Category Archives: psychology

Lessons From Japan’s (Deadly) Work Culture

Karoshi: Why Do So Many Japanese Die From Overworking?

In general, being a hard worker is a respectable trait to have. Regardless of your background, culture, or political affiliations, we tend to value and celebrate those who are willing to put in the extra effort into whatever they do for a living. It’s not easy. It can be incredibly stressful at times. Then again, most things worth doing are.

I certainly remember plenty of times when I worked hard. Going all the way back to high school, I can recall days in which I spent nearly every waking hour grinding away at something or another, be it schoolwork, chores, or a part-time job. I remember being drained when all was said and done, but I was ultimately stronger because of it.

That being said, there is a certain threshold in which hard work ceases to be about productivity and just becomes downright damaging. I suspect many people have approached or cross that threshold at some point in their lives, whether it’s with school or a career. However, I don’t think enough people appreciate just how damaging excessive work can be.

This brings me to Japan and their legendary, albeit infamous, work culture. Think back to the longest, hardest day you had at school or your job. In Japan, that’s basically Tuesday. Work for them is not just some 9-to-5 gig you do for a paycheck. It’s a sizable chunk of their lives, more so than American or European workers.

Working overtime, sleeping at the office, and sacrificing for the company aren’t seen as above and beyond. That’s the standard. Yes, it’s a very high standard, but let’s not forget these are real people pushing themselves in extreme ways to meet that standard.

While this high emphasis on work has helped Japan become one of the best economies in the world, it does have a dark side. It’s so prevalent and common, in fact, that the Japanese even have a word for it. It’s called Karoshi, which translates to “overwork death.”

It’s exactly what it sounds like, but it’s actually more complex than that.

It’s a serious ongoing issue in Japan. You don’t have to look far for horror stories about what happens to people who succumb to Karoshi. There are real cases of otherwise healthy 31-year-old men dying of heart failure after regularly working 14-hour days for 7 years straight.

Take a step back and appreciate that kind of strain.

You work so long and so hard that your heart gives out.

It’s one thing to work until you’re tired and sore, but it takes a special kind of strain for your heart to just give out.

As bad as that is, this isn’t the only way Karoshi manifests. Beyond the long hours at the office and the constant stress that comes with it, you can see other signs throughout Japan. It’s not that uncommon to see people asleep on the streets or on park benches. It’s as normal as seeing someone taking selfies.

For a more in depth look on how this unfolds in Japan, check out this video. It’s what got me interested in this topic and inspired me to bring it up.

Now, I’m not looking to denigrate or demean another country’s work culture. I understand that not every society sees work the same way or approaches it in a way people from my part of the world would recognize. At the same time, it’s hard to overlook the issues that result in people dying of heart attacks before they’re 40.

It’s something the Japan is trying to address, but changing ingrained culture isn’t easy. Changing peoples work habits isn’t easy, either. People are set in their ways. I say that as someone who regularly struggled with Spanish quizzes in high school, but never though to adjust study habits.

It’s also an issue I think highlights and important lesson for any society that emphasizes hard work. Yes, it’s generally good, but there are limits. There comes a point where the work is more valued than the person doing it and when you reach that point, the well-being of the person becomes an afterthought.

Those who claim that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life may beg to differ. To them, I would remind them that the human body doesn’t recognize whether or not you’re doing something you love or something you hate. It just knows when it’s being strained to the point where it starts failing.

I feel like this will become more relevant in the coming years. The events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have already significantly affected the workplace and I’m not just referring to the rise of telework. If anything, these events have accelerated the pace of automation. The jobs that used to require all that grinding are becoming less and less necessary.

What will that mean for workers in general?

What will that mean for work culture like that of Japan?

Will it make Karoshi better or worse as certain jobs become more scarce or unnecessary?

These are difficult questions to answer right now, but I suspect that these trends won’t change peoples’ inclination for hard work. It’s just a matter of where that effort will be directed and how we’ll balance it out with the health of the individual. That’s a balance that we still need to strike, no matter how many jobs get automated.

Work/life balance isn’t just a popular buzzword. It’s critical to those who want to both be productive and live fulfilling lives. If you’re life is all work, then is it really living in the grand scheme of things? If anything, the Japanese phenomenon of Karoshi offers insight into what happens when there is no balance. The line between working hard and working yourself to death can get blurred at times, but it’s worth making that line just a little bit clearer, if only to navigate it more effectively.

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Filed under Current Events, health, human nature, psychology, real stories

How To Tell If You’re In A Cult With The B.I.T.E. Model

5 Cult Leaders With Murderous Intentions – AmongMen

Like it or not, religion is a big part of many peoples’ lives. Whether you’re an ardent atheist or an impassioned believer, there’s no getting around it. There are still millions of religious people all over the world, living their lives and practicing their faith. Even though religion, in general, has been in decline in recent decades, it’s still a powerful force in many communities.

By and large, most religious people are every bit as ordinary and decent as non-religious people. They live their lives, love their families, and generally go about their business. For some, their religion generally enriches their lives and that’s a good thing. I know plenty of people like that.

However, this is not about them.

This is about those who take religious ideology to a dangerous and damaging extreme.

I’ve talked about this kind of extremism before. It has led to some legitimately harmful trends. In some cases, it has the potential to be an existential threat to the world at large. While any ideology can be taken to a harmful extreme, religion can be uniquely damaging because it deals in abstracts, beliefs, and spirituality.

