Friday, October 6, 2017

Facebook: Are Some People Making It Into The Anti-Social Network?

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Facebook has evolved into a tremendous resource for sharing content in its 13 years of existence. Especially for people with important creative and socially conscious media to share. And most importantly, it has given a voice to many voiceless with its position as the most known and popular social network currently available. And on a broader level, I personally view myself close to the latter end of Facebook users just mentioned. The network truly has given me a broader network of friends and outlets that I never before had on my local level offline. And there's little doubt millions of others across the world feel the same way. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of push back against what Facebook offers its users.

Much of this push back stems from the aftermath of the failed Beacon initiative. And too many people feeling that the use of people's personal content (though only for a short time) in Facebook advertising infringed on their privacy. This has led to much negative press within the last decade about Facebook's safety. And recent news of hacking during the 2016 American presidential elections probably didn't help that matter any. Facebook continues to update its security and privacy features to address such problems. And across platforms from Windows, Android and ios.  Including making people feel more safe from harassment and bullying. So just how could Facebook ever been seen as an "anti social network"?

While Facebook does continue to redefine its privacy settings, its become clear that too many people are not in the know of how to properly utilize those features. On that level, I'll speak from the personal experience that motivated this article. I live with a type of disability where I cannot work. So my only means of outreach of my talents to people is via a music blog I write on WordPress. And a photography community I built on Facebook. Within the past 6-7 months, my attempts to share my work-from Facebook friends to Facebook groups, have been continually treated as spam. Restrictions have been placed on my sharing for "going too fast". And recently, three different Facebook groups reporting my content as spam. This has resulted in three different bans from sharing content in any Facebook groups at all. Along with this problem is how people have reacted to the matter of tagging.

Facebook users post so much content per day within their group of friends, its not always that possible to see said content without tagging people. And I have done this too with a couple of weekly features I have on my own Facebook timeline. There is also a way for one to reset their Facebook profile so that tagged posts can be reviewed before posting. Yet time after time lately, I've been scolded and verbally accosted by one Facebook friend after another about not wishing to be tagged. Ended up making a list for those who wished not to be tagged. At the end of the day, Facebook is a place for sharing people's content to each other. And if someone doesn't understand that the nature of that content, it should not ruin the Facebook rights of the one sharing that content.

Facebook's privacy and security policies are enforced by programmed algorithms. That is the nature of online security in general. That means its up to people to use their own best judgement in handling wanted and unwanted content on the site. But if people aren't aware of how Facebook's setting function, is their own best judgement adequate to this task? The site offers a number of tutorials to understand how to handle unwanted content. And when reporting goes too far even. But for those such as myself who depend on Facebook as a means of support for sharing content? This lack of understanding on behalf of group owners and even individuals on this social network creates social problems. And I do have some speculative reasons for some of these understandings.

One possible reasons for the current understandings of some people on Facebook might be the events of 2016 and this particular year. The very idea that sites such as Yahoo! and Facebook being vulnerable to hacking could be one reason. Millions across the world depend on these platforms for both personal and business communication. And one thing about human beings is that if any person begins to feel insecure with their social mediums? Different levels of fear and paranoia are bound to develop from that. The internet remains an open forum that defies regulation. That makes it the best example of democracies messy side that exists in the world today. Between hacking, spamming and trolling? The internet is still new enough a medium to engender certain paranoid ideas.

The current Trump era in America is very likely a major catalyst in this particular matter. Many people I personally know are uncertain and scared. A handful have either unfriended me or simply left Facebook completely. From the anger at political articles,memes and the current issues with whats known as 'fake news"? It seems social media has become self defeating in the minds of some people. But there is a message for those who feel this way. If any or all of the above probably causes of Facebook fear and paranoia effect a person in any way? Perhaps they should take a little time to remember all of the very positive things Facebook offers. Connection to people and sharing things that inspire-as well as enlighten them. And then learn to jettison any anti social attitudes on social media.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas and the Donald Trump Effect: Lets Make Elections Great...Again

          Its been nearly a month now since the 2016 election came to an end. Or did it? Due to logistical reasons I am unfamiliar with,US presidential elections usually end just before the start of the holiday season. This election has been by far the most horrific I've ever seen. And that probably goes for millions of other Americans as well. There is always a good deal of mud slinging between candidates during an election. But Donald Trump took it to a whole new level-running on a platform of prejudice and fear mongering. And on this election night,he became president elect very unexpectedly.

