30 June 2008

Sanitized for Your Perversion

Last night, I watched a zombie flick; this, in itself, isn't too much of a shocker. We watch these with some kind of regularity, ranging from the terrible B-movie "is that guy supposed to be dead?" variety on up through the multi-million dollar major studio productions. This one, strangely, managed to tread the line; the real curiosity, though, was the morality of the tale itself. The point of the movie, aside from the standard-issue scares about people who should be dead deciding not to be, seemed to center around the effects of mass-media, desensitization of the viewer and the cameraman, and whether or not humans are, on the whole, worth saving in the event of, say, zombocalypse (zombie-centric apocalyptic scenario); there was also a heavy lean on not believing what the media sells as fact -- news reports and whatnot -- and the power of the internet to spread the "truth" of matters as seen by the eyes and camera lenses of those who are there.

I'm not a film reviewer, critic, or what have you. I'm not going to get into whether I thought it was a good movie for whatever reason; I'll even leave it up to you to find out what it was, if you're so compelled. I will say this, though; for better or worse, it got me thinking some, and that's an uncommon thing in movies these days. It really is an interesting phenomenon, to consider all of the regulations and social standards that we try to force across the board when it comes to our prepackaged news lunches and low-quality frozen dinners a la CNN, and then consider the pomp-and-circumstance that they use to "gussy up" the gems of what they bill as "real, raw" reporting, even though it still, at times, seems staged and so very plasticized. From there, we move on to the shock value that's capitalized online; the personal videos that people upload of some of the most horrific things that they can find, and the humor of the dregs of these here tubes that feeds on, and breeds, a sense of contempt and hatred for humanity as a whole, while exposing within it the very things which might make it contemptable and propagating the sense of superiority that comes from revelling in filth.

It's hard to measure the psychological impact of some things. Are we more prone to file away the things we see as less than appalling if we've been exposed to more gore-fests Hollywood productions? Does the fiction we indulge in, at whatever age, set the measuring stick for how we judge the reality we're exposed to later, or are we simply becoming more accustomed to the general attitude that "people die, things break, get over it" that seems so pervasive in the modern world, where we dehumanize everything, separate the essense of "us" and "them" so as to cope with the fact that we know that these things are happening, and that we seem helpless to change the fact that the world is a dark place at times? We cling to hopes and fantasies that force these realities from our mind, even as we admit knowledge of them plainly, and see their images plastered across our televisions nightly, in news reports of how many have died, in staged celebrity appearances telling us we can make a difference for pennies a day, in fiction and in reality, in our humor and in our tragedy; they all begin to whirl in to one entity, until we start to lose focus regarding the truly appropriate emotional response -- as long as it's not happening to us, it seems, we fail to connect with a reason to care.

Even in that, though, theres's a full examination to be done. Are we losing this connection with humanity because we so often see these things put into the wrong context, or is there something else at work here? It could be that the images simply begin to lose meaning as we see more and more of the horrific nature of the planet; perhaps the desensitization isn't a result of the images themselves, but an internal trigger meant to defend us from the surge of emotion that our brains would otherwise unleash; we lose that response not because we fail to care, but because our brain is not willing to allow such a powerful thing to overtake it based on the digital images of halfway around the globe, and so it tries to convince us that it's alright, that these things are normal or acceptable, that so long as there's nothing we can do, there's no sense in worrying about what is happening. So long as these carefully-crafted personalities are presenting the information with their flashy graphics and dramatic theme music, there's a sense of sensationalism that seems to equate what we're seeing with what registers, to the brain, as something aside from what is real; we candy-coat the blood and ichor so as to remove from it that sense of revulsion, making the whole thing easier to mentally digest -- for better or for worse.

In the end, I suppose there's too many variables in play; the fact remains, however, that we seem to use these vehicles to distance ourselves from our fellow man, while at the same time seeing that when these things hit home, the sense of community is nearly automatic. While we can easily endure to view the suffering of others, when our home is wounded, we bind together like so many blood cells pushing to heal the hurt; there's a sense of what we refer to as humanity when our own peace is destabilized. There will never be anything produced for television or internet broadcast which can capture the raw essence of what is experienced firsthand; and that, I think, is the true shortcoming of these media -- that no camera can capture the reeling mind, that no lens can reflect the soul of those in torment; images are easily processed, filed neatly away in lip-service categories -- but the scene of such things as we have already been made accustomed to is wholly a new experience when the filter of camera crews and streaming data is removed, and we're plugged straightway in to the dirt of the world.

19 June 2008

Catastrophic Awareness

The world is crumbling around our ears. Earthquakes, floods, and other disasters change the landscape like some mutating beast shaking the scars from its back. I can't help but wax poetic on the iconic metaphor in my area recently as raging wildfires screamed across the hillsides until the inferno licked at the foot of Paradise, CA. Over 23,000 acres devoured by the flames in a few short days as the acrid stench of smoke settled over the valley; I have family who was evacuated, though I believe they returned without a hitch once the blaze was contained. Some say that the end of the world is upon us, that the apocalypse is nigh; some say that we are entering a new age, where nothing will be as it has been, and the world as we know it will fade into distant memory against the troubles -- or the pleasures -- of a new global destiny.

