The Dystopia Fetish

dystopiaHave you ever had one of those experiences where you’ve been quietly tolerating something that really bothers you for a long, long time, but then you suddenly, in a dramatic moment, realize that you can no longer tolerate it?

Well, I’ve just had that experience, and I’m here to pronounce that I have no more tolerance to offer for what I see as a rampant dystopia fetish.

Dystopia: that mostly fictional construct of a future, sometimes post-apocalyptic, sometimes the product of a long, slow decline, filled with darkness and oppressive authoritarian government and violence, societies that retain just enough resemblance to present day realities as to give the impression that we’re heading down that slippery slope.

Fans of dystopian fiction, in print or onscreen, argue that we need these cautionary tales of possible futures, so that we, ideally, wake up and do everything we can to prevent such a future. But, what I see happening more and more is that people are starting believe that dystopia is unavoidable and already manifesting.

And, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary if it weren’t for the fact that some of these dystopians are already heavily arming themselves and preparing for the worst.

In some ways, we all contribute to the problem, by continuing to consume massive quantities of dystopia in books and movies and on TV. The media are happy to keep meeting the demand. I’m talking about everything from The Hunger Games to even the whole zombie craze. (Zombies aren’t real, of course, but they adequately serve as an easy metaphor for any number of evils that can fester in dystopia.)

You know, there’s enough real darkness in the world today, as a brief glance at news headlines will confirm. I’m not preaching head-in-the-sand escapism, but I do think we all should be rationing the attention we place on the dark side.

A friend of mine, a Seattle blogger at sealife chronicles, posted something today that I think is a good companion piece to this post, titled zen test. In it, he provides a wonderful quote by William Rivers Pitt and then writes:

bad happens every day.

and our collective survival instinct demands that we pay attention to it, so we learn to avoid it. trouble is, fed too much attention, the bad can take on a grim, feral life of its own. it’s a wild, dark energy that can turn on you and eat you alive.

this is true…and yet somehow the world is not, always or entirely, a carnivorous beast. we know this because sometimes ~ in quiet moments between the relentless waves pounding our souls ~ sometimes awesome happens.

amen.

Q: Are Blogs Dead? A: HELL NO!!!

bring-out-your-deadSo, there’s this article out in The New Republic, by Mark Tracy, titled Eulogy for the Blog.

And, I have to tell ya, it REALLY bugs me, and it bugs me on several levels.

First, unless it’s a thing to call a bit of writing a eulogy even though the subject of said writing isn’t actually dead, Marc Tracy utterly fails to make a credible argument for his declaration of death. (And, you know what? Even if it IS a thing, it sucks, it’s a shallow attention grabber.)

A telling comment (my emphasis added in bold):

This is the context in which the New York Times‘ decision, revealed this week, to review all of its blogs and shutter at least some of them (including the popular, at least among the sort of media wonks who are still reading this article, Media Decoder), ought to be understood.

You see, Tracy is clearly, himself, a media wonk, and so he bases his assertion that blogs are dead on observations of a handful of high-profile bloggers in elite publications like The New York Times. This reeks of ivory tower classism, it’s lazy journalism, and it’s an insult to the millions upon millions of bloggers all around the world who are alive and well and blogging away. (For instance, as of this writing, WordPress, the blogging platform that I use, claims nearly 65 million users. Declaring them dead…doesn’t that make Marc Tracy a mass murderer? Hahaha.)

More proof that his headline is nothing more than sensationalism, Tracy admits:

We will still have blogs, of course, if only because the word is flexible enough to encompass a very wide range of publishing platforms: Basically, anything that contains a scrollable stream of posts is a “blog.”

But, he follows this up with the most inane attempt to justify his conclusion anyway:

What we are losing is the personal blog and the themed blog.

WTF?! This guy has obviously spent ZERO time browsing even a small sample of the blogs out there, millions of which, actually, from my observation, mostly fall into those very two categories. The vast majority of blogs that I come across are either personal journals, musings on daily life events, or they are blogs that specialize in a single theme, from food to politics, arts to sports, celebrities to hobbies, and on and on and on. (Fish & Bicyles would be in a third category, fewer in numbers, but we’re out there: the general topics blog, about, as I like to say, whatever strikes a fancy at any given moment, on any given day.)

I initially thought I’d go with a zombie theme for this post, but you actually have to be dead first in order to become the undead.

And so, just to be sure, I checked the pulse of Fish & Bicycles, and I am happy to report that it is, absolutely, alive and kicking.

Tweet of the Day: #NoXL

Can’t think of a better tweet for today’s Earth Day Edition of Tweet of the Day than the following.

On this last day to submit comments to the US State Department, please consider adding your voice to the widespread opposition to this horribly destructive project.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: Video Fridays: Marvin Gaye

A friend of mine, in response to the news this morning from Boston, wrote on Facebook:

Here come the drum beats, the war cries, the schizoid retaliatory crimes…

Sadly, I think he’s right. This is how the cycle of violence rolls on and on and on.

As I tried to think of a video for today’s Video Fridays installment, I thought of an old favorite song of mine, a song that speaks to the senselessness of violence, but, as it turns out, I already featured this song in a Video Fridays installment, back in September 2011.

