Its the end of the world…

as we know it. – REM, Document, 1987

And I feel fine?

Many of us like to imagine the things that will end the world. Or is that just me? Perhaps I shouldn’t broadly speculate about what other people do in the bathtub. In my case its usually that, or playing with my U-boat. No, that is not a euphemism. Its an actual scale model U-boat. I thought a plastic yellow duck cast doubt on my masculinity and general Alpha male… eh, ness.

In any event, when I’m not stalking merchant ships in the North Atlantic my mind is drawn to apocalyptic scenarios… like a moth is drawn to the blue light of a bug zapper. I amuse myself with schema that will most likely cause the end times. Asteroids. Artificial intelligence. Anthrax. Which are all very cute (and alliterated) But the real threat ALREADY lives among us! They are known to us. We interact with them every day. We might even be fond of some of them. But these people are the walking, breathing embodiment of the end times. I’m talking about the greatest danger to continued human existence to ever walk the earth, I’m talking about the Baby Boomers.

And their stubborn refusal to die!

get_off_mylawn.jpg

Apparently seventy is the new fifty. My old man just turned 71. He is the walking embodiment of the problem we face. He is healthy, strong and certainly doesn’t fit the mold of the decrepit elderly person he should be by now! There is literally nothing wrong with him, besides the fact that he’s annoying… his doctor gives him a solid thumbs up once a year when he does his full medical. He’s even learnt how to use an iPhone. Which I find mind boggling. He comes from a generation of telex-machines, chalk board stock exchanges and post cards.

The old man is anomalous in so far as he did the much vaunted retirement thing ten years ago. He contributed dutifully to his retirement fund. Did the whole living annuity thing which pays him out until he’s 99. (Which he might actually reach) That’s 28 years away. His mother reached the venerable age of 99. (she was still driving at 90)

This is problematic for two reasons. Well maybe more. Lets see how we go…

REASON 1

Not all Baby Boomers planned for their retirement. Which means they have to carry on working. Which means they stubbornly occupy higher order positions in a company that should be cycling. Only they’re not. Because they’re not retiring… and they’re not dying. So they’re causing this strange bottle neck which cascades down the chain of command. Suddenly the middle manager is in his position longer than his predecessor… the bottom of the barrel guys can’t move up the chain either… because the middle managers can’t move up.

Imagine starting out at a company… instead of up cycling every couple of years, YOU occupy the bottom tier for double the amount of time. More importantly your salary stays the same. ie. LOW. You dare not quit, because there are twenty five graduates with MBA’s and a mountain of student debt waiting outside for your job.

Your twenties and early thirties are supposed to set you up financially. But now being stuck at the bottom for longer means a whole bunch of things. One, if you have student debt… that’s gonna take longer to pay off. And two… less disposable income. Why less disposable income, because old people aren’t dying, plus normal population urbanization means a lack of affordable housing. Just paying your rent in an area where it won’t take you two hours to get to work in the morning is half your salary.

Old people are also going to start putting tremendous pressure on health care. The fact that cancer is now treatable makes the insurance companies very sad. They used count on cancer culling the population. Now people carry on living. The longer they live, the more expensive they become to maintain. Old people fall… break a hip, spend five weeks in the hospital… AND RECOVER. You know how much that costs? Millions. Suddenly the money pool is getting smaller… and smaller… and either they can cut back on what they cover… Or… they can increase the monthly cost to cover the shortfall because the Baby Boomers, like the dusty vampires they are, suck it dry.

REASON 2

Pensions run on mathematical formulas that hypothesize how many people are going to die and when. Up until now its been super accurate. It helps keep the pool of money at a healthy level. In fact pension funds had so much money they didn’t know what to do with it. So they bought shopping malls. Now that people are living longer… anyways… it creates a lot of headaches. Even worse headaches for developed countries like Japan and Germany, where healthcare is free and people rely on government pensions. Those aging populations are economically not a viable anymore… but they’re going to cost a fortune to maintain. And you can’t just let them fend for themselves… because those people vote… and for the most part are politically more active than younger people.

