Choice, vice, and the Protestant ethic for the 21st century…

Note: The following is loosely based on a recent conversation and nicely sums up what’s probably at the core of my life philosophy. It has been sanitized for your protection, or ribbed for your pleasure, or whatever…

Look, if you want to kill yourself, have at it. You want to whore yourself out? Go forth and do great things. Want to chase that high six times a day? You do you, kiddo. Want to escape from the world and go live in the woods or under a bridge somewhere? Help yourself. I don’t have any business telling you how to live – or rather it isn’t my business right up until how you want to live starts having an out-sized impact on those around you who are just trying to live their lives too.

You see, the thing is, I don’t really care about what are commonly called “vice” crimes. Drugs, gambling, prostitution – the old classics. As long as everyone involved is a consenting adult, why the hell do I care what they choose to do with or to themselves? Experience tells me that trying to save someone from themselves is almost the textbook definition of a losing proposition. I’m fully prepared to let people go on drinking and drugging and whoring and gambling to their heart’s content if that’s what they want to do.

Here’s the catch. When their decisions start interfering with other people who are just out in the world trying to do their own thing, I’m perfectly willing to see society crash down on them like the clenched fist of any angry god. When they start killing and thieving and generally making civilized life impossible for others, my level of sympathy with their “plight” drops to damned near zero.

When the drunk climbs behind the wheel or the addict breaks into a home or the gambler starts embezzling from their employer, I cheerfully advocate a policy of zero tolerance and swift, harsh retribution. In life you make your choices and the consequences should naturally follow. It’s not my job to shelter you from those consequences. It’s not society’s job to pick up the tab and bail people out because they’ve made shit decisions.

Some people call me misanthropic. They’re not wrong. Based on a lifetime of observation, I like to think my general misanthropy comes from a place of reason. Couple that with a firm belief in self-determination across all circumstances, and well, there’s a pretty high risk of sounding like an asshole. Of course just because you sound like an asshole doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
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I feel like I’m on to something here. Do the work. Be responsible for yourself. Basic guidelines for life not spent as a complete and utter drain on society. Maybe I’ve stumbled upon the Modified Protestant Ethic for the 21st Century.

Sex Ed: 2015 Edition

Every year, my employer requires me to attend several classes, the message of which seems to consist solely of “Rape Bad.” Now we could go in to the somewhat faulty logic of believing I didn’t know rape was bad until sometime during the 247 times I’ve sat through the training, but that’s an old story.

The only redeeming quality this training really has is that I get to sit in an auditorium with a large group of my peers and watch them get very, very uncomfortable every time any word even remotely adjacent to sex is mentioned. It never fails to entertain me to see how many middle age adults, who have all presumably had sex at one point or another, are utterly flustered by the topic.

This year’s version of the training consisted of two presenters whose variation of the content was a little more racy than usual. Parts of their schtick included having the group yell out words we use for a woman who has a lot of sex. You can probably guess most of what ended up on the list. Then we repeated the exercise by listing out the names we use for oversexed men. Likewise, the list was predictable. That wasn’t the best part, though.

The very best thing was perfectly unexpected and came about while the assembled group was listing off all the euphemisms for “having sex.” Hooking up, bumping uglies, doing it, greasing the weasel; it was a reasonable list. Then one of the younger people in the crowd – one of the few, I should note – shouted out the inevitable “Netflix and chill.”

And that’s when time stopped for a moment and a room full of middle age folks looked vaguely perplexed and then, slowly, some of the looks became decidedly horrified. Knowing the average age of the crowd, I can only presume that look of abject horror came on because many of them would have children in the age range where Netflix and chill is a phrase in common usage – and perhaps one that’s been slid past them when they ask little Johnny or Suzy what they’re doing on date night.

It made an awfully large group of people awfully uncomfortable… and that made me laugh. This mandatory sex ed stuff isn’t so bad if you just come to it in the right frame of mind. The more you know, indeed.

