ruby rose batwoman

Cultural Segregation

Two instances in which so-called cultural appropriation occurring in the film industry have been pointed out recently. The first is the case of Ruby Rose, who was slated to play Kate Kane aka Batwoman in a new series. The character (since her 2006 incarnation) is both Jewish and lesbian; Ruby Rose is not Jewish and identifies as genderfluid. This discrepancy between the actor and the character led to social media backlash that resulted in Ruby Rose quitting Twitter. The second case, which hasn’t received as much attention (at least not in as far as it could be construed as cultural appropriation) is the possibility of Idris Elba being cast as the next James Bond. Richard Spencer posted a Twitter thread saying:

“Let there be no mistake, a Black James Bond would be an act of dispossession far greater than a flotilla of a million refugees. Refugees are, after all, refugees. James Bond is a symbol of British identity—indeed, the British empire—and of European masculinity writ large.”

Both of these cases aren’t exactly the same. They’re different in that the first one is outrage toward the actor not meeting strict intersectional criteria imposed by the audience while the second one is outrage toward the creators for making a creative decision about the character itself (the particular actor Idris Elba is incidental in this case).

However, the logic in both cases is similar: the fictional character and the non-fictional person portraying the character must have exactly the same background and identity.

Continue reading “Cultural Segregation”

Forbidden Knowledge

Knowledge is Power

There is an old adage that knowledge is power. People being able to acquire facts and information  gives them power over those who wish to control them. This is the cornerstone of first amendment rights in the United States. Preventing the government from having arbitrary power over the people by way of knowledge about the private lives and thoughts of people is the cornerstone of fourth and fifth amendment rights in the United States. Other governments – places like Nazi Germany and those in the Communist bloc – attempted to disempower their people by banning certain books and speech critical of their ideology or governing regime; by controlling people’s right to assembly (ie banning other political parties); by regulating or persecuting certain religions; by controlling and censoring the press; by spying on their people; and by forcing people to testify against themselves through torture and indefinite detention. The Khmer Rouge, for example, feared a knowledgeable populace so much that that would condemn and even kill people who wore glasses because ‘intellectuals’ were considered to be corrupted by modernity.

The point being, knowledge is generally viewed as a good thing in a liberal democracy. It allows us the opportunity to make informed decisions about who governs us and then hold them accountable. But is there knowledge which should not be known? Knowledge that could potentially be harmful if it gets out?

The Bible

This is an argument as old as time, but a particular instance comes to mind – the Bible. For much of the Church’s history, the Bible was read only by the clergy (and other higher status individuals), who could read Latin. The teachings could then be interpreted by the clergy and taught to their parishioners. This allowed for a single orthodoxy to be run by the Church bureaucracy. In the first 1500 years of Christianity, there was only a single schism in the church (not counting the Western schism, which was more political than theological). However, vernacular translations of the Bible in Greek by Erasmus and in German by the likes of Martin Luther were printed, helping to ignite the protestant reformation, the result being that the Church split into numerous churches. During those early days of the printing press, it was hotly debated whether it would be a good idea to let the people have access to the Bible. There are still those who think it was a bad idea.

The Internet

A more contemporary source of perhaps forbidden knowledge is the internet. Conspiracy theories, fake news, and other such nonsense aside, the internet is arguably the greatest means of spreading knowledge to come into existence since the printing press. The biggest obstacle one might find in their way online are paywalls and subscription fees, and even those are usually easily bypassed or avoided. But what about information like how to make bombs or 3D printed guns? Sure, most people are probably responsible enough to either not use this information, or even if they do, use it for benign purposes. But if that information is available on the internet, it is available to everyone – even those who would use it for malicious or self-serving purposes. I am not trying to make a political argument for banning these things, but generally a more philosophical argument – would humankind be better off if this information had never become available in the first place? Or is there something intrinsically good about such information being available – ie knowledge is power?

What about hacked or leaked information of a private or personal sort, like pictures of a politician doing something we might find disgusting, like cheating on their spouse or doing drugs? Does our knowledge of this lapse in character or poor judgment outweigh the privacy of the individual perpetrator? What about leaked classified information about government wrongdoing that could damage national security or put agents in the field in danger? This argument is made just about any time information about government wrongdoing is made available to the public, whether it damages national security or endangers field agents or not, which further demonstrates that the government is afraid of people becoming knowledgeable. But what about in cases where public knowledge is demonstrably dangerous, even if the government is in the wrong about something? Where is the crossover point, where the information becoming public knowledge becomes an unacceptable risk?

There is knowledge of a different kind on the internet – pornography. Social conservatives often argue that access to pornography has a deleterious affect on people’s minds and morals. There may be merit to this argument. Pornography can cause addiction, isolation and unrealistic expectations about romantic love. And what about the fact that after a terrifying experience, such as the false alarm about a missile strike in Hawaii, people seem to seek comfort in pornography? So, should pornography be included in the category of knowledge that humankind would be better off without? Or is it part of the knowledge as intrinsic good? Even if we argue that pornography is not harmful, psychologically or sexually, is there an argument for it being good? Or perhaps there is a cutoff point – pictures of naked people alone, or video of people having missionary position sex, is acceptable, but people doing other sex acts is not. Maybe if it’s only shown with people having safe sex – like the proposed condom law that failed in California – then it is acceptable. Once again, I’m not trying to make a political or civil liberties argument one way or the other, but I’m asking, philosophically speaking, would humankind be better off (psychologically, sexually, morally) if pornography didn’t exist, or if only certain types of pornography existed?

Political Correctness

Opponents of Political Correctness contend that it is a form of censorship that stifles society from having important conversations. Political Correctness is defined as “…the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.” However, Political Correctness is often used as a way of shutting down conversation. For instance, bringing up crime and race, race and intelligence, or that men and women might have differences in preference when it comes to career path choices (as opposed to systemic barriers to entry in certain careers dependent on ones sex or gender identity) are often hot-button issues. I’m not making any claims about the truth of falsity of these topics, but Political Correctness dictates that even bringing them up is taboo. People who bring these issues up will often find themselves on the receiving end of criticism, and sometimes even threats of violence. Opponents of Political Correctness will say that if these subjects aren’t even up for discussion, then there is no way to find whether the claims are true or not, and if true, find the causes of these problems and be able to work out solutions. As a result, the problems will persist and get worse while people continue to pretend that they don’t exist. The truth value of these claims is not based on reason, facts, or evidence, but on how the topics make people feel. Things that are uncomfortable to discuss then become, essentially, forbidden knowledge. Do these subjects belong in that category, or should they be up for discussion?

