5 American 6 Canadian

speechless

For those who doubt that a political or philosophical screed can be successfully communicated through the milieu of Fifteen, stick around for this one.

Those who have been reading my blog for longer than it’s been a celebration of an obscure teen soap opera know that I have a tendency to deal in the abstract.  I feel most comfortable expressing my thoughts with philosophical and metaphysical language and often reach a point where all pragmatism disappears in a vast cloud of ontology that borders on the mystical.

The Buddhists have an answer to the seeming dichotomy between down-to-earth logic and non-conceptual meditative states of mind, albeit an imperfect one due to the constrictions of language.  The Sutras often speak of two realities, carefully reminding us of the symbolism inherent in this artificial division of the inherently indivisible.  They speak of “relative reality” and “ultimate reality”, conjuring an imaginary line of demarcation between the grossly physical and the subtly spiritual.

Therefore, when I opine that ego-driven individuals are willfully incapable of recognizing the unbreakable unity of all beings, things and events, I am simply indulging in an interesting but impractical intellectual exercise informed by my own personal spiritual and philosophical ideals.  It would be impossible for me to extricate my own ego from the equation when I am in the process of trying to persuade others to view things in the way that I find most “sensible”.  This ensures that the end result of such essays is invariably a useless manifesto attempting to express the “ultimate” through the purview of my own ego (the “relative”).  This all gets very convoluted and I know there are quite a few of you oot there who realize that when I attempt to “say something”, I usually end up saying nothing at all, hoping that the employment of erudite linguistics will blind readers to its lack of practical meaning.

Therefore, this post, if I may once again appropriate a tenet of Eastern wisdom, will remain firmly in the realm of relative speech.  To that aim, let’s dispense of a few lofty bits of nonsense that we as Americans still love to throw around as if they’re unquestionable truths.  There is no such fucking thing as “the soul of America” (or any other arbitrarily defined sovereign nation) or “the fabric of America” or even “the people of America” when used to imply a social, cultural or spiritual homogeneity.  To say that “Americans are good/resourceful/courageous people” is just as devoid of a foundation as to say that “Americans are bad/lazy/cowardly people”.  Americans, like any other group numbering in the millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions, have just one verifiable common bond, which is that of species.  Of course, that renders the notion of national origin utterly meaningless since it puts everyone on Earth in the same generalized boat, but this is the reality, even if it offends your ego-driven, fear-based embrace of patriotism.  Biology is our only common bond.

When I derive a sense of meaning from reminding readers of our intrinsic lack thereof, I may be giving an honest assessment of my cosmological view but I am also neglecting to admit my own emotional investment in that meaningless existence.  In other words, despite my best efforts to present myself otherwise, I still get pissed off, depressed, frightened and insecure.  I would guess that I now suffer from such “negative” states of mind far less frequently than the average person due to my habit of analyzing myself into non-existence each and every time my ego wants to loudly assert itself, but intellect is an ultimately impotent tool in the nurturing of spirituality or even genuine stoicism, for that matter.  In other words, I still feel shit, whether I like it or not.

And so do the students of Hillside High, of course.  They feel shit so strongly that even pleasure seems like pain to these little melodramatists.  Most of them embody age-old stereotypes and that’s where they become very useful examples for this post.  Although the actors (and characters) themselves are Canadian, to my mind, some of those stereotypes better exemplify American caricatures while others are more suited to north-of-the-border conventions.  Again, there is no actual commonality besides biology and imagined citizenry between the constituents of a country.  But there are sweeping impressions that become an invented “national character” and in this case, it is the Ugly American versus the Friendly Canadian.

First, the Canadians:

Janice, Olaf, Arseman, Jake and Dave.  The common characteristics of these five fictional Vancouverites are harmlessness and a sort of charming naivete.

Now the Americans:

Brooke, Amanda, Courtney, Matt, Chris and Ashley.

Possessed by one or all of these characters are the following traits that most non-Americans understandably attribute to the country’s populace at large: self-absorption, pettiness, insecurity, strength through cruelty, dishonesty, drunkenness, lack of subtlety, theatrical melodrama, manipulation, judgment and discrimination.

Now let’s see how applicable the aforementioned and unevenly distributed adjectives apply to each country’s primary representative on the world stage:

Canada:  Justin Trudeau

USA:  Donald J. Trump

Even though I already acknowledged the lack of homogeneity in any nation’s citizenry, these are still eerily accurate parallels of the way most of us feel in our gut aboot those who live just one thin invisible border away from us.  Since I am not Canadian and have thus never had the experience of living among those who are, I can only level honest gut-felt criticism at those who live within the same borders as I.  So this goes oot to those Americans whose values, beliefs and viewpoints are so diametrically opposed to my own that I find it increasingly difficult to even recognize our biological bond.

If you still support the illiterate dictator squatting in the Oval Office, YOU ARE A RACIST.

This is not open to debate.  Let’s check in with Merriam-Webster, shall we?

Racist (noun) a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.  Synonyms: bigot, racialist, chauvinist, xenophobe

If you react to the above statement with offense and begin to list off black/Hispanic/gay/Muslim friends you’ve had over the years, you are simply bringing your racism into sharper focus.

If you really don’t indulge in conscious racial or ethnic animus but intend to vote for Orangina because your 401K has done well under his watch, you are worse than a racist.  You’re a racist enabler who should know better, but value your own comfort over the civil rights of others.  This is simple cowardice.

I’ve written before aboot the neuroscientific fact that larger amygdalas generally inform conservative sociopolitical views.  A more accessible term for that walnut-sized primitive area of the brain is the “fear center”.  In other words, in order to harbor racist, misogynist or discriminatory ideals above and beyond subtle areas of genuine ignorance, one must be afraid, even cowardly.