Ashley Madison slept here or, The importance of knowing thyself…

The Ashley Madison hack resulted in 30 million or so potentially unfaithful mates having their email addresses, phone numbers, credit card, and physical address information published yesterday. I’m the very last person in America who’s going to go on a moralistic rant about the virtue or vice of infidelity. It’s not like the internet made cheating possible, but it did make it theoretically easier to do so if you were inclined to stray. Now thanks to a band of supposedly holier than thou hackers, millions of people get to wonder if their other shoe is ever going to drop.

First off, if you’re having or planning to have an affair and don’t have a throwaway cell phone and a pre-paid credit card you’re probably too stupid to get away with it. If you’re in a relationship and use your real name and home address to register for a cheating site, you probably deserve to get caught. Even so, getting jammed up in an enormous program of data theft is a pretty crummy way to get caught – especially if you never went through with the act, or it’s something from your life long past.

Ironically perhaps, as a perennially single guy, I can see some compelling advantages to dating a married or otherwise involved woman – especially if you’re not the type who’s looking for an extensive commitment. You’ve got no worries about being drug somewhere you don’t want to be for the holidays. There are no pesky in-laws. You’re not the jackass that didn’t take the trash out or who shrunk a load of laundry or who hasn’t had more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep in the last six years. You’re the guy who gets to go out and have a nice meal in and a great bottle of wine. Or the one who gets to enjoy the excitement of walking into a cheap motel room in the middle of the day. Or the one who’s there when the weekend “business trip” becomes three days of playing house in some location distant enough from home that no one would suspect anything beyond business as usual.

Anyone, married or single, who signs up for a site like Ashley Madison has their reasons. I’m not the one who’s going to cast a judgment on any of them. People have an expectation of privacy online, even when it’s a false one. All this latest story does is reinforce that there is very little in our lives that is truly private – and it’s becoming less and less private all the time. Then again that’s really only a problem if you aren’t willing to take ownership of who you are and what you do.

Know thyself and the world is your oyster.

Neutrality….

I’m not a parent. It’s not a decision I’ve ever had a reason to regret. While I haven’t had the direct experience of what it’s like raising kids, I can speculate at least from the perspective of having been one once… contrary to the misguided notions that I was either hatched in a lab or sprung full grown from Zues’ head.

The interwebs are cheering Target’s bold, forward thinking decision to do away with gender-based signs in favor of gender neutrality. The CNN article on the topic quotes a Target shopper as being thrilled because she was “so tired of my daughter trying to play with her best friend (a boy) and him not wanting to because whatever she has is a girl toy. Or not wanting to watch the show she suggested because it’s a girls’ show…”

Now it’s been a long time since I was a kid, but I don’t remember making thoughtful, informed toy choices based on color or what aisle something happened to be in – I wanted GI Joes, Micro Machines, toy guns, and styrofoam airplanes that were guaranteed to crack the first time you threw them. In fairness, growing up we were just as apt to make our own toys out of pointy stick and rocks, spend the afternoon trying to catch frogs, or throw a dam across a stream, knock it down to see the “flood,” and the build it back again as we were to play with anything store bought. I don’t remember my toys ever being so much about gender as about interest.

None of that is really the point though. I don’t rightly care if you want your little Johnny to play with dolls or your little Susie to play with balls (or whatever it is that boys are “supposed” to play with these days). My point is we seem to spend a hell of a lot of time and effort in this country to satisfy whatever wild ass issue of the day one special interest after another comes up with. The better option, if I may be so bold, is for the parents out there to actual do some parenting.

Instead of expecting Target to do it for you, how about you as a parent decide what is an isn’t an acceptable choice for your child. Just because Target or Sears or LL Bean put something in a particular aisle, really shouldn’t flavor how you’re choosing to raise your lovely little hatchling or what you’re encouraging them to play with. Kids, being the ill tempered, uncensored little hoodlums that they are will tell you quickly enough what they want to play with and whether they consider it a “boy toy” or a “girl toy.” That’s a decision for you and them… whether Target puts it in Aisle 4 in a blue box or Aisle 6 in a pink box is likely to be incidental at best.

