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Are We Always Conscious of our Motivations?

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Are We Always Conscious of our Motivations?

Frequently in discussions, the idea of motivation is brought up. What drives behavior? What is the cause of people’s actions? What makes people behave the way they do? Many people stubbornly like to truncate this notion to the idea of belief – that is, they claim people’s actions are a direct result of their conscious beliefs – but belief is only one fraction of motivation. The entire sphere of motivation contains endless subsets of forces, dynamics, emotional states, unconscious and subconscious activity, and various psychological underpinnings, all of which have an influence on the resulting action(s). The idea of “belief” only covers the conscious motivations, which only tells one tiny part of the story.

We know that various socioeconomic factors will have an impact on constituent populations. That is, the presence of certain forces demonstrably have an impact on the behavior of the people living within them. Everyone acknowledges this. People tend, however, to skip the next step and therefore miss the (seemingly) obvious conclusion: if external socioeconomic (political, etc.) forces alter and affect the behavior of the people living inside the scope of these forces, then that means those forces must, on some level, affect the psychological state of those people.

This transformation is not always conscious. In fact, it rarely is. Societal forces act on people in ways that they are not always aware of. We know this. This is what clinical psychology helps the individual parse through. (I have many issues with clinical psychology in that it tends to alleviate pressure and allows people to “fit in,” but that’s a separate gripe for a separate post.) This fact is what advertising and public relations and political campaigning relies upon: that human behavior can be influenced by communicating with the unconscious mind. This means that people can behave in ways due to subconscious or unconscious motivators while simultaneously “believing” that their true motivation is the one of which they are aware (conscious).

...if external socioeconomic (political, etc.) forces alter and affect the behavior of the people living inside the scope of these forces, then that means those forces must, on some level, affect the psychological state of those people.

This concept is readily obvious when we are talking about our own personal lives. How many people are motivated sexually or intimately by various forces toward which they are completely ignorant? How many people get married “for the wrong reasons”? At the time, certainly each person would tell you they are marrying for “love" and “trust" and whatever other things they think are motivating them. But in situations where it is retroactively realized that wasn’t the case, honest people will eventually start to explore and understand some of the more fundamental and more “truthful” motivations behind their relationship. (Insecurity, lack of identity, replication of paternal dynamics, etc.) To sit there and say, “Well he/she said this is why they did it, so that’s why they did it!” is utter lunacy and leads to some pretty dangerous consequences of thought.

The notion of motivation is on heavy rotation in our current discourse. When someone tries to draw the causal link between, say, Islam and ISIS, they’ll usually quote the members of ISIS as incontrovertible proof that Islam is what is truly motivating them. But this neglects so many important factors that it’s absurdly petulant to stop thinking at that point. Who is ISIS? Where do they come from? Who is funding them? Who is propping them up? What environment did those people grow up in? These are all pertinent factors that will affect a group of people’s ability or willingness to become or join ISIS. These factors all play a part in the subconscious motivation of the people even though many of them truly think their primary motivator is the tenets of Islam. The fact that many of them have grown up around or heavily participated in brutal war their entire lives – some of which have seen their friends and family blown to bits (by U.S. tanks), for example – will have a significant impact on the range of behaviors in which they are willing to participate. It’s possible that their “religion” is merely the unifying ideology that gives context to their rage and action.

Another example: gangs in the United States. It is easy to see that what causes street gangs and street gang violence is poverty, disenfranchisement, lack of education, etc. But how many gang members would tell you these are the conscious motivators for what they do? Some might be able to recognize that and contextualize the situation. But most will probably talk about "territory” or "brotherhood” or “money.” Clearly the environments in which gang members grow up change their psychological state and therefore alter their databank of motivations. From normalizing death at an early age or being surrounded by violence and corruption or having little to lose, these factors help motivate people to do things that would, from another set of socio-economic – socio-psychological – circumstances (ours, for example), seem totally insane.

The same is true about the 9/11 hijackers. In the U.S., we swallow whole the propaganda surrounding 9/11. We act as if we were peacefully minding our own business and then, out of nowhere, some religious lunatics decided to cause death and destruction. People then claim, “They did it because of their beliefs! Listen to what they said!” Well, okay. If we were actually interested in learning why 9/11 occurred, we could listen to the mastermind himself, Osama Bin Laden. In November 2002 he wrote a Letter to America in which he outlined a very detailed explanation of why he (they) attacked the U.S. (us). The primary reason is because “you [the U.S.] attacked us and continue to attack us [Muslims].” He then lists various ways in which (he believes) this is the case: Israeli occupation in Palestine, U.N. sanctions against Iraq, extortion of oil, among many others. The controversial nature of these statements notwithstanding, at the very least we have to acknowledge that living on the butt-end of those factors and the subsequent interpretation and internalization of those factors could motivate an individual in a way that supersedes “religion.” Sure, some religious pretext can be used to galvanize and cohere certain ideas and emotions, but it’s reckless to assume that without religion, this very real resentment would be pacified internally in some way.

This is not, as some will inevitably accuse, an excuse or, worse, a condoning of these acts of violence. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather it is a demand to avoid oversimplifying things to such a childish degree and instead inspect the true “root” of violence so that we may better find a solution to stopping it. It does absolutely no good to point a finger at Islam whenever people carry out violence “in the name of Islam.” The effects of doing so are demonstrably disastrous. Continual bombing of populations to “root out” terror is what is causing and continuing terror in the first place. (The number one factor in the existence of suicide bombing, for example, is foreign occupation, not religion.) Not just by galvanizing “anti-American” support but also by imposing war-torn conditions on populations which then serve as motivating factors in the “radicalization” of populations.

soldaty-armiya-irak-voyna.jpg

Conscious motivations toward violence are very often non-religious in the traditional sense. (Although the fervor driving them can aptly be described as religious.) Look at the United States. The United States over the past 5 or 6 decades has been by far the most violent, aggressive country in the world. What drives our “state-capitalist extremists” (military) to violence? A lot of things. First of all, we have a complex system of propaganda indoctrinating every citizen with jingoistic views of geopolitics and history. This starts in the schools and is corroborated by media outlets, Hollywood, and the like. We are the good guys who stand for freedom, democracy, and sanity; “they” are insane lunatics who pose a threat to our values. This is a constant throughout our society and most of the West. From 9/11 (“they hate our freedom”) to Charlie Hebdo (“they attacked our freedom of speech”), various mouthpieces spew propaganda into our minds which change our fundamental motivations. (For example, the week after the Charlie Hebdo attack, after an avalanche of anti-Muslim rhetoric and discussion, the movie “American Sniper”, in which Bradley Cooper kills hundreds of Muslims, earned $90 million, breaking the Winter opening weekend record.) These “patriotic beliefs” are just as religious as Christianity or Islam as they are based on emotion and insulation rather than empirical data and reality.

What motivates a U.S. soldier to storm Iraq or Afghanistan? Or fly a drone into Pakistan? These people are motivated by irrational beliefs of “democracy” or “freedom” (two things that don’t actually exist in America) as well as the fraudulent notion of an “enemy.” This paradigm is not only implanted and installed by outside forces (media, schools, parents, society, etc.) but it is reaffirmed and lauded nearly unanimously by all agents of authority in our society. To go against this narrative is considered taboo. Dangerous. Uncouth. Anti-American. Unpatriotic. Many other words that they invented to discredit the truth. The unwillingness of many of us to inspect our own institutions with the scrutiny and critical eye with which we apply so easily and callously to “foreign” societies, populations, religions, and nations is the textbook definition of petulant hypocrisy.

It’s a cozy bed-time tale to tell ourselves that we’re the good guys fighting the bad guys. This is almost never truly the case. The 9/11 attacks did NOT pose a “threat to our freedom.” That’s an unjustifiably insane belief. Ironically, the government and media reaction to those attacks did pose a substantial threat the very freedom they claim to be protecting. From the Patriot Act to increased security measures to the increased violence overseas which help create “anti-American sentiment," these are actual infringements of our civil liberties, spearheaded by our friendly local, mom and pop federal government. However, many U.S. citizens happily complied with these new “security measures.” Three quarters of the population initially approved of the invasion of Iraq. If you asked U.S. citizens what their motivation was to submit to or approve these policies (if they knew about them at all), they’d tell you it is to “fight terror” or “defend freedom” or “kill the bad guys." However, in truth it was yet another example of a frightened, ignorant population capitulating to very calculated fear-mongering from institutional powers.

Funny how we’re not always completely aware of what drives us.

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Bill Cosby and Institutional Violence

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Bill Cosby and Institutional Violence

Bill Cosby has been accused of rape by multiple women for decades and only now has the public learned about it.

Bill Cosby has been accused of rape by multiple women for decades and only now has the public learned about it.

This entire Bill Cosby fiasco is something I chimed in on a few weeks ago on Facebook. I wanted to expand a bit on my thoughts and make a more sweeping point.

