Monday, January 26, 2009

I HATE what you people call LOVE these days

First off, let's get it out of the way; yes, I am reading Slavoj Žižek's Fragile Absolute, right now. I am, however, only a couple of chapters in. I am also, however, borrowing it from a friend who lent it to me because I apparently say a lot of things he has to say . . . although that might not be a compliment, being that he's an Obama Supporter (don't fucking start with me!) and has some obvious Dispensationalist tendencies (from what I can tell). This post is far less of a reaction to Žižek than it is a reaction to bumper stickers, postmodernism and the taint of Apologetics. . .

. . . it has more to do with the fact that I think hate has become the misunderstood villain in a bad movie. We've failed to sympathize with hate, let alone empathize with it. We've failed to develop it's character for a fair presentation. We've failed to accept it. We've failed to embrace it, when we need to. All in all, we've failed to love our good neighbor, hate.

You don't know what I'm talking about, most likely. How can this bastard put hate on his roster board of virtues? Well, I guess we could go all of the way back to the beginning and talk about how G_d hates the devil and all that, but I think we can pick a more contemporary beginning: Apologetics.

Sure, sure, I'm a fan of C.S. Lewis. I'm also entitled to think he was a bit of a pussy. I've thought the same of myself, when I tried to rationalize my beliefs to those who do not share them. I've looked back on my attempts to appeal to questions that were asked in a certain way and had a prickle of regret scuttle across my scrotum as it drew walnut tight. In an imperfect world, accountability is not as universal as you might think it is. The only people that anybody needs to explain their beliefs or their actions, in relation to their beliefs, is other people who claim the same belief set. This doesn't just go for Christians. It goes for everybody. If a non-believer confronts you about what you believe, you have no reason to dignify them with a polite response. Why? You don't need to justify yourself. We live in a world that does not have to justify itself to us, yet we are constantly interrogated and persecuted. It's a double standard, and to use that hypocrisy to call you out on what they perceive as yours is nothing short of a hoodwink. Why be a party to it? Especially if you say you're a Christian or follower of Christ; a man who instructed us to be in the world but not of it? If you're confronted by a non-believer about your faith, you have every right to be reflexively combative. If they ask you to justify a certain point, feel more than free to point-out to them that it's politically incorrect for them to have to do the same for you, so if they're curious about what you believe, they can find a more honest and less pride-driven, insecure and passive-aggressive way to entertain their curiosities about your world. But we don't do this. We feel pigeon-holed into explaining ourselves to people who we do not answer to. We feel this every day and we cave-in to the weight of those feelings. This, among other things, has distorted how we view love.

The other great distortion comes from, I think, the postmodern synthesis of human emotion into something of material import. Human feelings have become a commodity in the modern, western social and philosophical dialectic. Political correctness is an almost universal paradigm in modern, western culture. Emotion is, somehow, sublime and seems to be at the center of the American and European thought process. But why? Feelings are fleeting! I've even been recently quoted as saying, "Peoples' feelings are supposed to get hurt. That's why G_d designed them to be passing." Still, who you offend seems to matter quite a bit these days. How you offend them matters just as much, if not more. So, is it any surprise that people have come to confuse love with a euphoric emotion? Yes, love can be a sure catalyst for this euphoric emotion but love is not this emotion, in and of itself. Love is a resolute decision to give someone or something priority over almost everything else, if not everything else altogether.
In a world where love is an emotion that makes you want to sing, laugh or involve your genitals with fluid, hate is just bad feelings. Hate is what offends. Hate is the opposite of love. Love makes me feel good (especially when my genitals are involved with fluid) so hate makes me feel bad. G_d is love, so hate must be really bad. Ha ha. Well, if G_d is just a good feeling, the Holy Spirit is a pretty capricious little slut. Isn't she? Fair weather friend to the end. But, if G_d is love, then that's impossible. The Holy Spirit must be with us all the time, whether or not it feels that great. So, we must be wrong about love.
I'm right, we're all wrong. Excuse the hubris (not that I'm really asking for you to excuse me.)
My third observation would be that Dispensationalism has contributed to the Christian misconceptions about love and hate, specifically. Most Christians, especially so-called Evangelicals, tend to forget the old testament existed until a Charelton Heston movie is on T.V. Do I have a problem with the New Testament? No, not entirely. I will, however, acknowledge that it is replete with punditry. The Old Testament is based almost entirely on actual accounts. Whether you believe these accounts to be fantastical or historical is completely irrelevant. The point is that the Old Testament is comprised largely of narrative accounts. Straightforward, even if not firsthand. The New Testament has some stories, yes. Quite a bit of the New Testament, however, is comprised of letters and sermons. The problem lies in the fact that the stuff that isn't in red print is not being said by Yehoshuah. It's being said by His Apostles. Men with fallible minds and opinions. Am I saying they're liars? No. I'm just saying that a lot of what they had to say came loaded with considerable bias. I'm saying that one should take what they say with a grain of salt. Fortunately, the entire New Testament was written by men who read the Old Testament a lot so, unless you have one of those weird New Testament only bibles, you've got your grains of salt in that really fat first half of the book in your hand.
We, however, seem to forget the Old Testament is there for anything other than adventure stories put there for us to censor and regurgitate for our children, so the young ones can have something adventurous and epic to hold their juvenile attention to the "boring, old bible". This New Testament approach has left us not only soft and diluted, but confused. We spend our time trying to follow the gospels and teachings of six-out-of-twelve apostles, and sort out the disparities between their opinions. No wonder it has become muddled into some sort of pre-digested mush we can all agree on. No wonder we've chosen the un-challenging, un-criticizable and unoffensive answers for every question.
This is what lead me to leave the church. In our search for answers for a political world, we've become a political organization. For the church, especially in a democratic west, that's a dangerous and unstable place to be.

