The Winner Takes it All

Apathy is the single biggest problem on the Internet. 

It isn’t trolls, toxicity, or the corporate giants who decide they’re going to algorithm us all to extinction. We, the vast majority of ‘normal’ users, are the ones with the potential to ruin it for everybody, and we do. Most of the time you won’t even realise this is happening either, until someone turns up on your feed suggesting a course of action you disagree with. If you’ve already got a beef with their actions, that’s pretty much a guarantee that something is going to kick off.

Life is hard in the affluent Western World right now. There’s an almost daily assault of terror incidents, natural disasters and threats to national security. My country’s trying (and largely failing) to successfuly leave a fourty year relationship. The American people are being governed (between rounds of golf) by a white supremacist (allegedly.) In all of this, people continue to pin their affinity and loyalty to a dizzying array of virtual saviours, or pray at the altar of corporate churches with the the belief their brand loyalty maintains a safe and trusted output, however much money that might cost.

It is no surprise therefore that compassion fatigue is becoming recognisable in larger sets of online communities with each passing day. The main upshot of all this trauma is individuals becoming less and less willing to consider a contrary set of beliefs to their own, being more likely to fly off the handle with the slightest provocation, and feeling that as long as they don’t name names or continue to hide behind a virtual persona, they can get away with being toxic because nobody cares enough to call them out.

So, what happens when a safe and trusted organisation does just that, shaming the nasty people for what others say they are? Overwatch is big news right now, and the level of ‘toxic’ game play is never out of my Twitter feed, reported third hand by person after person. So, when a company (that has never really been that keen on labelling anyone who pays for their games as anything other than a customer) takes the bull by the horns and starts calling out the bad people (and encourages players to do the same) what could possibly go wrong? Why would anyone complain about a company taking steps to eliminate the toxic element in a game that’s clearly full of just that?

Here’s where I stop one train of thought and ask you to pick up a second.

For as long as I can remember, there’s always been a jocks vs nerds fight happening somewhere in my earshot. Whether it is disdain for ‘sportsball’ or esports being a ‘joke,’ the two groups seem to have nothing in common, and continue to be pitted against each other whenever possible. The fact that so many sports fans play games is neither here nor there: they come to the table with a natural advantage, which is often overlooked. It is only by understanding the psychology of team games, the importance of playing as part of a whole, that individuals really begin to understand the need for co-operation and empathy.

The basement nerd, used to playing alone, has a hard time grasping the mechanics of team sports. She’s not been taught how to play well with others, and immediately becomes a disruptive, confrontational force. This has one of two results: people either attempt to help her understand how to play, or they reject her as a disruptive element. Then, it doesn’t matter whether what she says about others’ game play is right or not, whether she’s prepared to do as she’s told becomes irrelevant. You choose to play by the rules of the game, or you don’t. If the latter is your path, and there are rules in place that dictate these actions are against the spirit of this game?

Like it or not, you lose.

Overwatch’s decision to call out bad game play assumes that the majority of players just want to participate in a specific way. I wish them luck in making this stick, but when you are fighting ‘players’ who don’t understand what it means to be part of a team, or why that matters, you’re likely on a hiding to nothing. The internet is full of individuals who believe that their opinion, attitude and outlook are all that matters, that teams need them far more than the other way around. The concepts of loyalty, empathy and belonging are simple flimsy constructs for most; no real ‘friends’ just those who believe in a particular set of ideas, to a point, who refuse to allow reality to damage their persona. This is not just a white male preserve either, before you start giving me that look. I know countless women who perpetuate the shock/bitch persona. White men don’t get to die on that hill alone, oh no.

So what has apathy got to do with all this, the more astute of you will now be asking? This week came a powerful, personal revelation: sitting at a screen, being unwilling to name names when you see someone do something you don’t like because that just causes drama is slowly destroying everybody’s lives. It’s the lump on your arm that might be more than just a mole, but you’re unwilling to get it looked at and diagnosed in case the consequences end up as cancerous as you can’t handle the consequences to begin with. At some point, if you want to be a real human being, there has to be an acknowledgement of what matters most. I’ve realised I’ve had enough of reading social media where individuals aren’t prepared to call others out when there’s been something they disagree with. If you don’t have the balls to put conviction to a claim, then shut the fuck up.