There are things you can’t touch, measure, or quantify. As a result, they’re incredibly difficult to contest and argue against. You can give someone all the irrefutable evidence in the world. If their preferred holy book or cult leader says the world is made of cheese, that’s what they’ll believe and they’ll cling to that belief with all their might.

This sort of thing manifests most prominently in cults. Now, not every cult is religious in nature, but religion is often a powerful driving force in many. Most of the cults that make the news for all the wrong reasons were religious in nature.

How people end up in these cults varies. You can listen to former cult members from all walks of life and get a different perspective for how they fell into it, how they got out, and why they became so captivated. These stories are quite harrowing and I encourage everyone to seek them out. They have many lessons to offer.

Following these stories may also make you wonder what sets a cult apart from a traditional religion. Like I said before, most religious people don’t conduct themselves in the way cult members do. On top of that, those who are in a cult probably don’t think they are. To them, this is their normal, skewed as it might be.

Given how diverse cults can be, it’s not easy to determine when a certain religion or ideology has crosses that threshold. Some argue that certain Christian denominations and political movements are cults, but usually as a means of insult or denigration.

Thankfully, people far smarter than me have given this subject much more thought and study. There’s one particular model out there that I find to be quite useful in discerning cults from ordinary religious activity.

It’s called the B.I.T.E model. Developed by Steven Hassan, a mental health professional who has studied behavioral control tactics, it’s a handy tool for assessing the cult-like structure of both religious and political ideologies.

The model and the name are an acronym for four general patterns of behavior that tend to manifest in cults. They are as follows:

Behavior Control: Involves regulation and micromanagement of peoples’ behavior from how they dress, how they eat, and what they do with their time.

Information Control: Involves organized efforts to withhold, distort, or manage the information people see in terms of knowledge, news, and education.

Thought Control: Involves organized efforts to shape opinions and worldviews of everything from their moral code to the language they use. The ultimate goal is to instill a warped view of reality.

Emotion Control: Involves manipulating and channeling a wide range of feelings, both positive and negative. The result is often involves instilling fear of outsiders and any differing opinions, as well as a sense of worthlessness that only the organization can help them resolve.

It’s not a perfect model, but it’s one of the simplest and most comprehensive to date. The model is structured in a way to include both religious and non-religious ideologies. If you were to apply this model to organizations like NXVIM or basic personality cults, it would check the same boxes as any religious cult.

At the same time, it also helps highlight how certain religious and political ideologies do not count as cults. Some may fit certain parts of the model, but not all. For something to really be a full-fledged cult, it needs to check all four bases and in a meaningful way. That also helps sift through instances where someone tries to call something a cult as an insult.

With this model in mind, I encourage everyone to use it to evaluate their own religious or political affiliation. That may not be easy. Like I said, people in cults usually don’t think they’re in a cult. Many don’t even realize how deep they were into it until they leave.

That makes self-assessment of your beliefs and affiliations that much more critical. The B.I.T.E model might not be perfect, but it is both useful and insightful. We all need to be critical of our beliefs. Given how dangerous certain cults can be, it’s important we know the signs before it’s too late.

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Filed under health, politics, psychology, religion

Why We’ll Never (Fully) Get Rid Of Misinformation

How Private Information Helps Fake News Hoodwink the Public

Being informed is important. In some cases, it is literally a matter of life and death. That’s a big reason why I’ve made multiple posts urging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. It could literally save your life. It’s also free, by the way. How many other things that could save your life are also free?

Seriously, people, get vaccinated. I’ll belabor that as much as I have to.

However, this isn’t only about vaccines or the idiots who refuse to get them. It’s about the “information” that these people are using to justify their choices. I put “information” in quotes because calling some of this stuff information is a poor use of the term.

Information, by definition, is supposed to inform. It’s supposed to make you more aware and educated about the world around you. Lies, propaganda, and misinformation do none of that. That sort of thing makes you dumber, more vulnerable, and more easy to manipulate by those willing to do so.

It happens in politics, religion, pop culture, business, and even shady marketing schemes. Much of these endeavors don’t have facts, truth, or verifiable information on their side. As a result, they require that people buy into whatever misinformation they feed them. It’s dishonest, disgraceful, and should be condemned to the utmost.

The problem is that people still buy into it.

Moreover, some people actively seek for this kind of information.

This is something I think many people have experience with, either directly or indirectly. I also suspect it has become a lot more relevant lately, given the rise of anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theories. This sort of mentality was always present. The problem is that the internet and social media have made it disturbingly easy to spread.

Now, it’s easy and tempting to blame big tech companies for this phenomenon. Make no mistake. Big tech companies are certainly at fault to some degree. Many of these same companies also have done some incredibly shady things, to say the least.

However, I’m still of the opinion that, no matter how disreputable big tech companies can be, it still ultimately falls on the users to control what information they seek. Whether it’s Google, Facebook, or TikTok, these systems don’t operate in a vacuum. They simply respond to user input. We are, to some extent, responsible for the information we seek.

I’m certainly guilty of seeking out information that isn’t exactly reputable. There have been times, including a few very recent instances, where I find myself seeking information that turned out to be less than truthful. Even if it was for something as innocent as comic book news or NFL trade rumors, it’s still misinformation as best and outright lies at worst.

That may not do much harm if the information you’re seeking is only damaging to your Fantasy Football team, but if that information involved politics or your health, then that’s where the real damage can occur. I’ve already seen it manifest with friends who fell down some very dark internet rabbit holes. Some of that might have just been by accident, but I also don’t doubt it was intentional in some cases.

