable, and we pay to be told this. We pay in both cash and self-respect to be informed of our short-comings by others that have the very same. And we know this is what we are doing, and we do it anyway.
And, in all honesty, I've spent an hour staring at this rant, trying to come up with a clever ending to it, until the irony of that struck me. I have no way to end this rant in exactly the same way I have no clever suggestion on how to end the horrendous and perverse cycle described above. I, like you, should just...
What's wrong, my friend? Don't worry, there are no hidden cameras taking note of your expression, and I haven't gone off the deep end. I'm serious, here.What, in the day-to-day, average-experience, mundane-motion, part of your life honestly and genuinely makes you mad? What do you regularly encounter that tangibly affects you? I ask, see, because I've been on this kind-of profane high lately, hammering on about how we should take control of our lives, and live them in the moment, how we should stop blaming others, stop making excuses, and stop letting politicians, pastors, and internet heroes tell us what to think, and it occurred to me this morning that all of these shoulds and stops have a common theme.
Ask 100 people the root of evil, and 99 will say "money". If you've got it, you'll do terrible things to keep it; if you don't have it, you'll do terrible things to get it. Even if you're well-off and secure, or not so but content, the world will find some way to make things stressful, because...that makes other people money. For every concern you have, someone is selling the cure. There's a pill, or a cream, or a car, or a gadget, a lawsuit, a market, or a piece of insurance that can fix whatever is bothering you. And the more things that bother us, the more money there is to be made. Every wrinkle you see, every pound you gain, every neighbour you don't like, every word you find offensive, every act you don't agree with is another dollar in somebody's pocket. The entire economy is, in essence, based on power, insecurity and division. Divide and conquer.
Look in any direction; look at any facet of society, and you will see it: the media tells us we aren't thin enough, that we're too old or to young, that we don't have enough of this or that. They make clear the lines between what is good and what is not good. We give them that power, we give them our money, we strive to become what is good, and we begin to look down upon those that are not good. The government tells us what is fair and what is unfair, what is safe and what is scary, what we should be okay with, and what we absolutely should not be. They make clear the lines between what is good and what is not good. We give them that power, we pay them our taxes, we cling tightly to what is good, and yell angrily about what is not good. There are churches, clubs, organizations, and institutions of every possible flavour, all drawing more and more lines between what is good and what is not good, and all of them - every single one - benefits from our division. They benefit by virtue of "us" and "them". The more insecure we feel about ourselves, the more we pass those same judgements onto others, the more firm we become in our belief of what is good and what is not good, the more someone out there benefits.
And this takes me back to my question to you: what actually makes you mad? What actually has a negative impact on your life? When you step back for a second and think about it for yourself, does it really bother you that two men, somewhere out there in the world, love one another? Do you really feel burdened that a family from Pakistan is moving here next week? Does it really affect your life if the girl down the hall is overweight? Think about this carefully before you answer; think really hard about the things that truly impact you on a day to day basis. Think about the struggles you have and where they actually come from. If you can look objectively at your existence and say yes, these things really do affect me, these divisions are legitimate, and my concerns are valid, well, okay. I bid you adieu, fair soldier, the rest of this post isn't for you. I'm sure I will meet you on the battlefield with another profane rant somewhere down the line. But I'm betting most of you, if you're honest with yourselves, will say no. I'm betting that, for most of you, the real struggles in your life, the real unfairness, the real anger, lies in not always being able to make ends meet. In feeling insignificant. In balancing work and kids and love and time to yourself. I'm betting most of you are angry about a car that won't start, a boss that takes advantage of you, people that push ahead of you in line. I'm betting that not a single one of our problems would be solved if everyone magically woke up a size 6, or white, or straight, or pro-choice, or a liberal. These divisions that have been created between us (and they have been created) are false. They are a diversion. They are an effective way to control us. Divide, and conquer.
