To be honest, I haven’t much enjoyed the last five years or so. I’m not just talking about politics, though, if there was ever a time in which it became apparent how much politics affects every aspect of our every day lives, this was that time.
I’ll bet even your grandmother learned how to use the “block” function on her Facebook page.
Almost imperceptibly, the world sustained a seismic fracture, dividing families, communities and nations into camps. On one side, those who believe in equality, and that everyone has human and civil rights. On the other side, those that SAY they sort of agree with those precepts, in theory – but have their reasons for why they really don’t. And, like door-to-door proselytizers, they’d be happy to bend your ear for hours on end, to let you know exactly why they don’t agree with what you’re saying. In progressively louder sentences.
I think the last eighteen months of COVID just did me in. It was the final straw. Eighteen months of fear, uncertainty, deprivation, and doubt. Eighteen months of never being sure what day or month it is. Eighteen months of not being able to come together to celebrate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries. No parties, no musical events, no theatre. And, perhaps the cruelest of all, no chance of gathering to bid a final goodbye to the loved ones we lost.
How could so many people that we love have died, and been buried, with so little recognition or fanfare? Some days, an old friend’s birthday circled on my calendar fills me with anxiety, as I wonder – did they make it through this year? Or were they one of the many who left our ranks with little to no fanfare?
Mustn’t grumble, we’re told. Yes, it’s all hard, but complaining won’t do any good. No, it won’t. Complaining won’t change a thing. It won’t bring back our dead, or our equilibrium.
I’m sick of being expected to simply assimilate this decade’s horrors, compounded by all the crap that the Powers That Be rain down upon the masses, and just smile, smile, smile.
Smile as climate change burns one half of the planet to a cinder, while the other half drowns in torrential rains and melted ice caps.
Smile while our rich cities become unaffordable to the middle class, and smile as the city’s elected officials send hordes of police to evacuate and destroy the homeless camps that are filled with their fellow citizens, citizens who are financially unable to live in the cities they built with their toil and taxes.
Smile while the rich get richer at the expense of the poor, because only the wealthy can afford to run for leadership roles, get elected into power, and once in place, be relied upon to act to shore up laws and regulations that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the common people.
Smile while federal and provincial leadership is so badly handled throughout a once in a lifetime global pandemic that, while half the city goes mad struggling to figure out how and where to get vaccinated, the other half holds anti-mask, anti-vax, super spreader rallies in the downtown core, unimpeded.
Smile as an orange madman’s most important legacy seems to have been his ability to teach his followers (in the US and Canada) two new commandments:
call anything you don’t like or want to believe ‘fake news’, and,
should anyone expect any accountability or ‘adulting’ from you, double and triple down on your ‘rights’ while denying any responsibility for your acts.
It feels like there’s no one and no thing making much effort any more. Thanks to the internet, we live in a world where we’ve never been so aware of evil people and deeds, of corruption, of fraud, of social media voyeurs with a sadistic bent, of sickness, death and horror – present or impending – occurring on a global scale.
And yet, for the bulk of the population, rather than act, it’s a time to double down on escaping into the soothing waters of social media, where one can bathe in an uninterrupted stream of whatever turns your crank, until the day the grid topples.
Apparently, it’s never the time to fight to change what seems an inevitable slide into the abyss. There’s something good on television, it’s too hot/cold/rainy out there, and what does it matter anyway? It’s not like anything I do can change the world, right? No, I’ll just stay home. And maybe sign this petition. It’ll be fine.
There is little to no response to any suggestion that our actions might have brought about the mess we are leaving to our heirs. The ability to feel remorse and/or shame seems to have been genetically modified out of our systems. Or have we just passed the buck for so long that we no longer remember what happens when we’re the last one’s holding it?
Our legacy of little horrors only begins with the hoards of useless and unrecyclable junk that broods in our basements and attics. Our children will live with their memories of a better planet. Our grandchildren will never know the world that baby boomers took for granted.
And I say to myself …. Where’s THEIR Wonderful World?
I will be honest; I don’t know where we go from here. The bus is on fire, and we may have missed our last chance to turn it around.
But I’m tired of smiling, and pretending that what we see happening around us, isn’t happening. That way madness lies.
All that’s left is to prepare in the way Maya Angelou advised, “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”
I’m happy to report that the rumours of my death were greatly exaggerated. I’ve only been dead to the social media world for the last 30 days.
But, let me tell you – if you’ve ever wondered if people would miss you after you’re gone, take a long Facebook break. The majority will most certainly not even notice your absence. It’s a fast-paced world, and either you’re in the fast lane, or you’re eating everyone else’s dust.
Facebook has really been cracking down on its users over every little thing since the last time Zuckerberg had to explain Facebook’s ways to Congress. Zuck’s been able to rely on Section 230, which allows social media companies to self-regulate. It shields the platforms from liability, shunting any blame to individual users, who can be sued for posted content, while granting legal immunity for good faith efforts to remove content that violates their policies.
The key part of the provision reads: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
While there have been small inroads into Section 230 protections, lawmakers have only been able to do so much. In 2018, a law was passed making it easier to sue internet platforms that knowingly aid sex trafficking, but there’s the rub again … define and prove ‘knowingly’ when a cadre of well-paid lawyers are claiming ignorance. Federal crimes and intellectual property claims are further exceptions, but again, there’s a rallying cry of ‘prove it!’ whenever the platform is charged.
Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey of Twitter claim that their platforms could not exist without the protections provided under Section 230, but at the end of the day, what stays or goes on these platforms remains solely under their jurisdiction.
Which is perhaps why we’re hearing more and more horror stories from Facebook users who are being penalized unfairly, without recourse, and lately, even for offences committed four to seven years ago.
Musician/radio personality Bill King noted today that there doesn’t seem to be an actual court of appeal for unfair charges.
“I was there (FB jail) recently for a humorous post of which I challenged, won, and still got a week. I’m serving a 60-day sentence for something from 2020. This is crazy.”
The most famous North American repeat offender is, of course, Donald Trump. The former president was banned ‘indefinitely’ from all Facebook platforms after the Capitol riot of January 6th, when his supporters ransacked the hallowed halls in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win.
The ban was a disaster for Trump, since social media played a huge part in his campaign and subsequent presidential term. He appealed, which resulted in his claim being kicked upstairs to Facebook’s Oversight Board. There, the suspension was upheld, but the board chastised the company for not having a clear policy, and for imposing an indefinite time period.
Facebook’s principals responded by creating new enforcement penalties that deemed Trump’s ‘severe violation of our rules’ to merit the highest penalty available – a two-year suspension, effective from January 7th. This would keep his account suspended until January 7th 2023, when it was determined that he would only get his accounts back if “the risk to public safety has receded.”
Naturally, Trump’s furious over being held accountable for his sins. Although he was a supporter in the good times, now, like a belligerent husband furious that the wife is refusing to iron his underpants, he’s determined to break Facebook and Twitter, by any means possible.
Trump’s response: “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country. Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth, but the truth will come out anyway, bigger and stronger than ever before. The People of our Country will not stand for it! These corrupt social media companies must pay a political price, and must never again be allowed to destroy and decimate our Electoral Process.”
And then, in a separate statement, Trump again claimed fraud in the 2020 election, because of course he did.
Meanwhile, there’s a pretty solid front of both Dems and Republicans who believe that all of social media’s big companies have become too powerful, and need tougher regulations to hold them more accountable for policing content.
Democrats, led by Biden, want Congress to revise Section 230, considering the lack of liability a big gift to Big Tech. They want social media to be compelled to remove hate speech, proven falsehoods, extremism, and election interference.
Unsurprisingly, Republicans, led by Trump, are more concerned about the Orange One being banned, conservatives being censored, and a limit to political reach on social media platforms. Florida’s Ron DeSantis recently passed a law that cracks down on the Big Tech platforms, claiming that they are conspiring against conservatives, and their free speech.
This law would make it illegal for Big Tech to remove political candidates from their platforms in the runup to an election, while also making it easier for Florida’s attorney general and individuals to sue these companies if they felt discriminated against.
(But DeSantis DID exempt ‘companies that own a theme park’ – such as Walt Disney Co, which runs Disney+, a streaming service. He knows which side of the Floridian bread is buttered by the Mouse.)
There are so many holes in this law that I imagine there are ACL lawyers across America wetting their pants over who will be the first to challenge this snowflake fest. Firstly, it’s unconstitutional. The bill is a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on government controlling the free speech of private companies.
Corbin Barthold, internet policy counsel for the Washington, D.C., nonprofit group TechFreedom, wrote, “The bill is extreme. It’s a brazen assault on the First Amendment. DeSantis wants to compel websites to speak. He can’t. He wants consumer-protection law to erase free-speech rights. It won’t. DeSantis is attacking the very constitutional principles Republicans just spent four years putting conservatives on the courts to protect.”
Beyond that, it would seem yet one more example of DeSantis currying favour with Trump and his acolytes, by standing by his man. The snowflakes are thick on the ground down in Florida, it would seem.
