Obama Vs The Right – The Neverending Shit Show

To think that this was penned back in 2013 . . .

A Raindrop In The Ocean

Where is the line between disagreement and treason?

Many on the right, insist that Obama is terrible. And they throw the term treason around, in regards to him and his actions. Not at all surprising, as any word that fits, is usable in the bubble (no matter how irrelevant, or wrong, it may be).

But the fact is, if the roles of the current were reversed, and it was Obama’s democrats and the left that was in the place of the current right, there would be hell to pay. If it was Obama’s party that was crying fowel and keeping (and sacraficing) the nation over a disagreement, people would not stand for it.  They would use the word treasonous, and frankly, it would fit. Because from what I can see, that is exactly what this behaver amounts to.

Yet, somehow the right is the  “patriotic” side.

Don’t get me…

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Free Speech Vs. Violence – The Salman Rushdie Conundrum

I admit that my take on this topic is being delivered rather late to the actual event. However, having come across an article tweeted by Richard Dawkins on the subject, it seemed an opportune time to revisit a topic that I once felt fairly conclusively about. Having said that, this was also a time when many seemingly thorny issues could be boiled down to black-and-white conclusions that were just common sense.

As I would come to learn, however, even the wisest publicly adored intellectuals (the publicly adored aspect is key, really) can be wrong. They may be misinformed or (as often seems the case), drawing a conclusion without considering all other external variables. Then there is the factor of speaking conclusively on a topic that is outside of ones academic scope (many are guilty of this).
Either way, my time in the nu-Atheist movement seen me absorbing and regurgitating arguments from authority without analysis (because what analysis can I give? I don’t have a Ph.D.). And my time post-mainstream atheist (along with my introduction to the concept of philosophy) had me begin to recognize the problems with how I sourced my information.

This transition in myself is a bit hard to describe. After all, what I call embracing philosophy is less concerned with the academic discipline than it was changing my internal frame of mind. While I have pursued the discipline at length (through podcasts and such), I have no real interest in embracing the field much more. Mainly because what I call philosophy is less concerned with the people and more concerned with how their work changed how they view the world around them.
Potentially because I don’t understand what the term philosophy entails. The domineering search engine of our time says the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline, but i’m inclined to go beyond that. In a sense, it could be said that philosophy IS the accumulation of all past, present and future human knowledge. Many in any field within or adjacent to the sciences will potentially take issue with this assertion. A rebuke that I hardly take seriously given that the rift between science and the philosophy of science is a fairly recent phenomenon in the grand scheme of things.

I suspect that this paragraph of empty ramblings will be slightly triggering to those antithetical to the disciplines of philosophy. Dare I say, proof of the navel-gazing nature of the discipline.

I refer you folk to the field that is Astrophysics.

Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to seek to understand the universe and our place in it. The field explores topics such as the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe.

htmlhttps://www.space.com/26218-astrophysics.html

If there is one thing I know about the anti-philo crowd, it’s that they love themselves some star gazing.

Either way, it’s been a long time since I last brushed with this topic. Having come across an article titled We Ignored Salman Rushdie’s Warning in a publication called Common Sense, this seems a good time for a re-visit. The author of the article is Bari Weiss (because, OF COURSE it is).

Let’s begin.

We live in a culture in which many of the most celebrated people occupying the highest perches believe that words are violence. In this, they have much in common with Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who issued the first fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, and with Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old who, yesterday, appears to have fulfilled his command when he stabbed the author in the neck on a stage in Western New York. 

The first group believes they are motivated by inclusion and tolerance—that it’s possible to create something even better than liberalism, a utopian society where no one is ever offended. The second we all recognize as religious fanatics. But it is the indulgence and cowardice of the words are violence crowd that has empowered the second and allowed us to reach this moment, when a fanatic rushes the stage of a literary conference with a knife and plunges it into one of the bravest writers alive.

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

Right off the bat, it’s hard to ignore the strawman. I have yet to see 1 single person who equates words ALONE as violence. While I won’t go as far as saying that no one would say that, the vast majority are more concerned with the consequences of words.

And no, not in a victim-blaming sense. No one ought to be stabbed for their depictions of what arguably amounts to be a character of fiction.

However, I suspect that this isn’t the kind of speech that people like Bari are defending.

* * *

Salman Rushdie has lived half of his life with a bounty on his head—some $3.3 million promised by the Islamic Republic of Iran to anyone who murdered him. And yet, it was in 2015, years after he had come out of hiding, that he told the French newspaper L’Express: “We are living in the darkest time I have ever known.” 

* * *

By 2015, America was a very different place.

When Rushdie made those comments to L’Express it was in the fallout of PEN, the country’s premiere literary group, deciding to honor the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo with an award. Months before, a dozen staff members of Charlie Hebdo were murdered by two terrorists in their offices. It was impossible to think of a publication that deserved to be recognized and elevated more.

And yet the response from more than 200 of the world’s most celebrated authors was to protest the award. Famous writers—Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Michael Cunningham, Rachel Kushner, Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, Peter Carey, Junot Díaz—suggested that maybe the people who had just seen their friends murdered for publishing a satirical magazine were a little bit at fault, too. That if something offends a minority group, that perhaps it shouldn’t be printed. And those cartoonists were certainly offensive, even the dead ones. These writers accused PEN of “valorizing selectively offensive material: material that intensifies the anti-Islamic, anti-Maghreb, anti-Arab sentiments already prevalent in the Western world.”

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

Uh.

Looking back to the boycott, the goal was less anti-anti-Islam sentiments than it was questioning the nature of the content (as it comes across in the context of french culture).

In their letter the writers protest against the award from PEN America, the prominent literary organization of which most of the signatories are members, accusing the French satirical magazine of mocking a “section of the French population that is already marginalized, embattled, and victimized”.

Twenty-six writers, including Pulitzer and National Book Award winners, joined six others – Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi – who had previously withdrawn from the PEN gala celebrating the award. The letter condemns the murder of 12 Hebdo staffers by Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, two extremists enraged by the magazine’s cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

But the writers also criticize the decision to give an award to Charlie Hebdo.