          Nobody I personally knew expected this to happen. For the past few weeks on Facebook,people and groups I subscribe to have been trying to sort the situation out. What went wrong? Why don't people realize how dangerous Donald Trump is? Is America doomed? These thoughts have ranged from thoughtful to outright conspiracy theorizing. As a year of personal growth for me,this event has been a personally draining one. Found myself somewhat unmotivated to get on with each and every day. Not due to my own fears. But due to a growing sense of empathy for the concerns of those around me. And don't think I'm alone in this either.

            Instead of a holiday season filled with hopes for a positive new year,many American's have learned a great deal in a very short amount of time. The latest headlines is that Trump did not actually win even the electoral votes. That Russian based hacking was involved. And while Hillary Clinton clearly won the popular vote,ballots are being frantically recounted. And the future of America's electoral college is under scrutiny. When I go to the store or any public place,the looks on people's faces don't seem happy or unhappy due to holiday hustle and bustle. They seem distant and concerned for the future. And that isn't a very cheery atmosphere.

             Now a lot of younger people dislike celebrating holidays today. Some see them as corporate,some as pure propaganda. Since the area I live in has a strong potential for joylessness,holiday's such as Christmas tend to come across as a psychological necessity for a wintry season of shorter days and the potential for limited mobility due to severe weather. If one is a wealthy land owner of European descent,the rhetoric of Donald Trump and the cabinet he's assembling isn't a negative thing at all. The reality of it is though,that just isn't most of America. And most of America is either angry with Trump being president elect,or somehow live in fear of what Trump and his cabinet represent.

               Donald Trump's campaign slogan was "Make America Great Again". If I were to have a campaign slogan for American politics in general,it would probably be something along the lines of "Make Elections Great Again". Most of the presidential elections I've lived through have surrounded such extremely high stakes, it can have the effect of making the voter either fed up with the process or descend to seeing both main political parties to blame for social problems. We live in a totally online world. Wikipedia and other outlets provide access to truths about history and the present. More and more American's know the issues beyond candidate's rhetoric.

One could debate that its highly cynical to see ignorance as bliss. At the same time,people heavily indoctrinated with hateful rhetoric often lack the ability to receive new knowledge. And therefore are unable to grow as individuals. This social issue is now referred to as "post truth". Donald Trump has truly capitalized on this. And the fact is,the holiday season of 2016 seems to have the atmosphere of inner terror. This could derive from a mixture of new knowledge, a blunter and overtly bigoted attitude from white supremacist  political figures now referred to as the "alt right" and a sense of wanting to retreat back to a life of ignorance.

Sometimes learning can be scary and sad. To a young child,it can be very saddening to learn there is no actual Santa Claus. It is very scary to learn about stranger danger. Compared to most other nations of the world. After all,its only been 240 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. With the knowledge of even that being found on the back of slavery,as well as Christmas as we know it now largely deriving from non Christian pagan origins, modern American conservatism is fighting a losing battle with the known reality of the nations politics. And even the origins and meaning of the holiday's it celebrates.

With all this being said,knowledge brings growing pains but not endings. It does bring evolution. We know now that "republican" stands for democracy of only the privileged. We know now that Christmas isn't totally Christian or totally corporate. Yet that doesn't mean American cannot be a functional democracy-with a two or more party system without the need for a "republic". Nor does it mean we cannot still decorate trees or even display mangers at Christmas. Whatever occurs with Donald Trump,and I sincerely hope recounts deny him the presidency,Democracy and joy in America will simply continue to grow and evolve. And there's no post truth about that. 


Friday, October 21, 2016

Pray to the presidents,or voting for them?: The United States 2016 election effect

It was a year or so ago that my good friend Henrique Hopkins showed me a YouTube video. We were having one of our many sociopolitical online chats.  The video was by a young woman who suggested that as a solution to a lot of the nations problems,we should "just pray to the presidents". At the time it was a source of great laughter for both of us. It was so ridiculous and beyond naive. Sounds like the beginnings of a fascist dictatorship. Surely not something that could ever happen in the USA,land of the free and home of the brave right? Well its the 2016 presidential election as of this writing. And the question of voting for or praying to politicians looms at the center of it all.

