Sunday, September 30, 2007

Anger Rethought

A long time ago I wrote a post on Anger, dealing with the play Equus by Peter Schaffer. In that, I said that anger was something that a person could own, it was the result of the culmination of experiences that he or she had during life. And that anger, while it could be suppressed, controlled, even eliminated through the help of religion, physcology, and drugs, is not something that should be altogether gotten rid of. There is a purpose behind that anger, a passion that one must feel in order to live life, to have the power to change things, to make things better for the people living around them.

But now, I wonder, is there not another type of anger that has developed within the youths' psyche today that has nothing to do with the experiences that they have gone through? Certainly the loss of innocence, at such an early age, would produce a certain amount of dissatisfaction in a life. The loss of beliefs once held as dear to a child, like the loss of Santa, or the realization that their parents aren't perfect, would create some sore feelings. But I wonder, how much of those feelings are expressed in the music, art, fashion of today's youths? I hear the lyrics of today's hip-hop and heavy metal bands, and I wonder at the unchecked anger that comes from them. Where does that anger come from, and is it something that is truly felt, or is it something that is portrayed as a vehicle to sell music. When does it become anger for anger's sake? I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. While I can relate the Goth movement back to certain feelings of anger and passion that have been taken up by people as far back as literature and art can show us, I do not understand the overwhelming negativity that is portrayed by those people. I do know that even today's youth, who are certainly not children anymore (see previous blogs), have the experiences necessary to feel quite a bit of pain and anger at the world. But is that perception of the world captured by a movement that seeks to profit off of it? Is Hot Topics formed because of the desire to rebel against the society of their parents (which is ironic because the conservative, capitalist parents are actually handing down their ideas to their children, who are using them to profit using the very free-wheeling rebellion that is against that idea.) For instance, System of a Down (a rock band) has an album that basically calls for the public to steal it (in reference to the P2P revolution currently taking place.) The rebellion that the album title calls for is ironic because System of a Down, who by all accounts is against the current system, relies on it for profit and continuance of their craft.

But back to the personal side of this. When the enhancement of those rebellious feelings is caused by free enterprise, the effect is often enhanced on a psychological level. Feelings of hatred, mistrust of authority figures, and missing opportunities of advancement given to youth by those authority figures, are all negative symptoms of a basic fight for independence that has been taken in recent times to a more extreme rebellion than in the olden times, when kids ran away to join the circus. When those rebellious feelings destroy the potential in a person, keeping them from becoming the person that they were meant to be, then we have a most definite problem. Someone who likes Goth, and wears black and grows their hair out long, but still is able to harness the potential and opportunities that society gives them, that can use that sense of independence to further their own being, should be commended in being able to preserve uniqueness while still taking advantage of society. But the forces that would tear an individual apart, whether it be from some supernatural, religious being, or from the Consumerist society that can benefit from such self-destruction, do not make it easy for a teenager, with the sudden freedom and power that they have, to take advantage of society in this manner. Most of the time, they are sucked into the emotions that they feel, and the potential that is there is wiped away. I feel sad for those people, and will work hard to see that the people that I care about do not follow down those roads. Anger should be owned and harnessed, but not be the owner and the destroyer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Everyone needs a Psychiatrist

Everyone needs one. And I'm not saying everyone's crazy, or that all of America needs Prozac (although one could argue that), but everyone needs that person that they can talk to about their lives. There are so many people that are shut in, without someone to talk to. In olden times, back in the days of my last blog, people talked to their barbers. Or in other places, it was a barkeeper (Quark). But nowadays, with the Internet and ipods and isolation and suburban flight, no one talks to anyone anymore. Face to Face. In a time when communication is supposed to be faster and more instant than ever before, people sure can't talk to each other. I feel like I'm talking to people in a McDonald's drive through.

So what do we do, in this modernist, J. Prufrockian world where you can talk and converse but never really say anything or convey anything? What you need is a person whose job it is to listen, to give limited advice, and to be able to use the advantages of the medical community to make things better. In short, people need Psychiatrists to just listen.

I went into the Psychiatrist's office, and sat down, and realized that the first treatment they give is the waiting room. Because in that room are fellow citizens with much worse problems that you have. It does make you feel better that 1), people have problems...they all do... and 2) that maybe, just maybe, your problems aren't as bad as you think.

