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consumerism     Our society is being influenced negatively by the consumerist culture that we, collectively, have taken our hands off the tiller and have let the market decide what is best for us and our cultures.

The idea that we can consume our way to happiness, well-being, or even a more just society would not compute without people being constantly conditioned to believe that individuality is end-goal of life.  The power of community and people working together has been the dynamo that has pushed our societies forward for the benefit of everyone (well except for the status-quo) and it is this power that has been waning since corporate capitalism has kicked into high gear under the guise of neo-liberalism.  Neo-liberalism undermines community, collective action, and critical thought it is a stupefying tonic – that when served to the masses – creates a calm disquiet that grinds societies away, but in return keeps people isolated, fixated on themselves, and most importantly: manageable.

This piece by Nick Turse is a preface for a America’s disconnect between its citizenry and the army said citizenry supports.  The dissonance is palatable as one reads the article.  What should concern you is that the disconnect described has been carefully and intentionally cultivated.  A feature of our current system, and most certainly not a bug .

“I can’t tell you exactly why I clicked on the article, but it was probably the title: “The Double-Tap Couple.” To me, a “double tap” is the technique of firing two gunshots in quick succession or employing two strikes in a row, as when U.S. drones or Hamas carry out attacks and then follow-up strikes to kill first-responders arriving at the scene. But this piece was about something very different. The headline referred to the popular app Instagram where you double-tap to “like” a photo.

The article turned out to be a profile of two twenty-somethings, a married couple who go by the noms de social media, FuckJerry and Beige Cardigan. They are, says author David Yi, “micro-celebrities” of the modern age. He is “tall, with a chiseled face, handsome”; she “has big doe eyes with cherub-like cheeks.” They dropped out of college and — first he and then she — became Instagram meme curators; that is, they find photos with wry or funny captions elsewhere on the internet and post them for their millions of followers. “Though both are social media sensations, neither is quite content with what they’ve accomplished,” Yi tells us. She “wants to pursue her first love, fashion, but isn’t quite sure what she’d want to do.” He’s currently cashing in with FuckJerry merchandise — hats, t-shirts, even “Vape juice.”

I read the article to the point at which FuckJerry (née Elliot Tebele) told Yi about his long slog up the Instagram follower food-chain: “It took a shit ton of time to get to, and it took a long time with a lot of work.”  I stared at my phone in abject confusion.  Something wasn’t right, so I scrolled to the beginning of the article and started again.  But it was just the same.  Justin Bieber is a fan.  Followers include the “Kardashian-Jenner family.”  He wears “skinny jeans and vintage Nikes.”  She sports a “statement coat and a pair of sparkling Chloe boots.”  Then I hit that quote: “shit ton of time… a lot of work.” I still couldn’t make sense of it and began studying the article as if it were a riddle. I read it maybe five times and again and again when I hit those phrases about time and work my brain would buckle. 

At that moment, I was nearing the end of a month-long reporting stint in South Sudan and waiting to find out if I’d be able to talk to a teenage girl, a late millennial with more than memes on her mind.  She had rebuffed the 60-something man her family had arranged for her to marry and her relatives had displayed their displeasure by beating her to the point of unconsciousness.  That conversation never happened, but I’d already logged several weeks’ worth of interviews with shooting survivors, rape victims,  mothers of murdered sons, wives of dead husbands.  All this in a country where, for firewood and water — that is, the means of life — women walk desperately far distances in areas where they know that men with AK-47s may be lurking, where many are assaulted and violated by one, two, or even five men.  In other words, a land where few would consider meme curation to be “a lot of work.”

I’d obviously hit that unsettling juncture where voices from home become dulled and distorted, where you feel like you’re hearing them from deep underwater.  I’m talking about the vanishing point at which your first-world life collides with your crisis-zone reality — the point of disconnect.  Mark Wilkerson knows it well.  He found himself in just such a state, serving with the U.S. Army in civil-war-torn Somalia during the 1990s.  That’s where he begins his inaugural TomDispatch piece, a rumination on his journey from soldier to veteran to chronicler of the all-too-brief life of another veteran, in his recent and moving book, Tomas Young’s War.

I eventually gave up on Yi’s article, unsure why I couldn’t understand the life and times of FuckJerry.  After I got back to the U.S., however, I signed up for Instagram and took a look at his account and Yi’s story began to make more sense to me, if only in a tragi-comic way.  Later in the piece, he writes of his subjects being “caught in the maelstrom” when a competitor is criticized for “stealing” memes.  It’s a strange society that produces both meme maelstroms and, in distant lands, lethal ones that leave millions dead, maimed, desperate, or displaced.  So before you become FuckJerry’s 9,200,001st follower, let Wilkerson guide you through slivers of two American conflicts, their aftermaths, and the points of disconnect along the way.” 

Nick Turse’s Preface to Batman in a Hospital Bed by Mark Wilkerson @Tom’s Dispatch

     The disconnection that Turse illustrates resonates with me enough though to make it the focus of my article, however Wilkerson’s article is also very good, so I recommend following the link.

fellowship    Tackling organized religion and all the inanity that goes along with it is a full time job.  It is quite possible to sink days worth of thought and engagement into the struggle against religion and the toxicity it spreads through our societies.  As a writer, one needs to know when to disengage and take a break from the front lines because there is always a shiny new low to be discovered when deconstructing, criticizing, and generally putting the boots to all that is holy.

I find it to be particularly hard during the Christmas season to filter out all the amazing crap that people do in the name of their Oooga-booga of choice.  Looking at you purveyors of the mythic War On Christmas, O members of the Persecuted Majority, but I digress.

