In my World Without Heroes

20170913_110023_HDRIn simplest terms, Shonen style anime and I do not get along; but I’ve recently made an exception in the form of Boku no Hero Academia, one hell of a good ride that plays with the tropes and ideas of contemporary superhero genres and tropes. And while I have a couple of ideas for topics that have resulted from my watching this series, today I want to discuss something that was rather integral for the first couple of episodes: the concept of what it meant to be someone’s hero.

Now, I mean this in the less than spectacular sense. Not what it means to be a hero in tights and a cape, or a super high-tech battle suit or whatever the hell is going on with He-man. Rather, what it means to be someone’s role model. The person they look up to and someone who inspires you to do your best in every capacity you push yourself towards.

Young_Izuku's_faceIn the first couple of episodes, it is made abundantly clear that young Izuku “Deku” Midoriya’s hero is All Might: the physical embodiment of all that it means to be just, courageous and all around swell. This idolization is what pushes Midoriya to work his hardest to become a superhero himself and, regardless of how daunting or impossible the odds, to try his darndest!

Now, for someone like myself, I have a hard time understanding, or rather sympathize with the character. When I was growing up, I never really had anyone I considered to be my hero, my role model. This probably strikes you as a little odd; after all, in western culture, it’s pretty normal for young boys to idolize their fathers or even their father-like figures. As the years go on, it becomes normal to find role models in celebrities, teachers or elder peers in clubs or school.

This was, obviously, not the case for myself.

Instead, I viewed it very differently from even as young an age as I can recall (and I can recall some rather vivid memories from as far back as kindergarten, perhaps even earlier). I was very steadfast in my belief that I didn’t want a role-model, or someone I looked up to. After all, to do so was to deny the unique nature of who you were, instead to just aspire to be a copy of someone else.

In essence: yes, I was a hipster long before I even had any semblance of an idea of what societal norms were.

Now, while I’m not going to pretend that my philosophies were anything remotely close to well founded, I do still adhere to a semblance of this ideology to this day. Of course, it’s not to say that I think that having a role-model inherently makes you out to be their clone in the making. On the contrary, as I grew older, I began to understand the fundamentals behind role-models in ways that encourage positive growth in a developing mind.

Going back to young Midoriya momentarily to paint a clearer picture: he used the ideologies of what All Might represented to the world on a symbolic level as a measure of what he should strive to be like in his own personal life. Even when All Might himself confessed to having lost many of those ideologies in the bustle of celebrity life, Midoriya stayed true to those initial ideas; pushing those around him to greater heights as a result. Okay, maybe not everyone, but close enough…331ff58b020f6f01ac119a0d8ea71cc2

In many regards, this is a healthy idolization. To embrace the ideas of what a person represents or teaches to improve not only ourselves, but those around us and at large. A lesson that I feel I might have missed in my developmental years that will undoubtedly stunt my character to some extent or another. Though, this might also be a blessing in and of itself, as the opposite extreme can be exceedingly dangerous as well.

And this is where I introduce you to the unintended brilliance of my earlier philosophy: not striving to be a clone of someone else. Instead of idolization, worship or obsession of a person. To erase aspects of yourself in favour of being just like this character you hold in high regard. And in some cases that I am familiar with, it can often be just that: characters. Personalities as represented in film, imagination or literature. A character as represented in our real world as well: the facade of who a person is in the presence of the public.

Mask

We all adopt a mask… though maybe not this one…

Let’s look at that in a little greater depth, shall we? Indeed, there are many people out there who don a particular persona when they are in the presence of others. It should come as no surprise that many celebrities are nothing like who they portray on the stage or before the camera; or if they are, are at least notably different than who they initially appear. But it’s not just celebrities who do this, but us as well.

When we go out into public, we all adopt some form of a personality to present to the world we meet. To the degree of this facade will depend on where we are, or our own personal limitations. Speaking from experience, I can say with confidence that who I appear to people as when I’m at conventions doing vlogging work (a great example of this is in this video) is greatly different than who I am around my closest circle of friends, which is again quite different from who I truly identify myself as in real life.

This is a part deliberate, part sub-conscious decision that people make on a large scale basis. If you really want to see a significant difference: talk to anyone working in the service industry. I would gamble not insignificant money on the fact that, with very rare exception, every one of them adopts a sort of “alternative identity” in their line of work.