On a side note, I am certain that the people in there today were depressed because they had all bought SUVs and were now paying their souls in gasoline. I could barely see my car for all the vans in the parking lot. :)

And I saw teenagers who were angry, and parents that were frustrated, and I realized that any issues I have aren't as bad as what I thought. Where does the anger come from, anyway? Why the music that is nothing but screaming and negative tones and timbre, why the blackness and the moroseness? And why is it so popular? I've always wanted to know. I'm sure there's some connection between the Goth, metal, teen-angst movement and the more Gothic movements of literature and art. I'll ask some people I know that know.

The one incredible irony about psychiatrists is that most people that want to go into counseling have issues of their own, have agendas and beliefs that are certainly not neutral. A good psychiatrist almost has to leave their whole personality behind in their office and remain as "Troiesque" as possible. Unfortunately, the people I've seen who are in counseling, not necessarily in Psychiatry, but other counseling jobs, simply cannot do that. This turns the counseling world into a place where the doctor might be worse off than the patient.

I have found a psychiatrist in Conyers that can remain neutral, and pleasant, and gives limited advice that doesn't come from any agenda, and above all, can listen. And that can really help, along with the waiting room and the expertly designed offices. Oh, and the medication, which is necessary in today's world of chemical imbalances and high stress living.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nostalgia, Part 2

My stepfather used to drive an ice cream truck, and so a couple of times he let me come along with him as he made his rounds. There was such a feeling of wonder as we drove through the neighborhoods in Conyers, delivering ice cream to the low socioeconomic areas, knowing that the money the parents were giving the kids may have been much better used toward electricity or water. The money was used to buy a moment of happiness to the kids, and while in the past I have criticized materialism and buying love, in this instance I do think that happiness through an ice cream sandwich and a trucking ringing a bell and chugging down the road is worth it.

And as we were driving down the barely drivable road in the trailer park, I noticed that these children, mostly without AC or TV or cable or internet or whatever, played and developed and adapted, and were happy. Much happier than the suburban rich people that wind up shooting people in schools. Although I know that I could not assess the happiness of the kids in the trailer park just by one glance, I had a certain feeling of longing toward the simplicity of life that they were experiencing. Of course I know that's wrong, that they might have had to deal with things that no child should have to deal with, and that the idea of the child in the trailer park is similar to that of Russeau and his "noble savage" idea. I am a Romantic at heart, and so while I live in the 21st century in a world of technology, I long for a time more recognizable to someone like Thoreau.

If you really want to understand what I'm talking about, read Ray Bradbury's work Dandelion Wine. It's a work of pure nostalgia, and the lyricism of the language lifts that life right off the page and makes the modern world disappear. Nostalgia is such a complex emotion, because while the pleasure of thinking about living in a somewhat fictional world where things are more simple, there is also the realization that those people had to deal with hardships that our modern technologies have done away with. Some diseases, electricity, running water, bathrooms inside the house.... but also things that are not so obvious, such as having to write everything by hand, or being able to look up anything via the internet and have a decent chance of actually finding what you're looking for in about 5 minutes or less. And then there's the boredom, which is two fold, because while it did exist in "olden" times, there were always things to do, either because of endless chores (clothes and dishes had to be hand washed), or by using your imagination and play games with whatever you had around the house (unlike now, when you buy your games for the Xbox or whatever).

So when we yearn for simpler times, when we wax nostalgic, we also are admitting that those times are gone, and that something precious that we had is now lost to us. Whether it's the natural progressiveness of society, or some memory of childhood we long to regain, we have changed the way we live. The interesting thing about that is that often times, nostalgia looks back through rose-colored glasses. We see all the good times without seeing the bad. And it's painful, in some cases, to see what we have lost and then have to accept those losses, almost like losing a loved one, except it is part of ourselves that we have lost. But there still is hope that those times that we yearn for can still be recaptured, in the children that we see playing ball on the street corner, in the look on their faces as we give them ice cream from a truck with an antique bell on top, in the small towns that have somehow escaped the interstates and highways that bring such speed to modern life. Would that today's children have to claim such memories before they can move on to the world of TV and online gaming. But, I am afraid, that that childhood is rapidly disappearing (see earlier blogs), an we are becoming a society of all one memory, all one society. I am afraid that soon, the swimming holes will be empty, and the swing of bats in neighborhoods will soon fall silent. Let us hope that, in the future, when our children are studying algebra and engineering in elementary school, when school becomes something you do in front of a screen, that sometime, those children wander outdoors and unplug themselves for a moment from computers and ipods and cell phones, and find joy in the simpler things.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Random Thoughts and a Book Review

I can't find my basil. My mom fixed sheep-burgers last night ("nothin' but mutton to eat") and covered them with a tomato sauce. Which screamed basil. And I couldn't find it, so I settled for a little oregano. Didn't seem to do much, which makes sense, cause I use Oregano on salad, sandwiches..that sort of thing. Basil goes best on tomato based dishes. Anyway...


