An Island of Catharis

September 22, 2014 Leave a comment

Are men less emotional than females? A 2012 study of Irish males who attempted suicide found that, despite their experience of emotional vulnerability, a cultural hegemony discouraged their expressions. The men, according to the study felt emotionally vulnerable but were unable to speak to their emotions and chose suicide as a viable solution. What restrained their expression? Their sense of “masculinity norms” that constricted their ability to speak of what they felt.

One wonders how broadly these conclusions can be applied to global masculine behaviors. Does a global hegemony of masculine norms constrict male expression of emotion? One need only listen to a Sunday post-game show to hear a fountain of emotion. Listen to sports radio and one can hear a buffet of dread, concern, alarm, and stress that borders on a funeral.

On the morning following the loss of a local NFL football team, this author writes of an experience of hearing incredible expressions of male emotion. Sunday is, it seems, a day of great catharsis for the bevy of local football fans whose hopes lie pinned to a roster of fifty three professional football players. My goal is not to mock these men; instead, I seek to indicate a stark phenomenon of culture. Is sports radio an island of catharsis?

Outrageous Acts of Outrage

September 15, 2014 Leave a comment

In Totem and Taboo, Freud writes on the role of outrage and its response. He writes of a “violation of taboo”, an action where a social rule is broken. What follows these violation is the issue, existing in a world where immediate punishment does not follow, there is no lightning bolt from the clouds, we must take upon ourselves as a society to enact punishment. The reasoning for this, Freud writes, is to “deprive the envied transgressor of his enterprise”. He describes the pleasure that stems from these violations as “fruits” whose infectious nature make them behaviors which if left unpunished will, placed into contemporary terms, go viral and increase in our behavior. If no-one pays for gas, if everyone steals the candy bar, will everyone do the same?

A certain level of paranoia permeates this perspective. Freud links these actions with “the savages”, a group without specific historical placement and one whose actions closely mimic those of “the neurotic”. Here again Freud uses an entity to represent the collected mass. These specific cases representative of the populace at large are the basis of science (experiments of a few derive conclusions from which larger actions can be taken).

Back to outrage though and this recent news story of a t-shirt company printing a college logo with blood stains. The college, Kent State, was the scene of “the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970 (Wikipedia). Though never explicitly communicated by the shirt, the blood stains suggest the shootings and aim to convey to the viewer the historical event. We see the blood and see the Kent State logo and remember the event on May 4, 1970.

In response to the shirt, Kent State issued a press release expressing their “offense” and “great outrage”. Using collective pronouns like “our” and “we”, the press release expresses the opinion of the University at large, seeming to include some unknown quantity of individuals associated with the university. And yet on what basis does this outrage extend to those involved? The authors of the release do not write on their experience with the event. It remains unknown how those directly affected by the events of May 4, 1970 feel.

Perhaps they are offended and perhaps anyone who has ever attended or even heard of the Kent State shootings is included in the press release. Are we to specify who is allowed to feel outrage at the t-shirt? Of course we’re not, but in this immediate response one wonders how far the extension of outrage goes. What is the purpose of Kent State’s response? Is it outrage or a collection of needs? Might Freud’s observation that the need to punish also extends to a need to control future insults? Would another company violate the norm and print similarly themed shirts if Kent State didn’t respond with this release?

All of this remains a mere observation of a series of events. One cannot fully comprehend the intentions of all involved. Why was the t-shirt made? “There’s no such thing as bad press” is often cited and is perhaps linked to Oscar Wilde who wrote ” the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Was the t-shirt’s aim to  upset one to garner more attention? One will never know the reasons but inherent in these actions are the raw, exposed emotions that lurk beneath the surface. Contained within our tragedies and lurking in our memory is a raw fuel. Companies might choose to engage with this fuel and ignite it with an action, but in doing so the reaction will be unpredictable and intense. Do they want this reaction? For what purpose was the fuel engaged? Offend to sell a t-shirt?

Perfectionist Pursuits

September 4, 2014 Leave a comment

.“If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done.”
― Ecclesiastes 11:4

Perfection is a relative condition. Your ideal self might be a nightmare for another. The ideal number, an ideal form: one’s relative impression of what-should-be is a self-defined determinant.

As with many pitfalls of consciousness, one’s ability to self-justify perfectionism provides the warm balm in the face of cognitive dissonance. Faced with the question, “Am I taking this too far?” or “Have I finally lost control”, one’s list of past successes lights the way to justify behavior. Greet the doubt with explanation: the reason for success, my only saving grace. A spiraled list is possible as one’s quest for something higher assumes a risk for a reward. We exist in a world where great risk takers have been rewarded for their efforts. Read a biography of Steve Jobs and one will note the list of anecdotal moments of perfectionist tantrums. Can we link this need to his success. Be wary readers, correlation is not causation and one wonders just how many great ideas were lost by Jobs’ obsession with a perfect shade of blue.

Ironically, the quest to understand perfectionism involves an on-going struggle for a “perfect” model. Frost’s Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale” appeared in 1990. Its six item breakdown of common ‘perfectionist’ features lasted but a single year as Hewitt and Flett’s model of 1991 expanded the list to forty-five items. Then again a change was needed and in 1996 with the Slaney model titled “Almost-Perfect Scale” a broader sense was founded. In 2000’s, Daniels and Pierce made an attempt. Yes, the quest remains in progress: never perfect, always striving.

