Tag Archives: the internet

Tic Toc the alligator chimes — And Bradley Manning’s on my mind.

3:17 am or so …

I’m blogging with one finger on my annoyingly tiny android keypad. The power in the house is out, which means no computers are available to fiddle with and distract me from the ocean breeze reverberating through my ear.  It sounds as if I’ve had a concha shell pressed against it for hours.

I have SO much to do. If only I could use my computer  RIGHT now, but alas I must wait till’ morning.  The email replies, personalized query letters with accompanying press release, and book packages for mailing to reviewers will just have to wait … until well, later today.

Tic Toc the alligator chimes in the ambience of night.  My To Do list can’t be ameliorated and Bradley Manning overpowers my anxiety.  He’s become louder than the simulated concha shell reverberations.

Bradley Manning has been on my mind for the last several weeks.  Since I first read his story.

Please read it Here 1 & Here 2.

I keep replaying his quote about simply wanting to have had a normal life, to have had a nice family, help others …

All the things most of us middle-class Americans were raised to want to do and be …

I keep thinking about how his wanting this too genuinely, too purely has cost him his freedom and safety, the rest of his life.

I keep thinking about his humanity — how his humanity got the better of him, made him  susceptible to self-sacrificing heroic acts, and vulnerable to getting caught and punished for them.

I keep thinking about how Obama, one of life’s sad disappointments, gets the Nobel Peace Prize based on no real showmanship, but on Hope that he’ll show half the self-sacrifice, half the compassion, half the conscience, half the heart of Bradley Manning. Beyonce sang before millions of viewers at Obama’s inauguration while he and his wife shared a proud and tender dance.  We all hopefully celebrated that dance as one of two well-intentioned people who wanted to promote fairness — peace, freedom, equality, honesty — in the world  through their leadership and guidance. We rolled out the red carpet and handed over our futures, and the social security funds of our grandparents, to this union hoping that they’d embody the integrity and bravery of Bradley Manning.

And what do we do with the real, as opposed to symbolic, Bradley Manning?

We allow him to be charged with espionage, to be locked in a cell where he’s stripped naked, humiliated, and tortured off and on for almost a year (and counting). We allow our military to seriously consider sentencing him to either the death penalty or life in prison. We allow our elected leader of hope, our nobel prize winning Commander-in-Chief, to punish — in this 23-year old man — all the courage and compassion we profess to unitedly stand for.

I won’t lie. I get nervous posting such political rants — voicing my disappointment in the president of the US and the way he’s run his presidency (not like a Nobel Peace Prize winner), voicing my support for an “enemy of the state” —  in such a heated political climate on such a public forum.  Probably because, as I write, I wonder whether political allegiance or opposition to any person and/or party is even worth the risk?

I come from a Cuban family who supported a revolution that became the dictatorship which stripped them of all their rights. What did all their self-sacrificing support get them?  Immediately following its success, their “for the people” political party (communist) and its leader (F. Castro) turned their beloved Cuba into Alcatraz.  When they grew tired of his tyranny, disagreed, and tried to leave, that political entity quickly deemed them “enemies of the state.”  My mom would get beat up by kids at school who called her “gusano” while the teachers cheered them on. Where did my family’s risky and self-sacrificing political involvement get them?  As soon as they exercised their basic human right to disagree with the politicians they helped bring to power … harassed, robbed, and exiled.

Was it worth it? Opposing Batista, supporting Castro, disagreeing with the Castro regime … getting political at all?

I guess I could ask the same about Bradley Manning.  He’s a brilliant, beautiful, blue-eyed All-American boy from a military family who worked in a cush well-paid military intelligence job, behind the front lines — far away from harm. He had no need or obligation to sacrifice his limitless potential for prosperity, but he did anyway.

