smart phones and the decline of society

I am coming to the conclusion that it’s not smartphones that are screwing up society, it’s the indirect effect of “immediacy” – because of tech like smartphones, everyone expects immediate answers. So it seems like everything you do requires another meeting, another answer, RIGHT NOW

that’s what’s driving me nuts. Before this tech, people communicated by phone and letter,. so people were used to waiting and scheduling things in advance or just muddling along without everyone’s input all of the time

now in order to be a part of something you are expected to show up all the time and be an active participant on everything

no more assuming people will just do their job. You have to go to endless meetings and discuss every freakin thing at any hour of the day and figure everything out together. Which normally I’d think is great but geeziz it’s true of EVERYTHING. nobody will just do a decent job of whatever, they expect everyone to be a part of it because after all you have a car, you have email, you have a smartphone so clearly you can just show up

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Ursula K Leguin

Ursula K Leguin has died. She was the first sci-fi writer I read who was a woman. I was 13. I had read some fantasy stuff before but nothing could have prepared me for the brilliance that was The Dispossessed. She blew my mind. She made me hunger for more. Not just more sci-fi,. but more sci-fi like that. Playing with stereotypes, challenging tropes, and questioning our cultural mores. I honestly could not believe such writing existed before I stumbled upon her. She blazed a trail that was so necessary yet so welcome. Until I “found” her, I didn’t even know you could write things like that (and be popular!) She gave me hope and something to look up to. But it wasn’t just her books, it was her essays, her introductions for other authors and her missives she sent out for her fans. She was a bright spirit, despite what her writing was like,. with a quick wit, a sharp perspective and a very warm personality. I always wished I could meet her just to let her know how important her work was to me. But I take solace knowing that she knew, even if she didn’t know it was me personally, that her work was needed and loved by so many. The best part was knowing how happy she was to be doing what she wanted; sending messages to society, shouting into a void that whispered back in lines of gratitude and love. I am glad I was able to be a part of that. I will miss her. Even though I never knew her, she knew me.

Millennials

Everywhere I go, especially on the internet, I hear about how “entitled” Millennials are. At the same time, I see a lot of refutations to this claim. It’s been pointed out numerous times that millennials are living in an era where the economy is pitiful, the prospects are dim and life is in many ways stacked against them. It’s also pointed out that millennials grew up without certain parenting attitudes that “build character” and “toughen” a person. They are called “soft” and “overly sensitive”, the ultimate insult being they “want everything handed to them”

I have had enough of this circular argument.

We cannot continue to denigrate the latest generation of adults with such vague, pointless and unmoored attacks. We also cannot continue to defend them against attacks by pointing a finger back at the older generations. It’s true that the millennial generation doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but it must be acknowledged that the expectations they have aren’t traditional either. We must understand what it is that Millennials truly want before we can begin to discuss whether their wants are extraordinary or not.
What do they want? They want the same thing every generation has wanted: they want to live and flourish. But what is different is not the Millennials in general, it is the privileged Millennials that is different than generations before: they want the rest of society to live and flourish too. Their expectations aren’t just about themselves; they don’t believe anyone, privileged or not, should have to suffer just to survive.

Who can truly blame them for their desires? Even before the “free love” days of the 60s, the youth of our country has turned its attention to their fellow human and little by little changed how society runs. This did not happen overnight. It did not happen in a vacuum and it wasn’t done for any other reason than to rectify grave injustices in our culture’s past. The youth has always been capable of the kind of enthusiastic energy that begets true change. Indeed, it is very nearly a defining characteristic of social revolution that leaders are young, and full of fire. Without mundane things such as a day-job, children and age-related illness, it has always been the youth en masse who lead us into the future by their actions and their numbers. As a society, America has pushed ever outward to create an egalitarian, inclusive culture that does not discriminate; does not crush some groups in order to reward others. Over decades, every successive generation has “woken up” to some extent and declared, “I do not want these benefits if they come at the cost of someone else”

What have the older generations done with this growing movement through the decades? We have derided, denigrated and even punished them at every step. We have tried to tear down these social revolutions with our words, our labels and our fists and our laws. But we have always lost in the end. Because ultimately, society moves forward. It is not a logarithmic movement, it is not even exponential, but it is always a groundswell that reaches a breaking point for every new awareness of inequality.