There’s a lot of other factors going on here as well, since, no matter how you look at it, Facebook is near to keeling over from ‘death by demographics.’ 10% of Facebook’s advertising audience are 55 and older, while Facebook remains the most popular social network for seniors. 62% of Americans 65 and older use Facebook. And – fun fact! Guess who shares the most fake news on ANY social platform? Seniors! We’re Number 1! We’re Number 1!
As is the case in Japan, people over 65 make up the brunt of Facebook’s population, and that number is rising. Meanwhile, the ‘kool kids’ bolted years ago, to the hipper pastures of TikTok and Instagram.
So why do so many stay on Facebook, despite the arbitrary updates of it’s interface, unreasonable banning, lack of customer support, or recourse for common errors? Basically, it’s all about sunk costs.
It’s a lot like changing jobs or moving house; when you’re younger, there’s always a greener pasture to be found. But the older you get, the less you want to gather up all the energy you’ll need to get up and out of that comfy chair. So we stay, year after year, and simply take whatever the social media platform gods dish out.
There aren’t a lot of platforms that ring the same bells as Facebook. The current ‘next best option’ is Liker.com, which bills itself as the ‘kinder, smarter, social network’. Liker has recently gone through a serious overhaul and revamp, further to being hacked in March of 2021 by ‘politically motivated trumpers’, and allegedly in retaliation for the Gab data breach and scraping of data from Parler.
I have re-upped with Liker, and hope to be setting up a new home over there as soon as it’s back up and running. With Facebook now so hair-triggered, it can’t hurt to have somewhere else to go, especially for those days when you get kicked off the platform for the despicable crime of quoting Shakespeare.
So, a month without Facebook. It was fine, really. After the first few days of withdrawal, I started to realize how much free time I had, when I wasn’t constantly monitoring the freeform thoughts of the masses. In a way, it was sort of like those first few days after Trump was originally banned from Facebook – at first, you can’t put your finger on what’s not bothering you anymore. Then you realize – it’s the absence of the white noise that was constantly permeating your environment, keeping you slightly off balance at all times.
I’ve been reading all the books on tech and social media and current social issues that I can carry home from the library. I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube, scarfing down educational programs, TedTalks, documentaries, music specials, and watching the antics of The Sorry Girls. I’ve redecorated the front porch, started working on sorting out the back deck and the shed, and have a couple of document files I’m about to rework into eBooks to see if I can make a few bucks off that tech writing certificate I aced decades ago.
And the funniest thing is, once you get off the Facebook treadmill, you soon start to realize how little ‘new’ there’s been for the average person to marvel over, since around 2015. It’s as though the world was so fixated on trump and politics that actual societal progress halted, while the right gloated over the one bill they passed in four years, that being the one that made the rich even richer, while doing nothing for the other 99.9%.
We’re still fighting old wars. We’ve gone through a global pandemic, serious incursions upon our democracy, and we are making tentative forays into re-entering this post-pandemic world, without many people even noticing that nearly six years have passed, but very little has changed.
Thirty days away also gave me perspective on how seriously too many people take their Facebook presence. For the average user, any social media platform should be either an escape, or a legitimate business outlet. But many people get so addicted to the place that they have to share every minor moment and experience of their lives, along with what they ate for lunch. It’s almost as though they believe that nothing is real unless it’s seen by an audience.
Then there’s the huge segment of people who seem to think that the expression of their thoughts and opinions is tantamount to a ‘job.’ Facebook isn’t paying anyone I know to tell them ‘What’s on your mind?’ No one pays me to curate news items, or to be first with a link to the latest Randy Rainbow video. The water cooler we gather around is virtual, as are most of our friends, and if there was a break room, your sandwich would already have been stolen by a troll.
And, let’s face it – Facebook is also where you go to ask random strangers whether or not you should bring a baby to a ‘no kids allowed’ wedding. Or to seek the seal of approval on your not wanting to get vaccinated before getting on an airplane and going to said wedding.
So, yeah, back again, sadder and wiser. Thinking I’ll use Facebook for my business social media purposes, maybe keep another account for private convos.
But there are still reasons – which have nothing to do with how FB is run – to be on Facebook.
One, is finding the little precious nuggets hidden on the internet … I’d never have found this video, or seen these incredible, sensual contortions, had I not been pointed in their direction by photographer Anne J Gibson ….
(The 13th Floor Elevators – Roller Coaster – Footage by exotic dancers Janik and Arnaut, 1954.)
And of course, I’ve got a lot of people I really enjoy seeing and interacting with on Facebook.
But let’s face it, the odds of me being a recidivist are pretty high. I’m a terror, you know, a wild one, a granny with a grudge, a troublemaker that just doesn’t learn. Odds are good it won’t be long until they’ve sent me back to the pokey.
It’s just the way I roll. Unrepentant. A Facebook Felon. You’ll never take me alive, copper!
The hardest part of starting something – is starting something.
In 2003, Deron Beal was 39 years old, and working in Tucson, Arizona for a non-profit group that combined recycling with job training. Beal couldn’t stand to see good, usable items in his neighbourhood being thrown away on garbage day, and he began rescuing things that would have otherwise only added to the mass in the ever-growing city dumps and landfills.
But soon he’d accumulated a warehouse of furniture, computer parts, and other items that, while not recyclable, were still useable, and were often items in demand by other non-profits. He’d drive around to drop off donations, but the pile was getting higher, and the work became too much for one person.
That’s when Beal got the idea of setting up a group on the Yahoo network, dedicated to the sharing of items that might otherwise be scrapped. He began by emailing a few of the Tucson non-profits and about 30 of his friends, and overnight, The Freecycle Network was launched. Memberships soared from 60 to 800 members within days.
The name came from the idea of ‘free recycling’ – a ‘free cycle’ of giving, with no strings attached.
“The beauty of Freecycle is it empowers each of us to make a concrete difference in our community, both in the environment, and by helping people.” Deron Beal.
Beal soon set up a national website, bringing in city after city, and it wasn’t very long before the organization stretched world-wide, spreading to over 110 countries, with thousands of local groups within over 5,100 local chapters, and millions of members, to ultimately become a huge philanthropic system, almost entirely staffed by like-minded volunteers.
Membership is completely free. The only rule is that everything posted on the website must be completely free, legal, and appropriate for everyone, regardless of their age.
Joining the global system couldn’t be easier; simply visit www.freecycle.org, find your local group, and click ‘join.’ One of the worldwide volunteers will then send you instructions on how to use the network.
On any given day, about 32,000 items are offered or requested, and there is no telling exactly what you might find on the list. Textbooks, furniture, plants, cat trees – in the years that I’ve been a member, I’ve seen everything from a broken kettle to a limousine and a house boat being offered.
I’ve been an avid freecycler since March of 2006. One of the first items I received was a bar fridge, and I kept that until just a few years ago, when I passed it on to a friend whose fridge had broken.
Wandering thru my Freecycle email folder is like a trip down memory lane, as I note all the items, big and small, I’ve received or donated in the last 15 years.
When we lived in Scarborough, I usually ttc’ed to wherever I needed to be to pick up the goodies. I’ll never forget struggling home from Woodbine and Queen with an enormous, queen sized magnet mattress pad. Took me hours, by bus, subway, and GO train. Thankfully it was in November; I’d never have survived the trip in the summer.
I once ttc’ed all the way to Jane and Steeles to pick up some used medical supplies that we needed as props for a film we worked on. In 2016, Shawn and I somehow wrestled a treadmill into our van, and we’ve been wrestling with it ever since. It’s living in the shed these days.
In 2018 I needed a cane after sustaining a back injury. I’d hardly typed in the request before a senior care group was organizing to bring one to my home that very evening, and asking if there were any other items I might need, or help they could give.
I’ve been gifted so many items, and I’ve donated just as many through the years. Early on, I was happy to clear out excess plants and gardening utensils, outgrown clothing, unused cosmetics and hair products, and out of date computer parts. After breaking my ankle twice, I decided it was time to dispose of my stage stilettos – it just broke my heart to see them go. Particularly when one of the people who’d requested his pick of the fancy shoes and boots arrived in a Mercedes Benz, wearing a $600 business suit, and announced he wanted something pretty for his wife. I just hoped my used footwear wasn’t earmarked for her Mother’s Day present.
More recently, I saw how hard the city has been hit by the pandemic. I offered up a couple of bags of ‘gently’ expired food items after purging my pantry, and was flooded with requests for the food. I finally wound up splitting the goodies (and adding a bunch more, freshly purchased treats) between two families who were happy to have the foodstuff.
I’ve always had an intimate awareness of economic inequality. I came from a family that, by today’s standards, would be considered extremely poor. We were often ‘food insecure,’ but my mother made sure we were never short of love.
I grew up hypervigilant, ever aware of how close to the bone we were, financially. It made me determinedly, even doggedly, self-sufficient. I knew, from a very young age, that some people had a lot of good things, while others had less, and that, for the unfortunate few, having food and shelter at the end of the day could revolve around having the luck of finding a chair at the table when the music stopped.