Note: talk to them when they’re not at work. Obviously, they will deny it on the clock, as doing so will likely result in greater difficulty for themselves at work. Further discussion on the constraints on the individual in the face of the “professional” world is a very complicated and long topic that I shall not dive into here. Because this is a blog. Not a thesis.

Returning to the point prior: the degree of idolization and obsession that can stem from it. While I certainly lack any sort of empirical data to back this up, I have a hypothesis that the generations of my own and the one following it are most prone to having large issues with identity and sense of self. From what little observation I’ve made, these generations are the ones more prone to an unhealthy degree of idolization of particular personas, even more so in those who are socially ostracized.  I tend to see this mostly in environments where the “nerdy” tend to thrive; the more fringe members of that circle tend to not only hold particular fictitious characters in high esteem, rather they go so far as to emulate or mimic their actions and mannerisms in their entirety.

Disclaimer: I don’t pretend that this is an issue that is limited to nerd culture, rather it’s the circle I’m most exposed to and most inclined to see these trends. I am quite confident that someone who buys every poster and jersey of a particular sports figure could potentially take such a fascination too far, though I’ve personally yet to see it. Again, not for lack of there being people, so much as for my lack of exposure.

This does raise the question, however, as to what is a healthy degree of idolization? At what point does it stop being a positive influence and become a corrupting source? I can’t say for certain. I imagine there are social psychologists who have worked, or are working, on exploring this particular topic, but I’ve yet to see a study that I can accept as a good model.

In the meantime, I will leave this topic off with a couple of final thoughts on this. To what extent is having heroes and role-models beneficial? Greatly! Can the idolization be taken too far and into the realm of obsession? Absolutely! Is it good to not have role-models? Well, it’s not bad, I suppose.

And, at the end of the day: is All Might a good hero?screen-shot-2016-05-08-at-7-18-01-am

Yeah, he’s pretty okay.

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Project Red Band: the Proposal

20170816_150524I can’t speak for anyone else on this subject, but it seems to be very big news in North America at the very least. Over the previous weekend, National Socalists (as they preferred to be called) descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate statue in memorial to a person of significance or some such that I don’t really understand at present. And of course, as with all such things: bad went to worse.

Anti-White Supremacist Rally attendees were accosted by a member of the White Power organization via vehicular homicide, killing one and injuring very nearly twenty others (a slight inflation on my part, but it worked well for the sentence). Then, in the face of such events, the organization that is supposed to be a point of clarity for the people to turn to, or at the very least the symbol of unity and belief in the Less-than-United States performed a series of shocking political blunders that rivals anything B-rate Hollywood script writers could concoct.

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This is the statue “of  significance or some such” that I was mentioning.

Sufficed to say, the whole story is something of a catastrophic mess. Seriously; the world-ending events of World of Warcraft Cataclysm isn’t nearly as disastrous as what’s going on south of our Canuck borders. But while things seem to only be going from bad to worse, the reactions and opinions of everyone seems exceedingly divided.

 

In my own personal friend groups, I’ve seen opinions ranging from “this is a travesty” to “yeah, I don’t give a crap” to “we need to kill more people”. Declarations of “history repeating itself” have been thrown around online, and everyone who used to have faith in human capacity is finding that belief seriously tried or strained.

I, myself, find this whole series of events shocking and exceedingly stressful. It’s why there was no blog post on Monday, as a matter of fact: I had to retreat into my own head and rationalize what precisely was going on. It all seemed so surreal; it couldn’t actually be happening, could it? After all, US media has romanticized anti-Nazi sentiments to such a degree that I had assumed it was very nearly a trait born into all “pure-blooded Americans”, as the concept goes.

And no matter where I looked or what I listened to, the messages being spun around are either less-than-helpful or dubiously vague. There seems to be one hundred and one ideas on what to do about this, and one thousand and one excuses for what’s transpiring. It is, for a mere mortal like me, all too much to process.

This doesn’t mean I plan on burying my head in the sand and hoping it’ll all blow over, a strategy that was suggested to me by someone who cares about my mental health (my mental sanity is shaky at best, and at worst: basically the condition of the Titanic immediately after it hit the iceberg. On the surface it looks alright, but an hour later it’d fracture in twain). And it is true, part of what makes modern media so appealing is that no matter how un-bad something is, News outlets are pretty good at inflating the issues to sensationalize things to a greater profitable degree.

Fake NewsI realize that sounds like an accusation of “Fake News”, a term I generally lament using, but that’s a different issue for a different day.