Which brings me to my second and final point:

If you still support the illiterate dictator squatting in the Oval Office, YOU ARE A COWARD.

I do not believe that my or anyone else’s words can have any significant effect on an arc of human history that is currently driven by nearly 8 billion people.  I do not have hope for the future, nor do I fear it, because either mindset requires an erroneous sense of simple linear cause and effect, though in reality, it is far more complicated and multifaceted than anyone can imagine.  That’s ultimate reality.

I do believe that nearly half the population of the United States consists of racists and cowards.  That’s relative reality, though it is just as impervious to debate as the ultimate and if you disagree with that assessment, go back to the top of the post and read it again, then consult Google for a compendium of your Fuhrer’s most shameless and baseless Twitter rants.

When you find yourself behind that voting booth curtain in 2020, sincerely ask yourself: am I Brooke or am I Janice?  The honest answer may surprise you.  Whether we come oot of that election looking more like a nation or Brookes or of Janices, I won’t be surprised by the results.  Though we may seem to much of the world like a collective of angry buffoons at the moment, the most imaginary thing of all is some set-in-stone essence of character in any given individual.  Here’s hoping more of us find the courage to embrace our inner Janices or Olafs before casting those votes.

Janice: A Psychological Profile

janice lurk

We haven’t even reached the apex of Janice’s Season 2 story arc that will culminate in the most over-the-top meltdown ever televised, but I’m guessing that this character has already managed to pull at the heartstrings of the handful of stalwart readers of Notes From The Avalon oot there.  Assuming this to be so, the reason that Hillside’s hopeless ootcast elicits our empathy is simple: to varying degrees, all of us have felt her desperate sense of isolation from our peers (or even our species) at one time or another.

A real-life incarnation of a similarly unpopular teen would therefore evoke natural feelings of empathy, but this doesn’t mean that she would deserve an ounce of our sympathy.  Feeling sympathetic to someone’s plight, regardless of its degree or nature, implies an acceptance of that individual as a victim of circumstance, of causes and conditions beyond her control.  This viewpoint is indicative of humanity’s ultimate folly: the failure to recognize the holistic nature of all phenomena, including (especially) ourselves.

When Sigmund Freud posited the Ego and the Id as the polar drivers of our individual personalities, Western culture, as usual, couldn’t follow his necessarily abstract psychological theories withoot solidifying them into something concrete.  Taken together, popular Western interpretations of Freud’s described tension between man’s levels of consciousness wind up sounding an awful lot like the Christian notion of the soul, an “eternal essence” unique to the individual struggling against the temptations of nature in all its amorality.  Usually, when I point oot the arrogance inherent in such a self-absorbed viewpoint, I am met with a mere shrug of the shoulders, the verbal translation of which would be along the lines of “who cares, Asshole?”  In other words, we’re cool with our conceit insofar as it mirrors that of our most arrogant creation of all: God The Father (in whose image we’re made, according to scripture).  Our popular ideas of god are the natural extension of our ignorant ideas aboot ourselves that grew oot of our necessarily limited perception and refusal to investigate anything more subtle that may be underlying our surface perceptions.

Janice willfully embraces her role as a victim in the hopes that it will conversely draw people to her compassionate defense.  In the last episode, Arseman tried to boost Janice’s self-esteem with some kind and pragmatic words, but this backfired because Janice was too deeply submerged in delusional feelings of helplessness to recognize a simple act of humanity.   Whenever we throw up our hands in defeat and declare, “I’m hopeless!”, we are similarly ignoring that quiet wisdom which knows that we are something special precisely and only because in isolation, we are nothing at all.

All human suffering is the result of this gross misapprehension of ourselves and our universe.  In fact, the entire problem was laid oot in a fragment of the previous sentence: “ourselves and our universe”.  This unfortunately inescapable twist of language has taken on a life of its own well beyond mere linguistics.  In order to make ourselves understandable, we must refer to apparently separate things as “this and that”, “him and her”, “us and them”, “god and nature”, “god and man”, etc.  Precious few of us have done anything to cultivate a meditative mindset, therefore, we take our words as true representations of the phenomena being described, and this is where all the trouble begins.  The tension between man and nature has no basis apart from our own misinterpretation of ourselves as something apart from nature, even in conflict with it.

Quite literally, you cannot be apart from nature because you are a microcosm of nature itself.  By extension, you cannot be apart from any segment of humanity no matter how odious or confusing you may find them by your moral and cultural standards.  We hate some people and love others because we fail to recognize every single consciousness as a manifestation of the same potential emptiness from which all phenomena spring.  When we delineate our tribe at the exclusion of even a single life form, we are attempting to extricate ourselves from those aspects of reality that frighten or disgust us, never understanding that we can only be afraid or disgusted by things which we have directly experienced and we are thus judging ourselves by casting others oot of our sphere of influence and empathy.

Regardless, if you go to your grave grasping at this illusorily competitive and judgmental view of reality, nothing tragic will have occurred.  Billions have already expired in the midst of such wholesale delusion and most people will continue to do so, honestly expecting an indefinite extension of individual experience in some heavenly paradise.  So it goes.  But if you, like Janice, suffer immensely from the incompatibility of such a philosophy with the reality of mundane experience, you’d do well to take a penetrating look into yourself.  Go deep, right down to the cellular level, and what you’ll find is the Universe in all of its impartial glory, swirling, changing, expanding and contracting in the perpetual dance of creation and destruction, birth and death.  One cannot exist withoot the other.  Those who love life would do well to embrace death, lest they fall victim to the inevitable disappointments of their own arrogant eternalism.

So keep your chin up, Janice.  Not only are you just as worthy of respect as Brooke, Dylan and the rest of the Hillside A-listers, you are, quite literally, each and every one of them.  Except for Deadpool, of course.  There’s only one fucking Deadpool.