There have always been those who do not join in the enthusiasm for remaking our society. There have always been and there always will be. Backlash is real and often dangerous. But where backlash has sometimes slowed progress through the weight of oppressive defensive tactics, progress eventually wins out. Because as society has grown, technology has brought people closer together with every generation. No longer do people live in villages, sharing space with strangers based on proximity alone. No longer do young people feel the familial obligation that binds them to the land of their upbringing. People know that their tribe is out there, it exists and all they must do is meet it, to finally feel at home.

So, it is that we come to an understanding of the millennial mindset. The young adults of today are called “entitled” and it is true. But “entitled” does not mean someone who is lazy and wants the world handed to them on silver platter. “Entitled” is someone who expects to reap the rewards promised them. In the case of previous generations, this has always meant achieving “the American dream” but the tacit understanding was that this was an entitlement of the privileged. The definition of that dream was different depending on who you were. Millennials are the generation that rejects that final nuance; the notion of equality only for the few. Millennials believe the bar of life should be set at a point not just for themselves but for everyone. How is “privilege” defined? Why is privilege only for certain subsets of specific groups? Why should that rule continue unchecked? The very existence of a privileged group exposes the existence of imbalance in our American dream. Millennials aren’t entitled because they want a good life, they believe a good life is something everyone is entitled to.

It is this imbalance that is the root of Millennial discontent. Not for themselves but for their world. For what is possibly the first time in American history, we have a whole generation that wants to encompass all who were born into it, not just some of them based on how they were born or what family they were born to. For the first time in American history, there is a generation that is willing to carve itself into subsets and groupings of its own choosing. Based on hobbies, fandoms, feelings, visions and declarations of dedication, Millennials separate themselves by what is important to them, not what previous generations tell them. For once, a generation comes along and self-defines. So naturally, this generation cannot sit by and accept a society based on artificial and unmoving mores. They choose who they are yet remain free to change at any time. They reject the previous generations’ chains of birthright. This is their true difference and why they feel so “entitled”. From their viewpoint, they are “entitled” to a world they were promised in books, movies and songs – a world that values cooperation, tolerance and strong will to succeed. Yet we have not arrived at that world and nobody knows that more than Millennials.

Most millennials grew up being told over and over that what mattered most was trying, giving it your all, believing in yourself, and hard work, and they came of age knowing that it was all lies. Today, in their adulthood, they see how different races, different religions, different body types and different genders are treated in our society. They see the reality of what they were raised with. So the word that describes millennials isn’t really “entitled”, it’s “disillusioned”.

It’s not about “participation trophies”, it’s about the idealized worlds we showed them again and again, hoping that they would forge a better path for everyone. But along the way, we forgot that the path was being overgrown by ominous forests of inequity and patrolled by intimidating wolves of economic despair. We wanted to nurture their fighting spirit, sense of fair play, and love of learning but we failed to create an environment that would keep those dreams alive and let them take over. We raised them to be ninja turtles but let the cities turn into sewers. We nudged them to swim but never gave them land to walk on, and all they can do now is tread water. Is it any wonder they are angry? Is it any wonder they refuse to participate in the culture we have brought them to?

The most important aspect of the millennial culture isn’t their disappointment or their bitterness at having been duped, it’s their steadfast refusal to give up and give in to the state of the world. Of course, they are angry and full of criticism: they inherited a quagmire of economic slavery, outrageous societal expectations and laws that whiplash with every change in the government. They were taught, by Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that all they had to do was cooperate, put their minds to work and be ready to fight for truth and justice, and our society would happily hand them a perfect world. Yet none of this has come to pass. Yet still they fight.

