|the soapbox @ benturner.com|
"It's Inconsequential", an Essay
I write this, not to really reach any sort of firm conclusion, but to make aware the conflicts and differences involved.
Every day, religious groups are trying to reshape the moral structure of the United States. The music and video industries are scrambling to curb pirating. Parents, particularly the irresponsible ones, continuously blame television and movies for all of society's ills. The computer industry condemns warez and hacker groups, while committing some illegal things on its own. Purists daily fight revisionists in how we use our languages, books, sports, and whatever else.
And all this, does anyone really think it makes any bit of difference?
For a long time, I've been trying to figure out what shapes the course of our society. I'll be talking mainly in American terms, since I'm far less educated in world debate. Is the course of consumer fads, societal likes and dislikes, and whatever else affected by all the bickering and arguing, or does it go on by itself, regardless of how anyone reacts towards it? I can't really be sure, at this point in my life.
But I'm more inclined right now to think that trends and patterns in human behavior are unaffected by any attempt to change them, and, if anything, attempts to change them increase the desire to follow those trends.
Can this be any more obvious than with how children take up drugs, alcohol, and sex? The U.S. has repressed talking about these issues, and parents avoid telling their children about it, and go so far as to tell their children not to mess around with them, without explaining why. Well, for a teenager, that's just encouragement to try it. Combine that with other problems, and we have children who are much more experienced with things they shouldn't be, at earlier and earlier ages. And it's not like children are finding it hard to get their hands on guns and drugs and sex these days. Hell, the children are selling the stuff now.
So why are kids infatuated with illegal goods? Did I just answer my own question there? It's illegal. It's what parents fool around with all the time. It's the higher echelon of being cool, to have drugs and sex.
One thing that confirms this is the prevalence of gangs. Gangs deal illicit goods, but there's another side to it. They're mainly filled with kids who have been rejected from everything else in their lives.
We live in a world where we are rejected from everything. Not only do the holy scientists deem everything we eat unhealthy, but young culture is regarded as stupid and mindless, teens get no real encouragement to continue in school, and political groups are out to say that all the young teens' shows are tools of the devil, or tools of the corporate devil. Police officers are seen as racist pigs who will find any excuse to bust teens, and our government is seen as a laughing stock of ineffectual liars. Teens are aware of all this stuff now.
If you beat down teenagers (and anyone) enough by not acknowledging anything in their lives, where do you think they're going to go? They're going to react strongly against what represses them -- they're going to start taking or selling drugs, or having sex, or pirating computer games, or whatever.
You know, because at least those groups accept all kinds of people for who they are.
I don't confess to be any sort of sociologist, but this seems to be the main reason for what's going on, in my mind. I don't have any convoluted theories which defy Occam's Razor -- I think that we're all out to get accepted and respected in some way, by any means necessary.
I've known a few people who have dealt drugs. They were not all that popular in high school. But, it seemed to me, they felt more accepted once they started dealing the illegal shit. I know a lot of hackers and people who trade warez and MP3s and whatnot. I don't think they do it out of insecurity in this case. But one thing that's really neat about these pirating cultures is that they're very easy-going and generous and accepting. They don't care what you do in your life, and if you have a computer problem or whatever, they'll help you out with it. Contrast this with your regular schmoes, who don't care about anyone else and who don't help.
And I suppose this outreach of acceptance was one of the main things that caused Christianity to succeed (whoah, I just likened Christianity to warez groups...). The main thing was probably the fact that the European world needed to explore their spiritual sides as opposed to the purely physical, worldly religions they'd been subjected to before. But the whole thing about Christianity was that it accepted everyone, a very Roman concept. Even then, people didn't want to be told that they didn't fit in, or that they couldn't participate. Early Christian views were very genti^Hle towards others.
But I feel like that's changed now. Where's the oikumene, man? I think that, although I'm sure many Christian groups are still very supportive and helpful without pushing an agenda, some groups like the Southern Baptists have really done a huge disservice to religion as a whole. They've spoken out loudly against Disney for what they've thought to be phalli and breasts in Disney films. They've tried to boycott Disney, which means all their Christian children won't get to see the fanciful works like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
Poor children. They don't get to decide. Oh wait, didn't I do abortion another week?
