Fear is an Easy Sell

When I’m not writing, I’m a teacher. You can probably guess what I’m certified in – my specialty – without too much trouble. It doesn’t start with M and doesn’t require a Periodic Table if that helps at all – although I am getting better and better with my Stoichiometry (just ask my students).

I’ve noticed a shift over the last several years, and it is something I am concerned about and that is fear.

You see, I have a daughter who turns three in January and she’s starting to give orders. Not real orders of course, but the ‘this goes here, that is mommy’s, put it down daddy’ kind of orders. The ‘I’m trying to make sense of this world that has more to it than gravity and light’ kind of orders.

This means that, soon, she’ll start asking questions. Both my wife and I have discussed this turn and we’re not sure what to respond as she kicks into trying to understand and comprehend that bigger world. Whose perspective will be better for her.

The reality that I see is a wonderful and amazing place to explore. People are, in general, good folks with interesting stories who merely want an ear to listen or tongue to speak – an opportunity to share. There are fascinating stories out there with most people and, if you listen to them, chances are you can find someone or something to relate to with them.

The world is a similar place. There are wonderful places to explore – mountains to climb, trees to crawl through, parks to visit, etc. It’s an adventure that, if you take the time to examine, will give you something to relate to and remember.

Forest Blog

But…that’s not the attitude that most people have. I remember growing up that most of the attitude wasn’t quite as bright and springy as mine, but there was something still there: hope.

Now, though, I see something different: fear.

Fear has replaced that in many of the students that I interact with. I do have the over-the-top macho kids in my room, but when they get confronted, that attitude dissolves. There’s no guidance. Similarly, when I work with some of my co-workers and talk with some of my friends, fear has become a unifying factor. Rather it’s a worry for the future of the country, a job, or what’s going to happen tomorrow, it’s become an overlying part of things.

Yoda Fear

Even the TV shows have it more now. We call the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles more ‘mature’ and ‘deep’ than their 1980’s counterparts – and that’s true. But at one point our entertainment was meant to entertain the kids and not us.

Don’t take this the wrong way – I love shows like TMNT and Avatar: The Last Airbender. My daughter loves My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Daniel Tiger (and Daniel Tiger is NOT in one of those ‘more mature’ categories in the slightest. It does have a sense of hope and excitement). But at one point the excitement came from wondering how Mikey was going to take down the Shredder this week and not if he was going to.

Our heroes are easily defeated. That only used to happen in the two-part episodes.

The same holds true of entertainment for adults. I’m really enjoying Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Once Upon a Time, and Agents of Shield (my TV shows are a bit limited – I have Netflix and not cable is my excuse).

There isn’t anyone to save us anymore and, while some of the shows do examine a person pulling themselves out of defeat and saving themselves, more often we are faced with a failure that we have to deal with.

And maybe that’s true. There is a lot of truth to the fact that, often, we are going to have to deal with meeting in the middle or the short end of the stick. That is life.

I don’t really have a problem with that. I wish there was more hope and adventure to my entertainment than there is – and I might be missing something (feel free to share). But it doesn’t usually feel particularly hopeful when I am watching.

Except maybe NCIS – because at some point, they have to deal with Gibbs and Gibbs doesn’t mess around.

Gibbs

But now, we’re not even getting the stick. We’re learning to be afraid to even reach for it.

It’s fear we’re being sold.

And it is an easy sell.

Look at Game of Thrones. Nothing against Martin – he’s clearly a writer with talent. I personally don’t particularly like Game of Thrones, but it’s popular and well written. But it boils with two things – sex and fear.

It’s an easy sell.

Even worse is the sudden advertisement of giving in to fear. Back during the first trilogy, I don’t know that there was anyone who was excited to be a member of the Sith (and yes, this is a specific cultural example. Sue me). The villains of the movie and the universe as far as Star Wars is concerned. Now, it pops up everywhere.

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Ignoring the Sith vs Jedi argument (that’s for another day as well), now matter how you look at it, they are the created antagonists of the films. We get strong implications (and sometimes visuals) of them casually murdering people. These are not people that would normally be a group that folks would want to join.

But they have embraced their fear and gained power for it. We’re embracing our fears, but it’s leaving us weaker – at least thus far.

I wonder if that isn’t because fear is so primal to our beings. It’s hard to establish a hopeful attitude – it takes convincing someone that there can be something better over the hilltop or beyond the horizon even though all of their current experience says otherwise.  You have to life yourself up to have hope, to examine the best that could be coming and work for it. It takes a tremendous amount of work.

 

Say what you like about Donald Trump, but he is definitely a Presidential hopeful. He’s putting in that effort and he’s trying to find ways to get to that ‘better’ that he sees. So is Bernie Sanders. And that’s all the politics I will mention for this post because I’m not going to get into the conflict of hope that comes from perspective. I’m sure it is one of the causes, but that’s a post in and of itself. Fear has that as well, but to a lesser extent.

