Let’s Come Together and Be Extreme Non-Extremists

Alright, so let’s get into this. It’s not going to be a sunshine-and-rainbows kind of topic, but if that’s all life was about then we’d have no problems to address.

We definitely have a lot of problems to address.

Al-Shabaab, a group linked to al-Qaeda, decided it’d be a cool idea to massacre 148 people at a university in Kenya. Why? It doesn’t matter, but apparently it has something to do with Kenya sending troops to battle extremists in Somalia. Christian students were separated from Muslims and the rest is… tragedy.

The human race has a cancer called extremism. You know, people with such strong beliefs that they’ll do just about anything in the name of them. Many people point at religion, but let’s be real here, extremism in any shape or form is ridiculous and I’m pretty sick of it. It’s easy to point a finger at religions, but any ideology can be taken too far.

Maybe I’m an optimist, but I firmly believe we can come to some common ground as long as there are enough reasonable people out there. The question is, do we have enough reasonable people who care enough to speak up against the unreasonable ones? I have no clue; optimism doesn’t always equate to certainty.

The thing about extremists is because they’re, you know, extreme, they have the drive to organize and effectively make non-extremists roll their collective eyes and say, “WTF are these crazy people doing?” But our head shaking and finger wagging from afar aren’t exactly effective tools, now are they? If they were we’d probably have less so-called “whack jobs” running around murdering people who simply live a life with which they don’t agree.

So where does this leave us? I don’t know, man. That’s a tough question and I don’t think I’m equipped to answer it alone. But I have ideas and I’m willing to cooperate with anyone who simply wants to live in a world without violence and inequality. Is that so much to ask? I’m not asking for a complete 180 in a day, but what’s it going to take here? We have super pro-Americans taking up arms to fight a war with the government and they’re not scared one bit. We have groups like ISIS straight up recruiting people worldwide for a cause not all Muslims are down with. We have power-hungry leaders willing constantly threatening wars that I guarantee most regular folks don’t care about. Do I need to go on?

I’m not saying we need to take action now, but I really want to have like-minded people come together with me on this. We’re the only ones who can put this whole thing back into balance. Well, maybe not the only ones, but we can sure as hell make an impact. Cancer doesn’t stay benign forever.

Peace out, party people.

Sigh… Gossip Is Annoying

I’ll make this post short and sweet. Apparently someone has taken it upon themselves to report to my family about my blog as if I’m anything important to speak about. Thank you if this is that interesting to you, but why do you care so much? In my personal life I really don’t involve myself in the lives of others much so it always confuses me when others do so, especially when they don’t know me.

Either way, I guess, right?

Anyway, to the person I don’t know, I will still say peace and love to you and yours. But maybe you can find something better to discuss than me. I’m not that interesting.

Dre (Slowly) Becomes a Vegan: Almond Milk FTW?

almond-milk-fridge

Oh snap, Dre’s becoming a vegan, y’all!

Yes, it’s true. I didn’t think I’d officially make the jump, but now that I actually have a reason to do it, I’m just to bite the bullet. The thing is there’s no way I’m quitting animal products cold turkey. Meat was easy, but a brother still loves his bougie cheese. So I’m going to wean myself off with a makeshift detox plan.

So I plan on slowly introducing veganism into my life by removing something from my diet every few weeks so I don’t miss everything at once. Otherwise, I’m going to slip faster than something that slips a lot. Here’s the order of things I’m cutting out:

  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Butter
  4. Honey
  5. Cheese =(

Yeah, I don’t really eat honey much, but I’m just trying to delay giving up cheese as long as possible.

I already gave up milk. Right now I’m using almond milk, which is decent enough, but that creaminess isn’t there. I can get used to that though. Still, I’m going to try other options. Soy milk is an obvious option, but I had a REALLY bad allergic reaction when I tried it years ago. I’m going to try an organic brand and hope my live to see the next day. My fiancé also tried oat milk, but she wasn’t too enthused about it. I may try it anyway to see if my palette says different.

For now, I’m rocking with Silk almond milk. If anyone else has suggestions for milk replacements, feel free to let me know! Once I’m comfortable with the transition I’ll move on to eggs, which, admittedly, will be just as easy to give up as honey. I prefer butter over things like vegan margarine, but like I said, cheese will be the toughest.

I mean… pizza, right?

And don’t give me that vegan cheese, nonsense. I already wrote about that one. Unless there’s an actual delicious option. Then I’m all in. In the meantime I’ll do my research and enjoy this grilled cheese sammich while I still can.

Peace out, party people.

Please Don’t Be Mad at Me, Canada

Happy Canadian with flags

Okay, okay, I had to write about this before I forget. Canada, please don’t be mad at me but I’m going to make fun of you just a little bit. Just a bit.