The issue works the other way, too. There are plenty of people who would prefer not to have LGBT issues taught to children, while proponents of Political Correctness are often in favor of doing this. Whether one believes that sexual preference or gender nonconformity are choices, pathologies, or just part of the spectrum of human experience, they are still phenomena that occur in the real world; they are still impulses that dictate the lifestyle of real people. Refusing to teach people about these issues will not prevent them from being exposed to them, and will only leave people less knowledgeable about real world issues. It is a form of political correctness that attempts to pretend that something isn’t real, which stifles dialogue and does nothing to weigh truth claims about causes, effects, and society based on reason, facts, and evidence, but once again based only on how the topic makes people feel. Thus, not teaching people about the LGBT phenomena is relegating these issues to the realm of forbidden knowledge. Are people better off not knowing about these issues, or is knowledge still power in this case? Does knowledge necessitate acceptance – if a person is taught about LGBT people, will that person necessarily be accepting? Does acceptance necessitate knowledge – can you not accept someone’s lifestyle if you are ignorant of it? And, if this should not be forbidden knowledge, at what age should people be taught about LGBT issues? What is the best way to teach them? And what exactly should be taught, as there are competing theories?

Doomsday

I think probably the place where the most people will accept that some knowledge may be better left unknown is when it comes to the potential end of the world. Nuclear weapons are the first thing that come to mind. During World War II, there was a concerted effort by the United States and Britain to develop atomic weapons. Doing so opened up a Pandora’s box that still affects us to this day – the doomsday clock was just recently reset to 2 minutes to midnight (doomsday). When the Soviet Union tested their own nuclear weapons in 1949, the term Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) soon came into vogue. Would it have been better if humankind had never learned how to develop nuclear weapons in the first place? What about the argument that Mutually Assured Destruction has prevented cataclysmic wars between major powers, as was the case in WWI and WWII before humans split the atom? Does that make knowledge of atomic weapons a net positive for the human race, even if the potential destruction of civilization as we know it as the hair-trigger whims of a few powerful people?

Nowadays, we also have to worry about possibly an even more insidious weapon of mass destruction: biological weapons. What makes this even more dangerous is that they are so cheap and easy to develop (particularly compared to nuclear weapons), a single person could do it in a DIY lab in their garage. It’s so easy a person could develop or release it on accident. Instructions on how to do it could easily be made available online (and probably are in some dark corners of the web). And once the disease is out, it will not distinguish between friend and foe – at the very least, an atomic weapon could potentially be contained to a single geographical location. This, of course, brings up the question of whether it has been a good thing or not that humankind has acquired knowledge about how genetics work – with knowledge of genetic manipulation, it’s not that difficult to make a dangerous pathogen. Our understanding of genetics and genetic manipulation has yielded amazing things for humanity, but if it ultimately spells our downfall, was any of it worthwhile? Or would humans have been better off never knowing?

And now, possibly in the not to distant future, we might have to worry about Artificial Intelligence. As it is often popular to say in AI circles, Artificial Intelligence could be the last thing humankind ever invents. So, does that mean that AI technology should be forbidden knowledge? Is humanity better off not discovering Artificial Intelligence? What if developing AI is the only way we can actually ensure that we don’t wipe ourselves out via other means? Unlike most of what I’ve talked about here, AI is knowledge that we have not yet acquired – it is still theoretically within our power to keep this knowledge forbidden, whereas other things I’ve discussed are already available. It may be that development of AI is inevitable, but it could be that we would have been better off never even considering it.

Individualism and Collectivism

What does it mean to be a good person? What does it mean to do good things? Individualism would answer these questions by saying a good person, who does good things, is kind, fair, thoughtful, empathetic, and self-actualized; that they do things to better themselves (ie go to the gym, stay informed, eat right, meditate, and do things that will make them happy). Collectivism would say that a person is good if they belong to a good group and that their thoughts and actions are in alignment with that group and work towards the betterment and actualization of the group and promotion of its ideals over others.

Individualism is politically expressed through capitalism. The benefit of capitalism is that, ideally, each individual is in sole control of their own economic activity, thus the economy is defined by the interactions of individual agents all working toward their own personal good via rational self-interest – one spends one’s money on food, shelter, clothes, medicine, and entertainment for oneself; nobody else forces one into any particular form of economic activity. The problem seems to arise from taking this political philosophy on as a personal ethical philosophy – if it is morally good that I have personal control over my economic activity, then it is also morally good that I have personal control over my ethical activity. This can then descend into hedonism and moral relativism – what is “good” must be what makes me feel good, and who is anyone to say that what is “good” for one person must also be “good” for another?

Collectivism is politically expressed through communism or nationalism – the two use different rhetoric and emphasize different collectives, but are functionally similar. The benefit of collectivism as political philosophy (whether communism or nationalism) is that, ideally, everyone in the group (economic class, in the case of communism, or racial/ethnic group in the case of nationalism) is on equal economic footing – if you are within the preferred group, then there are no winners or losers, and therefore things like greed or envy of other in-group members becomes obsolete, and economic activity is simplified by relieving everyone of economic responsibility, because certain economic privileges become economic “rights” for in-group members. Their are inherent problems in collectivism as political philosophy, but further problems arise when collectivism is taken as an ethical philosophy: you end up with identity politics. In this case, every individual is pre-judged based on whatever group(s) one happens to fall into (racial, gender, class, etc.), and one is expected to adhere to a certain orthodoxy as established by said groups in order to be a “good person” as defined by that orthodoxy. The groups are then confronted by a dilemma: moral relativism vs might-makes-right. By the former, all groups are mutually exclusive, but equally valid, and therefore it is not acceptable to criticize another group by the ethical standards of one’s own, since one group’s ethics is only valid within that group, thus one is wrong to speak out against potentially monstrous beliefs and activities within other groups (ie who is one group to say that female genital mutilation is bad if it is considered “good” by those groups that practice it?). By the latter, universal “goodness” is dependent on which group can conquer, subjugate, or silence the others, thus it is “good” for one’s group to try and conquer, subjugate, or silence other groups deemed not to be “good” before they are able to conquer, subjugate, or silence one’s group (ie shouting down out-group speakers on college campuses or petitioning the government for laws favorable to one’s own group or unfavorable to the out-group).

