08 January 2010

A Treatise on Taste

When something resonates with your soul, like a song or even the formatting of a PowerPoint presentation, it gives you a glimpse of a part of your true self that is outside of yourself. When you have a strong, positive personal reaction to something it is indicative of your soul telling you, "Hey, go in that direction; you need more of that!!"

Most times it has nothing to do with trying to be cool. It is just whatever tugs at your heartstrings... a sort of chemical reaction with the product being a personal growth or change.

If something is popular it just means that it tugs at something in the collective consciousness of humanity or of a specific culture. This could be a novel that typifies a generation or a public figure that garners a cult following. In each instance a group of individuals finds common validation and a sense of direction in an exterior concept or stimuli. It does not necessarily have anything to do with being a conformist. The conformist goes with the crowd out of vain self-interest. He thinks that if he does what everyone around him is doing then they will not see the imperfection and incongruity in their actual person and will thusly advance his position in the crowd. Most people just want to engage in community and grow through shared experiences. There can’t be a shared experience unless all parties are taking part in the same activity or taste. An individualist who criticizes the conformist is the same as the Republican who criticizes the Democrat. You play party to same hypocrisy of your enemy thus making you no better than him.

There is no worth in criticizing the desire for exterior validation. Some would state that this desire is a sign of inner weakness and thusly becomes an exercise in overcompensation of personal shortcomings. There are two major problems with this notion: one with the assumption upon which the notion is based and another with the psychology behind this assumption. First, this notion assumes that only in the case of personal weakness is the desire for exterior validation fostered. To that I say, Tabula Rasa!" As John Locke stated, everything we are comes as a result of exterior factors. Eyes cannot produce the light with which they see. Ears cannot produce sound for them to hear. It is impossible for a complex life form to produce the means though with it performs its function. Even our genetics, which informs our tendencies, is determined by a choice made by two individuals before we even exist as a thought in the physical world. In this way the soul cannot perform its function of questing for perfect harmony with God without adopting tastes and habits as means through which to mold the soul. (Our actions form our ideology.) Second, the psychology behind the notion is disgustingly prideful and ultimately self-defeating. One with this mindset assumes that he is such a force of personality that he does not need anything outside of himself to be perfect. He thinks that he is made of stronger stuff than "other people" and does not need the crutch of a favorite band or a taste for fine wine to feel confident in his superiority to the gross pulsating mass that is popular culture. This is disgusting because it foments cynicism and hatred in his heart, self-defeating because it cuts him off from potentially lovely relationships and pastimes, resulting in his destruction one way or another.

For illustrative purposes I evoke the website stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. This website, formatted as an encyclopedia of sorts, exploits the common tastes of trendy, left-leaning people for its comedic value. The satire is technically brilliant and undeniably hilarious. The problem comes in the premise. The mission statement explains, "This is a scientific approach to highlight and explain stuff white people like. They are pretty predictable." This seems to be saying that by systematically cataloging and scorning the interests of a group of people, you put yourself above the rat race of life and thusly, make yourself a superior rat. In fact, what happens is you become the brooding self-centered rat who twirls his whiskers by himself in the corner as he mutters damnations upon the infernal maze, refusing to aid any of the other rats in finding the exit to the infernal maze so they can get on with their lives. He also chooses to urinate on the rats that happen to like the maze and choose to run the race for fun. Once again, he only serves to instill animosity and subversive hatred. This is an evil that cannot be truly soothed by humor, self-depreciating or otherwise. Laughter only serves to drive the cynicism deeper into your soul.

One could say, "What about all the shallow, latte sipping, Prius-driving, abortionist braggarts, or the proselytizing, gun-toting, xenophobic, death penalty loving hypocrites? Aren't I better than them? Can't I laugh at them from upon my pedestal of superiority? The tastes and habits we adopt result from the choices we make in response to positive and negative reactions to exterior stimuli. If someone chooses to feed the worst parts of themselves, such as their vanity or their lust, they should not be disregarded as useless and used as examples to support our perceived superiority. These Brothers and Sisters of ours should be empathized with and treated with patient compassion because our souls are all attempting to serve the same function. We all want to live, to possess truths, to know love, and to feel joy. We all search for them in different ways. We should not scorn the man who strays off the path but take is arm and offer to travel with him because the same end awaits us all and we might as well hold each other up until we get there.