“There is a critical difference between staunchly supporting expression that violates the acceptable, and enthusiastically rewarding such expression,” the letter reads.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/29/writers-join-protest-charlie-hebdo-pen-award

I remember the overall atmosphere of the time period. At the time, most people (dare I say, me included) were far more concerned with the dangers of radical Islam than they were of much else. Certainly, far more emphasis was put on the dangers of Islamisation than on homegrown fascism. Though Christopher Hedges did sound the alarm on the dangers of Christian nationalism early, I don’t recall this sentiment escaping the confines of the progressive new sphere until the Trump era.

This brings us to today. To Bari Weiss once again viewing history through a straw-man lens.

The protest was not about curbing Islamic criticism. It was more concerned with not glamorizing what, in french cultural terms, equated to punching down. Whilst some may see this as the erosion of western values, I see it as the values of freedom of speech and expression working just as they should.

From how I understand it, no one said that the PEN organization should not award Charlie Hebdo. They just decided not to attend as their expression of dissatisfaction with the choice.

Here’s how Rushdie responded: “This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organized, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.”

He was right. They were wrong. And their civic cowardice, as Sontag may have described it, is in no small part, responsible for the climate we find ourselves in today. (As I wrote this, I got a news alert from The New York Times saying the attacker’s “motive was unclear.” Motive was unclear?)

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

I can’t wait to see where this goes . . .

The words are violence crowd is right about the power of language. Words can be vile, disgusting, offensive, and dehumanizing. They can make the speaker worthy of scorn, protest, and blistering criticism. But the difference between civilization and barbarism is that civilization responds to words with words. Not knives or guns or fire. That is the bright line. There can be no excuse for blurring that line—whether out of religious fanaticism or ideological orthodoxy of any other kind.

Today our culture is dominated by those who blur that line—those who lend credence to the idea that words, art, song lyrics, children’s books, and op-eds are the same as violence. We are so used to this worldview and what it requires—apologize, grovel, erase, grovel some more—that we no longer notice. It is why we can count, on one hand—Dave Chappelle; J.K. Rowling—those who show spine.

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

To this, I have to say . . . what in the FUCK are you talking about?!

We live in a world where actions have consequences. Though punching down from the safety of the mainstream media was once considered acceptable (as most marginalized groups without fanatical fringes never had the platform to defend themselves), this is less the case today. Because for better or for worse, almost everyone now has a platform. Not to mention that the ease of information access of modern technology leaves little excuse for the dispersal of outdated or demonstrably false information.

This brings us to the real agenda of this, the free speech hysteria crowd. They use the term copiously, but they are not interested in free speech. What they want is the good ole days, the era of speech without consequence. A time when spouting wrongful or bigoted (often both) nonsense came with little reprocussions.

Just as it comes as no coincidence that Weiss chose J.K. Rowling and Dave Chappelle as her people with spine, it is also no coincidence that this is all happening as generational and racial power dynamics are starting to shift in the US and elsewhere. After all, when accustomed to privilege, equality can look very much like oppression.

Of course it is 2022 that the Islamists finally get a knife into Salman Rushdie. Of course it is now, when words are literally violence and J.K. Rowling literally puts trans lives in danger and even talking about anything that might offend anyone means you are literally arguing I shouldn’t exist. Of course it’s now, when we’re surrounded by silliness and weakness and self-obsession, that a man gets on stage and plunges a knife into Rushdie, plunges it into his liver, plunges it into his arm, plunges it into his eye. That is violence.

https://www.commonsense.news/p/we-ignored-salman-rushdies-warning?triedSigningIn=true

Well, I don’t have much else to say.

If you want to know what Free speech is code for, it’s right here plain as day. The freedom to punch down without consequence. If that is the stance that Salman Rushdie chooses to take, then that is unfortunate. Though hardly the only case of prominence not equate to wisdom.

Either way, may he have a speedy recovery.

Dr. Oz Is Back In the News Again

It’s been years since I last wrote about the shenanigans of Dr. Mehmet Oz, America’s favourite celebrity marketer (and sometimes MD). Though I thought my comma-riddled rantings about Oz’s Quackery (and for that matter of The Doctors, his then prime-time television MD counterparts) from the mid-2010s would be the last time I would ever mention the man, it turns out that I was wrong.

Though my headline isn’t exactly accurate (Dr. Oz has been making news off and on all through the pandemic, and arguably since my last post mentioning his existence), Dr. Oz – America’s Favorite Celebrity Dr. And Tax Cheat isn’t technically true. Though there is certainly subjectivity to be found in analyzing the tax breaks made available to primarily land owners, such behaviour is hardly cheating in the legal sense. It’s no shell company-owned nest egg in a tax haven like the Bahamas or Canada.

This brings us to today’s article of interest. Resigned from his old cushy position of prime-time television marketer of all things faux-medicinal, Dr. Oz now has political ambitions. His campaign was based around his in-law’s property in Pennsylvania, of all places.

The article was written by Julia Conley and published by Common Dreams.

Fetterman Demands Dr. Oz Answer for $50,000 Tax Break Intended for Pa. Farmers

“Dr. Oz does not want to live in Pennsylvania, and he doesn’t want to pay taxes here; he just wants our Senate seat.”

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman on Tuesday slammed his GOP opponent in the state’s U.S. Senate election, Mehmet Oz, for taking advantage of a tax break under a program originally intended to help struggling farmers, saying the tax relief underscores how the celebrity doctor seeks to benefit from Pennsylvania instead of serving the state.

Oz, who has been known for years as TV personality Dr. Oz, purchased a farmstead in Montgomery County late last year, weeks after he announced he was running for Senate. Oz has homes in Florida and New Jersey and has been staying at a Pennsylvania house owned by his in-laws since 2020, when Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) announced his plan to retire.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Tuesday, the $3.1 million Montgomery County property is eligible for a tax relief and conservation program called Act 319, which gives landowners a more favorable tax assessment in return for protecting land from development.

Oz’s home, where he still doesn’t live, has been held back from development as a “forest reserve,” with Oz and his wife agreeing to preserve tree cover that exists on the property.

In exchange, the state has assessed the value of the property at less than $450,000, subjecting Oz to an annual tax bill of just $21,473 instead of $72,000.