Today, I want to focus on what some of the primary issues and questions that have been raised as a result of the Charlottesville riots. I’ll cover them in very broad points as follows:

  • If, historically speaking, US ideologies are greatly against the concept of Nazi-ism and centralized governmental control, why are we seeing a great insurgence of people who are declaring themselves as National Socialists
  • Is this a result of recent electoral and governmental flaws in the US Presidental system of national, or an inevitable result of a culture that defines itself by violent uprising
  • What are the environmental conditions that give way to a system of prejudice and hatred; is it limited to certain socio-economic classes, or is it less discriminating

And, most importantly:

  • What is the best way to manage these recent events in a way that ensures growth and security for peoples in general in a developed country with a great deal of ancestral or modernized pride

Charlottesville EmblemMuch like all issues I find myself in the middle of, there might initially appear to be simple solutions to these issues. But I do believe that if it were so simple we wouldn’t have the issues we have to this day. On the contrary: each of these points are incredibly complicated issues that affect every aspect of modern western culture on the whole, and the societies that stem from them.

I have every intention of trying to understand this issue in greater detail. I want to find a solution that’ll bring about a positive change to what is transpiring at present: one that does not defer to violence as a means to the end. Maybe it’s because, in the traditional sense of the word, I am a coward (I spent 8 years studying martial arts, and the one aspect of it I could never perform well because of personal beliefs was sparring), and by extension that I do not place much faith nor emphasis in using violence as a method to enforce will.

Of course, this will discredit me to many of my friends. As I’ve seen multiple times, I know no shortage of people who seem almost giddy to default to violence or murder to “quell” the hate-based groups that have given rise to these present and pressing issues. They endorse such ideologies which share, in their own perverse ways, similarities to the hateful methods of these self-titled National Socialists.

Violence is not the solution; not to me anyway. Being a student of history, I understand how violence will cause an initial disruption of organizations, but will just as efficiently and effectively give greater cause and fervor to those same groups. In fact, many of today’s most powerful organizations and religions were tampered and strengthened by acts of violence perpetrated against them by once-great forces.

To understand this will be our best weapon against these movements. I strongly believe this, and so, I will be endeavoring to understand all the smaller nuances and ideologies that are held by all the various organizations under the heading of National Socialist. This will mean I’ll be burying myself in research; online, literature and even personal. This last point will very likely earn me the ire of many people who I hold in high esteem, as I will, without doubt, be talking with these supremacists on an individual or group basis to understand what their motivations are.

And this terrifies me on many levels and causes me no shortage of stress. As I mentioned earlier, my mental health is not the greatest and will very likely never will be. But I have the tools and resources to try to make a difference in this, regardless of how small or insignificant it will end up being at the conclusion of it all. I’m doing this because, despite all the horrors of the past, distant and recent, I still have faith in the human race. Perhaps misplace, perhaps idealistic, but I don’t really care.

Image-7I know where I stand on these issues and I will try to find solutions using methods that I agree with. This is the concept behind what I am titling Project Red Band, an ongoing research and investigation task that was not given to me, but one I will take up all the same.

Results of my investigation will be posted here as I find and learn things, and the title will always include PRB: _ in the heading. If this research or my methods make you uncomfortable, I completely understand and will think no less of you for disregarding what I have to say. As I’ve said in many past topics: not every fight is for everyone. This also does not mean that Station 85 will be exclusively about Project Red Band; I will still post my other works as the schedule demands.

Thank you in advance for your patience with the patchy uploads on this site and for those who keep coming back. And good luck to all of us in these trying times. Seems there’s something of a shortage of it these days.

Some Thoughts on Education – No Click-bait-y Titles Here

Anyone who has held a prolonged conversation with me can probably tell you there are several topics that will send me into a spiral or rants or musings, depending on the nature of the discussion. Oftentimes, we call this a “heavily-opinionated person”, and I can certainly attest to being someone under such a label (despite my general disdain for labels in general, more on that another time). My reasons for launching into these triads stem from a few different sources: the need to express an opinion, the desire to challenge my own thoughts and critical thinking and a plethora of minor reasons that are a little too tedious for my shockingly presently-focused mind to feel like rationalizing.

Chiefly among those reasons, however, is the need to voice my beliefs and thoughts about topics I have seen or read. My mind is a jumbled mess of thoughts and concepts at the best of times, and vocalizing these thoughts helps form them into concise statements and hypotheses. And one such topic that I find myself launching into rant-realms over is the land of education.

