Archive for the Relationships Category

Love and reciprocity

Posted in Anti-War, Love, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , on August 25, 2010 by 99ppp

“All you need is love”


“All’s fair in love and war”


“Love thy neighbour”

What is love? It is one of the most elusive yet intriguing questions that puzzle us as a species, explored through poetry and narratives, investigated by biologists and delightfully entangled by those who delve into its mysteries, sometimes reaching the pinnacle of unity, while others struggle with the one they love.  Whether it is just a series of chemical excretions in the brain, or just an old meme that’s been carried around since we created language, our idea of love need not escape reevaluation.

The “love and war” expression often made me uneasy when I thought deeply about it.  The idea that “all’s fair” implies an absence ethics/morals and principles. If there is a basic principle of love, it has to be one of mutual respect, best embodied by the Golden Rule to treat others fairly, which is shared by many faiths and philosophies. This appears to me to be the basic recognition of another’s humanity. This is the way we can “love our neighbour”, people we don’t know, even people that we may not necessarily like. The quote does touch upon the passion, for good or ill, towards the intensity of emotion. However, in the case of love, I’d hesitate to plunge into an ethical nihilism the quote implies. One can still love another after discovering they share little affinity or affection, by maintaining mutual respect. This may include relating towards them in particular contexts, or not at all if the relationship is toxic. If mutual respect, fairness and reciprocity are lacking in a relationship, it will likely erode affinity and affection in time.

I don’t think there will ever be a definitive answer on love, and I prefer it that way. Even if no answers emerge, to simply immerse ourselves in that mystery may allow us to embody that idea, feeling and principle without pride and righteousness.  In time we might get flashes of clarity, enough to navigate this world filled with unnecessary conflict and strife between couples, families, communities and entire nations.  I will end with the words of one of my favourite philosopher comics, Bill Hicks:

[Life is]  just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings, and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love.

Clarifying Guilt

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2010 by 99ppp

I’ll describe guilt as that uncomfortable feeling that one has gone against one’s conscience, at least that’s what ideally it should be. Yet that feeling can expand into situations where that unease  can erode our principles and undermine our values.

We begin to form our moral foundation from the discipline of our parents . We defer to their ethical experience, and believe that they have a greater hold on what’s right and wrong, what’s fair, and so on.  Parents become the primary agents of culture, teaching us how to acclimate to societal norms..As we age, though, we could see that they are only human, they make errors, and perhaps their moral compass was calibrated to their environment and times. “Because I said so” becomes an increasingly weaker argument, and solely a declaration of power. In fairness to parents, often they are simply attempting to keep us from repeating the mistakes they made. Often ethical transmission may be simply an attempt to validate their principles. That does not stop the questioning, though as the universality of teen rebellion can attest. We begin to challenge our parents assertion of what’s ethical and fair. We may look within, to our peers and the wider popular culture to get our new cues on how to behave.

Breaking customs appears to be one of the greatest difficulties within families since they are often the rites that are considered unifying. My mother used to get fixated on dates, on one particular occasion there was a silly family altercation simply because someone else forgot Mother’s Day and didn’t call. Now I didn’t believe in  recognizing these “greeting card” holidays (and still don’t) , but did it to appease her. When I found out about this conflict and my mother’s righteous indignation, I immediately declared I would no longer recognize those holidays, since they were now becoming a potential source of conflict. My mother suggested I cared less about her if I didn’t, I responded I didn’t like my feelings to be dictated by the calendar.

Enter religion. I was taught on the importance of God at home and in school, and was told that without that religious guidance I would go astray. I was skeptical, and felt that I could infer some of the rules of the Bible intellectually (I was raised Roman Catholic), and didn’t feel that was needed for it to be sent down by God. I get the sense that guilt drives much of religion, as we must carry the burden of Adam’s original sin, making us responsible for decisions we didn’t make. I confessed to a priest only once, and never again. I can see the use many people can get some peace of mind  from it, but couldn’t see how this man could give me absolution.