While the tax break is meant to incentivize homeowners to refrain from developing forested land, according to the Inquirer, Oz agreed when he bought the home to “not construct any improvement of structures” on the property.

He applied for the Act 319 tax break months later.

“The intent here was to induce [Oz] to not develop the land,” tax attorney Richard Booker told the Inquirer. “But he’d already agreed to that.”

On Twitter, Fetterman posted an image of a check made out to “Farmer Oz.”

Oz’s use of Act 319 is completely legal—but with tax break affecting a local school district’s budget, Fetterman said the doctor’s actions demonstrate that “Dr. Oz does not want to live in Pennsylvania, and he doesn’t want to pay taxes here; he just wants our Senate seat.”

As far as republican cronyism goes, this is small potatoes. Compared to the past (and probably present!) financial shenanigans of the Trump organization, focusing on Oz’s $50,527 tax break seems petty, particularly with the environmental consideration considered.

But, as Fetterman remarks, it’s hardly about the ecological stewardship for Oz, is it?

Considering that he agreed not to develop the property, this amounts to a little more than a nice incentive for not selling his little forest retreat. Which had the added benefit of putting a senate seat within his reach when the time turned out to be right.

Taking a step to the side for a moment, we have all been in this Bizzaro world for so long now that the thought of Dr.Oz running for senate hardly elicits any response from most of us. Until the occasional moment when you have a brief realization and place yourself in the past, maybe 7 years ago.
Back in 2014, Dr. Oz had to sit in front of congress and admit that a lot of what he was selling on his primetime show amounted to little more than medicinal woo. Now, he’s running for a seat in the US Senate.
Even Donald Trump has never had to confess his sins in front of congress and the nation before his 2015 rise to infamy (though he did use his celebrity influence in 1991 to try and convince congress to enact more business-friendly tax reform). Trump claimed the taxation paradigm of the time to be very detrimental to the real estate market (and by extension, to his businesses).

What an era. I was 3 and completely politically unaware. And Donald Trump had not yet demonstrated the unbelievable ability (or I suppose, lack thereof) to go bankrupt whilst running a gambling empire.

Anyway, back to present-day hell.

Fetterman noted that according to the Inquirer, Oz has claimed that ongoing renovations have kept him from moving into the home he purchased—”on two recent afternoons, there were no cars in the driveway or signs of construction activity at the house.”

“Dr. Oz hasn’t even moved into his ‘home’ in Pennsylvania yet, but he’s already found time to claim a tax break on his new mansion in Pennsylvania—a tax break meant for struggling small-time farmers,” said Fetterman. “It also looks like Dr. Oz is no longer even pretending to be renovating and getting ready to move into this house where he supposedly plans to live.”

“Honestly, he’s just acknowledging what we all already know: that as soon as he loses, Dr. Oz is heading back to his mansion in New Jersey,” he added.

While I don’t feel a need to comment on this rather petty commentary (I’m not overly concerned with people owning vacation properties), such is how things are in politics.

It does bring to mind the interesting dynamic that can be brought about by wealthy investors buying property in distressed (primarily rural) locations. Some would consider the cash infusion a good thing due to the economic gains (though often exaggerated, they are usually not non-existent). However, the double-edged sword often shows up in the amount of power these land owners can have over local area town councils and other leadership. For example, if the town/county/parish/municipality decides that the free (or very lenient) taxation ride is over and it’s time for the wealthy land owners to pay up. Often the threat of abandoning the current locale in favour of a locale that is less hostile to business as usual is enough to stop such attempts at fairer governance.

Keep in mind that I am not saying that Dr. Oz is playing the part of a big-name box store digging its claws into a small-town economy. The home he owned may be for political gain, maybe just a vacation home, maybe both. It just brought the phenomenon to mind, so I decided to explore it.

In fact, to jump on the side of the devil’s advocate, John Fetterman may want to be careful what he wishes for. If Dr. Oz does indeed drop the property and high tail it back to the tri-state metroplex, there is no guarantee that the next owner will be as interested in not developing the land as they see fit.

Campaigning as “the pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker, pro-democracy candidate” for Senate, Fetterman has harshly criticized Oz for only recently moving into his in-laws’ home in Pennsylvania and for still owning a home in New Jersey.

He rebuked Oz last week for newly resurfaced comments in which the doctor said, “It’s very hard to discern significant differences in happiness in someone who’s making $50,000 and $50 million,” calling Oz “out of touch from reality.”

“Dr. Oz is a fraud who is just using the people of Pennsylvania, he does not care about us one bit,” said Fetterman on Tuesday.

While I am not going to touch on the last paragraph, the one beforehand is certainly correct. Having watched a few consecutive weeks of his show all the way back in 2009 showed me how far in orbit he was in comparison to the everyday Americans that he was supposed to be helping live a better life. My favourite from this era was an angry episode wherein he came out against a certain brand of mineral water that he seemed to claim had hidden caffeine content. Being unable to sleep for a couple nights, he was surprised to find that the mineral water he enjoyed had added caffeine. While we never learn what the brand is, I think I identified it at the time as Glaceau (being the only mineral water I knew of to be caffeinated at the time. I was, and still am, quite fond of it actually).

Interestingly enough, I recently found myself in a situation wherein I had purchased a product in which the caffeine content did in fact seem to be almost hidden from view. Available all over the US and Canada (and consumed by many popular YouTubers who are targeting the teenager and below youtube demographics), I introduce you to Bai. Though I have only ever come across 3 flavours here in Canada, many are clearly available stateside.

One day, after a long day of work (which preceded another early morning) I decided to try the blueberry-flavoured variant. Having walked past the bottles many times before in retailers (and having seen YouTubers purchasing them as healthy snacks) I figured I would one out. It was only after purchasing the bottle and cracking the lid wherein I spotted the little green band on the back of the bottle.

Interestingly enough, this label is even more ambiguous than the bottle I had at the time (I’m not sure if Health Canada has a different labelling requirement than the FDA, or if the one pictured is an older/newer version than the one I seen).

While it is true that caffeine is indeed listed as an ingredient, the issue I have is that one is not expecting it based on the front face of the bottle. Unlike the bright yellow appearance, Energy name and clearly listed caffeine content on the front of the Glaceau mineral water offering, one look at Bai leaves someone with the impression of an antioxidant drink, and little more.

