Tag Archives: self-awareness

Heart of Darkness: Not the Conrad Novel

Before I begin this latest blog rant, I want to reply to a question I received about my recommendations, which I write about at the end of each post.

I do provide links to news stories, products, movies, TV shows, etc that I recommend.  I do this so you can find them easily.  I have never, ever been paid to do this, nor do I receive any compensation for it. In fact, it hadn’t even entered my mind until someone emailed me to ask.

So, no, if you click on those links they won’t do anything but take you to a site related to whatever it is I am recommending. And if a link is broken, please feel free to tell me so I can delete it and/or put up a new one.

Right.  I think it’s obvious to my Facebook friends that I am in a fairly bad mood these days.  It’s because I am so tired of waiting for people to grow up or shut up.

Ever since Trump announced his candidacy, and continuing to this very day, a certain percentage of people have decided that all their little resentments that have built up through the years can now be fully expressed everywhere, and often.  Even if they didn’t vote for Trump and think that he’s an ignorant narcissist.

Some of the same prejudiced remarks Trumpites and Trump himself and incidentally most Republicans and some Democrats and definitely 3rd party people express are now leaking out amongst people who claim to be free of that kind of hate.

“People should lose their benefits because they voted Trump in”.   This assumes that most people who voted for Trump are poor.  As I pointed out in a previous blog post, the average salary of the average Trump supporter is $72,000.   These are not poor people, not by a long shot.

“The Republicans now will make poor people work instead of getting benefits.”  This is just plain stupid.  There has been a work requirement for people under 55 who are not out of work due to a disability for a long time.

Of course, I suppose they could be talking about single mothers with children, the oft-used target of mean and ignorant people everywhere.  I thought that way of thinking went out with the “welfare queen” crap that died out years ago.

People who I never would have thought would harbor such erroneous and hateful thinking have been surprising me at a fairly constant rate since I have gotten into checking Facebook again.  Some of them I just unfriended.  Others I just accused of being mean-spirited.

Finally, I just posted a status that called them all dickheads.

Look, how many of these people ever had to rely on social programs?  How many of them are white and male?  Why, especially now that we have an incompetent president-elect who has surrounded himself by barely-humans whose main delight in life is dismantling every entitlement program there is, are the attacks on the poor and people of color increasing?

Almost as bad are the “progressives” who feel the need to apologize to indigenous and other people while at the same time attempting to hijack the same peoples’ movements because they think they “know better”.

Or they think they need absolution for their guilt, which is a hell of a lot easier than looking inward at their own shit and being aware of how their privilege plays out in American society – which they do nothing about.

These are the same people who run “non-violent protest training” (can you see me rolling my eyes?), or who finance their “activism” so they can make claims, such as one white male environmentalist did, that they are the leadership of the battle over the pipeline at Standing Rock.  Oh, PLEASE.

Even on “Giving Tuesday”, when I posted a plea on Facebook for people to do just ONE kind act for someone who really needed it, I got 2 “likes” and a comment from a friend (who is also on disability) who told me to “not hold my breath” waiting for people to respond.

No one – not one person – related a kindness they had performed.  Uh, except for me, because I took my EBT card and bought *gasp* holiday candy to give out to others on the bus – because in this area, everyone who rides the bus is poor.  Wasn’t much but it was what I could do.

I state that not to brag, but to point out that NO ONE ELSE reported making any attempt to do something nice for someone else.

Thank you, you know who you are, for doing something nice for me.  Which I am still enjoying to this day.

Instead, there were the usual snarky remarks about poor people (but none about Black Lives Matter, because I unfriended everyone who would post “Blue Lives Matter, Too!” and other clueless remarks long ago), even wishes that we all would lose our benefits, and other equally repugnant thoughts.

There were – and still are – dire warnings about how this new administration is going to screw everyone over.  They’re right, the warnings are mostly accurate.  And I have no problem with people pouring out into the streets to protest Trump and his policies.  I think that’s a good thing.