Fear doesn’t. Fear says ‘that’s bigger, be scared’, ‘that’s faster, be scared’, ‘that’s different, be scared.’ It’s unifying and, relatively, universal.  And universal means easier to sell, easier to control. Some of those pundits that claim our new culture of fear is part of a government/corporate/etc conspiracy to control us and I can’t help but wonder in the back of my mind if there isn’t some truth to that claim. Fear does make for easy control and focus – hope, joy, and other ‘working’ emotions are not easy to create and hold in place.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the day. I will leave you with this one:

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I Hadn’t Even Heard of It and Now I’m Lost (GamerGate) – an Intro

So, I was doing my usual morning read through of news sites and checking for other teaching jobs when I came across a link to an article from Think Progress.org about Felicia Day. Didn’t realize that was the name of the gal from The Guild. (Which I have watched). Then again, while I can find Patrick Stewart in pretty much any work (and, more recently Micheal Shanks), I’m not great with tracking actors to roles if they aren’t Patrick Stewart or Daniel Jackson.

Keep in mind, I also navigate by landmarks rather than street names – something that drives my wife and father nuts. My brain just doesn’t work that way.

Anyway, this was the first time I had ever heard the term GamerGate though it is something that I have been thinking about recently and did not know it. Now that I have a daughter, and my video games, I go back and consider the roles that many of the females play in some of the games that I play.

The most interesting conversation, however, came from my wife. She got me Hyrule Warriors for my birthday. We have been playing Dynasty Warriors and Warriors Orochi games ever since we discovered them in college. They are simple enough games – run around and beat up 100’s of minions until the boss appears. Then, beat it up to. There’s a story to the games as well, but that’s largely ignored in favor of grabbing up our favorite character and slamming through hundreds of enemies as if they were soft cheese.

The character selection in Hyrule Warriors is limited compared to Dynasty Warriors/Warriors Orochi – kind of a given since one is based on Romance of the Three Kingdoms (didn’t know that until my friend pointed it out) and one is based on The Legend of Zelda  which, generally, has a fairly limited cast of non-background characters (in general – Link, Zelda, and Gannon/Gannondorf). Anyway, we were playing and we had finally gotten to the point in the story where Zelda was unlocked for play in the story mode and my wife grabbed her up (After accusing me of hogging Link. It wasn’t my fault that 1P always got him by default) and took her and her rapier out in to the field.

We played through the level with my wife slaughtering far more bobobkins and Moblins than I and my sword had. At the end of the level she says to me (the following conversation is relative to my memory. I apologize for inaccuracies) – “I didn’t know Zelda was such a badass.”

I reply, “Oh yeah. Ever since Ocarina of Time she’s been given some kind of major combat. She was Shiek (something my wife learned from Hyrule Warriors (spoiler alert: She’s also Shiek in Ocarina of Time)) who totally managed to hide out and fight during the 7 year war; she was Tetra in Wind Waker – a Pirate who resisted Ganondorf – even in Twilight Princess where Ganondorf took her over following the Twilight Conflict she was one of the most deadly boss fights. She’s been BA since the N64.”

“Oh. I thought she was like the Mario Princess and you always had to save her.”

“Not Zelda. Except maybe in Twilight Princess, and she fought against Ganondorf the whole time. And then blasted him in the face with the Light Arrows in the final boss fight while you fought on horseback. it was a team effort. And she was pissed.”

“Oh.”

I then went on to explain the Triforce and how it worked – Zelda couldn’t be weak if she had the Triforce of Wisdom; all of the Triforces respond only to those who have strong character and particularly to those who match it’s particular trait. You can’t be a weakling and wield a Triforce.

Which, as I read about GamerGate (which is a weird name anyway) and I had to go back and think – is this a real thing? And is it as poor and dramatic as the web seems to make it out to be.

The only conclusion I can come to, after examining my own gaming library and experiences with gaming, I have to say yes.

Ultimately, video games are about a narrative and an experience and, in both cases, females are, in general getting the soft spot.  While there are a few exceptions (I would argue that Zelda is one of them), I tend to agree with the controversy.

Starting Monday and each day next week (except Friday. Friday will be a book review as normal), I’m going to post a series of pieces, with some research even, on my opinions and findings in examining the GamerGate with some conclusions and arguments. I think this is a fascinating topic and one that needs to be examined and discussed. I hope you all enjoy it.

Some Struggles….

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I’ve never made it a secret that I am a teacher.

At the moment, however, there are troubles that I see brewing. One of the big ones that I run in to, and not only with my students but with others as well, is the inability to translate thoughts in to words. As an example, I have a student that is supposed to write a compare and contrast essay on advertisements. The prompt tells him to examine them for several items including overall effectiveness, use of imagery, and the message contained in each.

The trick is, when I sat down to work with him 1-on-1, he couldn’t translate himself. The words were in his head – I would catch them as he thought out loud, but they couldn’t get from his brain to his keyboard. I run in to this a lot.

It’s a struggle for me because I don’t, generally, have that problem. If anything I rant or go on tangents too easily (you can confirm this with my wife anytime. She’ll be happy to tell you that I get distracted easily) and can’t stop working my words in to sentences.

I’ve tried a number of techniques to mixed effect, but I cannot imagine how frustrating it is for the student. He keeps working hard and trying, but I know he’s not happy with having to write the essay. I want to help more, but that will often devolve in to more of my writing and less of his. That’s not fair to him: it removes responsibility and makes it so that his words are being ignored or I am making it too easy for him (something I struggle with anyway in my eagerness to help). So I back off and let him struggle, but it is a struggle for me not to jump in.

Just one of my thoughts as I try to get back to my Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule of posting.

Working on my review for Friday. 🙂

Thanks for reading!