Guilt cues us in to violations to our values, ethics, principles, and agreements. However, I began to feel that it is unfair to hold us accountable to principles we didn’t pick. Often guilt can simply be a response to seeing a loved one get hurt after some act or expression. We often believe we’ve hurt the person, but it can be just as likely that the person hurt themselves by projecting expectations onto us, and holding us responsible for surprising them in an unpleasant way. Nonetheless, we feel bad, call it guilt when perhaps it’s simply a fear of alienation. To fulfill expectations we didn’t agree to condemns us to reaffirm existing culture instead of engaging and participating with it by questioning, examining and challenging it when it fails to resonate with us. We become agents of conformity. We can erode the confidence to form our individual principles and become spectators to the ever-shifting tides of ideas that make the amorphous blob of mores and customs we call culture.

Expressing Doubts

Posted in Culture, Media, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2009 by 99ppp

I looked at the name of the blog and I still feel it’s sincere: 99% Pure Propaganda. That is what all media is, including this blog, even if an expression is authentic and sincere, since there is always an intent when sharing it. I sense we are all influenced by others to various degrees, whether we like to or not. Sometimes we express ourselves in direct opposition to some perceived media triggering rebellion, yet the influence there exists, even when disagreeing since we care enough to dissent. Others wish to perpetuate ideas (memes) just to see how effective they are. Should we stop? Has language become meaningless? Why don’t I just close down the blog, and by doing so reduce the noise of the internet?

My long hiatus from writing has been a painful one, and it was getting tougher to write since my reevaluation post, since I am not exempt from reevaluating, and it seemed premature to share any impressions in a state of doubt. I sense I am not alone and many of us are in doubt, and we are afraid to express it, fearing we’ll be wrong and hoping to be certain.  This has dogged me for a few months, not knowing what to write about, what is important, and at the end of it all, who cares anyways? People are just bombarded with information nowadays, with the web, cable tv, texts, cellphones and so on. The perceived insignificance of my voice was dwarfed by the chasm of misunderstanding that can be plainly seen, both in real life and on the web. I don’t mean this post to be a whining lamentation in my writing drought, but an attempt at an authentic exploration on my difficulties.

We seek certainty, we seek meaning. Who wants to hear other’s doubts? It might ignite my doubts, erode the firmament of my convictions and beliefs. It is rather unpleasant, yet perhaps it seems necessary to share it, both doubts and convictions. We’ve followed leaders, great philosophers, heroes, parents and role models, hanged on to their every word, followed their example.. but to what? We’ve looked for certainty from those who’ve “succeeded” yet what is success? When have “we arrived”? I don’t like neat answers, since often it can create a rut of dogma in ones’s mind.

So is the only choice to stand on quick sand, to have no certainty? Our words themselves have showed to be unstable, untrustworthy. but we have no choice but to uses them, since they allow us in a limited way to share our human experience. In that chaotic cacophony we may stumble upon a pearl, a relationship however fleeting, in what we sense without question to be inately human. While we each might be a small part of some greater whole, it is no justification to consciously disengage. We are engaged whether we like it or not, but the nature of that engagement relies much on how we consciousy relate, instead of allowing the momentum of social conditioning to pull us towards normalization.

I believe there can be an optimal balance between listening and expressing. Often, in a world where many people are shouting over one another, thinking their point of view is the sole “correct” one, can disuade some to put their voices out there. They have a humility many of the former can use, yet their silence can also be alienating. Their art, their music, their expressions and opinions of beauty, ugliness, fairness, injustice, love, anger and humanity are hungering to be heard. There is no freedom of expression unless it is exercised.

Some convictions remain though. We need to create media instead of solely absorbing it. Express both our doubts and convictions. To remain silent is resignation. To abdicate responsability in the formation of culture. to not discuss, express debate.. and for most LISTEN. LOOK at the media we consume mindlessly. We may believe it is merely escape, but often it can be subtly influencing us. That’s why it becomes more and more important to look at all media critically, including the persistant beliefs we use within ourselves to endoctronate us.

The truth may be volatile , yet we feel its there: The Tao that can be defined is not the eternal Tao. Perhaps we can’t encapsulate it neatly, perhaps it simply flows through us.. and sometimes it can flow through our endoctronations, biases, bigotries that shackle us and filter “the truth” from our senses and escape to the other side, to another mind, creating relationship, however fleeting it may be.

Wedding at Taco Bell? Why not?