For anyone who hasn’t heard, Bill Cosby has been accused of rape by over a dozen different women over the past few decades. These allegations have been re-brought to light due to a video of Hannibal Buress talking about it on stage in Philadelphia. The video went viral and the rape allegations are now being taken seriously.

What is interesting about this is if you listen to Hannibal speak about the material, he talks about how he wasn’t saying anything shocking. The information is (and was) out there. Not only is this verifiable with a quick Google search, but I can attest that in the comedy world this was relatively common knowledge. A lot of people in the comedy world probably assumed everyone just knew this information and that’s possibly why people haven’t talked about it. Why not?

My best guess is that people are afraid. Nobody wants to risk their career over something like that. Cosby is a living legend, a force in the industry. More importantly than that, he has made millions of dollars, off of which many many people have gotten rich (agents, managers, show runners, actors, EPs, etc.) so there are massive forces working to protect him (their investment). Sure, you could come out and take a stance, but the people who have vested interests in Cosby’s success (and reputation) will surely (and predictably) try and shut you down. They might accuse you of lying, blackball you from certain projects and employ various methods of marginalization or outright elimination. Deviant behavior is bad PR, especially if it’s true. So it makes sense that the forces profiting from a particular person or entity will do everything they can to maintain that position. In Cosby's case, the only reason he's so vulnerable is because he's not as relevant as he once was. That said, it will be interesting to see how his "team" responds behind the scenes.

These forces are the mechanisms of modern authority in institutions. This isn’t just true about our little comedy world. This is even more true and even more consequential in other, much larger industries. It goes all the way up from Hollywood to the NFL to corporate America to the U.S. Government. This is how our institutions function and how they suppress dissent in order to perpetuate their own power.

We can look at countless examples. This explains why Paterno and the Penn State administration were so adamant about keeping Sandusky a secret. They knew. They all knew. But it was bad for business. It demonstrated institutional failure with disastrous, horrific consequences, namely child molestation. Then, of course, it went public, it was pinned on a few people (rather than the institution itself), those people suffered tarnished reputations and were expelled and then, after some time, it was business as usual.

The same is true in the NFL. I promise you everyone in the NFL knows about all the scandals that come out way before they go public. It’s probably common knowledge. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and most certainly much more, and much worse. (Ben Roethlisberger, for example.) The NFL protects rape and violence all the time because the institution (league in bed with sponsors) is protecting its own interests (power).

These are not isolated incidents as they are made to seem once they go public. No, these are embedded institutional failures. That is, namely, the priority of money and power over human behavior. The true criminal is the very institutions that coerce people to adopt those malevolent priorities in order to survive within them. And that is what we ought to be fighting against. Not the individual incidents of deviance, but the very institutions that protect them.

For brevity’s sake, I’ve limited the examples to the more popular ones, but there are countless others. (The Catholic Church, which is so tired a subject it barely needs mentioning.) Go into Hollywood and you’ll find the same thing. Probably worse. All sorts of prostitution rings and sex slavery, sexual coercion, things that are tantamount to rape, are extremely prevalent and relatively “known” commodities in that community. Ditto with Wall Street. But nobody says anything because the institution is what puts food on their tables and yachts in their marinas. So everyone has a reason to protect the institution and themselves. Remember, the people in power are the ones carrying out these vicious, horrific things. Are you really brave enough to go to war with that type of monster? The few who have have suffered terrifying consequences. All part of the plan.

Fred Hampton, leader of the Black Panther Party, was murdered by the FBI and Chicago Police on December 4, 1969.

Fred Hampton, leader of the Black Panther Party, was murdered by the FBI and Chicago Police on December 4, 1969.

The worst cases of this are governments and institutions with the ability to carry out true violence. You can go up and down this country’s history and find countless examples of this very thing. In the vein of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings and the subsequent Grand Jury decision to not indict either of the officers responsible, take a look at how the government has worked over the years to control, mitigate, and outright eliminate the black rights movements. Go back to the 60s when the FBI launched a ridiculous campaign to destroy the Black Panther Party (as well as many other dissident activist groups), ultimately crescendoing in the blatant murder of Fred Hampton. This is violent corruption that everyone within the institutions at fault knew about, full well. The FBI knew and the Chicago police knew. Nobody says anything because saying something is tantamount to warring with the powerful institution itself. In fact, the FBI agent who told Hoover that the Panthers were mostly concerned with their Free Breakfast Program was told that he was making a huge career mistake by not telling the FBI Director that the Panthers were “violent radicals.” Hampton’s tragic story is proof that institutional power will often stop at nothing to vanquish its opposition.

We can look at this indefinitely. The military, mercenary armies, genocide by sanctions, CIA inciting violent revolts in other countries to serve U.S. interests, U.S. support for oppressive regimes, etc. Some of this is controlled through propaganda (convincing the people within the institutions that this is actually good); some of it is controlled through outright fear and intimidation. “Say something and suffer the consequences.”

This is terrifying stuff, but I think we need to be aware of how these things function. They will allow us to see the bigger picture in many of these microcosmic examples that pop up all too frequently.

To bring it back, the entertainment industry, as well as Cosby’s wealth and fame, protected him for decades from justice. I suppose it's a good thing that people are realizing the truth about him now (better, that is, than never learning it) but it would be a massive failure on our end if we assumed that he was a lone wolf, a bad apple in a sea of otherwise altruistic forces. Most people are, deep down, good and well-intentioned. I believe this. However, our own ignorance and fear can evoke within us some pretty nefarious behavior. This includes simply being silent or allowing an institution to continue to subjugate and injure various people.

From the entertainment and sports industries, to the business world, to the government and beyond, the constant is the overwhelming power of institutions to prioritize maintaining that power over anything else. And, at a certain point, we are just as guilty for refusing to recognize our complicity in abetting that rather than what we should be doing, which is throwing stones.

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Facebook Recap

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Facebook Recap

I've posted a few things on Facebook lately that are pseudo blog entries. So, I am just reposting them here.


December 11, 2014 (11:04 AM)

There is no “United States.” The problem is when people criticize the U.S., nationalistic citizens automatically get defensive because they embed their own personal identity in this (fraudulent) notion of “country." This is an issue because the actual policies of the U.S. have nothing to do with the constituent populous. The decisions that the “U.S.” makes are determined by an extremely exclusive concert of wealthy people’s interests, ranging from domestic policy to foreign policy all the way to covert, extrajudicial operations that qualify as neither. Those are the actions that define the “U.S.” The people have nearly no influence over these decisions so nationalism becomes an inherently phony connection. People who “love their country” do so in vain: the country doesn’t love them back. The “country” doesn’t care about anyone except those select few interests. “Love for country” becomes a unilateral, unrequited love which highlights the deep yearning we all have to feel a communal sense of belonging. It’s superficial. The “country” is lettered with silly tokens like a flag or certain buzzwords like “freedom” and “democracy.” These are all totally vacuous ploys to suck you dry. That’s why it’s even more tragic to see millions of well-intentioned individuals pour a very genuine energy into an entity that barely notices they exist. Due to the spiritually barren nature of our society, we are unable to satisfy that need organically, so we require shallow logos and concepts to bridge the gap. This “allegiance" clouds our perception. It makes us defensive about the behaviors of these oligarchical sociopaths that run this place, because we are desperately in love with the fraudulently unifying “icons” of those behaviors. Once this dangerous, vapid, petulant nationalist/jingoist connection is broken, we will all be able to inspect the behaviors of our “country” with a lot more honesty and objectivity and take the next step to rectifying the huge problem areas. Until then, we’ll continue to be the sad emo girl writing love poems in our journal about the hot guy in class who doesn’t even know our name.


December 9, 2014 (1:00 PM)

The Senate “Torture Report” was released today. As usual, mainstream garbage posing as a supposedly irrefutable example of dissent. “Doesn’t this undermine power? It makes the CIA look bad!” Ugh. This is an old tactic. We are looking at 10+ years of violent, aggressive, genocidal foreign policy in this “War on Terrorism" -- supported nearly across the board by both parties -- but now the conversation is changed to “torture.” “Should we have tortured? Are we torturing too much? Is torturing helpful to our war aims?” Never mind that the actual war aims themselves are wholly illegal and morally reprehensible. The conversation is changed from honestly inspecting the brutal reality of our foreign policy to a well-packaged “hot button issue” of this partisan attack that can be debated endlessly on news channels and turned into a movie or whatever puerile garbage the public consumes. This is not news. It’s olds. Just like Watergate: it’s power attacking power, which is NOT dissent. But nobody in this fucking country has a memory longer than a season of Breaking Bad so they can just keep telling us the same bed-time story over and over like we’re a nation of easily-pacified alzheimer’s patients.


December 8, 2014 (7:20 PM)

There is a movie coming out on Christmas where two American journalists are hired by the CIA to assassinate Kim Jong-un. Could you imagine if there was a Pakistani movie about trying to murder Barack Obama? Or an Iraqi movie about killing George Bush? Would anyone be okay with this? The fucking ego and hypocrisy in this country is insane.