While I ended up spotting the caffeine listing soon enough to avoid a terrible night of rest, I have to wonder how many people (teenagers?!) don’t. I am also unsure of what benefits (if any) come from the antioxidants. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, though I can’t help but think that these beverages would have been right at home on the Dr. Oz Show.
Then there is the caffeine. This aspect introduces a possible addiction vector by way of the fact that it’s hidden (or at very least, ambiguously labelled). You know what you are getting if you purchase any variety of energy drinks in a can, but not if you think you are buying juice.

With the Bai rant out of the way, back to America’s most decorated sellout . . .

The author of the article raises an interesting question with the mention of John Fetterman as the pro-choice, pro-equality, pro-worker, pro-democracy candidate. It makes me wonder what Dr. Oz’s stance on abortion is.

While seemingly on the right side of this, the bit about this being up to the American people and their elected representatives is certainly problematic. Something that the man knows, given past comments on the subject.

Either way, he’s wrong. It has been obvious for decades what can and WILL happen if the uneducated people are allowed to have a say in the abortion debate. And in this age of Republican extremism, there is no longer any room for feeble pro-life pandering.

You are either a crusader for equal access to healthcare and equality, or you are not. By that metric, Dr. Oz has lost the plot.

Do School Girl Uniforms Have A Place In Pornography Or Sex Shops?

Of all the topics that I didn’t think I would ever find myself commenting on, this certainly has to be near the top of that nonexistent list. Nonetheless, it is a question being asked by a small but brave group of feminists in a UK high school.

Today, we will be exploring an article detailing the reason why this group has taken this stance. Not just for the sake of commenting on their argument, but also for the sake of digging into the full picture of what is happening.

Let’s begin.

These British students are trying to ban school uniforms in sex shops, pornography

Group’s petition has obtained enough signatures to trigger a government response

It was Friday lunchtime at a high school in Sandbach, England, and the conversation among a group of students was bleak: teenage girls talking about their experiences of being sexually harassed on their way to school.

“I remember we were on a public bus. And the bus driver told us it was OK to take our tights off if we wanted to. He said he preferred it when we wore the old uniform at school and our skirts were shorter. I was 11,” said Alice, now a Grade 11 student.

“When I was walking home once in my school uniform, I had a man in his thirties get close to me and say that he was going to rape me as he walked past. It was just horrific,” said Hannah, also in Grade 11.

Hannah and Alice — whose names have been changed and ages left out at the request of their school — are part of the feminism group at Sandbach High School, located south of Manchester.

Petition has earned response from U.K. government

The group is petitioning the U.K. government to ban school uniforms from being sold in costume and sex shops and worn in pornography.

“When we were walking to and from school, on public transport, and we were in our school uniforms, we’d been catcalled, sexually harassed, honked at,” said Alice. “And we kind of wondered why, and why people feel so entitled to, like, sexually harass schoolchildren and make us feel so uncomfortable.”

That is an excellent question.

The answer is obvious. Society has had a patriarchial structure for as long as there has been a society. Combine this sense of power with a lack of empathy or morality, then you end up with a dangerous result. Creeps that feel emboldened by the fact that their behaviour will almost certainly go unnoticed.

And even if it is noticed, there is still the very real possibility of victim blaming. The whole “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have acted so ______” argument. Anything to shift focus from the ethical void that can often accompany a strong patriarchial stance.

However, I suspect that technology has a role to play in this situation as well.

Though social standing, temperament and other factors also undoubtedly play a role, its hard to look at this and not consider the fairly recent collective change that was the introduction of the internet to our fingertips. Or more importantly, the introduction of every single type of pornography that we could possibly ever desire into our daily lives.
No one talks about it in polite company. But as far as activities go, damn near everyone does it. We don’t like to talk about the porn we watch, but watch porn we most certainly do. Browsing the endless list of strangers doing whatever tickles our fancy.

Instead of humans, the actors become simply a means to an end. A viewpoint that it seems, can easily be transitioned to real-life situations.

No matter what the factors driving the behaviours, however, it remains inexcusable.

The group’s petition has now gained more than 13,400 signatures, meaning it has surpassed the requirement to receive a government response. But amid the chaos of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation and a total reshuffle of the Conservative Party, no response has come within the usual 14 days.

They have also written to members of Parliament, but so far have only received the public support of the school’s local councillor, James Barber.

The feminism group was set up by teacher Sarah Maile in 2012. Each year, Maile encourages her students to select a women’s rights issue to focus on, ranging from human trafficking to female genital mutilation. But this year the group’s focus is particularly close to home.

“I’ve experienced people coming over to me and asking me explicit questions about virginity, and when I’ve said, ‘No,’ they’ve called me a bitch,” said Emma, a Grade 9 student at Sandbach.

A 2018 online survey of by campaign group Plan International U.K. of more than 1,000 14- to 21-year-old girls and women suggested that more than one-third of girls have been sexually harassed in public while wearing school uniform.

The vast majority of schools in the United Kingdom require students to wear a uniform up to age 16.

As an older student, Hannah no longer wears a uniform and says she has seen a “decrease in harassment” since she started wearing her own clothes to school.

Hannah’s experience is echoed in research by Plan International U.K. that found “girls felt that being in school uniform made them a particular target.”

While men should certainly be leaving these kids the hell alone, such statistics make me question the purpose of the school uniform, to begin with. Are the benefits worth the obvious harm they are introducing to students on a daily basis?

While that question’s thought process can come a little too close to victim blaming for my liking, one should not that the same could be said for a ban on an esthetic (like the school girl uniform). Will a crime happening to a woman that chooses to wear such a uniform be taken just as seriously as a crime not involving such clothing?

Kate Stephenson, a researcher and author of A Cultural History of School Uniform, says uniforms have been around in Britain since the 16th century for reasons ranging from providing orphans with warm clothes to distinguishing status at public schools like Eton College.

Modern uniforms have been around since the 19th century and are intended to give students from different backgrounds a sense of equality.

“It’s about making sure everybody looks the same and sort of removing those items that indicate that some children have more money than others,” Stephenson said.