What is a genuine wonder, is that they continue to fight at all. Millennials are so irritating and annoying precisely because of what we taught them; to keep fighting for truth, justice and “the American way”. They threaten us because we never realized that their fight would be against us. Their fight underscores our failure as a previous generation. This humble, cooperative, egalitarian world we kept pushing them towards didn’t happen during our time and we full well know it. We overpromised and now they fight us for it. They will not let us rest until we let them bear the fruit of their labors… even if that means pushing us out of relevance.

Millennials do have a “problem with entitlement”. It’s a problem we created and the only solution is to accept their discontent, acknowledge the inequities they point out, give them the tools they need to recreate our society, and stop grumbling while they change the world.

Lost Brain Cycles

Scalzi tweeted back at someone for criticizing him. He’d complained before about how writing during trying times sucked and someone essentially told him to get his act together and quit whining or whatever. Scalzi basically outlined how creating under bad circumstances robs an artist of their productivity and all creators regret having “lost brain cycles”

Damn that wonderful man. That’s exactly how I feel about it too.

I’ve got to study. I’ve got to occasionally do work. I’ve got to pay bills, go shopping, make food, clean up, do laundry, spend time fixing the kids’ problems and occasionally fix a problem or two of my own. All of that is time I could use to create. to write.

Obviously there’s times one must work and times one must play and sometimes there’s time to create- it’s not all about just creating. But when times are hard, it’s not just about time on your watch, it’s about energy, creative juices, inspiration and feeling well enough to even try. Because (and this becomes more true as you get older) you absolutely must give your body and brain down time. Even if all I did during the day was fret over bills, that was still stressful and upsetting and now I need “off time” – except now I’ve got to go to the grocery store and get food. Which is more stress; figuring out what I can afford and what is appropriate and what will stretch my dollar etc

After a few days of this kind of thing, there’s not much left in me for creating.

People say “just sit down and do it!” and I wish it were that simple. The last time I sat down with every intention of working on my writing, I got maybe a paragraph done before I realized I was falling asleep. The time before that I sat for 40 minutes and wrote perhaps one sentence, because my mind kept wandering away. Another time I re-read the same two sentences twenty times before I gave up being able to even understand what I’d previously wrote.

Duress is normal, sure. Creators can create under duress, sure. But we need basic survival things out of the way in order for creativity to continue. (This is why Patreon exists)

I wish I could create a fund for myself that made it so I didn’t have to fret over money, not clean houses and maybe even hire someone to do some of my basic errands once in a while. Or maybe just rent a cabin for a week. So I could focus on nothing but writing for a whole week. I wonder how much I could get done? I wouldn’t even have to worry about what time I slept or woke up. I’d get up when *I* felt rested and then after a few cups of coffee and sitting on the porch swing looking at trees, I’d get up and start writing. And knowing me, I’d write all day without even realizing what time it was. And I’d start yawning and find out I’d written into the night, I’d made quick food for myself and eaten while still writing. I’d fall asleep on the couch while thinking of my next chapter. I’d not want to stop until I felt finished.

It would be glorious.

But that’s not the kind of thing you can do when you’re still worried about how you’re going to keep the electricity from being shut off or whether you’re going to pass that next exam. In fact you’re probably going to fail in school which means you’ll never get a decent career which means you’ll never have enough money to even think about escaping this cycle of poverty; you’ll always and forever be fretting about bills, time and energy until you DIE and those wonderful stories trapped inside will never be shared.

JK Rowling, you say? May I remind you that she went through everything I’m talking about in the seven years it took her to write the very first Harry Potter book. Think about how much she could have gotten done without all that? Once she was on a decent track to financial non-duress, she didn’t have to take seven years to write the next book.

That’s what I’m talking about.

So support your favorite writer. Even if they aren’t writing anything right now.

So You’re Going to a Haunted House

Well! You’re going to pay money to go to go a haunted house? Awesome! Let’s run through some basics first, shall we?