Our city, like so many others, has been hit hard by the pandemic, which has only highlighted the extreme economic inequity we’re soaking in. Our ‘essential workers’ are lucky if they make minimum wage, yet many have either had their hours drastically cut, or lost their jobs completely. The skyrocketing real estate values have exacerbated the already out of control shortage of affordable housing. And while those businesses that were allowed to stay open have raked in billions, by January 2021, more than 200,000 small businesses in Canada had closed their doors forever, and will never reopen.
In the long-term, even band aid solutions to these issues will have to come from governments, but unfortunately, we’re not exactly blessed with capital L Leaders or Leadership at the moment.
And that means that all we can do to help those who need our help is to be aware of the resources, big and small, that concerned people have provided that we can access.
There’s Freecycle, of course, and also a bunch of similar groups that have sprung up on the internet, including Toronto-ReUseIt (GoogleGroups.com,) FreeTOReuse (yahoo,) TrashNothing.com, and many more that you can find on Google or Facebook.
Toronto has always been a city with a big heart. There are many charitable groups that feed and clothe our homeless and vulnerable, and there are some great social media groups, including Caremongering-TO, that sidestep the usual bureaucracy to get funds and food directly into the hands of the needy.
There’s also something called the Really Really Free Market that has been on hold during COVID, but is apparently going to be revived soon. They gather on the first Saturday of every month at Campbell Park (Dupont/Lansdowne) and usually attract a good crowd. As they say on their Facebook page:
“Basically, it’s a community-space for sharing – where people bring what they have to give, take what they need, and leave the rest. It’s kind of like a potluck, but for goods and services!
How it works:
You can drop stuff off, pick something up, or stick around! This could include both items and services, such as:
-clothes, books, music, furniture, household and kitchen wares, pet supplies
-homemade goods, such as crafts, art, artisan goods, and baked goods (don’t forget to list the ingredients!)
-services, such as haircuts, yoga classes, music/dance lessons, massage, or gardening help.
All unclaimed items will be donated at the end of the day.”
Really Really Free Market, Toronto
Every little bit that we do to help others counts. I found out recently that there are a few people who are still making face (COVID) masks, and leaving them outside to be taken by anyone who needs or wants a face covering.
I just love the Little Free Libraries that have sprung up in cities and towns across North America in the last few years. There’s about a dozen within crawling distance of me, and they get my full support. (LittleFreeLibrary.org)
Many have diversified as needed, now carrying CDs, DVDs, and the odd video or audio tape for sharing. A few also allow little luxuries like perfume and hand creams to be shared.
Some of those Little Libraries have morphed into Little Free Pantries during the pandemic. There’s at least two near me, one just above Kingston Road, on Hunt Club, and another just north of Danforth Avenue, at Woodbine. There people can share non-perishables, and get information on how to get help with their food and shelter needs. Every little bit helps.
There are eight places to leave books and other items in my immediate area, including a small box for food donations at a local church. Yesterday I headed out for my afternoon walkabout with a can of Spam, a can of corned beef, three tins of Mandarin oranges, 6 DVDs, an expensive shampoo and conditioner set I hadn’t liked, a small container of Estee Lauder’s “Pleasure’ body lotion, a couple of still sealed lipsticks, some hair clips, and of course, a half dozen books, and made the rounds of these drop off points. While on the way, I twice spotted boxes of books on the curb, and added those to my stash for distribution. Sharing these items is a great way to do a little something for others, without feeling any kind of deprivation of one’s own.
Just as with the spirit of Freecycling, “each of us can make a concrete difference in our community, both in the environment, and by helping people.”
All we have to do is the hardest part … and start.
A little over a week ago, I was browsing through some posts on a Facebook group page. Some of the comments were interesting, but there was one peculiar troll who was obviously looking for a fight, strewing crazy conspiracy theories along the thread like poisoned bread crumbs.
He was adamant that the planet is just 5000 years old, that masks are murder, and that there is no virus. I should have simply let him rave, but I took the bait, and foolishly put a few site links in the post. The barrage of insults began. “You need to get your old crust ass moving alone down your pathetic life and go suck your buttons dick maybe he will give you a cabinet job.” “You’re a diaper wearing stupid idiot.” And then … “You seem to be the one reporting me like the crybaby you are.”
I said that I wondered what it felt like to walk around with a big L on one’s forehead – and then the penny dropped. He’d reported me for bullying.
And I was about to get … 30 days in the hole.
Thirty days, because suspension days are compounded by multiple offenses. Two months ago, in a conversation with a friend about trump lawyer, Sidney Powell, who had defended her seditious remarks about the ‘stolen’ election by saying that no reasonable person would believe her lies, I quoted Shakespeare’s “First, kill all the lawyers.”
And got a week in solitary for the offense of not following community standards.
There IS an appeal process, but Facebook also explains, ad nauseum, that their moderators are far too busy, because of the pandemic, to handle all the requests for justice. Also, regardless of whether your appeal is granted or even acknowledged, and the offense pardoned or not, your Facebook history is still stained by the charge. Each successive charge escalates the amount of time the user is suspended from the services of Facebook.
At some point, and I honestly don’t know when, but it was definitely after Mark Zuckerberg snowed – sorry, I mean ‘spoke’ to Congress last year, and defended Facebook’s business practices concerning the spread of false information, the call went out to the site’s internal censors and security guards already in place; it was time to get tough.
Well, not with their advertisers, or the people they wanted to see re-elected. Those people were sacrosanct.
But the average user, those who may have snickered at some anti-establishment cartoons, or ‘shared’ a photo of a nursing mother … those people were now firmly in Facebook’s crosshairs.
And just like with the ‘real’ police, or the IRS, there would be a tightening of restrictions, and hundreds of charges and sanctions imposed – on the lowest hanging fruit. Facebook would not be going after the trolls, the rabble rousers, the political parties, or the criminals. They were after your mother and grandmother. By not targeting the protected Big Fish, and instead scooping up all the little fishies in their net, the site censors could soon point, with truth, to large numbers of people and offenses that had been tagged, suspended, or deleted, with almost no blowback on themselves.
Nearly every one I know has a story of getting sidelined for 24 hours or more for silly offenses, even for sharing a photo they posted as far back as nine years previous. The fallout from Zuck’s Congressional appearance included instituting new filters that searched back, apparently through the entire history of the site, for certain key words or triggers to purge.
(Filters have been around since the early days of bulletin board systems – it’s Internet 101 stuff that could have, and should have, been woven into the fabric of Facebook’s social messaging from its debut.)
If you notice the three little dots to the right of posts on Facebook, you’ll find, way down at the bottom of the options, this choice.
“Find support or report post.”
By adding this option, the site also added the ability for internal policing of it’s users by other users. Anyone with a grudge against another user, or a wish to silence others, could simply report a message as harassment or bullying. Since the definition of bullying is pretty loosie goosy, the mere act of reporting immediately defines the words as being aggressive in the reporter’s opinion. And if someone decided that everything you said offended them, they could bombard you with accusations that would keep you off the platform for months on end.
Very Big Brother of them.
Back in 2015, Jon Ronson published So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, a book that explained what to do if you got ‘caught’ doing something frowned upon in polite society. At the time, the odds of being someone caught in an international scandal seemed about as likely as winning a lottery.
But in truth, as we’ve seen in the last several years, ‘the internet is forever,’ and things we say or do under current circumstances, or in our past, may find re-entry into our future, by chance or by malice.
Magazines like Forbes, that focus on career mobility, have been warning for ages about how easy it is to get tripped up by our past posts. Your online presence can be a negative, and wreak havoc on your professional life. Online posts can flare up into huge news, Twitter feuds can call attention to faux pas moments, and corporations can find themselves in the middle of a social media disaster, brought about by those with a talent for internet deep diving.
If you happen to be in the middle of a life change, job searching, or just looking to move on with your life, you may want to take a sandblaster to your social media, to get your profiles squeaky clean.
Luckily, there are some apps out there to do just that. You can find info on SimpleWash right on Facebook. SimpleWash purports to be able to scrub your Facebook and/or Twitter content squeaky clean, by scanning all of the content on your Facebook profile – including comments by other people on photos or posts – to locate key words you may want removed. The app will flag things like allusions to drugs, alcohol, profanities, even negative comments you may have made about a company you’re targeting for a job interview.
I’m sure there are similar apps available for every computer platform – keeping your social media profile bland and clean is necessary to secure employment in many professions.
So what exactly can you do, if you need to do a little damage control on your social media brand?
First off, you might want to check on just who can see your posts, tweets or photos. If you wake up the morning after the night before to discover photographic proof of your indiscretions, you’ll want to get an idea of exactly how viral that message or tweet has become. What pops up in our news feeds is largely determined by those with whom we engage the most. If you haven’t interacted with many of your work friends in the last few months, it’s unlikely they’d come across your post. However, you may never know who all saw the ‘evidence’ unless it’s been liked, shared or has been commented upon.
