Monday, December 14, 2015

Amuse Douche

I found the below commentary amusing for many reasons. But once again the blame game is about Boomers.  I note that no mention of wars ending, civil rights, feminism, gay rights and other great opportunities that opened the door for progress came from Boomers.  As a Boomer at the tail end of the curve, like the Black dude who is President, we admittedly benefited from those riots, fights, marches and drug fueled sex crazed rock shows without having to do much heavy lifting. Well I was 10 in 1968 my mother would not let me and no she was no helicopter parent.  She survived the fear of bombs reigning down in her native Australia, the fear of coming to America as an illegal immigrant, and never going home again despite the family that would have welcomed her.   My father the son of an Austrian immigrant who escaped the emerging Fascist/Nazi region and married a girl in order to stay in America would make my father one of the original Dreamers.  His lot was working the family business and avoiding the rage of an angry man who never returned home either and died before I ever met him. From what I understand it was no loss.

What we have here is a generation or two of those who have never had real pain or felt real anguish.  Only now thanks to the large problems due to income inequity are we finally realizing what it is like to be marginalized. The anger on the streets that led to Black Lives Matter is just and duly needed but it like their earlier white counterparts of Occupy Wall Street need to evolve, find leadership and use the momentum to find a legitimate organization for those who see this as their moment to ensure Civil Rights once again. It  is not just about Police shooting and killing young black males, it is about those who are placed in Police Custody who are risk - those of color, those transgendered/gay, homeless, mentally ill and women who have all fallen prey to this abuse of power. And in turn ask about if black lives matter why are voting rights being taken away, the right for education and access to training for jobs and homes via non discriminatory lending practices.  Black Lives Matter has a large plate on which to pick many substantive issues to feed from that buffet that was prepared in the income inequity kitchen.

So while I agree that in turn this odd new group of MEllinneals seem to be oddly coddled and swaddled and yet like the children they are defiant, obstinate and demanding, is the problem that divides and confuses us.  This is war that a Boomer can support, I am still young enough to get to the front of the line and put up a fight. But the MEllinneals refuse our support.  For the very things they accuse society of doing to them they do to us - dismiss, ignore and marginalize - they are very much like the bullshit products and ideas that they come up with as business plans - only that were done before and done better by the very people they despise.   Maybe that is the real problem - jealousy.

Has politically correct culture gone too far?

In his first column as Guardian US writer-at-large, Dave Schilling ignores the trigger warnings and wanders into the very unsafe space that is the schism between millennials and their predecessors

Dave Schilling
The Guardian UK
Monday 14 December 2015

Today, I woke up to the startling realization that I’m no longer a child. In the eyes of the law, I haven’t been a kid since I turned 18. In the eyes of the Lord, I grew up around the time I first saw the interrogation scene in Basic Instinct. This year it dawned on me that the truest, most accurate sign of maturity is actually righteous indignation.

I lost it over reports that students at Princeton are lobbying to have former US president Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from their university’s School of Public and International Affairs. Woodrow Wilson led us through the first world war. He invented the League of Nations, a forward-thinking precursor to the UN. He had to live his entire life with the name Woodrow. Hasn’t he suffered enough? I thought. Wilson, for the record, oversaw the resegregation of parts of the federal government during his tenure – a blemish on his liberal record that he shares with basically every US president through the middle of the last century. While we’re at it, shall we replace the Washington monument with a Whole Foods?

When it comes to the generational divide in this country, I am officially part of the problem. While the young people annoyingly persist in believing we can always “do better”, I couldn’t be bothered to get up and change the channel on my TV if an Isis execution video came on MSNBC because ugh, the remote is so far away and I just got up to refill my water 10 minutes ago. Our world is such a non-stop horror show of violence, greed, and NCIS spinoffs that the aforementioned hypothetical, grisly scenario isn’t quite that far-fetched. All the while, sour-faced commentators and critics delight in ridiculing kids who’ve had enough. Perhaps college students are creating safe spaces on their campuses because the country they’re inheriting fundamentally isn’t.