And if that's really what it is, if we are working day in and day out to afford the cost of being "us", and not "them", if we are paying other people to create our problems for us, only to turn around and pay them again to solve them, well...we should maybe change that, don't you think? If the walls we have built between ourselves are actually locking us in, rather than keeping them out, couldn't we make better use of that space? So I ask you, on this fine Sunday evening, to please ask yourself: what's wrong?
As you all know by now, I abstain from the personal on here. There's no need to share whether I am married or not, whether I have kids or not, or what my favourite colour is. It's just not my thing; you wanna get to know me? Read through this site, and make of that what you will. All that really needs to be shared here is that I'm over 30, from Canada, and a walking disaster. If I really wanted to indulge, I'd also tell you that I'm rather shit at relationships, I'm stubborn as fuck about being a poet, I'm blatantly tattooed, and my one true love is David Bowie. Wanna know even more than that? That's gonna cost you a double whisky, and an open invitation to your pack of cigarettes.
But I will share this: I'm a raging pessimist, kept in check by also being a raging hippy. Don't think that makes sense? I ask of you, then, to read some Camus and get back to me. Pessimism is not, as it's commonly defined, the philosophy that everything is shit; pessimists are, in fact, are often the most optimistic of beings. This may seem contradictory, but I assure you, it's not. While many would love to pit optimism and pessimism against one another as mortal enemies, the fact is, we are far more friendly than the outside world wishes to give us credit for. Pessimism is not a negative view of the world. Rather, it is an existential answer to realism. Pessimists see the world for what it is, and realize that, ultimately, life itself has no objective meaning - it is up to us, as individuals, to create our meaning. And, for many of us, this is a positive. Knowing that this limited, time-restrained life is all we get, and that we are here only via chance, chaotic order, and luck, makes it of the utmost importance to appreciate, and live out to the fullest, our existence. We are, in short, the universe experiencing itself. This is about as far from the mundane and negative as one can get. This, my friends, should be the most positive thing you ever hear: the pessimist's view is that...this is it. This is your opportunity to BE the living universe. How much fucking cooler would you like life to get?!
Of course, though, positivity has to come at a cost. For you to live your life to its fullest, you must first accept a couple of things: first, you are going to die. Believe in an afterlife if that's your gig, but at least come to terms with the fact that the life you are leading right here and right now is going to end.Second, you are the one holding you back. Fuck your parents, your exes, and your shitty friends. Fuck your school and your job. Those are the things you are allowing to hold you back, but they are not to blame. You are. Once you reach an age in which your mom is no longer feeding you from her teet, once you have learned to read and write and multiply and divide...your life is your own responsibility. You can go on and blame others for your failures, but you're only lying to yourself and making excuses as to why you can't do this or that. Basically, if you are over 16, fuck you. You have every opportunity awaiting you, and if you don't take them, fuck you. It is the pessimist's view that your life is yours to define, yours to live, and yours to succeed in, or screw up, as you see fit. It is the pessimist's philosophy that you own yourself, that you own your life, and that the only person there is to blame when it all goes to shit is...you. Sure, you can blame your government, you can blame your parents, you can blame the shitty town you were born in...but if you've not made any move, if you've not made any attempt to change the things that are holding you back, you have no one to blame but yourself. Who, exactly, do you want to be in charge of your existence? Do you want your parents to rule you forever? Do you want the school system to make your decisions for you? Do you want your boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, to dictate how you should live your life? No? Then stand the fuck up and move forward. Move in your own direction. This is the pessimist's view: it is not one of negativity and nothingness; it is not apathy and anarchy; it is a firm decision, an accepted philosophy, that all of your life's decisions are yours to make. You define your life. You make it what it is. Blaming others is an act of apathy and cowardice. If things aren't as you wish them to be, do something about it! And, if you screw it all up, as we all have (often several times), have a drink, load up your iPod, smoke a joint, and start again.
This life is yours. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, and don't live it any other way.