While the Internet IS forever, delete the offending post or photo as soon as possible. If you are social media friends with others who were in on the ‘crime,’ check their accounts for incriminating posts or photos, and ask them to delete or untag your presence. If what you’ve done is really egregious, you may want to delete your entire account, and start over anew. But if someone has taken a screen shot of your offense, even account deletion may not really scrub off the stain.
If that’s the case, and you’re found out, there’s only one thing left to do. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for any office gossip that might allude to your errors, and then apologize to anyone who is offended by your post. Take full responsibility for your actions (WITHOUT using the expression, “If I offended someone … “) and assure your friends and/or work superiors that you intend to use better judgment in the future.
Life will go on, even though it might be uncomfortable for a while. You’ll be looking over your shoulder for a bit, and you’ll find yourself self-censoring more than you might have in the past, but life will go on, and you’ll soon find yourself back in your normal swing of posting your thoughts to your friends and followers, sadder but wiser for the experience.
Personal security experts always advise that it’s best to be aware of your privacy settings on your social media accounts, and monitor what’s posted on your pages to prevent unwanted retweets or shares.
If you’re intent on turning over a new social leaf, it might also be wise to comb through your past posts to monitor for things that could smudge your social brand. Delete those duck-faced selfies, along with any nasty comments you may have made about others, after a couple of bevvies. Nobody needs to be reminded that they can go all Mean Girl after a hard day and a few adult beverages.
And lastly – and this may seem weird, but you just never know – Google yourself on a regular basis. Even if you’ve never been the subject of a newspaper article, or had a Wiki page dedicated to you, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for false or unflattering comments you might find attached to your name.
We are all works in process. Our society is a work in progress. Social Media is both a blessing and a curse, allowing us to connect to each other for good – or for ill.
The American Dream is OVER. It’s nighttime in America.
If Biden was running for the ‘soul of America,’ he was too late. It had already been sold to the Devil. And its apprentice, trump, along with his squad of overweight, wannabe SS, has now emerged, crueler, more sadistic, and more vengeful than ever, whether, in the end, he wins or loses.
I write this, around noon on November 4th, trump and Biden are basically neck and neck in terms of votes. The Senate is about the same, so no clear winner there either. Biden has been sitting at 223 Electoral College points, and trump at 213, since I first checked in, around 5 a.m. At this point, either man could be declared the winner. But whomever wins, whether with 50.1% or 51% of the votes, it is America that is the loser. Because a country that split, that cleaved so cleanly, cannot hold. And a Senate that split, cannot pass any measures to help a country that is hurting badly.
In 2016, the world was shocked at what America chose, but we could still pretend that this was somehow a mistake. Good people looked at those who struggled economically, and, based on the violence, racism and inequity of American society, said, “well, maybe they had to do it, had to pray there could be a different way. They put their trust in a con man, but, really — how bad could it get?”
And then, for four years, we found out. Boy, could it be bad. So bad, that parts of the nation now look like a third world nation, as tens of millions have been plunged into poverty and homelessness; immigrants, refugees … children! … have been treated with a sadistic cruelty not seen since Hitler’s camps; 230,000 Americans are dead from what should have been a preventable public health crisis; the environmental clock has been turned back to before anyone cared about clear air or water; peaceful protestors are routinely met with pepper spray and rubber bullets, and there’s no hope in petitioning the court, because McConnell and co. loaded up every court, right up to the Supreme one, and it’s all tilted in their favour, and their favour means you are going to lose the last of your health care AND your social security.
And yet half of America, knowing this, decided they want four more .. no, it being trump… forever more years of this. And worse.
We now know the truth about that half of America; they not only chose that all of that evil continue; they ran towards it with open arms and embraced it, with all of the strength in their bodies.
It’s a travesty. Even before mail-in votes are counted, trump has racked up two million MORE votes than he got in 2016. There were more votes cast for Joe Biden as president than in any other election in American history. And yet – there still isn’t a clear winner.
The Dems wanted and needed a landslide, a total repudiation of the evil that the trump administration has perpetrated, but that didn’t happen.
But the polls! The polls! I mean, most of us were suffering from PTSD from believing the 2016 polls, but come on! How could the polls have been THIS wrong again, in 2020 …? All the experts swore that they’d gotten all the bugs out, and that this time – FOR SURE Were the polls that wrong? Were people lying to pollsters? How did the Democrat message get so garbled.
And here we are.
Trump will not concede; he will never concede. Predictably, at 2:21 a.m., in the wee hours of November 4. trump attempted to falsely claim victory, saying that it was a “fraud on the American public,” and “an embarrassment to our country” that he hasn’t been able to fully celebrate his win properly.
“Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said, while also suggesting he would take legal action to keep further ballots from being counted, insinuating that Democrats were committing fraud as key states continued to count hundreds of thousands of mail-in ballots.
“Millions and millions of people voted for us today,” he said, “and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we won’t stand for it.”
As expected, trump will be petitioning the Supreme Court for a stop to the counting of the remaining ballots, again insisting that the remaining ballots, which number about 25 million from mail ins and the military, are somehow illegal.
“We’ll be going to the US Supreme Court; we want all voting to stop, we don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”
So how to explain this mess? Racism? But Obama won twice, and with a majority, so racism might not quite be the issue. Could it be misogyny? A vote for Biden, at 78, almost guarantees that at some point, you might have a black FEMALE president. Trump spent a lot of time hinting that Biden was too fragile to survive, even claiming that Joe Biden would be “shot” within three weeks of taking office. (While he meant ‘shot’ in the sense of exhaustion, he had no problem with the more violent connotation so many of his supporters hoped he was insinuating.)
Trump also told his supporters that they would never have to see Kamala Harris as president in Biden’s place.
“People don’t like her,” the president said at a rally in North Carolina, recounting her falling poll numbers on the Democratic primary trail. “Nobody likes her. She could never be the first woman president. She could never be. That would be an insult to our country.” (ABC News)
And recently, he went even further, when he told his supporters at the retirement community, The Villages, in Florida, “We’re not going to have a socialist president, especially a female socialist president.”
And here we are.
In the Senate, despite the $100 million spent in South Carolina on Jaime Harrison’s campaign against Lindsey Graham, Graham won 55% to 43.7%. Mitch McConnell beat Amy McGrath, 58.2% to 37.8%. Even Joni Ernst won her race, which no one could have envisioned. And Maine’s Susan Collins, believe it or not, will hang around to continue playing her Lucy to the Democrats Charlie Brown for another six long and dithering years.
I’m numb. My head is splitting, and my ears are ringing. The TV is blaring CNN updates, while MSNBC keeps me informed on the computer. But the numbers are unchanging, no matter how much attention I pay to them.
Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele reminds us that, “Democratic Americans still don’t understand what Donald Trump represents, and that it’s what 50% of Americans want.”
Joy Reid (MSNBC’s AM Joy): “I just wonder what all of this says about us. I think it raises real questions about what America is, at the end of the day, and whether what trump is, is more like what the American character is, than people ever wanted to admit.”
Randy Rainbow tweeted, “Woke up with a hangover in a stranger’s bed. But the stranger was America. “
And the comments pour in. On Facebook, “I feel like I was lied to my whole childhood. I was so proud to be an American, that we are the greatest country in the world. Now I see America for what it is – a bunch of horrible, selfish, stupid people who are unAmerican run the country. And the rest of us are screwed pawns.”
From Richard Kay, “To all the people I talked to previously about the extent of Trump-supporting rednecks, Christian fundamentalists, gun-crazy yahoos in the USA, and those people I was talking to, who replied, “oh, they’re only a small % of the country; the majority of citizens are good people.” Well, here’s proof you were wrong.”
From Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station, “It’s not over, of course, and Biden may indeed yet win. But even if that happens, it’s pretty obvious that at least half of our country would have been those Germans who embraced the Nazis. It’s about what I figured.”
Gary LeDrew: “It is looking like about 4 years before we can open the border. Not much hope for the world and mega deaths for USA “
From Daniel C. Castellano: “After all that has happened. After all that they have seen. Still, they say, “Yup, that’s my guy.” 67 MILLION people. They are despicable. Every last one of them. If one of them is a friend or relative of yours, I’m sorry. But they are awful, awful people. Every. One. Of. Them.”
Wayne Baggs: “Many believe one gets what they deserve. The beginning of the end. Goodbye health care, social security, public schools, right to choose, balanced courts. I love watching train wrecks. They wanted the GOP; they got the GOP. Let the shit show begin. The cowards were only getting started.”
David Corn, (Mother Jones): “Close to half of the American electorate voted for a man who just declared he would try to block election results and undermine American democracy to remain in power.”
Annie G. Robinson:“It’s like a family in our neighbourhood was accused of committing murder. We then determined that only a few family members were guilty, and the rest were innocent. Now we’ve discovered that the guilty family members are actually serial killers, and are acting proud of it, sticking their middle fingers in our faces. And a few that we thought were innocent are guilty also. The truly innocent ones are shocked and heartbroken, and now they, too, are under threat. That’s the way I feel about the US this morning.”