In 2015, it has seemed like every day, some new Gen X celebrity from the 80s or 90s popped up to bemoan the sensitive, guileless, weak-willed Generation Y, while the Baby Boomers guzzle their food through a straw and masturbate all over their guns. Author Bret Easton Ellis dubbed people around my age “Generation Wuss”. To Ellis, millennials are defined by “their over-sensitivity, their insistence that they are right despite the overwhelming proof that suggests they are not, their lack of placing things within context, the overreacting, the passive-aggressive positivity, and, of course, all of this exacerbated by the meds they’ve been fed since childhood by over-protective ‘helicopter’ parents mapping their every move.” Over-sensitivity seems like his way of describing anyone who finds his attitudes toward women distressing. Comedian/brand ambassador for nostalgia Jerry Seinfeld refuses to perform at colleges because they are “too PC” to laugh at his edgy jokes about sneakers, breakfast cereals, and airline food. These culture warriors often see “over-sensitivity” as a threat to America’s precious notion of freedom of speech – one of the most abused, misunderstood ideals we have.
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All year, we’ve been subjected to the borderline hate and unfettered lunacy of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and the rest of the Republican presidential field. Carson has gone on record saying Islam is “not compatible” with the US constitution, even though the constitution explicitly gives American citizens the right to practice Islam freely. Meanwhile, Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from entering the US all together. Because people like Carson and Trump are old and wealthy and running for president, society values their speech more than the kid demanding trigger warnings before a lecture or one who wants to no-platform an intellectual. Really, there should be a trigger warning for the next GOP debate, because watching them makes me want to shoot myself. In the last two weeks, Trump has mocked a journalist with a disability and said that a Black Lives Matter protester maybe “should have been roughed up” after an assault took place at one of his rallies. In our blinkered view of free speech, Trump has earned the right to rubber-stamp violence and intolerance, presumably because he’s a tough guy who speaks plain truths, or some such bullshit.

Trump’s favorite weapon – the rhetorical equivalent of the golden gun from the James Bond video game GoldenEye 64, because it has the power to vanquish an opponent immediately – is calling someone “stupid” or a “loser”. Even if Trump’s statements are abhorrent to both sides of the American political establishment, we have to listen to him, but he doesn’t have to listen to us. In the ideal version of American first amendment free speech, everyone speaks eloquently, no one uses their rights to incite violence or hatred, and we patiently listen to everyone else’s opinion because they’re all so damned reasonable. Of course, this notion is so fantastical and absurd, there should be a special section at Disneyland called “First Amendment Land” where instead of Mickey Mouse or Darth Vader posing for photos with your babies, it’s Alexis de Tocqueville.

The practical reality of American society is that most of us would rather not hear what the other side has to say and would quite frankly chew off our own genitals in exchange for the power to pretend like those people don’t exist at all. It’s why any hope for meaningful compromise on wedge issues has died since the early days of the Obama administration. The power of Trump is that he can magically quiet those he does not agree with through the power of insults. That’s the greatest gift a politician could hope for in a democracy that doesn’t value differences of opinion.
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How is Trump’s dismissal of opposing views any different than the no-platforming of feminists who critique trans activists? In both cases, someone is dismissing speech they deem harmful, dangerous to society, or just plain incorrect. The only difference is that Trump’s ideas are now terrifyingly considered acceptable enough that he can find himself on Saturday Night Live. The average leftwing youth activist hasn’t had a national platform since Occupy Wall Street – a movement cheerfully discredited by the media and shut down by the police. No-platforming and PC attitudes are themselves speech that has to be protected as long as the other side shows such contempt for ideals of equality and empathy.

True American free speech is less a thoughtful dialogue and more an epic slap fight between two combatants exhibiting the signs of chronic alcohol abuse. Our discourse is not civilized, it’s not reasonable, and it’s only gotten more debased in the 30 years I’ve been on this planet. Young activists actually still give a damn about the future, which is why they’re using every tool at their disposal to try to improve their lot rather than giggling every time the man with the silly haircut makes a funny on the TV box.

As a nation, we are so cynical that we’ve allowed a cartoon testicle with a mouth and absolutely zero experience in government to have a sniff of getting into the White House. Gen X thinkers are bemused by the people they so derisively named “millennials” (or should that be “founders”?) because they are compelled to try to be a bit more enlightened than those that came before them. One of the millennial’s favorite tools for enacting social change is Twitter, but there are those who see Twitter as yet another hotbed of censorship. In New York magazine’s piece on PC culture from January 2015, writer Jonathan Chait claims that the emphasis on “tone policing” and other attempts to tackle the biases inherent in certain forms of rhetoric is harming our right to free speech. “Social media, where swarms of jeering critics can materialize in an instant, paradoxically creates this feeling of isolation,” he wrote.
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Millennials got Occupy Wall Street, Donald Trump gets SNL. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The “jeering critic” he’s talking about is the rabble-rouser on Twitter blowing up the mentions of someone they deem problematic. In this particular fantasy, the Thought Police mobilize to silence anyone who dares defy what they believe is acceptable. The nameless horde of youngsters who take to social media in order to explain the plight of the trans community to those misgendering Caitlyn Jenner or demand empathy be shown to minorities are apparently terrifying certain people into silence who, you know, have a point too, goshdarnit. Contrary to Chait’s assertion, Twitter mentions can be ignored, no one is required to have a social media presence, and the concept of “isolation” on the internet means your schedule is now free to get that gym membership, visit a foreign country, finish that screenplay about a hyper-intelligent species of space elves, or make actual friends.

