Absent

I took time off, and thought about scrapping this blog entirely. At the time, I felt that there were more than a sufficient number of old men, waxing philosophically about what’s wrong with the world. It felt somehow selfish, and less than constructive.

Before the internet, this would have been true. It would have been nothing more than a single voice, irritating friends and family.

Over the last year or so, I’ve engaged in many debates - Politics, religion, crime and punishment, and a number of other topics. Some were excercises in futility. Others were lively. Still others were incredible learning experiences. I’ve changed a few minds, and had my own changed.

I’ve even had meaningful exchanges with trolls, once the name-calling was dispensed with. It’s hard work, and requires a pretty thick skin. More often than not, it ends up being a complete waste of time.

But there are those rare occasions when the walls come down, and real communication takes place. I can’t speak for anyone, save myself, but in my opinion, it’s eminently worth it.

This technology has allowed us to exchange ideas in a way we had never been able to before. All the barriers that existed before – cultural, political, economic, social, and geographic – have essentially been rendered obsolete.

Sure, it’s dirty, and messy, and we’ll probably screw it up in ways we can’t yet imagine. But it’s my belief that the end result will be a positive one.

Clip This

"I support them and give them food, and clothes, and cars, and houses. Who gives it to them? Does someone else give it to them? Do I know that I have—Who makes the game? Do I make the game, or do they make the game? Is there 30 owners, that created the league?"    -Donald Sterling
By now, everyone who hasn't been living under a rock has heard the tapes of Mr. Sterling's argument with his mistress. At least as much as they could stomach. The stunning ignorance and racism is bad enough. But the above quote, to me, is indicative of a contempt that goes beyond racism, and extends to, well, everyone else.

These aren't just the comments of some dim-witted old man, but an idea fully embraced by many we call the 1%. The belief that what standard of living we hold is not the result of our own labors and talents, but of their generosity only. And they're a little pissed off because we apparently haven't shown the appropriate amount of gratitude.

From Romney's infamous 47% remark, to the constant vilification of the poor on Fox News, it's an attitude becoming more and more prevalent.

They are the makers. They are the only ones who produce. The rest of us? We're just hanging on to their coattails. Or worse, we're lazy no-accounts who just want free stuff. Their stuff.

It's a mindset so twisted and obscene, that they actually try to use their own racism as a justification of that view.

The worst thing I could wish for them, is to have to actually live in the stagnant, sterile, mono-cultural "utopia" they envision for themselves. Or, perhaps not. It seems that many are quite content living within the bubble they've created within this world.

More's the pity.

Malice or Ineptitude?

From the LA Times:

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department acknowledged Thursday that its deputies mistakenly shot and killed a aspiring TV producer they thought was a stabbing suspect.

In fact, John Winkler, 30, had gone to a neighbor's apartment Monday night on Palm Avenue in West Hollywood where a man was holding people hostage and tried to help.

Winkler was shot when he rushed out of the apartment with another victim who had been trapped inside the apartment with a third victim and the suspect, sheriff's officials said in a statement.

“The apartment door suddenly opened and a male victim came rushing out,” the statement said. “He was covered in blood and bleeding profusely from the neck. Simultaneously, victim Winkler ran out of the door, lunging at the back of the fleeing victim. Both ran directly at the deputies.”

Three deputies fired at Winkler. He was shot once and died.
(Edit: The original victim was also shot in the leg.)

Three deputies, firing altogether 7 shots from only a few feet away. Only two hit their mark. This tells me that the shots they fired were done while in a blind panic. The culture values the safety of the officer, often in exclusion to all else. The view is reinforced by the fact that they face few, if any, consequences when they take a life. There is a county in Illinois with records going back 160 years, without one example of an officer being held responsible for a wrongful death. While this is technically possible, it is statistically unlikely to the point of absurdity. Anyone with a dangerous job can tell you that, if you're overly concerned with your own safety, it becomes just that much more dangerous. Not only for you, but everyone around you. For those people, I suggest a change of career. Maybe a nice, safe flower shop somewhere.

We weren't always such weenies.

When I was in high school, my friends and I would often go target shooting in the desert. Plinkin', we called it. On the way back home one day, I happened to be speeding, and was pulled over by a DPS officer. Now, imagine being a lone cop, walking up to a car full of rough, long haired teenagers who are armed to the teeth. Wanna know what he did? He gave me a warning, and left, telling us to, "stow those weapons before you blow your damn fool heads off" He was actually concerned for OUR safety.

Those days are long gone. Today, there would have been helicopters, SWAT teams, tanks, body cavity searches, and, of course, bloodshed. Cowardice makes just about every endeavor more dangerous.

Somewhere along the line, we came to believe that there is actually such a thing as a risk free existence. There isn't, nor should there be. That way lies extinction for the lot of us.

Certainly risk can be managed to a point, but once you go past it, you lose essential, hard-won liberties. You end up living in a very secure prison of your own making. There was a time when most people knew this, at least on some level, yet still had the courage to go on about their lives. Now, we are saturated in fear, with voices from every direction telling us what to fear, and just how afraid to be of it.

If we continue this course, we will end up as a nation populated by people who are conditioned from birth to keep their head down, and draw as little attention to themselves as possible. These are people who will never fail, because the consequences for failure will be so immediate, so great, and so permanent that no one will dare risk anything. NSA spying will no longer be a concern, because there won't be anything left worth spying on.

John Winkler was a brave man. A man who didn't hesitate to come to the aid of his neighbor. Had he lived, I think he would have eventually found that living among those with so much firepower, and so little courage to be a fate worse than death.

Whether it is the malice of Albuquerque, or the ineptitude of Los Angeles, the result ends up being the same.