But let’s not make a cottage industry about it, ok?  Why in hell does anyone need “training” for a demonstration (which probably at some point includes passing the hat)?  I was 14 when I was a marshall at a demonstration, which meant I (and many others) walked along the sides of the demonstration and told people to stop agitating.  IT’S EASY.  NO TRAINING REQUIRED.

I even saw a post from someone who insisted she needed training to make a banner!  What??? Get a sheet, get poster paint, write your slogan.  Again, something I did often as a teenager, no training required.

Does anyone doubt that people charge for trainings or t shirts or banners or whatever?  Or at the very least decide they need entertainment at a demonstration, of all places?  That’s rather self-centered and besides the point, don’t you think?

The exception in the past would probably be the first Earth Day, but that wasn’t promoted as a demonstration.

My point is this: try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, really do it.  Really think about what his/her life is like day-to-day, life that I continually try to illustrate for y’all so you can truly understand what it’s like to be poor and ill.

I am trying to grab you by the shirt collar and pull you up to force you to look, to see, to notice. Not so you can feel guilty and/or ask for forgiveness, but so you can DO SOMETHING.  It can be a small something, or a large something, I don’t care.  It just has to mean something to someone else, to make a dent in the horror of existence that is poverty/illness/bigotry.

You can empower others instead of trying to lead, especially if the struggle is not yours.  Even if you justify your attitude by saying something pithy like, “Clean water is everyone’s struggle”, you need to look inside yourself and ask yourself why you think indigenous people are incapable of leading their own struggle.  Hint: it’s a form of racism, sorry to break it to you.

Because if you cannot look inward, if you cannot examine your motives/attitudes, you are more of a hindrance than a help.  You are not only getting in your own way, in terms of personal growth, you’re getting in other peoples’ ways without even being aware of it.

My main work as a therapist was to promote awareness of self.  It’s really not even hard or painful, it’s just change.   It takes practice, every day.  But it becomes a part of you, like driving a car or other “automatic” behavior.

Then you can pass that skill on to others, by example or even by pushing a bit.  In that way, there eventually comes a cultural/political shift – you know, like the one that enabled President Obama to be elected twice.

But make no mistake, it wasn’t enough of a cultural/political shift so we could celebrate the demise of racism.  Oh no, the latest election should have taught you that, if you weren’t already aware that we don’t live in a “post-racial” world.

It was movement in the right direction.  Just treating people as if they are human, recognizing suffering and trying to relieve it when you can, and at the very least not causing further harm.

You know, acting like a caring, intelligent adult.  Easy.

Today’s weird news isn’t really weird, but I like Grumpy Cat, so…from the website SeattlePi, Grumpy Cat’s Top 10 Pet Peeves:


Today’s recommendation is for something you probably already watch: the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC.  I like her because she does her research, explains things in historical context, and often knows things no one else does (or at least she knows them first).

Be good.  Be kind.   “Life is real only then, when I am.” – Gurdjieff  (ask)











Knowledge from a Vending Machine

You pay someone, you get knowledge/enlightenment.  Wheee!

Something that people my age say a lot is, “The older I get, the more I realize how little I know.”

I mean, people my age who are not pompous asses.

Today, I am thinking about…thinking.

I got an email today from a website called “ESkeptic”, announcing their conference in southern California.  Well, sure, I know I can’t possibly go but I thought I would see what they’re up to, anyway.

The first thing that caught my attention, actually, wasn’t even the conference itself.  The item above the announcement did: “Waking Up” with Sam Harris.

I don’t know who Sam Harris is.  I do know that “waking up” is a common phrase used amongst people who want to promote self-awareness, myself included.  I ran a group whose main focus was self-awareness, and on the chalkboard in the room I had written, “Wake Up!”  So I am familiar with this concept.

I have never, however, heard a skeptic use language like that.

I would love to tell you what he meant by that, but I am not paying $4.99 to rent his lecture, the full title of which is “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.”  The description reads as follows:

“In these talks, Harris discussed a range of experiences that have traditionally been considered “spiritual”—in particular the phenomenon of self-transcendence. Although such experiences tell us nothing about the origins of the cosmos, they confirm some well-established truths about the human mind: Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and serenity, are teachable skills; and the way we think can profoundly influence our lives and the lives of others. (This video consists of a one-hour lecture and an hour of Q&A.)” (email from Skeptics Society, 2/4/2015)

Our conventional sense of self is an illusion?  That’s a truth?