December 5, 2014 (12:53 PM)

Fred Hampton was a gifted, intelligent leader of the Black Panthers. He was murdered in his (drug-induced) sleep by the FBI (COINTELPRO) and Chicago Police during a raid on his house at 4:00 AM on December 4, 1969, part of a huge government operation to sabotage the BPP (and many other dissident groups). This is but one of many instances of power vanquishing black lives and, more importantly, snuffing out their ability to organize politically. So, this Brown/Garner shit might be new to white people, but it's an old story for black people. In fact, this is the BEST it's ever been. Scary stuff.


November 25, 2014 (4:49 AM)

Okay, so imagine it's hundreds of thousands of Michael Browns and Wilson is not only not indicted; he's the president.

Now does 9/11 make sense?


November 21, 2014 (11:21 AM)

Perfect example of how broken our system is. Celebrities can be easily taken down if we find out they did something fucked up. That is, out of the realm of what they are expected to do. But if we look at other people -- politicians, bankers, arms manufacturers, corporate heads -- their behavior is FAR more violent than Bill Cosby's (or Ray Rice's, or Adrian Peterson's, or Woody Allen's, etc.) but they avoid scrutiny because what they are doing is 100% in line with what has become normalized. These people are responsible for genocide, state terrorism, impoverishing and starving millions, thwarting national independence, domestic wealth inequality, vanquishing the public's voice, promoting the commoditization of the individual and therefore the eradication of humanity from within, and more. What happens if a comedian speaks out against this type of evil? Bill Hicks basically did to the establishment what Hannibal did to Cosby, so why didn't it have a similar effect? Much easier to take a stand on pudding rape (an obvious evil); much harder to take a stand on something complex and embedded. Unfortunately, this isn't a topical issue; it's in our blood.

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I'm Not Ignoring You, I'm Just Suffering From a Socially Crippling Physical Ailment!

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I'm Not Ignoring You, I'm Just Suffering From a Socially Crippling Physical Ailment!

If you know me well or if you listen to my podcast or if you are familiar with my stand-up material, you might know that I have a hearing loss. I have talked about this before in various places but rarely have I been completely thorough in explaining myself. I felt a sudden compulsion (writers call it “inspiration”) to delve into detail about the specifics of this hearing loss as well as the impact it has had on my life thus far as well as its ongoing effects.

I say “hearing loss.” I should just be honest: I’m deaf. I’m a deaf man. A man who is deaf. DDDDDEEEEAAAAAAAFFFF! Not totally. The profoundly deaf would consider me part of the "hearing" community rather than their own. (I'm a hearing refugee!) I feel like I have a tendency to couch the verbiage in an effort of emotional self-preservation. I spent a good portion of my life in complete denial about this fact. I mean, I “knew” I had a severe hearing impairment, but I wouldn’t let myself truly KNOW it, if that makes sense. It was the intellectual “knowing," not the spiritual-emotional KNOWING.

Some (semi-brief) personal history:

I’m sure I’m going to butcher some of the chronology here, but when I was in pre-school — maybe it was kindergarten? — we did a classroom hearing test. This is standard procedure and a lot of you probably barely remember these things and if you do, you most likely remember it is an annoying formality. Not me! The nurse sat me in that chair and said, “Okay. I’m going to put these headphones on and you’re going to hear some beeps. If you hear a beep in your left ear, raise your left arm; if you hear a beep in your right ear, raise your right arm. Sound good?” Let me tell you guys. I did not hear ANYTHING that lady said. So we skipped the test and I was wooshed to the ear doctor.

He gave me a proper hearing test. The thing is, I am a great test taker. The ACTs, SATs, SAT IIs, finals, mid terms all gave me no anxiety whatsoever. The only test that makes me nervous is a hearing test. I hate it. I hate sucking at something. I hate waiting for the beep and not hearing it, then convincing myself that the light ringing in my ears is the beep so I optimistically raise my hand only to be told I have raised my hand at nothing and to “be sure you hear a beep before you raise your hand.” They charted my audiogram (graph of a person’s hearing ability with the frequency as the x-axis and decibel level on the y-axis). I have what is called a “cookie bite loss,” which looks like this:

By the way, odd choice on the nomenclature to call it “cookie bite loss.” Why bring pastries into it? Might as well have something like this:

Or this:

Either way, what "cookie bite" means is, basically, all my ranges are bad, but my middle frequencies are especially bad, which is where human speech takes place. The other thing with me is that while my volume is very low, my clarity is also very poor. So even if the volume is high enough (loud music, for example), I am often unable to make out what is actually being said. Make sense? Is this exhausting? I know. I’m sorry.

Anyway, the doctor recommended I wear hearing aids immediately but I was a real diva in my younger years. I was, as I’ve later discovered, in complete denial. I didn’t want to acknowledge this problem so if I never fixed it then that meant there was nothing to fix.

I had a brief stint with hearing aids when I was 11, at the insistence of my family and ear doctor. I wore what are called Completely In the Canal hearing aids (CICs). They look like this:

cic-2 copy.png

They were the smallest, most cosmetically apt devices on the market at the time. They ran about $4,000 a pair. (Hearing aids, except in rare circumstances, are almost never covered by insurance, by the way. This is mostly because most hearing loss is degenerative meaning most hearing patients are very old and unable to produce for society so, politically, nobody gives a shit but this is a different post for a different day!) Those models last around 4-5 years and require daily cleaning, weekly battery changes, and they must be removed if you shower, sleep, exercise, swim, or do anything else that puts pressure or moisture on the device.

I was in fifth grade and my teacher, by way of “classroom bucks” (which could be converted into extra credit or whatever) would bribe me into wearing my hearing aids. It worked, for a week or two. Then this girl Lauren asked me in the middle of class, “What’s in your ears??” Well, folks, that was all she wrote! My pube-less, virgin, already socially awkward, tiny boy self had heard (I did hear her!) all he needed to hear. I ripped those things out of my head like they were leeches sucking the blood of my ability to fit in.

I didn’t try wearing hearing aids again until I was 21.

Let’s rewind for a second. I want to paint a broader picture. Being unable to hear is a completely and totally isolating experience. I remember when my friends would watch movies, I would not be able to hear them so I would literally sit and stare at a very confusing screen and furthermore, to hide my defect, I would merely echo their responses. If they laughed, I let out a chuckle. If they acted surprised, I feigned an intense eyebrow raise. And so on. It was a nightmare. This is 20 years. TWENTY YEARS I did this shit.

The worst was in class when they did that “reading aloud” bullshit. The teacher would sadistically pick a chapter in the textbook to read and would have kids (AT RANDOM!!!! WHY????) read a paragraph. (Or two or three. YOU NEVER KNEW HOW MANY EACH PERSON READ! IT WAS A WHIMSICAL FORM OF EMOTIONAL TORTURE!!) So some kid, let’s say David, in the back would read, then after some unknown number of paragraphs, the teacher would say, “Okay, good. Now how about Jeremy?” Then Jeremy would read. Now for most kids, this was probably super boring. Not for me! It was hell. I was riveted, but only because I was surfing on the hell-waters of the River Styx. “Oh god she’s going to call my name! I have no idea where we are! AHHHH!” So what I would do is try my best to follow the rhythm of the other students’ speech patterns (since I was usually unable to make out what they were actually saying) and try to pair that with a sentence in the text book. So if a student said “a-bah-bah-ba-BAH-ba” I could find a sentence in the book that would potentially sound like that and be fairly confident that’s where we were in the reading. Insanity, I know.

It gets crazier.

So often people would ask me questions. I would know not because I heard them, but because I saw the normal bustle of the conversation stop and everyone turned to look at me. UH OH! Show time! WHAT’S MY LINE?! I usually had no idea. So, I’d use a similar strategy to the reading one. I would deduce based again on the rhythm of the conversation and the last sentence (which was the question, AKA my cue) the kind of response I needed to give. I would shy away from specifics and just give very broad, sweeping answers. Was it a yes or no question? Then a simple “yeah” will suffice. You might be asking yourself, “Why not just ask them to repeat it?” BECAUSE, YOU DOLT! YOU ONLY GET SO MANY “WHAT”S IN A DAY BEFORE THEY ALL TURN INTO POO MONSTERS AND STOP BEING YOUR FRIENDS. If I said “What?” or “Come again?” or “What’s that?” too many times, then it would trigger an alarm in their heads that something was WRONG with me. “What are you, deaf?!” YES, YOU FUCKWIT! THAT WOULD ONLY MAKE PERFECT SENSE, WOULDN’T IT! But everyone was so young and unable to process the nuance of humanity. So, we clumsily trudge along in our black and white paradigms (cool vs. retarded) of adolescence.