If you won’t, don’t expect people to keep listening.

In effect, I have implemented my own response to toxicity. Watching somebody else complain at others but not rock the boat too much themselves, when multiplied up thousands of times, becomes apathy that destroys communities. If there is a genuine beef with someone, then go talk to them. If, after you talk to them, all that they’ll offer as explanation to your issue is glib platitudes and ‘well, I can hardly be expected to read my feed the whole time’ then it should be apparent your relationship is not as important as it appears was the case, and everybody should really move on. If you’re playing an online games where there are teams of people and you flatly refuse to play by the rules set down by the majority? Expect to get royally owned by those who do, even if you feel you are the one in the right.

If you really want to succeed in the future: be the team player who understands that the rules only work to a point. Play games as just that, and don’t live them as if they mattered more than life itself. Most importantly of all, when someone upsets you online, don’t say a fucking thing about it to anyone, deal with the problem internally or away from social media, and just move on. The real winners don’t need to prove they’re right, they know in their hearts that they’re doing the right thing, and everything else is irrelevant.

In a world where nerds have become their own enemies, the only way to win is not to play.

Who Are You?

You remember that post from the end of June when I said there was no chance of seeing a female Doctor Who in my lifetime?

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier about being wrong in my life. Waking up this morning, to the first day when Jodie Whittaker is Doctor Who is… well, part of me still doesn’t believe it. My Twitter feed yesterday summed a lot of it up quite well, but if I’m honest this tweet is the real reason I’m celebrating:

That’s been me since I pretended to be James Bond, because all the women in his world were simply afterthoughts. Then I discovered Emma Peel, and I’ve sought out my own female heroes ever since… but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still aspire to be the men. The ‘problem’ here is not the gender of the people involved. It really does not matter one iota whether these heroes are men or women. The bigger issue, by a long way, is their sexuality.  That’s what detonated all those bombs yesterday, will cause wailing and trauma for months to come. As Doctor Who becomes a woman, NOBODY should lose their minds. The problem with the individually focused, me-cultured Social media climate we live in is that lots of people can’t separate gender from desire.

I lost a fair number of followers yesterday on the back of my joyous ranting. I asked one of them why this appointment was so galling: she cited the trouble coping with the fact that the Doctor has a grand-daughter. How was it possible to reconcile this fact now the man is a woman? This is, of course, using established conventions that you need one of each sex to reproduce and create offspring. It is the same convention that will imprint on men that the Doctor was their hero… except now, she’s a heroine. The man they looked up to and aspired to become is now someone they could find sexually attractive. That is going to be difficult for many people to cope with.

There’s a flip side to this that’s made me especially angry, and it is watching certain women complain you can’t have a woman in the TARDIS. They enjoy the idea of a man being in control. Capaldi might not have been the most visually appealing of Doctors, but you could always go back to the days of Matt Smith and David Tennant and pretend you were one being rescued, or you were the favourite companion they’d turn to after a long day of saving the Universe. How can you write fanfic when the 13th Doctor’s forcing you to become a lesbian?

All of these issues are underpinned by conventional notions of sexuality. Once one dismisses these, it does not matter one iota who plays what role. What then comes into play is whether your canon will support the change. When a female Thor was announced by Marvel, already established wisdom backed up the decision by stating that Thor’s hammer would only imprint on someone worthy of wielding it, and that choice was not gender specific. The path to gender fluidity in the Time Lords has been laid well in advance, placed into canon as far back as the transformation of Tennant to Smith.

‘The Doctors Wife’ establishes, IN CANON, the Corsair who (according to 11) ‘didn’t feel like himself unless he had (a) tattoo. Or herself, a couple of times. Oooh, she was a bad girl.’ It is another thing to thank Mr Moffat for, I suppose, apart from breaking the whole show apart and putting it back together in a modern, progressive fashion. You can choose to forget all this for the sake of non-canon sensibilities, of course, but anyone who offers shock and surprise that this could happen has really not been paying the right amount of attention.

You can’t complain now, because that’s your fandom, and you should know better.

