Delusions of the privileged

In a world where money opens all doors, those with money enjoy a lot of power, and therefore, all the privilege they can pay for. Unfortunately, those in power are so caught up in their world of privilege that they are out of touch with the real world, where people don’t have this privilege. This is especially true of the older generation as they struggle to understand the feelings of the younger generation.

The delusion believed by the rich and powerful is that everybody enjoys the same fortune and shares the same values as them, but the reality is that we all have different experiences. The vast majority of people in this country are poor, and feel that the society around them is broken. In my opinion, this dissonance of attitudes comes from the fact that the privileged have spent too much time maintaining their own fortunes, and judging everyone around them just because they aren’t as privileged. Meanwhile, the older generation, in tandem with the rich, just seem to trumpet their rules in the same authoritative and heavy-handed manner. At this rate, no wonder there’s a rift between the rich and the poor, and the old and the young.

A recent example of this rift I came across is a report on BBC News where the adults were struggling to figure out why a teenage boy would defect from the UK to join the Islamic State. How foolish they were, for the answer was staring right at them. Many young people are disillusioned with British society because it has shown to be too slow to correct the injustices that it wallows in everyday. Young people tend to prefer radical action because to them, it means getting things done faster than it would take under the normal political system. In the case of the boy who ran off to join the I.S., I believe that he and others who left to join I.S. saw them on the news, and feel an impetus to want to take action against the Western world. Of course, we know they won’t succeed, but I think the fact that they’re joining I.S. is the fault of the older generation for failing to live up to the promises they made.

Even after it has become painfully obvious that society is suffering because of the errors of rich old men, they are still myopic and intransigent enough that they cannot see that. Therefore, they think they have the gall to blame the less fortunate for our problems. This is their excuse to not see the error of their ways, and it doesn’t even work anymore. They don’t even care as long as money still opens doors and invites people to their beds. At this rate, their intransigence will suffocate the world and everyone in it, and when that happens, heads will almost certainly roll.

Disney, colonialism, and the “princess” of North Sudan

Recently, it was announced that Disney would make a movie about the story of Jeremiah Heaton, a farmer from Virginia who bought a section of African land called Bir Tawil (naming it the Kingdom of North Sudan) so that her daughter could be the princess of it. This is in spite of the fact that no government recognizes Jeremiah’s claim to the land. The movie, which Disney has called The Princess of North Sudan, has come under fire from pretty much all over Twitter and the far corners of the Internet, with many denouncing the film as a propaganda piece promoting colonialism and “white entitlement”, forcing the writer of the film, Stephany Folsom, to defend it.

Given that idea of a white American princess in Africa might emanate some vaguely racist connotations, I can totally understand why a lot of people are offended, but given that this is Disney, I really don’t think we should be too surprised about this.

north sudan

This alone may as well be what Walt Disney was dreaming about all those years.

When thinking about The Princess of North Sudan, it’s important to remember that Disney has a history of racial stereotyping and caricaturing other cultures. Before 1992’s Aladdin, there weren’t any main characters who weren’t white, nor anthropomorphic animals. Disney’s culture of white supremacism dates back to at least 1946, when they released the racist Song of the South, widely reviled as propaganda for white supremacy (though I’ve heard it can’t be any worse than that one silent film about the KKK).

In a way, Disney is guilty of a kind of cultural colonialism. Through their massive conglomerate (itself a concept of corporate colonialism) and their near endless stream of merchandising, which now includes Marvel and Star Wars characters, Disney maintains a massive influence over popular culture and most of humanity, despite the fact that their values are out of touch with the post-modern world. Of course, Disney would like us to think that they embrace multiculturalism, but in my opinion, that’s all lies. Disney just acts multicultural in order to maintain influence over a population that is rejecting the older conservative values that Disney embraced.

What Disney actually did was make characters that could fit a multicultural description (e.g. Aladdin, Mulan, Pocahontas), but without really incorporating the actual culture these characters come from, nor incorporating their native language. In turn, the characters seem more like Americanized versions of non-American characters, which in my opinion is no different from romanticizing colonialism, which is exactly what The Princess of North Sudan might end up doing.