REASON 3

No legacy. This sound a little cold hearted and mean, but its a real thing. Inheritance. The longer your parents live… the less you’re going to inherit. Legacy is a huge builder of inter-generational wealth. Its big part of privilege. The longer baby boomers live… the less there is at the end of the day to pass down to the next generation. Looks like you won’t be able to count on daddies death to pay off that mortgage anymore. (Obviously this might not apply to you…)

REASON 4

Burden. The other end of inheritance. Your parents never catered for their retirement. Or have run out of funds. You can abandon them on the street, which I hear some people do these days. Alternatively you can take them in. And care for them. They bring nothing with them to this particular party and they additionally burden you by eating your food, using your utilities and are continuously asking you to change the channel on ‘The Netflix’. At the same time you have to buy diapers for your insanely expensive toddler, you have to buy diapers for your insanely expensive father-in-law. Even worse if you eventually have to get a carer… or someone to help bath them…

REASON 5

Your boss is an 80 year old. He remembers the war. Which war you’re not entirely certain… but it sounds like he may have actually fought in one… and not, you know, piloting a drone. They used to do that you know… I saw it on History.

You have NOTHING in common with your boss. He doesn’t understand you newfangled marketing ideas. In fact every single idea you pitch him is met with a glazed look. Every day you think about how much you hate your boss… you often think about shooting yourself in the head. You imagine going home…. to your sanctuary. But then remember… that your two screaming children and your father in law have used up all your hot water by now. You re-evaluate why you are actually still alive…

 

The good news is. Well… I’m not sure if this is good news or not. But you too will likely live a really long time. Possibly managing to be a burden on society and your children. If the world hasn’t imploded by then I mean.

Yay us!

Purveyors of domesticated male bovine excrement

I have a love/hate relationship with twitter. I find it quite alluring in so far as it allows you access to the people you like… but I also find it all very Orwellean. Only George called it Newspeak.

‘Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, a linguistic design meant to limit the freedom of thought’.

But obviously I have bias, my medium of choice being the more ‘long-form’ rant. Ie The blog. Which in of itself has its flaws (and also likely dates me). But then no medium is ever perfect.

Sometimes when I’m bored I like to search for people that I like. Which is often a mistake. You know that old chestnut; you should never meet your heroes. Well…You should DEFINITELY never follow your heroes on twitter. Their largely mundane, inane thoughts stripped bare, just left there to rot, like some bloated marine mammal… stop taking selfies and roll it back into the sea already. It’s grim. And often, a little sad. The ubermensch you admire is just a mensch. Twitter kicks Nietzsche in the groin. Nietzsche grits his teeth and mumbles something about ‘what doesn’t kill you…’. Twitter kicks him again. Nietzsche goes down. And stays down.

ubermensch.jpg

Still sometimes I do it anyway. Go onto twitter I mean. It usually starts to go sideways for me with their bio. *Joey rolls his eyes* Bio’s are often hilarious. But not because they’re funny. People either take themselves super seriously. Or attempt wit. It rarely works out that way. Personally I attempted wit… which is not really my forte…. but the alternative is egoism… or leave it blank. The latter seems quite anti-establishment.

Then there is the content. If anything social media has taught me that…

Apparently the internet is not all pornography.

But when you subtract the writhing naked humans out, all you have left seems to be the aggrandizement of self, bellicose jingoism, name-calling, carnival barking and hustlers. And… of the social media titans, twitter feels like the most concentrated tincture of all this. At least the pornographers are out there creating actual content.

I, of course, have been party to all of this. I don’t pretend to judge myself any less harshly for my complicity. Despite my all my reservations I have in the past been mean and combative for no reason.  I have gotten into ‘robust’ conversations with people who domicile under bridges, perhaps even venturing under an overpass myself now and then. I have ascribed ‘likes’ to things that would likely make me suck air through my teeth if reviewed now. I wish I could take it all back. But I can’t.

The internet doesn’t change you, rather it likely reveals who you really are. Which is quite frightening sometimes. Despite the veneer we like to portray to the world, underneath its often a rotting substrate barely holding everything together.

Sometimes I find it all very dystopian.

