Sunday, January 29, 2017

Update on the blog: I am moving to Medium!

Hi loyal readers!

After four years beginning in the 2012 US presidential election, I am planning to move to Medium, which I believe to be a more effective Medium.

I have enjoyed using Blogger and having it as an outlet for all these political rants, but it has also just not been maintained sufficiently by Google. So many UI issues and all manner of things.

Medium, on the other hand, is very clean, and allows a bunch of other things that make it easy on the eyes when reading essays.

So please check me out on Medium! I will be migrating a bunch of posts first made here over there, and eventually this Blog will just become a museum of what could have been.

Hope you continue reading and toodles!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Let's talk about consent as an advanced interpersonal communications tool! Consent is sexy.

The concept of consent is critical to a vibrant society (and I hope John Daly updates his class to reflect that). It is often referenced in sexual assault, but it absolutely is not limited to that.
For example, and drawing from personal experiences, when you do not consent to another person’s personal space, the flow of conversation shuts down, and no one is able to learn anything from one another. Also, you are unable to form the bonds of friendship that are critical to your support structure if you fall between the cracks and cannot get back up by yourself (see future post about the epidemic of loneliness and why I viscerally hate neoliberalism as a religion).
And our addiction to public shaming generally intrudes loudly on a person’s personal space without their consent and bludgeons them into silence, even when they have helpful perspectives and ideas to contribute. Public shaming is a cancer in that regard, and it has been unhelpfully amplified by the information age and social media.
Combine that with the fact that you know people personally on Facebook, and something like politics that has high personal and societal stakes. Facebook’s fundamental business model just cannot consent to basic principles of privacy such as the ability to have anonymity, and the pressure is just a time bomb waiting to go off (sidenote: I am seriously displeased the NSA is literally looking for an excuse to snatch a picture of my junk even for well intentioned reasons. And I don’t even have pictures of my junk around, at least any that were taken with my consent. Plus, if the Carlos Dangers of the world are spreading pictures of their junk and intruding on consent, people need to know about it).
And that is why I found the general election on Facebook to be such a cancer to the point where I was team nope the fuck out of here and turn to my own personal coalition of reason: Propublica and John Oliver, people who celebrate long-form investigative journalism that shines a flashlight of justice on the powerful abusing the powerless and getting away with it (and that 1st amendment is under serious assault by Donald Trump, who is grabbing the 1st amendment by the pussy without the consent of just about any American!)
To paraphrase Jon Stewart’s philosophy: we live in an age of bullshit mountain, where the problem is not insurmountable, and some core issues are important, but not urgent right now (i.e. climate change) (tangent we need to talk about procrastination and its relationship to the Eisenhower matrix Tim Urban masterfully covers in his series). However, we live in a society where the amplification is all wrong and needs serious prioritization.
We live in a society where the problems are amplified (which increases the stakes that makes free flow of conversation so difficult), and yet the solutions and ideas are publicly judged to the point that they become an endangered species. Under this environment, the coalition of reason is very weak. In short, right now our core crisis is that we face a deficiency in our problem-solving mechanisms.
And this includes ways organized people are so powerful: the intense public shaming of politicians. If powerful groups of organized people are shouting in megaphones, slut shaming solutions, and making it impossible for politicians to reach across the aisle without electoral backlash, compromise disappears and record polarization is inevitable.
It has literally not been this polarized since the eve of the civil war, where we had to grapple with the fact that literally the most powerful form of labor exploitation, slavery, subjugated an entire group of people and silenced their dissent, their rights, and their ability to consent, and the conditions were in place for the union to channel the sheer moral outrage of this arrangement.
So we need to call it for what it is: bullshit mountain (this ties back to my pilot post on my blog!) Call out bullshit when you see it! Find ways together so that we can aggressively remove bullshit from society. Be very team anti-bullshit.
Because I sincerely believe at least this, on the subject of bullshit: you are either with us, or you are against us. #CGPGreyism
P.S. if you feel so inspired you feel the need to share, feel free. Just please consent to the fact that I want proper attribution, especially if you adapt this and meld it with your own thoughts and perspectives.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

All the fucking judgment and public shaming created blindspots for people. So let's talk about the role of public shaming in this election.