As was what I suspected. Conformity removes many avenues of bullying that many would otherwise face in school. And this certainly makes them easier to control.

Banning real uniforms is victim-blaming, students say

The campaigners from Sandbach High School say they have been repeatedly asked whether removing uniforms from schools altogether might improve the situation. The students say that line of thinking is victim-blaming.

“I think it’s really worth mentioning that we are children, and we’re telling you that we feel unsafe and we feel uncomfortable because we’re so actively sexualized through these uniforms,” said Alice.

Maile adds that the intent behind targeting sex shops is not to tell consenting adults what they can and cannot do in the bedroom, but to highlight the inappropriate way the costumes are marketed.

“It’s the very specific language that is applied to these costumes, ‘sexy schoolgirl lingerie’ — like, the very fact that that is the description of the product,” Maile said.

But Keith Miller, from London sex shop Love-Init, doesn’t believe that responsibility for the harassment lies with sex shops or their clientele.

“I think that comes down to an individual,” Miller said. “I don’t think stopping these being sold in shops is going to stop the comments. If somebody wants to talk to a school girl in that way, they’re gonna do it.”

By the looks of this, the ban proposed seems more aimed at the sexualizing elements in the marketing (ie “Sexy School Girl Uniform”) than with the article of clothing itself. I find that reasoning perfectly understandable.
Really, the fact that these uniforms exist, to begin with, is weirdly pedo. Almost openly, really.

On the other hand, however, there is the nostalgia angle. High school was the funniest part of many people’s lives. Thus, the popular culture surrounding nostalgia tends to become the preference of many within a given generation.
This faux uniform plays into this perfectly. After all, it is literally reminiscent of the teenage exploits (or the regretted lack thereof) of a great many.

Of course, weirdos cat-calling on trains or acting like pedophiles under the cover of public anonymity are obviously not in it for the nostalgia. They clearly feel powerful. The big problem is aI think they will remain a risk to women no matter how a female faux uniform is marketed. It’s a problem that I have no idea how to even begin tackling.

According to Stephenson, the culture of sexualizing school uniforms began with the St Trinian’s comic strips in the 1940s and ’50s. Cartoonist Ronald Searle drew the older students in a “raunchier school uniform,” she said, and those characters used their sexuality to their advantage.

“Looking back at it now, sort of 70 years later, we can see problems with it,” said Stephenson. “But at the time, it was rewriting femininity; it was producing new role models.”

Stephenson believes that nowadays, adults typically wear school uniforms as costumes as a way to relive an awkward phase in their life and replace bad memories with positive ones.

‘It absolutely is sexualizing adolescents’

Most adults view the sex-shop uniforms as totally different from the real ones worn by students, she said.

“I think, if you talk to most people, they would be horrified by the idea that it was sexualizing [the] actual school uniform,” said Stephenson. “The problem is that, particularly with things like pornography, it absolutely is sexualizing adolescents.”

This is very true. Some studios go out if their way to make perfectly legal adults look the part of a very illegal demographic, and face no issues in most jurisdictions using terms like teenager or barely legal. It makes me wonder if this is a better focus than what amounts to the pornographic offshoot of an astetic.

The students’ campaign comes amid numerous calls from advocacy groups to make street harassment a crime in the U.K.

One of these groups, Our Streets Now, was set up as a result of harassment experienced by one of its co-founders, Gemma Tutton. She was 14 when she and her sister Maya created the group; Gemma had been publicly sexually harassed since she was in primary school.

In March 2021, the grassroots campaign group joined Plan International U.K. to draft a model bill and encourage the government to criminalize public sexual harassment.

Now, this is certainly a good avenue to start with. It feels weird that the UK does not have such a statute already.

While British Home Secretary Priti Patel initially seemed on board with passing a new law in 2021, the government’s independent adviser on the issue, Nimco Ali, has since suggested her attempts to get the law passed had received “pushback” and hinted Johnson had not fully supported it.

The campaigners from Sandbach High School say even if the school uniform ban isn’t passed, they are pleased to have sparked a conversation about the sexualization of children.

“When we’re wearing [a uniform], we are just trying to access education — and that is our fundamental human right,” said Hannah. “So to be abused whilst doing that is horrific.”

Indeed.

As for my closing remarks, I think that pursuing the criminalization of harassment is the best option in this case. Though the marketing and existence of the sexy schoolgirl uniform seem weird, I see no need to shame a kink.
Now, having said that, should governments of the world be considering the ramifications of pornography studies being allowed to push taboos (particularly those involving children) often right to the very edge of what is moral?

Even that is a can of worms, considering that some find pornography itself immoral. Nonetheless, for the rest of us non-puritans, where should the line be?


Racism In The Peoples Party Of Canada? You Don’t Say . . .

As we enter the last day of advance voting in the 2021 surprise Canadian Federal Election, I present you with a reblog of an entry that I wrote back in May, but completely forgot about.

While this writing makes clear where my vote is NOT going, I will not pick a side this time around by telling you where my vote is going (despite going liberal last time around).
Though there are 2 primary contenders in the Canadian system, remember that votes for smaller national contenders are not technically wasted votes. Even if a party like the Greens, Bloc or NDP don’t have a hope in hell of ever winning a majority, their influence rises with the amount of support they get from us voters.

While it amuses me to see conservatives concerned about the PPC potentially eating into the Conservative parties voter base (presumably to the benefit of the Trudeau Liberals), I am aware that Trudeau isn’t looking the best even on the left these days. If people are viewing this vote in the typical American mindset, they may be tempted to sit this one out.

Don’t do it. Even if the party that you don’t like regains (or takes) control, more votes for smaller national contenders means less overall influence of even the dominant players. The difference that is a majority or a minority government.

You can stay home and allow a majority for the liberals (seems unlikely) or the conservatives. Or you can explore another contender and potentially have either L or C win federally, but under a minority status. Unlike the virtually unchecked parliamentary boundaries of a majority, a minority is constrained by needing the approval of the next most powerful party. After all, nothing gets done without those votes.

As idiotic as calling this election seemingly was, don’t sit it out. Instead, be glad for the opportunity that options has afforded us in our democratic choices.