In America,there is theoretically supposed to be a defined separation between church and state. But its the internet age now. And anyone of any American generation can look at their money and see "in god we trust". Does that mean the old cliche "money is god" is true? Maybe it just means church and state separation is paper thin in America today. And that due to it being the internet age,a quick online fact check reveals that "in god we trust" wasn't on any US currency until 1956 following the HUAC hearings. In the end,all of this confusion comes down to one reality. And that reality is that having a religious belief and having a religious understanding are two entirely different things.

I am a Mainer born and bred. Always lived in that state.Growing up,there have been people around me who are regular church goers who care about humanistic and liberal causes. And there have also been secular humanists,agnostics and atheists who will view as scientific or political figure they admire with idolatry. As if they could do absolutely no wrong. Church goers or not,more and more people I'm encountering lately seem to be falling into the category of idolatry on that level. This election also contains one of the most polarized characters in my personal lifetime. And that's Donald Trump. 

Trump is scathingly written about online almost hourly it seems. At his fundamental core however,I would describe him as being totally apolitical. And non American. That should be that. Yet there was someone else who ran for office this election. Someone who didn't become the democratic nominee. And that was Senator Bernie Sanders,representing the state of Vermont. This native New Yorker was a classic European democratic socialist. He has a stern yet avuncular manner. And a caring,intelligent social agenda. His words seemed to capture the hearts and minds of even the most cynical around me early on in this electoral cycle. Then something I never would have suspected happened.

A lot of people face difficult odds in life. I count myself among them. That led me to finding Mister Sanders' sociopolitical platform very appealing: progressively democratic without being fascist about it.   Part of my own therapy in dealing with difficult odds is being a photographer. Love being able to go out and just take pictures of the romantic and beautiful aspects of the outside world. Its very therapeutic. On these journey's this past summer,it was hard not to find a household along the way without a "Bernie Sanders For President" sign posted on their lawn. Towards the end of the summer,Hillary Clinton became the democratic nominee for US president.

After this happened,and I went back out to those same areas looking for new pictures to take,all those Bernie Sanders signs had become...ones that supported Donald Trump and his VP nominee Mike Pence. How could this happen? In another conversation with Henrique,the question arose how people could support a socially progressive candidate like Bernie Sanders one moment,and a fundamentally bigoted one such as Donald Trump. The answer became evident in listening to public conversations around me. Would hear people say they missed having Bernie Sanders to believe in. How they didn't trust Hillary Clinton. And Trump spoke his mind loudly. So they would support Trump instead.  

That's when it occurred to me what seemed to be going on. These no longer seemed like politically understanding individuals looking for a politician who supported their views and needs. They began to come across as people looking for a god like figure in the white house. Someone who they could follow behind unconditionally. Again as Henrique and I discussed,there are many American's who are not interested in freedom. Some of these people might say they want the right to do as they please with guns. They might wish to live off the grid and totally support themselves. Yet at the end of the day,they are still seeking a titanic seeming leader to tell them how to be non conformist.

Its an eerie contradiction for sure. It reminded me of a song I was listening to a lot during the ill fated 2000 presidential election-Devo's "Freedom Of Choice". The chorus of the song says "freedom of choice is what you've got/freedom from choice is what you want". Now it would appear American's,especially too many around me, are facing the concept that a pop group posed 36 years ago. In the end,breaking an election down only opens up the opportunity for a readers clarity. There's no guarantees. The question Americans have now is do we want to vote for a president,or pray to them? Its something more people should consider when filling out their ballots in an election.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Awareness Of A Better Life: When,Where And Why Not?

                As it turns out the month of October is a rather extraordinary one in terms of month long holidays. These holidays are all very special because they celebrate the concept of awareness. Autism,brain tumors,breast cancer,domestic violence,dwarfism,cyber security awareness and LGBT history are just several examples of October's month long holidays so it seems. When I first contemplating this next post it was with the intention of addressing each of these demonstrated concepts privately. After some soul searching and my personal passion for art it became apparent that another approach would be more fitting.

