Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Answer is Super Easy...

Folks are pissed…in both directions. 

It’s about chicken sammiches and a dude who shoots his mouth off about what he believes.
People got their panties in a wad about it. 

I’d love to say that it’s not a big deal, but it kind of is.  I said earlier that to tell a gay person to “Calm down, it’s just a chicken sandwich.” would be like going up to Rosa Parks and saying, “Chill out, it’s just a bus ride.”.  

There’s a lot more going on here than just someone exercising their right to free speech. It’s about money, and how much of it is going to places that would not only persecute gay people, but are also staunchly against contraception of any kind, sex ed., gambling, abortion, stem-cell research, obscenity, euthanasia and divorce.  These foundations get millions from the chicken dude.  If you’re on board with all that, not just with some, but with all, then have at it.

Some religious sects feel that marriage is threatened by gay people, so they’re trying to restrict marriage to just be between a man and a woman. I understand what they mean. I hear it all the time…It’s 'cause of the bible and stuff.

I’m not going into the who’s right and who’s wrong of it. I’m not going to change anybody’s mind. Issues like this are purely emotional. Very few people are going to be swayed in a direction that is contrary to what they already believe. Which is to say, that it boils down to an argument between five-year-olds;  “My dad can beat up your dad!” and the like; except in this case, it’s the “My non-visible deity working in mysterious ways can kick your non-visible deity working in mysterious ways' ass, and we’re gonna prove it through the purchase boneless chicken sandwiches!”
Yeah, that’s tellin ‘em…fer sher…

The solution is clear, why not let every couple have a civil union? Gays, lesbians, straight people, it’s all civil unions in the eyes of the government. Real simple. Then a marriage is done in a church or wherever with the minister of your preference. This way, everyone has the same rights, and if you don’t want two dudes, dressed in speedos, tying the knot in a wading pool filled with mayonnaise, in the locker room of your church, so be it, but in the eyes of the law everyone is the same.

Your church is your business. Keep it out of everybody else’s. That’s just being a bad neighbor.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dodging Trolls Who Are Trying to Control You

It’s an election year and you’re being manipulated. Political pundits and candidates on both sides of the aisle are bombarding you with manipulations to get you to give them what they want i.e., a job and power over your life. It’s just the way it is. I’m not saying either side is right or wrong, but I urge you to just examine the message and ask yourself the question, how is this dude trying to get me on his side? Is he trying to inspire me and tell me that we have the power to succeed in whatever capacity, or is he trying to sway me using the verbiage that would have me wake up in a cold sweat and screaming in the middle of the night from the threat of imminent doom.  Either way, you’re not getting the entire truth. Just listen to the message and ask yourself, what does this kid want? No matter your political affiliation, the bullshit salesman stopped by offering samples.

It’s not just politics. The world is filled with all kinds of people who will try to get you to do things for them, things that they either can’t be bothered to do or are unable to do. We all could use some assistance from time to time, of course we could, no man is an island and so forth. That said, the absolute best way to go about getting this assistance, at least from me, is to be straightforward and ask for it. It’ll save everyone involved, time, energy, and guilt. I will help you if you’re genuinely in need, but I’m weary of being manipulated.

I used to be the guy who would go the extra mile, throwing myself right under the bus if it meant someone else’s life just got a little bit easier. Perhaps it’s my nature, or maybe it’s because I’m trying to redeem myself for all that crap I got away with when I was younger.  Whatever the reason, my motives are now entirely selfish. I get to feel good about myself and I won’t feel like such a douche when I’m having the “Well, what had happened was…” conversation with Saint Peter.

Here’s a few manipulation tactics. Please keep in mind the effectiveness of these tactics is a direct correlation on your ability to tolerate awkward situations and imbalance.  If you can’t deal with awkward, you’re gonna get taken. It’s that simple. Ambivalence is your best friend.

Are you really sorry?
You’re not, are you?
You know these folks, we all do. Apologies fall from their mouths like teeth in a trailer park. They sneeze and say I’m sorry. Any favor being asked of you is prefaced with deep regret.  They’ll launch into an anecdote, but first they have to apologize. It’s at that point that I immediately leave the room. I would have the same reaction if someone started espousing the joys of their particular fundamentalist religion or elaborate on their encroaching wedding. I’d rather have a cat spray me in the face.