Posted in business, Culture, Economy, Love, Relationships with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2009 by 99ppp

While I remain a critic to marriage as an institution, I was pleased to see some of those do opt to marry are turning their backs to the wasteful, useless wedding industry, which happens to be in trouble, and rightfully so in these uncertain economic times.

The bride wore a $15 hot pink dress and the entire wedding cost about $200. Several dozen guests looked on as the couple’s friend, Ryan Green of Normal, administered the vows while wearing a T-shirt. He was ordained online.

“This is the way to go — there’s no stress,” said the groom’s mother, Kathy Brooks. (LINK)

A Great Re-evaluation: The Silver Lining on a Dark Economic Cloud

Posted in Culture, Environment, Media, Philosophy, Relationships with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 26, 2008 by 99ppp

For the last couple of months I’ve been fascinated by the financial coverage on CNBC. The commentators struggling to make sense of something that is senseless to them. They declare the market is undervalued, and look for the mythical bottom where the best buying opportunities occur. They hope the promise of great riches will entice more to pick up some great bargains. The Dow numbers jump up and down frantically and the commentators become equally manic depressive. There are both the bulls (optimists) and the bears (pessimists) that give opinions ranging from an economic apocalypse not unlike the Great Depression, to a simple correction that will go away in a couple of months. They begin to speak their occult financial jargon, giving the idea of great confidence of expertise to their opinions. At first I watched with amusement, since I am no fan of the Temple of Greed, the casino Wall Street devolved into. Underneath it all though, I saw something, very human.. a slight desperation.. a deep anxiety on seeing their worldviews being dismantled piece by piece. Global corporate capitalism itself is being tested.  They are witnessing something they know is extraordinary, and terrifying. They are witnessing a Great Re-evaluation, and it transcends the golden chambers of international commerce.

What is value?

What we value is what is important to us. In this consumerist society, many ascribe the accumulation of material goods as the highest measure of  value. Many will point to family, friends and community.. yet most will acknowledge old cliches like “Money makes the world go round” and the so called “ownership society” that Bush aspired to lead his country to. However, now the values are changing. Environmental concerns are incompatible with tenets of infinite financial growth. The earth has limited resources and cannot handle a world with people with unlimited material ambitions. Many are looking towards a simpler life.. looking for the freedom to act, rather than simply freedom to possess and own. If this trend continues, the current economy, that relies on ever increasing consumption, sees this as a large threat.

A Layman’s View of the Financial Crisis

I cannot claim any expertise on much of the subject, although it has captured my attention recently. The sub prime mortgage bubble, a glut of overpriced houses that people cannot even begin to afford, is causing a great cascade of foreclosures. Banks have been exchanging exotic financial instruments where mortgages being cut up into little pieces and being transacted by it had actual value. The illusion of ever increasing home values made many homeowners get in greater debt using the equity on their houses. When the defaults and foreclosures began, homeowners couldn’t pay, the paper became toxic, and the values crumbled. Then big financial houses holding or backing large amounts of such paper like AIG and Lehman Bros and others couldn’t handle such liabilities and their stock prices plummeted. This has triggered off a cascading set of events that created the current situation. A more detailed explanation can be found HERE (MUST READ).

Bailouts: The Government Response

As these banks stop lending to everyone and one another the govt decides to hand a $700 billion (and counting) bailout to these irresponsible institutions. The system is in critical danger they exclaim, “worst since the Great Depression”. We are scared into giving them carte blanche to have the taxpayers buy into shitty investments. The dogma of the “Free Market” goes out the window, and now we have to save the system from itself. Socialize the risk, privatize the profit, and the owners of the world must keep getting their tribute since their corrupt mechanism is under extreme danger. Slogans like “too big to fail” is spouted off by politicians and the massive bailout is given the green light, a bailout which did not work on defrosting the credit freeze. The mythical free market has lost investor confidence, and many of the clerics of unregulated capitalism now decrying the government for not acting faster, to save them from themselves.

What will happen next in the short term?