I’ve have however realized that this medium seems to be the ONLY way to communicate with content creators whose work you like. You can send them an email, but chances, they will never get back to you. Some do write back and kudos to them. But for the most part your admiration just gets lumped together in a folder with spam and hate mail and eventually deleted.

This however leads to another problematic area for me; the compliment retweet. Someone says something nice about you and you immediately flaunt it to the world as some sort of achievement. #dopamine. Basically you’re high fiving yourself.  Authors are especially prone to needing this sort of affirmation it seems, especially newly minted authors. Established old hands don’t give a fuck. Whatever happened to graciously accepting a tribute? Or does everything piece of bric-a-brac tossed your way have to be displayed on your mantle-piece? Maybe just the most nauseatingly toadying ones?

I think the biggest issue I have though is the time it takes to manage all this hubris and shift through pages and pages of asinine drivel in search of something to make the economy of effort seem worthwhile. I’m not sure how people justify this?

In any event on my deathbed I will undoubtedly be grateful for all the time I spent languishing on social media. Seems unlikely. But maybe I should just follow better people?

Black Jesus.

I know. White people shouldn’t write about racism. I can’t write objectively about something I’ve never experienced. I have no reference point. Basically I can only make assumptions about it, based on my intuition, feelings and what I’ve seen or read. Consider me admonished right near the beginning.

I’m going to do it anyway. Because, one, I don’t be like being told what to do. And two, I think that we only have two ways that we can approach this idea. Conversation or violence. I also feel those two things are mutually exclusive and we should probably pick one or the other. And while I am (sometimes) partial to a good, solid bout of fisticuffs I feel, in this case, conversation is the better option.

I should probably also mention that I am not very clever. Or a particularly good writer. So if you’re expecting something profound or liminal in this blog post you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Let me start by saying I think our definition of race is all messed up. Which is where things start to go awry of us. After all we are all…

  1. from the kingdom of Animalia. ie we are animals
  2. Our Phylum is Chordata. ie we have spine thingy (I know, super technical)
  3. Our class is Mammalia ie. we are mammals
  4. Our order is Primates ie. Yay! Monkeys
  5. Our family is Hominidae ie. Big Monkeys
  6. Our genus is Homo ie. Human being
  7. And finally our species is Sapiens ie. us. Different from Erectus (chortle) and Naledi.

Since we genocided all the other genera of human beings (likely with rocks, sharp sticks and our fists), we homo-sapiens are the only ‘branch’ of humans that are left on this planet. We are the ‘human race’ by process of elimination. Why is it that we have included the human race to have a further subcategory of eh.. race? This is where it starts to get a little confusing for me. Do we actually mean phenotype? I think we do.

A Phenotype is the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.

So, as I understand (and correct me if I’m wrong) one of those phenotypes is pigment. Which I think is the main determining factor in racism, because it gives us a very visual cue to differentiate ‘us’ from ‘them’.

Lets recap, Our ancestors that lived on the equator about one million years ago started to develop eumelanin as a form of defence against the sun when they started spending more time out on the savannah instead of in the tree-line. Their bodies adapted to their environment and their skin turned darker. They also lost their body hair and developed a better perspiration system.

Our ancestors were all dark skinned. (and we are all African immigrants) As my ancestors trekked north they headed up into cooler climes and their skins got lighter and lighter. With less sunshine our bodies couldn’t absorb the required amount of Vitamin D from the sun, so we started shedding eumelanin. And hey-ho, the white man arrived.

Basically my ancestor was an ape. Then he was a black man and then he became a white guy due to lack of rays. (Personally I think that’s amazing) So when we are hating on each other because of our differing skin color we are actually expressing a serious self loathing for our species.

I know. Some ridiculously large part of the world’s population doesn’t believe in evolution. Also try tell my camo-wearing-god-fearing-rifle-toting-white-brother his ancestor was actually of the coloured persuasion. See how that works out for you.

I do think this means our broad understanding of racism is incorrect though. (I know, look at me, prodding convention) When say racism do we actually mean something more akin to culturism? Ie. My culture is superior to your culture.

Racism is defined as the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Wait what?