Despite the numerous models, a common collection of personality traits appear in the models. In general, these revolve around an obsession with the self. It branches far and wide and swarms to encompass every aspect of one’s life. Whether physical or mental, the quest for perfectionism casts one into an impossible gauntlet of needing more. Never perfect, always striving. “I refuse to be content.”

Ultimately, the solution lies not with perfecting the personal piggy bank of life. To make the fix? You need to break the pig. To be perfect is impossible, so to crack the need is to solve the puzzle. The solution to perfectionism lies within the heart of the perfectionist: accept yourself for who you are and come to terms with the ugly, stinky mess that is existence here and now.

 

Unboxing an Unboxing Trend

September 3, 2014 Leave a comment

The packaging is opened, its corners peeled and pulled and yanked from deep inside the cardboard box? The newest model cell phone. Unboxing videos are increasingly popular on Youtube. A recent article in The Dublin Review suggests marks the count at “hundreds of thousands”, though these starts are from 2006. Undoubtedly the trend of unboxing will increase as more and more consumers decide the sensations usually reserved for Christmas morning are better made for public and broadcasted for the world.

“Vicarious consumption” is a means by which the non-consumer plays the part of the consumer. When an income doesn’t allow for grand indulgences, or a spouse denies one’s joys, what is shopper self to do? Shop the windows? Load the bucket list of Amazon hopefuls?

“Unboxing videos” are the spiciest indulgence for the shopper-yet-denied.  Indulgences by proxy are common joys indulged. Glimpsing the unboxing video on Youtube we witness our fantasies yet closer. If we cannot make the purchase we can watch someone else enjoying what we want. We’ll be there soon, we hope, or maybe its the watching that’s the pleasure. Is there any greater feeling than the opening of the package? Every dream and expectation remains in possibility. The device has yet to fail and every need we see answered by the item (both realistic and fantastic) have yet to be dissolved. The gift is in the getting.

No Photos, Please

August 17, 2014 Leave a comment

The cameras are everywhere. From pockets to street corners, to concerts and games, the world is full of image and video capturing devices. One can venture into the eyes of these devices without willingly participating. Walk the dog on the trail, take a friend to a concert and one might just be photographed.

Given that one might not desire such “captures” to take place, modern technology should include an option to protect the identity of those involved. If one does not want to be captured, he or she should have the right to be blurred or distorted in some form that renders the captured image free of identifying marks.

As Native Americans were suspicious of the photograph, contemporary citizens might find similar concerns with technology of today. For whatever reason one feels uncomfortable it is to the benefit of all involved that technology work to embrace the rights of privacy and establish means to remove the unintended subjects of photography.

Proof Positive

August 17, 2014 Leave a comment

First, some foundation…

Citizens grant authority to the state to regulate and control populations. These forces work to ensure that the citizens within that society adhere to the established rules and behaviors of expectations. These “rules”, also known as laws, are constructed by the society and subscribed to by those who enter into it. One who disagrees with these laws has an ability within the system to express his or her ideas and work towards a change, removal or creation of different legislation. This is the model of society we have developed through time and the one in which we function on a daily basis.

But what about a crisis?

On August 9, 2014 an unarmed eighteen-year-old was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Without discussing the details (all of which are readily prevalent on this domain known as internet), the event set off a series of protests.

My aim here is not to consider the justification for the reaction by either side. Reacting to a tragedy with violence and actions that destabilize a community cannot be condoned regardless of outrage or perceived abuse of power. Sadly both sides, the police forces and those aligned with the victim’s perspective feel an abuse of power has occurred and are responding with an increased use of force.

My question here is with whom does the burden of proof reside? Given that the event has occurred, it is my opinion that the burden of proof exists with the state. The power invested in the state to enforce laws, and in this situation deploy lethal force, demands a justification after the fact. As citizens we must see evidence that justifies the officer’s actions. For the benefit of all involved, the state must provide evidence that explains the situation. There is no justification for rioting or reacting in any way that further destabilizes the community.

Additionally to this point, a community that perceives any potential need for lethal force (aka every community) must establish a set of tools to gather evidence in case proof to justify action is needed. In other words the forces of the state must recognize the incredible power of force granted to them by the citizenry. Entrusted to protect the laws, they are given immense amount of power. Such power expands beyond the use of force and also includes the responsibility to justify action and display to the citizens that each and every action is justified.

Identity Badges

July 31, 2014 Leave a comment

Our identities are similar to badges. We wear them for authority and use them to communicate who we are. As we age we change our badges: progressing from student to professional to spouse and the slew of other roles we play. We have multiple badges, stemming both from our personal and professional roles. One might use the metaphor of exchanging badges to summarize human existence. Exchanging one badge for another we gradually work to learn who we are and fully embrace the roles we select.

For those without a sense of self, it is likely that they do not have “their badge”. What role do you play in society? For some this question is easily answered. For some it is their personal life that gives them identity: son, father, grandfather. For others the professional realm will serve: teacher, writer, worker. Still others find definition from the arts: painter, singer, critic. While all categories are used, the essential process one must undergo is the selection of a badge. Be without a badge and one is absent of identity.

 

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