Beats me, although I have some suspicions. Right now they are looking to the consumer, who supplies two thirds of the economy for guidance. You see, the stock market investors don’t want the people to do what banks are doing, hoarding money. They want people to spend so they can make greater profit. Now they are looking to the annual orgy of consumption (x-mas) to see where the trends lie. If the consumer doesn’t begin to buy more and more stuff they know they can’t make more money off of them. So I look to CNBC, not to see the nausea producing oscillations of the market (although they can be interesting indicators of the mass psychosis of the market), but the financial news of earnings, sales and layoffs.

A Great Re-evaluation

If the system works, why isn’t it working then? Who does it work for most?

It is very natural to feel overwhelmed with the incomprehensible amounts of money and the momentum of a crumbling global economy to make one feel powerless. The reality is that we all are part of it, in some way or another. We participate in an economy where the lines between needs and wants are blurred into oblivion. “Consume more to save jobs!”, “It’s OK to get into debt”, “Too big to fail!”. Those in power need us to buy into it to justify placing greater obligation on taxpayers, since without the system, they believe we are helpless. Are we?

Each of us can now reassess what we value, and why we value it. We can explore it, discuss it, and debate it. I doubt there will be only one answer, but a myriad of approaches. Some will work better than others. Yet it is better to experiment ourselves rather than rely on those perched on top of economic and political hierarchies to make these decisions for us. Even with the best of intentions, these people are often too isolated and distanced from the consequences of their decisions. We can bemoan the unfairness of it all, yet we are not powerless. I believe that recognizing and reclaiming the power we each have may be the silver lining in these difficult times.

Responsibility: Duty, Blame or Power?

Posted in Culture, Philosophy, Relationships, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2008 by 99ppp

The word “responsibility” is fascinating, especially the context and the spirit in which it is used, primarily in three contexts that often interrelate: duty, blame and power.

Duty

Responsibility as duty can restrict the psyche from reflection and contemplation. Duty and obligation often suggests a standard of behaviour, right and wrong, that hasn’t been formulated by the individual but simply by regurgitating the mores of the prior generation, convention or tradition. When someone wears traditionalism as some badge of honour I become extremely skeptical, since it suggest that the person hasn’t examined the “traditions” enough to formulate their own opinions. This is not to say that there aren’t good values that come from our human past, and yet to say one is a “traditional” says little about one’s values and suggests one hasn’t examined them fully.

Some take more than their share of responsibility, so they take on much more duties that they need to. They can deny any chance for those who simply pass it off to get their shit together and stop being dependent. I believe most people don’t want to be dependent they just have lost confidence in their ability to act, and simply look to someone else to take care of things. This is what happened during the Obama campaign, where this particular person believe that the fact that Obama has been voted in would magically solve all their problems (see vid below).

Often the phrase “This is how I was raised” is used to justify behaviour and morals that haven’t been examined by the individual. It often comes from a distorted admiration to some authority figure, often parents or the larger society. This is an example of either empowering oneself of responsibility from one’s opinions. When I hear “This is how I was raised” I often translate it as “I haven’t taken to the time to examine the values I was indoctrinated with(even if well intentioned) . It is easy to simply obey the morals of another instead of constructing a personal sense of ethics. To question everything can plunge one into an existential dilemma and it is understandable to wish to avoid that. Yet the cost of avoiding it can leave one feeling a nagging sense of helplessness, especially when the voice of a suppressed personal conscience increases in volume and contradicts what we are taught to believe.

No one can guilt me without my permission. Any person who says to me, “You are making me feel guilty” is a person who hasn’t taken responsibility for their own conscience. They have embraced someone else’s values without examination. Guilt can be a useful emotion when it is a violation of our own personal standards and principles, and not someone else’s, as long as one doesn’t wallow in it.

Another form of responsibility as duty is “I am only doing my job”, in other words, simply doing as one is instructed. This is a difficult one since one’s livelihood can be in jeopardy if one disobeys. Personally, I previously began to see my job as an opposition to my personal ethics and I was having trouble sleeping and began to get aches and pains in my body. Then came the breaking point and I quit, and all the pains went away. Stress places the body and mind in continual survival mode and can exact a heavy cost on people: anxiety, heart disease, hypertension, depression, substance abuse and so on. This question has no easy answers since people are being pulled in two directions, have bills and families to feed.