And so, since I kinda like what I wrote back then, I thought I’d just make this a Best of Fish & Bicycles post, and republish it.


What can I say, it’s been a pretty musical week here at Fish & Bicycles, with my posts yesterday and Tuesday, and now today’s Video Fridays installment features a song that came on Pandora this morning, a song I love a lot.

Marvin Gaye was a deeply soulful artist, a troubled human being like so many before and after him, and his untimely death at age 45, at the hands of his own father, was one of the harshest tragedies in a music history littered by untimely deaths.

In the 1971 classic What’s Going On, Gaye sings about mothers crying and brothers dying, and those lines always make me think fathers need to cry just as much as mothers.

Instead, in a sad foreshadowing of sorts, Gaye pleads, “Father, father, we don’t need to escalate.” (It should be said that he’s most likely referring to God the Father, but who knows?)

Anyway, the song speaks directly to my hippie heart (“Only love can conquer hate.”) and is filled with such intense longing, both lyrically and in the lush melodic arrangement.

Happy Weekend, everyone! Enjoy.

Boston Marathon Bombing: More On Violence & Pacifism

meditationAs a follow-up to my post from yesterday about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I find I have a little more on my mind on the topic.

I had a thought last night that really stunned me: As I was pondering this heinous act, it occurred to me that I could almost hear some talking head on some “news” program calling the bombing in Boston an act of cowardice…

…but, just let that sink in for a second…

…it was an act of cowardice…why?…because it would have been an act of bravery if the person or group had stuck around and fought and probably injured or killed more people?

Of course not!

And it seems to me that this rhetorical failure says something about the utterly irrational and destructive nature of violence.

At the same time, we seem to reserve the right to call someone brave for committing some acts of violence, such as acts of self-defense, or acts of rescue.

Yesterday, I referred to myself as a pacifist, but I really should clarify, for the sake of honesty, that I have never been able to confidently answer the questions inevitably asked of anyone willing to identify as a pacifist: What would you do if someone was trying to hurt someone you love? Or, as someone raised Jewish, anti-pacifists tend to LOVE throwing this one at me: Don’t you think it was justified to kill as many Nazis as possible in order to end the Holocaust?

It’s one of the great philosophical dilemmas. Is it not unethical and immoral to stand by and refuse to protect someone who is under threat of violence, even if it requires violence to repel the threat? Additionally, don’t humans, like other animals, have primal genetic encoding that drives us to fight for our survival and the survival of our families, clans, tribes, packs, herds, etc.?

Oh, you could dodge the question and get all intellectual, as I’ve tried to do in the past, claiming that the real solution is to rid the world of all violence, in which case, then, there would be no one attacking someone you love. And, while I’d still argue that it’s self-defeating cynicism to passionately insist, as most do when they argue this point, that ridding the world of violence will never happen, I know that violence cannot be abolished with a snap of the fingers.

So, there it is. The grey area of my pacifism. I only hope that one day the grey will clear and the sun will shine on the answer to these difficult questions.

The Boston Marathon & The Cycle Of Violence

meditationMy heart aches for the victims of the explosions today at the Boston Marathon

…just as it aches for all victims of violence everywhere, as well as the conditions that drive people to act out in violence.

I’m a longtime pacifist and aspiring Buddhist, who passionately agrees with the notion, commonly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

The belief, held by some, that injuring and killing people is ever warranted, for any reason, is just about the most alien, incomprehensible, indefensible concept that I can think of.

For sure, outrage is an understandable reaction to acts of this sort, and yet allowing that outrage to transform into a desire for revenge is at the heart of a cycle of violence that we humans are so tragically susceptible to.

I pray for peace.

Pornface: Not The Onion & Deserving of Compassion

not-onionSo, when I came across the following “news” item, my first now-regrettable response was that I should start a new Recurring Series here at Fish & Bicycles, featuring real articles that read like, but are not, articles from the news parody website The Onion.

I’m sure it’s not an original thought, but man, when I find examples of this, it really is hard to believe that these are real stories.

Today’s discovery, via Salon:

Man turns face into tattoo billboard for Internet porn sites, regrets it

Before legally changing his name to “Hostgator Dotcom,” Billy Gibby called himself “Billy the Billboard” because of his willingness to tattoo brand logos on his face and body. After receiving sums in the range of $75 – $1,000, Gibby (Dotcom?) tattooed the logos for several Internet porn sites on his face.

And now he really, really regrets it…

Gibby is hoping to remove the 20 tattoos covering his face. But in order to afford the expensive laser surgery, he needs a better job. But because of his facial tattoos, he is pretty unemployable, he told the Press.

So he is auctioning off more advertising space on his body to finance the procedure.

“I have space on my arms, hands, chest and the legs,” Gibby told the Huffintgon Post.

And so I was all set to laugh at Billy Gibby, and I even considered including a photo of him in this post, but then I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

If you read the whole piece you find that he has a serious mental health problem and a, gulp, family of seven to support, and it’s just unbearably sad.

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made a mistake and felt the pain of embarrassment or even shame, and so my heart goes out to Billy, I regret my original impulse, and I hope that he finds peace.