So, the question is, how is humanity to determine a proper ethical framework? Religion used to attempt to fill this role. However, without a universally agreed upon religion, it will (and has) devolved into collectivism. There is also the issue that modernity has shown that God has taken a lesser role in the universe that once thought, or at least in people’s lives, if God exists at all. Because of the de-emphasis of religion for the formulation of an ethical framework, the above political philosophies have taken that role, and it has led to divisiveness, shallow materialism, and an epidemic of depression, anxiety, and drug/alcohol use.

Adhering to simple moral prohibitions – don’t lie, cheat, steal, rape, murder – although not perfectly practiced, are generally agreed upon, even if not always for the same reasons. Yet this doesn’t seem to be good enough to create a peaceful world of productive societies, made up of internally supportive and externally tolerant communities, each composed of happy, healthy, self-actualized individuals. How to achieve that is the question ethical philosophers must answer.

Something Worth Fighting For

Let’s say that someone you knew bought a 1968 Shelby Mustang GT500KR back when they first rolled off the assembly line. They loved this car and took very good care of it. Whenever a part began to go bad, it was immediately replaced before anything could damage the car. They kept this car for the past 50 years. Over that time, 90% of the parts in that car were replaced with new parts. They now want to sell the car to you, and they say that it is an original 1968 – are they telling you the truth? Or is it now a completely different car than the one they bought 50 years ago?

This, of course, is a modern re-telling of the Ship of Theseus. The reason I ask is because this applies to more than just objects, but also ideas. Ideas mutate and evolve over time. Some aspects become obsolete, emphases are changed, new thinking is added, and sometimes ideas are rejected completely. Like switching out the different parts in our muscle car, these changes are due to the emergence of new information and technology, along with the growing and shifting social, political, and philosophical milieu.

And when I say “fighting for” something, I don’t necessarily mean physically fighting for it, but also advocating and arguing in favor of, and being willing to align oneself and take a position for, a particular set of beliefs, ideals, and principles.

Christianity, for example, as it is understood nowadays, is very different from its original conception – so, is it still the same thing that the early followers had in mind when they were persecuted for their beliefs? Is Christianity still the same thing that the Medieval people had in mind when they persecuted others in its name?

What about the United States of America? Certainly the country is very different from the one the founders understood – now slavery is abolished, women have equal rights, our government involves itself in the affairs of every other country. So, when someone says they are fighting for America, what does that really mean?

And, more interestingly, will people in the future think what you believe is worth fighting for now had been worth fighting for at all?

What comes immediately to mind is the Confederacy during the American Civil War. They believed they were fighting for something noble and just, and now most people think their cause anywhere between misguided all the way to despicable. But what if the Confederacy had won the American Civil War – would their cause be seen as righteous and just, the way the Union is often portrayed? Which raises the question – will the way the future judges us be based solely on which ideas win out over the others, or will the future be able to judge what we fight for objectively and see an idea, even if it “loses” the fight, as better than one that may have “won” the fight?

f_la_statue_topple_170814.nbcnews-ux-1080-600

[Protesters in Durham, North Carolina, toppled a statue called the Confederate Soldiers Monument.]

It also brings to mind the people fighting during the 30 Years War – many atrocities were committed, thousands killed through warfare, disease, and starvation, ruinous destruction wrought on the people of Europe, and yet nowadays most people don’t even know that this war happened, much less what it was even about. But the people fighting it (or, at least, funding it) thought it worth the catastrophic consequences. Which raises the question – are your ideas worth fighting for is they will simply fall by the wayside in history, forgotten by posterity? What if they only remember what you did for your cause, but not why you did it? How will you be judged?

30_year_war_Grave

[Mass grave from Battle of Lützen, 1632, during the 30 Years War.]

What about humanities greatest experiment with implementing an idea – Communism in places like China and the Soviet Union? Untold millions suffered and died for this grand experiment, the world being brought to the precipice of thermonuclear annihilation, only to have it all fail. Now that we are in their future, with the Soviet Union in our past, would we deem Stalinist or Maoist Communism to have been worth fighting for? At the time, many people certainly believed in those ideals enough to kill and die for them. Now, it seems, all of that suffering was for nothing.

Great_Leap_Forward

[Propaganda poster from Mao’s Great Leap Forward program, which resulted in the government executing 550,000 people and an estimated 16.5 million to 40 million people starving to death.]

So how does one know what to fight for now, given that it may be forgotten by posterity, or deemed misguided or even evil? Is it worth killing for a cause that will be judged so harshly by our descendants? Worth dying for? What if the ideas you believe will make the world a better place get put to the test, and it turns out that they make things worse for everyone? And if these questions are paralyzing, what if not fighting for anything is even worse than fighting for the wrong thing?

Is there something worth fighting for?

[Featured image is from Kharkov in the Soviet Union, 1933, during the Holodomor, where estimates of 2 million to 10 million people starved to death due to Communist collectivization policy.]

Sweet Little Lies

Is it better to believe in pleasant falsehoods or unpleasant truths?

Having a sense of purpose in ones life leads to better cognition, resilience to trauma, positive self-image and lawful behavior, as well as longevity. This has been utilized by programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous – the insistence on accepting a higher power and devotion to helping other struggling alcoholics and addicts is said to be the key to the success of these programs. What this doesn’t say is whether someone’s chosen purpose has to be true (or even morally good, but that may be a topic for another article). In other words, even if the purpose for which one has devoted their life is false, it could still have positive benefits for the individual.

Religious people have bemoaned the decreased emphasis on religion because it leads to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. It’s also possible that this loss of higher purpose has led to sociopolitical woes – in the absence of higher meaning, people seek purpose in other, less healthy outlets, such as drugs and sex. But it could also explain the rise of identity politics – without a sense of higher purpose, people find meaning in their various intersecting identities. Being female, or male, or gay, or straight, or transgender, or black, or white, or working class, or disabled, or liberal, or conservative…these things begin to provide the meaning that people no longer get from religion. Unfortunately, as is playing out, these sources of purpose are divisive and provide no overarching, unifying narrative to give meaning and purpose to everyone as a whole. Instead, our chosen purposes put everyone at odds.