But, what does all of this talk about love have to do with hate? Everything. To love, hating something is necessary. Not because the universe was built on extremes, but because we live in a universe that has been fractured. We live in a world that has been made imperfect. In this imperfect world, there are threats on the things and people you love. These threats can be real, perceived or merely plausible, that is, however, no reason to dismiss them. Yes, when or if you hate somebody, the risk of objectifying that person is very real. That, however, doesn't change the fact that forgiveness has nothing to do with the truth that, sometimes, a person becomes their actions. If I am striking somebody, they cannot stop my actions without stopping me. To love something, you must hate the concept of its antithesis. Without hate, love becomes corruptible, soluble and worthless, because you have no desire or passion to defend it.
Hate is not prejudice. Prejudice is a kind of hate that comes from ignorance and selfishness. Hate is not murder. Hate is the willingness to let that which you do not love die. Hate is not premeditated unforgiveness. Hate is the willingness to forgive yourself for choosing to love something first and forgive the other second.
Hate is a strong word and doesn't need to be avoided because it is strong. It needs to be avoided, so it's strength can be retained.
Vengance is the L_rd's. Anger is a sin, because we are failing to give our vengeful feelings to G_d. Grace, however, can sometimes be something we need to hand over to G_d as well. There's no point in claiming grace, when you don't understand it or when it stands between you and something you love. Love and hate are two hands on the same body, so why not keep them at two and ten when you drive?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Something I said a while ago (Sept 15, 2007)

