With any feel-good and easy-to-participate trend, there is always going to be the haters. I should know, because quite often I’m right there with them fighting hand-in-hand against a society that seems to have adopted Hallmark gestures as participation in progress. Don’t get me started on such ideas as Toms or other philanthropic marketing, because you’ll never get me to shut up about my belief that shopping-for-change is worse than doing nothing at all.
So of course a few had to chime up about the uselessness of this new Facebook profile-pic change trend, and leave it to Vice to have published the most passed around article on the subject. I suppose the absence of my usual unrelenting critical reaction got me thinking too much about this article and how wrong they may have possibly gotten it.
Which can be hard to see because so often people love a good, empty gesture. The lance wristbands come to mind, as if wearing a piece of rubber does anything for the cause of cancer, or even at the preposterous idea that cancer needs more awareness. But the people still wore them, or buy their Toms, or any of the other many ways the modern American can be involved without actually doing anything that matters beyond a purchase or sticker on the car. So the lay-up thought would be to categorize a profile picture-change as yet another action geared more towards the proverbial pat on the back than anything else.
But when it comes to an idea like gay marriage – and its presence on Facebook – I don’t think you can just swat this away as more useless posturing. The truth is, our media has completely split. Writers like this Vice guy – or me – think we are doing our part by offering critical analysis of situations, when the only people reading anymore are those who already agree with our bigger-picture philosophies. The classic “preaching to the choir.” This division has consumed both our print media and televised news. The new information age really just means there is enough information for everyone to sequester into corners that speak their language. Add to this the fact that we are – for the most part – geographically split from those with opposing views, It’s no wonder this country is composed of two halves that completely don’t understand each other.
You could almost argue that Facebook is the most integrated space of our madly divided country. Every person on there has a few cousins, work-aquaintances, or ex high-school friends that share their bi-polar view on everything. Where else can a person exemplify the to a non-believer that one of their acquaintances – who they quite possibly have a very positive relationship with – is not only for gay marriage, but not afraid to say it? I can think of one cousin that probably cringes at everything I post, while simultaneously conflicted that someone he likes and respects so much can believe such “crazy things”.
So let’s not confuse gay marriage with a post-hurricane clean-up or big-brother mentoring. It’s an idea, and ideas are spread through acceptance. Acceptance is achieved by recognizing those you respect are vouching for the idea. I know Malcom Gladwell wrote an entire book explaining this so I’ll spare you more of my poor reinterpretation. But the statistics alone from the past ten years overwhelmingly support the conclusion that the acceptance to gay marriage is spreading. To not understand Facebook and other social media has a part in this would be to absolutely underestimate how ingrained it has become in everyone’s daily lives – for better or worse – and its effectiveness in spreading acceptance through interpersonal relationships. An effectiveness that trumps anything Fox News or Rachael Maddow might have to say on the subject.
Look no further than advertising – an industry that gets paid to spread ideas – to prove this, as more and more corporations divert their ad budgets away from traditional outlets and towards the more engaged effectiveness of social media. If it can sell Coke, it can sell gay marriage, and it doesn’t even need an ad buy to do it.
It’s a crazy new world here and anything can happen, but at the very least we should have learned by now to stop saying what didn’t work yesterday, won’t work today. Historical lessons that discredit this misconception have repeated themselves with tireless repetition, because as humans we love to adapt in any way that can offer the possibility of another tomorrow.
The one ball post a few days ago inspired a few people to talk to me about their own experiences in the testicle-difficulties department. One related to me how years ago he had to go the sperm bank route when Mother Nature alone wasn’t performing her magic. Of course the discussion quickly devolved into a comparison of our respective jizz room experiences, as I too had to ‘bank some as a precaution before radiation therapy.
I actually just learned through Google image search that the technical term is “the collection room”, though that makes it sound way too pleasant and it is anything but. I can’t remember the name of the sperm bank I went to, but it sounded like the corporate lab the bad guy works at in a biological thriller. Innextell? Bionextrix? Something with a lot of x’s for sure. You’d think walking into a place like that the people would be nice, but not Bioxanextal. These workers were saltier than the employees of an airport Starbucks.
Maybe that’s the price of working in a lab constantly steeped in such heavy vibes, as the waiting room of this place was a coven of broken dreams akin to a Hollywood Boulevard dive bar. As a young and single guy, it really gave me insight into the possibilities of future stress. At the very least, there were always two or three couples in there that were comprised of an impotently defeated man, his frustrated un-pregnant wife, and a relationship on the rocks as if a low sperm count puts every single shortcoming on the table for criticism.