Am I supposed to know, or care, who Thunderf00t, PZ Myers, or Rebecca Watson are? Should I honestly give a flying fuck about YouTube heroes, armchair (or...more than likely, computer chair) pundits, or internet feminists? Is there some reason I'm expected to have a serious opinion about these people?
I've been asked whose "side" I am on regarding these folks and issues several times as of late, so I suppose maybe people do care about the opinions of other random people on the internet. But, lemme let you in on a little secret. I don't actually expect anyone to give a shit what I have to say on my blog. It's my blog. It's a place where I get to rant about whatever the hell I feel like ranting about. If you agree with me, cool. If you don't, just as cool. I'm a little taken aback by this weird, celebrity devotion to anyone with a web-cam and a strong opinion. I can't imagine any of you, dear readers, becoming my "following", and, honestly, I'd be fucking creeped out if you did. My whole point here, if I have one at all, is to encourage you to think for yourselves. It is not, I repeat, not, to have you agree with me. I'm just as happy when someone comments with a "go fuck yourself" as I am when someone "likes" my post on facebook. I don't want people to agree with me, I want people to think.
But...I digress. I did have an actual point to make with this post, but the wine has gotten in the way. Ahem...
Internet atheism doesn't mean a fuck to me. Nor does internet feminism. And, particularly, neither does internet anti-feminism. Oh, you have a YouTube post about how Slutwalk is a stupid idea? OMGWHOCARES? Certainly not I. You think you're clever because you made a vlog about how Christians are idiots? You're not. You believe asserting that all sex is rape on your bought and paid for WordPress site has earned you some feminist crown? It hasn't. And you, you, dude that figured pulling your dick out at a feminist rally while your cell-phone camera recorded the whole ordeal was a witty answer to the issue? You are a huge asshole.
I have respect for dissent. I have respect for thoughtful, meaningful debate. I have great respect for people that, honestly, and with profound sincerity, have formed an opinion to present to the public at large. I have no respect for fucking wankers that think being contrary for the sake of it is a great intellectual achievement. Every 2 year old knows how to say "nuh-uh"; if your hope is to seem more clever than a toddler, I highly suggest taking a little more care in presenting your opinion. Being the internet's "Angry Atheist" doesn't impress me, dude. I get it. You think religious people are stupid. Good for you. Go read some Carl Jung and get back to me. You think all men are potential rapists? Cool; get acquainted with William Blake and then we'll talk. Oh, you're an anti-feminist, you say? Right on, I'd love to hear your criticisms of Margaret Atwood and Virginia Woolf. But I'm willing to bet my pittance of an income that you've not bothered researching these people. I'm willing to bet every penny in my pocket that you neither know, nor care, about the movements these people have inspired and contributed to, and I'd bet my life savings that you don't give a shit. Your opinions are based, solely, on your 20 or 30-something year old perspective of life as it is now, within your own, narrow, and highly biased, view of life today. You can take whatever view of atheism/theism, or feminism/anti-feminism that you prefer, but don't expect me to give a shit unless you have a substantial argument to back it up with. Your basement produced YouTube video means absolutely nothing to me, nor does your broad sweeping generalisations about everyone with a penis being evil.
Short story long: unless you have something substantial to place on my table, get the fuck out of my kitchen. Being contrary for the sake of it, thinking you're really fucking clever for calling belief in God stupid, thinking you are the Queen of the Feminists for managing to squeeze rape into every conversation, or thinking that pulling your dick out at inappropriate moments makes you an intellectual superstar is pretty well guaranteed to make me hate you. Protest is cool, dissent is cool, demanding change is cool. Being a dick for the sake of it, and proudly whipping out your broad brush of bigotry just encourages me to shuffle you into the same bin as those you despise.
Try this on for size, if you will. Think for yourself. Read a fucking book. Shut your mouth, and your web-cam, until you have the slightest clue what you're bitching about. Realize that things aren't generally painted in black and white. Shut the fuck up for a minute and think.