In recent years, I’ve tried to make a more concerted effort to seek accurate, truthful information. I haven’t always succeeded, but I genuinely try to find true and accurate information, even if it’s something I don’t like. The fact it takes so much effort has me worried.

On top of that, it has led me to believe that it might not be possible to avoid misinformation. Even without the internet, it will find you. Propaganda and lies did exist before the digital age. It’ll likely always exist to some extent, so long as human brains are wired a certain way. Since we can’t change that anytime soon, despite the best efforts of Elon Musk, we’re likely stuck with misinformation.

This has me genuinely concerned because, even as some tech companies are making greater efforts to combat misinformation, it’s still relatively easy to find. On top of that, there are people out there working for nefarious organizations who are actively engaged in creating, spreading, and supplementing misinformation. Even if you shut them all down tomorrow, others will just spring up to replace them.

In some respects, it’s a lot like the war on drugs. You could arrest every single drug dealer in the world this morning, but by dusk a bunch of new dealers will emerge to take their place. Like it or not, there’s still a demand and there’s money, influence, and power to be gained.

Misinformation may not be the same as heroin or pot, but is subject to the same incentives. People actively seek it. Taking it in makes them feel special, important, and smarter than their neighbor. Today, it’s misinformation about vaccines, liberals, and gaming culture. Tomorrow, it might be about something else entirely.

It all comes back to how we’re wired. Our brains are not designed to seek truth or accurate information. They’re designed to keep us alive. Misinformation might be damaging in the long run, but it can make us feel better in the short-term, which is sadly more than enough incentive for some, even if it proves deadly in the long run.

I seriously wish I could end this on an uplifting note. I genuinely tried to find some way of putting a positive spin on this struggle. Unfortunately, the best I could come up with is to simply urge everyone to try harder to seek true and accurate information. If these past two years have taught us anything, it’s that bad information can cause a lot of harm.

We can never get rid of it, so long as our brains operate as they do.

We can and should still do our part. Truth and accuracy matters. You may not like it, but it may very well save your life in the long run.

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Filed under Current Events, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, psychology, rants, technology

The Steps To Telling Whether Someone Is A Dishonest Grifter

Why you don't hear about Milo Yiannopoulos or Mike Cernovich anymore - Vox

There are lying, cheating, whiny grifters everywhere these days. They were always present to some extent, but the internet, social media, and algorithms have made them more prominent than ever. It’s never been easier to be a grifter, telling people what they want to hear or trolling them into giving you their money, attention, or trust.

These people are assholes, plain and simple.

Do not give them the time of day, let alone a penny of your money.

They are just scamming you while pretending to enlighten you. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Some are religious grifters. Some are political grifters. Some are just plain attention whores. The only common thread is that they’re assholes seeking money, attention, likes, or subscribers.

Most of the time, it’s easy to tell the grifters from sincere individuals just seeking to put themselves out there. It’s not exactly subtle. More often than not, you can rightly assume that most professional trolls are just blatant grifters.

Others are more subtle and it’s these types you have to be careful with. They’ll rarely claim to have an agenda. If they do, they’re usually good at hiding it behind coded language and dog whistles. It’s important to be on the lookout for that sort of thing because it’s easy to get sucked into their narrative. Once you’re in that narrative, they’ve got you in their grasp and like cult leaders, they’ll do whatever they can to possess you.

Having come across plenty of grifters over the years of being online, I’ve noticed plenty of telling signs. I’d like to share some of those signs. Everyone, regardless of age or affiliation, should be mindful of all the grifts and scams on the internet. The more we recognize them, the more we can call them out for the lying, cheating assholes they are.


Sign #1: Their opinions and reviews on certain movies, TV shows, comics, or public figures never changes, be it negative or positive.

Sign #2: Their opinions, ideology, and rhetoric are extremely similar, if not identical, to other known grifters.

Sign #3: They frequently make the claim that they have inside sources on a particular industry or sub-culture that they never name (and can usually be traced to trolling comments from sites like 4chan).

Sign #4: They throw around politically loaded insults like SJW, whamen, and plebs while talking about non-political topics.

Sign #5: They try to sell you something other than a typical sponsorship like vitamins, merch, or subscriptions services that they exclusively control.

Sign #6: They claim to offer the “real” story behind a particular media narrative, be it political or entertainment.

Sign #7: They constantly claim they’re being oppressed, marginalized, and censored by some nefarious organization with no official name or face (think Big Tech, establishment media, or some outsider sub-group).

Sign #8: They claim that they’re representing the “true” opinions of fans/Christians/Americans/whatever group they’re affiliated with.

Sign #9: They have a select number of public figures they go out of their way to hate, criticize, or demean.

Sign #10: They reject all criticism and debunking as part of a conspiracy against them or people like them.

Sign #11: They never, ever stop whining.


Again, these are just some of the signs. There are probably plenty more. If you have others, please share them in the comments. Remain vigilant for lying, grifting assholes of all types. They’re always out there, looking for their next grift. Don’t let them get you. You don’t deserve to be their victims.

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Filed under outrage culture, psychology, rants, YouTube

Jack’s World: The Harsh Truths Of “Daria” And Why They Still Matter

The following is a video from my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s my first video about “Daria” and was based on an earlier article I wrote a number of years back. I reworked it a bit to make for a better video. I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Depending on the response, I may make more “Daria” videos. Enjoy!