Like about [          this          ] much.

I still love you though, Canada.

So I dig watching Shark Tank. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a show where entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to investors. As anti-capitalism as I am, I find it to be an awesome show. It gives me a digestible understanding of how pitches work and sometimes I catch an innovative idea or two.

A friend of mine told me about a show called Dragon’s Den which is pretty similar. I looked it up and saw there were UK and Canadian versions. Well, I’m down with my people up north so I went with Dragon’s Den Canada.

dragons-den

Oh man, was I in for a treat.

The first entrepreneur pitched silicone molds for frozen foods or some such nonsense.

Silicone. Molds.

Surely this had to be a joke. No one would take this seriously on Shark Tank. To my amazement, these people were actually competing for this s**t like it was the new hotness. It was… adorable.

LOL.

No, seriously. It was cute. One of the “Dragons” asked how she planned on growing the business and she replied, “Burger molds.”

LOL.

AND IT CONVINCED HIM!

Okay, good for her I guess. Let me focus on something more troubling to me instead: Canada may or may not be stuck in time.

Or maybe time moves slower for them. I don’t know. I haven’t figured it all out yet.

Anyway, the production for the show was like something from the early 2000’s. It all felt very Hell’s Kitchen-ish.

Then there were the people. Again, adorable. But not really. They too seemed to be trapped in the early 2000’s. In America, at least, the early 2000’s was the era of dorks who thought they were cool. You know, the post-Matrix era of leather and sun glasses in night clubs.

GTY_nsync_jef_130821_16x9_992

ALL THE PEOPLE FELT THIS WAY.

One guy had a soul patch. Another guy had a back suit, with a black shirt, and a black tie. Yet another guy had orange-tinted eye glasses. I mean, I can’t be the only one who notices this.

And, of course, these people don’t represent all of Canada. But based on the number of times I laughed followed up by a Full House-style “Aw” every time someone new came out, your country is made up of about 75% dorks.

No, 80%.

I think it’s the same reason why no one really respects Drake. I mean, he’s talented and rich, but even I feel entitled to make fun of him. Although it may not be possible or probable, I feel like I could still out-cool Drake.

AihrR9yamAqw

LOL.

Don’t stop being you, Canada. I seriously find this endearing as hell. I’m an American; lord knows I’m in no way above being the butt end of any stupid/ignorant/bully/meathead/xenophobic joke, so don’t take me too seriously.

But still…

LOL.

How to Change the World for the Better: Demolishing Pseudo-Kingdoms

iron throne

I love Game of Thrones. If you don’t, I forgive you for your awful taste in television.

Actually, it’s not television. It’s HBO.

Ugh, I can’t believe I just did that.

Anyway, I couldn’t imagine living in the world of Game of Thrones. I mean, forget about the dragons and white walkers; people seem to be the biggest threat on that show. They wantonly kill in the pursuit of money and power.

Segue!

If you look at history with a set of objective eyes, humanity has been dealing with “kings/queens” at various levels. Sure, it’s not everyone, but the idea of a ruler is one that even happens within families. My dad has his own Iron Throne.

Or leather sofa.

Whatever.

Here’s the thing: while much of the world has moved away from monarchies, do most people really have their fair share of power or are most of us still grasping for scraps. And don’t get me wrong, some people have access to better scraps than others. Hell, some of us may be able to sneak some goodies from the cupboard. Unfortunately, much of that is just a result of a dice roll. You were lucky enough to be born to one family versus another.

Still, can’t you see this structure at numerous levels? Many countries, states, corporations, and so on have this similar structure of power and wealth of a few and the remains trickle down. Some structures are steeper than others, but the fact is very few are level (or at least very close to being level). This means there will ALWAYS be some level of discourse in our world if these structures remain. This fact cannot be debated. Sure, we can argue all day about what’s fair and what isn’t, but an imbalance of power and wealth (let’s throw freedom in there as well) will always bring conflict. I cannot overstate this enough.

Fixing this is a tougher issue, but I feel we simply need one country or institution to be the example. Preferably one with a large voice or reach. Why? Because we will only assume one path works if another isn’t shown as equally or more successful (we also need to define the parameters of success). Humans are extremely fixated on evidence, even when said evidence is based on opinion or limited facts. As such, we need to show the world how this can be accomplished.

In the next few posts, I’m going to do just that by covering examples of COOPERATION in our world that work toward a common goal without an extreme imbalance of power at play. Until next week, let me know what you think! Do you think humanity needs conflict? Is equality impossible? Am I just a stupid idealist? Whatever the opinion, let it be known! We won’t get anywhere without having the conversation.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: The Uniting of Strong Voices for Common Goals

How to Change the World for the Better: The Uniting of Strong Voices for Common Goals

Photo Credit: looking4poetry

Photo Credit: looking4poetry

Let’s just get right down to it, people: I want to change the world for the better. At least right now I do. As soon as I get the opportunity to pick up and live a quiet life somewhere, I’m perfectly fine with the rest of the world figuring it out. But for now, let’s make some noise!