You DO know that this is live entertainment, right? This isn’t a movie, or a game or a museum. It’s more or less a participatory improv piece. You get to actually walk through a set and see actors perform for YOUR entertainment. How cool is that, right?! So remember that while this entertaining, the people you see in masks and makeup and puppetry and stunts are actual people – they are not there for you to hit, punch, kick or otherwise beat up. In fact, that’s known as assault and battery and it’s a very real criminal charge which you COULD get slapped with if you think it’s hilarious to abuse the actors in the haunt. Many haunts have security personnel walking through it at all times. Many have the OWNERS walking through randomly. Some even have video cameras. So you WILL be caught. Actors want to entertain you – it’s the craft and their talent. Don’t punish them for doing their job. Reward them by screaming, laughing, or even just nodding with a “well done” smile.

You know that you are no the only person doing this, right? Of course there are OTHER People who are also doing the same thing, both in front of and behind you. So let’s bear that in mind and not mess up their enjoyment, okay? Like don’t stomp all over their fun by pointing out the scares for them. They didn’t pay for you to ruin their fun. Also, try not to overact your part so that you physically run into those other people. Running into someone, being trampled or hit is no fun for anyone. And could get you in trouble if you don’t know what you’re doing.

You know that the actors in the house are all types of people, right? There is a surprising number of physically disabled, differently abled and plain old “freaks” who work the haunts. That girl with a bloody stump on her shoulder? It’s likely she actually does not have an arm. That guy in a wheelchair? Probably actually needs that wheelchair. Even the with with the cane could likely have a disability that requires her to use a cane. Haunted house work is one of the few places a person with a different type of body can not just be proud of themselves but really capitalize on it. Don’t be a douche and say stupid things about their difference. And for gawds sake do NOT go up and mess around with their device. Whether or not it’s “real” it’s a part of the show, not a toy for you to play with. Not only could you be messing with something the actor really needs you could be costing hundreds of dollars worth of damage. Whcih you will be liable for if anyone sees you. And actors have gotten hurt by patrons who thought they were being hilarious. It’s not hilarious to mess with someone’s medical device. We also clearly have all body types at the haunt. We don’t need to hear your opinion on body types either. A haunt is a place to be entertained by the fantastical – why would you want to bring mundane stupidity into the mix by commenting on someone’s looks or body type?

SPECIAL NOTE: Yes, we also have actors of all ethnicity and races too. That person who is wearing a full body costume and mask might actually be the race you are making stupid comments about so it’d probably be a good idea to shut your mouth about your ironic nazi-esque views. In fact, you people who think it’s funny to act like a nazi should probably just stay home. We don’t want your money until you grow up a little more.

You know that haunted houses are places of business and plenty of research and testing goes into how they are arranged and setup right? It’s not random that there is a horrific grating noise when you walk into this hall but a quiet whisper when you walk into that hall. Haunt owners and crew work very hard all year round to find the best ways to entertain people and they are good at what they do (or else the haunt would have closed down by now). It’s an actual industry. They hire artists to do sets, technicians to do sound and lights, computer experts for all manner of things… a LOT goes into the haunt before you ever walk in the door. So why would you want to waste your money by missing any of it? Walk in a normal pace! Look around! Not everything is terrifying, some things are actually crafty, artistic, interesting, even collectable items on display! There’s no need to run through with your eyes covered – if you don’t want ot get scared, merely walk directly behind another couple. If you are in the middle of a line of people, it is extremely unlikely you will get scared. Actors only have so much time to get each group and if you’re the third or fourth person, you’ll probably see the scare of the person in front far away enough it won’t bother you. Then you can appreciate everything in the haunt without being scared if that’s your thing.

You know the lighting in haunted houses is very very specific, right? It’s to highlight the things we have created for you and to make sure the actors can see. In fact, the actors can see you before you see them! So if you run around shining your cell phone light on everything you not only ruin the effect that has been created for you, you stand a good chance of annoying the actors who will not do the scare.