But what if something like religion is no longer able to give meaning? What if belief in a higher power that gives us an overarching, unified meaning is now obsolete or impossible? This may be the legacy of globalization, multiculturalism, and scientific progress – a strange concoction of moral relativism and materialistic reductionism. So we find out that God doesn’t exist (or, at least, has yet to intervene and set us straight on the issue at hand) and we are condemned to freedom. As such, people have come to different conclusions on how to live The Good Life here on earth – each of them the flawed brainchild of human beings in all our biased thinking, all of them equally valid without an ultimate authority, mutually incongruous, and yet unable to avoid one another in a world shrunk by globalization and constant connection, leading to polarization, division, and conflict.

So what’s the answer? Do we continue believing the truth – that there is no ‘right’ answer to the question “what is my/our purpose in life?” and that we are permitted to do anything, no matter how bad it is for ourselves and those around us? Or do we take the Leap of Faith that Soren Kierkegaard suggested – that, given what we know in our modern times, we tell ourselves Sweet Little Lies – that will make our lives better? The former has obvious real world consequences, as discussed above, but the latter requires us to commit what Albert Camus called philosophical suicide by attempting to make transcendental meaning out of meaninglessness (to his credit, I imagine Camus would also condemn something like identity politics as a source of purpose as philosophical suicide, too).

This discussion may seem somewhat academic, but I contend that it has very important ramifications. How will we reconcile the truth that meaning is merely what we make it with the need for a higher purpose? I hope I am being melodramatic when I say that our civilization may depend on this reconciliation, but more and more I feel like this isn’t too much of an exaggeration.

Divided States of America

Anyone who pays attention to the news in the United States will at least be vaguely aware of the sociopolitical rift that has opened recently (1) (2) (3) (4). Whether this rift had been hidden for some time and has only just recently been brought to the surface, or if this is a new phenomenon in American culture, no one can say for sure.

Political Polarization

When it comes to these issues, subjective truth is often more salient than objective truth. It doesn’t matter whether immigration – both legal or illegal – is up or down, whether this has consequences for job markets, crime rates, and terrorism, or whether there is a concerted, racially motivated effort to crack down on immigration. It doesn’t matter if high profile police shootings of black people is part of an epidemic indicative of long-standing institutional racism in America or just a false narrative perpetuated by those who hate police and law-and-order or simply want special privileges for particular groups of people. It doesn’t matter if all transgender people are beautiful and inspiring heroes who are deserving of our utmost admiration, a mixed bag of people just trying to live their lives in a way that best suits them, mentally ill victims in need of psychiatric attention to alleviate their suffering without mutilating their bodies, or menacing perverts who will sink to any level depravity to pursue their fetishistic desires. It doesn’t matter if everyone on the right is a money-grubbing, capitalistic, environment hating white supremacist or not, or if everyone on the left is a cis-hetero-white-male hating neo-Marxist identitarian slouching toward Sharia Law or not.

What matters, as far as social interactions, voting trends, and policy decisions are concerned, is that people believe these things are true, one way or the other.

But why do people believe the things they do? And why is there a divide? And what was it that brings people together in the first place? Lets go through these questions one at a time.

  • Why Do People Believe the Things They Do?

It turns out that there is a large biological component to why people have the sociopolitical views that they do. For example, a twin study, conducted in five democracies (Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary and the US) using a sample size of 12,000 people over the years 1980-2011, found that genetics played a significant role in peoples political self-identification. These results have been confirmed in other studies (1) (2) (3).

In addition, political self-identification is strongly correlated with personality type using both the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and The Big Five (1) (2) (3).

Big Five Political BeliefsMBTI Political Beliefs

There are even brain imaging studies that show anatomical differences correlated to different political beliefs (1) (2) (3).

Figure1

This can be troubling, since people use what is called motivated reasoning when it comes to accepting different conclusions. This means that we start from preferred conclusions and then look for evidence to support those conclusions, as opposed to formulating conclusions based on the known evidence. In other words, humans are lawyers, not scientists. And once we reach a conclusion, our confirmation bias allows us to continuously find evidence to support those conclusions we’ve already accepted. The backfire effect makes it difficult for anyone to convince us otherwise, regardless of the facts. And our bias blind spot leads us to believe that we alone are immune to all of this.

Thus, having a genetic predisposition for certain sociopolitical beliefs, a propensity for motivated reasoning clad in the armor of confirmation bias, the backfire effect, and bias blind spot, can make it difficult to achieve reconciliation when divisive issues are given primacy in the national conversation.

  • Why Has the Sociopolitical Division Become so Large?

Studies show mixed results about how much the media effects political polarization (1) (2) (3), where there is a positive correlation for people who have a high interest in politics and in consuming traditional media, but it doesn’t fully explain the recent extreme polarization, especially since news media has been around for a very long time. One hypothesis is that social media, which is a new phenomenon compared to traditional media, is the driving force – whether through the creation of ideological echo chambers or the spread of fake news. However, the evidence doesn’t bare this out. The most extreme polarization comes from people who use social media the least (1).

So, what are some other possible explanations for the recent sociopolitical division?

In addition to more access to our own preferred narratives, the rhetoric has become more polarizing and divisive. When people who are political/ideological opponents are not just viewed as those who have the welfare of their fellow countrymen in mind, using a different approach of achieving that end, but instead are characterized as people acting in bad faith, or with malicious, self-serving, or spiteful intentions, it creates a whole new dynamic. In the former case, political and ideological opponents are people who can be engaged in dialogue, where ideas can be discussed and with whom compromises can be arrived. In the latter, political and ideological opponents are beyond the pale. They are not worth engaging in dialogue, since they will only do so in bad faith, and all that will result is giving legitimacy to ideas not worth considering, and in fact may be reprehensible. Thus, it is not necessarily that our information is being catered to our preconceived notions, but the atmosphere in which the information is being discussed. Instead of constructing a reasoned argument why a political or ideological opponent is incorrect or misinformed, all one needs to do is denounce them categorically. Virtue signaling trumps reasoned argument.

What we can say about the recent sociopolitical polarization, which may be a result of the divisive rhetoric, is that it seems not to come from increased extremism in one’s own belief in their own ideology, but an increased mistrust of those considered to be part of the opposition. Interestingly, mistrust of ones perceived ideological opponents is also correlated with a recent decline in trust for the government. What is also interesting is that distrust in the government leads to more calls for increased government regulation. It’s possible that the recent sociopolitical polarization could have something to do with each side perceiving the other as attempting to use the government as a weapon to impose their own ideology on others. As each side becomes more distrustful of the other, they more fervently attempt to stymie each others legislation, vote for people who will more vehemently oppose the other side, and enthusiastically support politicians who will use stronger verbiage to attack opponents. This leads to more distrust in the government, which results in calls for increased regulation as an attempt to reign in the other side.