I wasn't sure whether to post this on my genealogy site
or this one. To be honest, I wasn't sure whether to post this at all. I tend to refrain from really personal posts, and pretty well always regret it when I fail in that. But a feeling has been overwhelming me lately, and I think it safe to assume I am not alone in this feeling.
I won the jackpot in family photos recently. My grandmother made the move to a lodge, and in doing so, gave away a whole lot of her stuff to her kids and grandkids. I was fortunate enough to get box upon box of photo albums -- a prize I'd been begging for for years. I developed an interest in genealogy several years ago, and have since been harassing every living relative I know for any pictures, documents, or stories they may have, so when my mom arrived on my doorstep with 4 giant boxes of photos, I was beside myself with excitement. I spent weeks pouring over each album, smiling reminiscently at photos of childhood Christmas celebrations, and staring, fascinated, at worn and faded photographs of ancestors long gone, seeking out familiar features. What a treasure I had acquired, I thought -- how fortunate, how blessed I was to have so much history summed up in these books.
And then, I got really depressed. My feelings of fortune were replaced by feelings of futility and waste. Why give these photos to me, of all possible people? At 32, I have no children, and it is quite likely I never will. My cousins, hell, even a couple of my second
cousins, have acquired themselves large families, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It seemed both ironic and tragic that the one person with an interest in, and access to, our family history was the one person that had no one to pass it on to. I, in stereotypically depressive fashion, pictured myself dying in my modest apartment, and...whomever
would arrive to clear out my things finding these boxes of photos and having no idea who to give them to. I was overwhelmed by the burden of being the dead end in our family tree.
I know a lot of women my age, some younger, some older, that have no desire to have children. Some simply don't see a place for them in their life-plan, some have made a conscious decision to not participate in the increase in population. Some have approached it from a political position, some from an emotional position, some from an awareness, and lack of desire, to pass on their own insanity. All of them, however, agree that they do not want kids. I am not among them. I have always
wanted children. From the age of 5 or 6, all of my future plans incorporated kids. I would graduate highschool (ha!), begin university (double ha!), meet and marry the man or woman of my dreams. Postpone my degree while I gave birth to, and began raising, my first child. And so on. I had it all figured out. And then, I turned 30, with still no sign of offspring. I had put off a lot off things with this one plan in mind. I began to panic. If this, the central part of my plan, was never going to come to fruition, this meant re-evaluating my entire life. It meant redefining myself as a person. I had always intended for "mom" to be my main title - what was I without it? What would I be? How would I define myself from this point forward? I really had no idea. The only other titles I've ever felt comfortable with are "daughter" and "poet". But those aren't entirely satisfying in the staring-my-mortality-in-the-face sort of way. Perhaps my poetry will live on, but perhaps it won't. Poetry is possibly the most finicky and pretentious of all mediums, and there is just as large a chance I will die entirely unheard of as there is that I will become the next T.S. Eliot. And, while being a daughter is a precious and infinitely valuable thing, it certainly won't carry on into anyone's future. I have had to face the fact that I am the end of my line. As an only child with no children, my own direct ancestral line ends with me.
And I guess I just have to deal with that. But this is the feeling that I've found overwhelming as of late - the rational, logical part of me has no problem facing the prospect of not bearing children. In fact, I can think of many positives to this situation. But the emotional, creative part of me is lost at this revelation. How does one make use of their acquired knowledge if they've no one to pass it on to? What exactly is the point of one's existence if they do not create a next generation? And these are not questions asked from a self-defeating position, but genuine, existential pondering. When one has always envisioned themselves as a parent, as a carrier-on of things, all other possible avenues seem foreign and vague. It becomes necessary to retrace one's steps to a time and place when all things were unknown, when the future was uncertain, when life was scary as hell. Only this time, you're going back with the wisdom, and bitterness, and appreciation, and freedom that age brings. It's a clusterfuck of emotion and logic, knowledge and ignorance, freedom and limits. It's a world I never imagined having to enter, one that I never planned to live in, one that I hope to make a mark on, and one that scares the shit out of me.
