Archive for March, 2012

The Tie-Dye Dog

I remember being seven years old.

It was June, and the students of Ms. Pertilli’s grade one class were all hard at work, preparing homemade cards for Father’s Day. In her infinite kindness, Ms. Pertilli had provided us each with a picture of a cartoon dog holding up a sign which read “Happy Father’s Day!” We were to cut out the picture and then colour it in to show our love and appreciation for our fathers.

Now, in those days my father had a proud and noble German Shepherd by the name of Caesar. A fine beast – loyal as they come, and fiercely defensive of his masters. I decided to give my cartoon dog the same brown and black coat that Caesar had.

It was at this point that a young lad (let’s call him Jack) saw my work. Disgusted, he turned to me and asked something to the effect of “What is that?

“My dog”, I replied. I felt that this was a reasonable response.

“It looks terrible!” He responded. “There’s no colour in it at all! It’s just brown and black.”

Jack showed me his card, which featured a blue, yellow, green and red dog. “Mine is much better.”

I was taken somewhat aback by this. To my knowledge, brown and black were two very common colours for dogs, whereas I had never seen a dog with such an array of colours before. I had no response for this brash young man.

“Your dad is going to hate that,” he finished, before walking away.


So, what are the lessons here?

Well, that depends on your mood.

If you’re feeling indifferent, you could say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and that Jack had every right to be an asshole. In which case, fuck you.

If you’re feeling pessimistic, the moral of the story could be that stupid people will always say stupid shit to try to make you feel stupid, even especially when you’re right.

On the other hand, you could interpret the epilogue to this story as a sign that there is some justice in this world.

You see, it’s now fifteen years later, and the world is a very different place. Jack sort of peaked at around age 13. Unfortunately, it took all of his mental prowess to conquer Father Bressani Catholic High School, and he was not able to pursue any sort of academic venture beyond this. He likes drugs though. Lots and lots of drugs.

And then there’s me. You guys know me, and what I’ve done, and where I am. It’s not the greatest life there is, but I think I’ve done fairly well for myself on the whole. And I feel that if I were to ever stumble over Jack on a street corner, I could proudly say to him: “Mine is much better.”

No matter how you feel, it’s what you do that matters.

That, my friends, is a very important lesson.

It doesn’t matter how sad, or angry, or tired you are. The world will continue to move forward and you, bound by the laws of physics, will be forced to go along with it. You can’t call a time out on life. You can’t sit out for a day or two.

So you have two options.

1. You can live your life as a sad, or angry, or tired person would.

2. You can live your life exactly as you would if you weren’t sad, or angry, or tired.

See, here’s the thing: You can be in the worst mood ever, but if you don’t let it affect your behaviour, it doesn’t matter.

Let’s say you’re feeling really sad. Let’s say it’s just one of those days where you don’t feel like getting out of bed. But then let’s say you do get out of bed. And let’s say you do go to class. And let’s say you do make good progress on that essay. And let’s say you do go out with your friends that evening.

Does it matter that you were feeling crappy?

Emotions are temporary. After a day or two you’ll feel better. And then what?

Either you’ll look back and realise that you missed out on some opportunities over the past few days, or you’ll look back and realise that your mood had absolutely no bearing on anything whatsoever.

If the latter is the case, it’s as if you were never down at all.

All of this seems very obvious, but when emotions run high it’s a very easy lesson to forget, and I’m as guilty as anyone.

No matter how you feel, it’s what you do that matters.

KONY 2012

A little over a week ago, as you may recall, the world was set on fire by the Kony 2012 movement. I’d never seen anything like it. In case you somehow missed it, just imagine tens of millions of sheep bleating simultaneously in the same tone and you’ll get the idea. It was absolutely insane. The number of times on March 6th that I was invited to watch that half hour video was easily in the double digits. Absolute madness.

And I wondered to myself whether or not the next blog I’d write would be titled “RANT #22: KONY 2012”.

But then for the second time in as many days, I witnessed something that I’d never seen before: Tens of millions of sheep turning around and going in the opposite direction, bleating an entirely different tune. In just 24 hours, the very people who had supported the movement had turned against it!

This, my friends, is called common sense. Rather than blindly following the orders of Invisible Children, people decided to educate themselves. They decided to learn the facts for themselves. And what did they discover?

1. Invisible Children had exaggerated many of the facts in order to invoke an emotional response.

2. Kony’s LRA has been steadily decreasing in strength over the past five years. It has, at most, a third of the operational capacity that it did in 2007.

3. In all likelihood, Kony is no longer in Uganda.

4. Uganda (i.e. the good guys) has been accused of employing children in its own army.

And so, the mob turned against Invisible Children, decimating the movement barely 48 hours after it began. Absolutely fascinating.

Wanna know what Jason Russell and Invisible Children did wrong? Wanna know why their glorious movement fell flat on its face so quickly?

It’s all very simple: They used social media.

Now, I’m not saying that social media isn’t a powerful tool. On the contrary, it’s probably the most powerful tool on the planet for mobilizing public opinion. But it can work both for and against movements, able to build them up and tear them down equally. Jason Russell thought he could bend Facebook to his will and ignore all of the drawbacks that come with it. It’s all a bit like this scene from Aladdin.

1. People have short attention spans. It doesn’t matter what your cause is – you could be protesting the mass genocide of beagles in Kosovo, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of what you’re protesting, one week later someone will post this picture and the Internet will forget all about you. Placing the date for Cover the Night on April 20th – a full month an a half later – was a poor choice.

2. People who have Facebook have access to the Internet. It seems obvious, but somehow Invisible Children seemed to forget about the existence of Wikipedia. Though I don’t have any stats to back me up, I would bet my life that hits on the articles for Joseph Kony and the LRA went way up on March 6th. People found out the facts for themselves, realized that they had been manipulated, and turned against the movement. I mean, I sure as hell don’t like those Occupy douchebags, but at least they’re right about the increasing levels of inequality across the world (though it’s a bit silly that although the protesters aren’t the 1%, many of them come from families which are in the upper 20% of their respective countries in terms of incomes… but that’s a different kettle of fish).

IN SUMMARY: Thumbs up to the denizens of the internet, thumbs down to Jason Russell and Invisible Children.

Oh, and beware the ides of March.