Manning joined the military to help his country because, rarely enough, I think he actually respected and believed what it stood for.  Apparently he loved its values — life, liberty, and justice for all — too sincerely because he laid everything on the line to promote them.  Manning seemed motivated in his “treasonous” actions by a genuine disturbance with the inhumane murder of civilians and the military’s hypocritical cover ups.   Manning seems to be a person with heightened empathy and an evolved conscience who cared simultaneously for the welfare of our nation and that of the nation we invaded.  It’s understandable that someone with such a unique double-edged guilt would seek relief from it by confiding in another person. In the person who ratted him out — Adrian Lamo.

I’ve compiled a couple of quotes of from Manning’s IM correspondence with Lamo:

‎”Manning: ive been so isolated so long… i just wanted to be nice, and live a normal life… but events kept forcing me to figure out ways to survive… smart enough to know whats going on, but helpless to do anything…americans have so many more rights than non-americans, its awful… i guess i follow humanist values though, have custom dogtags that say “Humanist” … i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public…i dont believe in good guys versus bad guys anymore…  only a plethora of states acting in self interest… with varying ethics and moral standards of course, but self-interest nonetheless”

Read most of their IM Discussion here.

Now he’s locked up, his rights trampled on, and his name dishonored in the name of our national security.

So yes, I’ve been thinking of Bradley Manning a lot lately.  About how we live and die politics, are benefitted or harmed by each other’s political actions,  whether we choose to “get all political” or not.

As an artist, I acknowledge that art usually affects its political landscape subversively.  This often gives an artist the luxury of either negating or accepting the truth that all art is innately political, and every artist responsible for the messages in their work.

As a literary artist, I’ll many times say literally exactly what I mean. Obviously, there’s nothing subversive about this blog post.  It’s political and apparently so am I. Ugh.  It runs in the blood.

Please read more about this American war hero & SIGN the petition to save his life!

Also, please “like” his facebook page to receive regular updates on his trial.

Thanks for reading!


Meritocracy: The Way The West is Run & Happiness Won.

So, it’s 4:48am and, per the usual, I’ve barely caught a wink of shut eye.  Slept about the usual 3 1/2 hours.  I know I have to buy sleepy time tea or some other herbal blah blah to help me slumber, but to tell you the truth — I LOVE working on my art stuff from 10 pm – 7am.  The only problem is that I have to stay awake from 7am – 10pm, as well.  If it were up to me, I’d do that every night and then sleep during the day, but alas I’m a mere worker among workers and must live in the light of day if I’m to afford living at all.

I’ve been spending these last few nights contacting awesome blog reviewers from the 50 page list I compiled and pitching them my book for review.  It’s actually been a blast!  I’m 5 pages away from being done.  There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you’re about to accomplish a goal that will move your artwork deeper into the consciousness of the wide open world.

My artwork (writings & films) are like my children and I only want what’s best for them.  I want them to be whole, healthy, and available for experience.  Yes, it feels great to create art with integrity that I love, that I’m proud of, and make it available to other people who may be moved, provoked, and comforted by it.

As my granuelita always says (in Spanish), “You want to stir someone’s mind, touch their heart.  That’s the pipeline.”

Everyday I kill Tha’ Brass Ring-chase within me — a.k.a. my Ego’s search for validation — a little more, which opens me up to the endless, priceless, fitting possibilities for my works of art.

What I mean by that is: I’m no longer peddling my art toward the general public or the elitist 1%, but toward ITS people … my people.  Queers, Latino-Americans, Artists, Feminists, Eccentrics.  Hey, if others like random republican football players feel for The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive (my book) too, well that’s an added bonus.  As Seth Godin states in one of the latest posts from his phenomenal marketing blog:

When was the last time you bought a tie?

“When was the last time you bought a tie?

My guess is not lately.

When you first got a fancy job, you had a tie shortage, and thus attention was paid to ties. You bought “enough for now.” Then you solved the tie problem and moved on.

When you first bought an iPhone, you had an app shortage, so attention was paid to apps. You bought “enough for now.” Then you moved on.

