Hazards of Social Conformity

Humans have been doing things that cause our own demises for centuries. Most of the time it’s for social conformity. Peer pressure. Ideas of normality. Current fashion. Often it involves self-mutilation;  binding our feet, stretching our ears, wearing hats made with poisonous mercury, or face powders containing lead. All these things were normal at one point in history, and horrible for our health.    Yet we’re currently not any better.     We’re still doing things that are horrible for us, but are socially considered ‘normal’.     We consume high fructose corn syrup, fatty oils,  alcohol, tobacco. We give ourselves diseases by participating in these popular trends: heart disease, liver disease, diabetes, cancer.     We are continually  pressured to eat ‘normal’ food, wear ‘normal’ clothing, live in ‘normal’ domiciles, and participate in ‘normal’ social occasions. Simply because these things are culturally popular right now.
Current trends continue to be popular regardless of their hazards. Phones are popular, even though they cause a lot of accidents. Fatty food are popular, even though heart disease is the # 1 killer of Americans. Everyone owns a car, even though 40,000+ people died in traffic accidents in 2016. We can’t seem to stop participating because they’ve become embedded into our culture.

Certain popular things change how we interact with each other.  The youth generation is heavily invested with online social media, as a means of sharing every event in their lives. Last month, a woman accidentally shot and killed her friend  as part of a video challenge, to see if an encyclopedia would stop a bullet.  People have always desired having a community  and a sense of belonging, and in the digital era, that community is online. These people were drawn to participate in these risky activities because that’s what their community exists around. There’s a 50day challenge game in Russia  that has caused 130+ deaths. Every day it sends out a task, and the last challenge instructs the participants to kill themselves.  At the moment in history, it is also  normal to live stream videos of all events, including tragedies. Last week,  a group a teenagers were on trial for videotaping a man drowning, instead of helping him. This week, an 18-yr old live posts a video immediately following a car crash that killed her 14-yr old sister, instead of helping.
What this means is that individuals would rather share an existing event, than try to effect change in the world around them. Our social culture  is so obsessed with our digital footprint, that our online life means more to us than our real life.

 

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Barclay

I recently watched all 7 seasons of Star Trek Next Gen, and there was a side character that really stuck with me. It was a weirdo engineer with an anxiety disorder. In the first episode with him, no one on the ship liked working with him, and their observable dislike only caused him to be more nervous and awkward with his coworkers. His therapeutic outlet was to have fantasy experiences with the hologram recreations of his crewmates. So the more stress he was under, the more he secluded himself into the fantasy world.

I was fascinated with this particular character because up until him, everyone seemed unusually competent and skilled. He was the only one that had a off-putting behavioral oddity. I found him relatable, because I am also not sociable, and in many ways I do the exact same thing with my hobbies.
Having something ‘small and pleasant’ to say always creates the illusion of friendliness, but it’s very much an illusion, because real socializing often triggers my already short fuse.  It’s not to say that I am incapable of patience and compassion, I am, it’s just that I don’t usually practice those emotions in group social performances. I’m basically a Klingon in that way. I don’t take kindly to being jerked around, and I’m not really interested in coddling a strangers outlandish wishes for the sake of ‘being nice’.

A few episodes later, the show revisits the same awkward character.  He’s made some strides with his anxiety, and starts to blend in a bit, but then he gets zapped by an alien probe and ‘becomes’ the computer’s brain. He enjoys the power-trip, but by the end of the episode, he’s back to being average. Episodes with him start to feel stressful, as the audience starts to identify with his point of view.
After that, he stars in another episode about seeing something mysterious  inside the transporter beam. That episode was emotionally draining, because everyone tried to convince him that he was mistaken, and that there was just no way he saw anything [when of course he Did].    A few episodes after that, he helps out with an sentient hologram character that wants to leave the ship. Which was the first episode that utilizes him in a capacity that doesn’t make him seem completely crazy.    It was nice to see him reach his full potential, like maybe there’s hope for all of us weirdos after all.
And in one last episode, this character is the accidental cause of a mutation outbreak on board that causes everyone to devolve.
Although the episode didn’t focus on him, it does briefly circle back to his anxiety as a source of social discomfort between him and the rest of the crew. Drawing attention to the fact that he still has problems, and his time in Star Fleet didn’t resolve them. Which goes to show that in a world where all physiological and safety needs are met, some people are still anxious.