Joe… just joe…

Dear Starbucks,

No one loves your cup of joe more than me, but really I wish you’d just stick with providing coffee and a scone without offering up a side order of social commentary. I’ve come to your establishments across the country secure in the knowledge that I could order a venti vanilla latte extra hot with a shot and have it delivered up consistently from coast to coast.

What I’m generally not looking for with my jolt of hot caffeine is a debate or discussion with the staff on same-sex marriage, or gun control, or race relations. God knows there are enough venues available where those topics can’t be escaped. I hate to think your shops are just another place to avoid now.

Look, I know coffee shops have a long history of being a hotbed of radical thought and gathering points for critical discussion of the issues of the day… but for the love of God that’s what the internet is for now. I’m begging you to just be a place I can go to get a reliable cup of coffee. If I want politics with my caffeine I can always swing by McDonald’s every morning and listen to the old men bitching and complaining.

Regards,

Jeff

Read the inspiration for this post here.

The paranoia of a idle mind…

First the good news: The doc seems to think that with continued exercises and stretching, my shoulder should remain serviceable into the foreseeable future. Unless something changes, I’ve managed to escape the need for an MRI and potential surgery. It’s hard not to like that kind of report.

The next bit of his spiel was less ideal – apparently there were some “anomalous” results from my last round of blood work. The minute a sawbones breaks out the phrase “it’s probably nothing to be concerned about”, I start getting twitchy. Having blood drawn for a retest of the ol’ liver was not part of today’s original agenda… but given the last decade of being kept alive by chemistry, I don’t I shouldn’t be awfully surprised when it throws a few anomalies here and there.

While he was finalizing my chart for the day, the last thing he offered was to “throw in an HIV test” if I wanted one. Apparently that’s something they’re offering to everyone this month thanks to a new CDC recommendation. I’m assuming he didn’t offer based on my looking like an IV drug user or some kind of “deviated prevert.” Nonetheless, I figured while they have a needle stuck in my arm, why not offer up the second vial.

Up until now I’ve never so much as pondered the possibility of HIV. Let’s be honest here, I’m a middle age, overweight, wanna-be hermit who spends his free time reading, writing, and making sure the lawn is cut “just so.” I’m not sure how much sex the good doctor thinks I’m having, but apparently he thinks it’s a lot and that I’m probably doing it unprotected with complete strangers. I’m not sure if I should be proud or offended. At any rate, even though the results are a foregone conclusion, the damned test has been drifting around the back of my mind all day even though it would do as much good to sit here and worry about a satellite falling out of orbit and landing on me.

This is one of those times when living inside my head is an awfully troublesome place to be.

Sunday drama…

As we all know by now, I’m a creature of habit. In the spring one of those habits is enjoying Game of Thrones as each new episode airs on Sunday nights. Sunday night dramas have been part of the routine since The Soprano’s was the highest rated show on HBO, so let’s just go with the assumption that the 9PM timeslot on Sundays is a very well established and sacrosanct part of my weekly schedule – the parting shot signaling the end of the weekend.

Game-of-Thrones-2011-wallpaper-Iron-ThroneNow anyone who has seen the show or read the books knows that when they sit down to watch an episode they’re signing up for 54 minutes of greed, sex, violence, and dragons. Given the show’s ratings, it seems to be a pretty popular Sunday night pastime for a great many people. As I learned this past weekend, my mother is most decidedly not among that legion of devoted fans.

Rather than watch last weekend’s episode, I mostly cringed through it under a barrage of commentary ranging from “I don’t know why anyone would watch this” to “this is stupid” to silent painfully obvious eye rolling. I’d say it was probably a demographic problem, but there’s the tricky fact that George R.R. Martin is himself part of mom’s age group. It’s more likely just a case of widely divergent opinions on what constitutes great television… and possibly a leading reason why I need to seriously consider adding a second cable box to the household and avoid the awkward Sunday drama.

I don’t think mom will be running out to get a subscription to HBO any time in the near future… but maybe she’ll change her mind when she sees Boardwalk Empire this summer.