But a primary driver of sociopolitical division is identity politics along with relative deprivation. The first aspect, identity politics, has been widely discussed lately. This is the phenomenon of viewing social and political interactions, decisions, and conceptual frameworks through the lens of one’s self identity. This alone isn’t enough to cause sociopolitical rifts. But along with relative deprivation – the fact or perception that one’s particular identity group(s) are being treated unfairly or having access to resources or political influence restricted by those outside the identity group – identity politics can result in division and conflict. This phenomenon has occurred on both the left and the right – the left focusing on the present and historical relative deprivation of minorities, the right focusing on the resulting relative deprivation of cisgendered, heterosexual, white males from this recent shift in ideological emphasis on the left. Where this initial ideological reorganization on the left originates is up for debate, but many issues may be contributing factors – changes in parental styles as a result of current scholarship, the relative lack of external threats to personal safety and well-being that results from living in a civilized soiety, the inevitable decline of national identity and subsequent replacement by moral decadence that befalls every hegemonic power, an extreme over-correction of past wrongs on account of guilt brought on by increased awareness, paternalistic government expansion that results in infantalizing the populace, etc.

  • What Brings a Population Together?

The identification of a population as a cohesive group is based on shared qualities of race, ideology, and culture. Race is an easy one to understand – people inherently identify with those who share common physical features (1) (2) (3). Ideology refers to a shared set of specific beliefs. For instance, in the United States, the belief that all people are morally and legally equal (ie despite obvious differences in intelligence or physical strength between individuals, it is just as wrong to deprive one of life as another, and each should be treated equally by the law), that we have the right to free speech, etc. Culture refers to a shared set of traditions, social mores/taboos, values, and language. For instance, in the United States, Christmas is widely celebrated, even by people who don’t believe in Christianity; money and material possessions are valued as a measure of social status and success; and most people expect those around them (at least while within U.S. borders) to speak English.

The U.S. was unique in that it did not have origins in racial similarity. Yes, the founders were white men, but the U.S. was and is a country of immigrants (both voluntary and involuntary). Even if the credo that “all [people] are created equal” wasn’t realized from the start, it was an eventual, and inevitable, destination. The U.S. instead originated from a shared ideology – namely, the ideology that all people are morally and legally equal – that resulted in a shared culture. A culture that valued chasing the vaunted American Dream – that one’s children will live a better life than they had.

What seems to have changed recently, on both the left and the right, is that this has been turned on its head. American, and more generally, Western culture has been demonized as inherently oppressive, through the denigration or appropriation of certain heritages. The ideology is held accused of being hollow and unequally distributed. Instead, we are told, race is what matters. Your rights are determined by your race (or, often times, sex) – whether you are white or non-white – and all conflict is based on the relative deprivation of certain races (or sexes). This will not result in national unification, but only further division. There are those who may see this as a desirable result, and in fact may be actively working towards these ends, but I don’t foresee this as resulting in anything good.

I don’t have any particular prescriptions for how to fix any of this. I can say, broadly speaking, that if the U.S., and the West in general, doesn’t find a common ideology and culture once again, that we will only further divide.

world trade center twin towers 9/11

American War Since the Cold War

Disclaimer: this post was inspired and largely (but not completely) influenced by the book “America’s War for the Greater Middle East” by Andrew Bacevich, a former military officer who started in 1969 in Vietnam and ended as a Colonel after Desert Storm, and has since become a military historian who is critical of American militarism (but possibly not for the reasons you think). For a much more in depth look, read his book, or listen to it on Audible (~15 hours) like I have done over the course of a few weeks (while falling asleep after long days of being a biochemistry graduate student).

With the 2016 election coming up, militarism is something I’ve seen a bit about (with the limited time I’ve been able to devote to politics and current events). I am a self described libertarian (or self confessed, depending on how you view libertarians), so I have no illusions about my anti-war stance. That makes seeing pro-war people much easier – to someone like me, everyone seems pro-war to some extent. That being said, liberals make Trump and Cruz out to be warmongers on the scale of Hitler or Mussolini, and libertarians make Hillary out to be worse than either of them on war, for reasons I’ll go into.

So, the American adventure into the Middle East didn’t start on September 11, 2001. America has been involved with the Middle East since the British after World War I (1914-1918). But the real intervention started during the cold war (1946-1990), most notably after the Iranian coup in 1953 when democratically elected Mosaddegh was overthrown with American help to put American friendly Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in charge. The other notable American intervention was their undying support of Israel after 1948, which saw occasional disagreements, but remained an ally due to A) geopolitical Cold War reasons, B) cultural reasons, such as American Christians identifying more with European Jews than with Middle Eastern Arabs, and C) religious reasons (particularly by the evangelical Christians, who saw Jewish occupation in Christian prophecy).

Although the Israel/Palestine conflict has often been held up as the primary conflict in the region, nationalism has been an enormous part of Middle Eastern culture, although this has sprung from the Israel/Palestine conflict in many ways since the Balfour Declaration during World War I, but even more so since World War II and the winding down of European colonialism (i.e. post-colonialism in Asia, Middle East, and Africa). This has taken two forms. The first has been Arab nationalismArab nationalism, which seeks a pan-Arab nation. Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (leader of Libya from 1969-2011) was a self-proclaimed Arab nationalist who had run-ins with the USA as early as the 1980s. The second was Islamism, which started as early as the 1700s with Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, 1800s with Sayyid Jamāl al-Dīn al-Afghānī, and modernized with Sayyid Qutb for people like Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden.

The events in the Middle East that ramped up America’s interest in the region primarily started in 1979. The first was the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi regime and implanted the Ayatollah Khomeini regime. The second was the siege of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. And the third was the Soveiet invasion of Afghanistan. The first and the third had immediate influence on American foreign policy. Iran was at best an American ally, at worst an American colony – such was the motivation for revolution. The third was an immediate threat by then arch-enemy Soviet Union, yet it was also motivated by the Iranian revolution. The American Cold Warriors thought that Soviet intrusion into Afghanistan would quickly and easily bring the Soviets into Iran and give them more control over the Iranian oil fields. This prompted the Americans to give arms and aid to the Mujahedin fighting in Afghanistan, despite the fact that most of them held anti-American views.