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Filed under Daria, philosophy, psychology, television, YouTube

An Unholy Way To Handle Claims Of Sexual Assault (According To Liberty University)

Scandal at Liberty University: How a Christian college dismisses students'  reports of sexual assault | Salon.com

Every now and then, we encounter a story in the news that is outright egregious, but not the least bit shocking. There’s no question the details are awful. No matter how cynical or jaded you are, there are real injustices in this world. Innocent people are victimized in horrible crimes. A part of us wants to be outraged, but it’s just too unsurprising to get worked up.

I feel like we’ve had a lot of those stories over the past two years. I get the sense that a lot of people have just become so numb to horrible news.

Even so, we should still take notice when a terrible injustice is exposed, even if it doesn’t surprise us. That means that when another high-profile religious institution is found to be culpable in some egregious misdeeds involving sexual assault, we should still try and take interest.

Now, organized religion and egregious sex crimes aren’t new. They aren’t even that shocking anymore. Even if you consider yourself religious and strongly value your faith, it’s hard to miss the headlines that expose heinous crimes of sexual abuse and efforts to cover them up. It’s become so common and belabored that “South Parkdoes jokes about it.

It’s still serious and egregious. There are still real-life victims who suffer this abuse, but cannot get justice because the abusers hide behind religion and religious institutions. Regardless of your affiliation, I hope that upsets you, even if it doesn’t shock you.

For that reason, I also hope we can all share in the dismay and disgust regarding the recent revelations from Pro Publica about how Liberty University failed victims of sexual assault. If you haven’t read this recent report, I highly recommend doing so, but on an empty stomach. Some of the details are a bit graphic, but they’re still worth reading.

It’s a lengthy report that follows how multiple women who attended Liberty University, one of the most prominent Christian private schools in the United States, were sexually assaulted and the school failed to help them. In some cases, they were punished and shamed for the egregious sin of being victimized. It’s even more egregious than it sounds.

I won’t highlight every detail. Again, I encourage everyone to actually read the report. However, I will cite one excerpt that nicely sums up the environment that Liberty University created for victims of sexual assault.

Ten more former students told me they chose not to report their rapes to campus officials amid fear of being punished. “I knew I would face the blame for putting myself in that situation,” said Chelsea Andrews, a Liberty alum who said she was assaulted by a Liberty graduate student.

I hope it goes without saying that this is abhorrent. I also hope most reasonable people agree that we should be careful, understanding, and diligent when it comes to addressing accusations of sexual assault. I’ve said in the past that this can be tricky because sex crimes are difficult to prove and false accusations do happen, even if they’re rare.

In any case, lives can be ruined. People can be scarred for years because of what happened to them. We should definitely make an effort to improve how we handle these sorts of issues, but we should also actively work to not make things worse.

After reading this report, I won’t hide my underlying sentiment. By nearly every measure, Liberty University offers a case study in how not to handle claims of sexual assault. The fact it’s a religious school that touts conservative Christian values only makes it worse, not to mention hypocritical.

That also makes it unsurprising because, as we’ve seen, hypocrisy from organized religion is not that hard to find. However, this is a bit more personal for me because I actually know people who’ve gone to Liberty University. I’ve visited the area around Lynchburg, Virginia where the campus is based and have spent some extended time there.

That school is a big deal in that region. It’s hard to explain to people who have never traveled to that part of Virginia how big a presence they have. They’re not just another college within a college town. This is a university that is closely aligned with all things conservative and Christian.

It was founded by Jerry Falwell, a man who basically spent his entire adult life advocating for a Christian theocracy in America. That’s not hyperbole. Falwell and many like him actively promoted an ideology that sought to impose their brand of Christianity on every domain of American society.

That, in and of itself, should concern everyone who doesn’t want to live in a world devoid of fun, freedom, and anything remotely sexy. However, I’ve already touched on that thorny issue, so I won’t belabor it.

All you need to know is that Liberty University espouses an ultra-conservative brand of Christianity. That also means they impose strict codes of conduct on their students and faculty. I’m not just talking about rules against drinking, smoking, mini-skirts, and premarital sex. This is a school that forbids cursing, extended hugging, and R-rated movies.

Basically, it’s the antithesis of a party school. People go here to be educated in conservative Christian traditions. That’s why they’ve often been closely aligned with the religious right in America.

Now, that’s not to say everyone who goes to that school is some uptight carbon copy of Kirk Cameron. Some of the people I know went to that school found ways to drink, smoke, and get laid while attending. They just had to be extra careful than usual.

After reading this story, I find myself wondering how many gross misdeeds happened in the shadows that never came to light. That same code of conduct I just mentioned made it next to impossible to responsibly address matters involving sexual assault. You could go so far as to say it demonstrates the worst possible way to handle such issues.

Think of it in terms of both context and theology. Here is this very conservative school that is extremely anti-sex in any way that doesn’t result married people producing more Christians. That means any sex act, be it consensual or forced, is a gross violation of that code of conduct they hold so dear.

Then, imagine being someone who was sexually assaulted. You can try to report it, but in doing so, you just admitted to having sex. Even if it was forced on you, neither the code nor the theology seems to take that into account. They might not be able to prove the accuser assaulted you, but they already can prove that you had sex.

That gives them two options. They have to spend time, money, and resources investigating the incident, not knowing whether they’ll be able to find enough proof to warrant prosecution. The other option is to just focus on the fact that someone admitted to having sex, assume they were somehow responsible, and make whatever excuses are necessary to close the case.

One requires a lot of work and investigation.

One just requires assumptions and reinforcing time-tested traditions about blaming the victim.

That’s why investigations at places like Liberty will often focus on what the victim was wearing, what they were doing at the time, and why they put themselves in that position. It’s cruel on a level that defies description, but for religious schools, there are plenty of unfortunate precedents.