A Raindrop In The Ocean

Today’s post is, by my standards, low-hanging fruit. If I told you that writing this didn’t bring about a healthy dose of joy to my day, I would be lying. It would be like seeing live footage of Jason Kenny or Donald Trump slipping on a banana peel and falling on their ass.

If you ain’t laughing, you’re either delusional or full of shit (probably both). But anyway, on with the show.

Just as Justin Trudeau seems to have finally gotten the national vaccination program onto a similar trajectory as Joe Biden’s (as evidenced by my recent retrieval of my first Pfizer shot a week ago), the 2 factions of the Canadian Conservative political sphere appear to be embroiled in a spat of sorts.
Andrew told the teacher that Max was being a naughty boy. Or as it were, the Progressive Conservatives told the media that the Peoples Party were…

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Memes And Misinformation – When Did Sharing Become More Important Then Integrity?

3 years before the 2016 circus and the insanity that followed, I asked this question:

/// Why is sharing the information more important then actually checking if its correct? ///

How things stay the same.

A Raindrop In The Ocean

Social media  is a great tool for spreading all kinds of information far and wide, free of charge. Everything you could possibly imagine or want to find and share with others, can be done so with the click of a mouse, the tap of a screen, or the press of a button.

However, these social networking platforms have increasingly become a tool for spreading MISinformation of all kinds. From small, locally targeted stuff that affects a single organization, community, region. To national and internationally targeted ones, which quickly get attention all over the world in a very short period of time.

One example of this, came out of the recent flooding in Calgary.

It was being spread on social media, that price gouging by business’s was occurring during the flooding. Some examples, were some small convenience store and  Home Depot  “overcharging” for a case of 24 water…

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“Did Racist Images in Dr. Seuss Books Contribute to War Crimes?” – (COUNTERPUNCH)

Though I am coming out with this post a bit late in the game, this article is nonetheless worth a quick read. And a share if your timeline is filled with Dr. Seuss apologists. If only we cared as much about climate change and inequality within our human societies as much as we care about a set of fucking children’s books . . .

But I digress.

Though it may be impossible to change the mind of those willing to scapegoat the infamous and often ambiguous they (“They want to censor *placeholder*!”, “They want to ban *placeholder*!”. And my personal favourite, “They are snowflakes!!”), sharing the origin article can’t hurt.

A short excerpt:

“I didn’t realize Dr. Seuss made us all racists,” he quipped.

As usual, a flippant retort to a flippant remark moves the conversation nowhere. One has to dig a bit deeper.

The six newly delisted books (And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, If I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, The Cat’s Quizzer, and The Cat’s Quizzer) were all created between 1935 and 1976, a time when racist imagery in cartoons was as common as giant noses. And while these six books have been (in today’s vernacular) “cancelled,” no one is suggesting that they are in the same league as the infamous Censored Eleven—a group of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons that were considered so offensive toward African Americans that they were pulled from syndication way back in 1968.

Nor is anyone—outside of a Klan meeting—suggesting that the blatantly offensive characterizations found in the Censored Eleven have a place on Saturday morning television.

But when it comes to more subtle racist imagery—such as the Siamese cats in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp or the black-face crows in Dumbo—well, here many conservatives draw the line. Why, this is not racism, they insist. Those cartoon characters aren’t even people; they’re cats and crows! On the contrary, this is “woke censorship” run amok by out-of-touch “Hollywood elites,” themes they’ve no doubt picked up from right-wing politicians and FOX News pundits who are busily fanning the flames of the Culture War.

I wanted to take a look for myself at the image that had made the suits at Dr. Suess Inc. ban one book in particular after nearly 85 years in print. I opened And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street—the only book on the list that I was even vaguely familiar with—and found the controversial image in question, a cartoon of a Chinese man. It is a fairly stereotypical image from the 1930s. The man is bright yellow, has slits for eyes, a long pigtail, a lampshade looking hat. He holds chopsticks and a bowl of rice. He is called a “Chinaman.” And, for some unknown reason, he wears traditional Japanese-style shoes.

According to Dr. Seuss Enterprises that image, and some of the images in the other five books, “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

Did Racist Images in Dr. Seuss Books Contribute to War Crimes?

 

And, for some unknown reason, he wears traditional Japanese-style shoes.

This one is apparent. When it comes to ignorant minds and Asian culture, they often times end up being one and the same. Japanese, Chinese, Philipino . . . close enough!

Either way, like the rest of us that are fed up with hearing about Dr. Seuss (or worse, having that material compared to Cardi B’s smash hit without context), hopefully, this is over before it began. And it likely will be.

When you are determined to be annoyed at everything without context, the world is filled with possibilities.

 

 

 

Expectations

As I browsed some of the oldest entries in my back catalogue, I came to this relic. Though the tone of it makes it feel 25 or more years old, it was actually born in April of 2013. A product of the early 2010s, composed 4ish years out from the end of Bush Jr’s final term.

The title is expectations, and it is more or less about how people voted in a demigod in Obama with expectations of miracles, but instead only got a great many flawed half measures of a human being. This is not to say that he does not have a positive legacy, because that isn’t true.

His legacy can be found in 1 word. Obamacare. It’s not single-payer, but it’s a big step in the right direction.

Since we are talking about high expectations on the eve of a newly minted Biden/Harris term (well, assuming POTUS Cheeto & friends don’t succeed in what they accuse Biden of doing. Stealing the election!) I need to clarify a bit. Even though Joe Biden and Kamala Harris look the part of patron saints compared to the dung stain that currently inhabits the oval office, my expectations of them are hardly high. He’s a deligating, knowledge-seeking breath of fresh air to the Tweeting snowflake that is POTUS 45. But he’s still a career Democratic politician.

Something which I find both disheartening (as a fan of Bernie), and somewhat sobering. Like the rest of the privileged politicians and leaders of the party (not to mention the many external firms that take DNC/DCCC/ect cash), I don’t know if he truly is capable of seeing the era we have entered as different than the ones we have exited.

In the very late 2000s and the early 2010s, I began to hear from my American counterparts about their fears about their system. Though it’s all been culminating for at least 3 decades with many factors acting as fuses, they laid out fears of essentially Christian Coup D’etat. I had come across this in a few places (including a few Christopher Hedges articles). Though they deeply unsettled me (Hedges has that effect on the naive reader), I had trouble picturing what that looked like.

