Hype Hype Hooray?

I know, I’ve used this graphic before (this one is smaller and a different colour, though).  And I do admit to a little fatigue with the whole ‘keep calm and…’ thing, but hey, when something works…

Is anyone else having a whole lot of trouble getting remotely excited for these Olympic things that are about to start over there in Russia?

Is it just me?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as card-carrying and flag-waving a Canadian as you’d ever want to find- and winter is kind of our milieu if you will.  Last time out?  All those Golds- and on home soil/snow/ice?  What was better than that?!  The day the gents won the hockey final turned into an impromptu party that ended with me and a friend up on Yonge Street yelling our fool heads off with the rest of the city.  It was a totally spontaneous expression of happiness and pride.

Even the summer games in London got me pretty psyched- although, in that case, I have to admit that most of my enthusiasm was for the spectacle that went along with the whole shebang.  The UK is the source and home of so very much of the music that I adore and count on to keep me sane and human- so the opening and closing ceremonies were something I am happy to have experienced.  I’m sure some sports events happened in between, but that honestly wasn’t high on my list of must-see television viewing.

This time out?

Seriously couldn’t care less.

Part of it has to do with the constant barrage of criticism (not that criticism isn’t warranted) about Russia- be it due to dangerous political policies and legislation regarding the LGBT community, the outrageous costs and demonstrated evidence of corruption, the fact that Sochi is a summertime resort area (palm trees, anyone?) and therefore not exactly appropriate for the winter games… the list goes on and on.

But really, my cynicism/indifference (the degree of my ennui about the Games depends on the day) stems from some things that I’ve spoken harped about here in the past.

I usually begin my days (weekdays, anyway) with CBC Newsworld’s morning show.  Lets me know what happened overnight, gives me an idea of what newest polar vortex/snow hell seasonally appropriate weather I can expect to experience over the course of the day.  Today I had to change the channel.  It was all Olympics, all the time.  It was more commercial than news program.

And.  I.  Just.  Don’t.  Care.

I appreciate that the athletes work reallyreally hard to take a stab at the podium in the international spectacle that is the Games.  I get that the Olympics has been used, historically, as a means of shoring up national enthusiasms in times when less-than-fun things are happening.  I totes understand that all of that requires a certain amount of money and marketing and such like things.

But the increasingly cynical/exasperated/discouraged me is really feeling like the spectacle and materiality and unbalanced (in every sense of the word) emphasis placed on events like this (with their hyper-emphasis on competition and us vs. them) have become less about ‘bringing the world together’ and more about aiding and abetting the collective numbing of the masses to the realities of our global/national/local situations.

Pessimism?  From me?  I know- not my usual way of approaching things.  But I’m really, well, FED UP is the first descriptor that springs to mind.

Too many things, lately, seem to be little more than constructs meant to distract us from issues of genuine import and things that emphatically need immediate attention.

I mentioned in my last post (which was oh-so-long-ago- and refuses to link.  That whole time thing is getting to me again) that I had a discussion (for want of a better word) with a close friend regarding the inherent and vital importance of education- and Humanities education in particular- that increases with each passing day.  We are increasingly exposed to TOO MUCH information- and SO much of that information is erroneous, biased or politicized to the extreme that it bears no resemblance to anything remotely like rational, examined truth.  (Please don’t let’s start about the relativity of truth right now.  I’m too tired to argue abstracts when I’m attempting to reiterate the point I made about dialectic vs. debate a little while ago).  Too many people don’t have the critical thinking skills to assess the bombardment of information that comes at them constantly.

That my friend seems to think that people are incapable of paying attention to anything long enough to see the value (let alone the necessity) in learning these skills, is quite out of keeping with my usual faith in humanity and our drive to do better and be better- just because it’s possible (and not because we’re looking for a big cash payout).  We have this discussion fairly frequently (he’s a science-type-dude) and he genuinely thinks people are too lazy- by nature- to want to put that much effort into anything that doesn’t have demonstrable and instant personal payback.  I’m unlikely to convince him otherwise, and, honestly, his perspective is frequently supported by the bulk of the evidence.

Distraction.  It’s everywhere.  If you don’t think that you are being actively distracted- at pretty much every single turn- I’d love to hear from you about exactly how you are managing to avoid such things (unless you’re living off the grid in the wilderness somewhere- which would make it unlikely that you’d be reading this to begin with.  And ‘off the grid in the wilderness’ is neither a practical nor attractive option for me at this point).

