Archives for category: Opinion

Recently in class we read a lecture by Michel Foucault, “Society Must be Defended,” that really got me thinking.

In this essay he talked about the transition between two modes of thinking: man-as-individual, to man-as-species. Before, when we had monarchy and sovereign rulers, an individual’s actions were defining. They determined, at least to an extent, life or death. If a man stole, his right hand would be lopped off. If he insulted the King, his tongue would be cut out. For even more ‘sinful’ acts, he’d be killed. Man-as-species, however, is a shift from individuation to, if you will, ‘massivism.’

I would argue that this shift of the deindividuation of the human is an era we still live in. Today man is one in a society; a nation; a population. We are all ones in 7 billion, and our governments treat us as such.

Our problems only become their problems if they are generalized: when they become the problems of the general public. The problem of one is trivial. It’s meaningless. One in the whole is nothing.

Foucault goes on to describe the term biopolitics, which is when biological processes, such as mortality rates, birth rates, illnesses etc., become political issues. An example he uses is endemics. They cause mass spikes in mortality rates, which are expensive to manage and decrease the productivity of a population. As such, there comes the “solution;” the implementation of public hygiene. It is not out of altruism, where the government personally cares for each individual’s health. Instead it’s a result of the economic consequences of that endemic. It’s a general problem, so they fix it.

What’s more is that governments use biopolitical statistics to influence our behaviour. Yes, it’s true. And no they are not manipulating our every decision. But they are feeding us grandiosely large statistics like mortality rates so that we invest in health care. They paint university degrees as tickets for high paying jobs, success, and happiness. They emphasize stats about the likelihood of accidents so that we invest in car insurance. Would so many of us pay thousands of dollars worth of insurance each year if we didn’t hear about how likely it was to get in a car accident? I’d say not.

That is the power of biopolitics.

So, what’s my point? Are we all just doing what we’re told to, in a society where our contribution to it is manipulated from us? And the summation of each citizen’s contributions creates a stable economy so that our government can function? Is our sole purpose, in their eyes, to be tax paying citizens? Foucault would say yes. Most anti-institutionalists, and countless others, would agree. And, contrarily, lots would disagree.

I would say that right now, yeah that’s probably the case. But there’s good news. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There’s a social shift occurring. It’s becoming more evident as Generation Y graduates from college and doesn’t immediately integrate into the corporate world. We’re refusing more and more to become cogs in the machine. We’re traveling more. We’re creating new innovative jobs that we’ve never seen before. Industry as a career is fading into the generation behind us. Sustainability is a Major at University.

These are all examples of this social revolution.

Between the three children in my family, born to a businessman and a lawyer, we have three picturesque examples of Generation Y. A Canadian Athlete, who is choosing to set his sights on making a career out of sailing (check out his website here http://matthewrydersailing.com). A video game design major, who is as passionate about video games the way most people are passionate about chocolate or coffee. And a creative writing major, who is going to join the career path of the thousands of “starving writers.” None of us chose traditional careers. Each of us pursued what we were most passionate about despite the challenges we will undoubtedly face because of it.

But why should we have done any differently?

To say we know what we’re doing is a laughable misconception. We haven’t figured out how this new social attitude will fit into the world over the next fifty or so years. We’re transitioning away from what we know. We’re focusing more on what we care about. And we care less about money. We really do.

Generation Y would rather live frugally than work a 9-5 cubical job. It’s just what we want out of life. We’re focusing less on society as a whole; we’re ascribing less importance on our industrial or economical contribution. We care as much about our community as the youth always have, but we’re valuing less the monetary aspects of it.

To be clear, we’re not shifting backwards to focus on the individual again. We’re evolving into placing importance somewhere entirely new. Passion and experience. Humanity has now gone from emphasizing the individual, to focusing on us as a species, to caring about our relationship with the world, and its relationship to us. We want to get more out of life than financial stability. We want to travel because it’s interesting. We want to work towards something amazing because we’re passionate about it.

This social revolution is a shift beyond biopolitics. It’s a movement away from the institution as sovereign. It’s an evolution away being a cog in the outdated machine. We are our own machines. And our cogs are what we choose to invest our time in, not our money.