Glenn Morgan:What I DON’T look forward to … is the DOUBLING DOWN of HERR TRUMP’s denigration of the Free Press… he will now try to CRUSH DISSENT of journalists such as CNN & MSNBC, and truly try to DOMINATE the airwaves and Social Media with his insane blather.”
Peter Winholt: “Whoever wins, the loser is America. They have chosen, by close to the same margin as last election, to embrace the values that Trump has shamelessly flaunted in the campaign. The only difference now will be in which direction the U.S. is facing going forward. Where they are standing is in the middle of an Idiocracy, having chosen Q-Anon over science, lies over truth, and sociopathy over empathy.”
Michael Moore: “Sadly, as to why our fellow Americans did not repudiate Trump yesterday in a massive way, as to why nearly 70 million Americans still embrace a bigot and a psychopath — well, we must have that discussion soon as to who we REALLY are. Shameful. Apologies to our Black brothers and sisters, and apologies to the rest of the world.”
Hey! Did you ‘fall back’ this morning? Remind me why we’re still doing this antiquated clock juggling in 2020. It makes no sense to me. The wild critters milling about on my lawn, without a manufactured care in the world, still wanted to be fed when the sun came up, no matter what time you wanna call it.
I’m as full of election hysteria as a goose pre-pate – I’m about ready to burst. We’re now three days before “the most important election of our time!” as it’s being called.
Get a grip, says I; all that’s on the line is democracy, human rights, and the fate of the planet, for pete’s sake.
Since I was a very lone dissenter in 2016 (I actually DID foresee trump winning) I hesitate to share my gut sense of what will happen with the 2020 election. While it looks like trump and his supporters are panicking over Biden’s lead in the polls, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, as the proverb says. I won’t release this breath I’m holding until I see Biden taking the presidential oath on the Bible in January.
So, let’s talk about the other elephant in the room – the global pandemic that has been our faithful companion since (depending on your country and inclination) February or March of 2020.
What lessons have we learned, having lived through these ‘interesting times’ with which we have been cursed?
Like a divorce or a bankruptcy, it started out slow, and then happened all at once. One day you were going about your business like always – the next you were living under COVID, lining up for everything, and wondering where your next roll of toilet paper was gonna come from.
I think history will show that one of the biggest mistakes our governments made in handling the COVID-19 crisis was in making it political. Politics should never have had anything to do with how governments dealt with citizens; it is and has always been a universal public health care issue. Care and prevention have to be non-partisan, since this virus disregards our voting patterns, and is only manageable by health care experts.
With that in mind, it should never have become a left- or right-wing talking point, or something that the average citizen, bereft of scientific credentials, should have been attempting to deal with on a personal basis. A virus is not personal – it’s only purpose and goal are to infect humans. Like every other infectious disease, there are scientific ways to protect against infections, and then there are pseudo scientific, con man, weasel ways to pretend that we can magic them away.
In truth, the few real preventative measures remain the same:
Wash your hands. Avoid touching your face. Stay home if you can, but if you can’t, keep your distance from others. And wear a mask.
That’s it, that’s all.
America, led by the self-proclaimed ‘stable genius,’ has been pretending that COVID-19 never happened. Or that, if it did, it’s certainly not an issue any longer. On Thursday, Donald Trump Jr even told trumpCultists that “the number (of deaths) is almost nothing.“
The number of deaths for just that day alone was 1004.
“And those 1,004 are now part of the 228,000-plus Americans who have succumbed to the virus since it appeared in the United States in early spring. That number isn’t “almost nothing.” It’s almost four times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s almost double the number of Americans killed in World War I. And it’s 228,000-plus families whose lives will never be the same.”(Cnn.com)
Trump’s new pet non-expert, Dr Scott Atlas, a radiologist, has had the president’s ear on how to deal with the Coronavirus issue. He has also usurped the place of actual experts and scientists with years of specific training and expertise of infectious diseases.
“As a White House advisor, Dr Atlas actually appeared on Russian state media on Saturday and criticized lockdown measures aimed at tackling the virus, saying they were “killing” Americans.
Atlas, a radiologist, spoke to RT, formerly Russia Today, which is funded by the Kremlin and has been accused of being part of organized Russian propaganda, according to the Internet Institute at the University of Oxford.” (Newsweek.com)
Some might call Dr Atlas’ unprecedented foray into Russian propaganda treason. Nonetheless, he remains one of trump’s (and presumably, Putin‘s) most trusted agents.
Dr Atlas has also been a strong proponent of Sweden’s position on Coronavirus policy.
Sweden decided to go its own way, with so called ‘herd immunity,’ and they are now, and will continue for years, to pay for that decision in Swedish deaths.
“As of Oct. 13, Sweden’s per capita death rate is 58.4 per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data, 12th highest in the world (not including tiny Andorra and San Marino). But perhaps more striking are the findings of a study published Oct. 12 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which pointed out that, of the countries the researchers investigated, Sweden and the U.S. essentially make up a category of two: they are the only countries with high overall mortality rates that failed to rapidly reduce those numbers as the pandemic progressed.”Time Magazine, October 2020
Based on a fair amount of research I’ve done on the concept of herd immunity; most people don’t have a clear understanding of how it works – and that includes actual scientific researchers. It seems that herd immunity is something that can be clinically observed only in hindsight; analysing the data after the fact, maybe from a historical distance of as long as ten years afterwards. That’s really the only way to see what happened, where, and to whom.
Herd immunity is not ‘magic.’ It happens when a virus can’t spread, because people are protected against infection, usually, but not always, by a vaccine. You don’t need everyone to be immune, but you need enough immune people, or people avoiding new infections, to allow the virus to peter out. The term should actually be ‘herd protection,’ because it’s not really about immunity to the virus, it’s about reducing risk to the vulnerable who might come into contact with those who have been infected.
And even in the case of high vaccination pockets, it’s still possible to have local outbreaks, despite having already sacrificed the most vulnerable in a society to the disease.
According to network scientist, Samuel Scarpino, “Most of the herd-immunity calculations don’t have anything to say about behaviour at all. They assume there’s no interventions, no behavioural changes or anything like that,” This means that if a transient change in people’s behaviour (such as physical distancing) drives the Rt down, then “as soon as that behaviour goes back to normal, the herd-immunity threshold will change.”
If we accept that there’s no magic pill, no ‘herd immunity’ that will save us, sans maintaining the precautions we’ve been chafing under for the last eight months, then we must somehow learn to make peace with our anxiety. Despite the difficulties of dealing with COVID, worrying about the election, and generally trying to cope with all the chaos of winter nearing, uncertainties, even our own place in the universe, we are only in control when we accept that we are out of control, and experiencing anxiety overload. We’re not going crazy, we’re human. We need to self-soothe – no one else can do that for us.
That really is the size of it. Anxiety overload stresses out our adrenals. We want fight or flight, but who do we fight? and where can we go? When the stress builds up, we are prone to falling into a depression, or to lashing out blindly. Anti maskers, although they know logically that the virus is not to blame, will still strike out blindly, mourning the loss of their usual soft places to fall.
When fight or flight kicks in, the first thing to go is civilization. Kindness and patience become luxuries. Those gentle ministrations that help us through hard times fly out of the window, and may never return.
Another major mistake that governments made, which also plays into our anxiety and feeling of helplessness, was in downplaying the health issues that COVID sufferers went thru from the infection, as well as in not making the population aware of the horrible and lonely death that was in store for those who did not survive.
A woman named Sonja Mally, a Torontonian tattoo artist, wrote a long description of her nearly eight-month battle with the disease on Facebook. Hundreds have now read about the hell she has gone through. The disease affects everyone differently. Her experience began mildly, and then torturously cycled through nearly every inch of her body.
“The first round attacked my respiratory system. From there it worked its way into my vascular system and spread through my entire body.
This is what it the following half-year looked like….
In between relentless coughing fits I struggled to breathe as every inhalation felt like I was drawing in fluid. I was in and out of consciousness. When I was awake I studied the internal structure and function of the lungs and airways. I slept in prone position and used the postural drainage and chest PT techniques meant for coping with cystic fibrosis. I did breathing exercises. I ordered a blood pressure monitor and a pulse oximeter so I would know if I needed to call an ambulance. I followed a strict anti inflammatory diet and adjusted my supplements and fluid/electrolyte intake. My doctor ordered bloodwork and told me to continue to rest. I tried to make sure any messages from friends or clients I responded to were left off on a nice note, just in case. I waited for recovery but it didn’t come.“
She ends her long chronicle with this,
“The local Canadian group I most frequent for Covid Long-Haulers had a handful of members when I first joined. Today they are over 7.6 thousand with new members pouring in daily. The focus is on sharing information to help others navigate this nightmare and conducting interviews with the media to help spread the word, so we can educate the public while we wait for the CDC and government to catch up. Like me, many of these “Covid long-haulers” were young, very active, fit and healthy with no pre-existing or underlying conditions. A notable number of them were athletes before they fell ill. As this is a virus that can travel through your entire body and affect any organ, no two cases or experiences are exactly alike. But we all share overlapping symptoms with one another. I documented 80 symptoms, from terrifying to extremely bizarre, and each one of those symptoms were reported by a significant number of other people in these groups.