I admit that I was distracted earlier this week- in part by a brutal cold/flu thing that knocked me off my feet for a few days- but mainly by a couple of books that I picked up a few weeks back.   I used the opportunity of the dumping of snow and total disinterest in the Super Bowl, arrest(s) of Justin Beiber and comparable ‘happenings’ in the world to catch up on some reading.  I might talk about those books later, but in all honesty they still haven’t ‘settled’ enough for me to figure out if I enjoyed them or not.

Getting back to work- and to figuring out just what form my next classroom might take- I’ve been bombarded with reasons (as if more were required) why any classroom in which I choose to participate MUST be one in which the dialectic is permitted to reign.  I’m done with debates (did you see that whole ridiculous debacle between Bill Nye and the Creationist?  And the plethora of follow-up idiocy?  How was that even a thing?  How?!?  And the first ‘mayoral debate’ was held here in TO.  And he’s being talked about on Jon Stewart AGAIN tonight.  Plus ça change…. Sigh).  I will not seek to engage with those who are looking only to ‘win’ as a furtherance of agendas that benefit the very few.

And please don’t take that to mean that I’m agreeing to disagree.  A young woman, captured on the wonderful photoblog site, Humans of New York (look for them on the facebook, if you’re into such things- truly lovely photos and subjects), said something that resonated with my feelings of futility lately: fighting can be useless.  If people want to be stupid, let them stay stupid and move forward (I’m paraphrasing here).

Just as closed minds can’t be forced open, many of those people who are constantly and willingly distracted by the media and the commercial trappings of society are unlikely to be looking to actually learn anything that goes against their already-established beliefs.

Is this a terrifying reality?  Yep.

Is it irreversible?  I hope not.  I’ve lived my life trying to demonstrate that this needn’t be the case.  Laziness- physical or intellectual- is a learned, nurtured behaviour.  If we feel we don’t have to think for ourselves… this is very much to the benefit of those who hold power and control our economies.  This has always been the case, of course.  The institutionalized church is probably the most famous employer of this tactic to keep the masses doing what they oughta and keeping the status quo all status quo-ish.

We are told to pick a side and stick with it.  Moreover, we are told that the ideas behind the side we choose do not need constant re-evaluation or a deeper delve into the origins and the reasons for the perpetuation of these ideas.  Those that express a differing view are the enemy– and to be treated as such.  Polarization is the norm- and anything like a middle ground is seen as wishy-washy or non-committal.

It is a means of social control.  People choose to ignore the fact that they are being controlled by the information that is approved and meted out according to schedules.  We are content to absorb and repeat the information we are fed because thinking about it and coming to our own conclusions take more effort than many of us can handle expending.  The reasons for this are myriad- and some are almost excusable.

But we don’t have to listen- or engage with those who mindlessly spout the nonsense they heard on Fox News on any given day.  We can choose to ignore the rhetoric- and certainly the attempts to influence our actions and decision based in spurious arguments without basis in fact.  We can avoid subscribing to the insidious sleight of hand that politicians, lobbyists and business leaders employ (often through the use of popular media) to keep us distracted.

We also can try to keep from feeling frustrated with those who refuse to acknowledge the manipulation as we decide to change the paradigm.  As we decide to stop with the debates and approach our common issues using reasoned discussion and evaluations of all perspectives- objectively and sincerely- without concern about towing any party lines or protecting our personal assets (such as they may or may not be).

Instead of sitting glued to our television sets/mobile devices watching our athletes demonstrate the power of doing something, we can choose to actively participate in the decisions being made in our names by getting off our collective rumps and thinking for ourselves.  It’s a stretch- but I know we can do it.

Don’t want to be an American idiot
One nation controlled by the media
Information age of hysteria
It’s calling out to idiot America

Welcome to a new kind of tension
All across the alien nation
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay

Television dreams of tomorrow
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow
For that’s enough to argue

None of us need be idiots- American or otherwise.

Failing that, we can all decide to just keep on believing that sunsets happen because ‘their (sic) acts of god.’