"With that mindset, doesn't everything become subject to perspective and devolve into a merciless bloodbath of self-righteousness?" There is one answer to this great problem of the ages however, at this point in history, the answer is unpopular. The Answer is God. For in fact, God is the energy that life feeds on, the knower of all truths, and simply is love. The way to solve the problem of bitter self-absorption is to fix your tastes on the perfect exterior stimulus that is God. That begins a relationship that is the most personal and transformative of tastes.

-Peter Lajoie

Follow Lajoieride on Twitter or on YouTube Username: Lajoieride

26 September 2009

Truths from the Pit(tsburgh)

Riots During the G20 Summit In Pittsburgh Bring Disturbing Truths to the Forefront

I spent the entire night of September 25-26, 2009 following the g20 protests on Twitter, YouTube, and many related websites that were steaming live information about the event and I drew many important lessons from a night that will go down in infamy in American history.

On the 25th, thousands of protesters (possibly millions according to some online accounts) descended upon Pittsburgh, PA to demonstrate for various causes at the G20 Summit. It was the second day of marching. There were socialists, anarchists, and environmentalists; everyone from veteran protesters who were marching in the 60s to wide-eyed college kids drawn by the idealism and excitement. Some were there to protest peacefully while others were there to cause violence and property damage.

One man, who has yet to reveal his real name, caused over $20,000 of damage singlehandedly by smashing between 12-15 shop windows during the march.

To contain such instigators, and to keep demonstrators on the marching path, the Pittsburgh Police Department was dispatched in full riot gear. For a currently unknown reason, violence broke out. Both sides claim that the other acted first. As seen in the video link below there were helicopters with floodlights, APCs with loudspeakers and sound cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, ballistic beanbags, and German Shepherds (as seen in another video taken on site.) Police did not hold back when attempting to disperse crowds and used all legal force at their disposal. They were caught off guard in February, they wouldn't be caught off guard now. There was general chaos in the city and it spilled over into a university campus and involved innocent bystanders.

In some YouTube videos, sizable crowds of college kids can be seen running for safety away from police.

This video gives an excellent sense of the police crackdown from a student's point of view.

From this perspective it may seem that we live in a fascist state that oppresses those who speak out against government policies. However, a closer examination of the organizers of the march reveals the truth behind the violence and subsequent propaganda.

On Twitter an energetic young woman tweeted a link to a video which seems to show police oppressing peaceful protesters who are simply acting under the 1st amendment.

See the video here.

A closer look reveals that the man with the megaphone who is spontaneously spouting libertarian rhetoric on a spur of the moment feeling is actually a grizzled revolutionary with a track record of arrests and public disruption. This man is Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange.org This group was founded on the premise that the terrorists attacks of 9/11/01 and the resulting collapse of the World Trade Center in New York City was planned and administered by the U.S. government. The group's activities since then have been focused on disrupting police organizations and organizing garish protests. Rudkowski himself has been arrested for disruption in New York and Los Angeles. The website brags of such accomplishments. This organization largely contributed to disruption in the city.

Another Anarchist who was largely responsible for organizing the riot from Twitter was Mike Gogulski of nostate.com. A self-described, "Future stateless person," Gogulski is an unabashed anarchist who no longer lives or works in the U.S. but has vowed to overthrow the current system of society. Through Twitter on his cellphone he was able to coordinate fellow protesters' movements by tweeting where police officers were, where they were going, and what they were planning to do. Anyone who wanted to see these tweets just had to look at a feed entitled "#resistg20." (There was also a more open feed entitled "#g20" where many points of view were expressed.)

What are we to think then? Are we to dismiss this as the act of a fringe group of radical revolutionists who have no real power? No.

A group like this is never powerless because of their ability to organize with startling speed and efficiency. Also, such groups have the ability to infiltrate lumbering, overstuffed bureaucracies such as the U.S. Government and institute policy behind an OZ like curtain of secrecy. The Communist Party had a lot of success doing this between the 1920s and 1950s. (Read "Witness" by Whittaker Chambers to gain some perspective.)

