Pics or it didn’t happen: Our obsession with permanence

Pics or it didn’t happen: Our obsession with permanence

Something happens. Something memorable, or kinda cool, or not really that interesting at all, but we take thirteen pics of it anyway. We have to take pictures; record it, show the world, share, for posterity’s sake. That we were there. That we are here, now. This is really nothing new. And this is nothing we would put on the shoulders of the Millenials (Gen Y) and Pivotals (Gen Z) who have had the luxury of social media basically since day one (and therefore the normality, and subsequent pressures, of performing online). It’s just the latest form/different version of the photo books mom/grandmom pull out every time you start dating someone new. It’s just the logical next step for a species that started in the dirt, moved on to cave paintings, invented the camera in 1888, and now has a tool to share who they are with the entire world in the blink of an eye. This is just progress. But why is it something so rooted into our DNA, or just our sense of identity? Why do we feel the need to capture everything and look at it over and over again? And for other people to do the same? Why, ultimately, do we feel like something isn’t really real, something didn’t really happen, something isn’t worth remembering, unless we have the physical photo of it to look back on and share with others? Memories There are countless studies (here’s one, for example: False memories in highly superior autobiographical memory individuals) that will tell you that many (most) of our organic memories are junk, and can be created from...
For the record, Antifa =/= Nazis

For the record, Antifa =/= Nazis

Antifa has been a much talked about group lately. The discussion started in earnest when they clashed with white supremacists, Nazis, and Confederate sympathizers in Charlottesville a few weeks back during the “Unite the Right” rally. President Trump struggled with the comparison, saying that both sides were at fault. Both sides were wrong. Both sides were morally reprehensible. Equally so. But after the recent violence in Berkeley, even Daily Show host Trevor Noah came out against Antifa’s more aggressive tendencies when battling Fascism (Antifa = Anti + Fascist). In general jargon, Antifa became associated with the left, and Nazis became (well they were always sorta) associated with the right. But that shouldn’t be the discussion. Nazism/Fascism is something that history has already thrown in the trash regardless of what the America political spectrum looks like today. It was defeated, both as a mantra and as political movement. Condemned as something awful and never to be repeated. And rightfully so. This goes without saying. Is Antifa a slightly more menacing and erratic, and perhaps less well-dressed, version of Indiana Jones? He punched Nazis too. Because they were Nazis. We’ve discussed the power of ideology (Don’t Kill Hitler), and we won’t say/we aren’t here to say that the approach that Antifa and other groups have taken to combat the recent rise in visible Nazism is pure, cut and dry simply the “right” course, or the course of action that will solve the problem in the long term. It’s not, and it won’t. As Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin said after the recent clashes on the streets of his city, “Fighting hate with hate does not...
Is the person who makes you miserable happier than you are?

Is the person who makes you miserable happier than you are?

Or, is my optimism misplaced? Smell the lilacs. Kick the leaves. Watch the cat in the window with his lazy paw dangling from the ledge, his ears twitching in the sun. Feel the sun on your face. Smell the air. Nod at the passing parents and their stroller, and the something small and soft and round sleeping inside. Somewhere there is a car accident. Somewhere there are sirens, shrill and strident. But they are worlds and lives away. Here and now we need nothing but simple existence. Because people always want something to happen. Need something to happen. (Simply existing in this world is not enough.) But there is no need to force a plot forward, no need for a catalyst or a deus ex machina. Just the simple beating of an imagination. Just the world around you and all the details that bring it to life. There are people all around, sure. These people have lives – of course things happen to them. (Car crashes and police sirens.) But they can happen naturally, normally, without begging for a result. Without video footage, responses, likes, shares. When something is forced to happen in a world as beautiful as this it cheapens the experience: Like trying to describe/define perfection instead of basking in its glow. Drama so miserable It’s been defined as drama like “omg I’m so done with all this drama” and it’s been defined in reality television like Osbournes and Kardashians and looking for eternal love in an elimination game with a poorly-done soundtrack. It’s watching someone else’s life because it lets you escape from your own. It’s comparing and...
The beautiful people or: Viewing people viewing people