An exercise: put yourself in that position. It’s nearly impossible to truly understand but try. Imagine you are unable to hear almost everything that is said. For 20 years. And you know this. So you lack the confidence that almost everyone else takes for granted to even approach a verbal dialogue. How would you communicate? How would you socialize? How would you flirt?? SPOILER ALERT: You wouldn’t. You would shut down externally and stay in constant communication with the only person on earth you were guaranteed to hear: yourself.

And that was the biggest effect. I regressed into the sanctuary of my own thoughts. (Many people who know me are right now going, OH NOW I GET IT!) When my friends would watch movies and I would do that flickering-screen-stare-fake-out move, I would be lost in thought, contemplating whatever. When I was in the back seat of a car and the front seat people were showing off their ability to hear like bare-chested braggarts (read: having a conversation), I would take the hot air balloon express ride into my own head. During class if the teacher turned his/her back. During bus rides. Walking down the street. I basically spent 20 years of my life listening to my own one-person podcast. I got to some pretty wild places. When you have 20 years to think, you get to the outskirts of your own consciousness. It’s half cosmic beauty, half total solitary hell.

Let’s go back. When I was 21 (near the end of my college experiment), I decided enough was enough. I called my mom and told her I wanted to get hearing aids again. She reminded me that when I was twelve, they dropped $4K on a pair that I wore a total of 10 times. I acknowledged the immature mistake and vowed this time would be different. It was, to an extent. I got refitted for a new pair of CICs. I would wear them to class and whenever a situation “called for” them. It was partially effective. I ended up dropping out of school (a positive step nearly everyone in college should take), moving back home and I started dating my first girlfriend. (At 21. But that only makes too much sense now, right?)

In March of 2008, I moved to Chicago to pursue stand-up full time. I was wearing the hearing aids to perform because it is literally impossible to do without being able to hear the crowd’s response. Not just hecklers, but stand-up is a very fine-tuned volley between performer and audience, even if they are not disruptive. Their laughter is their communication and you need to be in sync with that.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how thankful I am that stand-up comedy exists as it has proven to be a near-ideal outlet for me. I can take all of that stored up thinking and project powerful bursts of it into crowds. Stand-up is basically thinking aloud, only this time everyone can jump in your head with you!

In October of 2008, everything changed. My ear doctor told me about a brand new hearing aid called Lyric, made by Insound (later bought by Phonak). Lyrics were a “24/7” hearing aid that required no battery changes or cleaning. You get them put in and they stay in for 2-3 months (or however long the battery lasts) then you come back to the ear doctor and have them replaced. You can shower with them, sleep with them, work out with them. The only thing you can’t do is swim or otherwise submerge your head. Oh, and they are completely invisible. They fit like this:

My audiogram was barely within range of the power of the devices but they needed to see if they would fit my canal as they were not custom, but came in a few sizes (Small, Medium, Large, etc.). I tried them and they were able to fit my canal. They came in a year subscription meaning you can get as many replacements as necessary within that year. The subscription cost around $1,800 per ear, per year, so $3,600 per year. (Again, not a dime covered by insurance.)

I have been wearing these ever since. It’s been almost 6 years and honestly it revolutionized my life. Full disclosure: they are not perfect. I still do not have anywhere close to normal hearing. I could probably stand to use a more powerful hearing aid, but the benefits of these — not having to take them out ever, not having to think about them really except for a few times a year — outweighed the negatives — not being able to swim, still not hearing at a “normal” level, and one of them can die at random in which case you have to go to the doctor and have it replaced. This is a problem because sometimes you have to wait a few days, which renders you out of commission in the meantime. (This actually happened to me this week which is what prompted this article.)

I still can’t hear 100% of movies so I watch them with subtitles and rarely go to the theaters. I have a hard time with hecklers because they are usually dark and far away so I can’t read their lips (another "trick" I picked up by accident over the years) or body language. I would say I hear now at around 70% of what you do. Which is a marked improvement. It has allowed me to be infinitely more social which has allowed a lot of my emotions to transcend their adaptive barriers.

I am still wired to default at “closed off.” In addition to not being able to hear well (still), I am extremely inwardly focused. A lot of times people think I’m ignoring them or being an asshole; I’m not. I either can’t hear you or I’m millions of miles away from you in terms of my thought-dot on the consciousness map. Also, small talk makes me uncomfortable. See, when you spend so much time stretching the limits of your own internal monologue, you get to some crazy places. Small talk with myself ended when I was two. I remember thinking to myself, “So what’s new in diapers?” and then whistled awkwardly while my consciousness and I just kind of stared at each other. Since then it’s been full-throttle, broodingly intense exploration, often propelled by depressive mood swings. So the shift back to folksy small talk is a jarring one for me. …and then maybe if you just accept death as part of the process, it isn’t anything to fear because I’ve already been dead and that was fine and being dead is the absence of feeling so I’m sitting here afraid of a not-thing which is so absurd and—Ah! What?? Oh, uh, yeah, um, that show is hilarious! Good seeing you, buddy!—it’s something that everyone goes through so it can’t be THAT terrible… In addition, I am so worried that I’m going to mishear someone in a small talk exchange that it gives me anxiety so I just blurt out weird fragments of my now-shattered train of thought. I don’t abide by the usual ebb-and-flow of stranger exchange and it’s just a mess for me so I often try to avoid it by maintaining that inward focus.

So much of my life has been defined by cynicism and a prickly personality. (That’s being generous.) Obviously no component of our emotional makeup has one root, but this hearing thing is definitely a big one. So much regression into myself has given me a very specific perspective on life. Some of which is beautiful and others are things that have to be overcome. The isolation has injected an extremely exploratory mind with a high dose of detachment and narcissistic influence. The results have been difficult as I seem to have an extremely intense need for affection, love, and intimacy — a very bright sensitivity — yet a lot of instincts which are antithetical to actualizing those needs. Bridging that gap, maintaining the strong qualities of this situation while weeding out and working through the hypocrisies and emotional pitfalls, this is my battle. Waging it is the remnant burden from this saga.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I am in the position to be able to overcome these. That I have the opportunity to grow. To change. To be better. To be in flux. To explore possibilities. It’s only in death that the possibilities are reduced to zero; so long as you’re alive, they're endless.

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Healthy Living

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Healthy Living

A friend and I were discussing, well, a lot of things. Among them was the notion of the inseparability of an unconventional lifestyle and “insanity,” the idea that in order to be creative, one must live in a disruptive, often destructive, unorthodox manner. I think this is a popular belief, where we can get so wrapped up in the process of avoiding our insecurities and anxieties (the things that make us afraid) that we obsessively choose to identify with the resulting destructive behaviors of that so-called “insanity.” This is probably true even for non-creative types. I would imagine addicts justify their addiction this way. I know I have certainly justified purely compulsive, destructive behavior this way. “I know I shouldn’t do this, but hey, I’m crazy! I’ll give in because this is the same thing that makes me great!”

It’s not true. At least I don’t think it is. If I can quote myself without you thinking I’m literally the grossest person ever, I told my friend something I learned relatively recently, which is, “Healthy living trumps all.”

I have spent so much time in my own personal dungeon of misanthropic angst and I used to call it home. It felt comfortable. It felt right. I knew where shit was down there. I was somebody down there, the king of the lair, tilted black crown and all. But I was miserable there. It was comforting but it wasn’t satisfying. It was exciting (at times) but it wasn’t beautiful. It was dark and I played ping-pong with the shadows and demons from my past and present. I danced in the fire of my own emotional self-destruction. I celebrated my spiritual demise. I truly hated myself.

Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve been sort of forced to reexamine myself. Moving to a new city is always tough, but New York strips you bare. It smashes your ego and crushes your spirit and all you’re left with is yourself. The towering buildings and speeding subway cars are totally apathetic toward your success or failure. “You think you have something NEW to add that hasn’t already been thought of? Look around, asshole. There are people everywhere. You’re nothing! I’m a huge building!” The past 7 months have been an intense process of reflection and, later, of growth.

Last month, a friend of mine died. He was 24. I went to the wake and funeral. I still haven’t totally processed it. However, I learned a lot. (It makes me feel guilty to admit that.) The biggest take away from it was just how fleeting life is. I know it’s cliche or whatever but sometimes there is a difference between knowing something and understanding it. (Knowing is in the brain goo; understanding is in the heart/soul goo.) The experience of seeing death happen when it wasn’t supposed to transferred the idea of “life is fleeting” from the knowing to the understanding. I got it. It clicked.

Moving, being in such close proximity to death, as well as various other events and experience, acted in concert to prompt a very specific, very intense inspection of myself, inside and out. I realized that I was clinging so desperately to pain and negativity because it was all I knew. The Hostility Hut was comfortable because I had been there before. I was a regular. Everyone knew my name and my order there. “Hey, it’s Drew! Have a seat, pal. The usual? A large plate of ‘Everyone is a Fucking Moron Sent Here to Ruin My Life’ with a side of ‘Love is a Hoax Invented to Mock Me’ salad? You got it!” It was a defense. I kept the world at bay because I had been so hurt by it in the past. I didn’t trust anything or anyone. I was alone and I was desperate to make it someone else’s fault. "Love is something that I’m OWED by these fucking imbeciles! Why won’t they love me?! THEY OWE ME MY OWN SALVATION!!!"