The photo albums have since been packed up, the best of their contents scanned and posted. The memories have likewise been locked away, sent to their rightful place of things both fond and distant. And, a new plan has begun, if not to hatch, at least to incubate. There is no feel-good, heart-warming end to this post, nor to this feeling, I imagine. But there is a bit of hope, and a bit of excitement, in the unknown. When the plan that has both guided and distracted you for so many years is suddenly carried off in the wind, every opportunity becomes yours to seize; everyday becomes a new beginning.
I've been asked a couple of times now where the New Year's post is. While I must admit it strokes my ego in a rather sinfully delicious way to know people are waiting for my next rant, I have to be honest here and say I don't really give a shit about it being January 1. That's not said in a bitter or pessimistic way at all, it's just...well...
This is my 33rd January 1. For many years, I did the resolution-making-new start starting-diet begins today thing, and every year, those resolutions and new starts barely outlasted the variety of salads I had filled my fridge with. Many of you know that, over the last 7 years, I have lost, and kept off, 75Lbs. You know what day I started that process? Me neither. After 10 years, I quit smoking in 2003 (and started again in 2008, but that's another story). You know what day I smoked my last cigarette? Neither do I. After a decade of talking about it, I finally, last year, published a collection of my poetry. Any guesses as to what month I began seriously compiling and writing? Yours are as good as mine. The point here is, when one really wants to do something - to make a change or take a step or let go of something poisonous - what the calendar says means absolutely nothing. When you're ready, you're ready - and if you're not, you're not. It being January 1, or Monday morning, or exactly ten years to the day since...whatever, will make no difference whatsoever to whether you are ready or not. If you are, you will do it, right then and there. And if you aren't, you're only setting yourself up for disappointment by promising January 1 is some magical day in which you will find your will.
My wishes for the new year are the same as those I had yesterday, and the day before that. That we all find the will to be honest with ourselves. That we all follow our dreams. That we all let go of those things that have been holding us back; that we purge what is toxic to us. That we live up to those morals we hold most dear, and, likewise, stop pretending to care about things we don't. To be a little more patient, a little more compassionate, a little more generous. To gain knowledge, to lose ignorance, and to attempt leaving this world a little better than we found it. Ultimately, my resolution today, and yesterday, and last month, and last year, is to live my life as I see fit, and leave you to do the same.
Happy Today, everyone.
It seems I struck a nerve or two on my Facebook the other day (number of people shocked by this: zero.) when I went off a bit on this alleged "war on Christmas". I gained the ire of theists and atheists alike, which is always a good indication I've done something right.
Here's the deal: I don't give a shit what you say, whether it be Merry Christmas, Blessed Yule, Joyous Kwanzaa, Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays, or "thank fuck we all get a day off!". I think this war on Christmas has been completely manufactured, just like most other wars, by small groups of indignant people with nothing better to do than take offence to holy shit everything. That said, I do also sympathize somewhat with both major camps:
Christians* seem to feel, and perhaps rightly so in some cases, that the end-goal of many is to ensure they cannot express their religion anywhere but in the privacy of their own homes and churches, and that us evil heathens absolutely hate anything that even vaguely smells of Christianity. This isn't true, of course, but I have indeed encountered several strong atheists that seem to take this position, and have witnessed what I consider some pretty petty moves in this direction. The idea that Christians are persecuted is laughable, but the idea that some people take offence to even mentioning God in public may actually have some merit.
Non-Christians*, on the other hand, seem to feel that there's an obnoxious assumption behind terms like "Merry Christmas"; that is, that everyone subscribes to the same belief, and is part of the same culture, and that we will all be partaking in your festivities. Again, that isn't necessarily true, but it has some merit, as evidenced by some of the more questionable "war on Christmas" slogans.