Donald Trump, the power-hungry psychopath he is, was a master at public shaming. His supporters are like a cult who are extremely skilled at public shaming. Honestly, the most hardcore Hillary and even Bernie supporters were very skilled at leveraging public shaming.

Here's the thing: the moment you try to ostracize someone, you are setting yourself up for failure in terms of trying to successfully convince someone to change their mind. Causing them to hold their own opinions closer to their chest, to their sense of identity.

This is why once my candidate lost (Bernie), I couldn't stand the cancer that was Facebook during the heat of the general election. I get it. The stakes were unbelievably high for some people (for instance, Muslims and women; I would argue white working class too). It is just so hard to not be judgmental in general: it takes immense emotional intelligence, and it is mentally exhausting to exert the self control and restraint necessary to remove the undercurrent of judgment.

It's just all too often, I found myself in a classic situation: "You're either for us or you're against us."

The moment someone expressed that thought, I was immediately "I'm team noping out of here and not engaging."

Public shaming and judgment are things that make it an unsafe zone of discussion. You cannot contribute without flying off the rail because people are relentlessly attacking you as a person. And productive conversation just completely shut down.

Honestly, the way the Democrats called for "unity" made things worse. The echo chambers where I can be myself, r/SandersForPresident, got shut down even though there were hundreds of thousands still willing to participate in that safe zone for us Bernie or Bust political refugees.

I loved Black Mirror for this reason because public shaming is one of its biggest and most consistent themes. How are you supposed to feel in White Bear when people are publicly shaming someone who aided and abetted a high-profile murder? Can you conclude on your own that you are actually genuinely sorry for them despite the fact that the victim of this public shaming made a huge mistake?

I also loved So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson and its frank discussion on what happens when you get publicly shamed. Honestly, Monica Lewinsky was arguably patient zero of what happens when the information age, social media, the ability for an idea to go viral, is so much faster than before.

The ironic part was that Bill Clinton, despite going through the impeachment hearings, came out of the entire thing extremely liked because the Republicans were behaving like toddlers.

But what happened to Monica Lewinsky was different. As often happens in a misogynistic society especially with slut shaming, the hate piled onto her was visceral and nasty. She had an excellent support system through her family, but even then she experienced thoughts of suicide.

And that is a common thread when people face an intense moment of public shaming: it's not pretty. It is absolutely awful for your emotional health.

But even as Monica Lewinsky became comfortable with her sense of self and felt empowered to talk about her experience, few people actively thought "man, how's Monica Lewinsky doing? I really hope she is alright now, we were incredibly shitty and petty to her."

And I'm glad she has a personal peace, because even though her delivery wasn't perfect, she delivered a powerful TED talk about her experience. And I just saw how even though the YouTube comments were disabled (smart move!), the ratio of likes to dislikes was like 80% to 20%, when just about any other TED video had like 99% likes to 1% dislikes.

Even after all these years, in 2015 no less, it was just like a compulsive addiction to slut shame her and to just judge her. I continue to feel so sorry for her for all that visceral hate.

But my sadness for her experience did wonders for my capacity for empathy. And that's where I urge people to stop engaging in behaviors that publicly shame. It literally is a cancer. Stop judging. Be a little more understanding and non-judgmental.

Because until that happens, we will continue to see increased polarization and just a complete inability to govern like adults.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

We all are minorities in some way. I too am a minority in many ways. All the ways society unfairly treats any minority is no less real even if they haven’t suffered nearly as much from their “privileged” position.

Lately, I have seen a very troubling one-upsmanship on which groups of people are having it worse. It usually goes two ways. One group uses the differential in magnitude of the problems to bludgeon the other group into silence. The other group sees the way society has treated them unfriendly and refuses to acknowledge there is a difference in magnitude of suffering, or deny there is suffering altogether for anyone outside their group.