                    One sculpture that fascinates me was by the 1920's Romanian futurist sculpture Constanin Brancusi called Bird In Space-which you'll see above you here. His static image has likely inspired many great works of literary and visual art-due in part to the idea behind it. The sculpture itself was a fine example of representational art. That's because Brancusi didn't sculpt a bird. He sculpted the nature of a bird by interpreting flight. As an futuristically inclined artist myself that concept interested me a great deal. So when thinking of the nature of all of the levels of awareness people are asked to deal with this month it became clear that all of them in fact have a singular nature. And that is going to be the subject of this article: one persons viewpoint on the present nature of human beings around them.

                   In recent weeks there have been long periods of the day where it seems that my body,heart and mind are carrying the metaphoric equivalent of a life sized lead sphere-something so heavy and prone to lose control if ever let lose. At first it seemed like accumulated personal stress. After this same feeling has continued on it's become apparent it goes quite a bit deeper than that. Personally it has to do with the idea of paradox. One of the ways I've been able to maintain a courageous and meaningful presence in life is by the means of eliminating unneeded paradoxes. 2013 has been a very interesting time. Same sex relationships are at last becoming seen as totally natural. Democracy is showing signs of developing further over even local tyrannies. And many people are at last psychologically looking to turn from war to peace.

               This leads to the first paradox within these changes. Something one can notice in their daily life,should they fully open their eyes,is how uncertain and frustrated people have become. Society might be changing for the better. But at the same time that reflects very differently depending on the type of community one lives in. Selfish as it may seem to continually draw mainly from their own experiences,that is all I can effectively do in this regard.  Its actually at the heart of this end of the matter,in fact.  But today I often find myself keeping extremely late hours talking online to friends on the West Coast of America. While I won't speak for all of them,it seems that these social situations produce less needless paradox. And interpersonal conflicts are resolved more productively.

              Of course there's the challenge of democracy itself: everyone has to have a say. Even if that say represents a destructive effect on everyone else. The sad truth is that often these destructive elements in a democracy have the more powerful voices,not to mention more powerful influences. In the end that creates a feeling of great cynicism and lack of interest in people willing to make changes to better themselves and each other. In a nutshell that results in cancer patients not having a cure for their illness,autism still not being fully understood,once loving couples often physically hurting one or the other and even whole groups of people living under a shield of un-addressed invisibility.

             When the rights of any grown human being to love each other and the dawn of peaceful diplomacy with once warring nations are co-existing next to Government shutdowns and continuing gun and racial violence,it can be a very challenging process to see the glass of life as half full,let alone containing anything at all. It sometimes seems like a room filled with people shouting over each other-those not being heard and those not wanting to hear getting nowhere. An LGBT person,someone with Autism,cancer or experiencing domestic violence all have something to say to a society that so often gives lip service to their lot in life. We may have ears to hear and a mouth to speak. But will be lift even a finger to as much as type out a simple article online to emphasize this? In the end,its up to us to not only be aware but be aware of the sometimes conflicting natures of us all. 


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Schooling,Education And The Difference Between Ignorance And Apathy

                    It needed to happen when it did. In June of last year,this art installation of over 800 empty classroom desks were placed on the lawn of the nations capital to symbolize the drop out rate in America's public schools. Personally? Its an idea I wish I'd followed through on because as with many American's,its crossed my mind on more than one occasion to do something of this sort. Despite what some people might think,I really am a very positive person. That being said even the most positive of people can still be haunted by ghosts of their past. What is about to be said is not a ranting,angry tirade about modern public education. So many people in so many places are already aware of the politics of that. And the difference between ignorance and apathy is implied,not necessarily literal,in this case either.  Its about the reasons that I myself came extremely close to dropping out of school.

                   Before going into this it's important to reinforce: this blog is often self oriented and is an adult (if not profane) topic. Many of the blog posts I've done are sprinkled with references to troubles in school with the local Board Of Education and some of the most severe forms of bullying. Now the time may be ideal to tell this story to hopefully inspire others to bravery of their character and to do so to others as well.  To start with,from the day I entered kindergarten,
something about the atmosphere of everything didn't seem right. While it was exciting to meet other people in my age group,none of them were truly relatable to me. Even from that age it seemed I'd unwittingly entered a world where apathy,a word I didn't even know at that time,was the accepted way to think. Teachers and students seemed to be going through the motions of everything. Often I was inwardly sad about this.
                   As time went on there were moments of sometimes extreme happiness. Though I noticed many of them happened off the school grounds. When people are in preadolescence, they are likely no more aware than I was about the actual sociopolitical complexities of what happens around them with cliques and such. And I kept being told this was a normal part of growing up. Heard it all from "toughen up" to "kids can be cruel". No matter how often this viewpoint was reinforced,it somehow seemed less and less reasonable each time it occurred. One thing I remember during my 4th and 5th grade year in particular was me diving headlong into what many described as a fantasy world. It included cartoon characters and people-some fictional. I started having dreams about them. In these dreams and fantasy's,there were friends and adults to handled life events well,cooperated and understood about life.