I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I'm a fan of inclusiveness. I think, particularly in a multicultural, legally secular and culturally multi-religion society, it is preferable to extend greetings that can apply to everyone. On the other, I think it a bit tragic to get offended when someone offers you a sincere wish of goodwill. Is everyone sincere? Of course not, and I'm sure some people say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays with a snide intention. But, by and large, I still have enough faith in humanity to assume no ill-intent in someone offering me a greeting.
What I see going on here is not a war on Christmas. I see a war on goodwill in general. I see people that are so hung up on their religious, political, or cultural affiliations, that they are actually angry that someone had the nerve to wish them well. And you know what? It's a fucking disgrace. People have bought into this war in much the same way they buy into the others - you know, those real wars in which people really die and are really persecuted. They've heard just the right propaganda to send them into a tailspin of fear and anger, to see them as the enemy, and to take all of their words as further proof of their agenda for total control. When someone gets offended at hearing "Merry Christmas", what I hear is "stop pushing your religion on me, you arrogant, self-righteous asshole!". When someone says "don't take the Christ out of Christmas!", what I hear is "no other religions or cultures count for shit; the winter holidays are ours and ours alone". When someone gets offended by "Happy Holidays", what I hear is "someone that isn't the same religion as me had the audacity to wish me well! How very dare they!"
And then, I get really, really depressed. With all the horrible things going on in the world, with all the real persecution, with all the real war, with all the real atrocity people encounter everyday, one would think any sort of pleasant greeting would be appreciated and returned. It's nothing short of a tragedy that two simple words expressing hope that we enjoy our holiday is worthy of offence. The war on goodwill has been waged, and I for one am opting out. Feel free to wish me anything you like, and I will do the same. Step down from your pulpit, and join me for a pumpkin spice latte and some shortbread. And, for the love of all that is good, chill the fuck out and enjoy your holiday.
*yes, yes, I'm well aware this does not apply to all Christians or all atheists. That's sorta the point. It's the tiny minorities in both groups that have led us blind, deaf, and dumb into their battlefield.
Amanda Todd. Phoebe Prince. Jamey Rodemeyer. Megan Meier. Ryan Halligan. Billy Lucas. Tori Swoape.
I type these names with tears in my eyes, knowing there are so many more that never made it to the papers, or to YouTube, or the local news stations. These names are just a few of the many thousands of teens who have taken their own lives in recent years -- all of them bullied. All of them beautiful, young, unique individuals who were treated so poorly, beaten so badly, stalked, harassed, humiliated, ridiculed, and tormented, that they could not face another day. Some of them continue to be bullied, even after their deaths -- a recent 4Chan post on Facebook had this to say about Amanda Todd:
"Ok, well let's just get this all out of the way so you all can stop your bitching about this dead girl. A lot of what is posted in her video and on her page is fabricated to make her look like she was an angel. Think again."
And that's the nicest part of the message.
Was she an angel? Were any of these kids perfect? Probably not. I sure the hell wasn't at that age. You probably weren't either. We all made stupid decisions, we all did questionable things. That's part of growing up, and anyone who claims otherwise is either lying, or has completely forgotten what it's like to be a teenager. And, regardless of anything any of these kids may or may not have done, they did not deserve to die. I don't think I can possibly emphasize that enough: THEY DID NOT DESERVE TO DIE. They had their whole lives ahead of them, they had countless more mistakes left to make, they had proms to attend, friends they'd yet to meet, people to fall in love with, parties to go to, lives to be lived. But because of a cruel few, they chose instead to kill themselves. Because of a cruel few, those futures ceased to matter. Because of a cruel few, the thought of a rope around their neck, or a bullet in their face, was easier to handle than another day on this earth.
I could rage on about those cruel few, but I won't. I must temper my anger, and realize that they are also kids, sensitive to the words of others, and that they are, deep down, probably no more confident, no more mature, no more sure of themselves than the kids they bullied. These kids know what they've been taught -- that becomes particularly obvious in the case of Megan Meier, who was bullied not only by students, but by one of their mothers, as well. It is we, the adults, that should be fucking ashamed of ourselves. It is we who should feel guilt and remorse and anger for what happened to these kids. We failed them. Schools failed them. Teachers failed them. Counsellors failed them. Parents failed them. We taught these kids all they know, and apparently what they know is cruelty and hopelessness.