 

Having an Off Day

Every so often I seem to blank out.  My rhythm gets off, and I just can’t seem to get through it without stumbling. I’ll literally forget everything that I was in process of doing, and just freeze up. On a micro scale, it’s not so bad. But I wouldn’t trust myself to plan for the future, because I’m too anxious to live in the present.

I wonder if people living during the Great Depression knew that it would eventually end, OR if every single person lived their lives thinking that things will never get better. Like many other millennials, I’ve started exhibiting stress disorder symptoms. Apparently, there are several different types of anxiety, and I’ve recently learned that most of them plague this generation.

Stemming from general hopelessness, I find myself believing that the country has moved backwards from the American dream. Making the everyday things that used to be normal into somewhat of a luxury. My parents could afford to buy their own house before the age of 30, get married, and have a family. But no one my age can afford a family; we can’t afford houses, we’re burdened with college debts, and we’re panicky about the future. Older folks have started heckling me about marriage and family, but the harsh reality is that the world has changed, and people my age will not have conventional lives.

I worry that while this generation is busy trying to survive, the older generation is busy destroying the planet, along with all hope that my generation will live to old age. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would say that the Millennials will never reach the esteem and actualization levels, because we’re still struggling to satisfy our more basic deficiency needs: psychological, safety,  and love. We can’t think about the future when we’re anxious in the present. Our physical safety is at stake because of the current financial situations and  the social and economic crisis.

Scale of Servitude

Scale of servitude is an idea concept I’ve been talking about a lot lately. It used to refer to  slavery, but now it’s the chain of social command in non-professional groups.

How do you decide who’s in charge and allowed to give orders in a social situation? In matriarchal cultures, everyone is socially less important than eldest woman of the family, and should concede to them. In patriarchal cultures, it’s the eldest man of the family. In my family, I may be head of my own household, but I am still  socially subservient  to my parents, and we are all subservient to the grandparents. With my parents still active in the social community, there’s very little I can do that will allow me to outrank my parents. However, they may retire from the social group, or I can gather assets to improve my group ranking.

Yet, some individualistic social cultures topple the chain of command entirely by leveraging ‘acquired social assets’ to get highly inflated rankings. The group allows for these other factors [things that the social group values] to decide who is in command; assets like: wealth, popularity, experience, charisma, strength.  The tiers of the ‘scale of servitude’ decide who’s above and below you in the group, so a person’s ranking changes as the group members change. It’s ‘political’ in the sense that a person can never really ascend beyond what the collective social group decides someone is worth.
– The leader of something small is above their group, but is still lower than a leader of a larger group [who has greater assets and therefore higher ranking]. Many people are able to experience being a ‘big fish in a small pond’ when they lead a small group.

The value we assign each other in modern social cultures isn’t based on familial-piety, or any other sort of ancestral reverence, it’s based on money and/or power. And we all know that power corrupts. The thing about the social ladder, is that once you start climbing, you’re compelled to continue. The scale of servitude implies that there’s always someone above you, more ground to cover, more assets to acquire. So people become obsessed with  it.
Even when wealth isn’t an option the ranks exist. Think of the show The Walking Dead. Rick became the leader when he arrived at his small group, and then several seasons later he’s a servant of the Saviors. The group changed, the scale increased. We find that there’s someone above them in the ranks; Someone with more power, more assets, and the means of using them to impose their commands onto you.
This is how our culture interacts.

 

Budgeting and Scheduling

Being a proficient adult means being good at budgeting and scheduling. That’s basically it. No one is asking you to be a great scholar; just budget your time & money, and get your errands done.

The most frustrating human I ever had the displeasure of personally knowing, was a bachelor who couldn’t ever find the time to cook or clean. His home was always filthy, and his fridge was always empty. He was financially successful, yet still an incompetent adult, because he couldn’t get his errands done.
I think the American youth is doomed from the get-go because our culture places too much emphasis on advanced-skills, and not enough on life-skills. Our child obesity rates are one of the highest in the world, because we don’t know how to take care of ourselves, and by extension, we aren’t properly feeding or caring for our children. The youngsters didn’t learn how to cook and clean at home or at school; they didn’t learn maintenance, or basic upkeep.  These youths grew up, and became adults who do not  feel responsible for domestic errands; like cleaning, repairing, and caring for things.
With the way things are, it doesn’t matter if we all go to college, because as a generation, we can’t seem to make the time to find balance in our lives [financial, social, personal, health].