                    Typical of how many would react to such behavior,many people seemed to assume I was developing a mental disorder. They did everything from coaxing to outright counseling to try to discourage this emphasis on fantasy and enforce the need to deal with reality. What they didn't know then was that to me that fantasy world felt like it was torn and ripped away from me,as if it'd been a second skin. It actually hurt on many levels. I dislike reality around me. And couldn't seem to genuinely change it for the better. Even though there was a world of literature and music that was encouraged,it was out of step with reality again. And now I knew what people called it-being a geek. It does seem unthinkable to see myself that way today-compared literally to a circus sideshow whose act might include sticking rusty nails into their nostrils. 

                  By the summer of 1992 it was almost time for junior high. A member of my family painted a freeing picture of an intellectually stimulating world with a broader social climate that bought my fantasy world of before into reality. It was a beautiful idea. Still is. Yet the moment I arrived I stepped onto the grounds of Garland Street Middle School in September of 1992,it was a shock to my system that even today effects my life. Day after day passed seeing a vision of entropy before my eyes. Young people my own age wandering about-proudly flaunting every manner of dysfunctional pop culture before my eyes-from alternative rock to sports bar culture far beyond their understanding,let alone mine. Minor bullying led to the more severe variety-being beaten physically and one occasion being called a heretic-over a pair of faded jeans. 

                I remember not so vitally the pain I was experiencing,but watching my own family fight tirelessly against the bullying of my supposed peers and the racial bigotry of the school's administration. I felt the need for their help so badly as I was doing horribly in my studies,lacked any particular ambitions besides retreating into a new fantasy world of artistic ventures and tended to talk to my family for hours every day. Now I felt as if I was about to break down and lose it. This wasn't being a kid. This was growing up faster than anyone needs to. Finally I told my mother at least that I couldn't take it and wanted to drop out of school. She knew I wanted an education badly,and she was dead on right. But could no longer bare public school without basically losing my grip on reality.

                 Than a miracle occurred. We discovered this idea of homeschooling. We'd have to report to a certified teacher yearly. And some segments of society came down on me in particular that I'd lose out on the social aspect of public school. Personally seeing how everything has turned out since that time? With peers like that as friends,who needed enemies? There were kinder people out there,and now I could choose them. And in truth my studies and grades improved immeasurably during my homeschooling. Admittedly the events in my final year of public school had drained away much of my ambition. On the other hand,my interest in creative ventures bought many acquaintances in and out of my life who encouraged me in pursuing those visions I had in a productive and healthy way.

                Anyway,that's the story of what happened to me. Adult life of course has presented,and continues to present,both challenges and many barriers that are flat out hard to overcome. People close to me today are often puzzled and even roll their eyes at the notion that two decades later I could still be so deeply effected by...those final four months of 1992 that forever changed my life.
Its even been recently suggested that I myself am a negative person in much the same manner as that 1990's generation of people who once tormented and criticized people like me. My answer to that is that I always play a balancing act between the realism of the world and my own instincts in being a dreamer. Adding to that conundrum is that by definition dreamers are almost always discouraged and disappointed by the realities of even their own existence. 

               To paraphrase the rather philosophical vocal legend Chaka Khan from her own autobiography I'm often forced to ask myself a similar question as she did when she felt let down by life in different ways: what are you contributing? Its a worthwhile question to ask oneself now and then. You can walk around with a dirty look on your face,feeling ashamed because you have so many good ideas locked inside of you. Or you can choose those have to feelings and still do what you have to do anyway-because its the right thing. These are noble words that are not as easy as one might think to say. And all the same they are even more challenging words to live by. Today I wonder one thing above all: were some of those children whom those empty desks on the Capital lawn represent people much like me who perhaps weren't given the same option and advantage I was? Does that make homeschooler's privileged and pampered somehow?