Some religious groups have done things like try to ban certain CD albums because of their content or cover art. What's worse, is that some stores have listened to these groups. Nirvana's "In Utero" album was banned from WalMart because the cover showed a science lab-like female dummy which showed the internal organs. I imagine what they didn't like most was the fact that she had wings and...and...you could see her thingies!! But anyway. Marilyn Manson was also banned from certain places (I remember not where) for his "Antichrist Superstar" album, among other things. While we're at it, I think that album has some of the best cover art I've ever seen. Look inside, you'll see. Let us not forget the boy who was picked up by a police officer because of his Manson t-shirt, which read, "I am the god of fuck."
Okay, it's a stupid t-shirt, but I just wonder how that boy will react to police and his community (which condemned him, from what I understand) for the rest of his life.
Alright, it's time we got down to business. All throughout history, we have been given examples of how acceptance is what works, not denial: the Roman attitude towards its captives (that of giving them varying Roman rights and allowing them to keep their cultures), the various cults like those of Dionysus and Isis, and Christianity, and in more recent times, early independent America and the Stamp and Tea Acts, Prohibition (how it backfired completely), censorship, homosexuality, etc. etc.
Even in my own life, my parents placed very few constraints on what I could do and what I couldn't do. I'm so glad it worked out that way. I've gotten to try so many different things at such an early age. I wasn't ferreted into one path in life, like a lot of pre-meds are. How many people could seriously consider concentrations in classic languages, while having an eye out for cutting-edge computer jobs in profitable business environments?
All that bickering you do, all that whining you do about how other people act (umm, I do that too, don't I...) makes no difference at all. You can't change other people, particularly through belligerent attitudes. You're not going to rid the world of illegal activity, especially not now, when the common sentiment is the concept of free information, how nothing is out of the hands of everyone, and no one is safe. The harder you push to regulate and control the people of the United States, the more you'll push the illegal stuff underground. How many times have I said this?
Is that to say that we should abandon any attempts to explore methods of cutting down on lost business, or stop voicing our opinions? Definitely not, but I admit it's a very difficult line to define. I think computer gaming companies and music companies should work to find ways to better identify with the people who pirate their products. I think people should not cross that line between criticizing someone's actions and condemning them outright, harassing them, and making their lives unliveable. We're all allowed our opinions here, but, remember, we're also given the right to live safely and comfortably.
Don't even try to justify bombing abortion clinics and harassing people in your community with propaganda, phonecalls, and hate acts. Even as much as I decry the actions of certain people and groups in the Soapbox, it is only my opinion and it never extends to physical actions against the people I disagree with. If anything, it tells me who I should just completely avoid altogether.
And do I think this Soapbox makes much of a difference? Well, not how you might think. I don't think I actually convince anyone with anything I say, as I always get e-mail telling me how they never really agree with me, but want to see what I'll say next. Like I'm Bozo the circus clown instead of someone trying to make a difficult argument seem much more simple than it is. Sheesh. Anyway, the only one who truly gets a lot out of each and every Soapbox is myself. I don't think I'm completely wrong very often -- I do have several flaws that I haven't explored yet, in many arguments -- but at least I'm writing. At least I'm thinking. Most don't even try.
But I digress.
Try accepting people around you instead of condemning them (gee, aren't I a wonderful spokesperson?). What this nation suffers from is a lack of respect and a lack of generosity. It's all selfishness and insecurity. Conflict and law suits are the ways to handle problems these days, and it has proven itself to not work at all.
The root of all evil isn't violence and sex on television and on movies. It's not Saudi Arabians founding a private school in the States (yeah, brilliant, guys, that private school's going to bring in Middle Eastern terrorists?). It's not drugged-up, woman-beating professional athletes. It's not money-hungry corporations.
What it is, for the most part, is the lack of something, or someone, to believe in. Who can you trust? Very few people these days. People change all the time, from good to bad, to good again, and so forth. You can't even trust good people anymore.
And with that, I leave you with a final question: is it truly a battle between good and evil these days, or is more like a battle between good and self-interest?
And just so you know, to my knowledge, they haven't found a 100% certain example of altruism in the animal kingdom. ;) Just so you know.
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