For those working these cases at Liberty, they had every incentive to take the path of least resistance. It’s easy to just shame someone who had sex. It’s a lot harder to actually prosecute a crime. That same process also requires that the institute admit some form of responsibility for not protecting people.

If nothing else, this Pro Publica report only confirms what we’ve seen with plenty of other religious organizations. When it comes down to doing the right thing by the people they’ve failed or protecting their power/influence/tax free status, these institutions will do whatever allows them to keep doing what they’re doing.

It doesn’t matter if their preferred holy book gives strict guidelines on what is right and what is wrong.

It doesn’t even matter if basic human decency is enough to surmise that this way of doing things is a gross disservice to victims.

All that matters is protecting the institution and the power it wields. I definitely felt that when I visited Lynchburg. You could say a lot of things about politics and Christianity, but you could not say certain things about Liberty University. That’s just what happens to an institution that is given that much prestige.

Sadly, I doubt these revelations will change that. Liberty University already dealt with some bad press regarding some acts of sordid adultery and some financial scandals. However, this school will still find a way to keep doing what it’s doing. Not enough people care and the school just has too much influence, both on the region and on the nation.

At the very least, this story is out there and that could help inform anyone who is thinking of sending their children to this school. Even if you’re a devout conservative Christian, I hope the knowledge that this is how they handle matters of sexual assault gives you pause.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, politics, psychology, religion, sex in society, sexuality

How I Dealt With A Bully (And Why I Don’t Recommend It)

Should You Confront Your Old Bully?

Bullies suck. I think most of us can agree on that. Those who don’t probably haven’t been on the receiving end of a bully at some point in their lives. They’re the lucky ones. Most of us can’t rely on that kind of luck.

Now, before I go any further, I want to make clear that this isn’t some generic anti-bullying PSA. There are already way too many of those and even if their intentions are good, they don’t always send the right message.

That has been my experience with these campaigns. They claim to understand the dynamics of bullying. They offer a list of responses and recourses, some of which are more helpful than others. Some are downright counterproductive. They all miss one key detail.

Every bullying situation is different.

Every bully is different.

Every target of a bully is different.

The dynamics behind every instance of bullying is different.

In short, not every case of bullying plays out the same way and there’s no one proper way to deal with it. Not every bully is Biff Tannen and not every victim is George McFly. One well-placed punch isn’t going to completely rectify a situation. Just ignoring it won’t rectify it, either.

With that in mind, I’d like to share another personal story about how I dealt with a bully. It’s not nearly as dramatic as you might see in the movies, but it worked out in my favor for the most part. In fact, to say it worked out might be a bit of a stretch. You’ll understand why when you hear the details.

This incident played out when I was in the 9th grade. It was not a good time for me. I was depressed, socially awkward, and had pretty much no self-esteem. I also had a bad attitude that made me fairly unpopular and an easy target. In hindsight, I think it was only a matter of time before a bully found me.

For the sake of this story, let’s call this kid Don. He was no Biff Tannen, but he was a real asshole. This kid was my age, but he was behind the curve when it came to maturity. He and a bunch of like-minded friends liked to goof off, screw with people, and do their own thing. They weren’t exactly caricatures from 80s teen movies, but they were close.

As it just so happened, Don rode the same bus as I did. In fact, he got off at the same stop that I did. He lived less than two blocks from me. Due to that proximity, he took an interest in me. He started teasing me and asking dumb, embarrassing questions. Sometimes he did it on the bus. Sometimes he did it in the middle of a class. Whenever he did it, I hated it.

Me being the immature, self-loathing kid that I was, I didn’t deal with it very well. I often tried to tell him off. I cussed him out. That only seemed to encourage him. I never tried to fight him, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted.

It also helped, somewhat, that I wasn’t in good shape and would probably lose that fight. Don was no athlete, but he was bigger than me and willing to do dumb shit to win. I had no advantages, whatsoever.

I still wanted it to stop. I had enough problems in my life. I didn’t need to deal with Don and his antics. I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with it. I got some advice from the adults in my life. They often told me to just ignore him and avoid him. If he ever laid a hand on me, then I should go to a school administrator. I didn’t want it to get to that point.

Unfortunately, ignoring Don didn’t make him stop. If anything, it encouraged him to keep doing it. He didn’t get bored. He just saw someone he could tease and get away with. That wasn’t something the anti-bullying PSAs told me.

At some point, I had to respond. Yelling at him wasn’t working. Trying to politely ask him to stop wasn’t working. This was an immature knuckle-head who wasn’t going to be reasoned with. If I was going to respond, it had to be very blunt and very effective.

It finally came to ahead one day on the bus. We were waiting to leave to go home for the day. Like he had before, Don decided to move up to my seat and start harassing me. I don’t remember what he said. I just remember he wouldn’t go away. He kept asking me these dumb question and teasing me when I didn’t respond.

He just would not stop and he would not leave. I was tempted to punch him in the face, but I knew that probably wouldn’t pan out. If I threw the first punch, then I would be blamed for everything. I may have been young, but I knew how school politics work.

Finally, I decided to respond.

I didn’t punch him.

I didn’t break something he had on him.

Instead, I just looked at him with as much hate as I could muster and I spit right in his eye.

At that moment, Don’s goofy and immature demeanor disappeared in an instant. He turned away to rub his eye. I wasn’t sure if he was crying or anything. At the time, I honestly didn’t care. I didn’t move from where I sat. I just remained where I sat, waiting for a response.

