Archive | November, 2012

Learning not to give a damn.

20 Nov

All throughout my life I’ve struggled with how to deal with destructive criticism. Several years ago I realized that, no matter what I did in life, I was inevitably going to upset one person or another. At this point most people would just go “so what?” and move on, but I couldn’t. I always took every negative remark personally, even if the person attacking me didn’t know me. I first came into contact with reality when I discovered online forums around the age of 12. (Early 2000’s) I posted something someone didn’t like, and that person said mean things about me. The anger someone could express while hiding behind anonymity shocked 12 year old me.

That turned me off to forums for a long time. I ran into the same problem when I started this blog. I naturally accrued a variety of nasty comments on my posts over the years. I had a hard time trying not to take them personally since this blog is a digital embodiment of my person to an extent. A nasty comment on the blog was a nasty comment on myself as a person, and it would often ruin the rest of my day.

Worrying about what other people think has become an issue again for me recently in a couple of ways, but one example is a post I made on reddit. I took a funny photo and posted it up on reddit. At the time of writing this, 1,480 people said they liked my photo. 549 said they didn’t. (72% approval rating) I was thrilled that so many people liked it, but there were two comments that were particularly nasty and hurt my feelings. Why I focus on these two and ignore the almost 1,500 people who liked it, I don’t know, but I do.

It’s funny that I’d even bother posting on a site like reddit, given my hang-ups about mean people on the internet. Indeed, most of the things I do post get downvoted (disliked) so often that I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t some malicious bot someone has programmed to automatically downvote everything I post. It’s easy to just tell someone to not take it personally, but I’m starting to get the feeling that many things in life are impossible to fully understand until you’ve learned the lessons first hand. It’s easy to tell someone “Don’t make the same mistake I did”, but while they can try and remember your instruction, it will never resonate with them the way it does with you. In the same way it’s hard to give someone advice about how to not mind what others say about you, but that person has to work it out in their own head before it will sink in.

Concurrently, all throughout my life I’ve struggled with what I can only describe as feeling like you’re a character in someone else’s story. I never really put this and my inability to deal with criticism together until now.

Who is my audience? Who am I trying to please?

If I am a character in a story, who’s watching? Who am I performing for? I really only just recently started to dawn on me that I’m my own audience. I’m doing this for me, and thus only my opinion really matters. I posted that funny picture up there because I thought it was funny and it made me laugh. That’s all that matters. Sure people are going to criticize and nit pick, but I’m not doing it for them, so they don’t matter. I’m doing it for me. It’s my story and I’m the only audience that truly counts.

That might sound harsh, and I’m not saying it’s never a good idea to take into consideration what other people thing, especially those people whom you respect, but the sentiment I’m trying to convey is in the same vein as “Everyone dies alone.” It’s not that everyone dies alone in a room but that, even if you die with other people in the same incident or with others standing around you, you can only experience your own death by yourself. In the same way you ultimately have to live with yourself. You are ultimately responsible to yourself for your actions.

Someone could have tried to tell me this, perhaps even on r/howtonotgiveafuck, but it would not have sunk in until I put the pieces together myself. This is still something I’m going to have to work on. I imagine I’ll have to try and train myself to some degree not to care what others think of me. At least now I’m starting to formulate a way to do that.

So to all the people unhappy with my right now, tough shit. You’re not my audience, I’m not performing for you, your opinion is irrelevant. ^_^

Goodnight.

Self respect

17 Nov

I just walked away from my best friend for over a year. I did it because it became a matter of self respect. The relationship had turned toxic and one sided, and a while back I promised myself to try harder not to put up with such things.

I don’t want to go into the particulars of what happened, but suffice to say he was extremely needy, whiny, and manipulative. I tried to be the best friend possible. I tried to help him with his problems, or at least listen. All I got in return was more complaining. No matter what the topic of conversation, it would inevitably turn back to him and his problems. Despite all the effort I put into the relationship, if we hit a bump or had an argument he would automatically assume it was over, that I was leaving him, and make subtle hints at suicide. He had no confidence in me as a friend, regardless of everything I tried to do to be a good one.

And so I’ve said goodbye, blocked communications, and cut him out of my life. It sucks. Losing friends always sucks, but I’m trying to keep perspective on what I’m actually losing. When I weigh everything I see that I’m actually gaining something rather than losing; self respect.

Toxic relationships do nothing but drain you. It turns into a case of sunk costs. The main argument I have with myself when considering cutting someone out of my life is “Well I’ve already put this much time and energy into the person. I’d hate to lose it all.” But it’s already lost. The hard part is finally realizing and accepting that. The best thing you can do is just move on.