The whole ‘Race’ thing wasn’t even a ‘thing’ until relatively recently. A German anthropologist named Johann Blumenbach grouped humanity into five groups. The Caucasians (or whites), The Mongolians (or yellows), The Malayans (or browns), The Ethiopians (or blacks) and the Americans (or reds). Interestingly as an aside Blumenbach was of the very radical opinion that no race was superior or inferior to another. A very unpopular opinion at the time.

Having been grouped into these broad categories based on pigmentation (which generally denoted how we had migrated across the earth), the stage was set to meld the concept of superior culture into that of race.

Up until the eighteen hundreds, the world more or less ticked along at the same sort of pace. Europe, the Middle East and China were basically on the same level of advancement. Then something happened in Europe that changed everything.

Two concepts were developed in quick succession that would disrupt everything. Capitalism and the Scientific method were born. These two concepts, in almost no time at all, catapulted Europe past everyone else on the advancement track.

I don’t think anyone can deny that what happened next is an undeniable abuse of power. Europe went on to fuck up (almost) every other nation on earth, systematically destroying and plundering every other continent on the planet, no one escaped their greed unscathed.

My ‘superior’ culture started out by killing millions of people, destroying millions of lives. (not that any other culture would have done anything different given that opportunity) Our golden age was mostly punctuated with torture, plague and unbelievable cruelty. Its something a lot of us are (weirdly) proud of. Although we tend to leave out the wicked stuff and focus more on the railroads and medicine as our more notable achievements. Even more bizarre is that we often did all of this in name of our Lord Jesus Christ…

Back in the day I used to be a Catholic. My best friend at the time happened to be a Catholic priest. (which is also part of the reason I no longer have faith) He bounced around after the seminary but eventually he got sequestered in a tiny parish in Soweto called Zondi. I used to go there sometimes to keep him company.

Behind the altar in that church is a mosaic of Jesus and the twelve apostles. Only they’re black. (Judas slinking off with his thirty silvers is actually my favourite part of this picture)

zondi.jpg

I remember thinking how interesting it was that a depiction of Jesus wasn’t regulated by the Vatican. (I mean they feel they can regulate everything else) At the time I was parishioner in a parish where the ubiquitous white-Jesus in stained glass looms very large over everyone.

Jesus was from Galilee. (basically the area north of Palestine and south of Lebanon). If we extrapolate that Jesus looked like your typical Galilean he most likely would have been short, with dark slightly curly hair, dark brown eyes and a short black beard. And most importantly his skin tone would have been dark brown. A feature of Mediterranean skin and being in the sun all day. It is very likely Jesus would have been pulled aside in any immigration queue for ‘additional screening’.

Jesus (if he existed) probably looked like this….

_87264971_jesus_bbc

(from the BBC, I think)

The hippy Jesus look started in the middle ages, when Jewish/middle eastern features and ancestry fell out of favor with the Catholic church. (You know, that whole Christ-killers vibe) Suddenly a white-Jesus appeared, looking decidedly European. A poster child for some crusading action against the heretical browns of Jerusalem. ‘We want YOU!’

So next time you’re on your knees asking Jesus to intercede on your behalf with his Old man. Remember that you are in fact bowing down to a ‘man’ of color. You’d think that’s got to be quite an awkward conversation when you’ve just hung up your conquistador helmet after putting half of South America to the sword.

Unfortunately I think racism in some form or other is here to stay. Probably forever. It has slowly, over time, become less overt and we’ve all become better at hiding our prejudices towards each other. Instead of racism we’ve replaced it with culturalism, nationalism and passive aggression. Those are still broadly acceptable in segregating and disrupting human beings we deem undesirable to associate with.

I think that’s just the way we are. Sure we can try and regulate behavior through laws. But humans are cunning. And hate is largely (and historically) our thing, it motivates us to succeed. Having someone to pit ourselves against drives us to improve and for the most part a visual representation of supposed difference is the easiest to get behind.

I think the only way past this is to constantly reassess the things we believe to be true or have come to accept. Chances are you hate the guy in your office, not because he’s Black or Asian or whatever… but because he’s an asshole. Get it right and check your hate. And then maybe stop projecting onto an entire Phenotype. #justsaying.

