Tag Archives: fake news

Reasons Vs. Excuses: Why The Difference Matters

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Has anyone ever asked you to do something you really don’t want to do? Actually, let me rephrase that. How many times does someone ask you to do something you don’t want to do in the past 24 hours? Let’s face it. Unless you’re a king, a dictator, or Taylor Swift, it’s happened at least once.

Whatever was asked of you, how did you try to get out of it? I know some people will just grit their teeth and do it. Those people deserve ten times the respect they get. Every now and then, if not most of the time, we try to do something to get out of doing what we don’t want to do. Whether you’re in New York City or the Gobi desert, you can’t escape these situations. They’re just part of life.

Whenever we’re in these situations, we usually try any number of things to get out of it. Whether it’s chores, homework, or ballet recitals, we all have our own set of tactics. Some are more elaborate than others.

I knew a kid in school who could throw up on demand. He didn’t even have to put his finger in his mouth. He could just concentrate, cough, and then spew the kind of chunky bile that would dissuade any teacher from giving him an exam. I lost count of how many times that skill got him out of trouble.

Most of us don’t have that talent though. We all still look for ways to get out of things we don’t want to do. I sure have. I don’t deny that. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing either. It’s a good skill to have, knowing how to avoid situations that make you miserable. However, it does reveal an important concept that I find myself noticing more and more as I get older, although sometimes I wish I didn’t.

It has to do with two simple words: reasons and excuses. They both have similar definitions. Most of the time, outside of a scientific context, we use these words interchangeably. For the most part, we understand the meaning behind them.

However, for the purpose of this discussion, as well as future discussions since this is a big topic, I’d like to focus on a particular context. Specifically, I’d like to focus on the situations and justifications we individually use to do or avoid doing something. Make no mistake. There is a difference between a reason and an excuse.

A reason is logical, narrow, and concise. It can be understood by anyone with a functioning brain and verified with simple tools. That’s not to say a reason has to be cold and callous like a Vulcan. It just has to be valid and clear.

I’ll offer a simple example. Growing up, there were a certain set of chores for which me and my siblings were responsible. If we didn’t do these chores, we didn’t get an allowance. It was that simple. The one chore I did most often was mowing the lawn. I didn’t enjoy doing it, but I still did it.

Then, one day, I got sick. I’m not talking about a headache either. I mean I got really sick, so much so that I ran a 102-degree fever. I know because my mother took my temperature twice. I was then bed-ridden for the next two days. Somebody else mowed the lawn, but I still got my allowance because I had a valid reason. My parents understood that. I understood that. There was no need for debate.

Using this same example in lawn care, I’ll highlight why an excuse is so different. If I wanted to use an excuse to get out of mowing the lawn, I sure as hell wouldn’t have chosen something that could be verified. Sure, I could’ve claimed to be sick, but that would’ve been pushing it because they could check. They could take your temperature and see if you’re running a fever.

On top of that, your parents may be really good at knowing when you’re lying. Mine certainly were. It might as well have been their mutant power. They knew when I was lying and if I ever tried, I’d just make an ass of myself.

Plus, lying to your parents isn’t just a dick move. It’s a bad long-term investment. If you lose your parents trust, especially over something as trivial as mowing the lawn, then you’ll give them way too many valid reasons not to trust you in the future, even when you have a good reason of your own.

So in order to make a more valid excuse, you need to come up with something more believable. It doesn’t have to be a lie. It doesn’t have to be completely true either. You could claim you’re depressed that your lover broke up with you. You could say there’s a movie you’d rather watch instead. You could say you just don’t feel like it. These aren’t lies. However, they are still excuses.

The primary trait of an excuse is that it doesn’t physically prevent you from doing whatever is asked of you. It defends and/or justifies your particular decisions, preferences, and what not. Being on vacation in Fiji ensures I can’t physically mow the lawn. That’s a reason. Being in a lousy mood and just wanting to sleep in does nothing to prevent me from operating the lawnmower. That’s an excuse.