Music might be an exception (buying a new stereo doesn’t often lead to a new music binge). But in general, some external event occurs that creates a fissure, an opportunity, a problem. We search, we buy, we’re done.

The challenge, then, is to develop products that match what the market is looking for, and more important, to overtly and aggressively seek out the people in that situation and ignore the rest. Which is precisely what most marketers large and small are not doing right now.

RELATED: Many marketers I know have a great idea for a product or service that will target a segment of the market that doesn’t know to look for the great idea. For example, you might want to sell a better, easier to use hatchet for women. The problem is that women, long accustomed to never being able to find an axe that they’re comfortable with, have given up looking, perhaps several generations ago.

Alerting a market segment that isn’t looking is a thousand times harder than activating a segment that just can’t wait for your arrival. Since it’s your choice, since the segment is up to you, why not pick one that is itching for you to show up?”

I used to believed that to be truly successful the select 1% — those at “The Top” — had to approve of what I was peddling and be a part of it.  They always made it sound as if promoting my artwork to the niche, minority communities — those the art in actuality represented — was a second grade choice, “settling for scraps.”

The more I take my Ego out of the equation of my career, however, the more I realize what a hilarious falsity “The Top 1%” and their definition of worth/worthwhile proves to be!  I was hustled!

Who cares about Sundance this, Golden Globes that, Grant Recipient of blah, Pulitzer Prize Winner at Age 3, being Anointed “Enough.”  It’s like when People Magazine comes out with their Top 100 lists: 100 best actresses of all time, 100 most beautiful, etc.  These subjective check off lists are perpetuated as objective truths …

In Western society, even in the freest of democracies, citizens become imprisoned by the by-laws of Meritocracy.

In other words, we become slaves to the praise and acceptance of those at “The Top,” often sacrificing love for our nuanced identities, our unaccepted “flaws,” in the process.  Western society is built upon that culture of COMPARISON, where people constantly have to prove their inherent worth by showing it’s greater than someone else’s through merit.  Meritocracy lies at the core of our Capitalistic Society.  Exemplified by our tendency to quantify our personal value in numbers.  For instance, every bloody effing activity we partake in has to have an Award Show and a 1st place, 2nd place, and 3rd place winner.  I mean we even have dog-strutting competitions a.k.a. Dog Shows! Gah!

Consequently, if you’re #1 then I’m automatically #2 or #3 or #30 or #100, which means I’m less than you as a person, artist, success — both numerically and symbolically speaking.  We spend our entire lives trying to prove to society, to our family, to ourselves that we’re #1 and therefore “enough.”

… Even the most liberal of us, equalists at heart — people that believe the worth of everyone is inherently equal.  We who at our core believe there’s no difference between the value of the company janitor and the company CEO because we understand that the only real difference between the two is how much we personally like them. Yes, even we — who comprehend that bureaucracies are founded upon a completely subjective, biased ratings system — become shackled by the ominous system of cultural governance: Meritocracy. According to Merriam-Webster’s online free dictionary Meritocracy is defined as:

1: a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement.”