I want to quickly mention 007 here. This is a Universe that, as it stands, won’t support anything other than a white, hetrosexual Bond, if you look at canon for guidance. Sure, the franchise has tried to reinvent itself (see my mate Roger’s excellent dissection on License to Kill and how changing this male lead’s not as simple as writing in some historical precedent) but even now with Mr D. Craig, Esq in the lead roll, that reinvention has only gone so far. Unless something radical changes in terms of how the lead man is portrayed, it is unlikely we will ever see change on the scale that now exists in the TARDIS. Personally I’d want to pair him up with an equal female agent as we did in Tomorrow Never Dies, but I’m not sure even that is possible at this stage. Some ideas, like it or not, just have to be left to die.

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There has also been, quite understandably, some comments on how the kerfuffle in the TARDIS could have been avoided if an actor of colour or from a non-white background had been cast. That is another large can of worms: it might help the Bond franchise reboot, on reflection, but I suspect would have caused similar levels of outrage in the TARDIS, which is ridiculous. This is 2017 and honestly, anyone getting upset at a TV show employing anyone in a lead role who isn’t white and male is on a hiding to nothing.

There are more important things to get upset about, and really this is not one of them.

 

You’re the One

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Before I went for surgery, the night before as I recall, someone turned up on my Social media timeline with an agenda. They saw me talking to somebody else and hoped, by sticking their hugely arrogant arsehole into my business, to ride the coattails of that message for their own gain. This happens a lot, especially when it is apparent that someone completely and erroneously believes you have the ear of others whom they believe hold some kind of notional influence. The problem with people like this, inevitably, is that they don’t care about anyone but themselves. That’s all well and good when your interaction is brief, but as soon as a conversation breaks out with any sort of contentious content?

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This morning, I watched some random twat accuse someone else of being lewd in their own feed, and that because they chose to see it, that person was at fault. It is a microcosm for the indignation that that now accompanies anything that a certain type of complainant cannot stand. In fact, this week, there arose a situation where a woman made a clothing choice and offended hundreds of people on a prime time TV show. In fact, I reckon about 217 people will have taken offence when that woman showed some cleavage and it was apparent she forgot to put a sensible, supportive bra on before the dress.

You know what the problem is here? It isn’t Amanda Holden’s body. It’s not my friend who took a picture and put it in her own feed. None of the issues here have anything to do with the people involved. They’re all in the heads of those who now believe, for whatever reason, that they can’t be offended. Other people cannot offer anything contentious, you can’t possibly refuse to comment on something when there’s no fucking issue to begin with. With all the chaos and real, genuine threat in the World right now, the way some people choose to react isn’t with empathy or understanding, but with blind, ignorant stupidity. That’s always been the way but honestly, truthfully, I lost interest when random stupid entered my timeline

Today is not the day for you to be offended that you can’t control other people’s lives.

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I read yesterday about how I should consider other’s feelings before I go off on a rant. It is important to grasp that it is very easy to upset people without context, or first looking at a wider picture. That is all well and good, but makes a basic assumption that the person you’re talking to possesses either empathy or understanding to begin with. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that there are those for whom understanding has only ever been a one way street, and this will never change. Some people don’t change. However loving, caring and understanding you may be, it won’t matter. These are the people who are beyond help. These are the destructive, negative influences in society.

You won’t win.

It’s never going to happen.

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I was reading in the week that someone in my Twitter feed was celebrating the advantages of Discord as a networking tool. If you’re not aware, this is the programme designed for gamers which urges you to ditch Skype and TeamSpeak (both used as popular means of establishing voice communication in Warcraft, amongst other titles) and promotes ‘virtual’ communities centred around particular subjects, in game goals or even streaming ‘personalities.’ It can sit in your web browser, allowing instant communication using the Internet as a carrier. It sounds like a brilliant way of breaking barriers and encouraging friendship, and I suspect if you’re the type of person who enjoys sitting at a screen all day that would be a bonus… but for me, its the equivalent of a slow, debilitating form of poison.
If you really believe virtual voice networking is the future, I have some issues you may wish to consider first.

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I’ve spent many years online using various iterations of text based clients, and it is still a better format for me to work in than speech will ever be. Text gives a vital chance to think, to consider stuff before I dive into conversation. Voice has gotten me into so much trouble over the years, because I thought only after I spoke. It took a very long time to get comfortable with live podcasting as a result of this, but a lot of what I said would be in some way scripted to ensure I wouldn’t wander off topic, as knowing what to say really does matter rather a lot. When it’s you that’s the issue and not others, you tend to get rather adept at placing space between the question and any response, so there’s the much needed thinking time factored in. What any speech based client expects from an individual is permission to allow a large number of random people into your personal space, regardless of whether you know them or not. That’s where the real issues begin.