Around this time last year I was running around the woods, climbing trees and making art. Now I’m trying to retrain my body to walk. I don’t know when I’ll be able to make art again. One step at a time. This is a “mild” case. I’m still one of the lucky ones.”
So many of us have had no physical interaction with anyone who has had the infection, so it’s not possible for us to imagine what it would be like, should we be one of those who are infected. Ms Mally cautions us to remember that, “There are hundreds of thousands more just like me. When I first got sick in March, nurses were already talking about having to prepare for the upcoming fall/winter/spring when the bad wave hits. We’re heading into it now. I am begging people to please be safe and do the right thing. I may lose “friends” for speaking up, but if this post manages to reach one person, helps to influence one decision, that in turn spares one life, it’s well worth it.”
The lessons are coming hard and fast now. Wear your masks, people. It’s our first, and maybe our last, best defense, in our hopes of surviving these times of plague.
Richard Nixon gave a defiant concession speech in 1962 that ended with …. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
The incredible narcissism and entitlement in that statement, coming from a man that was lucky not to have been tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail, still sends a frisson up my spine.
Had Nixon not heeded the potentates of his own party who advised him to resign, he would surely have been impeached by the House and removed from office by a trial in the Senate for his complicity in the Watergate burglary and ensuing coverup. As it was, 69 of his cronies were indicted, and 48 of those people were convicted and penalized.
“Watergate came to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration, including bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious; ordering investigations of activist groups and political figures; and using the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Internal Revenue Service as political weapons.” (Wikipedia)
Man – trump’s reign of terror is not just history rhyming, that’s a whole poetry slam right there.
The common denominator? An overwhelming self-entitlement, a belief that their acts and place in history should be above the law, a willingness to use the most powerful position in America like Negan used Lucille in The Walking Dead … and malignant narcissism.
To a narcissist, the absolute worst thing that they can threaten you with is their absence. They can’t imagine the horror your life would be without them in it. Their message is “How will you cope without me in your world? I am the sun of your universe, I cannot conceive of a world without me in it, and neither should you!”
The world is filled with narcissists, not just in politics, but in big business, the sciences, the entertainment world, and in our homes.
(“Although the cause of narcissistic personality disorder isn’t known, some researchers think that in biologically vulnerable children, parenting styles that are overprotective or neglectful may have an impact. Genetics and neurobiology also may play a role in development of narcissistic personality disorder.”Mayo Clinic, 2017.)
No one can definitively say what causes someone to believe that they are more important than everyone else that they know. Nonetheless, the disorder seems to be growing exponentially.
While full-bodied narcissistic personality disorder is still a fairly unusual diagnosis, the rise of reality tv, social media, and the glorification of this type of personality has upped the ante. Modern narcissism isn’t so much about the disorder as it is about the rise in narcissistic traits.
It’s been a slippery slope for those with the tendency to self-promote. Remember when we used to laugh at those people who never saw a meal they couldn’t find a way to photograph, glorify and show their friends and followers on Facebook? When Instagram came along, narcissists were in their glory, showing off their clothing, homes, and vacations, all so that those with less would feel envious.
The more we abandoned any pretence of humility, the more the spotlight shone on our deficiencies and perceived imperfections. By 2015 the waiting lists for cosmetic dentistry, plastic surgery, and alternative ‘enhancements’ were stretching around the block and two streets over.
Like needy children, we wanted everyone to ‘watch me, mommy!’ as we posed, sang, danced, and twirled before our imagined audiences. But that was just the beginning.
Many narcissists in the public eye choose to display a lack of caring for others, and a disdain for empathy, which neatly coexists with a glorification of one’s own talents and popularity. Even the relevance of celebrity deaths, for instance, can only be understood in the context of their own loss.
When these people are informed of terrible tragedies – babies in cages at the border, the Charlie Hebdo attack, millions starving and dying from thirst and bombs in far flung countries – their concern is not for those in misery, but rather, in how to best spin their public reactions to switch the focus from those suffering, to themselves, as the ‘real victims.’ No matter how tragic an event, the narcissist only sees the calamity in the context of their own reactive wretchedness.
We used to be able to shrug off most garden variety narcissists as laughable, childish, needy creatures. But the tendency to believe that one is extraordinary (along with the obvious problem, which is that most people are simply and resoundingly NOT special) is increasing by the day.
The narcissist’s beliefs are unrealistic, but in a world where a financially and morally bankrupt ‘celebrity’ malignant narcissist can become president of the United States, how exactly do you define ‘unrealistic’?
I can’t swear that the rise of trump is tied to a rise in narcissism in North America, though I do see a through line in the rise of populist leaders, who tend to speak to the basest of our individual appetites. Three recent studies would seem to agree with that premise.
“A team of psychologists and political scientists from the universities of Kent (UK), Warsaw (Poland) and Maryland (USA) found in three studies that national collective narcissism was linked to support for populism. In the UK, collective narcissism predicted support for Brexit, in the US it predicted support for Donald Trump, and in Poland it predicted support for the populist Law and Justice party.
The study found that collective narcissism, i.e. an unrealistic belief in the greatness of the nation, increased in response to group feelings of being disadvantaged, especially when this was long lasting.
The researchers suggest that the narrative of relative disadvantage, fuelled by populist leaders, might reinforce a ‘defensive and destructive’ national perspective. Narcissistic beliefs about the in-group greatness are a way to compensate for feelings of being worse off than other groups.”(Science Daily.com)
I don’t even play a political scientist on TV. But what I DO know, is that, in the age of COVID-19, narcissists can be extremely dangerous to your health.
During this pandemic, people have been asked to observe a few simple health precautions, to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay about 2 metres away from others.
That shouldn’t be that big a deal, or terribly hard to do. After all, all the wearing of a mask says is that the wearer recognizes their membership in their community.
But for some, covering their mouth and nose with cloth or other semipermeable material when near strangers in public settings inspires fear of an over-reaching government, and a denial of their ‘rights.’
Yes, this whole pandemic thing is a major pain in the butt. Yes, the mask can feel hot and itchy, and make your glasses fog up, while making those of us with lung issues feel claustrophobic and shorter of breath than usual.
But for many of us, there’s no real issue there. If wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and keeping surfaces sanitized to prevent a viral infection is necessary, then that’s what we’ll do. It’s not 1865, and we’re not Dr Joseph Lister trying to sell his discovery that washing hands could allow mothers to survive childbirth; this is 2020, and we should all be intelligent and mature enough to follow simple precepts that have been the norm for cleanliness and safety for over a century and a half.
But those pesky narcissists don’t think in terms of what is best for all, because they are emotionally immature. They believe that their ‘rights’ make them exempt from social norms, even during a pandemic, and they lack empathy, which leads them to believe that no one’s health but their own is of any concern.
Being a narcissist is to live inside a bubble of need and entitlement. Without the slightest concept of altruism, the life and death worries of others are just not a concern. Even when they are told that they will have to continue to live in a ‘new normal’ that means that they can’t get out to have fun with their friends, even as the European Union and other countries put the USA on a no entry list, and even as people continue to become infected .. and die … from a virus that other countries are able to control through sane public health regulations, they continue to believe that their own personal rights and freedoms supersede the personal rights and freedoms of others.
Entitlement. My rights over yours. My needs being more needy and important than yours. My rights to be the victim superseding the actual hospitalization and death of the more vulnerable. And if granny or mummy dies, it’s all about my loss, not her death, cuz poor little me is now an orphan!
It’s emotional bullying, and in many cases, physical bullying. The armed militia groups dressed in army fatigues that stormed government offices to demand their rights were trampling ALL over the rights of everyone in their path. But narcissism … it’s a hell of a drug.
People who enjoy the rights, freedoms and privileges of our society do not have the right to refuse to acknowledge that other people have those same rights, freedoms and privileges.
And there’s really nothing sadder than an over privileged narcissist finally discovering the very hard way that their personal world is not the centre of the universe.
PS… NEW Randy Rainbow! 😉
Are YOU a narcissist? Why not take this simple test and see!?
I’m only half kidding when I say that I’m pretty sure we’ve been living in an alternate reality since 2008, created by firing up the Large Hadron Collider. What else could explain this bizarre branch of a timeline we’re currently experiencing?
Just when you almost get a little less uncomfortable with this new normal of a global pandemic, you get word that marauding monkeys attacked a lab worker in India, before grabbing and fleeing with the blood samples of four COVID-19 patients. Now, if that is not the premise of some next level, ‘ripped from the headlines’, straight to video, Planet of the Apes sequel right there, I don’t know what is.
But apparently nothing is ever going to make sense again, at least according to the mass murderer currently occupying the White House. The guy that has spent the last four years looting America’s treasury is not fond of those who only loot as a side gig. This weekend, as protestors surrounded 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, trump’s bull roars alternated between cries of “Get off my lawn!” with “Release the hounds!”