Eventually, I got it. He tried to spit at me too. He missed, only hitting my ear. After that, he left and went to the back of the bus with his friends.

That was it.

That was the end of it. Don never talked to me ever again.

Now, I do not recommend anyone do that with a bully. Spitting in someone’s eye isn’t as bad as a punch, but it still counts as assault. Had Don gone to a school administrator, he could’ve gotten me into a lot of trouble. However, he didn’t and I think I know why. He would’ve had to explain why the situation got so heated and since he instigated it, he would’ve gotten in trouble too.

Even so, I’m not proud of what I did. I didn’t feel better about myself. I doubt Don felt better, either. Had there been more witnesses or had someone reported us, it could’ve gotten much worse. At the same time, I could’ve handled that much better, even for a moody teenager.

Again, do not take this as advice for dealing with a bully. There’s a good chance it will not work out as well as it did for me. I got lucky in this case. Don’t expect to get that lucky when dealing with a bully.

Also, Don, if you’re reading this, I apologize for spitting in your eye. However, you were still a huge asshole.

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Whistleblower Confirms That Facebook Is Harmful: So What Do We Do About It?

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There are certain products in this world that we know are harmful, but use them anyway. Cars kill thousands every year through traffic accidents. Thousands die every year by overdosing on drugs that were legally prescribed to them. However, we still use these products because they are essential for our way of life.

With that in mind, I think most people already know that certain social media platforms, such as Facebook, can be harmful. You don’t need to look that hard to find harmful or damaging misinformation on Facebook. Having been in college at the time Facebook really took off, I think most people understood to some extent that this product could be used for immense harm.

So, was it really that surprising when a whistleblower came out and revealed just how much Facebook was aware of the damage they were doing? Just like tobacco companies before them, they could see that harm unfolding in real time. They just weren’t willing to take the kinds of steps that would hinder their profits.

They’re a multi-billion dollar business. They want to keep making billions for years to come. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. That’s the nature/flaw of capitalism.

In case you haven’t been following this story, the fallout from this whistleblower’s revelations are still unfolding. If you want details on the story, here is what NPR reported:

NPR: Whistleblower to Congress: Facebook products harm children and weaken democracy

Facebook’s products “harm children, stoke division, weaken our democracy and much more,” Frances Haugen, the former Facebook employee who leaked tens of thousands of pages of internal documents, will tell lawmakers on Tuesday.

“When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms [they] caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action,” she will say, according to her prepared testimony. “I implore you to do the same here.”

Haugen will urge lawmakers to take action to rein in Facebook, because, she says, it won’t do so on its own. “The company’s leadership knows ways to make Facebook and Instagram safer and won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their immense profits before people,” she will say.

There’s much more to the article, but I singled out this excerpt because it effectively sums up the situation. Again, most reasonable people probably suspected that a platform like Facebook was doing real harm to public discourse and the psychology of teenagers, especially girls. It’s still nice to have confirmation.

As someone who uses Facebook, I can attest to its harms. There is some pretty toxic crap throughout the site, as well as some equally toxic people. Sadly, some of that toxicity comes from friends and relatives sharing content, often of a political nature, that gets people upset and outraged. That’s not a bug, either. According to the whistleblower, that’s entirely on purpose.

Now, in the interest of maintaining some kind of perspective, I’m inclined to remind everyone where that content on Facebook comes from. Remember, they’re not the one’s producing it. They’re just the platform. It’s the users and the people who are creating that. It’s people willing to lie, denigrate, demean, and troll who create the content that makes Facebook and social media so toxic.

To blame Facebook entirely for these harms is like blaming car manufacturers for traffic fatalities. At the end of the day, the car itself doesn’t cause the harm. It’s the person using it.

That being said, Facebook is not a car, nor should we treat it like one. It’s also not a tobacco company and we shouldn’t treat it like that, either. Facebook doesn’t create a tangible product that we can hold in our hands to harm ourselves, nor is it a chemical we willingly put in our bodies. It’s a digital service that we engage with and, in turn, it engages with us.

From that exchange, real harm is possible. This whistleblower confirms that and, based on the available information, I think the data presented is valid. That still leaves one question to ponder.

What do we do about Facebook and other companies like it?

That’s still an unresolved question and one that too many people try to answer bluntly. Shortly after this story came out, the ever-popular #DeleteFacebook hashtag started trending. However, I doubt anything will come of that. I’ve seen that hashtag trend on multiple occasions and it has done little to affect Facebook’s growth.

These revelations are bad, but I doubt they’ll be enough to bring Facebook down completely. They may lose subscribers and revenue in the short-term, but they’ll adapt and grow in the long run. You don’t become a multi-billion dollar company without being able to adapt in lieu of bad press.

At the same time, I think we should take some action to mitigate the impact of Facebook and social media. What could that entail? I’m not smart enough to offer a comprehensive answer, but I do know the extremes people are throwing around just won’t work.

For one, Facebook can’t be banned or shuttered. It makes too much money and it would set a dangerous precedent for every business, online or otherwise. It’s also probably grossly unconstitutional, at least in western democracies like the United States and Britain.

Even if it were banned, people would find a way to get around it. Just look at the countries that have tried to ban porn. People still find a way to get it.

Others have thrown around ideas like splitting up Facebook, just like America once did with oil companies and phone companies. That would certainly be extreme and there are precedents for doing so. However, would that really change how Facebook and social media are utilized by real people? Would those not satisfied with the newly broken up Facebook simply create something similar under a different name?