So is this proof of a fascist/communist/socialist revolution? No.

Whenever you see protesters in the streets calling for an end to the excesses of capitalism or demanding the downsizing of government you're seeing a nation's desperate cry for help, but not in the way you might think.

The election of Barrack Obama inspired millions of people to have faith in government and to expect corporate waste to end. This clearly hasn't happened. Instead we've seen the government get into bed with corporations such as GM. This one act of buying out and running GM realizes two of the greatest fears that Americans have. The election of Barrack Obama to the White House didn't unify the nation as has been claimed. It raised the hopes of millions only to make government waste and corporate abuses of power worse.

Basically, Americans are feeling control of their lives and of their country being taken from them and they are scared. People are doing drastic things in the hope of regaining their control. Some are calling for the drastic overhaul of healthcare while others attend violent rallies like the one in Pittsburgh. This is one factor contributing to a larger problem.

A feeling of helplessness and despair about our roles in the world is at the heart of radicalism and unrest in this country, regardless of political leanings or socioeconomic status. Americans and the people of the world don't want partisan domination of government. People don't like either party! They want the freedom to control their own lives and have their voices heard.

This one problem of disenfranchisement is very complex by itself as it encompasses spiritual, economic, physical, political, and intellectual facets which each have been significantly complicated over the past century. (I'll address each of those in subsequent posts.)

Related Material: "An Open Letter to G20 Protesters"

-Peter Lajoie

Twitter and Youtube Username: Lajoieride

E-mail Address: peter.lajoie@gmail.com

24 September 2009

Social Media: Facebook Surrogates

ace it! Social networking is here to stay. The various systems of networking on the web have infinite constructive uses; the only limit being the user’s imagination. One could use the micro-blog “Twitter” to follow a train of thought to a professional connection and a job; Facebook is used to stay in constant contact with friends and acquaintances from opposite sides of the globe; MySpace is used by thousands of underground bands to cultivate a following and stay connected to their fans. However, as with any technology, the user decides whether to be destructive or constructive, and in today’s world of ADD and warped egos a disturbing trend of online cult-of-personality is wrecking havoc on human social skills.

The most socially destructive way of using social networking is to create an online alter ego to compensate for perceived offline inadequacies. What can develop thusly is an alteration of the offline self to mimic the online alter ego. Also, as the confident and realized online self begins to branch out and develop social ties completely unrelated to geography, kinship, or profession, in favor of internet based ties, the offline self begins to lose touch with personal relationships and can either become narcissistic or socially distant and uninterested.

There are several different socially corrosive online behaviors that characterize a user. One is the posting of pictures depicting an exaggerated counterfeit of the realized online alter ego. These pictures commonly show alcohol abuse or sexually suggestive content. This activity is seen in those who wish to portray a fun-loving and confident image to their Internet contacts. This causes the user to replace healthy self-respect derived from introspection and self-understanding with pleasure derived from increasingly self-destructive acts such as drug use or sexual promiscuity.

Another negative behavior is cyber self-pity. Often times, when a user has a negative view of their offline selves then they will use the alter ego to chastise their offline selves. Their scathing self-criticism allows them to sustain their mediocre offline social skills; self-pity is addictive. This activity is characterized by what some call, “emo status updates,” that is a status update that overdramatizes a personal problem with the intention of garnering pity from others. This behavior often causes users to spiral into asocial, angry, and violent behavior.

Aside from these extreme examples there are intermediate levels of abuse. Many avoid minor problems or responsibilities by using Facebook to kill time. Basically, the most common abusive use of Facebook is laziness. Also, the more serious abuses are only a symptom of a much deeper problem in American culture: lack of faith in the self and a waning belief in the goodness of humanity.

However, that is a topic for another time. I hope this has been illuminating.

Related Material: http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol3/issue1/garton.html

-Peter Lajoie

Twitter and Youtube Username: Lajoieride

E-mail Address: peter.lajoie@gmail.com

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