What I find heart warming and inspiring is that, almost everyday, I can check my wordpress feed and find a article or a story that is championing the side of reason and rationality.  The serious posts, the funny ones, the gut-wrenching/stomach turning articles – all written with the intent of hoping to nudge the ledger of history a bit further toward reason and away from the false hope that is religion.

I take solace in knowing that there are like minded individuals who share my struggle and wrestle with some of the same issues and problems that can seem so insurmountable at times.  The general high quality and thoughtfulness of argument and prose I see on a regular basis inspires me raise my own standards and continue onward with doing what I do here in blogland.  I’m honoured to be part of such a intellectually fruitful and challenging community; thus I feel obligated to extend my thanks to those who take the time to comment here and bring the noise when necessary to hammer out a better arguments and generally just raise the level of discourse past whatever I could do on my own.

You nice bloggy-people are a damn invaluable resource.  Thank you for spending the time and the effort in pursuing the over-arching goals we all work toward, in one way or another.

Keep up the good work everyone, solidarity and comradery yadda-yadda, and of course best wishes to you all in this fine holiday season.


Warmest regards,


We can lump this video in with the others that attempt to shed light on issues in society that matter while discreetly hawking their wares in the background.  The best form of advertising?  I’m not sure, but the commercial makes space for some thinking about how generational experiences are becoming increasingly stratified and foreign to one another.

Are today’s youth doomed to be nothing but cloistered vid-heads who only know nature through what they have seen on the screens of their tablets?  Possibly but I’m thinking that much of the fuss we see about losing out youth to technology is a direct result of our societies ruthless quest for economic productivity, seemingly at all costs.


Productivity has ever increased, but at what social cost?  Remember when only one bread-winner was required to live a reasonable life and raise children?  Successive generations have had to work harder for less money, just to stay in place.  Community life has taken a back seat to the lifestyle focused the individual and consumption – social technology directly feeds into our atomization and separation from others.

The leaders of our society have learned the lessons of the past.  All that New Deal/Civil Rights/ Second Wave Feminist scared them shitless and having witnessed what an organized community of like minded people can accomplish are doing their best to ensure that it (social change benefiting the masses) does not happen again.  People with common interests, common community and commitment to bettering their own interests change society.  Isolated lone-wolves mired in consumptive practices do not.  Hence witness the trajectory of our society in which the ‘tailored-experience’ is all the rage; the idea that making choices (ones that are carefully circumscribed mind you) is empowering; and sadly the idea that social power resides in competition and being ‘unique’.  These are all hallmarks of society geared toward preserving a status-quo that benefits a particular segment of society.

The video is playing up the same fears every generation has about the next.  Are some of the concerns valid?  I think so, but nothing that cannot be overcome with realization that social media friends are not the same as having friends in real life.  Sharing (not the facebook variety) your life with others is a necessary part of healthily existing in society and cannot be replaced by social media.  Can social media/technology be used to enhance and facilitate our social interactions?  Of course, but it is not a replacement for the attachment and community humans need to be healthy and happy.

Societal analysis aside,I for one am glad that video games have come as far as they have.  Video games are an immersive experience for me that allow me to spend some time outside of the real-world.  At the same time I do realize that video gaming is just one aspect of life and must be balanced with other pursuits/activities/interests.

Admittedly, one must be careful in allocating time to video gaming as hours seem to disappear, especially when playing with your friends .  It is very easy to lose yourself in the experience and come out bleary-eyed on the other-side wondering why the hell it is 2am and why you’re not sleeping. :)

Hurrah! for Rocky Mountain House: (snipped from the edmonton journal)

Rocky Mountain House mayor not surprised by plebiscite’s results

Residents of Rocky Mountain House voted over whelmingly against reversing a 12-year ban on video lottery terminals on Monday.VLT

Town citizens voted to remove VLTs from local bars and lounges in 1997. Monday’s plebiscite was held to determine if town council should ask the province to return the lottery machines to the community, located about 80 kilometres west of Red Deer.

Rocky Mountain House Mayor Jim Bague said 874 people voted against bringing VLTs to the town, while 274 voted in favour of the move.

The outcome of the plebiscite didn’t surprise him, he said.

“It’s the same people talking now as in 1997,” Bague said. “I think it’s important for the public to speak. It’s been 12 years and we’ve now let the public speak again.”

The town’s decision to uphold the ban on VLTs will continue to hurt bars in the community, because customers are going to the next town to play VLTs, said Duffers Pub manager Jim Pogson

“I’m very disappointed … We may have to lay off some girls and cut back shifts. With other businesses, it could be the end of them,” Pogson said.

The controversial plebiscite has largely seen local drinking establishments pitted against churches.

“They definitely have opinions, those in favour or opposed. They’re both figuring that it’s an important issue,” Bague said.

Six bar owners forced the plebiscite by collecting enough names — 10 per cent of the town’s 7,100 residents — on a petition. The bar owners say they are losing money to customers who go to the next town to play VLTs.

In 2009-10, the Alberta Lottery Fund expects to collect $1.5 billion in gaming revenues, including $616 million from VLTs.

The fund supports thousands of charitable, not-for-profit, public and community-based initiatives each year.

Bars reap 15-per-cent commissions from VLTs’ gross profits.

The province caps the number of machines at 6,000 and all of them are in use.

VLT’s or Video Lottery Terminals are a government cash cow to the tune of about $828.2 million a year.  We as province really dig our gambling.  VLT’s are addictive unecessary additions to pubs and bars accross the province.  Rocky Mountain House just held a plebicite reaffirming the populations wishes to remain a VLT free community, much to the chargin of local business.  This example needs to be replicated across our province as VLT’s do much to aggravate the social ill of gambling.

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