The most logical recourse might just involve demanding that Facebook make the changes they refused to make, according to the whistleblower. They could also be subject to major fines and taxes, as we’ve done before with tobacco. Will those measures be effective? I don’t know, but I’m skeptical, to say the least.

I honestly don’t think there’s an easy answer to the question. I also think that, even if governments did implement new measures on social media companies to combat their harms, both the companies and the users would find a way around it. Both sides are just too motivated at this point.

I still believe there’s a better solution. I just don’t know what it is and if anyone has one to offer, please share it in the comments. In the meantime, I guess the best recourse we can all do is to just be careful about what we place on Facebook and be more mindful of the content we consume.

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How Bad Should We Feel For Certain Bad People?

New Research on TV Binge-Watching Behaviors – Department of Communication  Arts – UW–Madison

In general, I try to be forgiving, empathetic, and understanding, even towards people I think are total assholes. I also think it’s generally good for society to be forgiving and sympathetic to others, even when they’ve done bad things and fostered bad events.

Now, there are always exceptions. There are certain people on this planet who are genuine monsters and they deserve only scorn and condemnation. However, this isn’t about them.

I’m of the opinion that most people, broadly speaking, are decent human beings. They may act like assholes on occasion, especially online when they can be anonymous. When you’re actually with them, though, they will show some semblance of humanity.

That has been my experience. I have met people who are real assholes on Facebook, but genuinely nice in person. That’s why I generally favor being kind and understanding to others, even when you don’t like their personality, their opinions, or their agenda.

However, there is a line to that sentiment. I certainly have a few hard lines that, if crossed, will keep me from feeling any semblance of compassion for someone. I’ve only met a few people who have crossed that line over the course of my life. There are other celebrities and media figures who have done so. As a result, I refuse to support anything they do.

This brings me to a situation involving a man I’ll just call Dick Spencer. If you’ve been following politics for the past five years, you’ve probably heard of him. In fact, you probably know him as the guy who got punched in the face and that got people cheering. In case you haven’t seen it in a while, here it is again.

Racism Blacklivesmatter GIF - Racism Blacklivesmatter Neonazi GIFs

I’m not going to lie. That’s still very satisfying to watch. I try not to take too much pleasure in it, but if you’ve read up on this guy, you understand completely why he got punched.

I won’t go over all the deplorable things he’s said and done. I don’t even want to link to it because he’s not worth the energy. All you need to know is that this guy is a textbook neo-Nazi and that’s not an exaggeration. This is a guy who actually wants racist, sexist policies implemented and enforced on a large scale.

He’s as bad as you think he is and then some.

For that reason, and plenty of others, he’s made way more enemies than friends over the past several years. For a time, his voice carried weight and influence. That was then. Now, it’s a very different story.

A recent story from the New York Times revealed that Dick’s life has taken a massive turn for the worse. Apparently, being a hateful bigot who openly advocates neo-Nazi policies is not good for your career, your social standing, or your bank account. Vanity Fair offered a more colorful take on his situation, which I think encapsulates how many feel about this man.

Vanity Fair: Richard Spencer, Racist Putz, Is Having A Lousy Labor Day Weekend

Richard Spencer, the loathsome alt-right skunk best known for getting clocked in the jaw during an interview, is feeling the repercussions of his actions, according to a report published in The New York Times on Sunday. The article details how one of the central figures in recent white nationalism, who shouted “Hail Trump!” in a widely seen video as his followers made Nazi salutes, has been effectively silenced by his neighbors in Whitefish, Montana.

Spencer, who is “unable to get a table at many restaurants” according to the report, faced bipartisan pushback, led by local synagogues and human rights groups as the summer resident’s notoriety increased. Currently, Spencer, whose organization is dissolved and whose wife has divorced him, faces trial in Charlottesville, Virginia next month for his role in instigating the deadly white nationalist rally in 2017. However, the man who once lived in his mother’s $3 million summer house can not, according to the Times, afford a lawyer.

I’ll say it again. I try not to take too much pleasure in other peoples’ misfortunes. I try, but I don’t always succeed. I admit that hearing how this guys life has gone since becoming the face of racist hatred in America brought a smile to my face. It reaffirmed that the forces that oppose bigotry are generally stronger than those that ferment it.

At the same time, this guy is in a very bad place, to say the least. The organization he founded has been dissolved. He has little to no money. His wife divorced him. He’s been kicked off every major media platform. He’s being sued for instigating the 2017 riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. The man is in an objectively bad place.

However, he’s responsible for putting himself in that place. He’s not a victim. These are the consequences of being such a racist bigot. Dick probably didn’t think they would be this severe, but that doesn’t make him any less responsible.

Believe me when I say I’d rather not know anything about this person, his politics, or his egregious behavior in the past. I doubt I’m alone in wishing that Dick never became a relevant figure in any capacity. Unfortunately, he was and still is to some extent. We are aware of him, his past actions, and his current situation.

That still leaves us with one relevant question

How bad should we feel for this guy?

It’s relevant because this guy has no power, money, or influence. He’s not some politician or rich celebrity who can twist the narrative to his liking. He’s just a guy with some very deplorable political beliefs who may very well be broke, homeless, or in prison at some point within the next few years.

I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve those consequences. I think he deserves most of them. However, he’s still a human being. The hate and bigotry he spouted is no restricted to him. There are others who share Dick’s beliefs and who will not face the same consequences. Does he still deserve any sympathy or compassion, however small it might be?

I’m honestly torn here. In the Vanity Fair article, he claims he’s just a guy and he’s not the same racist firebrand he was several years ago. However, at no point does he come out and apologize for anything he’s done, nor does he concede that he was wrong to espouse such hateful rhetoric.