Being a teenager isn't easy. Maybe some of us have forgotten that -- maybe we look back at our pasts and remember only that we didn't have to pay bills, didn't have to work 40 hour weeks, didn't have to make our own dinners or do our own laundry. We look at their shitty fashion and potty mouths and feel obliged to comment. We see them drinking in a park and wonder where their parents are. We see them smoking cigarettes and shake our heads in dismay. We think to ourselves, "they should know better", that they should be better. We forget that we were once those kids. We forget about the pimples, the popular kids, the jeers, the heartbreaks. We forget the many lies we told our parents to drink that beer and smoke that cigarette. We forget the many stupid mistakes we made to fit in, or the many times that we ourselves felt hated and hopeless.
I am asking you to remember.
I am asking us all to remember. To have a little compassion, to have a little patience. To teach these kids something different -- something better. I am asking that we say the things they really need to hear. Not bullshit slogans about bullying being bad and suicide not being the answer, but honest, heartfelt truths that they can carry into the future. Truths that will allow them a future. It is not enough to say bullying is wrong -- we must show them it is wrong, we must teach them that different is okay and that their own self-worth cannot be gained through belittling others. It is not enough to say suicide is not the answer -- we must offer them hope for their futures. Whether the bully or the bullied, the cruel or the meek, the all-star or the academic, these kids only get what we give them.
And they deserve better.
Youth is brief; enjoy it. Never feel awkward about laughing loudly. You will not always be able to forgive - that's okay, just learn to let go. Of all the stupid habits one can acquire, smoking is among the dumbest. Listen to advice, but make your own decisions. Greyhound toilets are the filthiest things in existence in the 1st world. You can always start over. Be true to yourself. After looking your deepest fear in the face, life begins anew. Always admit when you're wrong. Always stand up for what's right. You'll regret the things you didn't do far more than the things you did. Say "I love you" often. Do not close your mind to ideas you abhor - there is no better way to arm yourself than to listen to your enemy speak freely. Age, gender, sexuality, religion, ethnicity, and cliques are descriptions, not values. Never trust someone your cat doesn't like. The truth is contradictory. The media is a monster of our own making. So are most versions of God. Be nice to people - it sounds simple, and it is. The fact that you exist is fucking awesome - never forget that, and never lose your fascination. Be skeptical of everything, but open to anything. Being honest with yourself is a helluva lot harder than being honest with others. You will stagnate as a person if you do not seek out new experiences. Don't believe anyone who tells you the green salsa is the mildest. The only regrettable experiences are the ones you learned nothing from. If your music doesn't move you, you're doing it wrong. Things rarely happen the way you plan them, and that's totally okay. Perfection is a myth. You never stop growing up. Boxes are not pretty places to live - do not cling to one ideology. Balance is the answer.
Can everyone, maybe, just chill out for a moment? Is that possible? Can we sit down with a cup of coffee and have a reasonable discussion, here?
Seemingly overnight, the entire world went apeshit over this video
. If you've been living under a rock this week, it is a 13 minute clip of a movie entitled "Innocence of Muslims", a poorly made, unfunny, and completely pointless dig at Islam. And I say this as someone who has no attachment at all to Islam, or religion in general. The fact is, it's a stupid film. If it had been on any other subject or had any other title, it likely would have garnered a hundred views or so, and been quickly swept into the realms of obscurity, where it rightfully belongs. Instead, this is what happened
Riots spread across the Middle East, several people were killed, and every news outlet, debate junkie, conspiracy theorist, and armchair journalist on earth flooded every possible medium with their view of the story. Some claimed the storming of the embassy was already planned, some claimed the video had been intentionally leaked to paid protesters, some believe that the filmmakers should be arrested, others have used this as a soap box to defend free speech. What is obvious, however, is that we have a big problem. A really, really big problem.