Last week I spoke about crime, but I want to take a step back and look at the bigger picture for a second. I often wonder how groups like Nazis and ISIS still exist today. Why is racism still an issue in the US and other countries? Why do the poor often remain poor? Why do people protest? Well, there’s not a single answer, but I can tell you this: having an influential voice matters.

We’re about to have a moment of honesty here: most people don’t give a damn about the affairs of the world. It’s true. For many of us, global (and in many cases domestic) problems are a point to debate and discuss, but the majority of people don’t care enough to make moves to change the world. I mean, the world is a big place with a ton of people. Most of us are just trying to live. Unfortunately, the people with the loudest voices are the ones who seemingly drive opinions and the trends of this world.

Corporations have loud voices.

Politicians have loud voices.

Extremists have loud voices.

You know who doesn’t have a loud voice? People who just want to live their lives.

It’s tough for people who want to make a change. I used to harp on people in America and wonder why they don’t come together more to make a change. Now I get it; most people just want to be content. The BS that we have in this world is just a reflection of people who care enough to continue negativity (and the people who don’t care enough to do anything about said negativity). Some type of collective voice on the opposite end of the spectrum should ideally be able to combat this.

Ideally.

Hmmm, should we make an attempt based on an ideal? Humanity’s been doing it for years, so why not?

I think there are tons of voices out there who care enough to create positive change. The problem is they’re so splintered. Although they all have good intentions, they’re currently not as big as the multiple issues of the world. Add in the differing focuses and you have people who are trying to constantly bandage a bleeding global society. But what if we all came together with a collective vision. That could make a difference.

Ideally.

So I’m not speaking to the people who are just trying to live their lives. I’m speaking to people who actually care about democracy and human rights. I’m speaking to people who care about equality enough to want to do something. If you care about poverty, discrimination, or war, I’m talking to you. If you just want to endlessly discuss ideas, feel free to do so with other people. I’m down for that too, but that doesn’t do anything significant. Discussions are good, but actions are better.

To all the people who actively want to let their voices be heard, I have a proposal for you. Let’s agree on the following:

  1. All people deserve adequate food and shelter.
  2. All people have the right to do what they want as long as it doesn’t hurt or infringe on the livelihood of others.
  3. Global capitalism is mostly broken and actively works against points one and two.
  4. People have the right to social, economic, political, and religious freedom as long as it follows point two.
  5. All people are equal and have the same rights.

Pretty simple goal, right? At least in theory. If you believe in these ideals, let your voice be heard. Let’s move as one to make this happen. If these issues aren’t your passion, just live your life. All I ask is that you don’t violate any of these points in your personal lives. As for everyone else, you better believe this isn’t the last time I’ll be writing about this. At least until I finally secure that quiet little life away from all the nonsense of this world.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Why Does Theft Exist?

How to Change the World for the Better: Why Does Theft Exist?

Photo Credit: Stavos

Photo Credit: Stavos

I must confess, I have a chip on my shoulder: I want to change the world for the better. Yeah, I’m an idealist. I see so much potential in this world being wasted on conflict at numerous levels and I want to do something about it. I write about various topics on my blog, I speak about it on my podcast, and I even write music about it.

I’m not a great intellectual or scholar.

I’m not a revolutionist.

I’m just a guy with ideas. Some of them aren’t even really that new.

So let’s start here: why do criminals exist? The obvious answer is criminals exist because laws exist. But we need laws, so let’s look a bit more deeply and separate crime into violent and non-violent categories.

There’s no excuse for violent crimes so let’s also put that aside for this post. There’s a simple solution for those in the form of prison, though I certainly feel we could do more to rehabilitate offenders on a wider scale than simply punishment alone. With that out of the way for now, what do we do about non-violent crimes? Why do they even exist?

Non-violent crimes usually involve some form of theft/fraud or something that can potentially threaten the safety of others or the violator (this includes drugs so let’s not go there right now). The former is fairly straightforward in terms of why it happens: poverty and greed. These are two things running rampant in our global society because of the way we treat distribution of wealth. If we all had enough, there’d be less crime.

Duh.

But making that happen is just a pie-in-the-sky dream you say? Not so, naysayer! Let’s isolate the US for now, shall we? The federal minimum wage in America is $7.25. If a person with that salary works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks, they will GROSS $15080. That’s not much of a living to make, even before taxes. This is evidenced by the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita which is over $53K. If that should be a standard of living in the US, why aren’t more folks hitting it? Granted, there  are states with higher minimum wages, but there are some with less or none at all. Additionally, the US unemployment rate is at about 6 percent (though I think it’s higher considering it’s difficult to track all the homeless). This means that our ideal is not being met across the board, especially when richer people skew that number.