This is no way to live. Life ends. Who the fuck am I? What the fuck is my pain worth? My anger? My resentment? You lie dead at the end and all of those things will vanish as well. All of my built up rage will die with me and lose its impotent, amorphous contour in a puff of meaningless smoke. They are all worthless. Dead weight on my boat. "Throw them overboard!”

That simple (yet very difficult) switch has been a transformative revelation: I am alive, which means I have possibilities. Death is the end of all such possibilities; life is the infiniteness of hope.

The process of growing, learning, engaging, being present in the moment, being more creative, using your natural resources (body, brain, heart, thoughts) to become your future self is fucking ridiculous. It’s the best. I can literally do whatever I want! I’m alive! Holy shit!!!! Yeah. It’s that simple. Alan Ball was right. I have fingers and arms that can play piano or write this stupid blog entry or hug another person! How insane. I can strip myself of my own ego and become a selfless piece of the human race, creating unconditional love and acceptance abound! I can use my thoughts and my voice to share ideas with others and my (admittedly terrible) ears to listen (the best I can) to other people’s ideas and concerns. I can eat mushrooms with my friends on a beach and experience a new perspective in which I say things like, “Clouds always have one foot out the door. They can’t commit like trees can.” I can be a part of this absurd thing we call life. Or existence. Or the universe.

What follows is an intense level of gratitude for existing at all and a burning desire to fill your life with beauty. This is the drive for healthy living. It supersedes everything else. This idea that we must spend our time (not so) secretly hating ourselves so that we may produce more creatively is flawed. If your creativity hinges upon your life being miserable, it is not worth it. I believe more of us have that choice than we like to think. I believe you can have both. I believe you can be even more creative by becoming more in touch with yourself in a positive way than you can by merely obsessing about and swimming in the pools of your own brooding darkness. It takes a much more creative and outward approach to grow than it does to obsess and rearrange your internal sordidness.

***************

In my case, specifically, the next step of this was interesting: I realized that while a lot of my hostility was borne out of my own insecurity, the anger wasn’t necessarily wrong. I’ve started to reconcile that anger with more proper guidance. Once you step outside yourself, you can see that while hostility might not be the answer, there is a lot to be angry about. I think my emotional immaturity often conflated the two and it came out as one whiny burst of entitled bitching. But, time has afforded me the ability to uncross those wires:

What, Drew? What is there to be angry about? I thought we were so over that??

NO.

Here is what makes me angry:

ANYTHING THAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF HEALTHY LIVING.

AAAAAANNNNNNYYYYYYTTTTTTHHHHHIIIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGG!!!!!

Fuck the Constitution. Burn it. Everyone has ONE RIGHT and ONE RIGHT only: the right to live healthily.

It’s the most important. Society is currently designed to get the most out of its citizens. WRONG. It must be (re)designed to give the most to its citizens. (This includes all life, not just human life. It is a global society.) It needs to serve our deep yearning to live healthy lives, not our artificial desire to be satisfied consumers. This is on every level: physical, emotional, spiritual, and possibly others we haven’t even discovered yet. People should not have to eat processed foods, mass produced mana that merely sustains them so they can survive until tomorrow where they’re awoken by their blaring alarm clock, only to hit the snooze button and pray for nuclear holocaust which never comes so they beer-bong a gallon of coffee to “get them through the morning” at a job where they essentially sell their lives typing numbers into computers so they can afford the terrible foods which keep them alive so they can keep coming into the job they hate year after year, only to eventually get cancer from the nonsense they’ve been shoving into their digestive tracts. People should not be forced to pay taxes to a corrupt central institution that spies on, harasses, and otherwise prohibits its citizens while ruthlessly murdering citizens of foreign countries with impunity. People should not be socially coerced into adopting, learning, mastering, and obsessing over competitive technologies that eventually take over their lives to the point where we become a society of Internet-addicted, smartphone mongers, “freely” walking head-down into traffic. People should not be brainwashed consumers or “voters,” impotently throwing what few dollars they have toward propagating a system that acts against their own interests, clinging to the desperate belief that this is somehow going to yield positive social growth. People should not be so devoid of meaning, so emotionally empty, so desperate to escape their own lives that they spend all their “free” time flailing about these technologies, frantically searching for the next Netflix documentary or NBC sitcom or sporting event or political pundit program or Asian creampie video to watch.

THESE ARE ALL IN THE WAY OF HEALTHY LIVING.

Do not mistake my perspective on “American life” for cynicism. It is only because I am comparing our social norms to the hypothetical norms of a healthy society. A society where people are engaged not detached, self-aware not in denial, readily selfless toward their community not selfishly hoarding capital out of fear of poverty/collapse/other people. So when I see an obstacle to living well, an instrument of opposition to living well, a pillar of propaganda turning people against their own interests for the sake of production, I get angry. Angry because I know the succulent treasure of which we are being deprived. I have seen it! In bursts. It is possible. I have seen the synergetic possibilities of human selflessness. I believe we all have. To oppose those possibilities, or to stand in their way, is tantamount to spiritual genocide. It’s a valid anger. The anger is so much stronger too because I know now that it’s not emerging from the depths of my own wretched self-loathing; no, it comes from an authentic internal volcano that erupts recurring bellows: “THIS IS WRONG, GOD DAMN IT.” I’m fighting on the side of healthy living. That is the one and only “right side of history.”

Cultures and individuals are not that different. Our society is full of hostility, resentment, bitterness, jealousy, insecurity, anxiety, and fear.

As a society, we must reexamine ourselves, break ourselves down and be willing to confront our demons and our collective insecurities. We can't let fear control us and allow our power to be diverted into the hands of a sociopathic ethos. We must completely gut ourselves in the effort of being remade. It will be painfulWe will learn things about ourselves we wish we did not know. But ultimately, these will be beneficial. We can then face our fundamental issues with confidence rather than cower from them in fear. Are we creating a safe place for NEW HUMANS (children)? Do we infuse them with a healthy life or deprive them of their potential at every turn? Do we show love to ourselves? What is the cost of our material gains? Does a healthy society pillage its land base and its xeno-species neighbors or does it strike a balance of love and reciprocity? We live in a hostile society with cement, glass, and commerce running through its veins. What is the source of this hostility? What are we so afraid of?

Remember, the collective fear of our civilization will die with us. What good was the Roman arrogance in the end? What of the ostentatiousness of the Greeks? Or the Chinese? Or the decadence of the Europeans?

We must rid ourselves of the ghosts that haunt us, the aggregate worry that we aren't good enough, collectively and individually. We are. We have the power of humanity inside of us, here and now, free to use any time we want. We can endure the requisite pain and remodeling. All it costs is being true to ourselves and each other. The rewards are heaven on earth: all of us, together, engaged in healthy living. What could possibly be more important? 

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Behind Your Face

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Behind Your Face

The answer is not in front of your face. It is behind it. Look within! You have all the answers inside of you. Our human capabilities are so magnificent it breaks my heart to see people afraid to tap into them. I get it. It's a confounding web of existential gunk. But that's where you exist. Inside of that web. Around it. Of it. About it. Within it. You ARE that web. It is you. The world wants to tell you to ignore that. "Pay it no heed, friend! Focus your efforts on buildings and elevators and sunglasses and banks! Production is the way to enlightenment!" screams the rotten whore-corpse of commerce. We all have a very common desire to find ourselves. We have an energy that drives that search. The energy is frantically rerouted to things that are of no importance. "Vote for THIS politician! He/She is the light!" "Buy THIS car! It will help you find the truth!" "You will die if you don't wear this visor and type these numbers! Save yourself!" No. All wrong. You need none of these things. You need to let go of these things. Let go of your worries and clear out all but yourself. Which you have, and have had all along. It's there. Everything you want. Right behind your stupid face. In front of your face, we are all waiting for you to join us.

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I Lost A Friend

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I Lost A Friend

When Joe called to tell me that Dan Ronan died, I didn’t believe it. Not that I couldn’t believe it, of course I could. I had all but foreseen it. But it’s one thing to believe something and then be confronted with accepting it as having happened. What a ridiculous moment in time. Perhaps this is premature as I’m sure I haven’t fully processed the reality we’ve all been forced to face, but I felt compelled to write this. To write something. It’s probably going to be sloppy but perhaps it should be. I lost a friend. I am crying as I write this.

If I’m being honest with myself, I lost him months ago. Back in December, when I looked into his eyes, I realized he was already gone. Something had taken hold of him so completely and it did not let go. It grabbed his soul by the hair and everyone around him was forced to watch him thrash and struggle against the demon that would inevitably swallow him whole. I saw this in his eyes. I knew then it was a matter of when, not if. I resigned myself to that and walked away to spare myself the turmoil. To spare mySELF! How selfish! Who am I to place my own sense of well being above a loved-one’s fight to LIVE?!

