Pre-Approved Counter Culture?

goth

You’re an individual. You march to the beat of your own drummer. You play by a different set of rules. You’re awake, not a sheep like the rest of the mindless drones shuffling around their conformist existence, swallowing whatever the corporations and politicians want to shovel down their throats.

Does the above describe you? If so, please fill out the following alternative lifestyle form, and indicate your desired pre-approved subculture on your application. Upon being approved for contrarian activity you will be issued a uniform that will vary depending on your chosen differing path. You will also receive a rulebook of guidelines as to which socially-unacceptable behaviors are permissible. NOTE: DUE TO POPULAR DEMAND, ‘HIPSTER’ IS NOT CURRENTLY AVAILABLE.

I’m making a point here: that humans tend to be collectivist, even in “bucking the system.” We’re all different. We’re all special. We’re all unique. But we aren’t all leaders. We aren’t all brave. We don’t all have the force of mind and heart to truly be ourselves, to devise, and stand by, our completely one-of-a-kind life path. And so we stray from the mainstream, far enough in the direction of our true selves to feel free, but close enough to a group of some kind to feel safe. Strength in numbers.

Not to say that this is a bad thing. There is strength in numbers. It’s less lonely to be a loner if you’re a loner alone with a lot of other loners who are all alone in the same lonesome way. It’s also easier for the mainstream if they’re able to batch-process the outliers, as that guarantees that the main points of difference at least will be understood.

Then again, all that makes it hard for the truly unique. For those who lie outside of the outliers, the strangers to the strange. That’s too meta. Too many moving parts. If you’re a true outcast, be prepared to either be forced into one of the existing nonconformist groups, or else be marginalized completely.

To those who are outside of both mainstream society and commonly-accepted alternative realms, we salute your courage and tenacity. It’s not an easy life.

Photo credit: Martin Soulstealer

The Mythical Latino

The Latino is a mythical creature native to parts of America’s Southwest, although clusters have migrated all across the United States. Known less commonly under names such as Hispanic, Paisa, Raza and others, the Latino is most commonly distinguished by its medium-brown skin tone, practical working clothes (usually paint-stained), and tendency to carry tools for manual labor, such as the leaf blower (pictured). Latinos tend to live, travel, and work in large clusters. Their diet consists mainly of beans and a flat kind of bread, and they seem to have an intrinsic need to hear accordion music at least once a day.

I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the above paragraph is absolutely ridiculous. Such was its intent. However, many continue to stereotype Latinos in a very similar way, presuming that we look the same, think the same, vote the same, act the same. Now let me be clear: it’s always unfair to make blanket assumptions about any group of people, not to mention inaccurate. But I think it’s a particularly bad mischaracterization to batch-process Latinos.

To start off with, Latinos, by definition, come from Latin America, a region of huge ethnic diversity. Most Latinos are mestizos, or a mix of varying proportions of Spanish and native blood, of which there are hundreds of tribes. Let’s not forget all the African slaves that the Spanish imported, adding yet another ethnicity into the mix. In some places such as Mexico, the African blood has been so thoroughly mixed in that it’s difficult now to find a mostly-black Mexican. Then there’s Argentina, whose inhabitants are almost exclusively of European blood. Finally, Latin American countries have experienced much foreign immigration from all over the world. Mexico, for example, has a significant Chinese and Irish diaspora. Even linguistically, we can’t lump Latinos together. While most speak Spanish, Brazil, Latin America’s most populous country, is Portuguese-speaking. Beyond that, many inhabitants of Latin America still speak a native non-European language. In Paraguay, a staggering 90% speak Guaraní, more than Spanish.

To attempt to stereotype such a diverse group of people is absolutely ridiculous. We are all unique, with vastly different cultures, appearances, traditions, stories, and thought processes. We don’t live the same, we don’t act the same, and we certainly don’t vote the same. There is no homogeneous “Latino demographic.”

So remember, this mythical Latino creature is just that: a myth.

The Peace Cult

Those who read my last post might be inclined to think I’m an out-of-touch pacifist. Make no mistake, I am not. Not by a long shot.

In fact, the war cult isn’t as dangerous as the peace cult.

We have been blessed by freedom and prosperity. Blessed to the point where a philosophy of total peace, in terms of both domestic and international policy, has not only possible to espouse without being thought of as a complete lunatic. What’s more, it seems that there is a trend towards the popularization of this pacifism. A dangerous trend, I believe.

In foreign policy, I am by no means a warmonger. I believe in forceful action only in stark instances of defense. However, there is a very thin, though critically important, line between non-interventionism and isolationism. Even though in most instances prudent defense is self-defense, in some cases it involves the defense of others. United we are strong, and can defend against any threat.

The stark reality of war is this: when there is a will and a way, there is a war. If a country deems it to be worth the cost to go to war against another, it will do so. If a country is able and willing to crush and conquer a weaker one, it will. And another. And another, until it has either exhausted all means of conquest, or until there are no free countries left. If, however, attacking a nation results in war with a united coalition of nations, the chances that an assault will be deemed profitable go down exponentially. Cognizant of this fact, nations throughout the last millennium have banded together to the threat of a stronger nation going on a kingdom-stomping spree.