              From the few other people who took another road same as I did,one of the few things I feel completely happy (and lighter) about was saying so long to the public school system. At the same time I include myself among the group of people who,deep down,am hoping that the situations that make public school so negativism that children fell the need to drop out of it will change drastically in my own lifetime. Today the world needs peace,love and understanding more than ever. And exclusionist social cliques,bigotry and bullying doesn't provide the proper education for young people in public school to begin to achieve that goal. Personally I think the world has quite enough hardened,career minded people out of touch with their heart,mind and soul. No church,mosque,temple or synagogue provide instant answers either. Sometimes,to educate ourselves the best way not to be a dropout from society is just being yourself. Even if you cannot easily put it under the heading of a label. Easier said that done? Well,it can be done-truly.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Summertime Is Still In The Air!

                 For myriad reasons a feeling of growing melancholia takes a hold of my emotional well-being during this particularly time of year. Used to think that it had to do with the climactic change of seasons. To perhaps overextend a metaphor, that is in the neighborhood but not quite at the front door of the matter. The point begins during Labor Day Weekend roughly and extends through mid September. I will be in public shopping and either on a radio commercial or through somebody at the cash register there will inevitably mention of summer being over.

             Sometimes its not as clear as it once was that most people realize the beginning of the autumnal equinox actually falls on September 21'st-three weeks after the Labor Day holiday weekend. The easiest answer to this would be that the concept of summer being over in the beginning of September is entirely corporate. Most schools are back in session and there seems to be enormous pressure for stores to begin stocking Halloween items to take advantage of holiday sales. These are easily observable to any American-regardless of the boundaries between states. Yet its far from the be all and end all of the story.

               The photograph you see above you was taken less than half a day ago. Through the cameras eyes this is not dissimilar to a photo taken in the same place and location in May,June,July and August. Foliage changes have not emerged to an even adequate degree and the feeling in the air is definitely in the mode of summer. Personally I've grown to loath the almost celebratory tone with which people around me seem to greet the end of the summer season. Summer in the state of Maine is an extremely special time for me. And seems to be for many of those same people who so quickly make mention of the conclusion of the season.

                  One reason for my discontent with such attitudes is that the area of the state I have always lived in has very intense (and often frightening) seasonal contrasts. Someone such as myself feels as a squirrel to a hollow log most of the summer-hiding acorns away for the coming harshness of winter-again metaphorically of course. Another is the more obvious issue of mobility. Barring accident,no weather conditions in the state of Maine would ever cause the cancellation of people's jobs or special events in the summer months the same way..say a 'Nor Easter would.  So why in an area oriented around summer tourism and the seasonal mobility of person would there be such an enormous and temporary embrace of a transitional season to a time of year that creates little but physical hardship for its residence? 

                  There is a saying used heavily by the antiwar and counter-cultural movements of the late 1960's: the personal is political. At least where I live,a very analytical person such as myself probably draws a similarly sociopolitical take on such unusual reactions to seasonal changes. Perhaps people want to find ways to make themselves unhappy. That they've forgotten how to find joy in the embrace of a green oak tree of the petals of a flower in the modern working world. Since winter in what essentially amounts to a Tundra climate would obviously create more physical labor for a person,could be that hoping for such conditions is a sign of merely individual aspirations aimed too low. At any rate,while summer is still with us these are questions worth people pondering.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday The 13th,Awareness Of Our Challenges And The Freedom From Fear

                 Today is an event that only occurs once,or rarely twice,each year. Friday the 13th. An entire series of motion pictures have been named for this day. Its become synonymous across the nation,and many areas of the world, with superstition. One can slice this bread of verbiage however they please. Yet in the end superstition qualifies as one of many words for fear itself. On this particular combination of number and day on the calender its advised by many not to carry an umbrella,walk under ladders,step on cracks and of course allowing a black cat to cross your path. The proceeding week has also been National Autism and Special Education week. Strangely enough,there is an often unseen link between this two subject matters.

                    From my own personal research it seems the origins of this Friday the 13th superstition is based on 19th century Christian mythology having to do with the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. On the surface it might seem like the stereotypical "fear of god" ethic. Under the surface is perhaps a linkage to something I experienced last night as I was creating my latest painting. I was listening to a song by a band named Mutiny,for those not in the know a spin-off of George Clinton's P-Funk  musical collective,called "Thee Funky Prez". Musically I liked what I heard of it. Suddenly this very intrusive rapper came into the song out of nowhere. I've heard this before and never been bothered. On this night I saw ghosts-flashed before my eyes and mind as an intense barrage of thoughts and memories.

