Friday, November 20, 2009

When I Paint My Masterpiece

Generally, I like to think I have an open mind. While I enjoy using verbal, critical sarcasm as a means of humor, ultimately, my goal is to remain objective. I try not to judge, but I also have very strong opinions. Which equates, for me, to meaning that each person has an equal right to personal choice, freedom, and happiness. It also means that these are inherent rights that are extended, as a categorical imperative, to all human beings and that I personally feel responsible to ensure that all people realize these rights. I'm sure our founding fathers would all have agreed.

Lately, I've been reading various, off-beat news sources that state Baxter Pharmaceuticals engineered the H1N1 virus several years ago, but I had no evidence the rumor was true... until now... and here too. It seems that Baxter engineered the virus while at the same time, it was also manufacturing a vaccine. In the U.S. patent document, Baxter says it created virus in labs in order to test the vaccine it was trying to patent. Also, back in August 2009, Joseph Moshe, an Israeli microbiologist, called into an L.A. radio show stating that he wanted to evidence to a State's Attorney that Baxter was shipping tainted vaccine as a bioweapon. It has also been reported that Baxter is infecting people, when in February of 2009, Bloomberg reported that Baxter “accidentally” sent vaccine material containing both live Avian bird flu and seasonal flu to multiple laboratories worldwide. Further, the NY Times reported that Obama invested in Baxter (an Illinois-based company) in the amount of 50K while he was a senator and that he passed some legislation regarding increased federal funding to combat avian flu. I also found this news video where scientist, Dr. Adrian Gibbs, who engineered the Tamiflu vaccine, says the H1N1 was engineered and is not some randomly occurring phenomenal instance of 3 viruses all coming together by chance (the Spanish flu, one component to H1N1 hasn't been seen in nearly a century).

My concern is simply that people are more concerned with acquiring material wealth than they are in believing that life is equal, no matter who we are and where we come from. Further, as a result of this greed, people will be injured three-fold; first, injury comes from infecting people with a virus, whether invasively or passive-aggressively (actually injecting a virus or through airborne means) and secondly, injury comes when a declared world-wide pandemic results in shoddy vaccine production that has little quality control and oversight, and lastly, injury is sustained when we, as free people are forced to take a vaccine either as mandated by law, or because we feel threatened and afraid that our loved ones are at risk for contracting the virus (some kids under 10 will have potentially taken 4 flu shots- 2 for seasonal flu and 2 for H1N1 because of the vaccines' limited efficacy in young children).
I'm no conspiracy theorist, but I do find that many, different sources of information are valuable when one is formulating opinions for the purpose of making informed, personal choice decisions. I approach information with a guarded cynicism and try, though difficult, to refrain from making decisions when I may be emotionally influenced- for good or bad. In this case, however, a lot of folks are just as skeptical as I. We're not crazy, in fact, our government leaders and people who profit from the pharmaceutical industry have done this in the past. And throughout the history of the United States, its citizens have been pharmaceutical and biological chemical guinea pigs. Is it so farfetched to think a company and its investors are more interested in filling their pockets than they are in saving human lives?

Is it just coincidence that 3 viruses, which contains one that hasn't plagued us since 1918, came together in some viral pool to mysteriously create what we now know as H1N1? Is it just coincidence that the virus has spread so widely and quickly since May of '09?

I, like many of you, want to believe that people have our best interest as human beings at heart, but I also have to be realistic. I must take the same advice I give to my children when they are worried about others liking them (we act differently when we do not follow our hearts and we forget who we truly are): Not everyone has to like you and not everyone loves you the way that you wish or believe they should. Be who you are: kind, wonderful, loving, creative, and beautiful.

No one should have the right to thwart our health and happiness as living entities who really only wish to live peacefully. This extends far beyond the topic of immunizations and pervades our entire existence as conscious executors of free-will.