Osama bin Laden, a rich citizen of Saudi Arabia, was a huge benefactor in the Soviet-Afghan war. He made many friends with the Taliban by funding their war and participating in the conflict.

The Afghan war happened all during the 1980s. Also in that time was the Iran-Iraq war. Hitler used gas on the Jews during his atrocious, inconceivable, and damnable holocaust. Yet the only two times gas was regularly used on the battlefield was in World War I and during the Iran-Iraq war. The American government sided with the chemical weapon using Iraq, which used chemical weapons on both the Iranians as well as the Shia and Kurds that lived within Iraq (the minority Kurds received American sympathy afterwards for a time, but the majority Shia got the cold shoulder). The Americans looked the other way on the cruel practices of their allys. Even after the USS Stark incident, the American government sided with Saddam Hussein.

And this hardly covers the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Oliver North, working within the Reagan administration, sold arms to Israel, which then sold the arms to Iran, in order to get Iranian help in freeing American prisoners in Lebanon as well as illegally make money under the table for the Contras in Nicaruagua to battle the Sandinistas  – which may have also involved the cocaine trade.

The Gulf War (ie Desert Storm), which came only shortly after the Iran-Iraq war, in which America sided with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, happened for three reasons. The first was obviously for oil. Even in the early 1990s the politicians weren’t yet embarrassed enough to admit that, and the public wasn’t yet conscious enough to realize that nations outside of the United States had issues of their own that might influence global trade. The second was because the United States was still embarrassed by what had happened in Vietnam. For more on that second issue, I definitely recommend Andrew Bacevich’s book – I could never make the case he does in this space.

But the real reason is to exercise foreign policy. Here comes the doctrine:
1) Despite the fact that the Nuremberg trials found preemptive war a war crime (Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union preemptively in order to prevent a Soviet invasion of Germany), America will exercise previously decided war crimes and demonstrate that they are necessary and that laws against preemptive war is exempt, but only for America; this is because new technology makes those old preemptive war ideas obsolete, but only for America (which now exercised unrestrained power, with the Soviet Union collapse). 2) America alone has the willingness and capability to exert its diplomatic and military power, now that the cold war is over.

The first is somewhat self-explanatory. It says that America will do what it wants, when it wants, as long as it perceives a threat to its interests. The second has a bit more impact. If America tells you to do something, you had better do it, because nobody is coming to rescue you, and you have no chance of defeating America. It is a lesson taken to heart by the American military machine. This is a conceit seen plainly in America’s involvement in the Iraqi no-fly zone, Somalia, Bosnia, and Kosovo. I could spend an entire blog post on each of these, but it would probably do you better to just click the links and read about them – particularly the Iraqi no fly Zone. I remember hearing about this as a kid, but I simply thought that the Americans and Iraqis had agreed that Iraqis won’t fly in these zones – it turns out that Americans were shooting down Iraqis in these zones and that the Iraqis had never agreed to this; in other words, it was a continued war that few realized, but that went on for more than a decade, along with draconian sanctions that caused the suffering and death of literally millions.

It was an American version of the Siege of Leningrad.

The Iraqi Embargo.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 came as a surprise to everyone aware enough at the time. I think, personally, I was not quite aware enough at the time, despite being sixteen years old. I was in homeroom when I first heard that something was going on, which must have been sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. I also remember, throughout the day, rumors that other attacks had happened, in places like LA and Chicago. Obviously, none of them came to pass. I was an asshole in my teens, and about the biggest emotion I remember from the time was boredom. I remember hoping that this would upset each classes normal schedule.  The only two classes I remember specifically were my English class, with a teacher I hated, in which the normal class routine went as scheduled, which disappointed me. I also remember my last class of the day, which was creative writing, and we got to sit and watch the news for the whole class period, with the expectation that we would take notes in our journal and then write a few pages about how we felt afterward. That seemed like a sweet deal to me, since it meant we didn’t really have to do anything except watch TV. I remember, after getting home, wishing that every channel on TV would stop talking about the 9/11 attacks and get back to more entertaining programming (the coverage of the 9/11 attacks went on for more than a few days on many channels – and yet I was so far up my own ass I didn’t realize that this meant it was kind of a big deal). I remember complaining about seeing the same footage of the twin towers falling over and over again on TV, rather than showing something I would rather see (reruns of the Simpsons, anyone?). Needless to say, I had no idea the level of impact the 9/11 attacks had, and would have, on both American and world affairs.

The invasion of Afghanistan came soon after. Support for George W. Bush had skyrocketed. Everyone was a super patriot. American flags were everywhere. Nobody questioned that most of the hijackers were Saudi Arabian, nor that Osama bin Laden, the easily fingered ringleader, was also Saudi. And everyone had forgotten that the Soviet Union’s adventure into Afghanistan had ended in disaster. The idea of Afghanistan as the “graveyard of empires” was already in the aether. But it was only a decade after our supposed Vietnam redeeming victory in Desert Storm, and our purported success in the Balkans during the 1990’s, and to boot this was a just war against people who attacked us first.

There was success in Afghanistan at first. The Taliban, having seemingly forgotten the guerilla tactics that won them victory in the 1990’s after the Soviet-Afghan war, attempted to face American forces head on. They were obviously defeated over and over again. But after the distraction of the impending Iraq war had swayed the American attention, the Taliban, alongside al-Qaeda, rediscovered their guerilla/insurgent roots. America forgot about Afghanistan as Iraq loomed on the horizon.

Afghanistan is a war that makes sense to many Americans. Osama bin Laden had been given asylum in Afghanistan after being banished from Saudi Arabia (some time spent in Sudan in there, too). Osama bin Laden was given asylum by the Taliban, whom he had helped during the Soviet-Afghan war. The Taliban had been helped by al-Qaeda in the 1980s and 1990s. Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan when 9/11 happened.

Although I also imagine that many Americans don’t know that Osama bin Laden is Arabic, but the Taliban is not, and that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are not the same thing. Either way, I think most Americans would see Operation Enduring Freedom as a just war, regardless of their ignorance on the war aims or the local culture being faced; or what it would actually require to ingratiate ourselves; or whether the culture even wanted what the west was offering, despite the propaganda that says everyone wants what Americans have.

However, the war in Iraq  was a hard sell. The justification was 1) that Saddam Hussein harbored  Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) with the implicit assumption that he had the willingness and capability of using them against the United States (or, at the very least, US allys such as Israel) and 2) that the Saddam Hussein regime had ties to al-Qaeda, despite al-Qaeda despising regimes like Saddam’s for not being Islamic enough. Many in the American public did not buy this, particularly liberal leaning people.

