Why Does This Video Exist? (#6)

There's a meme trend on social media which seems to be a progeny of the Vine (rest in peace). The top of the meme will be inscribed with something like, "My reaction when a morning person tries to have a conversation with me before my coffee." Below that, an embed frame with a 3-second video will show a disheveled house pet smushing their paw into another house pet's face.

It's a bit of an easy trick, because typically the short video is something that's funny or cute in its own right. Adding another layer of context with the caption at the top gives it a shareworthy twist to appeal to the "it's funny because it's true" type of comedy fan.

"Me at noon: 'I'm only eating salad today.'
Me at 10pm: *Video of Snarf from Thundercats devouring a whole pizza.*"

Well last night I was lying in bed laughing transportively at the twist in genre. "It's funny because it's true" humor can reflect universal small moments of the human experience. But this particular meme is so startlingly absurd and patently unrelatable that it briefly scrambles the circuitry and renders the central nervous system over-loaded with dumbfoundedness, novelty, slight annoyance, and a whole shit ton of questions about the original circumstances of the video.

Here it is, I'll check back below with you after you watch this:

When I first saw it on Facebook, it was on auto-load. The video played automatically, and I had had just enough time to read, "When someone tells me to smile..." when the eyes widened crazily, the teeth dropped forward (?!) and an already lit bic lighter ignited the beard very intentionally.

And immediately, the video is over. Or, should I say, it starts over. It replays at a rate of three times per every six seconds. There's such a black hole void of context, that instead of thinking about the video--which your brain is desperately trying to do (attempting to rectify its existence as a thing, or an item of existing)--you are bombarded by rapid-fire repeats of this... act.

More to the point, it's a sequence of acts. It's three unrelated things that amplify an uncanny and inexplicable zaniness at a logarithmic curve over the course of two seconds. After the teeth drop out, the beard-fire is an amplification of an amplification. The resultant feedback cripples the synapses and sends the consciousness (in my case) into a non-consensual seizure of laughter, a miniature psychological hostage-crisis of terrified mirth which laughs without smiling (coincidentally). (Or maybe, at the risk of doling out too much credit, not so coincidentally).

The caption about being told to smile is a red-herring; your hound nose follows it perpendicularly across a path, only to be hit in the face with a frying pan of absurdity and you're left seriously attempting to rectify the original stated intention of the meme. It is annoying when people tell me to smile. I'm bad at smiling for photographs. I feel like my forced smile looks fake. Then, when I get really into it with a natural looking smile, I feel slightly insane because of the emotional tethers to the physical act of really and naturally smiling.

There's also the issue of cat-calling and women being asked to smile as though they exist on this planet for the comfort of men. If I were a female being asked to smile when I was not in the mood to do so, I suppose I could see giving forth with am unpredictable facial expression to convey my annoyance.

But none of those things could seriously lead me to anything like this video. Not metaphorically, certainly not literally.

And the fact that the dude is, himself, sort of smiling... is really goddamn troubling.

I have no clue who this man is. I have no clue who he's trying to... entertain? I have no clue why that sequence of events would even arise in a man's consciousness. And finally, I have no clue why the annoyance of being asked to smile would pop into this meme-maker's head as being related to this video.

Four stars. Would watch on repeat many times in a row.

To PC or Not to PC? That is the Question.

Image result for bill maher donald trumpFree speech isn't just a right, it's a responsibility. Use it or lose it. Speech shouldn't make you feel good -- that's what shoulder rubs are for. Information should make you become good. (Or, at least.. better.) If there's an argument to be made that education and understanding are our highest ethics, it's because they lead us out of ignorance and incrementally towards the end of human suffering. 

But while unpopular ideas and challenges to the status quo are crucial to the future of human flourishing, there's also a point where you sincerely don't need to be an asshole on purpose.

Did you know that there is a difference between a trigger warning and a safe space? I didn't. I initially heard them as the same thing because my natural default setting is a very libertine, humor-oriented, "the more offensive, the better" policy. (This might not surprise you, but I'm a white male with a privileged upbringing. I'm impulsive and loud. Thinking about the different feelings of others before my own was something that took me a long time to teach myself -- frankly, I'm still learning.) 

But safe spaces and trigger warnings aren't synonyms. In certain ways, they're opposites. 

A "safe space" typically means a closed-off area of a college campus where people of a given (generally marginalized) demographic are encouraged to come reinforce their pre-existing narratives. They aren't allowed to be asked questions, and they aren't expected to participate in a given talk or lecture, for their emotional comfort. 

A "trigger warning" is a lot like a spoiler alert. It means we are gonna talk about topic x, so participate at your own peril.

For example, "We're about to discuss _____, so if you're a victim of ____ who suffers post traumatic panic attacks, take this under advisement, because we're not going to stop, even if you get uncomfortable."

A trigger warning is about the freedom to engage in inflammatory content with responsibility for emotional fragility being passed squarely to the fragile. Safe spaces, it seems, are about the privilege to attend an institution of higher learning and be supported for one's disengagement.