The beautiful people or: Viewing people viewing people

What do we know about people? Or rather, what do we know about ourselves? Because, whether we like it or not, much of what we think we know about others comes from what we think we know about ourselves. We often use other people as a mirror; as a reflection of our best and worst qualities. It’s no wonder, then, that we are either drawn to, or repulsed by, certain personality types/different people. Science says we’re attracted to those with the same DNA as us; that we’re predisposed to like those who look/think/act/live similar to the way we do. This seems like such a small-minded, and limiting way to live in a world where “looks like me” is becoming an increasingly subjective, and polarizing, basis of judgment. But it shapes much of our day-to-day, even (especially) when we don’t realize it. Inclusivity In recent years, the cultural trend seemed to be one of celebration; of differences and similarities alike, of togetherness. After electing Barack Obama as the first black president in U.S. history, same-sex marriage was legalized across the United States (on June 26, 2015, at which point over 1/2 of states were already there). The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that denying the fundamental institution of marriage to same-sex couples violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But perhaps more importantly are the almost intangible gains made during the last eight years, and for many years before that; the general push toward acceptance and progress. We’ve come a long way since the days blatant/accepted discrimination (women’s suffrage, Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps…),...
Is technocracy the answer to America’s troubles?

Is technocracy the answer to America’s troubles?

Technocracy is a system of government where leadership is comprised of technical experts; experts in specific fields who also have bureaucratic experience, as opposed to elected officials and appointed politicians. The United States looked fairly technocratic when it was first founded: Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, for example, were both renowned inventors, and much emphasis was placed on intellect. But the U.S. has strayed far from the merits of technocracy. Officials without background in the agencies they are running, or without expertise in any field for that matter, is an issue that must be addressed if we are to make our government more effective. Out of 535 members of Congress, only six are engineers and one is a physicist; there is actually a higher number of musicians, accountants, and former entertainers among the ranks. Even of President Obama’s 23 cabinet members, only the Secretary of Energy and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had engineering or natural science backgrounds. Most of the rest were lawyers.   Understanding technocracy The idea is that the experts run the show – those with experience in the fields over which they’re making decisions. This removes political agendas from the equation, and it removes (however controversially) the need for anything other than proof and fact when making decisions about the future of our country. It means the bible no longer plays a role in reproductive rights, for example. At it’s core, though, it’s simply a respect for knowledge and skill. An understanding that technocracy is about the people who have dedicated their lives to a certain subject, and are therefore most qualified to make decisions...
Don’t kill Hitler: How the past becomes the present becomes the future

Don’t kill Hitler: How the past becomes the present becomes the future

If you could go back in history to kill Hitler, would you? The popular answer is, Yes. Of course. This makes you a hero. Humans love to speculate. We spend time in our own heads imagining scenarios where we do something important that changes the course of history. We ask the question, if you could go back in history and kill one person, who would it be? Hitler. But perhaps the better (bigger, more important) question is, Would that actually change anything? Does a single individual make the difference? Do individuals matter? Or would it have happened anyway? The romantic view is that of course individuals matter. The Third Reich would never have happened without Hitler. The atrocities of the Holocaust could never have happened without the singular Adolf Hitler. But that’s not a realistic point of view. And it simply isn’t true. The man is only a symbol. He represents something. A sentiment. A feeling. An idea. Killing the man does not kill the idea; the sentiment remains; the feelings only grow. Today, there are comparisons between U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler. Beyond the increasingly-present Godwin’s Law (the longer an argument goes on, the more likely it is that comparisons to Hitler will be made), there has been serious speculation into the similarities between the two. Is the point then to kill the situation that allowed Hitler to arise? And if history is repeating itself, what does that mean for today? We then also cannot blame Donald Trump for creating the sentiments that got him elected. Why people are comparing Hitler to Trump Are the comparisons justified? There...