America, desperately in need of a true leader to guide them through a unique moment in time, is instead saddled with an incompetent and increasingly paranoid madman, who is utterly incapable of handling any of the problems he brought upon himself by dismantling the nation with the zeal of a toddler eviscerating a butterfly.
America needs someone that can listen and attempt to understand the anguish of the people of colour who, along with the rest of the world, this week watched a New York City woman willfully attempt to summon triggered police to come to her ‘rescue’ from an African American male who dared to tell her to leash her dog.
The nation needs someone who can pour enough calming oil on the current conflagration to begin to defuse the righteous anger boiling over in the streets as yet another black man is brutally murdered in broad daylight and in high definition video. Trump offers only more gasoline for the flames.
The country needs someone to begin the process of reuniting what was once the United States of America, lest they find themselves instead reliving the horrors of the first Civil War, in a second one in which a core group of the combatants routinely carry some of the deadliest weapons on the planet for a visit to their local supermarket or restaurant.
Instead of a steady hand on the tiller of state, the US has the misfortune of having elected someone who made it his mission to frighten the nation with tales of the boogie men that ‘he alone’ could save them from. Terrified and vulnerable, Americans were putty in his snake oil salesman tiny hands, and rushed to buy the hats that assured them that trump was the one who could Make America Great Again. Like all rubes, they then discovered the bait and switch of trump’s vision for their future, which he had led them to believe was like a Norman Rockwell painting on a Life magazine cover, but that instead more closely resembled New York City’s mean and dirty streets of the nineties. Trump’s shell game substituted Shangri La with something more resembling a scene from Escape from New York. Bullies, bad guys, corruption, porn, graft, and petty-minded spite are the Special of the Day, every day, under this fast food presidency.
In the absence of an official Consoler in Chief, Joe Biden is leaping into the breech, and starting to make an argument that Trump is literally attempting to kill the very people that elected him to the position of POTUS. From the disastrous mishandling of everything to do with controlling the pandemic, to his irresponsible and possibly fatal medical advice, to his jeering at those wearing masks to protect themselves and others, trump daily makes the case that his primary mission is not to lead his people out of the wilderness, but instead into the Valley of Death, with each member of his cult toting a Solo Cup of Lysol bleach with a hydroxychloroquine chaser.
Trump tweets his eagerness to sic vicious dogs on protestors, while he shoots a wink and a nod to the white supremacists and vigilantes answering his calls for violence in the streets. He craves the clamour of his rallies, where the spittle infused and unmasked cultists scream out his name as if his mere presence brings them to orgasm. They are his PowerPill, his magical genies in bottles, who are there to allow him to bask in their reverence. That’s how he gains his strength, and if getting tens of thousands of his minions together in one place means widespread transmission of a deadly virus, causing the supporters or members of their family to become ill or die, why, this is the price you must be willing to pay for having your savior so very close. At least, they console themselves and each other, we’re not ‘sissies’ like those lefty liberal mask wearers.
These trumpCultists have always had the sheen of weekend warriors, like Furries or LARPers, people that like to pretend to be something other than what they really are, if just for an hour or a day. Most of them are as cowardly as their leader, but revel in feeling like naughty little ‘despicables’ while they caress their AR 15s. Dying for trump would be a ‘badge of honour’ as he called it, the stigmata of a true believer.
(Try as I might, I cannot fathom why the “Right” would want to encourage the spread of a fatal disease amongst their own supporters. Oh sure, we’re starting to get a few mayors, governors, and even Shawn Hannity, who are encouraging people to keep themselves safe, but I just can’t understand how so many city and state leaders are so spineless that they’ll fail to protect their citizens in order to keep trump from howling his displeasure. It’s like they’ll never have to worry about people voting them back into office. Hmmmmm …do they know something we don’t know?)
Last week, the Lincoln Project released an anti trump advertisement entitled “Mourning in America.“ This week they’ll have enough footage of looted and burned out businesses across America to recreate “Mississippi Burning.”
I’m tired, dear reader, I’m so very, very tired of this president, who constantly needs more attention than a new born babe, and will just not leave us alone for even a quiet hour of reflection. Instead, we must continuously suffer the drip drip drip of his venomous tweets, until he’s called on the carpet for disregarding site regulations, and immediately vows that social media will PAY for not licking his toes correctly. He can’t legally shut down Twitter or Facebook or TikTok or any of the other social media sites yet … but you can bet your best booties that it is one of the first things he’ll get done should he get a second term.
And if I can’t get away from his looming influence, and I’m way over here in Canada, imagine how draining it must be to live under his depressing regime in any of the states, but particularly in any of the Red States that are slavishly subservient to trump’s every whim. It must be terrifying, made all the more terrifying if you are also a person of colour, where cries for help are met with callous indifference, and quite often, a brutal slaying by those charged with serving and protecting the masses.
In trump’s America, white, heavily armed protestors have free reign to storm the state Capital in Michigan, disrupting the legislators working inside it’s walls, because the white protestors are ‘exercising their constitutional rights.”
But in Minnesota, in the minds of these same officials, black protestors are rioters and looters, fit only to be met with tear gas and rubber bullets,
For a person of colour in today’s America, even the most educated, renowned and respected can never be certain if they, or their children, will survive an encounter with their local police.
“Do you want to prevent the kind of rioting, looting and arson we saw in Minneapolis on Wednesday night? Then stop police officers and racist vigilantes from killing black men, like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. Stop treating African Americans like human trash and start treating us like citizens.
I condemn riots, destruction, property theft and all manner of senseless violence. But I understand the feeling that animates these spasms. When I watch the video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, choking the life out of him and ignoring his cries of distress, I want to throw something. When I see the video of Gregory and Travis McMichael accosting and shooting Arbery, I want to throw something else. I can’t help but think of my own two sons and how, for either of them, a routine encounter with police — or a run-in with self-appointed sheriffs — could be fatal. I want to scream.
I feel this way even though I have status in this society, an income that allows me to live comfortably, and a megaphone — in the form of this column and my television appearances — with which to make my complaints and opinions heard. I wonder how I’d feel if I lacked these things, if I were powerless and voiceless. I wonder where my frustration and rage would find their outlet.”
………….. Yes, Gregory and Travis McMichael — along with William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s killing on cellphone video — have been arrested and charged with murder. And yes, Derek Chauvin and the three other police officers who watched him kill Floyd have been fired, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has called for criminal charges to be filed against them.
But if the only result is another couple of trial-of-the-century media circuses that produce lots of drama and controversy but no justice, then nothing will change.” (Eugene Robinson, May 30,2020, Washington Post.)
Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, and a native of South Africa, has the luxury of not being from the United States, and is therefore known to have a little perspective on the treatment of people of colour in America.
I’ll leave you with his very compassionate musings on these days of conflict.
I know exactly how long I’ve been in lockdown, but what I don’t know is how long I’m gonna have to remain cooped up.
It is weird, this faux normal. This kind of societal disruption is generally associated with tanks in the streets, burned out houses, and people running down roads while screaming and tearing out their hair. At the very least, you’d think, every one should be carrying some sort of weapon to use against marauders and zombies.
Instead, the people on my street are quiet and thoughtful. At 7:30 pm every evening, some of them open their doors and bang on pots and pans to signal their appreciation for those who are working in the stores, in transportation, and in hospitals, so that they themselves can stay at home, watch Netflix, and complain about how governments are handling an unprecedented, unique, multi-pronged attack on everything we once thought we knew and understood.
I’m guessing those workers would better appreciate a raise. Funny how those exposing themselves to danger every day, who are called ‘essential workers’ still have to beg for decent pay, or even a minimum wage with which they could pay their bills.
Speaking of zombie apocalypses (apocalypti?) don’t those preppers seem unhappy these days? All those years of preparing for a civil war, a nuclear attack, or the aforementioned zombies, and all they get is this slow motion, invisible enemy.
Wrapping your head around our faux normal is tough, because the time line for personal harm is just too long for most of us to conceptualize. Our DNA and responses are wired to fight or flight events. We’re expecting to fight off immediate threats, things that come at us in a matter of minutes or days. Things we can punch, stab with a knife, or shoot with a gun.
But that’s not how this particular threat operates. It’s more like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, those things that stop you in slow motion, years after you’ve enjoyed the ingestible that would, in time, do the mortal damage.
If I venture to the grocery store, and Covid Cathy has had her hands all over the items I want to buy, I’m not gonna know about it until days later. Maybe I’ll have a serious bout of COVID, or maybe I’ll just feel rotten for weeks. But I won’t know where or how I got the bug. That makes it hard for most of us to wrap our heads around continuing to stay at home, particularly as the warm weather nears.
Bill Maher had an interesting fellow on his RealTime show this week, a Dr.David Katz, who is a preventive medicine and public health specialist. Dr Katz lamented that this crisis was being mishandled by many governments, and said that things would be improved were there grown-ups in charge. He explained that our immune systems are revved up by a healthy lifestyle, and that we’d all be in better shape if there were daily breaks advising the nation on how to keep fit and healthy, instead of the dog’s breakfast of a briefing/Nuremburg rally we now ‘enjoy’ every day at dinner time.