Things have happened recently that have brought back to mind my earlier posts about Neil Postman's The Disappearance of Childhood. We are living in a society where children are treated more and more like adults, expected to learn adult things at an early age, and yet we are shocked when adult things happen to them. Due to the intense flow of information that barrages them everyday without the moral or legal implications to go with it, children must deal with the vices of being an adult far younger than what they used to. Because they know about it. Like I said before, I didn't know any curse words until I moved to Georgia at the age of 10. Nowadays, most kids know all the f's and c's and s's and whatever by the time they enter kindergarten. Not to mention the vices they are exposed to everyday on the internet, cable tv...etc...

But I am not here to try and control the flow of information like most politicians would do, because it is not my place to do so. I will not advocate NetNanny or turning off the TV because that would be restricting the base of knowledge available to everyone including children. Rather, I suggest parents provide sons and daughters with the skills to interpret information and the self-control to know what is acceptable for them. I know this is a near impossible thing to do, for parenting is not what it used to be (and I should know, I've taught the kids and seen them destroying the kid's section at Borders while the parents stand idly by.).

And that is the second half of this little rant. For while childhood is vanishing, so is adulthood. People my age have reduced themselves into an instant gratification, get whatever you want (on credit), epicurean society where consumerism and self-destructive tendencies far outweigh self control and self improvement. And maybe that's because people cannot attain the level of success that their parents sometimes have. But that's okay, because with credit, bankruptcy, and the endless supply of amusement, fast food, drugs, and mindless games that are available, you can easily remain blissfully ignorant of the potential that you have. It's a Brave New World, and we are all being controlled by people who are exploiting us gently, poisoning us with superficial happiness. And I'm just as guilty of this as everyone else. For who would not want to live happily ever after, even if ever after is about 20 years shorter than what you could live. It all connects, all to the profit of consumerists, and all to the determent of you and me. (Oh, and as a disclaimer, I'm not advocating communism. I have a great faith in the free market system, in capitalism in all it's glory. There is nothing more consistent with human nature and the drive for improvement than full blown capitalism. What I am advocating is a need for responsibility. Make money, tons of it, but not by treating your customers as cattle that can be fattened up and served to those that eat them.)


I recently tried to read McCarthy's The Road, since I've heard so much positive reviews about it and I dig post-apocalyptic novels. I've went to Amazon and read the reviews, and for the most part, they were glowing. Except for one that I read that said, "I dont' get it." I agree with that reviewer. I don't get it.

A book must have certain things to be a good read. A plot. Characters that you can sympathize or believe in. Some sort of message would be nice, too. Those are just things you have to have. It's like watching a porn movie. The plot doesn't matter, only the sex scenes. That's why you watch it.

The Road totally lacks those things which make a book successful. I couldn't identify or even believe in the characters, and there was virtually no plot, other than a man and a boy trying to survive in a post-nuclear world. It was like a porn movie with no sex. Maybe I'm missing something. I hope so. I just couldn't finish it.


As a good review, I read The Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak. It was one of my dad's old sci-fi books, and so I randomly picked a book out of the hundreds and read it. It was a mix of Sagan's Contact and any number of Star Trek episodes I could name. The characters were shallow, but the plot and the themes were strong and driving. It is like I have said before, pure science fiction stories rely on strong, believable science theory, and less on the characters involved. In this, Simak delivered amazingly. The sacrifice to this is to move the people out of the way of the science. In some cases, like Michael Chricton's Andromeda Strain, it makes the book insufferable. But if you take the book and read it as if you were watching an original Star Trek episode, where the message and the cool sci-fi technology outshines these puny things called humans, then it works wonderfully.

I recommend this book highly, if you can find it, or for a better Simak book, try Ring Around the Sun.