The internet is a choose-your-own-adventure of hateful, aggressive speech on all sides of the political spectrum, but no matter who you are – from a nobody calling out an athlete to an intellectual debating the merits of second-wave feminism to an audience of 30 white-wine-drunk adjunct faculty – there’s always the off switch in the corner of your computer or smartphone.

When this alleged censorship migrates into the physical realm, it becomes a bit trickier. It manifests itself in the real world through the manufactured structure of the American higher education system. Students at the University of Missouri recently began expressing their desire for “safe spaces” on campus in the wake of controversies over racism at the school. Student protesters turned a patch of lawn into a sanctuary free of dissenting opinions and journalists. Sometimes, they enforced this safe space through physical means. The protesters were caught on video pushing a photographer for ESPN out of their area, which naturally sent vomitous outrage machines like the New York Post into fits of hysterics. Conservative critics of young people are even more vitriolic in their hatred of PC culture than their liberal counterparts.

I honestly think they believe that this is a harbinger of the end times, far more disastrous for the planet than global warming, the rise of militant groups in the Middle East, or the next Coldplay album. An online post by the president of the evangelical college Oklahoma Wesleyan, Dr Everett Piper, made the rounds of concerned media aggregators across the country this month. Piper says, “An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad. It is supposed to make you feel guilty,” in response to a student who was troubled by a church sermon. He also helpfully reminds the reader that his school is “not a day care”. He’s right about that. The average daycare doesn’t cost almost $32,000 a year to attend, whereas Oklahoma Wesleyan does, in fact, cost that much. Granted, OWU offers room, board, and eternal salvation, while in daycare all you get is a juice box, a blanket, and a DVD screening of the middle 35 minutes of Finding Nemo before your step-dad comes to pick you up.

Piper goes on to say: “If you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.” In other words, if you want to spend $32,000 a year to develop an inferiority complex, then you know where to matriculate: Bartlesville, Oklahoma’s finest (and presumably only) private Christian university. Piper’s post equates not wanting to be made to feel bad with “selfishness”. Campus safe spaces are narcissistic playgrounds of the weak-willed and the cowardly. This worldview seems to value stoic cynicism and self-hatred over not wanting to hit yourself over the head with a hammer until God, your mom, and Ronald Reagan’s moldy ghost love you more. I am just old enough to see how that could be appealing. Speaking up takes effort and always being satisfied with myself would get old after awhile. Without extreme disgust, would life be as sweet? If I didn’t struggle with doubt every once in a while I’d be Donald Trump, who, by the way, is the product of America’s reigning generational champions: the Baby Boomers.

While Gen X and Y fight over which deep-alphabet letter is more “extreme”, Baby Boomers like Trump and Dr Everett Piper are steering the USS Uncle Sammy Blue Jeans into the cultural equivalent of the asteroid field from The Empire Strikes Back. I hadn’t even had the opportunity to blissfully forget the Planned Parenthood mass shooting when the San Bernardino mass shooting happened. Our Boomer overlords, with their tough love, quiet strength, and verbal abuse, have handed us a world where I don’t even trust the guy in front of me in line at Panera Bread to not be planning to unload a clip into my chest. While Donald Trump is gaslighting his critics and encouraging his supporters “rough up” dissenters, real change on important issues like gun control elude us.

Movie theaters, clinics, universities, high schools, and countless other spaces too numerous to mention have been targets of indiscriminate violence. College is the last time where one is free to be idealistic, to think that they can actually make a difference before men of God, politicians, and the mega-rich inform them that actually, they’re better off playing along. I might question the necessity of changing the name of a school or think that people need to stop assuming an off-color joke is the end of the world, but my time is up. I’m too busy ignoring bill collectors, getting winded going up a staircase and freaking out over a suspicious mole to worry that much. The next generation still thinks they can change the world for the better, and maybe they can, if we’d just let them. The only thing I know for sure is that they can’t do much worse than our parents.

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