What’s really weird is that the writers and producers defend the upcoming film by claiming that they’re using the story of a man waltzing into another land and claiming it as his own as the jumping-off point for a fantastical adventure. While that does sound like something Disney would do, and it also sounds like something that can be done right, its impossible to skirt the lingering colonialist overtones that are inevitably implied here. If Disney wants to make this movie happen, then it should be careful about romanticizing colonialism, or at worst, passively romanticizing the idea of “white entitlement”, as so many people on Twitter would claim. If they’re not careful, then they won’t just repeat the same old mistakes they always make, but they’ll also be playing right into the hands of their army of critics.

Rapture porn: A perverse obsession with the end of days

the rapture

Since the dawn of civilization, man has always wondered how his time on Earth will come to end. Religion has always fuelled this fascination with lurid tales of the apocalypse, from the Hindu myth of Kalki, to the Book of Revelations. However, during the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church took hold of the European psyche, and everyone feared that the end times were close at hand. Hence, their religion was now geared towards getting everyone under one flag before the day of God’s wrath.

Of course, the influence of religion has been declining since the latter half of the 20th century, but the after-effects of religious dominion over human culture still remain, and so we still fall prey to the tradition of panicking over the end, in spite of the fact that every self-appointed seer of doom has been proven wrong. Hence, lurid tales of man’s destruction by the wrath of God or nature still have some appeal left, and mankind is still craving them, to the point that as a subject, the prevalence of the end of the world is second only to sex.

The word apocalypse has also been used so liberally that the original context has been lost. The word “apocalypse” is derived from the ancient Greek word “apocálypsis”, which means “uncovering”. In this context, it would refer to an “unveiling” or “revealing” of a truth, hence the name of the Book of Revelations. In this case, could the conventional apocalypse actually be a metaphor for something else? Whenever this “apocalypse” nonsense shows up, it’s usually during a time of uncertainty. Therefore, the apocalypse could essentially be a metaphor for mankind’s fear of change.

It is often said that people fear the unknown, and these fears get translated into lurid, often obsessive fantasies. That being said, I find it very strange that Christian society pretty much runs on this. Wouldn’t it make sense for mankind to operate on a more life-affirming philosophy? When you obsess over the end of days, or what will happen to you after you die, your life becomes nothing but a preparation for death, and even more lurid one if you focus on the Book of Revelations, or the Rapture, which doesn’t even appear in the Bible.

Basically, the Rapture is this crazy American Christian belief that, on the day of judgement, all the believers will be lifted to Heaven, while the rest of mankind is left on Earth to suffer the wrath of God. The fact that this doesn’t appear in the Bible isn’t the only reason for it being insane. It’s insane because of the idea that a “righteous few” will be carted off into space and to Jesus’ kingdom while the rest of us burn on Earth. To me, it sounds as though if the Rapture is to be believed, we’re probably all screwed anyway, and I say this because those “righteous” people would have more than likely vanished into non-existence than into Heaven. Also, believers of the Rapture try to convince you that the world is going to end, but also that you actually have a chance at survival by simply believing in Jesus. In theory, all you’d have to do is believe the word of Jesus, and you’ll go to Heaven without doing anything to earn it. Am I the only one who finds that ridiculous?

As ridiculous as tales like these sound, because their propagators use fear to make them sound real, they persist to this day. With the scaremongering associated with end times belief, I can understand why people would be scared to think of what might happen. In fact, it makes me wonder what’s going on in the minds of the many Evangelical Christians who continue preaching the end of the world. Then again, those preachers don’t sound like they have the most stable of minds. Their perverse obsession with the end makes a lot of sense when you consider their character, especially if their the kind of people making a living disseminating fear into their flock.

Of course, with the help of scientific advancements that have come over the past fifty years, most people aren’t so easily swayed, but because the idea of the apocalypse still runs deeply into our collective imagination, Hollywood continues keeping it alive. As long as it can capture mankind’s imagination, I have a feeling that man’s obsession with the end isn’t going to fade away very soon, or at least not within my lifetime.

The Simpsons without Shearer

harry shearer simpsons

Life without him will not be the same.