You know we don’t HAVE to scare you, right? Actors are allowed to refuse to engage with patrons – we don’t

    have

to come out and scare you if we think you’re going to give us a hard time, so coming in drunk, acting a fool, or trying to get the actors to break character will not give you new victims to berate if that’s your thing. We aren’t here for you to abuse. If you try to mock us or make fun of us, you will not provoke a fight, or look cool to anyone but you. We’re doing our job: entertaining you. Being the recipient of your derision is not our job. We will opt out. We are unsure of why you even do this. As another haunt friend of mine put it: ” You must remember, there is a reason why we are the actors and you are the patrons. There is no amateur hour at the haunted house. Patrons ARE NOT scary.” There’s a definite art to scaring and we don’t always hit the mark but that’s just how it is. You, on the other hand, are just acting like a fool. Mocking us and trying to scare us is the haunted house equivalent to heckling. It’s stupid and accomplishes nothing. We’ve seen enough of it to know it’s not impressing the people you are with either. You think you’re being cool but your friends are all rolling their eyes behind your back. They probably wont’ take you next year.

You know we’re employees, right? As much as we love what we are doing, this is work and we get paid for it (unless its a charity thing, but it’s still work- its just donation rather than pay) The whole reason we are here, as flesh and blood people rather than having an all animatronic haunt is because scaring is not a straightforward thing – timing, gauging reactions, “reading” patrons – it’s all part of the job that we do. We don’t scare everyone exactly the same way at the timing point. So if you have a little kid with you who seems to be having a truly terrified reaction, we may tone it down. If you have someone come through in a wheelchair, we’ll try to direct ourselves at their eye level. If someone has a panic attack we will alert the lead actor who will help them exit safely. If you have someone who is wandering aimlessly, we may wait for dramatic effect – it’s part of the art of scaring and we know what we’re doing. The house I work in is a “no contact” house – we are not allowed to touch patrons (though sometimes accidents happen) so imagine how much we go through to figure out ways to make you jump!

You know that everyone who works the haunt actually takes pride in their work? It’s no different than a movie – we are artists, craft-kin and techies who have a show to put on and we want to put on the best, most successful show we can. So trying to ruin the scares, mock the actors or otherwise act like a total douche-bag is nothing but a big downer for us all. In fact, many of us spend quite a bit of time marveling at people like you – why do you even come? You can go to your local sports-bar and act like a douche there for probably a lot less money and get drunk at the same time. Why harsh our squee? Do you go home feeling good that you stomped all over someone trying to enjoy their job? Really? Do you go to retail stores and make fun of the sales-folk there too? It just seems so unnecessary. Go in and have a good time! Enjoy what we have prepared for you!

so it begins again…

There comes a time when you are ready to get up into someone’s face and very carefully, very clearly, with all the gravitas possible, say to them “I have had enough of your sadistic shit and I’m not going to put up with it anymore”. I’m certain everyone has that point. Maybe most of you never get to that point. Maybe some of you get there far too often and begin to question your emotional stability. But everyone has that point, somewhere.

For most people, those of us who have a dollop of empathy in our psyche, that point can actually come on behalf of someone else. Perhaps you are an animal lover and have gotten there when you saw a defenseless creature being abused. Perhaps you have a special place for children and got there when you saw someone threatening a child. Maybe it a bit a nature – you couldn’t stand to see someone tromp on something that does nothing but bring joy and beautiful.

Whatever that place is, you are ready to take a blow for your anger. You are so upset, so incensed at seeing this injustice that you won’t even weigh the possibilities anymore. You won’t be worried about being hurt, you won’t care about who will be angry with you or mock you or write you up or whatever, you are just DONE with this crap and you aren’t going to take it anymore. When that moment comes, you will feel many things – fear, defiance and of course righteous indignation and anger. Maybe even a tiny delicious bit of a thrill, because there is a bit of exhilaration at finally reaching the end point and being free of the constraints of mundane decorum. It’s liberating – to use a cliche as it was intended.

This is normal and expected and probably accounts for at least half of the appeal of “good guys versus bad guys” stories. At least. In a way, it’s not even interesting to talk about.

What is interesting, however, is not even what that point is for different people, but how they measure that point, What makes them reach it. It’s not so much what is it that particular person holds so dear as to warrant this reaction – because we all have it in us, so we can all empathize with the turning moment which comes to define a “hero” – it’s how did this person get here? What were the stepping-stones to finally cross that line? And lastly, the question that consumes us becomes “once you cross that line, how far have you swung?”