January 26, 2014
I address this to the 39 official followers of my blog, which includes at least three people who are listed twice, at least one of whom is dead. Dead once, but listed twice. So I address this to the 35 or so official separate living followers of my blog, and especially to the five to ten who read it on a regular or semi-regular basis. I address this also to the people who are not listed as official followers who nevertheless read it. Among those, in particular, I address this to the hundreds of random readers from countries like China, the Ukraine, Brazil, and South Korea, most of whom take a peek in order to post spam comments like "Great blog, really well written. If you get an opportunity, take a look at my blog, which I call women in tattered underwear working in the sex trade."
It is for all of you, my cherished readers the world over, that I toil to make this blog what it is, or at least what it once was when you started reading it.
I feel that I haven't been giving you your money's worth lately (which is a figure of speech of course, since it's free). Don't worry (or get your hopes up as the case may be), this is not a valedictory posting. I'm not going out of business. I just think I've been a bit too narrow in my selection of topics, and therefore haven't been producing as much as I should. So my New Year's resolution is to post more often. Not every day, mind you, but more than once a month, which is what it's come down to lately. Since it started as a travel blog and my traveling days consist mostly of trips into downtown Los Angeles, the journey will continue on a more cerebral plane.
I take my inspiration from that most esteemed and currently popular of the social media, Facebook. I acknowledge that I am on Facebook, and do like to exchange banter with a few family members, friends, and acquaintances, sharing my personal feelings from time to time, announcing the sad passing of relatives, wishing people happy birthday, and so on.
It is also on Facebook that I learn such things as how happy people are that they're off work today, or will be off work tomorrow, or how pissed they are that it's only Wednesday, for Christ's sake. I also learn what they think about the weather where they live, how much they love photos and videos featuring cute animals, and what an awesome God our God really is, with streams of sunlight emanating from his ethereal presence and illuminating the snow, or the mountains, or whatever he deigns to brighten with those streams of sunlight of his. Our God is truly an awesome God, because he created Facebook and all the shit it contains. I think that might have been on the eighth or ninth day, after he had rested a bit and seen that everything was good, but couldn't resist putting in his two cents about the minor details of creation. Kvetching, mostly, in the tradition of his original chosen people. In addition, of course, on Facebook I learn of personal triumphs, such as the successful plowing or shoveling of the driveway, the fact that the family pet can do tricks, the consumption of a great meal, etc.
Facebook is also where I learn what political reactionaries or utter nostalgic fools some of my old school acquaintances have become over the years, and occasionally, to my satisfaction, what compassionate and liberal souls some of them have. I'm sure a few of my old classmates always were the way they are now, but not most of them. For instance, I don't remember anyone campaigning for arch-conservative politicians or advocating the abridgment of the Bill of Rights (second amendment excepted, always) back when we in high school. But then, they were busy doing what they had to do: eating 18 minute lunches, hurrying from class to class lugging heavy textbooks (sans backpacks), making out in the hallways in front of their lockers, popping their pimples, playing sports, cheering for sports, chewing gum, sneaking cigarettes, and occasionally studying. Now they want the world to know, on a daily basis, how they're feeling about just about EVERYTHING. Aches and pains, pet peeves, how much snow has fallen overnight, their pride in their children or grandchildren--you name it. Well, sic transit gloria mundi, which is Latin for "by the way, whatever happened to Gloria Mundi, the girl most likely to succeed? I wonder if she's on Facebook?"