Blame

Many use the word responsibility to lay blame unto others. By using the word in this matter, ironically dissuades many people to take more responsibility. You see, we have to allow for people to make mistakes. If we easily forgive mistakes,  share our insights on how to improve things instead of finger pointing, those who try to evade responsibility will use it to learn instead of mindlessly escaping them. There are those who claim to take responsibility as a lever to gain more power. Since I have greater responsibility than you, then you should do what they say. This is why it is easy to point fingers at politicians. They make all kinds of promises to gain power, suggest that the problems entrapping the society will be fixed without any discomfort. I found it interesting during the Obama acceptance speech, that when he mentioned there may be sacrifices to stem the expectations projected onto him, the crowd became temporarily silent from the boisterous jubilation. Obama was already feeling the pressure of being anointed as “a saviour” facing the current economic crisis.

During times of war those who commit atrocities such as the killing of innocent lives and are later confronted by a barrage of questions, often pass the buck once again by saying “I was just doing my job” instead of looking into their conscience. They believe it absolves them from looking deeper into the actions they take with a more critical eye instead by following blindly the orders of others. Here “I am just doing my job” translates into “The person giving me the orders is responsible”.

When we refuse to take responsibility for our actions over and over we tend to lose respect, and trust from others. We also start losing confidence in our own abilities in the things we do and continue to pass the buck unto others and yet continue to learn nothing from our own experiences.

Power

Responsibility can be power. Response ability, the ability to respond..To avoid it can make one feel powerless, a paper boat in a tsunami, where we are directionless in the currents of circumstance swirling around us. It would be facile to say we are directly influential in everything that happens to us, but often we underestimate our ability to cause effects. I elaborated further on this on the “Fat acceptance” post earlier in this blog.

I am in full agreement that each of us could take greater responsibility for our lives, this I say in the spirit of compassion and advocating people empowering themselves instead of passively waiting for others to help them. Unfortunately, many have used the term “personal responsibility” as a blunt weapon to demonize those who are in difficult position and suggest that their situation is fully of their own doing. This is using responsibility as analogous to blame, not power.

One way to pry blame away from responsibility: To feel responsible for everything one does, but not responsible for everything that happens to us. This may first seem like a paradox. Allow me to elaborate.

Humans are fallible. We aren’t capable to predict exactly what results our actions may trigger, but we can’t allow that uncertainty to paralyze us from action.We will fuck up. But that’s ok, if there is a sincere recognition of the error. There is conditioning we may need to emancipate ourselves from. Prejudices and fears that cloud our ability to see clearly. Pressures we may have felt from others. We have to be cautious though, to see them as influences and not excuses, since it may lead one to place blame on circumstances and simultaneously disempower ourselves from the ability to act. We can see them as obstacles to move around instead of walls that paralyze us.

Blame, duty and power relate to time as well. Blame (past), duty (future), and power (present). To live closer to the moment, it is best to frame responsibility to the present.

[Obama supporter referred above]

Gay marriage banned in two states, leading in California

Posted in Culture, Love, Relationships, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 5, 2008 by 99ppp
According to CNN as of this writing, a ban on gay marriage has passed in Arizona and Florida, and it’s winning in a close vote in California (52-48). In addition, there is a ban on unmarried couples adopting children in Arkansas.This is very unfortunate but I am hardly surprised. There is a strain of traditionalism woven into the concept of marriage in most people’s minds. Introducing a newer concept like civil unions (or common law) that could grant the same protections of state marriage , would likely get greater consideration as the issue becomes more about equal rights than “desecrating” an ancient tradition.

Here in Canada, particularly in Quebec, marriage as an institution has had it’s popularity and cultural importance erode over the years:

The number of couples forgoing marriage has more than doubled since 1981, the first time the statistic was tallied. At the time, there were 357,000 common-law relationships – about six per cent of all couples. By the 2001 Census, roughly 14 per cent of all couples were common law. Common-law unions are most prevalent among young people and couples living in Quebec, where more than 30 per cent of all families are common law. {LINK)

As I mentioned in my previous post, equal rights activists would likely be best served to simply let go of the word “marriage”. As far as I’m concerned the institution itself is losing prestige, and energy towards promoting a fairer world can be better placed elsewhere.