I’m sure as time goes on I’ll feel guilty about that day. I’m sure I’ll have my Oskar Schindler moment. “I could have done more!” But the cold truth is I am not a magician. I couldn’t fix this. I tried my best to do everything I could to help and to prevent this. I held interventions, I talked with his family, I talked with his friends, I talked with him for hours and hours and hours. We cried in each other’s arms in the wake of some of the damage. But those were all human efforts against what proved to be a superhuman force. We were all relegated to sideline duty as Dan sparred with himself.

I don’t care for the word “addict.” Dan had such a drive, mostly powered by compulsiveness. If only that energy could be funneled toward something productive - comedy, producing a show, being a friend - all would be well! But our humanity kicks in. Stress and insecurity try and knock us off the high wire as we try and keep our balance. Some people are able to walk easier than others. Dan’s walk was a burdened one. It wasn’t something I would wish on anyone. He was plagued by his own mind and spent his entire life trying to regain and maintain his balance. When the turbulent internal forces became too great, he would often succumb. He gave in because it was borderline insane to keep fighting. Just give in! It’s so easy and would feel sooooo nice! And I’m sure it did feel nice. At first. It’s hard for anyone outside of his pentagram to make a compelling argument not to give in. Everything we say, all of our cozy rationale, our entire web of “logic" is devoid of the intimate knowledge of what it is to be incessantly harped on by a tireless succubus that lives in your heart and feeds on your emotions like a spiritual tapeworm. It’s ugly, ugly, ugly. I should know. I looked into its eyes. They were right where my friend’s used to be.

Forgive the morbid language. I would be remiss to neglect the goofiness that Dan loved and embraced. The same motor that drove his troubles also powered his talent. A yin and yang, if you will. He was indefatigable in his pursuit of comedy. Not just as a job, but as a way of life. He was the first one to crack a joke at his own intervention. He is author of some of the greatest “Man on the Street” moments (a segment of The Lincoln Lodge where an anchor would go out to the street and conduct impromptu interviews with passersby). He was a huge part of The Late Live Show. (Check out one of Joe’s favorite sketches.) He was invaluable to the production of Comedians You Should Know. Almost every booker he came into contact with took an interest in him and wanted to help him by giving him spots.

I remember taking him to LaCrosse, Wisconsin for a god-awful one-nighter. The headliner closed with 15 minutes of Simpsons and Family Guy impressions and the whole drive back, after staring out the window in utter disbelief for an hour, we laughed at how ridiculous this whole comedy thing is. He was always fun to have in the car or on the show. He sincerely wanted to be a good person. He wanted to be a good friend. He wanted to make everyone’s lives better, whether it was by making them laugh or just by being with them.

These are facts, untainted by any nostalgic glasses with rose-colored lenses.

Even so, fuck the facts. The facts are brutal. I acknowledge them, but I choose to remember Dan as the person he wanted to be. He was a good friend, he was a talented comedian, he was a caring human; it’s just that his self-actualization was cruelly interrupted by the hands of fate. And so we press on against that same tide as best we can. Together.

I honestly believe Dan is in a better place now. I don’t mean that in any spiritual or metaphysical sense. I am not speaking about an after-life. I mean that the total absence of consciousness in Dan’s case is almost preferable to being bombarded with daily waves of violent compulsion. He battled as well as he could. He had some really beautiful and special people on his side who I have been lucky enough to know and we will all lament this loss.

Dan’s fight is over. He is finally at peace. The heart-breaking tragedy is that he never got to live that way.

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Me-dia

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Me-dia

Cara-Delevingne-And-Paolo-Anchisi-Centrefold-Naked-Nude-Kissing-Kiss.jpg

There is obviously plenty of talk on the media’s influence on our self-esteem, self-image, worldview, and on and on depending on how far down you scroll on your Facebook news feed. And I suppose it’s a relatively healthy discussion, if you can filter out the hysteria without letting it ruin your day. But the discussion is relatively by-the-numbers: media place an unfair standard on women that hyper-sexualizes them, demeans them, puts them in a secondary role, objectifies them, etc. It does the same to men, but in ways that are applicable to the sex appeal they have to women: values being money, “success,” stability, charm, humor, dick size, etc. It creates unreasonable standards for both of us precisely because it is the diametric projection of our collective insecurities. We are paying to watch people be not-flawed.

As a heterosexual man, how I relate to women is obviously affected by the distortion. Certainly I objectify women more because of the images I’ve absorbed -- be it magazine covers, TV shows, public discourse, or porn, etc. It’s possible my preference for white-skinned women is a result of media exposure. It’s possible that even my ardent clinging to heterosexuality is media-based. All of these things are present, most definitely. But I feel that perhaps a separate, more potent influence takes root, one that is often overlooked, ignored, or outright unseen.

I’ve been in those movie-like situations where you meet a new girl and there is a spontaneity between you that is so fleeting it’s as tragic as it is intoxicating. Where all you can do is lay entangled in bed, contorting your bodies based on the synaptic symphony conducted by your arrogant genitalia. There are moments like that in life that give hope to the idea that humans are capable of perfection. However, no matter how beautiful the girl is, how defenselessly attracted to her I am, no matter how “perfect” the moment or how poetic our whispers or how intimate our stares, this moment can never live up to the fantasy captured in movies because I’m NOT WATCHING IT. Rather, I’m very much IN IT. It’s ME in the bed. Those are MY feelings at stake and MY walls that could fall down and MY inner-child that is vulnerable. It’s MY fear. The discomfort and nervousness is MINE. The knowledge that true connection will require a complete disrobing of MY personality, the removal of MY mask, the baring of MY soul, it’s MY burden. It presents as much likelihood of nirvana as it does utter torment and those are possible outcomes for MY life. The safeguard of voyeurism has dissipated and left me totally naked.

And I can’t help but wonder if that’s not the more fundamental damaging effect that visual media have on our consciousness: it’s not so much that it puts unrealistic expectations on the other to be perfect; rather it puts unrealistic expectations on ourselves to be impenetrable.

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Dualing Selves

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Dualing Selves

xavier.jpg

Both of these are the same person. I think this speaks to the transient nature of “truth.” Things and people have many facets and dimensions to them, all of them just as true as the others, all of them based on specific emotions or perspectives. I think our difficulty conceptualizing these dualities is frustrating, so we stubbornly simplify them to satisfy our own limitations. But that doesn’t make our perception any more real, only more comfortable. It’s interesting how much our emotions dictate the “truths” that we SEE in the world, which subsequently shapes our perception of the world as a whole.

“Happy”

Mmmmmmmmm fuck yeah. Today! Let’s go out and get a bagel! Aw hell yeah, sidewalk! Oh, that girl was into me. I bet I could get her to fall in love with me.* I don’t even give a fuck that I’m wearing sweatpants. I’m going to be so huge. I can do anything I want. I could write a movie right now. I could explain the meaning of life in an hour. I know the deal. I GET IT. Oh, shit, I just had a great idea. I’ll write it down. That’s fucking genius. Oooh, I got an email… hell yes! Just got a sweet gig. I’m on fire. Unstoppable. BULLETPROOF. Me. Aka “the shit.” Oh, look who’s texting me. It’s my ex! Yep, they all miss me. I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to anyone. Look at this fucking face and body in the reflection of this building! God damn. I really like the way this shirt fits. It’s 11 AM. The sun is fucking beautiful! Yeah, feel that sunlight. Fuck, nature is a beautiful thing. We just need to be in touch with it, it’s pretty simple. It creates tranquility. Just feeling all the life around me. Look at this guy walking down the street. He probably has a super interesting story! All the things he’s seen! All the things we’ve all seen! It’s crazy. We’re all here right now on this planet and it’s beautiful. I honestly hope my ex is happy. She deserves it. It’s okay that it didn’t work out between us. We will both move on and become stronger, better people. GROWTH IS THE GREATEST FEELING! I FEEL MYSELF GETTING STRONGER. SMARTER. BETTER. Yearning for more and moving in that direction. I am living the life that I WANT TO LIVE. I am DOING IT. I have such immense ability to DO. I’m so grateful. I am thankful for all that I have. My friends. My family. I love them. I want them all to be happy. I hope I’m being a good enough friend/son/brother. I know I get wrapped up in my own shit, but I’m doing my best. I want them to have everything they want in life. I really do. I feel the energy of the universe flowing through me at all times, and I am filled with gratitude. I am doing everything I can to GIVE BACK to the universe the love that it gives me every day. LIFE. LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!!!!!!!!!!

* Notice the complete absence of any awareness of how utterly narcissistic and sadistic this sentence is. That’s the power of confidence: the delusion of doubtlessness.