Sadly, our appetizer nightly is the senile musings of a POTUS who really needs to get more rest – specifically in the time period when specialists, scientists, and actual doctors are advising the American people on how to stay safe during COVID 19.
Exhibit A: President Trump offered his idea for a cure in the White House briefing room Thursday after a presentation that mentioned disinfectants can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces and in the air.
“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.” (Washington Post)
Now, before you say that nobody … but NO BODY … could be stupid enough to act upon the president’s dangerous, and potentially fatal advice, I present
Exhibit B: “In Maryland, the Emergency Management Agency received over 100 calls inquiring about the president’s suggestion, forcing the service to issue an alert to remind citizens that “under no circumstances should any disinfectant product be administered into the body through injection, ingestion or any other route.” Washington State’s Emergency Management Division similarly issued a public statement to remind people to not “drink bleach” or “inject disinfectant.”
More concerning, though, is the number of people who actually went ahead with the suggestion. In New York City, the Daily News reported that the Poison Control Center saw 30 cases of “exposure to Lysol, bleach and other cleaners in 18 hours after Trump’s suggestion” that cleaning products might be used to treat coronavirus. NYC Poison Control saw only 13 such cases in a similar period last year.”
In truth, 330 million Americans look to their POTUS for advice, and many of those good citizens, bless their hearts, are not very bright.
Exhibit C:Cipolla’s five fundamental laws of stupidity:
Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
Desperate times strip away society’s veneer, and expose the truth. Our private faces may be hidden by n95 masks, but the lack of sanity, reason, or common sense in many countries will be on display, and revealed in technicolour in the annals of history. Assuming we have one.
Shawn O’Shea is a talented musician, entertainer and songwriter, and is the alter ego of lead vocalist Macky of the heymacs. In the nearly 40 years that I’ve known him, he’s never been one to be kept down by circumstances beyond his control – like a global pandemic. On April 20th he woke with the structure, chords, and most of the lyrics to a song dancing in his mind, and within days, he had recorded the tune, and added my dulcet tones to the duet.
Last week I put out a call on Facebook, asking that anyone who was interested in being involved in the recording send me a photo of themselves, holding a photo of someone or something they miss, or a photo of themselves with someone they love and are looking forward to seeing ‘when this is over.’
I’m happy to say that the photos sent were awesome. And now, for your listening and dancing pleasure .. may I present the debut of this timely tune ….
When This is Over – is dedicated to all of our friends and to future days. These photos represent all of the people, places and events we are missing during these days of COVID 19. Special thanks go to Brenda Meecham Armstrong, Michael Bar, Pat Blythe, Bianca Brynda, Arlo Burgon, Paul Christopher Caldeira, Louise Boucher-Chartier, Lauren Davis, Sheila Douglas, Amanda Flaherty, Lynda Francis, Craig Hastings, Sharon Kaczmarczyk, Peter Kashur, Linda Kennedy, Barbette Kensington, Gina Letros, James McBay, Annalee Orr, Honey Novick, Elke Ramstead, Hap Roderman, Tara Scott, Scott Sutherland, Greg Simpson, Sylvia Surk, Phyllis Taylor, Sheila Horne-Teixeira, Louise Tokar, Teresa Verity and Headly Westerfield
Argggh!!! Woke up in a ‘mood’ this morning, and the weather – grey, cold and damp – isn’t helping at all.
It’s not that I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s more that I’m just tired of playing pandemic. In February, I could still see a path ahead, even though it wasn’t clear how long our preparations and quarantine would last. Still, I had hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel was a bright future. Turned out it was an oncoming train.
As the weeks, and now months, have dragged by, we’re all starting to realize that there’s not gonna be a special day, like an armistice, when we can all, globally, agree that this is all over and we can now crack open the champagne. There will never be our old ‘normal’ again. From now on, we will redefine our interactions with the world by how we all behaved BC – Before COVID and AC – After COVID.
And I’m not being a whining Negative Nelly when I say that. It’s just the truth. COVID 19 will go on as long as it has to, and then gradually taper off over months or even years. We’ll develop a vaccine, and many will opt out of being vaccinated, which will mean the virus will stay dormant, bubbling underneath, for a good long while. But eventually the most vulnerable will die, the majority will be vaccinated or immune, and life will go on … until the next time.
I’m not sure if this wonderfully mild winter has helped or hindered any kind of seasonal distress. Usually I write at least one column over this time period, talking about cabin fever and ‘hygge’ but somehow, that kind of distress never really crossed my mind, what with … well, worrying about dying and all. As we come out of the winter months and edge into Spring, my thoughts are on what sort of plants I might bring home, for décor or culinary purposes, or whether I should consider germinating the seedlings I want to be ready by the end of May.
One thing I suddenly realized this morning was how little I’ve done that I thought I might do, in this time of lockdown. I really thought I had it made, with my hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books stacked around me, and dozens of DVDs I’ve stockpiled for that day when I actually find myself with time on my hands and nothing to do. Didn’t happen.
Instead, like so many, I’ve been more active than ever on social media. Both Shawn and I are on Facebook far more than I’d usually consider healthy in normal times. But of course, these times definitely fall under the ‘abnormal’ umbrella.
And even though, as a couple of retirees, our social calendars are not positively bursting with exciting events, we’ve always had places to go, people to see, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and yes, the odd musical jam to look forward to, not to mention doctor and dentist appointments to keep. Not any more. Now every day on the calendar remains resolutely blank.
Humans are social creatures. No matter how introverted one may be, we generally can count on getting out of our little shells now and again, if only for a trip up to the mall or the grocers. To have absolutely no where to go is daunting, even if you are lucky enough to never actually need to buy something for yourself or someone else.
Beyond that, we are living in a time when we are bombarded with negative messaging. Every day, multiple times a day, and always around dinner, we have bombastic, self-obsessed, needy trump horning in on what should be a simple ten- or fifteen-minute briefing on the virus’ progress. Instead, for hours, he mumbles through a teleprompter reading, horns in on what the specialists have to say, lies and spews misinformation (the Spanish flu began in January 1918, I want to scream at the television. STOP saying it started in 1917!) and then harangues and verbally attacks the few reporters still allowed to attend these putative press briefings which are really nothing more than a sop to his ego since he can no long hold his Nuremburg styled rallies for his party faithful.
You know how we used to joke about all the happy happy schlock load of ‘affirmations’ epitomized by Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley? It was out there, but it worked -it energizes, it keeps us moving forward.
Negative messaging is really hard on our psyches. Negative messaging leaves us tired, worried, and feeling like we’re struggling under burdens far too heavy to carry. It makes us crave some sort of relief, and when we are locked down and unable to find comfort, it can actually damage our health.
The more you think and speak positively, the more positive you feel about yourself and your surroundings. Conversely,the more negative messaging you receive during the day, the worse you’ll feel about yourself and the world.
When I spend my day on social media, with CNN or MSNBC or a Canadian news source, that is constantly updating the numbers of the sick, dying and dead, while hysterically describing the precautions necessary for a simple trip to the grocers, well – I’m not gonna be a very happy camper. Instead, I’ll constantly feel anxious and scared.
In health terms, that nonstop deluge of fearmongering provokes a flight or fight instinct, which ratchets up the adrenaline produced, and eventually leaves one exhausted. It also can lead to serious mental health problems and cardio vascular disease.
That’s the reason why we’re all feeling so tired and out of energy, and why that small walk you took just to get out of the house leaves you feeling like you just ran a 10K.. We really do underestimate how much energy it takes to get through our days and our lives until we are tested this severely.
These hard times bring out the best in some people, and the worst in others. As if we weren’t all feeling stressed and out of sorts, there are factions of people who’ve decided that their own needs and whims outweigh the health and safety of others.
”So, what are you guys gonna do during the pandemic?
“Well, a bunch of us are gonna go protest the lock down, try and disrupt the sitting government while they try to figure out how to use what few medical supplies they have. Maybe barricade the ambulance lane so that the vehicles can’t get in.”
“Are you going to wear protective gear?”
“Yeah. But only ironically.”
And this too, we must live with. The sad truth is that we are all living in survival mode, on high alert, and scared. This is not an easy time to be a human. We’re drawing on reserves of energy deeper than we knew we had, and the fuel we need to top up those reserves – hitting Starbucks to share a cappuccino with a friend, or getting out to a bar for a brewski and some fresh tuneage – isn’t gonna happen. The best we can hope for is to reach out by phone, text, or messaging, while constantly feeling that we might be missing out on those important moments we hoped to share with our loved ones and community.
It’s exhausting. It’s lonely. And it can make you feel a little bit crazy. But it is what it is, and it’s okay to feel like things are just too hard and that you wish this was all a dream and that you’ll wake up to the world you used to know.
That’s not gonna happen. But eventually, this too shall pass. And then we’ll deal with what’s next. Just like we’ve always done, and our parents did, and our grandparents and ancestors did.
Because we are humans. We are resilient, right up until the day we’re not. But that’s not today.