Sunday, April 30, 2023

The Lost Art of Initiative

I'm older. I get it. I can tell I'm older, because I'm acting my age, regaling in the camaraderie of others who drench themselves in the nostalgia of their youth and wonder how things ever got so messed up. In fact, the only thing that keeps me balanced is recalling how my parents looked at my generation and thought the same things.

Still, I'm just as tired of hearing young people whine about everything as you probably are. Mostly, it's their inability to meet potential life partners, but it seems that since the invention of the play date, kids have grown up expecting things to be served up to them. To most of them, swiping left or right can determine their Saturday night plans. Pointing and clicking not only lays a world of options at their feet, but enables expectations that are wholly unrealistic and somewhat depressing.

When the internet became real (I use 1998 as the date), it held a lot of promise about connectivity, open resources and the freedom of access to information. I was there. I recall the rush of excitement of not only global reach, but instant global reach, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the one thing nobody saw coming ended up crippling an entire generation of humanity:

The internet destroyed initiative.

It turns out that when you lay the world at people's feet, they start expecting you to, well, lay the entire world at their feet. When they're just a screen away from getting results, they begin to think that life is an instant set of search results. They stop asking questions. They stop wondering. It doesn't occur to them to object to anything. They cease developing their innate hunting skills in favor of leaning back and waiting for their next request to be fulfilled.

People often ask me why the world is in "such bad shape." I tell them the world isn't in bad shape at all. Everything we had before 1998 is still there. It's just that a generation lacks the initiative to get out there and hunt for real answers to real questions that suits their own real interests. If you settle for what Google tells you is the answer, you deserve what you get: an unfulfilled life.

Think I'm kidding? Take a look at some of the confused, irrational and downright impossible policies that are being proposed, passed and enforced by the people in charge of your local, state and Federal government. People who just a few short years ago had no problem defining what a woman is or understanding that you can't ban airplanes or diesel-powered ships and still get to Hawaii mostly grew up in the age of point and click.

This whole issue was brought to a head when I overheard some young guys bemoaning their frustrations with dating. Hey, let's face it: every generation moaned about meeting someone. But these young men use dating apps and dating websites and just about anything else that could charge a monthly fee, and none of them was meeting anyone. That's when I asked them about taking some initiative. "Are you going out there? Are you hunting for these women or just sitting around? Are you dressed like a winner or a loser? Even at the grocery store, you need to be on the lookout. You have no idea how many people fall in love in the produce section!"

While that piqued their interest, they responded lethargically: "Yeah, but where are we supposed to go?" At this point, my being helpful got charged with my own frustration: "Just be an interesting young man and if she's of interest to you, ask her along! To Museums! Art galleries! Parks! Theaters! Bars! Clubs! Grocery stores! Nature hikes! Just walking down the street! Say hello! Make conversation! For crying out loud, you want me to fuck her for you, too?"

It might be the most Old Dad thing I've ever yelled.

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Faux Authority

It's now gotten to the point where I've been around for a lot longer than i'd care to admit. For a time in my career, I was the youngest voice in the room. And then one day I realized the situation had flipped and I was now the Voice of Experience. That realization came as somewhat of a shock, but on balance, it was rewarding news, mainly because at that point, I could look back and know I was right about one of my most basic tenets:

Rejecting unauthorized authority.

Even as a kid -- and much to my parents' frustration -- I'd always questioned any kind of authority. It wasn't my thinking I was smarter than everyone. I'm not. It was more about questioning what and who qualified these authorities and granted them such power. As such, I never went through a typical rebellious phase. I was much worse. I went through a questioning phase. One that seemingly still hasn't ended.

At first it was relegated to simple observations, rooted in youthful resentment. I never liked being told what to do, but really disliked who was telling me to do it. I could understand the earned respect and authoritative voices of proven talents. What I couldn't tolerate was an ever-growing universe filled with posers and opportunists.

Among my first suspects were clergymen and teachers, whom I realized had no moral, intellectual or educational value that qualified them to dispense any kind of comment with any type of authority. Indeed, it seemed that the very reason they chose to become clergymen and teachers was their own inability to garner and earn the respect of their peers in their personal lives. By simply walking into their occupations, these clergymen and professors wrapped themselves in a built-in pre-supposition of respect and authority. They didn't have to earn authority -- it came with the job.

I found this model fascinating. And the more I looked around, the more poser authorities I found. Most were where you'd expect them to be: law enforcement, the judicial system, religion, financial advisors, psychologists -- even the crossing guards in front of the local grade schools. All imbued with a faux sense of authority granted to them by a diploma, firearm or some other badge proudly pinned to their egos as one who must be obeyed.

The more you look, the worse it gets.

Sadly, the permeation of disingenuous authority has led to a widespread acceptance of faux authority, and that's not good. Almost anyone can pose as an authority on almost any topic and pass as a knowledgable resource on whom others form their own opinions. In this age of non-accountability, few are held culpable when their claims are proven false, or worse yet, cause people serious mental and physical damage.

It's not hard to connect the dots from the empty promises of faux authority with stories about mentally unbalanced, violently frustrated people: These are people who have been told to obey their faux authorities' commands, and having obeyed, explode with rage when they discover no reward in having done so. Nothing incites quite as much rage as having discovered one's been played for a fool.

Faux authority has not only destabilized the gullible, it's also spawned the rise of fear porn, in which breaking news is nothing more than fallacious claims, usually baseless and fictional, but offered up by faux authorities on television, internet and social media. The most often-use formula of faux authorities is faux data sprinkled mixed with faux logic, in which cherry-picked data and combined with expert opinions to convincingly predict more doom and gloom.

For crying out loud, even the Daily Racing Form warns you that “past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.”

Is there any chance of defeating faux authoritarianism? Of course, and it's far easier than you think: Think for yourself. Question authority at every juncture. You'll find your challenges will deflate faux authorities quickly and efficiently, while securing and enhancing your own authority over your own personal freedom.

But don't take my word for it. In fact, don't take anyone's word for it.