Then 2015 rolls around, with everyone’s favourite vanity candidate. Oh, look, Donald is running for president again . . . whats this photo op for?
Wait . . . it’s NOT a photo op? Yeah right!

I recall watching a TYT clip at the time which had Cenk Uygur commenting “you know, he COULD WIN” (I don’t recall the context). Sometime in the summer months, I recall Micheal Moore calling it. Far more connected to the inner part of the US than the rest of us, he saw what everyone else (including the DNC) didn’t.
So begun the decade from hell. Well, the 4 years from hell. It certainly doesn’t feel like 4 years.

Either way, as much as Trump has been a dangerous and deadly president in every way imaginable, one of his saving graces is in his stupidity. Though I’ve learned not to take ANYTHING for granted anymore, I would be VERY surprised if Trump & friends could Coup D’etat their way into remaining in control of a Wendys.

Which is what makes him even more dangerous. He is seemingly too stupid NOT to pull the rug out from under himself at practically any opportunity. But he has laid the groundwork for something far worse.

The candidacy I worry about coming from the Republicans will likely not occur in 2024, though I could be wrong. I’m starting to worry about 2028, 2032, maybe beyond.
This candidate will embody all of the authoritarianism and fascism that Trump does, but with a brain. An intellect to know how to weasel into the back rooms of power without catching the attention of the sleeping populace. A candidate that will utilize the phenomenon of Trumpism far better than the man in the name could.
It’s part of the reason why I hate that description. It makes Trumpism seem like a problem that can be solved by booting Cheeto to the curb. Even though he is merely a figurehead for something much bigger. For a similar example on the positive side of the spectrum, look no further than Bernie Sanders.

There is hope. If the Democrats want to have a hope in hell of turning this course, they NEED to prove themselves a viable alternative in the coming years. Though COVID 19 and student loan relief will make for a great start, there must be more in it for the average person. Whether it is kick-starting a set of referendums for single-payer healthcare or beginning a general UBI program for all citizens (preferably all with Biden’s signature, since that would be hilarious), the action needs to be bold. For ideas, look no further than Bernie and the squad.

To end this addon, it is not the Coup D’etat attempt of today that worries me. The one that worries me is the one that will occur down the road. When people least expect it, after a few more years of seeming normalcy.

A Raindrop In The Ocean

Image

Yesterday before work, I found myself watching “Church of the Rock”, a televised church service out of Winnipeg. Which is odd, because as an atheist, I do not watch such things (the DVR was on that channel due to a recording the night before). And so I was about to change the channel when I looked into the topic the pastor was discussing, which was, expectations.

The main idea being, those with the biggest expectations, are often going to be those with the biggest disappointments. As well, those who do not learn to move past the disappointments, let them put you on a different course, will end up eventually hitting a wall, unable to move forward.

The pastor used the Titanic as an analogy for the demonstration. Think of your self (and your life) as a ship, and think of the iceberg (or icebergs) in the water around…

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We Remember – Or So We Say 

The Year has changed, but my sentiments have not.

A Raindrop In The Ocean

It is that time of year again.

It seems like the year has flown by, really. But I suppose that is a good thing, in a way. By all accounts, 2016 was not a good year, personally (in many ways) or on a more grand and  societal scale.

One thing that occurred to me in the last weeks of October, was the American election. We’re fast approaching Veterans day Remembrance day (depending on your side of the border). But this election would seem to cast a shadow over that day (and it’s May counterpart, memorial day).

It’s safe to say that when it comes to veterans affairs, few in American politics have proven capable of doing much more than creating wind on the subject. But this campaigns Republican nominee takes it to a WHOLE new level. It’s not just actions not matching words (not even considering the whole Kahn fiasco!)…

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Musings Of A Wandering Mind

Today Is Easter Sunday, 2020.

For most of us alive today, it is an Easter like no other. Instead of dreading the long commute to mingle with family we may or may not want to see, we’re all stuck at home. Stuck at home for at LEAST one or 2 more months. And even if that order gets lifted, were at least a year away from what most of us would call normalcy.

You know . . . returning to a school we may hate. Going back to a job we might despise. Attending familial events that we may or may not like attending.

The ordinary will return in short order, worry not. Not soon enough for the many stir crazy extroverts of which I try to avoid at all costs, but none the less, you WILL mingle with the mates soon. Hockey will return. All will be well in your world.

As the world burns, this will be a bad memory by mid 2021 and ancient history by 2022.

For me, however, this pandemic has provided a unique opportunity of sorts. Though it has not changed my real life all that much (I work in the essential retail sector), it’s proving to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. An opportunity to observe what happens when a society conditioned to consume culture is forced off the juice cold turkey.

Many people before me have observed and shared far more detailed commentaries about the death of creativity in modern society. However, I doubt the ramifications of this trajectory has been any more pronounced than they are at the current moment.

Before now, every size of locality from the city right up to country has suffered through disasters. However, no such disaster has ever amplified quite as globally as the COVID 19 pandemic. Nothing has ever as effectively shut down all of society’s distractions as COVID has.

And the result has been interesting to observe. Seemingly millions of people that don’t know how to pass a month, a week, A DAY without the rituals of normality. And not the day to day routines either. I’m talking about the shiny distractions that make it all seem worthwhile for the many. Everything from major league sports, movies and popular culture, and everything in between.

It all serves a purpose.

For decades, education systems around the world have valued conformity over creativity. It’s an obvious formula really, since you don’t need creativity to work in a factory, stand behind a cash register, etc. In fact you do not want too many creative people in such positions since creativity tends to also indicate the ability to think freely and analyze. Which is the last thing that an employer with an emphasis on focusing on the bottom line needs in an employee.

To keep the machines running and the economy humming, you need cogs. Punctual, reliable, conformist human robots that can be relied upon to keep the earnings flowing. At least until they can be automated away by far more financially effective robots.

There is a reason why we have all filled in these type of worksheets throughout our progress in our various educational systems.

Though the last time I saw a variation of the 5 minute quiz was in grade 8, I still remember it to this day. All but 2 students actually followed the directions as specified, which naturally ended in a scolding for the rest of us.