I was one of those liberal leaning people. I remember in March of 2003 when the war began, I had a debate with my co-workers at a restaurant I worked at. It was me and one of my managers against just about everyone else working there, with the two of us voicing our disapproval with the Iraq war – the conversation stayed civil, but it was an ongoing debate throughout the evening that I was working there. This is about the first time in my life I remember ever being political about anything, but I remember being very charged up about the issue. I don’t think I really knew much anything about politics at the time, except that I was against war, especially unjustified war. That is a position I maintain to this day – I am a libertarian, but above all, I am against war.

The Iraq war started in 2003 was supposed to be “shock and awe.” That phrase became somewhat of a punchline after what happened in Iraq, but given what the actual aims of the war were, it makes sense. One has to understand that all sorts of justifications for the war have been attributed to George W. Bush. All of them have some truth, but were almost certainly not the war aims. The first, that I’ve heard from numerous liberals, is that George W. Bush only wanted to go into Iraq because his daddy wasn’t able to finish the job. This is a very pedestrian motive that certainly fits with the liberal notion that GWB was an infantile minded rube that would throw around billions of dollars and human lives for petty feuds like a Roman Emperor. There might be some enmity harbored by the younger Bush, but I hardly see this as a primary motive. Another two motives, which I will combine into one, and one in which I myself bought into for a long time, is that the way the Iraq war went is exactly how the Bush administration wanted it to go – a long-term occupation that benefits a) the military-industrial complex and b) the oil companies. America’s prolonged presence would simply mean bigger profits for arms manufacturers, nation builders, and oil companies.

I don’t discount any of these motives. Primarily the war profiteering motives. I’m sure there are many businesses that saw their profits climb substantially during the Iraq war. But I am saying that this wasn’t the primary motive for this war. Once again, I attribute two motivations: 1) establishing the idea of preemptive war, and the American prerogative to do it and 2) demonstrating that America can easily overthrow a regime and implant a new one.

Let us imagine that the Iraq war had been a resounding success. Imagine if the American military had gone into Iraq and overthrown Saddam within a matter of weeks and installed a functioning democracy a month later. What do you think Syria, Lybia, and Iran would think? What would they do if America had threatened to do the same thing to them that America had done to Iraq?

That is what the American government wanted to achieve. A military preeminence that gave them the Big Stick that Teddy Roosevelt talked about – do as we say, or you know what will happen. Iraq was to be the smoking gun the government could hold to other countries, showing that they mean business. It was supposed to permanently throw off the humiliation that was the Vietnam war, showing that the American military had the teeth to back up its hardline diplomacy.

The biggest failure, as far as the Bush administration is concerned, is that we didn’t win with ‘shock and awe.’ That was the plan. We were supposed to be in and out quickly. We were supposed to take that smoking gun from the chest of Iraq and point it at all over the Middle East and ask who is next. Regimes such as Assad and Qaddafi were supposed to quail at our ability to overthrow regimes and give in to our demands. The fact that the military-industrial complex profited mightily from Iraq may have been part of the plan, or simply just an opportunity that arose, but we can say for sure that that the real war aims were a failure.

At least maybe the first military aim. America has not shown that it is capable of easily overthrowing regimes. But America has shown that it is willing to engage in war preemptively. George W. Bush codified this with Iraq. The Obama administrations have taken this to the next level in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, and West Africa.

But what has changed the most between George W. Bush and Barack Obama is that war itself has become too unpopular. So the new war is the use of drones and special operations, with little approval or knowledge by the American people. This allows the regime to announce minimal ‘boots on the ground’ while obfuscating how militarily involved the US government is.

The American public has forgotten about our wars. The liberals that protested George W. Bush have mostly stayed silent on Barack Obama’s military actions, no matter how much they inflict on war crimes. Foreign affairs have been only a side note to the 2016 elections – Trump’s supposed banning on Muslims entering the US ignores the gargantuan crisis in Europe and the actual conflict in Syria; the focus on ISIS ignores the greater Middle Eastern crisis in places like Libya, Egypt, and Afghanistan; both Trump and Sanders promising to close America off from foreign trade is advertised as being America First without any clue of how economics works.

The majority of Americans are behind the drone program without understanding the effect of blowback. The majority of Americans agree with the torture program with no self awareness about how this makes them the bad guy – or at the very best, the good guy that everyone hates.

No matter how you vote, just try to think of yourself as NOT the bad guy.

Hypothetical Island

Thought experiment: The United States launches a new satellite to study the earth. This satellite is the most advanced satellite ever engineered. It successfully goes into orbit and looks back to earth. Surprisingly, one of the first things it finds is an island that has somehow never been discovered before. An island the size of Hawaii. Somehow, no other satellite has ever seen it. No airplane has flown over it. No boat has ever accidentally run into it. But most surprisingly, we see from the satellite that there are people living on that island. Native people. Tribal people. A people that have culturally evolved with zero influence from the rest of the world for over a thousand years.

So what should the rest of the world do?

It’s certainly an interesting anthropological curiosity to study these people. A people who had been isolated from the rest of the world for over a thousand years. What is their culture like? How is their society organized? What religion do they have, given none of the big ones the rest of the world believes in have been introduced there? Do they have the same kind of morals that we do? What sorts of things did they do to progress, in the sense of technology (ie do they have bows and arrows? metallurgy? Glass? Domesticated animals? Transportation? etc.).

The problem here is the one Star Trek brought up with the Prime Directive: is it moral for us to interfere? I mean, what if they practice cannibalism? Or female genital mutilation? Or Spartan-esque eugenics? Or pedophilia? Do we have a duty to stop this? But wouldn’t that be a type of cultural hegemony? Or is it simply spreading enlightenment? What about introducing them to modern medicine that can stop an easily curable disease that’s given them problems for years? What about sending missionaries to teach them about our religions?

The problem is nobody owns that land as far as international recognition is concerned. The natives don’t have a deed proving ownership, so what recourse would they have against people coming in and taking it? And what would we even do once we got there? Perhaps we send in the anthropologists to observe. Even if observe is all they do, they will indirectly influence that society. And if anyone introduces those people to things outside their isolated land (anything from a screw to an iPhone), that will forever change them as well. Just think of the cargo cult culture. What about when people decide that the natives are poor and not well off, since their diet is meager (or hard fought, as in hunting) and infant mortality is high? Then you’ll have people trying to give them charity of some kind, which will influence their culture. And what if we find out that they have no written language. Someone better teach them to read and write, shouldn’t they?