Of course, some also say that they're the incarnation of a god, and build cults who, in blind faith, kill themselves to ride a comet to Heaven. I guess it's hit-and-miss, these things that some say.

For my part, I don't believe that the world is ending. Changing, yes, but that's nothing new; this planet has never known anything that was not flux -- the preconception that anything is eternal is a fallacy. Even a ballad of this change, 'Dust in the Wind', fails to recognize this, claiming that "Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky" -- these, too, shall come to pass, for nothing can be eternal when entropy is the order of the day and chaos springs from the wells of universal truth. Of course, ordered chaos it may be, and it could be our limited scope of realization which causes us to percieve some shift in things that we deem as important, ever forgetting that, in the grand scheme, even the solar system which houses the planet upon which we build our cities to surround our homes that we huddle in for safety is insignificant. We claim that catastrophe befall us, and yet, we have never even seen the thread of the tapestry that is The All. We have never known God, or whatever the nearest approximation to that being would be when translated from the breadth of our ability to know such entities, and we have never once gazed upon the merest reflection of a shadow of Truth.

That's why I can't believe that the world is ending. Simply put, I see limitless potential in humanity as a whole; unrealized, largely, to be sure, but it is there, and it screams through our own ignorance and incompetence in the most bizarre ways. I cannot accept that this potential will not be realized before its time is up; or rather, I believe that the end of our time will coincide with the actualization of this very essence, with the ascension of our own ability to perceive ourselves as we truly exist in relation to the Great Unknown. The depth of all mysteries must come to pass, and in that knowledge we shall find not doom, but something which we might now, in false assumption, consider to be doom, for surely it shall be the collapse of all we are able to consider in the Here And Now. Knowledge will be our end, and our beginning, for once the full potential is known, it cannot be said that anything can stop us.

And so, even as the Earth itself struggles to dispel our curse upon its flesh, even as we enter into petty wars and global conflicts, even as everything seems to hurl, crashing against the never, reckless abandonment sure to destroy all that we are and have been, I say that this cataclysm is not our end, but our beginning; we are legion, for our numbers are many, and our will can not be denied.

09 June 2008


It's difficult for me to fuel a rage at the world sometimes. It's not that there are not things which outrage me; every day, I find new things to inspire my spite for certain aspects of our world. However, at the same time, I find that I see so much around me that is wonderful, so much that is alright with the world that we live in. Somewhere, a voice inside myself tells me that all of the injustices I see are still peanuts compared to the injustices which have come before my time, to the crimes of global scale which predated my awareness.

Even as our economy falters and slips into god knows where, even as wars rage and starving peoples cry out for help, even as nature itself lashes out against humanity, relentless and unprejudiced, I find that I cannot hold anything but appreciation for the times in which I am, and for the life which I have been given the opportunity to enjoy. Even as I see friendships waning into nothing, even as I hear tales of abuse and ignorance, I can only be awed by the fierce manner in which these things occur; the sheer force of life that is required even in moments of destruction.

It is easy to be angry at the world, to be angry at life, at yourself. It is easy to breed contempt or jealousy or that seething, searing hatred by which we seek to elevate ourselves above the things to which we bear witness. It's a simple thing to click on the evening news and find new, scathing things to rail against to burn a fire against the rages of what is not fair and just and true. It is as nothing to let grow within oneself a fear or an aversion; to pour our own derisive comments out against the swelling tide of that which we percieve as wrong with the world. Mankind seems geared to creating this sort of emotional shell; we separate ourselves from those things which we despise by fostering that dark energy, we focus ourselves on being known to feel a certain way about certain things -- our social identity is almost never known by our actions, but by our words, and whichever of these is true, I think it is most interesting that we are not known by what we agree with, by what we believe to be the honest manner in which the world should turn, but that we identify ourselves by our anger, by those things which we would wish to be furthest from. Activism, political rallies, blogs -- we focus ourselves on making it loud and clear that there are things which we see as being incorrect, we exemplify the very things we wish to change, often in the name of social awareness and decrying the despots and infuriating realities that they envision upon the land.

This is not conviction. This is not belief. This is not virtue.

And so, even while I weather the storm which we all must face, even as the harsh existence of starship Earth tears at us, I say, we should stand not for what we refuse to believe in, not to bring to light those ugly things which we cannot abide, but to appreciate the things for which we live; we should forego our anger, at times, and breathe joy and appreciation for the very soul of ourselves and pierce light against a darkness not by bearing the darkness down with fury, but by embracing any glint of light that can be seen, by showing that no level of fear will be allowed to destroy the good in the world, that we, as people, are still capable of knowing that, while our situation grows dim, it will never be black, and we will never falter.