As the zoomers say nowadays . . . “Okay Boomer”. I don’t miss that teacher. Unlike many I encountered before or since, he fell out of love with his job years ago.

Either way, it is interesting how a pandemic exposes many things about society. Inequality is certainly highlighted in various ways. But in a sense, so too are the priorities of the society. Though arts and entertainment are far from what any emergency manager would list as a societal essential or priority, I would disagree.

Consider a recent workplace evaluation I got (which is likely not all that different from those received by many others). A big (and undisclosed) part of the position is living up to the standards and values that INSERT GENERIC CORPO HERE represents. And of course, the inevitable Though SO-AND-SO displays good performance in the area of STUPID SHIT HERE, he could achieve more by pushing himself a little harder in his daily routine.

I could. But I don’t really give a shit. These goals always mean nothing to me and everything to those managing me.

Many of us live this existence. It is the reason movies like Office Space and Fight Club are cult classics. Not to mention the modern-day televised adaptations of show characters choosing to thumb their nose at the status quo (Breaking Bad, Mr. Robot).
As much as I love these adaptations, however, they are still a part of the overall problem. With the exception of Mr. Robot (which is filled with educational cyber awareness tips), most of these are just tales spun up by the wealthy and privileged which appeal to the masses on account of the reality of many of the situations.

In a world wherein half of ones life consists of regimented conformity, the availability of passive distractions is just as important. Where life is lacking in direction in terms of meaning, the mindless helps keep the void filled. If we are perfectly honest with ourselves, alcohol and drugs also play a role here as well. It’s all about keeping the mind occupied.

What this pandemic really is, is a dry run of what is around the corner for a good chunk of humanity. A state of permanent obsolescence for much of the workforce that consists of machines of meat.
COVID 19 may be temporary, but we are still collectively starring down the barrel of a gun. Though COVID 19 serves as a shotgun in itself, how our various nations react also serves as a chance to experiment with methods of dealing with this new reality.
It’s a reality that has already begun to touch areas of the fossil fuel industry, particularly in Canada. Though the increased obsolescence of heavy fuels also presents an opportunity in itself, little hope is to be found on that front as the collective status quo continues to bury its head in delusion.

As illustrated by this meme.

I have touched on this topic before, in this very context in fact. I remember that project well since news kept coming out both during its creation AND after it was published that illustrated my point. The future for fossil fuels generally (let alone heavy fuels) is on the decline. Even Jim Cramer can’t help but acknowledge the changing winds of the energy industry.

The only place wherein this information has not penetrated is in bitumen rich Canada. Where even politicians that should know better are pandering for the sake of the votes. Kicking the hard changes down the road for someone else to deal with in the name of temporary gains.
The population wants false hope, so they get it in spades.

The day will eventually come when the reality becomes unavoidable, however. Just as Covid 19 eventually became too much of a problem for even Donald Trump to ignore, so to will the eventual recession of the oil patch. And just as my American friends fear what lies around the corner for their country in the coming weeks of Covid 19 induced economic collapse (thanks to a failure of leadership to adequately prepare!), I fear that the same future is at stake for deluded oil patch proponents.

Considering that the Canadian oilpatch constitutes a tiny fraction of the overall worldwide workforce, the picture only grows grimmer when one zooms all the way out to encompass the whole of the automation threat.

Believe it or not, this does intersect with how this piece started. Even I didn’t expect it to take this turn, but such is what happens when the words start flowing.

In a world of conformity, the lack of personal meaningfulness (?) is fairly simplistic to appease. For many, employment in itself serves this well. As do children. As does the rest of the flashy, ritualistic cocktail of culture, religion, and otherwise distraction that permeates daily existence.

There is something for everyone. No critical thinking or creativity required.

Where this goes wrong is when we eventually find ourselves in a state of permanent unemployment. Permanent unemployment currently means a drastic cut in one’s earnings. That cut in earnings often times also means less (if any) access to things that previously made life bearable.

It’s a big problem in a population that has been conditioned for little more than conformity and easy shepherding, as both right-wing radio and the spread of all manner of internet misinformation and propaganda illustrate. Though the solution so far has been mainly just to ignore the problem and keep on eroding the safety nets of the downtrodden even further, there will come a time when the problem can’t be ignored any longer. Where the lines representing both unemployment and civil unrest intersect, I don’t know.

It’s a problem that even some of the wealthy are starting to take into consideration. Such is why many are open to the concept of a Universal Basic Income.
Though the concept seems simple enough, there is debate about how it will be implemented. For example, as a replacement for all other supplemental income sources, it would be far cheaper than many current nation-state safety nets. Hence why the wealthy like the option.

Though it would likely rely heavily on a wealthy tax burden, much of the money is likely to flow right back into their coffers. A particularly beneficial system for multi-nationals.

I am not really a fan of this implementation as a standalone fix to the coming crises of purpose either.

As part of the overall paradigm shift, okay. But not as a standalone.

Because you can not just throw money at the problem and expect it to go away. The obsolescence of the human workforce marks a fundamental change in the structure of human life as we know it. Failure to tackle that issue is only going to lead to both inward and outwardly directed destruction on a massive scale. Otherwise known as what we are already starting to see in different places.

Either way, it’s time to bring this to a close. Since I touched on 2 very different yet also intersecting concepts within this post, I’ll tie off both loose ends.

First, when it comes to the rapid march of society towards mass implementation of automation, the time for us to adapt is running out. Though the delusional seem to think that refusal to use such devices as self checkouts will stave off this change, I ask them . . . did it work for ATM’s?

To the politicians especially, I look at with scorn. Stable and comfortable delusion may be what the voters long for, but let’s get serious. They are not children. If they elected you to act in their best interest, DO IT!

Rip the band aid off by kicking preparations for the unthinkable into high gear. They may be incapable of seeing the logic, but the rest of us will be glad that someone was thinking ahead.

As for the second part of this, our collective destruction of creative instinct within the human cog, I have a message to all of the creators out there. Keep doing what you are doing. And most of all, don’t waste the talents in which you were gifted.

Keep your skills sharp. The collective may not yet know it, but they need your out of the box thinking more now than any of us know it.