After 10 minutes of this, the jizz room was almost a welcome change. Though in my case it was more like a closet that was located uncomfortably close to the reception and aforementioned stress-stuffed waiting area. The interior of the room had a limited few, yet very distinct features. On the wall was a crappy, framed print of the “finger of god” detail from the Sisteen Chapel. It was always hanging with a tilt which made me chuckle as if there was an obvious irony to that, but it wasn’t one that I ever figured out. Also in the room was an old TV and VCR combo with a collection of ratty porno tapes in this cardboard box someone cut a slot in the front so you had to blindly dip your hand in to fetch one. On a small table was the veritable “stack”, as my friend Ronnie would call it. As in: “Yo baby, what you got in your stack these days? Hustler? OUI?”
Not only were the “stack” and tapes disgustingly over-fondeled, but they were also hilariously out of date. I quickly learned to come prepared with my own material, because without it you were faced with the ultimate test of masturbatory skill; the challenge to get off in the world’s unsexiest halogen-bulbed room. Don’t forget the uncomfortable proximity to the waiting area and receptionist meant that everyone was fully aware how long it was taking you and what you were up to.
In the end, I had to make five or six trips, and it was equally as uninviting and awful every time. Of course the surly worker told me the second-to-last visit that I could “procure” at home, and bring it in, as long as I lived no further than 30 minutes away. I said no problem as she handed me the plastic-lidded cup, knowing I’d have to drive 95 to do it, though whatever repercussions I was chancing with the mad sperm-dash were preferable to another minute in that sad wack-closet.
This story has a moral like the lazy-tilt of the Sisteen Chapel painting has ironic meaning, so sadly I can’t explain further than my recognition of its existence. But whatever shitty things you had to do today, just be glad they (hopefully) didn’t involve a trip to the jizz room.
I was watching a documentary the other day about Jack Kevorkian that begins with footage of a judge in the 90s handing down a sentence on him. If you’re ever feeling uneasy about the fact that maybe no one is really in charge of leading our society to a better future, don’t listen to an out-of-date judge. Because when you do, it doesn’t sound like the grand interpretation of law handing down judgement with the learned and studied certainty that it’s supposed to, instead you just get treated to the common sounds of another dipshit with an opinion.
As the Supreme Court is gearing up to hear the case on gay marriage, we are treated with this unfortunate sensation in real time. You’d think any group with the label “Supreme” would have the ability to sort through the facts and conclude a truly reasoned opinion – or at the very least an unpredictable one – but in the end it’ll be nothing but nine personal beliefs peppered with historical judicial justifications. Even worse than making any kind of decision, it’s looking like they are going to kick it back down to the states with no decision at all.
And someday we’ll all look back at history and praise the brave few who stood up for diversity while lambasting the others for their unrelenting bigotry. Regardless of what you believe or how you think it should sway, that conclusion seems almost completely inescapable. You’d think this almost certain possibility of being a historical embarrassment would be reason enough to sway the holdouts, but instead they’ve fortified their positions and don’t seem to be budging.
Which begs the question: If the future is often so obvious, how do these people with so much control fail to see it? It only makes you think that their convictions run deeper than their sense, which – correct me if I’m wrong – is a pretty awful trait in a judge, especially one who is touted as being one of the nine best.
And we sit here looking back and laughing at brick cellphones, goofy fashions, and suspect political decisions of the past without taking the time to reflect on the now. Just because the present feels normal, doesn’t mean it is not equally as ridiculous, if not more so. The metaphorical brick-cellphone is to our heads and we are flooring the Gremlin into the sunset while many aren’t giving a second thought to the possibility that the leaders are not leading anything that matters to the people.
Of course this is all part of a continuing process that breeds imperfections, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take pause and reflect on the fact that we may be a cruise ship adrift. Unfortunately, so many of our choices are dictated by “the norm” and I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve voted for politicians I don’t believe in, driven to places I should have walked, and bought things that I shouldn’t have bought. Worst of all I’ve put faith in leaders that I naively assumed would actually lead us. All under the misguided faith that someone smarter was in charge and making sure it would all work out in the end.
The truth is, no one is going to legislate a great idea like living simply because those in power aren’t the Supreme Council from a Superman movie or Spocks elders*. They are just like the rest of us, a bunch of humans, and with that lot comes the opinions and prejudices that trump any attempts at blank-slate logical thinking we are all susceptible to.
Which means that any real progress has to be taught from the bottom up, instead of waiting for it to trickle in the other direction. Expecting change – instead of making it – is like waiting for a dog to share their food.
The good news is that if we look at gay marriage as the measure, we can see that in the past ten years it has made great progress. So much so, that the Supreme Court is babbling over a Californian proposition that most likely wouldn’t pass today like it did five years ago.
And with that comes the comfort in the fact that change doesn’t always mean sleeping in a tent or kicking over some barricades. Sometimes change is as simple as being an example to others as a progressive thinker who is also a considerate and kind person. From my limited view it appears that those who lead by example are the most important leaders of them all, and the collective fallout of this contagious movement will ultimately be the supreme leadership we’ve been looking for.
*Excuse my Star Trek naiveté, I don’t know anything about it!
** Is that Mr. Hand in the picture?