Millennials are a generation obsessed with technology and artificiality, we’re also a generation stricken with anxiety and mental disorders.  We are a group of adults with massive debts [college expenses], poor health, and limited life-skills; so life-priorities for us have changed.
Budgeting and scheduling is something we’re not great at. Many of us have no money saved, and are living on credit cards. Even if we become financially successful, it is unlikely that the millennial generation will have the same predictable high-quality of life that our parents enjoyed 40years ago.

Perks of the job

What specific ‘thing’ in the world do you find valuable, and would want to get deals on?
Answering this question would  direct you towards a company  that will give you the perks to keep you  happy at a job.
All work is relatively tedious activities, taking up similar amounts of time and energy, but the perks available at a specific business are the things that make a job worthwhile.
This exercise of prioritizing your own personal interests, before prestige or necessities, will ensure a particular kind of satisfaction that will make you happier in the long run.

What company can give you access to things you desire?
If you love fancy food, it would be nice to get into a company that provides fancy food. If you love intellectual conversations, perhaps a job at a museum or university would provide you with opportunities to have more of them. If you love fitness, then it would be great to work at a company that provides free classes. If you provide for a large household, perhaps working for Costco would be good [free membership and employee discounts].
Not only would you be working, but you’d also get more access to the things you love.

Modern tech companies offer lots of frivolous perks in an attempt to keep their high-value employees working there. Food, gym services, flex vacation, paid maternity/paternity, coaching services, customized workstations. ect.
Even those of us who don’t have high-demand skills are able to work for companies that offer access to desirable things. Example: Working for the cable company gets you free cable. Working for an airline gets you deals on airfare. Working for a hotel gets you deals on accommodations.
All jobs pay a wage, but the specific perks of the company make a world of difference.

Growing up, I remember a neighbor boy’s father who worked for a beer company, and every so often a 40foot semi-truck would make deliveries to their home on our suburban street. I’m not sure what his father did for the company, but the perks available to him at that specific company made him happy.
So instead of trying to find an occupation that makes you happy, try finding a company that provides the types of perks that make you happy.
If we all have to work, may as well enjoy it.

My Parent-brain and endless possibilities

I saw something beyond infuriating, and for the first time, 2 possible instinctive reactions came to mind at almost the exact same time.  The first was if I was witnessing this infuriating thing being performed by people my own age, and the second was how I might’ve reacted if I was a parent who was witnessing the same event being performed by people considerably younger than I.
The first was an impulsive outburst of carnal intensity; violent and spontaneous, explosive with no remorse.  But the second was a slow breeze of impending despair, knowing that this course of action would fester, and cause the depths of my soul to ache. I didn’t like thinking about this course of action  I would be forced to consider as a parent, because of how damaging the punishment would be in the long run to the whole family. But the fact that I had thought about it  for that brief moment was a new sensation all together.
My ‘parent brain’ switched on for a moment.

Throughout my childhood, I’ve heard the phrase, “you’ll understand when you’re older”. I’ve also heard that “parenting is more difficult than you think”, but I mostly hear that from people who’ve never picked up a parenting book, or bothered to scientifically study ‘adolescence’.  So duh, of course it’s easy to devalue children when you basically don’t believe that they’re real people with independent thoughts.

As a unmarried adult with no children, I’ve come to realize that most people like babies, but not everyone likes children. Possibly because of how crazy-protective our culture is about strangers interacting with their young, so that no one has the opportunity to interact with children before they themselves have children. Causing generations of people to walk into the occupation of ‘parenting’ totally blind to the issues.
But of course, children are people, and they’ll be full-grown adults in less than 20 years, so parents need to be open to the endless possibilities of things that children might be interested in.
There are no ‘perfect people’ in the world, so parents need to be open to the very real possibilities that their children will have problems.
My own mom was a serious woman, and  treated child-rearing like every other chore. She hurried her children into adulthood with as little fuss as possible, and grew irritated and disappointed when she discovered that her adult-children were nothing like her. Her ‘parent brain’ has never worked properly, as she was never willing to accept the possibility her children are real autonomous individuals that she can’t control.

Birth Lottery of Ideal Locations

If you image that people are plants, and the spot that they are grown is representative of how their lives will be, it becomes easier to accept that some things just don’t work out the way you want. Not all plants can thrive in certain climates. Not all plants are grown in ideal locations. Some can’t handle certain weather. Or certain moistures. Or certain temperatures.
Sometimes the plants get the most ideal location, and they grow strong. Sometimes they don’t. So, insisting that every sprout is equal and has equal chance to flourish is a lie.
Some plants just don’t make it. Some plants have all the best resources available to them to encourage their growth. Others face decades of hardship and never quite reach their full potential.
The adage that ‘you can do anything you put your mind to’, is also a lie. Since no one is able to be a different type of plant, we must all live the type of life that that is obtainable for us specifically.