They didn't start out so bad. Originally, the term meant that if you were gay, the university won't tolerate Johnny football dunking your head in the toilet. It encouraged self-expression and challenging the status quo--which, back in the 80s was a significantly more difficult.

But at this point we've surpassed equilibrium. We've stretched acceptance and comfort to unsustainable levels of mandatory; it's an internet bubble in the social ecology waiting to burst and currently pushing needlessly on the ulcers of old white men who's final thoughts on their death beds 15 years from now will be to roll their eyes wondering why Kanye gets to use the n word and they can't.

We definitely don't want to cater to the intolerant or mentally inflexible, but flexibility is a two way street. The idea of picking your battles seems a little bit lost on young liberals who wish to bestow fame and fortune upon Milo Yiannopolous by rioting at his appearances. (Assuming those riots aren't false flag marketing ploys, which they very well may be.)

Mental flexibility means holding seemingly contradictory stances in one's head simultaneously. Not to be confused with the Fox News viewer who holds actually contradicting concepts minutes apart. Rather, it's about nuance. It's the ability to admit that Muslims deserve refuge and constitutional protections, and also that Islam is scripturally the most problematic of the major religions for the best values of modern civilization. Both of these concepts should be fairly obvious, but a lot of people are less interested in empiricism than in what their opinions represent about themselves.

Politics as social hygiene is an ugly mess, and frankly a huge bummer.

Political correctness -- which is mere decency taken to an institutional level -- can risk inflexibility of thought. There's a tendency to patronize marginalized groups, to over-compensate for their subjugated background. Muslims, to continue the example, may deserve extra considerations in a similar but smaller manner as black students vis a vis college admissions. (Deserve is a weird word. It implies karma or some other pseudo-spiritual balance sheet. More accurately, they ought to be given. [The only thing we deserve is a fat slap in the face for conspiring against our less duplicitous Neanderthal cousins for control of resources, and an eternity of grocery-sized Walmarts to sort it out.]) But what they oughtn't receive is toddler treatment, saying their horrific liturgical dogma is equally valid to whichever Christian and Hebrew papers to which our forefathers incidentally subscribed. Their individuals oughtn't be let off the hook upon committing atrocities in the name of this dogma, despite outstanding geo-political discrepancies.

When I hear that some redneck bakery doesn't want to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple, it's incredibly troubling. But do I believe the government should force bakeries to provide gay wedding cakes? Of course not. That's the second dumbest thing I've ever heard. However, if and when it happens, I'm okay with it. Why? Because homophobia is the first dumbest thing I've ever heard. And if the law overcompensates in the direction of decency, with an eye on future view of history, it's way better than leaving the ignorant to their mean-spirited superstitions.

In other words, decency is better than freedom.

The idea that freedom is over-rated will sit unbelievably poorly with some. The sad truth is that there's no Clockwork Orange eye-ball procedure available to force out psychopathy, spiritual dogma, and other sources of oppression from a large population. In the meantime, we are left to police ourselves on superficial issues such as kindness and consideration while the state takes care of serious issues like property rights and recreational marijuana.

What kind of policeman do you want to be? Do you want to look the other way while your coworker tells racist jokes and discusses what a fine object the nearest female is? That's what I do, because I'm mostly worthless. The temptation to squirrel away social capital is undeniable.

Police by example. If you're privileged enough not to have a traumatic personal history or an institutionalized double standard, maybe cherish the small thrills outside of getting water cooler laughs at the expense of others. Because it's all thrills. Even though it feels like all obligations, it's a privilege to have an unending cascade of adult responsibilities. If your brain can't handle that, it's been too many seconds or minutes since you've compared your life to that of a family in Sudan.

The far left may have their heads up their asses, but relief for the oppressed is a much more noble preoccupation than low taxes and casual harassment. To everyone who watches Fox News at volumes just shy of The Who in concert, I beseech you to take your desire to be left alone and expand on it past the point of your 1040 forms. Demand courtesy for the things that make you different than your peers. Then, demand that for strangers. You don't have to call it "political correct," I agree it's incredibly un-sexy. Try calling it, "Not being an embarrassing dickhead."

Trump and the Trouble with Winning

Trump has blown open a thin veil of marriage between God and the right wing, originally pierced by P.T. Anderson's There Will Be Blood in 2007. TWBB fans know that religion and capitalism are train-engines facing opposite directions and connected in the middle. Jesus was a textbook communist and compassion is the opposite of fiscal growth. But where as Charlie Sheen was once a punchline for his troglodytic, over-simplistic "duh #winning" persona, there are a core of Trump supporters that are truly terrifying for a similar competitive lust.

I'm not referring to old-fashioned value voters who use Fox News as the warm fireplace in the center of their home, 60 year old Christians who value God and hard work for hard work's sake. Those easily sold a bill of goods, who actually believe Hillary is a felon, are merely a technical problem; they're a social engineering puzzle to keep folks with only one source of news from being fooled by a con-man. The same way our parents are all being scammed by anti-virus software ads and clever algorithms sending "real" emails from their friends in an emergency who need to be wired money immediately. This was merely a knowledge gap. An embarrassing moment when a generation incidentally more informed than its parents needed to protect them--and everyone--from their good intentions. But this is much worse.