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A large part of my discomfort, as a woman, is that I know how certain scenarios play out when people ‘meet’ me for the first time. If I were eminently capable of dealing well with strangers in these places, of course, all of this would be unnecessary. There’s also the assumption by many people that, if they can easily and comfortably use such systems, I must be somehow at fault. That means that, if people are unprepared to be empathetic and meet me halfway, I’ll always feel on the back foot. After years of being told ‘well it is clearly you that’s the problem’ I’ve decided that really, it is just simpler not to take part. Nobody loses out, and the people who are genuinely caring and understanding will simply accept the limitation. If you want to initially communicate with me, then it starts on my terms and when I’m comfortable I’ll be far more capable of doing the same in return.

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I’m the gregarious and fearless person when she can edit before posting who can’t manage voice because of that time in a Warcraft Karazhan raid she forgot she was holding down the Push to talk button and trashed someone’s performance. She can’t escape each one of the runs she did with other Guilds whilst trying to set up alliances where she listened in other people’s voice channels and heard guys treating girls like dirt and passing it off as ‘just what happens online.’ She can’t let go of the player after player (of both sexes) who’d swear and abuse a GM for not letting them raid, or screamed in anger when they lost an item of gear. If I didn’t remember absolutely everything, it would be fine and maybe I’d move on, but I know what a rude, viscous and sanctimonious twat even the nicest person ends up when playing this particular MMO ruins their best laid plans.

When I then have to factor my own thoughts and actions on top of all this? If you know you’re mentally just not capable of the speed of reaction that others have as standard, and understand only too well the darkness that can sit in people’s hearts, you avoid situations where you’ll have a problem. If communication matters enough, people will make the effort and they’ll understand. What becomes increasingly apparent is that maybe all those people who said they meant well at the start weren’t all being totally honest. I’m not playing the game any more of just throwing myself into situations and hoping it all works out. If caution results in less drama, yes I’m completely going for that over being in everybody’s faces for popularity.

The trend of Discord for Everything might not be that popular in a years time however, especially in the US if this new law is as damning as I believe it will be. Information is becoming a more valuable currency than the dollar, personal details the key for advertisers to sell you everything online. I think maybe in the future I wouldn’t want to be spending my time chatting in places that I believe are safe but could end up as anything but, and that Virtual Private Networks will become far more significant as places to talk and play in the future. If it matters enough I can use these services: I have Slack open permanently for my current paid writing gig, after all. The fact that I’ll always choose text over voice chat, that I’d rather write a letter than take a phone call, is that I’m scared of fucking it up. Words at my speed allow the chance for the best form of communication I possess, that’s all.

I hope that never changes.

Panic

For the second time in the space of seven calender days, I’ve had a panic attack. In fairness, I could see this one coming from a while away, once it became clear public transport was going to stymie my efforts to be in the right place at the right time. The biggest problem right now in my mind is notional control: when it blows out of my hands, brain simply fails to cope. In fairness I grasp this as well. It is not a surprise I ended up gasping for breath on a cold station platform, panicking as I couldn’t answer the phone and disconnect headphones simultaneously. These are the things Normal People do without thinking. I can also do this.

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I can cope, there just needs to be some thought as to why this is happening, and that’s hardly difficult to rationalise. I’ve made major changes to my life. I’m redefining who I am, and that process is going well in some places and not in others, and it is that which is attempting to derail me. I’m not afraid of change, or failure, but this time I can see a path to success, and that means not allowing my brain to stymie the development. Most importantly, I shouldn’t be trying to self-diagnose. I’m going to leave that to somebody else to do, and simply get on with the business in hand. There’s too much that needs to be sorted in the next few weeks for the wheels to come off now.