Here’s why they do it. By immediately apologizing, they are putting you in the position of being the perpetrator and they, in turn, are your victim. It’s awkward. You’re a good person, you wouldn’t wish any ill will on anybody, especially someone who thinks they’ve done something untoward to you or put you out in some way.  So, in the spirit of establishing balance, you now have to give them something, a favor, your attention, etc. This process spares the apologizer from directly asking you for the favor or whatever and also the pain of rejection they will undoubtedly feel when you tell them you’d sooner sit on a hot curling iron and wriggle than lift a finger to help them. The way you sidestep this issue is simply saying “Ok.” and walking away.  If you really want to give the knife that they’ve already fallen on a twist, when they apologize say “Good.” Or even “Fuckin right”. The key here is not to give the apology any power. It’s as powerful as you make it. Feel free to just walk away. If you don’t, you’re setting yourself up. 

The Stare Down
I knew a girl who would stare you down until you offered whatever it was that she needed. It was brilliant. Pretty sure she was a Jedi.
“Hey, I’m going to the post office, be back in a few.” And then I’d try to turn and walk away…but then…
“Oh you’re going to the post office?” That’s when she would do it. The stare down…
Silent, but the pause is so pregnant, it’s crowning.
“Um. Yeah, I have to get some bills…in…the…mail. Is there something you need me take to the post office for you?”
“Oh yes, thanks! If you could get these in the mail for me that would be great!” And then she would hand you a stack of envelopes, which may or may not need stamps.  This was a trick done in an effort to spare her the trouble of an errand but from time to time if you were cooking she could glare a meal right out of you.
The way around it is, again, not giving it any power. When asked if you are going to the post office, the answer is “Yes.” And then just go.

The Drama Queen
One of the more common manipulation tricks is so common I’m not sure it’s even worth mentioning, but for the sake of posterity, here you go. Also, it’s kind of ambiguous as to when it’s actually being used as manipulation. When people complain or put on airs of being burdened, pained, or oppressed in some way, we come to their aid.  It builds a sense of community and makes us feel like we’re Boy Scouts helping some crone across the street. The key here is to realize when it’s venting. It’s also a difference in communication between men and women. Women don’t necessarily want or need help when they’re venting. They just want to get it off their chest, which helps them digest the whatever issue.  Men on the other hand, immediately try to solve the issue, which makes men much more susceptible to this particular tactic. Chicks can also take it as an invitation for a pissing contest as to who’s got it worse. This is yet another instance of my leaving the room in order to seek out a cat to mark me up in lieu of listening to whining. Yeah, I know I’m fluffy.

There’s a slew of ways people try to get you to do something or get something from you. Some are harmless. Some aren’t (i.e. blackmail). Just realize what you are getting into when it happens. Listen to what you are being told, or the way you’re being treated and then decide whether or not you give a shit. That’s all I’m say’n.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

From the Archive: The Foundlings

Deacon the Milkman and I have been hosting a couple of exchange students from Tierra del Fuego. Their original host-family had them working in a sweatshop and calling it “vocational school” as they were learning how to sew in 36-hour stints. We rescued them and they came into our lives with nothing but the homemade clothes on their backs and various “tickle-me Elmo” limbs stuffed in their pockets. They said they were going to trade them for cat food. Evidently, there’s a huge market for bootleg Elmo parts. Anyway, they’ve been shacking up in my office for the past week. If you saw the look on their little faces when we told them they were having Hamburger Helper for dinner with Oatmeal substituted for meat…well there just aren’t any words.

Deacon found them jobs as bologna gatherers at our local slaughterhouse. Pick’n up the parts, dust'n ‘em off, throw’n them in the bin…I know they’re thanking their lucky stars. Every night, we hear them crying themselves to sleep with tears of joy. Occasionally, we have to shake a can full of pennies at them in order to keep them off the furniture or urinating in the refrigerator, but I’m sure you know exactly how these sorts of things go.