Recently, seasoned actor Harry Shearer announced that after 26 long years, he would be retiring from his career as a voice actor for The Simpsons. Any fan of the show will undoubtedly understand what a tremendous role Harry Shearer’s talent has had on what used to be one of the greatest TV shows on the planet. He provided the voices of Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman (perhaps my favourite of his roles on the show), Reverend Lovejoy, Dr. Hibbert, and several other characters. Coupled with the death of Sam Simon, I think this a very strong sign that The Simpsons, as a TV show, is on its last legs.

To be honest, this doesn’t surprise me. Harry Shearer has been vocal about the decline of the show’s quality before. However, this time he may have left because his work on the show was making it harder for him to work on other projects. Shearer was responsible for some of the funniest and greatest voice talent in recent memory. His retirement from the show will be a great loss for the show.

Naturally, the show’s producers have reacted swiftly. The current showrunner, Al Jean, has announced that the show is trying to recast all of Shearer’s former roles. In my opinion, this is going to be impossible. I don’t think anyone can capture the talent of Harry Shearer, and the characters he once played might sound noticeably different. Also, what if no single actor could take on all those roles? It’s possible that either multiple actors will be hired, or the show will kill off some of the characters in order to take the pressure off the one actor they do eventually hire. If they do kill off another character, who would they pick? Would they pick Mr. Burns (who, in all honesty, is probably so old we’d probably expect him to go), Kent Brockman, Rainier Wolfcastle, or Principal Skinner? Either way, it’d serve only to boost the show’s abysmal ratings, which might suffer even more after the new voice actor (or actors) have been cast.

However, The Simpsons isn’t the kind of show the producers will give up on without a fight. To my dismay, the show is still renewed for two more seasons, both of which are probably going to suck harder and harder as the years go by. I should also note that as long as they still have Hank Azaria, the only voice actor who could equal Harry Shearer’s ability on the show, and as long as Dan Castellaneta, Juile Kavner, Mary Cartwright and Yeardley Smith are still in the cast, the producers can probably do the show without Harry. However, history has shown that some TV characters are so well-liked that recasting them is never an option. The Simpsons has its own examples. In 1998, Phil Hartman died, and as a result, we never saw Troy McClure or Lionel Hutz ever again, with Rainier Wolfcastle filling Troy’s old spot, and Lionel being replaced by the irredeemably lame Gill Gunter. In 2013, we lost Marica Wallace, who provided the voice for another classic character, Edna Krabappel, who until this point was Bart’s teacher. Following Marcia’s untimely death, the show’s producers quietly killed off her character, and even Bart mourned.

we'll really miss you mrs. k.

Quite possibly one of the saddest moments in the show’s recent history.

Of course, outside The Simpsons, there are other examples of irreplaceable actors whose characters were killed off. For example, Star Trek: The Next Generation featured a character named Tasha Yar. When Denise Crosby, the actress who played her, walked out of the show, she was killed off in the lamest possible way, by being pushed aside by a creature that looked like black sludge. Even more insulting was that this was a character that many agree could have had plenty of room for development, but according to Denise, the character was not being developed enough, so she walked out the show, appearing once more in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. Perhaps the cruellest example can be found in South Park. After the legendary Isaac Hayes quit South Park, having been offended by their portrayal of Scientology, the show’s main writers opened season 10 by killing off Hayes’ character, Chef, by re-writing him as a paedophile, and when he finally snaps out of it, he dies by falling of a broken bridge, and then being mauled by a mountain lion and a bear. After that, South Park was irreversibly doomed to suffer a painfully sharp decline in quality, but is set to continue for two more seasons.

Bearing this history in mind, the future for such beloved characters as Ned Flanders doesn’t look very bright. Over the next two seasons, we may see a slow and systematic decline of some of the characters Shearer voiced. Let’s face it, the show’s quality has decayed so much that at this point, anything’s possible, even a mass suicide of characters (which would probably court a hailstorm of outrage from the show’s already frustrated fans). Whatever happens in the future, with the retirement of Harry Shearer, the show has reached a point of no return. From here on out, the show will never be able to restore its former glory, and with declining ratings, the dissolution of Fox’s Animation Domination block (now replaced by Sunday Funday with the addition of live-action shows), increasingly over-recycled stories, and the lingering threat of more characters being killed off, I’m almost certain that the show will not be able to last much longer. At this rate, cancellation could be certain, for as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end. In this case, it should have ended over a decade ago.