With that in mind, let’s take the concept of reasons and excuses to a larger stage. Let’s assess how this applies to the overall process we use in rendering the various decisions and actions of our lives. What we do and why we do it is at the core of what it means to be a conscious human being.

For practical purposes, we like to think that we’re reasonable people. We like to think that we have valid reasons for what we do and why we do it. We break up with a lover because they’re not right for us. We buy organic food because it’s better for our health. We smoke pot because it makes us more fun to be around. Some of that may be true, but we still think of them as reasons and not excuses.

The problem with this is basically everything about it. Once again, caveman logic enters the picture and spits all over that rosy picture we have of ourselves and others. Based on our growing understanding of cognitive science and neurobiology, we have a better idea of how we make decisions and how we justify them.

When it comes to reasons and excuses, the two main factors are choice-supportive bias and cognitive dissonance. I know those sound like terms that Sheldon Cooper would use in a skit on “The Big Bang Theory” that somehow makes him sound like more of an asshole, but unlike 98 percent of what Sheldon says, these concepts are useful.

Choice-supportive bias is our tendency to ascribe positive attributes to the choices we make. It’s also a byproduct of cognitive dissonance, which is just a fancy way of saying our brain feels stressful and uncertain.

In essence, our brain is wired to avoid wrong decisions and for good reasons. Back in the caveman days, if we made a wrong decision, it usually meant we ended up as dinner for a hungry grizzly bear or ate poison berries that made us shit out our lower intestines. We’re alive because of this wiring so let’s not discount its use.

Unfortunately, nature is still a blunt instrument and our brains don’t know we only encounter bears in zoos that charge ten bucks for a soda. That aversion to making wrong decisions is still there, even when we decide something as simple as which breakfast cereal to buy.

With that in mind, we’ll do anything and everything to avoid wrong decisions and the brain stress they cause. Unfortunately, that often means making excuses to reduce the stress and justify our choice, even if it ends up being wrong.

If that weren’t bad enough, our brains don’t run our decisions through a logic filters first. Don’t worry though. That filter is still there in our brains. It’s just not at the front of the line like we all wish it were. If it were, then half the videos on YouTube wouldn’t exist.

Instead, according to current neuroscience, we make most of our decisions on snap judgments and emotions. Then, we’ll use reasons and excuses to justify those decisions after the fact. Unfortunately, since reasons are so rigid and stubborn, we’re more inclined to make excuses. Even if those excuses are mostly true, they’re still excuses.

There are so many other dynamics behind reasons and excuses. There’s no way I’ll be able to cover even half of them in a single blog post. However, there is a reason why I’m discussing this topic and it’s a good reason. It’s applies to both my novels, as well as other topics with very sexy implications.

That reason will become clearer in later posts. For now, consider this a trailer of sorts, minus the cheesy one-liners and explosions. If possible, take a moment to analyze how many excuses you make for your decisions compared to reasons. You may be shocked/appalled/disgusted by what you uncover. I promise you, though, it gets much crazier.

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Truth, Lies, And Why “Daria” Is More Relevant Now Than Ever Before

For the past couple of days, I’ve been talking about the best and worst when it comes to fictional female characters. Since I deal in fictional characters as an aspiring writer, it’s a relevant topic of discussion. I want to create great female characters for my novels. I think I’ve made some strides with novels like “The Final Communion” and “Holiday Heat,” but I always feel there’s room for improvement.

That brings me back to Daria Morgendorffer from the classic MTV show, “Daria.” In both my lists discussing the best and worst female characters of fiction, “Daria” found a way to the top of the list. There’s a damn good reason for that too. Daria, as a character, represents something that is more relevant now than it ever was in the late 90s.

As I said in my past posts, Daria is one of those characters who was just ahead of their time, but not in a Nikola Tesla or Elon Musk sort of way. She came during an era when dial-up internet was still popular, boy bands were still relevant, and pagers were still in use. It was a strange and different time.