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Tomorrow would normally be a PT session, but instead I have a week of working and motivating myself while my lovely trainer takes a holiday. I’d like to try and lose another kilo by my weigh in next week, which should be eminently doable. It also means I’ll do Monday, Wednesday and Friday night after school, to leave days free to begin the Spring Clean that this house so desperately needs. I have a trip to the supermarket planned for the morning to grab the replacement bits I need, and then I’m off, throwing stuff away and cleaning anything that’s dusty. I’ve kept up with my #MinsGame too, so will require 13 things tomorrow and to do that will require a quite significant amount of thought.

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I can do this. I really can. I was never really a fan of affirmation until recently but the statement ‘I am good enough to get through this’ has never been more true or heartfelt right now. I can write well, and will, for another week and once we get to the 19th there is going to have been so much progress forward I will manage a Sunday without either stress or drama. Now, however, I’m going to have a lovely steak and Stilton pie as my last treat before I throw myself into ‘good’ eating for the rest of the month. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m really looking forward to an Easter Egg come April.

I think I will have utterly deserved it.

If You Love Somebody Set Them Free

The truth is a difficult topic for discussion around these parts.

Many people have, over the years, attempted to divert the course of history by presenting their version of the truth. The movie above is a fictionalised version of someone’s attempt to stop a previous US President in his tracks. Depending on who I believe, there’s plenty of other stuff in progress to derail the current incumbent too:

The truth can be created on all manner of computers, both ancient and modern.

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The overriding problem with ‘truth’ when it comes to politics is knowing who to believe, and what ‘version’ of the truth is the one most important to ‘expose.’ When you consider the last President to decline an invitation to the Correspondent’s Dinner was one R. Nixon Esq., there’s a reason for thinking that maybe the truth that involves Russians and hacking might hold some traction. All the noise That Man is making about it would certainly suggest that he’d rather people stopped digging, but will this eventually be the truth that destroys his aspirations of power? More importantly, what is it about actors and the truth (albeit in a sanitised form) that helps us as mere bystanders better grasp the real changes going on around us?

Hollywood needs to reflect a truth that politicians try to supress, and although it may annoy many people to hear that in a speech where you’re more interested who designed the actors clothes than the message they give, this stuff matters. A blue ACLU ribbon on a red dress, a Planned Parenthood button on shimmering gold… these are not overt signs of affinity, but a new form of quiet revolution. These are people who know very well what the truth is and the significance of upholding it. Last night’s Oscars may be remembered by some as a mix up when an actor just read what was on the card before thinking through the consequences. For me however, it was about a major part of American institutionalisation finally holding up a hand and admitting that it wouldn’t fuck up like it has in the last few years ever again, because it now grasps the worldwide consequences if it does.

The truth can set you free, but only if you allow yourself to fully embrace it.

The future is about challenging the perceived truths that surround us. If you pick a visual representation of your ideal mate, and then are presented with 8 ‘versions’ of that truth, how do you look past the superficial and find someone you can truly connect with? Maybe the reality you need has nothing to do with facts but can only be assuaged by going to pick up rubbish in your Community, or volunteering for unpaid work with people crying out for assistance. Perhaps you will stand tall with others in a demonstration, or teach your children that to question the world and be ‘different’ is neither bad nor wrong, but should be positively encouraged. This however is not the time to stop caring and leave it to someone else. Here we stand, with the need to understand not only individual truths, but the larger issues that bind our realities to each other.

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These truths are not real or fair. This is not what I want the future to look like, and yet this is what my government and others believe is the only truth that matters: if you were not born here, you do not belong. This is not a truth I ascribe to and yet the reality of our existence now is this chaos of one hand pulling and the other pushing, when both should encircle and care. Why has truth deserted us? That’s simple: people are afraid. My elderly parents, both unhappy that their future means uncertainty remaining in a community that’s provided peace for decades, somehow felt that we’d be better off living as isolationist, poorer in both minds and pockets. I’m sorry the other 52% of people who caused our chaos couldn’t see beyond their own selfish needs, but their truth has always been a lifetime away from those who don’t just see their own desires as paramount.

The truth, ultimately, will never be enough to change a selfish reality.

I’m getting tired of being told the truth will come out. I’m sad that my future is decided by people who don’t care about anybody but themselves. I want a better world, and am beginning to realise that the only way this happens is if I do it myself, and so I will. All I can hope is that if enough of us stop being bystanders, afraid of what might happens if someone else doesn’t act, that perhaps together we can turn things around. There has to be hope, and right now that matters more than the truth.