PS- All that said- best of luck to all Canadian participants in Sochi (and those competing from across the world as well, but hey, I am CANADIAN) and thank you for the positive ways in which you always represent our home and native land.  And while I am on the topic- can someone please explain to me- once and for all- why professional hockey players are permitted to compete in amateur Games?  And also- why is curling a sport?  (ooh- that’ll cause some stir.  Almost as bad as admitting to not caring if the Leafs ever win the cup or holding firm to the opinion that Tim Horton’s coffee suuuuucks.  I’m sure they’ll arrive to revoke my citizenship/passport any day now).  Apparently it actually stipulates in the official rules of curling that the victors of the bonspiel HAVE to buy the vanquished beers post-competition.  IN.  THE.  RULES.  Not sure I get the ‘sport’ aspect of that particular game (although it’s not the only one that keeps me bemused.  Golf is a close second…)

Voices Carry

Looking to my friend the Lorax for some perspective and wisdom right about now.

I don’t get angry- as in raging, yelling, screaming, po’d– all that often.  This is not to say that I don’t have my moments (ask my sibs.  Or let Fletch tell you the story about the night I threw the beer bottle at his head… it was empty.  And I meant to miss him.  And he agrees he deserved it- not so much for the practical joke that led to the toss, but for the goading that continued despite the fact that there was clearly steam of a forbidding sort exiting my ears as he just kept talking…).  But generally speaking I tend to be fairly even-tempered- often to a fault.

I can summon outrage at the inequities and stupidities and ethical lapses of the world at large, or defensive anger if you mess with any of my family or friends, but I find it far more difficult to get truly angry on my own behalf.

Not sure why this is.  Perhaps there’s something of a tendency to let things roll of my back a little too much.  To pick my battles- and to believe that I have attained at least enough wisdom and maturity to know that many of the battles that I could wage in my own defense are things that will likely pass- given enough time.

I’m not saying this hasn’t caused some problems in the past.  People who don’t know me well have made the assumption that I’m a push-over of some kind, when their baiting doesn’t achieve a desired result.  I’m nothing of the kind.

I tend to redirect the anger into positive things- activism, writing, incorporated and integrated lessons that have helped me develop and grow…

Today I’m just MAD.

This has started.  I wrote a bit about the idiocy in la belle province – the flipside of another kind of idiocy that I also I wrote about- when it first came to light.

It seems like reactionary opinions are popping up everywhere lately.  This morning a blogger I admire a great deal- her posts, whether fiction, poetry or editorial/non-fiction, are always extremely well-written, thoroughly researched and clearly examined- wrote a great piece about the worldwide epidemic of rape, in response to the latest report of a tourist who was viciously attacked while in India.

I commented that I especially appreciate the fact that she pointed out that rape- and a culture that sweeps it under the rug- is not something that is restricted to places outside of the Western world.  Although the media seems to repeatedly highlight cases like this most recent one in India, it’s all too easy to point fingers and put the spotlight back on those who are described as ‘other’.  That is, not North American/Western European.

And we have such a great record here of justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence in this neck o’ the woods.  Right.

I heard about the Danish tourist while watching the morning news as I prepared for work, but read the story online as well- since television news sound bites are generally not all that illuminating these days.  The posted story (on Yahoo Canada) was no more informative (and was so poorly edited that I shudder in remembered discomfort), but the most repugnant thing- aside from the crime itself, of course- were the comments.

There are endless and ongoing discussions about the comment sections and the trolls that haunt them.  I’ve seen a few that specifically talk about targeted misogyny and the threatening, stalker-like behaviours that some people seem to think is somehow acceptable.

There is a whole cadre of people who believe that the perceived anonymity of the internet (with its screen names and ‘creative’ avatars) makes racist, gender biased, homophobic, self-interested and/or completely uneducated commentary permissible- if not outright expected.  There seem to be a whole lot of people out there who have nothing better to do with their time and feel entitled to speak about things- usually without anything resembling background or insight- in short bursts of unsupported and irrational anger and/or hatred.

I wrote yesterday about the ways in which our current government is silencing not only those in the general population (or those with some measure of celebrity) but the scientists and scholars whose warnings regarding environmental and social outcomes, if current paths continue, are becoming increasingly dire.

I feel like I’m trapped in Bizarro World.  Any internet troll/ignorant racist can find a forum that will either garner followers of similar ilk or, rarely and in extreme cases, raise red flags of warning that will result in banishment from a community page, but those who have a sincere interest in speaking about injustice or mismanagement or just plain loss of common sense and decency, are gagged by the pundits and PR people who are paid to act in defence of our putative ‘leaders’.