The same applies at an individual level. If someone wants to be violent, and they deem worth the trouble whatever they think will happen to them as a result, then they will be violent. Sometimes, this means that violence must be met with violence. An unwillingness to use violence can result in more damage being done before the aggression is stopped. This unwillingness can only lead to more violence.

How did this idea of unrealistic pacifism get started? In a word: prosperity. In much of the world today, for the first time in history, the vast majority of people die of natural causes. Death and violence have all but disappeared from the experience of the modern citizen. So much progress has been made in making the world a better place that we tend to forget that there is still darkness. Often we hesitate to meet force with force because we are squeamish about the idea of propagating destruction. It is this very hesitation that allows violence (by those who don’t share our aversion) to continue.

The fact is, this is still a dark, nasty world. We all die, and many of us would kill and destroy if given the chance. Sometimes we have to be prepared to use violence in order to stop even more violence from happening. So bury your squeamishness, there’s something worse than violence: violence visited upon the innocent. Only a sick, twisted, selfish person could feel good about not getting his hands dirty by using violence to defend an innocent person. There will be blood regardless. It is only a question of whose blood will be on our hands. Would we rather be responsible for the harm of an innocent person, or the harm of a disturbed individual, the very person who would begin the cycle of violence by harming the aforementioned innocent?

Make no mistake, there is blood on the altar of the peace cult. Innocent blood.

The War Cult

Hate the war, respect the warrior. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say that I’m not a pacifist or a troop-hater. For the purposes of this post, however, I have to pull out all the stops. Here we go, then:

No matter the country, we all hear the propaganda: the troops are heroes. The military is inherently righteous. If you love your country you love your military.

Nonsense. While a military force of some sort is necessary for the survival of any nation that doesn’t hide behind another for its safety, there isn’t much else to feel warm and fuzzy about.

First, don’t make the ridiculous assumption that anyone who dons a uniform is automatically a hero. There is a gravy train involved. You don’t have to look for a job. You don’t need to worry about anything pertaining to real life. Just sign up. You know how much easier my life would be if I could just say: “Alright, I’ve decided I want to do this. Here I am, take me away”?

It’s all possible because it’s all on the taxpayer’s dime. All the training, all the gear, all the traveling, all the salary, benefits, pensions, you name it. Even the recruiting propaganda. It’s all possible because it’s paid for by people who don’t have a choice. By people who had to get real and be productive, who have had to struggle and work hard, who had to do far more than just “sign up.” And if they dare try to not support those who live by the sweat of their brow, they are met with violence, confiscation of property, and imprisonment. There is nothing moral about living off of the productive by coercion and oppression.

Finally, we have what the military actually does. Bizarrely, there seems to be some confusion about this. Soldiers kill people and break things. That’s all. That’s what they’re meant for, and that’s the only thing they do well. Sometimes, when our safety is at risk, we need them to kill the bad people and break their things, and in those cases we owe our lives to their success. But in no way should we pretend that their mission of destruction is inherently moral.

I believe the troops always deserve a certain sort of respect. They are much like the garbage man, doing the dirty, nasty job that no one wants to do, but nonetheless has to be done. Keeping that reality at the forefront, they sacrifice life and limb to do the dirty work necessary for the people’s safety, with little recompense and no glory. That sounds like a hero to me.

But a worshiped, privileged class that rarely protects, sometimes destroys, and mostly lives off the hard work of the rest of society? Glorified by the state propaganda machine, offered all manner of opportunity and benefit, supported in entirety by theft from the populace at gunpoint? A massive drain on the resources of the host country, a huge and unnecessary expense nonetheless thrust upon the people? That sounds more like the regime of some third-world despot. Not like a hero.

Resist the war cult. Don’t buy into the lie that anyone who dons a uniform is a hero: in most cases the opposite is true. Do you want to really show your appreciation for society’s heroes? Walk up to any business owner you might find, and thank them for their service to their country, and to humanity at large. You have found a bloody hero.

(Read the follow-up to this post, The Peace Cult)

Culture Pie

“They’re destroying our culture!”

Nothing is more sacred to us than our deepest sense of identity, and anything that threatens said identity really seems to bring out some sort of primal rage in us. For some, a threat to the majority culture of the country provokes the rage. For others, it’s the threat of some minor, marginalized culture becoming extinct that provokes the knee-jerk reaction of grave concern.

But they’re both missing the point. Culture isn’t an established system of perfection that must be preserved at all costs. Culture is us.

It’s our words, our thoughts, our actions. It’s our way of living, our way of working, our way of playing. It’s our manner of loving, our manner of fighting, our manner of mourning our loss and misfortune. It’s what gives us comfort and sense of purpose when all other moorings have failed us. Culture, quite simply put, is all of us, and the footprints our lives collectively leave behind.

As such, as we collectively change, so does the culture. We can’t “lose our culture,” our culture simply morphs to more effectively serve as our mirror. To preserve the memory of a past culture is to preserve the memory of our past. But to try to preserve and keep current a culture that is no longer current is to force us to be what we are not. It is to live a lie.

Celebrate our culture. Celebrate its ingredients. Celebrate cultures past. But remember, our culture is a pie baked from the ingredients that constitute our current reality. To keep baking it with the same recipe of the past means using old, stale ingredients… and that’s not going to make for a yummy pie.

Fresh culture pie for all!