                       What I saw in this dizzying mental flashback was much like someone changing the channels of a TV too fast. News about race riots in LA,the deaths of Kurt Cobain,Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls,the child abuse charges against Michael Jackson-someone known before hand mainly as an extremely charitable man with an all encompassing passion for children's rights. There were thoughts of ghoulish people in white makeup-maybe latch key kids discouraged with life and developing an obsession with death. These were all events I remember witnessing and living through in reality during the mid/early 1990's. A very strange type of generational post traumatic stress. 

                  For a few seconds I could feel the pure,unadulterated fear of someone who was convinced they'd seen an actual ghost. It was like being kicked in the head not by anxiety,but a sudden pacification bought on by fright. Of not being able to confront what I saw. I turned off the music,spoke to a kind friend on Facebook and the feeling faded. I began to have a realization this morning. The world in which we live is facing much change for the better. A change towards celebrating diversity of self for its own sake. A change towards embracing life rather than death,understanding rather than killing. 

                 Yet faced with the very embodiment of humanity's greatest desires for peace and harmony,many are retreating backward towards unusable older modes of thinking-reacting to the positive new changes seemingly as I did to hearing that song. So not only do I not understand the nature of my own fears. But have equally little understanding of why so many people would be afraid of something unquestionably good? Perhaps it goes back to the fears I had of seeing people during my adolescence put such strong emphasis on exploring mainly the darker aspect of their psyche: superstition and death as a lifestyle choice. 

                   Another thought occurred to me regarding this total embrace and almost passion for fear. When I was growing up I was very mistakenly placed into a special education class for behaviorally challenged children-mainly because I had trouble making friends. No braggadocio intended but it never bothered me too much that I was more imaginative and intellectual than anyone else in that class. What was bothersome was a couple of the students extreme behavioral reactions to their inability to accomplish their school work. One student would scream,back into the corner and hurl heavy objects at anyone who approached. 

              Two things would happen in such cases: either the teacher would call an "emergency recess" similar to that of a court proceeding or I would personally employ the old cold war duck and cover method to keep physically safe from this school room assault. Without a doubt this was fear uncut on all sides. Fear on the part of the protagonist for his perceived lack of ability,as well as his fear of being called on it. It was the other students fear of his reaction. And it was fear of the teachers and principle of not being able to do a great deal to handle the situation. Discipline would have no effect,neither would the PTA. Pure adrenaline rushes on the part of a troubled preteen student proved to be totally beyond reasoning.

              That represents the linkage of fear of a changing world so many desire and the challenges of helping developing young minds in special education to handle a social climate that all these years later still seems to have all odds against them. Though stated in a broader context the great American composer Duke Ellington,during his acceptance of a special lifetime achievement award from then President Nixon,spoke of "freedom from fear"-both within and without Ellington's own context an enormously profound statement. People who place value in the wrong things know what about themselves. Yet they keep doing whatever it is that troubles them. 

              People would rather move to a new location,change their job or even leave behind their friends and loved ones than to change those aspects within themselves that are the real source of their concerns. At times when they cannot place themselves in their group and changes seem to come so thick and fast,such people often become extremely suggestible. Even in cases where a sociopolitically powerful figure offers positive and long term change. They will tend to seek out those who are more like shifty social engineers who can offer instant satisfaction,instant answers and all things in the short term. Someone who prescribes an instant cure for their emotional ills. Someone to tell them what is wrong and what can be done to right it. A snake oil salesmen for the soul. 

          And as for the one presenting positive long term change? Well,especially if they look or sound unfamiliar they'll be almost completely rejected. So it all feeds on itself. The embrace of religious and political systems that encourage people to live in fear,the rejection by many of positive figures such as President Obama. We may all want that "freedom from fear" as part of our lives. Yet many of our actions contradict those desires. It often ends up more satisfying to this seemingly twisted ethic to worry about..say stepping on a crack on a day like this than delighting in a triumphant embrace of peace somewhere,anywhere in the world. So if people desire to achieve that freedom from fear,perhaps they'd be well advised to take a longer and harder look into the sources of these fears that so preoccupy their hearts and mind.