I’ve always had a difficult time with friendships. At just shy of 25 I’m still trying to figure out what constitutes a good friendship, what’s realistic, and what I should expect. Earlier in the year I deleted my facebook. I did so for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I realized that almost nobody on there was actually my friend. I wagered that I would never hear from them again if I got rid of my profile and the hollow interactions that pass as friendship. I was right.

And so now I’m effectively friendless again. I say “effectively” because I still have my girlfriend and about three people I talk to now and then (but rarely see), yet I don’t have anybody to hang out with. You know what? I’m ok with that. As I’ve grown up I’ve come to realize that zero is still higher than any negative number. I’m better off with no relationships than having relationships where the other person takes advantage of me. Walking away is never easy, but I take solace in that I’m starting to learn to respect myself.

Let’s not be coy about protests.

5 Nov

Last week Canadian lawmakers approved a bill making it illegal to wear a mask while protesting. There are similar laws here in the US, especially against the use of gas masks during protests.

Why?

Because ultimately, when you take away all the niceties and formalities,  the government wants to ensure its ability to crush you. You can’t hide your face because the government wants to be able to identify you and punish you for protesting. You can’t wear a gas mask because the government wants to be able to disperse or incapacitate you with tear gas and other weapons.

You can protest, but only as long as they remain in control, able to pull the plug when they’ve decided that you’ve had enough free speech for the day.

Many aspects of life are like this. It’s like running along in a video game and suddenly hitting a glass wall. You have the illusion of being able to acting out and making a difference, but ultimately, really ultimately, the government will make sure it maintains control. Anything that jeopardizes this control will be made illegal and squashed.

Changing my mind

2 Nov

There have a been a few times in my life when I’ve had large shifts in my position on various ideas and ideologies. I remember back in 11th grade AP US history reading about atheists in the context of their attempts to remove “under God” from the pledge and thinking how silly and stupid they sounded. I was a Christian at the time, but starting to have trouble with my faith. Slowly I was moving into Buddhism and I comforted myself by thinking “well at least I’m not an atheist.”

I remember doing the same thing with politics. The earliest political memory I have is from 2000, sitting on my mom’s bed late at night watching the election results of Bush v Gore, and rooting for Bush to win. Everyone around me wanted Bush to win, and I remember seeing some political cartoon about how Gore sounded like a robot. That was enough for me at the time.”

Later, as I started to begin my slow but steady drift left I remember defending myself to other people by attacking anarchists. I guess I wanted to appear still mainstream by calling out a group of people with a position I perceived as more radical than my own.

“I could never be an anarchist, that’s just ridiculous. You need order and government.”

Of course at the time I was attacking anarchists I was doing so without knowing anything about them except what was common societal knowledge on them; namely that they were violent punk teenagers that threw bricks through store windows and wanted absolute chaos.

I knew nothing about anarchists. I feel a lot of people make judgements on a groups based off of this type of common societal knowledge, aka ignorance.

Now that I’ve been reading anarchist essays I see myself starting to change. I’m at a crossroads in my life right now. I’m on the verge of making large, life changing commitments like moving to another country and lately I’ve been feeling a little lost and overwhelmed.

I’ve been struggling with what I want to do with my life, unsure if my current plan is really what I want. To be honest, I’m still not entirely certain what I would like to do in life. I’m afraid of walking away from something good, but I’m  know I can’t stay still.

In the midst of all this I’m also struggling to define myself and the society I exist in. Developing and solidifying a new concept of society is important because it’s the framework for how I examine and adjust my life priorities.

Anarchism has been very attractive because it provides the framework for I’ve been looking for. I’m finding many of the ideas very compelling and satisfying, even if I’m not overly sure of the practicality.

In an effort to be intellectually honest I’m trying to approach the ideas I’m finding in anarchism with skepticism. I want them to try and convince me, though I will admit, I am eager to be convinced.

Far from the brick throwing chaos punks of my previous understanding, I’m finding anarchism to be a life affirming philosophy focused on building healthy and beneficial relationships between individuals and society.

The wonderful thing is that there is just a wide variety of anarchist philosophy to explore. For example, there’s mutualism, anarco-collectivism, anarco-capitalism, anarcho-syndicalism,  anarcho-primitivism, and anarco-feminism, just to name a few.

I’m in the process of listening to arguments from all the various subsets and trying to decide which align the most with my views on reality. So far, the one underlying principle I’ve identified is simply “Coercing another individual into doing something they would not freely do is wrong.” From this everything follows. This principle informs how anarchists look at governments, laws, violence, sex, employment, etc. It’s really quite fascinating. Just about every aspect of life and interaction is affected by this axiom.

I’ve been viewing this experience, of changing my mind, a bit in the third person. I’m aware that it’s happening and I just find it really interesting to watch, even as I’m actively participating in it.

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