I’m not going to pretend we understand it all. I’m not to say we’re going to get it right. But we’re going to do what we love, and try to make that work.

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Every time we struggle through something difficult we change a little; an alteration here, an adjustment there. It’s a process that gives us substance and texture. We learn from our mistakes, and we grow and change. That being said, if someone has never made a mistake then they have never grown. Therefore they must be a rather boring individual.

This is why I don’t find the people with a whole lot of static personal issues and self-doubt very interesting. They’re stuck in limbo; cast there by their own problems and unable to figure their way out of it. Sometimes staying stuck there is self-destruction. These are the people that play the victim. Regardless of ones own responsibilities or personal mistakes, problems are always someone else’s fault. Surely of course, they are merely the victim in this situation.

In truth, I find that the people who are most comfortably situated in life behave oppositely to this. They are the ones who have figured out how to deal with their issues in life in their own way.They accept their mistakes and their responsibilities, and they do something about them. Not to say that they’ve gotten over their problems or that they don’t have any. But instead that they’ve moved past them, or learned how to live with and through their issues.

Everyone has problems, but not everyone can deal with theirs. The people who do, (and I think of this more as a procress and not an achievement) are the people who are the most interesting. It’s because they’ve innovated themselves more. They’ve learned how not to be the victim of the negative, but rather an active individual in the positive, despite the negative. As a result, they’re the most changed individual and not the most ragged.

These are the people that I strive to meet. I cherish their experiences as I come to find out how they figured growth out: because that process is different for everyone. And we can learn from people who’ve done it. Even though in the end we might, and probably will, do it entirely differently.

That is to say, emotions may be universal but dealing with them isn’t. And figuring out how to deal is essential.

I read a definition once of the term ‘total freedom.’ I’m not one for having sayings on my wall, or living with specific static phrases in mind. I love quotes and I love words (a lot) which may seem quite obvious. But I like the ones that inhabit my mental spaces to constantly be evolving. I like progression from one maxim to the next. I value the words I’ve loved in the past, but I’m always looking for new ones to furnish the insides of my mind. They need to represent the changes I’ve made within myself.

Having said that, there is a definition that has stuck with me for a very long time in my short life. It goes as follows: total freedom is a state in which awareness exists, free from the impositions of socializations and syntax.

It’s defining the concept of absolute, total, freedom. And it’s a beautiful concept if you think about it. Beautiful in it’s simplicity. An absolute freedom from Everything. Period.

This extends to the restrictions and complexity of society and life; even life in its simplest definition. There would be no social expectations, no pressure or stress for productivity from yourself, or from the judgments of others. Nothing needed from you.

Nothing needed from you. There would be no restrictions, but maybe no incentive either. It’s a state of impossibility, and it perhaps begets difficulties in what that state would then look like, and what one would do within it. Maybe people would simply do nothing. If you don’t have to work for something, i.e., freedom, would you? And I mean freedom in any sense, freedom of financial flexibility, or through achieving opportunities whether that be through applications, hard work, or by any sort. I guess barriers push against people so that people can push against them. Maybe barriers are the key to progress.

But maybe people would feel that they could achieve more without socialization, expectation, and societal syntax (in that society outlines a specific set of rules and guidelines that we use to arrange ourselves and our lives within the greater picture of community). Maybe a state of inhibition would enable so many of us to accomplish more, create more, and be more than what we let ourselves be, or are repressed into being, within those implications. Imagine the possibilities of total freedom.

Regardless of which it would mean, and what that would mean, the magnitude of a state of total freedom would be infinite. And that is a beautiful concept.

If life is a journey and the statement, “ten years down the road” is true, then what would you like to see in your rear view mirror?

Modern terms like “YOLO” and #noregrets have attempted to encapsulate this feeling that every one of us tends to have at some point or another but in a rather shallow and misused way. What do you actually want to do in your life to make it worth it in the end?

Another longer lasting theme is immortality: that timeless search for it that is so often seen in mythology. It’s what makes fame so enticing to so many: feeling like you mean something to the entirety of the world. The successes in this are people like Julius Caesar and Shakespeare. They have the immortal names: although they can’t live forever, their legacies won’t be forgotten by the human race.