Sounds to me as if the skeptics are kind of desperate for members, and are resorting to promoting their own special brand of woo.  Tsk tsk.  And charging for it.  Just like they scream at others for doing.

So then I went on to read about their conference.  It costs a lot of money to attend.  Even just the open bar and lecture session is $75 (I assume the bar is extra).

I don’t see any difference between this conference and the myriad of UFO/Bigfoot/Enlightenment conferences that are held on a daily basis somewhere in the world.  Except I think the UFO and Bigfoot conferences might at least have entertainment value for the money (and they are usually cheaper).

Nope, the skeptics are after the same snob-appeal crowd that the modern-day gurus are after, except they talk about different subjects.

Do I hate skeptics? Noooooooo.  Most of my family are skeptics.  Some of my friends are skeptics.  I am occasionally skeptical about a great many things, which is why I refer to a lot of things as “woo”.

No, I just hate elitism in any form.  I don’t like anyone who thinks he/she has the market cornered on “the truth”.  Because, to me, unless you are referring to relating testimony (telling the truth about something/someone), I don’t think ANYONE knows “the truth”.

There are scientific principles, to be sure, and I do not argue against those.  I guess that’s “truth” in a sense.  But the word “truth” has almost a moralistic ring to it.  I would rather say, “It is likely that…”, or “It most probably is….”, or even “with a 95% confidence level” (as is written in peer-reviewed journal articles).

When I see someone charging for content that I often have taught for free, or blog here for free, it makes me mad.  Could I ever go on a lecture circuit and talk about things I write about here?  Not likely.  I could make money at it, for sure.  But it would be hard for me to do that without feeling like I was ripping people off.

Self-awareness et al is easy to teach – that part of the quote about Mr. Harris’ lecture is quite accurate.  In fact, you can teach it to yourself (in the 60s and 70s, lsd/peyote/psilocybin were used for that sometimes).

You do not have to pay $4.99 to rent a lecture (gee, you can’t even own it, what a ripoff), or pay $20.00 for a book (oh, it’s autographed, I know, but still…), or attend a $75 dinner party, or pay $225 for a Saturday conference session ($199 for Skeptic Society members) in order to become self-aware/learn about pseudoscience/be entertained by magicians with agendas.

If people pay for that, I think it’s much more likely they are paying for the chance to be around others of like-mind, so they can all feel smug and smart.  It’s really not like you would learn anything, like, say, you would at an academic conference.  And I guess you need to be a certain kind of person to enjoy a smug-fest. *cough* elitist asshole *cough*

What’s my point today?  I don’t know.  Maybe I am just fed up with people ripping off the public.  Maybe I am disgusted by elitism in its many forms.  Maybe I am appalled that someone would have the nerve to charge for something that’s so basic and so obvious.

Maybe I just feel that, with all their protestations that they are skeptics in order to advance science and educate people, they are still basically people out to make a buck.  And these folks do not live at subsistence level – they make quite a wealthy living from this.

I just think that’s shameful.

This week’s weirdness comes again from Gizmag, that wonderful website that clues you in on all the latest technological advances in all kinds of different areas.  This article is called “Fungi Mutarium Fuses Plastic and Fungi into Foodstuffs”.  Oh, those wacky Austrians at Livin Studios!

And…a recommendation from Hulu.  It’s another Hulu-produced series called “The Booth at the End.”  A man sits, well……….in a booth at the end (of a diner).  People come see him, tell him what they want, and he has them perform a task – then they come back and tell him about what they did and how they got what they wanted.  Is he a bad guy?  Seems so, at first, as he has people kill other people and what-not.  But sometimes people don’t do the task and they get what they want anyway.  So is he a good guy who makes people consider their actions and how those affect others?  I don’t know yet.  But it’s entertaining.

Be good.  Be kind.  Teach someone something…for free.