As you undoubtedly already know, Islam does not generally allow depictions of Mohammed. In fact, Sunni Muslims do not permit depictions of any prophet: this includes Adam, Abraham, Jesus, and many others. What you may not know is why. The Q'uran does not actually forbid it -- in fact, during Mohammed's life and for many years after, paintings telling the story of Islam's beginnings were common, and Mohammed, being its founder, was obviously in many of them. He was, however, often depicted with a white veil covering his face, sometimes out of respect, and sometimes to separate him from others. Mohammed, however, had one main message, and that was the unity, the oneness, of God. To create idols, such as sculptures or paintings, would be a distraction from Allah. It would be too easy to worship an image or a symbol, and this, according to Mohammed, was one way in which the Christians and Jews had gone wrong. Giving physical descriptions, giving human qualities, to the divine, minimized and trivialized the unity of God. Allah, he believed, was beyond human description, and any attempt to do so would be both in vain, and an unnecessary distraction.
Just as with many other religions, however, the original intent was long ago forgotten, and this became a major issue of contention. These are certainly not the first riots over such depictions, and I'm pretty sure they won't be the last. Which is, to me, really pretty sad. Regardless of who you feel is to blame, here, I think the real problem is a lack of basic respect, and a blurring of lines between governments and individuals.
Many nations have a right to free speech. And most of us take that right very seriously -- generations of people have been terrified by George Orwell's 1984, and the idea of thought-crime and heavy handed censorship. It is a right I personally support more strongly than many others, and truly believe that every single person on the planet has the right to express themselves, to put forth their opinions, to mock or support or criticize anything they so desire. Until that speech becomes incitement or action, it is merely that -- speech. Words. Yes, they have an undeniable power, but they are also limited to your willingness to hear them. You can shut off the T.V., close that book, leave that website, or toss that newspaper any time you like. No one is forcing you to hear them. No one forced any Muslims to watch that video. Its existence did not need to effect anyone's life in any way. By rioting, killing people, and demanding arrests and a ban on such things, more attention has been drawn to it than it ever could have garnered on its own. Not only that, but those who already held negative stereotypes of Islam have only had their worst suspicions confirmed.
But that is only one side of this story. I've heard a lot of people telling Muslims to get over it, that they have nothing to be upset about, that they are only serving to prove that Islam is not a religion of peace. And maybe there's some validity to all that. However, I was always taught that respect must be mutual. That I could not expect people to treat me well if I didn't do the same. And that I had the right to behave any way I wanted (short of harming people, of course), but had to expect, and accept, consequences for my behaviour. If one decides to disrespect a very large group of people, particularly when there is no great message or valid criticism being put forth, they must realize how that is likely to be taken. When one decides to do this where tensions are high, in criticism of people who have many reasons to be angry already, well...is this hostility really that big of a surprise? I can only imagine the response if the roles were reversed: if Iraq had invaded the U.S., and then suddenly a movie surfaced depicting Jesus with his head up Mary Magdalene's skirt? C'mon, now. Be honest. How do you think that would turn out? The reaction to this film should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, and I have to assume the makers were well aware of what would happen.
So, who's to blame? Everyone? No one? Religion? The government? It's pretty irrelevant at this point, really, but I believe if everyone would calm the fuck down and step back for a moment, it would become obvious that we're all being taken for a ride. Who do you think benefits most from these conflicts? Certainly not the average citizen of any nation. It is, of course, our respective governments and media that reap the rewards of such issues. Every wedge that gets driven between "us" and "them" is another war justified, another book sold, another distraction from the real issues. Only we as a people can decide not to buy into this shtick anymore. It is up to us to stop rioting, to stop mocking, to stop killing, to stop insulting, to stop being just generally shitty to one another, and to take a stand against these conflicts we keep getting sold into. And it is high time that we stop expecting the other guy to go first.