And then there’s us. One in 9 billion. I think it’s been touched upon enough in other places to avoid delving into saying too much about how fame is overrated and not as fulfilling as most initially expect. And there are ways in which we touch the people around us day to day that are so much richer than being the headline of a tabloid could ever be.

We have an innate want or need to be felt by other human beings. It’s magnified by our insecurities but it is also entirely natural. We want to feel noticed by those around us, or justified by their good opinions of us. How many people can say with absolute honesty that they don’t care what a single other human being thinks about them? I know I am definitely not one of those desperately few and inhuman people. I care about the views of my friends, my family, and the people that I know, trust, love, and value in their persons and in their opinions. I value their esteem because I value their opinions. It means so much more to have their support when I know it’s based on good reasoning. It is this inner natural quality that makes us want to be remembered. We’re afraid of being inconsequential.

Being a part of that statistic 1:9 000,000,000,000, which we all are, can be daunting. Just look at all those zeroes. All those zeroes and one nine. Well, I don’t know about you but I want to be the nine.

I want my back mirror to be filled with nines. Bursting with colourful nines from all over the place. I want to look back and think wasn’t that a life to live.

Now the question is how we get all those nines. What are my nines? 

Happiness is the easy answer. But what goes into making happiness? I want to furnish the insides of my brain with knowledge and experiences that help fill my head with relevant and interesting questions. I want to surround myself with people that challenge my thoughts and my way of thinking so that I’m constantly refurbishing into new and better ideas. I want to see sunrises and sunsets, stories filled with laughter and songs and smiles: smiles that I helped create, laughter that I helped sing. I want to travel to places I’ve never been, and revisit some I have. I want to fulfill my hopes and dreams: I want to publish a book.

I want to a see a life. One that was fun to live.

I’m not so interested in making my mark on the world. Because sooner or later there won’t be the world I know to leave a mark on. I’d rather live my life for me, something that lasts as long as I need it to. I’d rather make it the best life I can live, and leave it with a fulfillment.

But to do that, I’ve got to go do all those wonderful things I’ve set my sights on. And I’m luckier than some that I have my health and my youth to help me do just that.

I need to stop saying “after school,” or “next year,” or “when I have the time and the money.” I need to start realizing that I can’t make excuses forever. I need to start saving for my nines, putting time away for them, realizing that next year means now.

So I ask you: what do you want to see in your rearview mirror? And when are you going to start collecting your nines?

 

Why do people feel that they need to be represented by a specific type of advocate that is exactly the same minority as themselves? Isn’t the point to blur those lines so that they stop becoming important?

Correct me if I’m being ignorant or offensive. But seriously. This is getting ridiculous.

I love being able to connect to my idols. But why does that need to be aesthetically or racially? Why can’t that connection just be based on shared ideals, values, or because of whatever other reason they happen to be my idol for? Sure it’s important for women to be in parliament as they want to be, and as they earn it, regardless of gender. And it’s important for minorities to be represented and spoken for. It’s 2014 in Canada and our government and our people (at least hopefully) believe in equality for all. But a prerequisite for representing a minority, or a majority, is not actually being in it. In fact, people should be encouraged to speak for factions outside of their own. Right?

By disagreeing with that is equivalent to saying, if you are not in my minority, you cannot understand me or other people in it. You can’t represent me, or grasp why I deserve the same rights as you. Therefore I will only let this person, who is perhaps less qualified than you, speak for me and for everyone else like me.

The point of encouraging equality is to eliminate barriers created by differences. That means it has to go both ways. Just because someone happens to be a blonde haired blue-eyed white girl doesn’t mean she can’t understand discrimination. It doesn’t mean she can’t stand up for other people’s rights.

Representation of all people and all definite groups is merited only in that they are a part of the population. No other prerequisite is required. We don’t run on a system where the majority is the rule. Read John Mill’s On Liberty. He celebrates the individual’s opinion above all others. He believes that the divergent view is the most important aspect in any group or society.

So yes. I’m all for diversity and the representation of minority because everyone deserves equality. However. When people start talking about how they especially love this feminist or that rights activist purely because they happen to have the same background as themselves, I get itchy. That should be a bonus, not a prerequisite.

 

Am I missing the point?