As just about everyone knows, on Facebook you get to "like" or "comment" on others' observations, which is a way of affirming what they have posted or perhaps criticizing it a little. I say "a little" with regard to the criticism, because I don't generally see anyone challenging anyone else's opinions on Facebook. It's usually a sort of "right on" response, or a "like," or silence. Rarely is there any debate. I suppose that's not what Facebook is supposed to be about. Let people spout off and if you don't like it, don't comment. It's like what everyone claims their mother used to tell them (though few of our mothers ever did): "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all." If I were to post on Facebook that Marco Rubio is an asshole, for instance, I would get a few "likes" from a few like-minded folks, but probably not many comments challenging what I said. By the same token, when I see people blaming Barack Obama or the politically divided congress for the ills of the country I don't generally challenge them either. I don't point out, for instance, that congress has been severely divided far more often throughout the course of the nation's history than it has been united. (Does anyone remember reading about the Civil War? Does anyone remember the impeachment of Bill Clinton?) So I just shake my head and scroll on down the page, looking for something interesting or useful, which I occasionally find, though not too often.
Like this blog, the social media in general have elevated the pronouncement of trivial thoughts on trivial ideas to a new art form. It's as if we're all chatting with one another over the back fence or over the telephone, but without the need to listen to an answer from anyone. And after all, who expects an answer to an observation about the weather or politics or religion? These are subjects that admit of no meaningful discussion, since no one can do anything about them. The weather is what it is. Political opinions are seldom if ever changed as a result of personal debate. Only the self-appointed experts on television can change our beliefs there, and usually not to much effect, because we tend to choose the channels where the talking heads tell us what we already think. And as for religion--who ever changed anyone's opinion about that through discussion? Wars and natural catastrophes can scare people into changing religions, but not discussion. It's always interesting to me that while we have an organization like the United Nations to nominally arbitrate socio-political issues, and which indeed does manage to come to some worldwide consensus on certain things such as the fact that genocide, disease, and despotism are not good (consensuses that are nevertheless ignored by many), we do not have an organization dedicated to discussing the worldwide merits of religion. It's simply off limits. Yet without confronting religion head on no real progress will ever be made on the social and political issues that organizations like the UN try to address. We have no problem at the global level saying, for instance, that gender equality is a good thing, or that the arrogation of absolute power over an entire people or group of nations into the hands of a few individuals is a bad thing, yet billions of people belong to religions that preach and practice just the opposite, headed by dictators who claim to derive their power from God alone. Does anyone else think this is more than a bit odd?
And here I'll say that some of these absolute religious dictators are not necessarily bad folks. But being a dictator can take a little of the niceness out of anyone. The pope might smile beneficently and tousle the heads of young folks and preach worldwide love and tolerance in some areas, but he also can and does relegate women to a subordinate place in his realm and suggests that post mortem trouble lies ahead for people who use contraception or have abortions. And he could, if he chose, reverse those positions with a stroke of the pen, more or less, because he speaks for God. The Dalai Lama isn't such a bad guy, even though he purports to be the fourteenth reincarnation of blah blah blah and the chosen one and to be more in touch with the divine than the rest of us mortals. His chief complaint in life, and the reason he's so well known to us all, is that he's not being allowed to be the spiritual and temporal ruler of his home country, Tibet. The fact that he's now just a giggly member of the worldwide lecture circuit and the author of inspiring books that sell in new age stores and the darling of people who don't like the Chinese government seems to have made him a hero. But give him some real power in his own country and he'd pretty much have to behave like a pope does, telling everyone what to think, even if he tells them nice things. That, after all, would be his job.
All this, as I say, along with the pronouncements of ayatollahs and chief rabbis and televangelists and the like, to whom many people listen far more attentively than they do to their elected or appointed secular leaders, is pretty much off limits for debate. Everyone has the right to overthrow despotism, but no group seems to have the right, collectively, to tell people that their religion is reactionary and full of shit. World religions are allowed to assert worldwide dominance in the name of God almighty, but world secular leaders are not, at least not any more. The modicum of progress inherent in the tail end of the last sentence--"not any more"--might just provide a glimmer of hope.
How the hell did I get from Facebook to all this, you ask? I don't know, it just happened. Maybe God made me do it, or maybe the Devil did. Or maybe I just got up on my figurative soapbox and it all sort of tumbled out. Like a preacher, or like someone on Facebook.