We all know Rupert Murdoch owns Myspace and, for some people, that's enough to give their profile the great, big piss-off. Over the past few years, however, social networking sites have become a crutch for venue owners - a crutch that alienates any band who doesn't want to fuck-around with these sites. Myspace is the most obvious example.
Before I explain, let me tell you a little about Rupert Murdoch.
After becoming a very successful media executive in his native Australia, he decided to globalize his assets (something that most people of the e-generation consider creepy and suspicious regardless of their politics, in spite of their own Google-oriented lives). The globalization started in the UK. He bought the British periodical, The News of the World, which was the single most read English language publication in the world, at the time. He sold his shares in his Australian companies to afford the buy-out of the paper. Once he was at the helm of TNOTW, he reclaimed his Australian assets, buying them out from under the people he sold them to.
From there, he bought another British paper, The Sun. Once his acquisition of The Sun had been made, he converted the entire publication to a tabloid format. This meant that the news could be more easily filtered because its circulation was less frequent than a daily paper and, although weekly, it had fewer pages. Not to mention the fact that tabloids focus on entertainment news and gossip, giving the publishers an even larger opportunity to isolate their readers from the world, what's going on and, ultimately, the truth.
Just in time for the Thatcher era, Murdoch bought the Times and The Sunday Times, giving him control of over almost all printed news, in the United Kingdom.
Once Thatcher was out of office, by the way, he became chummy with Tony Blair. Murdoch's media control may be attributed to Blair's success. To ice the cake, there was an ongoing scandal, in the UK, because Blair often included Murdoch in secret discussions about national policy.
Although Blair is, technically, a member of the Labour Party, in England, many people lost their jobs. The unions rioted, but to no avail. Murdoch introduced the automated, electric method of newspaper printing, used across the world, that can be credited to greatly reducing the manpower required to print a newspaper. Cost reducing, I suppose, but I haven't seen prices do anything but plateau, climb and plateau, again.
With the profits he accumulated from screwing so many Brits out of a living, he moved to America and bought the San Antonio Express-News. Then he founded the Star (that b.s. tabloid you see, at drugstores). He went on to purchase the New York Post, which, when founded by Alexander Hamilton, was a political broadsheet. Over the years, the tabloid has changed and become another giant, winding gossip column. Thanks, Rupert.
Maybe it was the tabloids that lent him the idea of numbing the public mind, but around that time he started buying the shit out of television properties. He bought Fox. He bought British Satellite Broadcasting and gained control of almost the entire British pay television market.
He went on to buy two record labels, in Australia. He merged them and gave them to his son.
Rupert Murdoch is one of very few multinational media execs who makes the decided effort to retain the major controlling stake in all of the companies under his gaze, by keeping everything in his family. This means almost every part of his empire is managed by a family member who, of course, answers to him.
Since all of this, he's bought the controlling stock in DirecTV, most Asian media and Intermix (the former owners of Myspace) and IGN.
Many credit Murdoch as being a GOP man. He was friends with the Regans, Pat Robertson and George Bush. But he also backed Hillary Clinton's re-election campaign for senate. He's also worked with third party groups, like the Libertarians.
If you ask me, his across-the-board interest in worldwide media and politics has nothing to do with conservatism. I'd say it had to do with his specific vision for the world. He wants a world that thinks and behaves his way. I really can't think of a businessman more megalomaniacal than him.
Keeping your Myspace profile is nurturing that power. Not only are you giving him a healthy stake in the youth culture that he previously had very little access to, but you're creating a system in the music scene that is completely dependent on his services. You are helping create a monopoly that reaches as deep as the local bands - unsigned acts.
Many venues, now, require you to have a Myspace profile, if they're even going to consider you. Not just so they can hear your demo, but so they can gauge how many people will attend one of your shows. Any band's music player shows daily plays, which really help venue owners make a more educated guess as to whether you're a viable risk, because it's a little more obvious how many kids have heard of you and are likely to go to a show with your name is on the bill. Honestly, although I have very mixed feelings about the method, it makes sense and it's very helpful.
But Myspace is not about music. It used to be. But, now and forever, it is a social networking site built around advertising. By depending on Myspace to book shows, bands and venues are setting up a monopoly, in an area of American culture that has, for the most part, retained a uniquely D.I.Y. approach for the last 30 years. It was spontaneous and alive and, although it had its failures, that was a large part of its success.
If you're going to use the internet to help with booking, do it old school. It's cheaper and easier to build your own website. Put your music up there. Put counters on the links of your songs. Create an on-site fan network for your band. Sure, it might be the same, in principal, but it's at least under your control and you can say you're the only one who owns the rights to the images and music on that page, which greatly reduces the risk of it becoming about much of anything other than the music.
If you want to use networking sites to do booking, fine. I can't argue with everybody that doesn't go out of their way to suit my out-of-date, knee-jerk, punk-rock sensibilities. But, seriously, ditch Myspace. We're setting the music scene up to be a wellfare state of Rupert Murdoch.
When you're dependent on something, you're in a position to be controlled. Once Rupert Murdoch's research and development team finds out how many venues are depending on Myspace, he will control them. In one way or another.

If you need me to put it in perspective for you, think of Myspace as Ticketmaster's still, small voice.

The do-it-yourself spirit of young people, even when that spirit is at odds with their own habits, is what makes the powerful figures on this planet nervous. Twelve-year-olds start their own charitable organizations. High school dropouts start magazines, record labels and clothing companies. Twenty-something musicians create a nationwide sense of solidarity for teenagers who feel otherwise alienated. In fact, entertainment and entertainers seem to be the cultural glue that bind the youth together. Entertainment is a zeitgeistal, motivational network for the youth of the "civilized world". More people voted for 2004's American Idol than they did for president. Retaining control over small, local shows may not seem like any kind of real issue but, when you take the power of entertainment into account, it is. The disassembly of a d.i.y. culture, like the local/unsigned music scene, would be a tremendous blow to the overall d.i.y. spirit of young people . . . and Rupert Murdoch has already received part of the message. He isn't unaware of his power potential over pop culture and youth culture. After all, the Fox network does own American Idol.