Okay, that’s enough of that for now. How do we make the situation better? If we over-tax the rich, they may move to countries with less taxes (my girlfriend says this happens with Sweden). How about a federal minimum salary of $40K? I mean, one that’s standardized across all states. That’s still less than the per capita GDP, but it will allow for a better quality of life for more folks. The tough part would be with companies who would need to open their pockets more to obviously pay their workers. Well, a portion of people’s salaries could be supplemented by the government. We’re already giving back more tax refunds/credits than ever before; I’d prefer a better salary than a refund that comes once a year. Also, I feel the 40 hour work week is an archaic standard that may not be needed anymore. What about a 30 hour work week? The extra time means more jobs.

We could also greatly reduce our military spending, but I think that’s a conversation for another day.

Lastly, we should be evaluating the lives of those incarcerated for theft.There’s a stark difference between someone who is stealing because they are homeless and someone who steals because they simply want more. We’re not doing much to put the former in a better place once they are out of prison. They’re back in the same situation (sometimes worse) when they go back into the real world. On the other end of the spectrum, if folks are meeting the per capita GDP and still get caught for theft related crimes, we should be punishing them accordingly and rehabilitating the behavior.

It’s the circle of (prison) life.

All of this is to say money is an issue. Comfort is a great sedative. Sure, greed will always be out there, but I truly believe we aren’t solving any issues by building more prisons. Though I’d prefer to flip the entire system on its head and start over, I know that isn’t realistic in this day and age. But can’t we make adjustments to this system that is clearly not working for everyone? Are we actually trying to solve problems or are we just discussing/arguing how to solve problems? You can say I’m wrong about any of this, but we’re also not giving any of it a shot. The US has bailed out huge companies and the country has moved forward without an issue; how are we not taking care of our citizens better? Maybe if we were, theft wouldn’t occur as much. I wonder how we could apply this thinking to a global level.

Hmmmm….

Peace out, party people.

Throwback Writing: Prelude to a Eulogy

A few years ago I started on a project called The Blog Book where I was compiling a group of random…. I don’t even know. Some of these definitely don’t qualify as stories . I was definitely dialogue-heavy in my writing back then, something I still enjoy in fiction writing. So I’m just going to post a number of these as a way to show where I was.

I wrote this in 2008! Reading this, it made me realize how focused I was on figuring out life. Enjoy!

I can’t sleep.

It’s 3:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep.

I have to be at work in four hours and I can’t sleep.

My mind tends to wander before I retire for the night, thus I’ve developed a pre-slumber addiction to television and radio. If I didn’t have the distraction of background noise I would soon devolve into a certified insomniac. Like tonight.

The real reason why I avoid laying awake at night sans the warm glow of late night television is because my thoughts consistently gravitate towards the concept of death. Pretty morbid, eh?

You see, the thing that blows my mind isn’t so much the fact that I’m going to die, but more so the idea that I’m actually alive. Think about it – I’m alive. You, me, we’re all alive. It’s a trippy concept that I’ll probably never explain properly without the aid of psychotropic substances.

I’m alive.

And one day I won’t be. I won’t exist. There will be no me.

Let’s eschew any concept of religion for a moment, because it makes the concept that much more powerful. It’s easy to find solace in the fact that there is some existence beyond this mortal one we’ve become so attached to, but what if that weren’t the case? Would the fact that you’re alive mean anything to you or would you continue to live as if there were no end?

If you’re reading this, I can assume one thing about you: you’re life is pretty decent. Yeah, yeah, yeah… complain about it if you will, but things aren’t so bad. We read about global and domestic issues that easily trounce anything we personally bitch about.

Wah… My boyfriend broke up with me… Wah… Frowny face…

I looked at my own life recently with a clarity that’s only achieved through an open outlook. I’m not the richest man, nor am I poor. I have friends. I have family. I have a decent job. I’m healthy… other than an off-and-on gimpy ankle. I’ve been places other than my immediate surroundings. I have the luxury of writing this book. Life is good.

Life is phenomenal.

Not everyone can say that and at times I forget this fact myself. I sometimes forget that I’m alive to even think this.

I’m alive. And one day I won’t be. So this is my pledge to always acknowledge self being. I promise to make the most of every second of my meaningless existence. Death is chasing me as it chases all of us; its insatiable hunger looms over us and keeps us afraid. But as I lay here – unable to sleep and staring at the ceiling of a darkened room – I remember that I’m alive. And although one day I won’t be, for the moment I am. And that’s nothing short of phenomenal.