Year of Questions: Is globalization good?

I’ve been thinking a bit about how our relationship with local and immediate things contrasts with the concept of greater good and universal ideas.

For example…televisions, websites, and magazines exhort us to do more/care more. There is a nobility to donating money to support charitable causes in Africa, or connecting with people across the world via a blog. They give us the ability to communicate and create and/or support our idea of ourselves as good, responsible humans. These are noble actions, but they are disconnected actions.

This is part of the complicated relationship I have with blogging, social media, and the web in general. There are examples of people launching start-ups that illustrate the amazing good that global connectedness can do. But many people are just spinning wheels, even when there is a noble end in mind. Think Stop Kony. Or on a lesser level, the vitriolic commentary found on almost any news story about the president or the upcoming elections.

The answer to whether or not globalization is good seems complicated. With any major shift in civilization there will always be challenges, but the building of a truly global society has created dynamics humans weren’t expecting, and don’t seem to know how to combat. Is the value outweighed by the negative effects?

A mirror for that question lies in the controversy around Monsanto, and the efforts of groups around the world to save seeds and preserve bio-diversity. As we become more connected we do not have to become more alike. Instead, we can appreciate differences and even foster them. Doing so is actually good for us. Globalization has lots of benefits, but the popular, economic expression isn’t so great.

My mom believed in bio-diversity and was passionate about saving seeds, and she was an ardent support of the idea of local action. I told a friend recently that I don’t do generalizations anymore. Of course that was a generalization=) but the larger theme in my life now is that while I understand and stay up to date with what’s happening globally, the things happening in my community  matter more.

I’ve started shopping the co-op here, buying less processed foods that are mostly local in origin (especially grains and vegetables), and educating myself / becoming involved in things that matter and have effects here, in my city. I make a point of creating joy in my life and the life of those around me, whether that’s through music, writing, or the simple act of meeting for coffee or a meal. I still pay attention to the global, but I pay action to the local.

At times I catch myself in an internal dialogue about the irony of looking like a hippie, or chiding myself for being a technophobe or afraid of progress (I’m not, but if you don’t buy into globalization that’s one of the cultural assumptions that comes along with it). But typically, I feel more connected and responsible to my life and the lives of others around me when I’m not hopped up on the global/universal way of thinking about things.

Collaborating not dividing

Wow I’m really rocking this whole blogging thing, huh?


I’ve been working on a bunch of stuff on the side which has been exhausting, but here are a few things that have been bouncing around my head lately:

1. I’m voting for President Obama.

There’s plenty of talk about what he’s doing wrong, but if you grade him across a wide variety of issues he’s working hard and succeeding at things that matter. For example, in my book he gets: a B+ on the economy/jobs, D+ on civil liberties, B- on civil rights (including marriage equality), C on welfare (the corporate kind), an F on campaign finance reform.

He’s far from perfect, and for those people who accuse him of going back on ’08 campaign promises…well, he doesn’t work in a vacuum and if you’re going to hold him accountable for, let’s say, escalating national debt, then hold your  congressional rep or U.S. Senator’s feet to the fire too, not to mention all those private interests that are constantly advocating mind numbingly stupid ideas like getting involved in regional conflicts in the Middle East (which has NEVER EVER been a simple win/loss kind of idea). No president in the history of this country has been good or evil, or right or wrong about everything. Think: Nixon and Watergate, Nixon and China.

2. We owe it to ourselves to listen to each other more often, no matter our cultural or political views….as long as we agree to say why we believe what we believe. “I love Obama” is the same phrase as “Obama is a commie” unless you can say why you believe it to be true. And for the record, I, like a lot of people, am sick of one of the most pro-capitalism pro-business presidents in the modern era being called a communist.

3. Positive change comes from our own communities and it comes from working on NOW and not waiting for a perfect opportunity/situation to occur. Build joy in your own life and the life of those around you.

4. If the apocalypse is coming (and who knows, some days it feels closer than others) than we might as well go out with a smile on our lips and kindness in our hearts.

Year of Questions: Why is the other wo(man) more scorned than the cheating partner in an affair?

A friend of mine who’s currently in China recently found herself on the wrong end of this question. She dated someone, turned out he had a wife & daughter, he said it was a loveless marriage, she tried to make it work with him, then his wife found out and threatened my friend with a knife (she’s ok).

That’s the abbreviated version, but basically we were chatting on-line this morning and both wondered why she, as the other woman, was the object of so much anger instead of the man.

I’ve been on both sides of the equation: one night stand when I was 22, terrible judgement, never made that mistake again, and more recently had a partner cheat on me repeatedly.

In the first instance my girlfriend at the time was incredibly mad at me (which she should have been) and absolutely furious at the other woman. In the latter I was just really hurt, sad, and angry at my partner. It never occurred to me to be particularly angry at the other men, though obviously I don’t think highly of anyone that would knowingly engage in a relationship with someone they knew already had a partner.

Have you ever threatened the other (wo)man with a knife? 😉
( If you have prob shouldn’t answer that…)

Re-envisioning Walter White’s Fatal Flaw: Breaking Bad and Narrative

I recently re-watched the last couple of episodes from this season of Breaking Bad. I’ve always admired the show for its honest and direct writing, acting, and production values, and this season is no exception.

But I was struck by something different this time.

Walt’s ego clearly takes over in this season, which is not exactly a surprise considering some of the asides to the audience in the last couple of seasons. We know, despite how he portrays himself to family/friends/associates, that he is not going to suddenly become a reasonable man. Mo Ryan over at the Huffington Post elegantly describes this full on meglomania in Season 5.

But a much deeper thread stood out to me when Walt told Jesse about his mistake in cashing out of Gray Matter, the chemistry based start-up that he helped found.

While ego plays a huge part in Walt’s descent into madness (creator Vince Gilligan has made it clear he’s not going to “see the light”), it functions directly in relation to his concept of himself and “the story of who Walt is and how he came to be.” If you think about it that way, his own internal narrative drives everything in the series.

Consider this, there are multiple occasions where Walt has the opportunity to cash out, or say yes to business deals that have tremendous upside to him, yet he doesn’t say yes. Often times he argues it under the guise of “but we could make so much more” or “I have a better plan” but what he’s really saying is “I didn’t come up with this plan, it doesn’t fit the narrative I have of Walter White being in charge of his life and writing the story.” When you think back to Seasons 1 & 2, it starts to make sense why he got into manufacturing meth, not as a way to make money for his family, or even as a direct expression of his ego, but as a way to reclaim his own narrative. It’s brilliant writing and explains why we as the audience are not sure if we empathize with him or not. Walter White is constantly on the line between antagonist and protagonist. We admire his desire to be in charge of his own narrative while being horrified at the carnage he creates in doing so.

The brilliantly delivered moment where Walt forces a potential business partner to say his name is about one thing: Walter White writes this story, and it doesn’t matter what the ending is as long as he’s in charge. In that light, it’s no surprise what’s coming in Season 6. Walt’s un-doing isn’t really about achieving mastery over the drug trade, or his friends and family, it’s about being in control of his own narrative, something we all ultimately must give up. Those that don’t are destined to run into a brick wall.

Year of questions: Are men “victims” of feminism?

I don’t think so.

But it seems to be something that a lot of men are saying, on and off-line.

Basically the idea goes that men (except for macho jerks) aren’t allowed to talk about what it means to be a man, unless it’s in relation to women’s issues/considerations.

I like to think more in terms of individual personhood, but acknowledge larger cultural norms and patterns. I don’t really see any good for anyone in victim status, because I believe that everyone benefits from engagement and empowerment if they are willing to allow others to do the same.