The veil of “innocence”

Throughout my life, I have been all too deeply defined by my autism, at least in school. I have also gotten the awful feeling that over the course in my life, people have seen me as someone who needs to be looked after, or someone who must not be able to handle what other people think of me. Now more than ever I consider this to be a vile and offensive notion, mainly because this is the protective bubble that society has placed around me, giving them the carte-blanche to hide themselves from me, and treat me like a little kid.

bubble

This of this floating bubble as a metaphor for the kind of naivety society tried to trap me in.

I’m twenty-one years old, and I happen to be quite intelligent and articulate, capable of independent thought. I really don’t need people to tip-toe around me in the way that they do. In fact, I can tell when people feel something but don’t want me freaking out over it, so hiding oneself from someone like me is extremely patronizing. Worse still, if I don’t feel people are being entirely honest with me, this badly affects my mental state, and consequently my ability to trust people. By not being direct with me, people are doing more harm than good.

I think it’s comforting that there’s a good chance that I’m not the only one. Who knows how many young people with autism like myself are subjected to this sort of treatment throughout their lives? In this country, where conformity, naivety and the lie of innocence are all the range, this is quite likely. I think that there is still a protection bubble (which I refer to as the “veil of innocence”) that society puts around people with autism, and it’s there just for society’s own convenience. It essentially means that young people with autism can be sheltered from the realities of life, and it gives society has the freedom to treat us like little children.

How much longer must I endure the dishonesties of a hypocritical society that refuses to understand me as I am, as opposed for how I seem to be. How long will it be before I am no longer defined by my autism? Furthermore, how long will society keep on acting the way does towards us? These are the questions that, short of the possibility that something actually changes in the way we think, will be bugging me from now until the end of time.

Perhaps what really disturbs me is that some people think that being dishonest towards me might be in my best interest. Since when did concealment of the truth become a noble virtue? That’s the same nonsensical blasphemy that parents use to justify lying to little children, and it should be painfully obvious that I am not a little boy. I’m a man, a man with dreams, ambitions and emotions distinct from most of society no less. I do not deserve the dishonesty of those not ready to see that for themselves.

Throughout my life, I have only expected for people to be direct with me. In life, I expect almost everyone to be honest, from acquaintances to tutors, and from colleagues to lovers. I must ask, what world do I live in if I can’t get that just because I’ve got autism? That’s all have to say about this matter, and I have think I’ve made my point quite clear. In a world where anyone can be a liar on a whim, honesty is the only thing that counts, and if we can’t give each other that, then what good are we?

A matter of violence

natural born killers

When watching graphic TV shows like Game of Thrones and Oz, and movies like Natural Born Killers, the violence certainly doesn’t get lost on me. Realistic depictions of torture and brutality also tend to make me think why it’s there (not that I’m particularly sensitive; in fact, I tend to like those violent action films of the 80’s). If think, I can see why some people would be upset, particularly parents who don’t want their children seeing it. Where there’s upset, you invariably hear cries for graphic violence in entertainment media to be banned, or at least more tightly controlled. The problem, however, is that we need to be able to see violence in fiction.

I say this because the world is a pretty miserable place to live in. Conflict and drama are right in front of you wherever you can find it, and in the real world, violence is not a very pleasant thing. All too often, we’ve seen violence in the name of religion, profit, territory, and whatever else man can think of. What I’m trying to say is that we have to have violence in films, comic books, video games and TV shows because those outlets can teach us through entertainment why violence is a bad thing to begin with (or because it can often be a catharsis in itself).

Entertainment can offer a perspective of and reflection on the real world, and that’s why censoring violence is a bad thing. If you take away our freedom to depict acts of violence and torture, then it becomes much harder to learn the lessons such depictions would offer. I will readily admit that sometimes gratuitous violence is there just for the sake of gratuitous violence, but that’s why they’re called gore movies, or, in the case of video games, hack and slash action games.