Two nights ago, I was crawling into bed and found a full bull’s bladder sitting on my pillow. The skin was taut, round, almost bursting with urine. The way it gleamed in the light it almost looked like if you so much as breathed on it, it would go off. The workmanship! Those little scamps had sewn all the openings shut and put in our bed to make sure we’d find it, not unlike the cat who kills something and leaves it in front of the coffee maker for you to find. It was so sweet. It was also very delicate, must have taken them hours to prepare it. Deacon grabbed one end of it and I the other, and we headed downstairs to give it back to them. Because our hands were full, we had to kick open the door and then hurl it at their shared twin cot. Sure, in hindsight, we could have gently set the bloated orb outside their door and tip-toed back up the stairs, but we wanted them to share in our excitement and give it back to them immediately. The look of shock in combination with unbridled tear-streaked, urine-bathed joy was an image I shall take with me throughout the rest of my days…I love our new foundlings.

*Here’s the translation
We’ve got neighbors whose a/c went out. They’ve been with us for most of the week. In Houston no A/C really does mean Hell's crotch.
Unfortunately there’s no such urine-bomb experience that I can relate to you in truth…I just sorta made that up…
They were exemplary guests…

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The importance of "NO!"

I have been through the wringer lately. Working with today’s youth, trying to get them through the pitfalls of higher education relatively unscathed. I’ve come to notice that even though I do my very damnedest to help folks, I have been ending my days on a note that what some folks need to hear, more than anything, is “no”. It’s an issue that has been plaguing me from many sides. We are apparently fostering a culture where everybody wins. The sad fact of the real world is that first place isn’t given for participation, it’s an accomplishment. No one is going to give you a prize for effort when you botch a lung transplant.  I understand that people need a healthy self-esteem and a real sense of self-confidence in order to not fall face down in a ditch of self-destructive habits. I get that. At the same time, the Special Olympics model isn’t how you run a company, a country or even how you go about achieving your dreams.

I estimate that the cause of this situation stems from parents who have gone out of their way to make sure that their kids grow up without having to endure any of the heartaches that they grew up with. It’s done out of love, which is endearing.  To that, I would bring up the example of generational wealth. Kids, who have been able to have anything they wanted even if just they wanted it out of novelty. What they get from the interaction is that all they have to do to get something is ask…sometimes not even that. Street smarts is cultivated, and if you don’t have to develop that sense of getting what you want from life for yourself, then you won’t.  Most people don’t take Algebra because they’re seeking a challenge; they take it because they have to. Work is hard. “Yeah kid, I know. It sucks... character building and all that. Buck up.” Back to the parents that bubble-wrap their kids against life’s little bumps, scrapes and knocks, most come from reasonable means, not rich, not poor, just making do with what they have. But telling your kid that they’re smarter than everyone they come across could be just as detrimental to them as calling them a moron. They don’t finish things or pursue their goals because they’re already smarter than everybody else, as opposed to the moron who won’t make the attempt because they’re too stupid to pull it off, so why bother? There’s got to be some middle ground here.

What I’m getting at here is the over-inflated sense of entitlement. I hear “I don’t want to do anything that’s hard” almost on repeat. I find that my helping them find the path of least resistance handicaps them from flourishing into well-rounded and disciplined individuals. Am I becoming part of the problem? My job requires me to plot the course that will lead my students to their goal. I cannot tell them “It’s not going to happen”. Instead, I have to tell them “In order for this to happen, these things must be done”. I can do that; however, many of them don’t pick up on the subtleties of diplomatic language.  One of my professors was a hack writer who told the class, “Don’t even try to write humor, because you can’t do it.” He was poet who was in love the sound of his own voice. If you can imagine a guy who rolls up the car windows when he farts because he wants to truly be at one with his essences, you’re on the right track. I took it as a challenge. If you want me to do something, tell me I can’t.

Tell people “No”. Saying no isn’t a crime. You have no need to feel guilt about it. It’s not your job nor place to please everyone. There are people that you should try to appease. If you are in some sort of subordinate role in a relationship, it’s important to try to appease these people, your boss, your probation officer, your teacher, your client, the judge that could send you up the river etc. Say yes to these people.

Your kids are not on this list. They have to say yes to you, not the other way round.
Give them the power to realize that life has to be seized and taken, it won’t be handed to them on bended knee. Tell them no. I implore you. Tell them no. You’ll be doing me a solid. Thanks.