Adulting

Being a grown up and taking on the responsibilities that come with age is something I’ve taken up only under extreme duress. And so I sometimes refer to myself as ‘adulting’ because… well… to be completely honest it’s my little ‘fuck you’ to the seriousness that comes with the passing of the decades and a homage to a time where things were simpler and WAY more fun.

Having said that I am both inclined to both agree and disagree with this statement. (In a lip service kinda way) Usually depending on how well I slept. Which when you have a toddler is usually poorly. Ergo my ability to take life seriously is directly proportional to the number of hours that I have been removed from it in a state of mini death.

Besides is the apocalypse necessarily a bad thing? Sure we’ve attributed a lot of negative connotations to the word… but really, think of the benefits. No more taxes, Star Wars movies or Network News. Ok sure there might be the religiosity of the chaff being separated from the wheat and thrown into the eternal fire (personally I have my doubts) but besides that potential niggle I see mostly upside.

When does someone become an adult anyway? I don’t necessarily remember there being a formal event or ceremony? Some have recently argued this is one of the big problematic features in the world today… a lack of ritualistic event where we are bequeathed responsibility and the moniker of adult and leave our childhood behind us. A point in time where we are yoked to the cart of life as it were.

I’m tend to channel Admiral Akbar on this…

I’m not advocating a complete lack of responsibility or a surrender to the whims of chaos…. but I do tend to think we are a sum of our experiences, a progression as it were and this notion that we need to have a cut off date where we start ‘taking things seriously’ is a little silly. We still are that kid on the monkey bars. Just older.

Besides intimating that I am somehow ‘less’ because I refer to myself occasionally as ‘adulting’… fuck you guy, let’s get this straight, by your narrow definition and metric of what is deemed proper? I’m glad you’re around to pass judgement on acceptable terminology. I am also glad that I am around to disappoint you!

That’s the thing about Freedom. You can be straight, gay or identify as a tuna-fish if you want. As long as you’re responsible right?

Seriously…

You guys need to break up.

kitkat.jpg

RIGHT NOW!

I’d like to think I’m not particularly judgemental about someones personal preference when it comes to the way in which they choose to consume their chocolate, but…

God, its like a car accident…

Slow death by commute

I think work is (mostly) bad for me. A sedentary life style, compounded by being hunched over a laptop all day, working on my carpal tunnel syndrome while basking in the artificial glow of a halogen lamp… but potentially my commute is doing just as much damage to me, if not more.

1_pAPs05hZKsSU2PqewhKE5A.jpeg

Driving in traffic is harrowing for both brain and body. The blood of people who drive in cities is a high-test stew of stress hormones. The worse the traffic, the more your system is flooded with with adrenaline and cortisol, the fight-or-flight juices that, in the short term, get your heart pumping faster, dilate your air passages and help sharpen your alertness, but in the long term can make you ill. It can take as much as an hour to recover the ability to concentrate after a long urban commute. Researchers for Hewlett-Packard convinced volunteers in England to wear electrode caps during their commute and found that whether they were driving or taking the train, peak-hour travelers suffered worse stress than fighter pilots or riot police facing mobs of angry protesters*

*Commuters’ hearts raced at 145 beats per minute, well over double the normal rate. They experienced a surge in cortisol. And, in what was apparently a coping strategy, their brains underwent a bizarre temporary transformation that psychologist David Lewis dubbed ‘commuter amnesia’. Their brains simply shut out stimulus from the outer world, and they forgot about most of the trip as soon as it was over. 

Montgomery, Charles. Happy City. Random Penguin House, 2013

MJ. My biggest concern with my commute was always the ‘Dead-time’. Once I’d remedied that with audio-books and podcasts I thought I could justify this itinerant lifestyle. At least I’m exposing myself to knew ideas I thought… while I’m frying my brain on the way in to work every morning, then caffeinating myself to the point of bare minimum functionality and then frying my brain on the way home again. Five days a week. Totally worth it right?

images.jpg

‘I’m the man who grabs the sun, riding to Valhalla!’ ‘I live, I die, I live again!’ – Nux. Fury Road.

I am less confident about my life choices these days. :-/