I hope I can find a way to make things better for the children I am leaving this Planet to.

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From time to time indignation rises to a point where I decide that yes, I’ll let genuine annoyance consume me. This morning, it was a Guardian Red Carpet snapshot from the BAFTAs that did it. Yes, I KNOW mostly this is about frocks, but there are some of us who get a bit tired of the fashionisas deciding only the beautiful people get a showing, and often it is only about who wore the best dress according to the reporter. This is sexist, because in the main it precludes good looking men. Hang on, I hear some of you cry, what are you on about? We’re just looking at frocks, stop making it about bodies… but isn’t that EXACTLY what happens when a bunch of stick thin women are the only ones you decide to highlight? Where’s the body positivity? Where are the ‘normal’ women and the men in all this? Fair enough, Tom Ford gets a look in wearing a velvet tuxedo that I’d like to own, but it is hardly fair. Fashion makes me crazy, because what people choose as ‘interesting’ rarely includes diverse shapes, or a range of sexuality.

In fact, anyone with an extreme view that won’t grasp the significance of EVERYBODY needs a really good talking to at present. Take, for instance those I know who now push themselves as ‘active’ feminists in response to the Orange Twat and his influence in the US and beyond. This man may be a pariah, but only SOME men are: you can get as upset as you like about them, but in the end it won’t help. Your bigger threats come from a wider stage: ignorance, stupidity, plus a staggering lack of respect of anybody who does not agree with the feminist PoV. In shock news, everybody is allowed an opinion of their own, and just because that doesn’t mesh is not an excuse to start threatening and throwing around pronouncements of fear and ignorance. It’s like any kind of basic fundamentalism, and it is just wrong on so many levels that it defies belief. The only way anything changes is when EVERYBODY gets a fair shout.

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There’s another Guardian article here about the lack of diversity in the acting craft but as is typical in the UK, it is class that is considered more important than whether an actor’s sexual or physical characteristics are put to the fore. I feel that maybe the obsession with money that many people’s lives revolves around is the greater issue still: after all, when you’re staring at Adele’s handfuls of Grammy awards, do you consider the working class roots she hails from or are you considering the state of her bank balance? When Daisy Ridley dazzles in what could be Victoria Beckham are you imagining you’d be there or just having the money to afford that? Mostly, you stare at the unattainable as an escape, a release, a way to forget how shitty your life is… but would you want that? Maybe that’s why I don’t need to stare or imagine, because I’m lucky enough to have a life that makes me happy. Mostly that happens because I refuse to let other people ruin the time I have trying to convince me their future’s the only version of reality that matters.

That’s why feminism really hacks me off. However, it isn’t just that cult at fault: there’s the hardcore religious, the blinkered gamers, the arrogant and selfish parents, the holier than thou foodies… the list is endless. All these people, trying to sell me a ‘version’ of a reality: the truth is less about aspiration and more wrapped around basic survival than I think any of us like to accept. If you choose to sign up for any one of these, and in many cases they end up being as insidious as veneration, the speed at which reality can desert you is quite staggering. That’s why you really shouldn’t get upset when your heroes get political, because those are the people who genuinely grasp what a potentially perilous situation current developments in the US and across Europe place the planet in. Don’t tell your musicians to stop making political statements and stick to singing, because the fact you’ve found high profile people who get that it isn’t just their brand that matters is something rare and precious.

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I’ve decided that being angry about the world is now a waste of my time and effort, and instead I’m going to fight back in the only way I know: with words. That means if I read something that upsets me, I’m going to respond. I have a list of letters that are going to be sent this week, and a number of topics to address, and this should allow my indignant middle aged grumpiness full and unimpeded space to spread and grow in the weeks that follow. Mostly, it is an exercise in sanity, as I understand that the best way to deal with stupidity is to expose it as the hypocrisy it is. A lot of the time people decide their truth is that based on no real facts, and even less actual evidence. You just agree with the person you spoke to last, or the last piece of news that you had any empathy with. That’s not understanding, it’s simply meek acceptance of untruths force fed to us since childhood. Girls can wear blue. Men deserve red carpet space because women think they’re attractive, and don’t care they’re not in a dress.

It is time to grasp that the future is everybody’s to dictate, and not just a chosen few.