The magnitude of inequality absolutely makes sense to consider for prioritization reasons. But I want to give a warm and friendly reminder that just about everybody has some element where society is unfair to them, even in positions of "privilege" (god I hate how that is thrown around as a buzzword), and each and every one of these inequalities is no less real (classic case is when a male gets sexually assaulted, or men are pressured to act in the norms of this "masculinity" bullshit). And honestly, we don’t owe society a goddamn thing. Society owes us. We were here before society and civilization, and society has caused a lot of people to fall between the cracks, some of whom cannot reemerge.

Today, I want to share some of the ways in which I am a minority, and embrace who I am through the fact that I am a minority.

I am a minority not just in the sense that I am a first generation Asian-American. I am a minority as someone who leans introvert (at least, I assume the ratio of extroverts to introverts is more than 1:1). It is hard to speak up sometimes, to share ideas that I have, and to take credit for good ideas.

I am a minority as someone who is deeply dysfunctional in emotional health. Growing up, and especially ever since I became a teenager, I have had perennial self-esteem, anxiety, and insecurity issues that I have never fully resolved. I have lashed out in ways driven by this lack of self-esteem and comfort with myself that has alienated people who care about me, people who want to be my friends, and people potentially interested in recruiting me professionally.

I am a minority as someone who grew up in a tiger parenting lite household and in a household with a clearly unhappy marriage. I have seen how dysfunctional and toxic my parents are around each other, and I have seen how broken their conflict resolution mechanisms are. I have seen how the threat of divorce is openly and casually thrown around to influence behavior. I have seen so many inflammatory shouting matches when the initial grievance that sparked it was relatively minor. I have seen the way my day uses brain surgery 20 or 30 years ago as a crutch and an excuse to not change his ways. I have seen the tension antiquated gender norms causes to both of my parents because my dad got laid of in the early 2000s and became a stay at home dad, and my mom suddenly became the breadwinner for more than 15 years. My brother and I have been dragged in every once in a while into this toxic relationship as pedestals each parent uses to spew hate at the other. Why else do you think I have anger issues and low self-esteem?

Hell, I am a minority as someone lucky enough to go through an upper-middle class, quality school district, and a quality and very prestigious program in college. I am a minority in that I have met so many driven, sharp, amazing people along the way, even though my social circle is predominantly upper middle class and that creates blindspots in perspectives and life experiences.

I am a minority as someone who has finally been able to admit deep-seated mental health struggles and seek professional help to jumpstart the recovery process.

I am a minority as someone who felt intense loneliness because my support structure wasn’t there and because I had zero close friends during college.

I sure as hell felt like a minority when I energetically supported Bernie Sanders this presidential election, clashing with my predominantly professional and upper middle class friends group who strongly leaned Hillary Clinton. I sure as hell was a minority when I then supported the Bernie or Bust movement and actively resented all the calls for Democrats to have “unity” at the expense of productive dissent. I essentially disagreed with like 99% of the country when I voted Jill Stein in this presidential election not because I liked her, but explicitly to spite Hillary without excessively rewarding Donald Trump, who I hate orders of magnitude more than I hate Hillary.

I most certainly feel like a minority when I want to seriously tackle the post-mortem process and figure out exactly why Democrats didn’t click with Americans even as President Obama enjoys historic high approval ratings, and why so many people voted against their own self interest for the authoritarian strongman who claims to have answers for them and care for them, but frankly doesn’t give a flying fuck about them, only himself and his elite cronies.

I am a minority when I say civility is important (despite multiple streaks of lack of civility), and especially a minority when I say we need to walk in the shoes of even the xenophobes, racists, misogynists, anti-Muslim, and anti multiculturalism segments of society. Who knows? We might be able to convince some of them to reform their ways.

I am a minority when I agree with elements of all sides of debates of all the polarizing and emotionally charged issues of the day, especially in things like abortion, sexual assault, and gender equality. But the moment they say “you’re either with us or you’re against us,” I am also a minority when I say I am team nope the fuck out of here, not getting involved in this.

There are just so many ways I am a minority, and so much of it is tied with but not immediate apparent with the extrinsic factors of who I am: my race, my gender, my life background. I have my own immensely unique life story to tell, and yet none of the experiences I have gone through has not already been explored in some way by someone else.