Now imagine that the island is strategically significant. Lets say, for instance, it would give the United States easier military access to Iran. Now what does the United States do? Leave it alone and hope that Iran doesn’t take it over themselves?

But now let’s add something else. What if that new island has an enormous reserve of oil? The biggest and most untapped oil reserve left on earth. Now what does the United States do? What does the rest of the world do? The first one to annex the island gets the oil. Who is going to let anyone else get to it first? And who is going to stop them?

The idea behind this is that when we look at how people in the past have exploited natives in lands they “discovered,” we often like to think of the explorers as monsters. They were medieval. Imperial. Racist. Sexist. Ignorant. Greedy. They didn’t have the same respect for life that we do, nor the same appreciation for diverse cultures.

But how might people react nowadays to this Hypothetical Island? Are humans biologically any different now than they were back in the “Age of Discovery?” And don’t we all want easy access to scarce materials, the same way early explorers wanted gold, metals, crops (sugar, coffee, rubber, spices, etc.), and, lets face it, slaves? Near slave labor still exists in places like Bangledesh (cheap clothing), China (production, such as your smart phone), and the Congo (minerals, such as coltan for phones and diamonds), yet people will continue to buy those products, even knowing that those practices exist. People are used to a certain lifestyle, and giving it up is harder to them than knowing their lifestyle makes other people miserable. Why would anyone benefiting off the exploitation of Hypothetical Island care what’s happening to the natives of that island, so long as it provides cheap products?

But let’s say that nobody exploits the people politically and economically at first. What about ideologically? What if we discover that the governing system they came up with is strict communism? Or anarcho-capitalism? Or theocracy? Or fascism? Is it our duty to enlighten them on the benefits of some other system? If so, which system? Should we try to learn something from the native’s system, or just assume that because they’re primitive, that we know better?

The idea here is to realize that we’re just as human, biologically speaking, as people were 200, 500, 1000, and 10,000  years ago. The biggest difference is that we realize the ramifications of our actions. But with this realization comes a complex problem about how to treat other people. Is this dark aspect of humanity something we’ll ever get over, or is it an inexorable part of human nature? And would humanity ever have achieved what it has without this dark side? Have the achievements made up for the pain and suffering we’ve caused?

Granular Bubble Culture

There is a truism that in everyone’s life, there will come a time when youth/pop culture doesn’t make sense anymore. You’ll hear the music or see the shows kids these days are listening to and you’ll just think “I don’t get it – how do people enjoy this?” The irony is that, when you’re a pre-teen, or teenager, or early-mid twenties person, you think this will never happen to you. You’ll always be hip and with it. And then it does happen to you. But you don’t think it’s that you aren’t hip and with it, it’s just that youth/pop culture became shallow and derivative. It’s them that sucks, not you.

This is all still very true. I’ll call the gradual stratification theory. In this view, there is more-or-less a homogenous culture that is spread throughout a particular age group, often categorized by the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory – the one we use to categorize people as baby boomers, or generation X, or millenials and so forth. Sure, this is variation in interests and across regions, but for the most part, those things which are massively popular are either consumed by a large number of people or are at least known about by the majority of people. This is a result of very little choice about what to consume. Before cable the eighties, there were three channels on TV, only a handful of movies came out each year, watching movies at home was at best a luxury, there were no video games. And, of course, there was no internet.

It’s obvious that the internet changed these paradigms in a fundamental way. But I think it’s important to really appreciate how much has changed. And what it has changed to is what I call the granular bubble theory of culture. One of the biggest changes that have come about, mostly (but not all) because of the internet, is on-demand content. No longer do people need to just turn on the TV and watch whatever is on those three channels at the time slot the network decided on. Now people seek out content – it’s all demand based rather than supply based. But that part is obvious. What’s more, though, is that people find those things that suit their taste – news sites, blogs, podcasts, forums, Twitter users, Facebook users, Youtube channels – and settle on those places. Why would people need to go outside of those places that supply them with the content they want to consume?

This creates both a granular culture and a culture bubble. The granular is because that near homogeneity that’s seen in the purely gradual stratification theory is gone for the most part. I consume the content I want and you consume the content you want, and there does not need to be much overlap. Sure, we might have the same taste on books, but then I can go immerse myself in a world of my taste in music and you your taste in music, and never do those worlds have to cross paths. But it also becomes a bubble culture, because I ONLY pay attention to the things I enjoy and culture in the other granular bubbles evolve on their own without my even being aware. And then those bubbles perpetuate themselves, because all the advertisements, all the external links, all the searches and everything in that bubble only points you to other areas of that bubble using algorithms that find out what granular areas you are interested in. You can watch shows you like on Hulu, and when the advertisements come on, it will literally ask you if that advertisement is relevant to you – you are not just choosing your content, but you are tailoring what is marketed to you.

Back in the 1950’s, people could go into work with the implicit assumption that three quarters of the people there watched “Leave it to Beaver” yesterday, and the other quarter at least knows what the show is. It was a part of the small amount of content that was available to consume on one of the only ways of consuming it. In the 1960’s, the culture changed as someone else supplanted the popular culture of the 1950’s, but that culture changed rather homogeneously. Same into the 1970’s. And then in the 1980’s, cable TV, VCR’s and video games became a big(ger) thing. Now I can watch TV channels that play content I enjoy all day and I can buy movies and video games that have content I want to watch/do. This only grew into the 1990’s, when more channels, more gaming systems, compact disks, and even computers started becoming a thing. Then it really blew up in the 2000’s when the internet really came into it’s own, when we started to have more and more of that content available to use everywhere on our cell/smart phones, and user generated content in the form of blogs, video hosting channels, self-published books, and social media became popular. Things have only become more granular and more enshrined in their bubbles in the twenty-teens (2010 to present) as on-demand has only picked up and solidified – user generated content is quickly surpassing professional content in popularity. And yet, someone who is incredibly famous on the internet can probably go home on Thanksgiving and have nobody in their family that knows or understands what they do.

I’m not judging whether any of this is a good thing or a bad thing, merely that it’s a different thing. And probably something we’ll all have to get used to, because as of right now, I don’t see anything coming that will shift us back, or even stranger yet, into some completely new direction.