Now, I understand education is something of a hot-button topic (a phrase I didn’t think I’d ever use until now, which means I probably am misquoting or incorrectly using it), and everyone and their dog has an opinion on the matter. Teachers, students, parents, politicians, researchers and board members all have their opinions on what the educational system today is like and what it needs to do to improve, or conversely, what it needs to stop declining in quality.

It should come to no surprise that I, myself, am someone who has very charged and self-important beliefs on the quality of the school system in Canada (or at least in Ontario, as I understand there are minor nuances to the systems not only between countries, but between provinces as well). I mean, I possess all the warning flags of someone who has deep-rooted grievances with the current school system: I did poorly all through school due to a laundry list of personality and motivation flaws, I did not attend post-secondary education due to financial and personality flaws, and am largely against the commercialization of education due to financial and personal beliefs.

You might have noticed something of a trend in there somewhere.

Granted, I’m not so self-important as to believe that I am blameless in my current academic standing, nor do I honestly think that the problems that plagued me are anywhere near similar to those that bother other individuals or organizations. That’s why I make it a point to read up on different studies, articles or coverage of the ever-changing landscape of education. I also keep contact with several friends who are teachers at different levels in the school system (by that, I mean the range from kindergarten to high school, teachers to school board members, and even a couple of politicians) and am very careful to listen to those who have differing opinions on the school system than I (check out my piece on Echo Chambers in social media for more).

I also consider the opinions of those who have personal views on the nature of school because of life experience or spiritual beliefs, as these are both important aspects in understanding how we can better operate as a global community in our exceedingly diverse world. I’ve noticed several trends in these varied beliefs that sometimes I am, at first, inclined to argue against, but often have to sit back and think on until I can properly process what I’ve just learned.

There is one general consensus that I have noticed, however: very nearly everyone thinks the current academic landscape is broken or has gaping holes in operational efficiency/policy. Very seldom do we hear people discussing the accomplishments of a standardized educational system that has made significant leaps and jumps in how our brains have developed over the decades, let alone centuries or millennia of the history of education.

Instead, there seems to be an overwhelming belief that there is little good from our current school system. This generally stems, I have noticed, from small groups picking out an issue and inflating the damaging nature of said defect. This is not to say there are not dangerously broken systems in our schools; one needs only look at the academic disparities between both racially segregated or financially destitute schools to see things, two traits that are oftentimes linked. But some issues are only a part of a greater concern, and that is the need for hard evaluations on the intended direction that education serves as.

Now you start leaving the realm of hard, numerically provable evidence and get into the realm of cultural or philosophical reasoning. What EXACTLY is the purpose of education? This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer as it seems the intended purpose changes based on personal views.

I know it seems that I’ve performed a complete 180 from my original statement, but bear with me: it’ll all tie together in the end. I think.

Note from Self: I can’t help but feel the “bear” that was used in the sentence prior is incorrect. I’m almost completely confident that it should be “bare”, but Microsoft Word is convinced otherwise. I might also just be losing my mind, which is exceedingly possible, as well.

I don’t claim to have the greatest knowledge of educational history, but based on what I do know, it seems that for the better part of western culture and history the drive for better education was a largely social need. In order to develop a more stable and prosperous civilization, better academic reasoning was required. To cultivate this sense of logic, students (or monks, before that) focused on the mathematics and sciences. As anyone who has built a tiny bridge in science class can tell you: understanding weight dispersal and fulcrums are not exactly guess-work when trying to plan for a bridge to navigate a tiny car across two desks.

But with the maths and sciences, so too came the humanities. Poetry and music can help maintain a semblance of order and sanity in large populations; they also further reinforce a sense of cultural identity and stress relief that maintains a higher quota of productivity than otherwise. And as time progresses, so too do these systems improve. Science and learning becomes more precise, and literature and the arts have more to draw upon as human nature and identities change with the times.

Now, I’m not even going to begin to speculate on eastern education, because I know very little about it. Based on academic rankings, though: they seem to be doing pretty well in the past couple decades.

Based on these developments, I’d say the nature of education is to improve upon the human mind in general. We can see this in the varied and diverse fields of study that can be obtained within the higher academic establishments; the only real limits to what you can learn comes down to ethics at that point. Or money.

And in that regard, the education system we have today has achieved that goal with remarkable success. Our brains are sophisticated machines that, as a result of the stimulation and information we’ve received through our developmental years, can process complex questions and scenarios that have built civilization as we recognize it today. The fact that we can even question these ideas on such a massive scale, potentially reaching and hearing millions of voices at a time with universal theories and scales to work with is testament to that accomplishment.