The problem, as I see it, is that the amount of gratuitous violence in entertainment media has eclipsed the level of realistic violence, and whatever message violence may carry. In the case of Game of Thrones, I feel that the reason there’s a lot of violence, sex and other things is because it’s a fantasy setting that reflects of real life. In this context, Westeros is unpleasant and full of dishonourable characters because our world is unpleasant and full of nasty people who do terrible things. If writers and artists couldn’t accurately reflect on violence, brutality and torture, the only thing left is for people to try and experience it themselves, which will undoubtedly have terrible consequences.

Without fictional violence, or even pretend violence, we have only real violence, and that’s where the power of entertainment would truly be needed. If all we had was real violence, then we would all be killing each other for no real reason. I acknowledge that we can already see this happening around the world, but if we had nothing showing us why violence is a bad thing, then it would be even worse.

Violence is not an issue people like to confront, but at the same time, most people don’t like it being censored either. It could be the case that most people are wiser than I think when it comes to violence in entertainment, but we still need to be aware of the power entertainment has to make us aware of things, especially violence. Used responsibly, it can be a force that allows us to be aware of the morality (or immorality) of violence before we actually inflict it upon each other. Used irresponsibly, it can reduce violence to the level of being little more than gratuitous gore for the satisfaction of a baser desire that still lingers in us all.

Population overload

overpopulation in asia

The world is currently populated by an excess of 7.3 billion people and counting, and the newest generation of these people is being born into a world where resources are steadily running dry, the seas are rising, and the world is getting warmer. We exhaust every solution to the problems of today, but we always turn a blind eye to the most obvious problem plaguing today’s world – overpopulation.

Many of us are too scared to confront the issue of overpopulation, because we have been taught for generations to believe in a doctrine called “sanctity of life”, the idea that human life is sacred and holy. That same doctrine is used by right-wing Protestants hoping to silence debates over abortion, stem cell research, contraception, and of course the “right to die”. Of course, this is because the “sanctity of life” only seems to apply to human beings. Such anthropocentric rhetoric doesn’t apply in the natural world, so the sanctity of life doctrine is a lie designed to keep humans afraid of death. This continuing fear of death, I feel, is the biggest reason people are uncomfortable about dealing with overpopulation.

Of course, one has to remember that most people believe that you can only resolve overpopulation by killing off a large number of people, but that simply isn’t true. In my opinion, if we want to resolve overpopulation, I think we should take a look at ourselves. More specifically, I blame mankind’s completely reckless attitude towards sex, in the sense that we have now prioritized sex far too greatly. Due to centuries of brainwashing, human beings have been convinced that sex is bad and should be avoided. The 20th century paved the way for the undoing of this programming, but mankind had only just been re-introduced to sexual freedom, and because we’re used to being told that we can’t control our desires, this went out of control, with the end result culminating in a population explosion.

For me, there are two solutions to the overpopulation problem.

1. We need better sexual education. Part of the problem is that a lot of people still don’t use condoms, either because they were unaware, or because their religion teaches them that contraception is a sin. In other words, we need to reverse Catholic notion that condoms are bad, which is important because Catholicism still has a stranglehold on places like the Philippines, where condoms are still frowned upon.

2. We need to re-think our emphasis on the family unit. Currently in human society, one of the most generally accepted reasons for having procreative sex is to start a family. Thanks to all manner of brainwashing from the media and right-wing politics, I can hardly be surprised. The family unit is generally accepted as consisting of a man with a wife and three children (that should probably explain why the USA has a population of 324 million and counting). On top of being inflexible and impractical for most, it only serves to create more mouths to feed. If 3.65 billion couples across the world all had three children each, it would produce numbers the world can’t even cope with.

Either way, I think the overpopulation issue requires a global change of attitude, and ultimately, I think that’s why people are afraid of dealing with this issue, but we can’t sweep it under the rug forever. If we keep running from this issue, then what will eventually happen is that we’ll have an overgrown population consuming resources that are ceasing to exist, and civilization as we know it will disintegrate. Ultimately, we have two choices. We can either continue living in blissful ignorance and allowing the human race to screw itself to oblivion, or we can take a good look at ourselves, re-evaluate our values and priorities, and take the one chance we have to save the planet and ourselves from the hellhole we’ll create if we don’t.