By chance I was born here, meaning that in the birth lottery I was placed here, in this location, in this demographic, and in this socio-economic group. It’s difficult to change from your starting location. Not impossible, but difficult.
Peoples birth situations are precisely coincidental. Wealth or poverty, influence or exile, excellence or ignorance. Life is unexpected, and not all situations will work in our favor.
Sometimes learning to ‘accept that things are beyond our control’, is the best advice for handling life’s many inconveniences. But people mostly say that because, it’s easier than trying to uproot to attempt once more elsewhere. Weathering the conditions is a personal choice that many people feel is obligatory, because the unknown circumstances in a different place are perhaps worse.

‘Change’ is scary because of the possibility of hardship. But most things in life are hard, so it just depends on how well a person handles their specific hardships. Most difficulties aren’t life-or-death, and most likely resemble a big mess of odds-and-ends flung at us, that maybe we survive and grow beyond.

Summer Garden Project

As an adult, I find myself looking for lengthy projects to occupy my time. Self-improvement is never-ending, but I’m just looking for something to focus on for 4-5 months.  When I was a teen, I thought that adult projects were typically household tasks. Some kind of maintenance or construction. But I am not a homeowner, so I find myself seeking some kind of new hobby, but assigning it a definitive goal [as if it were a task] so I can keep track of my milestones.
– This desire to keep track of my personal endeavors is new thing that I’ve started craving in recent years.   I’m not sure if this need is part of the new Age of Social Media , but it seems that the desire to have tangible and shareable details negates the ‘actual success’ of our personal endeavors.
Somehow sharing the photos from an event, is more important that enjoying the actual event. As if it was only worth doing IF I could post about it. It occurred to me that in the Age of Social Media, shareable things are more valuable than isolated things, so I would only be satisfied with my project if I was able to share it.

I’m rather proud of my summer garden. So far I’ve grown a crop of green beans, cucumbers, onions, and tomatoes. I also have high hopes for my pumpkins, watermelons, and squash. I also planted some corn, but I think I wanted it more as autumn decoration, and less as food. I’ve had fruit trees for years, but this is the first time I’ve tried growing seasonal plants. From what I understand, all of those vine plants will not make it through winter, and will need to be re-sprouted every spring. It feels good to garden. Watching plants grow provides a reference of what ‘natural speed’ is, juxtaposed against the artificial urgency of the modern world.  It takes weeks and months to grow things; it’s far from instant. Natural environments requires gardeners to be patient and plan ahead. People in the modern world who expect instant fulfillment would benefit from partaking in the lengthy seasonal growing process. Literally stopping to smell the roses makes time appear to move slower, and mentally easier to deal with.

This week, I have pumpkin flowers. And I am weirdly excited about them. I had little sprouts in March, and now have flowers. No doubt in another 2 months, I’ll start commenting on the size and color of my pumpkin harvest.

Illness changes a person

There’s something weird that happens to your sense of self when you’ve been sick for a long time. All the words I would choose to describe myself  seem to have changed. I know that this illness is not me, but it’s been with me for so long that it’s all I see when I look at myself. It’s not a temporary state of being any longer, it’s who I am; I am ill.

It takes all my energy, it takes my time, my health, my personality. I am not available to be myself, because I am ill. It changes my eating habits, my sleeping habits, my posture, the sound of my voice. I am no longer creative, or organized, or confident, because I am ill.  I am weak, and tired, and in constant pain.

Illness has a way of making you forget to be yourself. It hurts too much to do the things I would habitually do. I move slower than I used to, assessing each motion, conserving my energy. My new physical  limitations trick my brain into thinking that these boundaries are normal. The things I used to enjoy are unbearable now. I can’t go out, and I don’t have the capacity for any leisure activity.
Illness changes how I think of myself. The pain has a way of making me forget, distracting me from my own thoughts. It’s a struggle to cook and clean for myself. I can’t remember how it was before. I can’t remember the last time I experienced joy, and it’s difficult to predict  if I ever will again.
Illness prevents me from being optimistic about it. I am hardly a person, I am ill, and I’m just trying to get through the day.