This is a different breed. This new breed is educated. They're sophisticated. They're tech-savvy, and they have a sense of historical context. They enjoy irony and vulgarity, they respect personal strength. They know that God is a metaphor, an insurance plan for the abyss.

It's not neo-nazis, it's not even racists--per se. Those relentless fuckers are simply old before their time and trying to fill their own IQ holes with first person shooters and crystal meth.

The real problem is those neighbors who get evolution and understand that homo-sapiens won the chromosome race through tribalism and duplicitous manipulation--and annihilation--of our Neanderthal cousins. They get Werner Hertzog. They know that the world started as a zero sum game and they value getting what you want out of life. They're oriented by results. They champion digital privacy while they download pirated content on bit torrents. They don't feel guilt and they get a big laugh out of people who do.

They hate being manipulated, and they're smart enough to know when it's happening. They didn't vote for trump for dumb "wall" promises. They voted for trump because they're closet anarchists who know that he's willing to lie, cheat, and steal to make the system more about winning and less about slowing down the whole team to nurture the unintelligent and lazy. These people are good at getting ahead, and they want to make being good at getting ahead more valuable. Understandably so.

If it were merely Jesus and guns and traditional inability to see the big picture (firmly misjudged--as always--as actually seeing the big picture) you'd have those moments at the end of the day where Trump was an unfortunate case of being "the best we have to work with." For lots of folks, perhaps even a majority of those who actually pulled the lever for him, that's what he was. They pulled the lever with slightly mixed feelings. They voted for him despite his bragging about pussy grabbing, not because of it.

But these are not his most troubling proponents. These are merely your Mom and Dad who wish he'd act more presidential, but are sick of their taxes going up. The most alarming members of his street team are people who have never truly cared about politics before because it was aways what Alex Jones called "Two management teams laying out a buffet of lies." And on that point, they're right. And they know they're right.

So when they see Trump fairly sophisticatedly lying to his base to manipulate them at rallies, these genetic winners fueled on tiger blood are in on the gag. Trump might stand for stupid, and (if tweets are the most honest and unrefined version of thoughts) he might be stupid, but being "intelligent" is not the same thing as being "clever."

And if you've been on the internet even twice since Y2K, you know that we don't live in the era of intelligent, we live in the era of clever.

That's a whole different and insidious problem for another time, and for a more intelligent writer than myself. You see, I slightly identify with these Trump colluders. I'm not an incredibly intelligent person. But I'm educated. And my Mom says I'm clever af.

So I'm not going to use the term "psychopaths" because most people have an inability to read that word without luggage. I'll refer to informed Trump fanatics as "Naturals." Because in nature, these are the people who get ahead. Civilizations and social welfare programs are entirely artificial, by definition. Hospitals, infrastructure, and universities... Taxes, beurocracies, laws, and police stations, these are all very unnatural things designed to keep the biggest and meanest with the heaviest stick from wandering around saying, "I'm gonna have rape for dinner."

When you see a reasonably intelligent white male on facebook referring to people who want help from the government to feed their family as "cucks," you should know that Naturals don't see privilege in the same context as we do. Luck is not to be savored and reflected on, it is to be capitalized on. They don't see every human being as equally valuable, they only judge value based on power. In a post-God world, this is an understandable view-point. And that's why Trump is so scary. His values aren't wrong, they're just horrifying. In an age where everyone can pick their own values, most of us are uncomfortable normalizing and mandating a value system where the captain of this sinking titanic is whoever can step on the most freezing and screaming faces on their way to the top.

And yet that's the way we're going, because who is going to stop it? Empaths aren't typically the right combination of vicious and conniving to undermine the Natural movement of power. The number of regular dudes who perished on D Day simply to topple government-gone-corporate is staggering.

The only thing I can think of off the top of my head is to kill em with kindness. Find whichever white male redditor in your life is still sharing the most anti-Hillary memes and say two nice things about them: One that's completely true, and one that's only half true. Their brain chemistry will react so as to reinforce the half-true behaviors. A year from now he'll hopefully have rounded that out to mostly true, and you can do it again with other characteristics. The mind is hackable and even bullies respond to love and affection. Just look at Trump's initial acceptance speech immediatly following the biggest "you really love me" moment of his life! He was gracious and he thanked Hillary for her service as Secretary of State! That was until more mockery from SNL came his way and Scrooge polypped back into a petty, insecure chode.

In the meantime, all my fellow post-God voters who've decided to throw in on the side of civilization and empathy will have to think subversively; think manipulatively, slightly psychopathically.

Vote like a Bernie, but think like a Natural.

Sassafras H. Wilmington is a retired carnival barker with soap-carvings in several Ramada Inns around the Ohio Valley area.