And by Wikipedia as:
Meritocracy, in the first, most administrative sense, is a system of government or other administration (such as business administration) wherein appointments are made and responsibilities assigned to individuals based upon their “merits”, namely intelligence, credentials and education,[1] determined through evaluations or examinations.
Meritocracy itself is not a form of government, but rather an ideology. Meritocracy itself is frequently confused as being a type of government, rather than correctly as a methodology or factor used in or for, the appointment of individuals to government. Individuals appointed to a meritocracy are judged based upon certain merits which could range from intelligence to morality to general aptitude to specific knowledge. A criticism of this methodology is that [3] “merit” itself is a highly subjective term, potentially lacking in clarity and therefore open to misuse.
Young’s fictional narrator describes that on one hand, the “stolid mass” or majority is not the greatest contributor to society, but the “creative minority” or “restless elite”.[12] Yet on the other hand, describes that there are casualties of progress whose influence is underestimated and that from such stolid adherence to natural science and intelligence, arises arrogance and complacency.[12] The casualties of this progress described by the phrase “Every selection of one is a rejection of many”.[12]
What I’m trying to get at is that I have blindly suffered from internalized meritocracy since I was 4-years old.  You get the “A” and it means THIS 🙂 about you, you get the “B” and it means THIS :/ about you, you get a “C” and it means THIS 😦 about you — about your “enoughness.”
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I attribute this self-destructive Darwinian attitude to Western culture’s conception of “worth.”  The Western mind often functions under the belief that “worth” isn’t a quality human beings are born with, but EARN over their lifetime through actions considered “worthwhile.”  Individual worth is assessed by a system of qualification founded upon the idea that actions are either “meritorious” or “nothing special.” I can’t speak much on the Eastern way of quantifying individual worth as I didn’t grow up in it, but I know this to be my experience with The West’s definition of life’s winners and losers.  Many people in this society choose, on a daily basis, to be “successful” over “happy,” if it means they’ll be considered worth more by society.  Somehow, success and happiness haven’t become synonymous the way I once thought they would.  I was trained to believe they would by school, parents, religion, and television.
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NPR recently did a fascinating report on “The Secrets of Happiness” in which anthropological researcher Dan Buettner concludes that the happiest communities in the world exist in San Luis Obispo and Denmark because the people there chose careers that moved them a.k.a. made them happy as opposed to raked in the most $$$ …
“Finally, Buettner says that he has learned that people are happiest when they spend their time and money on experiences, as opposed to objects. He advises taking up an interest in sports or the arts, which will provide longer-term satisfaction than any one purchase. ‘The luster of an experience can actually go up with time,’ he says. ‘So learning to play a new instrument, learning a new language — those sorts of things will pay dividends for years or decades to come.’

When asked about his own happiness level, Buettner admitted that he is incredibly content. After all, he has spent his life in the hot pursuit of adventure and helping others discover how to live longer and smile more. ‘I have always followed exactly what interests me and never really worried about the money,’ he says. ‘And when you think about it, to be able to travel the world … on an expense account and do exactly what interests you, it just doesn’t get much better than that.’ “

Hear the fascinating 6 minute podcast here.

I’ve realized in recent days how truly happy I am for the advent of the internet.  The internet has made it so that the everyday woman/man can realize how valuable their nuanced attributes are.  The internet has created an open space where “the little people” can share their bigness with each other without the direct meddling, filtering, and manipulation of elitist opinion.
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We’re realizing how much we all have to teach and offer each other, a lot more than the top 1% would like to have us to believe.  We no longer have to limit ourselves to the criteria devised by the TOP 1% of the population — the meritorious “chosen ones” of our communities — about what and who is valuable, and what and who is not.
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As I stated in the blog post before this one, I recently began reading Conversations before the end of time, which I LOVE.  I’ve compiled a couple of passages from the book that best sum up how Western Meritocracy is crumbling (within our communities anyway, our foreign affairs are a totally other discussion).  These passages, I believe, encapsulate the exciting changes taking place in the macrocosm of the Western World through the microscope of the art world.
“In my conversation with Barbara Kirshtenblatt-Gimblet, she defines meritocracy as a form of gate-keeping: a way to keep some people in and some people out.
the move away from autonomous art — art that is cut off from any social or communal definitions — is happening whether we like it or not, and is bringing about a very different relationship between artists and the public sphere.

Rejecting the isolationist tendencies of modernism, Richard Shusterman questions the whole enterprise of defining art as a specialized category of objects or activities separate from their influential connection with real life.

Aesthetics can no longer protect itself with a thaumaturgy of ‘formal’ and ‘purist’ values, or a notion of art isolated unto itself, separate from the experience of other things.” 



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