Please, be tolerant of a multicultural and pluralistic society. Create the conditions for vibrant and productive dissent. Allow for maximum exchange of perspectives where everyone leaves the conversation learning something new.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rant part 2: In defense of the deplorables, the white working class people who defected in double-digit numbers to Trump

Alright, I wanted to keep the gloves back on, but here we go. The gloves are off.

See, this is why I am so troubled by the whole "this time it REALLY is different, guys" mantra with Trump. And I can totally understand from the viewpoint of a Muslim that what Trump stands for is absolutely terrifying. It's less easy for me to see how it affects me personally because they didn't have a concerted assault and lack of respect for Asian Americans to nearly that same extent.

On the subject of compassion, frankly, it is insulting to me that I get accused of not having that compassion (uh, hello? I voted for Bernie after all!) I have compassion for one group in particular that what I see as the hard-core Hillary crowd as completely dismissing as "deplorable:" the plight of the white working class, the same people who defected (en masse, double digit numbers! They voted for Obama once or even twice, for pete sake) to Trump. And I become honestly baffled when people don't see the struggle between the elites vs. everyone else from a class lens instead of just a race lens.

Those are the people who, 40, 50, 60 years ago, dropped out of the political process; had they turned out, they would have created the coalition necessary for a European social state. Guess what? They happen to have social views that are 30-50+ years outdated. They may be explicitly anti-Muslim, anti-globalization, anti-lgbtq, racist, misogynistic, I don't deny that.

But I don't give a shit about that, I can't tolerate everyone's backwardness of views, and I accept that. What I give a shit about is the unique economic hardship and then drug addiction epidemic this group is facing that neither party frankly gives a shit about.

And these people flock over to the GOP because of the social conservatism. And they flock over to the authoritarian strongman claiming to have answers because absolutely nobody has given a shit what they care about economically, at least care about it enough to make their situation meaningfully better.

Here's what makes their economic hardship especially painful: they have a different set of expectations, than, say, the immigrants who work hard and then can succeed from blood, sweat, and tears. They could afford to, say "coast" in life and reach financial comfort. But now they can't. But their expectations haven't moved. Well, as I found out personally, expectations gaps leads to unhappiness.

Thanks to their life experiences and poverty, you know what, they can't afford / it is much more difficult to access and sustain the resources we had in abundance to think critically about this. So I can forgive them for acting irrationally, especially because (and here's the salt) Bernie would have offered a compelling economic answer for their problems and would have actually competed for this group of people!

At the end of the day, I see a troubling oneupsmanship on racial lines from this kind of argumentation, a kind of "our difficulties as ethnic minorities are so much worse, effectively invalidating your difficulties." Just because the white working class is part of the ethnic majority doesn't mean they aren't part of a DIFFERENT minority, from fucking LIFE: be it poverty, drug addiction, honestly, who cares, they are minorities form those perspectives. Minority isn't limited to ethnicity! At the end of the day, whatever we dislike about these people, they are still people, they are still Americans, and they have been fucking forgotten.

The Democrats have been a great tent for two types of people: the top 10% "professional" class (and those who aspire professionally), of which I am one, and for ethnic minorities who feel welcome within this tent, especially relative to Republicans. They have NOT been welcome to the working class people as a whole because of their brand of meritocracy that implicitly suggests that the reason you're in poverty is because it's YOUR FAULT. They may not say it out loud, but the judgment is there. And Hillary is the type of person the professional class would honestly worship. And my friends group predominantly falls under this professional class, so there you go.

It is honestly sad to me that in the post-mortem more analysis isn't done on the weakness of Hillary the candidate. There are so many ways that she was just an awful candidate for the political environment we are in now. Even if Trump were stopped, if we still pay lip service to the white working class and they still have the numbers, what stops a Trump-like authoritarian strongman (or any Republican nominee authoritarian strongman lite) from effectively pandering to them in 2020, 2024, 2028, even freaking 2032?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

To the hardcore Hillary supporters, the ones who supported her from primary to election day, this is for you.

As Trump is getting inaugurated, I can't help but think about this.

Jesus, the Democrats really dropped the ball this presidential election. This one will actually be raw and extremely emotional.

