The Right to a Good Life

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Public personalities and government bodies are paying tribute to the recently passed doctor and pro-choice activist Henry Morgentaler. He was a Holocaust survivor who came to Canada and spent his career putting himself in danger by being a public face in fighting for women’s rights to a) choose their own paths of life, and b) do so as safely as possible. That his death is receiving attention as the loss of a hero refreshes my gratitude for being born on this side of the 49 th parallel. There are far fewer, and much quieter, people in this country who need to get their heads out of their own asses and their politics out of other people’s vaginas…although there are still some, and they’re elected into public office. The debate will go on long past Dr Morgentaler’s death, but I hope the commemorating of his life’s work makes more people openly compassionate to the people who need a second chance at a better future.

Safe access to abortions is a key to the advancement of civilization, with more women reaching their potential, a higher proportion of children being born into well fostering circumstances, and no longer the desperate infanticide that’s been happening throughout human history.

Pay Per Know

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I don’t subscribe to cable. That would’ve struck people as odd a few years ago, when I liked to watch TV and the shows I watched mostly weren’t on network television. But as any outdated magazine will write a feature story on, how people are consuming entertainment is changing. I can now stream videos from the websites of the networks rather than having to pay for five channels in a bundle I’ll only watch one of. I can skip syndication of old shows and watch entire series on Netflix at my leisure. I can also (purely in theory, of course) download torrents of TV series or individual shows the day after they air on traditional television. These are all improvements on how I can choose my entertainment without having to see what other awful things are being produced today.

Imagine being able to do that with people. I’m not a misanthrope like I used to be; I’ve found that good will towards others can help steer conversations away from the most mind numbing topics of layfolk conversation far better than avoidance or isolation. That’s at least an option for conversations I’m in. I play a part in them. Conversations I’m merely around, however, are outside my realm even when inside an earshot. Hearing people talk excessively about weather, shopping, gas prices, reality television shows, and their mundane everyday relationship foibles is having to subscribe to the rest of the channels in that bundle, without the ability to skip past commercials for the network’s other programs that are painful to even know they exist.

I don’t subscribe to cable. There isn’t a choice about being surrounded by people entirely different and uninteresting to me, though. That’s a pretty good reason to not have cable. There is a choice. As much as thought-spewers out there may philosophize about selective media and the computer programming that leads us to things similar rather than expanding our views through broader and general exposure, I have to deal with enough people in person to know what else is out there. I suppose that makes it a mixed blessing. And it’s a conversation starter – a far more interesting one than those brought up by people who would rather pay for cable to have more TV to hate than interact with a diversity of people to disagree with. There’s two birds with one stone, at least, that can distance me from those people who would rather limit their conversation to saying bad things about bad television, than having to listen to someone else. Having dull people to complain about is far more interesting than only having dull TV. And not only does it cost me less – I get paid for it.

In Threes

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Someone knows (of) two people who died recently. They were never close to her – she’s basically only heard of them through other people – and they weren’t famous. The two people didn’t know each other and didn’t have anything unusually in common. But they’re two deaths that she’s had conversations about so she knows another one is coming. They always come in threes.

…except they don’t. Hundreds of thousands of people die every day. Statistically about 25 people in this city are going to die every day, and depending on variables in your networks, family tree, and social circles there are not impossible odds that you will know three of the 175 that adds up to in a week.

And celebrity deaths – they’re only selectively noticed based on who’s death is widely reported on and what entertainment you’ve consumed over the years. On Wikipedia’s Recent Deaths page there are well over three notable people who die every day.

So consider the math before buying into superstition. Consider your selective attention bias. And consider that you’re just idly trying to leak hot air because you have nothing of more substantiated meaning to say.

Stuck in Time

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I’m not even going to bother to look the actual article up. Time magazine apparently put as the cover story of its latest issue that “Millennials” (I prefer “Generation Y” or “the generation whose lives were fucked over by the financial sector”) are spoiled. The exact wording on their cover was “The ME ME ME Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents” with a caveat ass-covering second subtitle “Why they’ll save us all”. Of course this is what they’ll use to appeal to their target audience, which is the demographics of “bitter old people” or “bitter aging people who still have enough power to change the definitions so they won’t be classified as old”. There are a few points I want to make on this subject:

· The developed world has spun out of control into a devastating economic blow because it was artificially created in the post-war era to attempt at a perfect life for the generation of families to follow – i.e. the Baby Boomers who are the parents of “Millennials”. The world was designated their oyster by policy and spending that started the snowball of public debt and private debt pertaining to education and health.

· As Amber Earnest (@rare_basement) put it, “fun fact, if [yo]u look at the most privileged members of ANY generation they are gonna be lazy entitled narcissists”.

· Parenthood is permanent, and family support comes from and goes in all directions. My parents and/or their siblings required support from my grandparents at various times in their lives, for reasons that can be lumped together in “life happens” and the same goes for us. People in my extended family have helped siblings, parents, cousins, nieces, and nephews at times of need for all sorts of reasons and most of us understand the concept and duty of paying it forward.

· Children aren’t born spoiled. Financial responsibility needs to be taught. Generational trends come from broader social conditions. Mass lecturing is never a solution.

The last 60-70 years have been a social experiment, and its outcome is still unknown. My generation is not entering the workforce in the promising way we were told we would. My parents’ generation may not be able to live out retirement according to the impression they were given by their financial advisors. This is far more of a society-wide, systemic change than it is a consequence of personal choices. Even if the pandering magazines add “Why they’ll save us all” in small print, they’re still trying to scapegoat one demographic to remove individual guilt from people of another demographic and make it seem like it’s a black-and-white, right-and-wrong war. There is no solution in predicting the future for the young. We need to critically examine the past, and acknowledge that there’s no inherently natural state of social and economic functions. In most Western nations, what has appeared to have worked has been an illusion that held up for mere seconds in the grand scheme of human time.

The Accidental Specialist

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In university I didn’t narrow down my focus enough to write a thesis so I could go on to graduate studies. I like learning and thinking about a broad range of topics, or so I thought. It turns out over the past while that my focus has narrowed to a specialty – not in career, not in education, but in what I tend to rant, rave, and write about: the bathroom.

I’m still interested in many widely spread areas. There are a lot of arenas of dialogue that I fantasize about jumping into as a public voice, of sorts. But the corner I often push myself into is to narrow things down to this biological function and its associated social behaviours. I’ve written here about gender politics, peer judgment, and restroom politics a few times already. Almost all of us are regularly confronted with these scenarios, but I am not only an overthinker who needs to deconstruct the political implications of it all – I get more inspiration to write from being embarrassed in a washroom than I do about government, the economy, popular culture, or other current events.

If I went back to school maybe I would write a thesis on gendered expectations in excretion and human sanitation. Maybe I could work with communities around the world to help women lead the way in establishing better sanitary practices in areas where the growing human population makes such a thing an even more urgent matter of public health. I could publish books and go on promotional tours to make loads of cash off of being so upfront about a taboo topic.

But what I’m actually doing is shying away from writing the same thing over and over again, and solving all of my feminine insecurities by plugging my own ears so I can’t hear myself shit, assuming no one else can either.