Near as anyone can tell, he hasn’t changed his mind on anything. He’s still a racist bigot and no amount of public shaming will change that. For that reason, I just can’t feel bad for him in the slightest.

If he actually tried to apologize, I might feel differently. If he came out and apologized tomorrow, while also committing to atone for his past behavior, I might even give him a chance. Right now, I just can’t muster any ounce of compassion for him.

A part of me worries that the utter lack of compassion he gets could only make him more hateful. Another part of me worries that any compassion whatsoever would only keep him from facing the consequences that he has brought upon himself.

I’m honestly torn. I don’t know how to feel about a guy like Dick. I guess time will tell.

In the meantime, I open this question up to everyone else. If you have any feelings or sentiments that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

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A Question (And A Challenge) For Those Who Once Opposed Same-Sex Marriage (But No Longer Do)

Fighting for the right to recognize same-sex marriage in Japan | The Japan  Times

People change.

Societies change.

General attitudes towards certain subjects, ideas, or behaviors change.

None of that should be news to anyone. Change is the only true constant in this crazy, complicated world. I’ve certainly seen plenty over the course of my life. It really wasn’t that long ago that the idea of marijuana being legalized in one state, let alone a dozen, seemed unthinkable.

It also wasn’t that long ago that the idea of same-sex marriage being legalized nationwide seemed equally unthinkable. In terms of major social and/or political issues, that issue resonates with me because it became a hot button topic while I was a teenager. In essence, it grew as I grew.

I still remember all the headlines from 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. I also remembered all the heated discussions that came from it. I even participated in a few. I felt like I understood the arguments made by the proponents. I had little issue seeing the logic behind their points.

Two individuals love each other and want to get married.

The state currently prevents them from doing so, thereby denying them the many benefits associated with marriage.

That denial is simply not reasonable in a free society that permits people to marry whomever they choose.

However, it was the arguments made by the opponents that I often struggled to understand. Honestly, their arguments from tradition, morality, or the idea of “defending marriage” just didn’t make sense to me. Even as I got older and saw arguments against it from major pundits and thinkers, often from those who identified as conservative, I still didn’t get it.

How does two gay people getting married affect anyone?

How does it tangibly and measurably undermine marriage between heterosexual couples?

I never got a straight answer. Most of the time, I just got hit with a bunch of bible verses from the Old Testament or some variation of “marriage has always been this way.” I never found any of those arguments convincing.

Fast forward two decades and suddenly, the lack of substance in those arguments really show. More and more, people are started to realize that too, including those who identify as conservative and likely opposed same-sex marriage at one point.

Just recently, Gallup released a poll indicating that support of same-sex marriage was at a record high. On top of that, even those who vote republican and identify as conservative have since come to support it. It’s still not quite on the same level as that of liberal democrats, but it’s still a majority and that’s a big deal.

Gallup: Record-High 70% in U.S. Support Same-Sex Marriage

U.S. support for legal same-sex marriage continues to trend upward, now at 70% — a new high in Gallup’s trend since 1996. This latest figure marks an increase of 10 percentage points since 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all states must recognize same-sex marriages.

Republicans, who have consistently been the party group least in favor of same-sex marriage, show majority support in 2021 for the first time (55%). The latest increase in support among all Americans is driven largely by changes in Republicans’ views.

Now, I welcome this news. I think it’s an objectively good thing that more and more people support same-sex marriage. The opposition to it never came off as anything more than varying degrees of bigotry.

I also think homosexuality and LGBTQ issues have gotten to a point where they’re no longer so unfamiliar or radical. We see them on TV, in movies, and in major positions of power. At the same time, the brand of reactionary religious zealotry that condemns homosexuality has fallen out of favor.

Again, this is good news. Accepting same-sex marriage and affording same-sex couples the same rights and protections isn’t just fair and just. It’s the right thing to do. Even if you despise homosexuality, you can’t justify having your personal preferences imposed and enforced by law. That’s just un-American.

Beyond that news, though, I have a question and a challenge for those who once opposed same-sex marriage, but no longer do. I’ll even extend it to those who still oppose same-sex marriage. Now that same-sex marriage has been legal for over five years, I think this question is worth asking.

How much or how little has your life changed since same-sex marriage was legalized?

It’s an honest, sincere question. I’d really like to know. There was a lot of fearmongering on the part of opponents to same-sex marriage. I won’t get into the specifics, but there were real concerns by opponents that legalizing same-sex marriage would have dire consequences.

Have any of those consequences even played out? If so, what data indicates as such?

Again, that’s an honest inquiry. I’d really like to know.

In addition, I also have a challenge to those who once opposed same-sex marriage. It’s a bit broader in scope, but is just as relevant.

What other issues besides same-sex marriage have you come around on?

Like I said earlier, change is the only true constant. What’s considered normal and acceptable today might be considered atrocious tomorrow. The same goes for what we consider immoral or deviant. A couple decades ago, it was same-sex marriage. A century ago, things like divorce and interracial marriage were just as taboo.

It’s hard to understand the attitudes of generations that have long since passed on. However, the vast shift in attitudes do offer some perspective. I believe they challenge us all to contemplate our current attitudes and how differently they’ll be seen in future generations.

We can’t know for sure which position will change drastically between now and twenty years into the future. We should still make a concerted effort in refining our perspective. Same-sex marriage showed just how much attitudes towards one single issue can change within a couple decades. Which issue will undergo a similar change two decades from now? Only time will tell.

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