“Depressed”

Ugh… It’s already 1:00 PM. I’m still in bed. I slept with my socks on because I didn’t want to bend down and take them off. I tried taking them off with my feet, but my toe couldn’t get inside the elastic, so I just gave up. I haven’t done anything today. I could check Facebook, but I know I’m just looking for something to snap me out of this, but nothing will. Nobody will email me or message me telling me how great I am or offering me some opportunity that validates my existence. It will be the same bullshit, like Upworthy where the people post videos with such an arrogance it’s as if they’re the ones in the video, or other horse shit articles involving liberal pandering. I should probably run or something. Work out. I’ve done that every day this week and it’s supposed to help. Does it? I still feel like shit. How the fuck do people get up every day? Jesus, it’s already two o’clock! Ugh. I have to do the dishes. I don’t want to do them. CAN SOMEONE DO MY DISHES PLEASE?! ANYONE?! Nobody cares. I don’t even care. So what, my dishes are dirty? I could clean them. Then what? Then I’d just be a faggot with clean dishes. I’d still be terrible and not funny and not that smart and alone. I’M ALONE. Even my friends don’t truly get me because they ARE NOT ME. I want everyone in the world to be me so I wouldn’t have to worry about people not understanding me. They never understand. Fuuuuuuuck it’s after four. The sun is going to go down soon. GREAT JOB, DREW! YOU HAVE FINITE DAYS ON THIS BEAUTIFUL PLANET AND YOU WASTE THEM THINKING ABOUT THINGS YOU’RE NOT DOING! GOOOOOOOOOOOOD WAY TO BE A HUMAN. DO YOU THINK YOU’LL LIVE FOREVER? YOU ARE DYYYYYYYYYING. DO SOMETHING. LIVE, IDIOT! LIVE!!!!! DO ALL THE THINGS YOU TOLD YOURSELF YOU COULD DO AS A KID. But you can’t do those things. They’re too hard. You committed yourself to one thing and this is it. What if it doesn’t work out?! What if you’ve just been deluding yourself into thinking this was even remotely possible and then you find out when it’s way too late. Like when you’re 50. OH WELL! TOUGH LUCK, SHIT HEAD! HAHAHAHA. Oh man. It’s 6 o’clock. I was supposed to already be out of the house. I still need to do those fucking dishes. Okay, I can do the dishes tomorrow. I just need to shower. That will turn this whole thing around… Okay, now I’m just miserable and wet. That didn’t help. My hair is wet. I’ll just sit on the toilet in a towel for a minute and think this through. It’s seven o’clock. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want to look anyone in the face. They’re all idiots. They don’t get it. They’re all living in a pretend world where they are the kings and it’s stupid. I would rather stay here and watch a movie. I hope nobody comes home. I don’t want to have to deal with them. CAN’T I JUST BE ALONE FOR ONCE IN MY GODDAMN LIFE?! Drew, you’ve been alone all fucking day! But you wasted it. I should text my ex. She understood me. She loved me. She saw this part of me and still wanted me. No, you just want her because you feel terrible. You want someone to define you. You want her love to prop you up! GET OVER YOURSELF! I should probably get off the toilet and brush my teeth? Have I done that yet today? Ugh… it’s 8 o’clock. This day is fucking over. I’m watching a movie. What movie? None of them are going to make me feel good. They’re all stupid contrivances. They’re not even real! Just the imagination of some other stupid human making other stupid humans say the words he wrote while it’s filmed on a camera invented by some other stupid human. “Ooh, I spent my entire life inventing the camera. Now I’m a dead faggot.” Cool life, dummy. Let’s see what movie I should watch. All these movies suck. 9 o’clock. Okay, I have to pick a movie now. Otherwise it will be too late. I’m hungry. I don’t have any food here. Ugh. I don’t want to walk to the bagel place… It’s not even open. Nothing is open anymore. I still have an hour. Let’s look at what’s open and nearby… Ugh it’s 10:00. It’s all closed. It’s just pizza and diners now. I don’t want to sit at a diner. I’m lactose intolerant. Can’t eat pizza. Let’s find a movie. I liked Mulholland Drive. Is there anything like that I could watch? Fuck it’s 11:00. Okay, I think I have some cereal left over and like a drop of milk. Fuck it. That’s good enough. I have some peanut butter too. I just need to wash a spoon so I can eat it. I could jerk off? That might relax me. “Why? So I can trick myself into thinking I’m touching a person who doesn’t even exist? That’s how we’re spending our time now?” Oh, shut up. Masturbation is a normal and healthy part of life. “Yeah, not when it’s a desperate attempt at intimacy it’s not. Not when you look in the mirror the whole time and LIE TO YOUR OWN FACE!” So, what then? What should I do? MOVIE. Fuck. Hungry. It’s midnight. I’ve been staring at this computer now for hours. Screens are terrible for you. They rot your brains. They are filling my mind with poison. MY MIND! I’m wasting it. I’m selling it to no one for nothing. I had such potential. I could have been anything! Now I’m this guy. Fuck this. I’m jerking off. I don’t care what you say. “Fine, go ahead. But I’m going to make it reeeeeeeaally hard to concentrate.” Come on, please? “Nope… ready? YOUR MOM NAKED YOUR INABILITY TO GIVE YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE YOUR DAD FUCKING YOUR MOM YOUR GRANDPARENTS YOUR EX FUCKING SOMEONE WITH A BIGGER COCK YOUR FRIENDS LAUGHING AT YOU YOUR DAD JERKING OFF IN THE EXACT SAME POSITION YOU’RE IN YOUR GRANDPA SHITTING!” You’re the worst. I’m sitting back down on the toilet. Fuck, man. It’s 1 AM. The whole day is gone. I should probably do something. I should write something. Oh, I know! I can write about my day! I can analyze depression and post that somewhere! People will like that. They’ll like ME for writing it. They’ll identify with it because everyone has experienced something like this at one point. That’s not a bad idea. Okay, I’m done. I did it. It’s 3 AM. Now I can jerk off and go to bed in peace. I’m going to be okay. I think. I’m too tired to think.

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How to Properly Heckle

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How to Properly Heckle

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So, many times when a comedian gets heckled, the gripe is that the audience member has interrupted that show and potentially ruined it for everyone else, or at least for anyone who was enjoying it. Everybody is there to see the performance and to interrupt the performance is denying the rest of the crowd the entertainment they have paid for (with their money, time, or both). While we as comedians don’t expect everyone to agree or like everything we do (although we’d certainly love if that were the case), all we can reasonably ask is that you don’t interrupt the show. In fact, if you disagree with something we say, most of us would probably encourage you to voice your opinion, albeit more discretely than shouting nonsense in front of people you don’t know.

This is exactly what happened to me recently. I did a show called Potluck, an open-ended showcase of various spoken word “dishes,” aimed to inspire or otherwise add to the collective creative pool. There are no parameters, other than the time constraint. I chose to expand on my bit about pedophiles and explore it a tad more academically.

Here is the bit, for reference:

I did this at the show, more or less true to the video, and it was not very well-received. The next day, I got the following email from a woman, to whom I will refer as “Anonymous.” I am posting it here along with my response. Let this serve as a “how to” for future hecklers and, hopefully, a solid argument for intelligent discussion over disruptive, visceral reactions.

Her email:

Hello Drew,
I was in the audience on Monday 7/16/12 at the Mac N Cheese Potluck evening, and I feel compelled to write you this email to let you know how your “dish” affected me.  I don’t expect this to have any effect on your choice of comedy topic choices, but I can’t sit silently and not say anything at all.  I wish I had spoken with you directly that night, but I was confused and offended, and I’m not sure I would have been very nice, which is usually my MO, so that would have confused me further.  Perhaps you can consider this ‘heckling,’ but in a respectful, hopefully constructive way.
I imagine you have heard this from some audience members already, because from your website I gather that pedophilia is a topic you’ve been doing sets on and developing material about for months now, and I can’t imagine that I’m the only one who thinks that pedophilia is a topic that should NOT be joked about.  I was personally offended, as someone who has loved ones who have been victims of child molestation, but I want to offer my opinion as a mental health professional, in case that’s a new source of feedback for you.
I am a social worker, and I work with children who have experienced a wide range of traumas, from parental neglect or abandonment to physical or emotional abuse, to natural catastrophes (i.e. Hurricane Katrina), and many more.  Then there is the secondary trauma of being raised by a parent who experienced these traumas in their own childhood and who have, as a result, developed a mental illness or proclivity to this type of pathology.  Sexual molestation of a child is one of the most horrific atrocities that can traumatize a person, and can have wide-reaching effects on their lives.  It is a cycle that can and does continue for generations, and can do unfathomable harm to a person’s mental state and well-being, and ability to function in life.  The children who were abused by Jerry Sandusky and any of the countless other pedophiles in the world, convicted and not yet discovered, will undoubtedly suffer throughout their lifetime in varying degrees.  Some will become pedophiles themselves.  Some will harbor deep sadness and anger, and may or may not ever be able to process the trauma in a healthy, functional way.  Some, tragically, will find life too unbearable and will take their own lives.  And undoubtedly, some will be in your audience some day, and hearing the topic joked about in the way you were delivering your set will affect them in some way.  While a few may laugh if they feel relief that the topic is lightened for them, it is more likely that some may be retraumatized by hearing such a topic joked about, or may choose to leave your audience, as happened on Monday night.
While I am sure that success as a comedian is cutthroat, and I recognize your right to choose whatever topic you wish as allowable by your host venue, I encourage you to reconsider this particular line of humor, and find other topics that won’t be so potentially painful to audience members, in both real life and the internet.  I noticed that you have the comments turned off on your website, which I wonder if it is a result of the incendiary nature of some of your topics?  I’m more inclined to write a personal email than an anonymous comment anyway, so that you have a chance to respond and perhaps we can have a dialogue about it if you wish.  I have copied Saya and Pete on this email since they curated the event, and I have already let them know that I thought the choice of your topic was a judgement error.  I don’t doubt you’re talented and that it is possible you’re hilarious when talking about other, less offensive topics.  I just couldn’t let this one go without at least a personal email letting you know how I feel.
I wish you luck with your comic endeavors.  Please consider what I have said.
Regards, _Anonymous_