But this begs the question: what is the purpose of education now? Where do we go from here? And this is where everyone splinters into their different groups and beliefs. We’re all asking the same question, frankly, just in different words. And this is good. This is hella good.

I strongly believe that everyone who partakes in these conversations and arguments all have the same base goal: to improve upon such a fundamentally important system that our world relies upon. And if we’re all having that discussion, I genuinely believe that, as far as morals are concerned, there are very few wrong view points to have.

Except for anarchists. I do not like them, or their beliefs at all!

The funny thing is what sprouted this recent mind experiment for me. I was thumbing through a social media feed and happened across a post about the nature of education. It stated that home education was far superior because, as far as human history is concerned, it’s the one that’s been in use the longest and that established education was an experiment.

The implication was that established education was wrong and we should go back to individualized family-based learning instead. I can sympathize with the sentiments behind the post, but I largely disagree with the overall message. As a whole, our society is better for having an educational system in place. And while I, much like many, believe that our system is far from perfect, it is infinity better than having nothing at all.

Let’s Bring Back Those House Hippos

20170712_115836-1[1]I have always stood by a statement of mine that I am, 100%, a by-product of the 90’s. In regards to pop-culture influences, to music tastes to overwhelming passive-aggressiveness for no justifiable reason. And Pogs™, let’s not forget those either. But perhaps one of the biggest things about the 90’s I remember are those Concerned Children’s Advertisers that played on half a dozen channels intended for audiences between the ages of 2 – 18.

You remember those commercials? “Nobody’s good at everything, but everyone’s good at something”; or “I can put my arm back on, but you can’t. So play safe”; or my personal favourite and topic of today’s article: The North American House Hippo. I remember how long it took me to come to terms with the fact that the commercial was a result of clever editing and lighting tricks, and a very convincing voice-over. After spending far too long searching my own house for traces of the House Hippo, I finally was old enough to rationalize the message behind the commercial and apply it to tv, the focus of the advertisement’s warning.

Some twenty years later, this message is just as applicable. And not only because of its limits to less than factual television programming. The lesson of “don’t believe everything you see” can be applied to very nearly every source of media we, as the Western world, absorb on a very-nearly hourly basis. Granted, this mantra needs a little updating and polishing to be more poignant.

For starters, let’s evaluate the primary message behind the House Hippo commercial. We (kids) were presented with a series of shots and explanations as to the lifestyle of the elusive House Hippo (should that be capitalized? I’m not even sure), what they eat, where they nest and all that good jazz. Then the reveal at the end that the house hippo wasn’t real, and that we should be wary of things on television. Or, at least, better informed.

Fake NewsAnyone whose spent more than thirty seconds on Facebook can tell you that the spreading of misinformation or, worse yet, outright lies, is a blight upon what the greater information network (aka, the internet) is supposed to be. Everyone and their political representatives have pointed fingers to every Tom, Dick and Jane for being to blame for this and youths/elders/millenials/generation-bazinga people need to read things more carefully.

Were the solution that easy, this wouldn’t be an ongoing issue.

Breaking down the reasons into the spreading of misinformation usually stems from articles/posts/claims/statements/utterances that appeal to an emotional response; knowing how to get people riled up is one of the fastest ways to get a message out there into the world at large. Is it any surprise that the articles most likely to be blatantly incorrect or misleading are often charged with rage-inducing headlines or slants? I could do it myself if I didn’t like to think of myself as an entirely passive-aggressive-ish person; this blog would very likely get many more viral views. This largely comes down to a matter of framing.

For those of you who know what framing is, you are well aware of the powerful impacts it can have on even the most benign of statements. For those who don’t: a quick Google intermission might be in order.

This is now the part where I would very likely launch into a series of inductions based on the research I have compiled about this particular topic; but as things stand, my research is actually quite narrow in this regard. I’d very much like to cite a proper experiment on this topic, but as of yet, a good example eludes me. And such, I am reeling myself in from making any sweeping statements about the phenomena.

hhYiYBfWhich, in many regards, is still a great deal better than most of these posts that are the ire of news outlets and rational thinking alike. Because of how fast everything seems to be moving at all times (especially online,) it can be very difficult to not make a wild conclusion based on the concepts and information we have at our disposal. When we do: while it is true that we will invariably see more readers for what we post, we will degrade the quality of our works by not taking that little extra time needed to verify our sources.