I am still incredibly salty about the decision of the Democrat party to run such an incredibly weak, scandal-ridden candidate for such a consequential presidential election.

I frankly don't give a shit if she's inspirational to you, the political class, or what her accomplishments were, or how much experience she has. Because they were undeniably great, and it frustrated me to no end how often Bernie emphasized that during debates, because doing anything else would immediately result in cries of misogyny.

I have a much simpler criterion based on cost-benefit analysis: do I trust this person to act in the public interest instead of being handcuffed for any number of reasons to concede to a tiny elite and allow the fundamental balance of power between the elite and everyone else to go unchanged? Do I expect this person to do the maximum good aligning to my personal philosophy to do good for the powerless in defense of the powerful, and, even more, empowering the powerless? I found no convincing answer here.

Or regarding her: handcuffed because of all these goddamn scandals that, whether or not they were malicious or determined criminally liable, demonstrate a perpetual lack of good judgment? "FRANKLY, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT YOUR GODDAMN EMAILS!" And that, even through perception alone, these scandals or the residual effects of them can sink her political capital when she needs it most to push through reform? Even possibly the first 100 days, particularly in a divided Congress? Whatever misgivings I had about Obama, at least he was incredibly clean from an ethical standpoint, and even then, he was subject to relentless ideological and procedural extremism from the Republicans that his hair has turned so white from the stress...

Even after all that, I know that Hillary > Trump. But I voted third party explicitly out of spite of Hillary (whereas still voting and halving the effect that is a vote for Trump instead of a vote for Hillary). Even had she won the presidency, I think a scandal or "scandal" was almost inevitable over the course of her presidency and the absolute shellacking in congressional and state levels the Democrat party has already sustained will just accelerate. Her very visible concessions to the tiny elite would stir backlash both from supporters and opposition. She would be incredibly vulnerable during reelection.

If the Democrat party really wanted a great third way Democrat who will give intelligent judgment and has the personal character necessary for the presidency, the closest thing that would get me to vote is a version of a third term Obama. Obviously, he can't run, and then Hillary crowded out everyone else because #ItsHerTurn and #SuperDelegatesAndElitesWereWithHer. Don't you see it's always about her? What did Bernie say? NOT ME. US. Of the people who ran and were more moderate, Martin O'Malley, in spite of his disastrous tenure as mayor of Baltimore (and believe me, I watched The Wire and read David Simon's analysis of his tenure as mayor, it is like a proto moment for Black Lives Matter and police brutality, a timebomb that would detonate with the death of Freddie Gray), but in spite OF ALL THAT, he was infinitely a significantly more trustworthy character than Hillary was because none of his dark scandals are even remotely RECENT.

Then, any legitimate criticism of Hillary immediately resulted in a kneejerk reaction of misogyny or racism or an accusation that I or whoever is speaking is secretly helping Trump ("And we need 'unity' as Democrats!"), and those effectively silenced out voices that needed to be heard. It is my view that Bernie was a better feminist and more racially progressive than Hillary was! He is not a woman, and that matters from a perspective angle, but you need a holistic analysis! Being a woman does not automatically qualify you to be the best candidate to advance gender equality, and despite her impressive commitment to advancement for professional, middle to upper class women, already comfortable and privileged women, she paid absolute lip service to working class women, those who understand BOTH how fucking messed up economic hardship AND being a woman are!

Okay, rant over. You know, Dr. Prentice places so much emphasis on ethics, and I think the cognitive dissonance with Hillary about ethics from so many of my friends (including and especially those who have gone through BHP) was absurdly maddening. I need to get this out. It's a much easier blindspot to catch in retrospect, but I was seeing this pretty much since January 2016 when I really started paying attention, and to paraphrase Bernie, "it really doesn't please me to see that what I had feared would actually come true." It would please me that I hadn't fallen on deaf ears in the first place...

I really need to sleep, restore my emotional health, but refocus on the intellectual side of politics that so interests me and that I hope would provide the template for reasoned discussion that ACTUALLY CHANGES MINDS. This is a SHOUTING MATCH and POLARIZING post, but I needed to vent.