Another blogger buddy of mine posted a true-to-form and lovely poem about optimism and winds of change yesterday.  I’m hoping that she is right.  Even that bit of brightness and optimism raised the ire of someone who took umbrage with a perceived lack of inclusion in the poetic language she used to express her hope so thoughtfully.  Jebus, people.  (check out scottishmomus’ response, as well- it’s classic!)

Why are the voices of those who shout about the extremes- polarizing the ‘sides’ that should be coming together in discourse for the benefit of all- the ones that are given the most air?

Way back in 1985, Aimee Mann wrote some lyrics about an incredibly dysfunctional and violent relationship with a narcissist.  The video illustrates this beautifully.

Before I started writing this post, the chorus kept on running through my head, and with every repetition I saw Aimee stand up from her seat at Carnegie Hall as she sang the line ‘he said shut up, oh god can’t you keep it down? Voices carry’.  Until I went looking for it to link to this post, I hadn’t seen the clip in years (okay, maybe decades) yet that image has stayed with me in a powerful way.  She decisively ceased to be in any way trapped by the bullying demands of that jerk’s ideals of conservative conformity.

I ‘ve called Harper a bully before.  He, and politicians like him (no names mentioned, Mayor McCheese) aren’t inclined to give their naysayers much latitude when it comes to debating their particular perspective on things that affect us all.  Whether they prorogue Parliament or shut down Council meetings through acts of ignorant obstinance and violations of procedure in order to avoid addressing those things they choose not to discuss, as the Lorax notes, if INFORMED, caring people don’t get off their asses and stand up to them, then those things that desperately need to get better WILL NOT.

You, my peeps here at the WordPress, are certainly those to whom the Lorax is referring.  From that perspective, I realize that I’m- once again- preaching to the choir (other than those trolls I mentioned earlier- not sure that I’d include them in this august congregation).  But all of you out there have readers and friends and family members across a much wider world than in my little piece of it here at colemining.

I’m trying to ignore those infuriating noise-makers who have nothing to contribute beyond vitriol, out-dated/ill-informed rhetoric or towing of party lines that are working to the detriment of all of us.  Focusing on the trolls (internet or otherwise) is doing nothing more than raising my blood pressure to dangerous levels. So I’m instead going to focus, today anyway, on rallying the cries of those who ‘care a whole awful lot’ and take the time to invest the thought and time in their actions and reactions to the world around them to contribute to a dialectic that will lead to positive change.

Dialectic is not synonymous with debate.  The latter involves a measure of persuasion- and, often, an emotional investment in the perspective- that is required in order to ‘win’.  Dialectical methods search for truth through reasoned argumentation.  They involve discourse between two or more people with differing points of view but who wish to use logic and rationality to work toward the common goal of gleaning the best possible truth of a matter.

It’s not about who  yells loudest or most persuasively.  Unlike debates, dialectics do not require an external judge to determine a ‘winner’.  Consensus is reached through discussion rather than hammering the other side with talking points and statistics.

Politicians use debate and rhetoric to inflame the emotions of those who bother to listen to them.  They appeal to the often-base desires of voters in order to motivate that electorate to continue to support them- since they suggest that in so doing ‘the people’ support themselves (and not necessarily the despised ‘others’).

Since, especially lately and hereabouts, many of our politicians seem completely disinclined to participate in any sort of reasoned discussion with those who hold opposing views, those of us who wish to approach this world of ours with reason and fairness have to wonder what it is they are trying to hide as they avoid discussions and favour more insidious forms of rhetoric.

‘I’m in the dark, I’d like to read his mind
But I’m frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he’s thinking of…
 
I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I’ll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
And something to fear
And I try so hard to keep it inside
So no one can hear’

Enough sitting quietly as a cowed reaction to the bullies that are stepping all over us and our futures.  Time to start a rumbling of discourse.

Voices carry.

PS- If you made it this far (thank you!), please know that I realize that this one was long and ranty- even for me (which is certainly saying something).  I noticed a lot of my fellow bloggers posted ‘year in review’ type posts as 2013 ended/2014 began.  Since I did not do so, I’ll justify this one as my look back at some of the things that have got me thinking and talking and writing and encouraging discourse- internally and out there in the world(s).  As long as something new doesn’t come along to rile me up all over again, next post will be back to something a little lighter and more positive.  Promise.