It was also a time when concepts like “alternative facts” and “fake news” were more associated with skits on “Saturday Night Live” than actual concepts that the general public has come to dread. In that sense, Daria is downright prophetic in the sense that she highlights a concept that become increasingly obscure over the past decade.

Throughout the five seasons of “Daria,” as well as two movie specials, one Daria’s most defining traits is her ability to point out the harsh truth that nobody wants to acknowledge. She doesn’t shy away from it. She doesn’t celebrate it either. She just points it out and lets the harsh truth do its thing.

For the overall narrative of this series, this is kind of necessary because Daria is often surrounded by those who constantly avoid the harder truths of life. Sometimes, as with air-headed dumb-asses like Kevin Thompson and Brittney Taylor, it’s out of ignorance. Other times, as with her sister Quinn and her eccentric teachers, it’s out of hopeless self-delusion.

Daria, being an outcast who isn’t afraid to think for herself, sees all of this from a distance and isn’t afraid to point it out. She doesn’t care that it alienates others. Even her sister, Quinn, refused to publicly acknowledge that they were even related until the final season.

Her parents constantly think something is wrong with her. Her teachers and peers constantly think she’s weird. Everyone thinks there’s something wrong with her. Daria even acknowledges that. However, as crass and callous as she may be, Daria may actually be the most sane person in her world.

This is best shown in Season 4, Episode 47 entitled, “Psycho Therapy.” In this episode, Daria’s family undergo a psych evaluation as part of a screening process for her mother’s promotion. It makes for some odd and entertaining escapades, but the most revealing moment comes when he doctors reach a remarkable, albeit unsurprising conclusion.

Daria, despite being so emotionally withdrawn and overtly sarcastic about everything around her, is by far the most well-adjusted person in her family. She understands and acknowledges all of her family’s quirks, but she doesn’t obsess over them or lament over them. She just accepts them and moves on with her life. I’m not a psychologist, but that’s way more healthy than we can expect of most teenagers these days.

In fact, Daria might as well be a unicorn dipped in gold with diamond-encrusted hoofs. She isn’t just accepting, understanding, and well-adjusted to her surroundings. She actively thinks for herself and no one else. She doesn’t shy away from the facts, nor does she avoid their implications. She is, by all accounts, the very antithesis of this current era of buzzwords, fake news, and alternative facts.

That’s what makes her so much more relevant now than she was back in the early 90s. She came at a time when people who said the cold, hard truth didn’t get it twisted through internet memes, social media feeds, and hashtags. Daria doesn’t do beat around the bush or try to twist the story. If something is true, honest, and blunt, then that’s the end of the conversation.

In an era where everyone, from our politicians to our gym teachers, has to have some kind of personality, Daria Morgendorffer is a breath of fresh air and from 1999 no less. What’s that say about our current state of affairs? I could spend the next 38 blog posts discussing it, but that wouldn’t be very sexy for a blog run by an aspiring erotica/romance writer.

I will say, though, that the attitude Daria embodies is something that’s a lot more critical now than it was in 1999. We live in an era where everyone seems intent on joining a trend, becoming part of a movement, or denigrating those who oppose your movement. Daria, being the consummate realist and independent thinker, would roll her eyes at both.

The idea of someone who just thinks for themselves shouldn’t be such a radical concept, especially when it was the core of a successful animated show that ran for five seasons on a network best known for documentaries about teenage mothers. However, that idea couldn’t be more important in 2017.

We current live in an unpleasant convergence, of sorts, where truth and brutal honesty are easily circumvented by fake news, alternative facts, and online trends. It’s too easy for someone to insulate themselves from the harsh realities of life. We all need a Daria Morgendorrfer in our lives to keep us anchored and too many don’t have one.

Being the optimist I am, I believe Daria’s words of wisdom will one day pierce the many veils of bullshit that permeate our culture at the moment. It may take a while. It may be painful, arduous, and distressing in the process. However, that’s exactly why it’s worth doing.

Thankfully, Daria herself gives us some memorable words of wisdom to make the process easier. In the spirit of celebrating everything Daria represents, here it is.

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