Archive | July 2007

Conversation from the Couch

We’re pretty into So You Think You Can Dance around the house. And around the house everyone knows that I’m really into the host – Cat Deely – who is 5’9” without heels and towers over everyone on the show.

Friend: Dude, you two would look good together.

Me: Hells yeah. But everyone would be wondering if I was some Korean boy she had just adopted.

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For a bonus “Conversation from the Streets” head over to Ted’s blog. Sneak preview: a gay man approaches me on the street on my way home from work.

Ninjas Killed My Family

Twenty three days out and we already have homework from the Man. Boyko wants us to think about the most interesting piece of communication that we’ve come across this summer.

One night we were stumbling out of a bar and there was this guy asking for money. He had a bunch of signs and one of which read: Ninjas killed my family. That was the funniest sign I’ve ever seen and I would’ve given him money, but I didn’t have any one.

A while ago a friend told me about the concept of breaking the fourth of wall. In traditional storytelling, it’s set up so that the audience is looking into a self contained world where the characters live. When breaking the fourth wall, you include the audience and they become part of or participate in the formation of the story at best. But usually, they break the 4th wall by giving the character the awareness that they are in a self contained story.

Usually beggars spin an incredibly sad stories (collecting nickels for their chemotherapy) to part us from our change. But somewhere along the way we’ve been taught that by helping them out we end up funding their drug addictions or funnel cash to the local gangs and so on. Each story combined with the hundreds of beggars we see make us cynical about their intentions – which makes it easier for us to walk by a starving person on the street. To combat the resistance we’ve developed, their stories become even more tragic and more desperate as they spin the story tighter around themselves to create authenticity.

That’s why his sign was so good – that guy understood the mind games we’re playing with each other and called it out. It was honest, insightful and simple.

The Crowded Zero Sum Forum

As the huge Live 8 deal is going on around the world, I was left to wonder about causes and the activists that they draw. It reminded me of when I was in undergrad, and one of those Greenpeace people trapped me and asked for a donation. Being broke, I told her I didn’t have any money to give. Then she suggested that I ask my mom for some money. I gave her the most dumbfounded look – which she reciprocated.

Like everything else that I’ve been learning here in NYC, everything is segmented by class – from the neighborhood you live in, the bars you can get into and even whether or not people will look you in the eye when you introduce yourself. And like everything else, I think causes and activism work the same way.

I think it’s fair to say that our personal histories allow us feel more compassion for certain causes. That compassion is also guided by the conflicts exposed to us during our formative years – so a poor person is exposed more to causes that are something like social justice and worker’s rights. And that a richer person would be exposed to something like environmentalism and famine in Africa.

In the end, it amounts to a concentration of resources for certain causes while others flounder – like Darwinism. Some causes become bourgeois and others become proletariat. The problem I have with this is that we’re working in a very crowded forum and it doesn’t help when we count cultural hegemony into the picture – the rich get richer.

Cultural hegemony assimilates fringe cultures into it’s massive folds of sameness and redefines their standards for them. Consequently, they take up their causes as well and what we see is a brain drain from those less mainstream causes. Without those resources and certainly without the brain power behind those smaller causes, they put tremendous stress on few who are still fighting it or it gets out of hand. Or nothing happens at all, but it doesn’t mean the problem disappeared.