And, of course, my response:

_Anonymous_,
First and foremost, I want to thank you, sincerely, for responding in this way. I can not tell you how much I appreciate the fact that, despite being upset at what I was saying during the performance, you sat quietly and allowed the performance to continue, unfettered so that everyone else could watch it in its entirety. This is exactly what I would want someone in your position to do. You are the ideal heckler. I don’t expect everyone to agree with what I’m saying, or that everyone enjoys it. But rather than shout out during the show, you collected your thoughts and delivered them in a well-thought out, articulate email. For that, I am truly appreciative. You give other hecklers something to strive for. Thank you.
Now, although we disagree on a few things, let’s start with what we agree on. We both agree that child molestation is overtly undesirable and we should work to prevent it. We also agree that those with experiences with this particular trauma (or those close to people with said experiences) may have an increasingly painful emotional response when the topic is broached, comedically or otherwise. The question, then, is how do we navigate these axioms to most effectively achieve the ultimate, idealistic goal of eradicating these types of painful experiences altogether? Evidently we disagree on the answer to that question.
Your first point is one that is commonly made and that is that certain topics should be off limits. While I understand that certain people, due to their personal experiences, will shut down when they hear certain topics mentioned, that’s not something to which I feel compelled to capitulate. So many people are affected by a myriad of “traumas” that eliminating from the rolodex of possible topics anything that has inflicted significant pain on a person would reduce the pool down to a paltry list of bland, uninteresting subjects. For example, while you may think sexual molestation (of a child) is the most “taboo,” others with a different set of experiences may think differently. Some may think that rape is the worst; others will say the Holocaust; others will say gang violence; or cancer; or suicide; or diabetes; or murder; or being anti-American; etc. The list goes on, nearly forever. If we capitulate to each person’s personal tastes and offenses, what we get is a world where we’re only allowed to talk about sandals and clouds, and even then we have people complaining about how their uncle was once struck by lightning that came out of a cumulonimbus cloud, so we can’t talk about that anymore either. (I know nothing about meteorology, so I don’t even know if what I just described is physically possible, but you get the point.)
You could ask, “Why talk about ‘taboo’ subjects at all?” Well, I think it’s important because, due to their polarizing nature, they are the most difficult to address honestly. I believe that facing issues, no matter how dark or disturbing, head on with the utmost honesty is the most effective way of first accepting the issue and then working toward its solution. In addition, it provides me with the daunting challenge of finding humor in such dark places. We must not confuse making jokes about a topic with thinking the topic itself is funny. Those are two very different things.
Nowhere in my bit about pedophiles am I defending or advocating the action of molesting kids. In fact, the bit is precisely about preventing the action by allowing ourselves to discuss the whole situation in an honest manner. And that means looking at both sides of the coin. Obviously we can all look at a traumatized kid and feel empathy and regret over the incident. But where I differ from most people is that most people want to chalk up things like that (or the Holocaust, etc.) to this fictitious notion of evil. The wonderful thing about evil is that we can place it at an infinite distance from humanity. We can write them off as aberrations, cosmic clerical errors, so that we don’t have to deal with them internally. What we forget, or choose to not remember, is that everything, by definition, is part of the human spectrum. Everything we experience or do lies on some segment of the gradient of total humanity, including the ugliest parts. So, in my particular bit, I’m talking about the experiences of the pedophiles themselves. This is an experience almost never discussed, as we are so turned off by their desires and actions, we refuse to give them even the decency of consideration. I believe that to be destructive to the ultimate goal, mentioned above.
I talk, firstly, about how being a pedophile is not a choice. That is true. (Who would pick it?!) Whether the desires are innate or learned at a young age is irrelevant. The person is not some evil tyrant who is choosing to molest kids out of some malicious spite-rage. These are people who, for whatever reason, are sexually attracted to children. So, if we make the “it’s not a choice” the crux of our gay rights arguments, we have to at least consider that reality when discussing pedophiles.
You raised an interesting point, which I have mentioned once or twice in a slightly different rendition of the bit, and that is that often times victims of molestation will become pedophiles themselves. Well, that creates a fascinating paradox, doesn’t it? We are so quick to forget that pedophiles were kids once, too. They, at one point in time, were the innocents, the pure souls, the infinite possibilities. So if a child gets molested, we instantly castigate the perpetrator and sympathize with the victim. But that child victim grows up and may develop those same desires himself, at which point we hate him. Since those desires are so overtly condemned in our society, that person will be hard-pressed to find a place to talk about those desires openly. This is exactly my point! If we, as a society, were more tolerant, at least in rhetoric, of those desires (pre acting on them), then we could potentially allow more people to get help and work through them rather than be forced to suppress what must feel like a very primal urge. (The’ve actually begun work exactly like this in Germany, opening centers for pedophiles to talk about their struggle and work through them so that they may be members of society. Here is a link to a recent CNN article: http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/21/opinion/cantor-pedophila-sandusky/index.html)
My piece is not making fun of victims, but it’s not making fun of pedophiles either, which is the usual route. It’s making fun of people who judge without considering the entirety of what they are judging. People who so callously condemn the molesting of kids as “wrong,” without any consideration as to what it’s actually like to have those desires. (It’s easy for me to never have sex with a kid as I’m not sexually attracted to them.) We can not judge someone unless we are certain that we would do something differently in the exact same state. And that, to me, is the real problem. It’s the stifling of honest discussion, often times due to intense emotional blowback, that prevents any meaningful solutions from being reached. This is true about so many things, but for the sake of brevity (and potentially your sanity) I’ve stuck to the topic at hand.
You could read all of this, and even potentially agree with what I’m saying, but still believe that it can’t be made funny. And that’s fine. I accept that. We all have different senses of humor and I would never begrudge someone theirs. (I assure you, however, that if you were open to the idea that this topic could be humorous, you would have seen that the jokes I constructed within the bit are flawless. They are hilarious, but only if we accept that it’s even possible for certain components of this subject to be funny.)
Regarding your website issue, I’m not sure what you mean by mentioning that I have “comments turned off.” I have no idea what you are talking about. Where should the comments be allowed? I know they are turned on in every blog post as well as all my YouTube clips. I don’t see where else you could possibly want to post them, but I assure you that’s not a conscious choice. If there is something turned off that shouldn’t be, that’s simply my technical ignorance. To the contrary, I would do nothing but encourage this type of discussion, publicly or otherwise. So please let me know what channel I should open to allow public discussion on my site.
I, too, have replied to both Saya and Pete. They saw me perform this material before, to a much more enthusiastic response, so I felt comfortable talking about it at their event. I’m not insane; clearly I’m aware that the piece is polarizing. It’s a love/hate bit. Nobody thinks that bit is “just okay.” You either hate it or you think it’s the greatest thing ever written. Obviously, you fell into the former and your thoughts on it were common to the majority of the Potluck audience. So it goes. I don’t expect everyone to like what I say, but I assure you that I’m not doing it to shock people. I say it because I believe it and everyone has the right to respond (or not respond) as they deem fit. Again, all that we ask as performers is that you let us perform, which you and the entire audience did. Once more, I am most appreciative of the civility demonstrated by both you and the rest of the crowd.
I hope that sheds some light on where I’m coming from. I would never deprive you of having an emotional reaction to something, and I respect that, but I hope you can better understand that my goal is ultimately a positive one. I encourage you to send back your thoughts as I am always up for a good discussion, as the time-stamp on this email surely indicates.
Thanks again for sending this. I might honestly use it as an example on “how to properly heckle.” THAT is not a joke.

See how we were both able to get our points across without getting overly emotional or disrupting a show? I have not heard back yet, but when/if I do, I will be happy to post the (potentially ongoing) back-and-forth. The point is that this is not only more polite, this is a more constructive outcome of disagreement than shouting out during the show would have been. My thank you to this woman for handling her issue with me in this manner was, and is, sincere. I hope many more follow in her stead.

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