As my freshman college English professor said, "Always question authority...," and I have always lived true to those words. We only have this body one time, we should be able to live fully- using all of our amazing senses to experience the world around us, rather than living one of death, suffering and fear. We all share the same responsibility to each other, as the human condition of freeing ourselves from enslavement has been our task since the beginning our human civilization.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hi, My Name Is Jungle Girl- A Discussion About Self-Identity and Society

Two nights ago, on Halloween, my friends and I attended an "undergroundish" party in Philadelphia that some would characterize as being a rave... it was in a huge warehouse, at a location that was kept hidden until the day of the party. There were performance artists, DJs mixing electronic music and playing programmed beats from computers (
very few use vinyl records anymore, sadly), a rose petal, geodesic dome where one could feel the velvety, light petals falling like rain drops all over one's body, roller skating girls with hula hoops, wicked witches pedaling their bikes, tents, a lounge and grotto with exhibitionists baring their physical lust for one another on filthy mattresses and linens, drunk people, high people, clueless people, bright people, artistic people, beautiful people and some very confused people, all coming together as princesses, gypsies, elves, fetishists, vampires, and cheerleaders, devils, angels and me.

The night proved to be an extraordinarily valuable experience for my partner and me, for, in having a last-minute stroke of genius, he thought of a costume idea for both of us, "We should go as our own Facebook profiles."

"What a great idea," I said. Little did I know just how great an idea it would turn-out to be.

So, we went to a professional shop that enlarged our screen-shots with a Pro Photoshop plug-in and laser-printed the profiles onto a 30" x 36" piece of sign-quality, foam, whiteboard, punched a hole in both corners, and looped through some twine so we could wear the sign around our necks.

Because my partner and I are both keen observers of human nature, we quickly understood the complex, social phenomenon that was occurring from people's reaction to us, their perceptions of us, and our reaction to them in a way that I may find very difficult to describe, but I will try my best. I've decided that the best manner in which to explain what happened is to first give itemized examples of encounters we had with many of the party goers, then I will summarize my analysis:

1) The Ego- "Oh, you're both your Facebook pages? So what makes you so special?"
My mirrored-answer was, "The same thing that makes you special." The Moon's position was influenced by its movement through the constellation Aries, so the feeling in the air was Aries-like: people were egotistical, arrogant and oppositely creative, and childlike. My answer seemed to satisfy her question when she replied, "Wow, that's the best answer I've ever heard." LOL

2) The Clueless- "Are you a Dot-Com?" and "So are you guys advertising for the DJ?"

3) The Suspicious- "What are you protesting?" and "Those aren't your real names, right? I NEVER use my real name."

4) The Appreciative- "Great idea! I wish I had thought of that!" and "Can I take your picture? Will you friend me on Facebook if I look you up?" and "Can I actually read your pages? Let me use my light to see!"

5) The Repeaters- "I just poked you- and again, and again, and again!" (actually poking us). "What's your Status Update now?" and "Oh, here they come, here come those people with their 'posts' again."

What most fascinated me was the sudden realization that most of the people were living a paradoxical, almost schizophrenic, existence. For instance, most people have nicknames, but only in the party scene. Now, I know plenty of people who have adopted new names that are quite unconventional- but they own the names. Generally speaking, everyone calls them by their adopted names through all facets of their lives. While for most, it's difficult to tell grandma to refer to one's self as "Dancing Galaxylight", most of the people I met, only use these nicknames in one arena. One young man of about 20 years old said, "I have a Facebook page, but I don't use my real name. I don't want anyone from work to know about
me or find me."

Certainly, I have felt the same way. And I, myself, have been guilty of using nicknames; however, "Jungle Girl", for instance, is a name I've used for about ten years, generally when I am writing. It first described a type of music I enjoy and later, took on a new meaning regarding my love for the Amazon's rich and wonderful botanical secrets. In fact, people use pseudonyms regularly and it does not make one mentally ill, shallow or confused in the least. But in this context, the context of the party, something was very strange.

Party-goers say, "We come here to express our true selves."

I disagree... partially.

Sociologist/philosopher George Herbert Mead devised the idea of social interactionism; whereby, one's behavior is shaped by one's language and physical, environmental cues which are controlled by one's thoughts, ultimately To Mead, there is a generalized self that exists as a member of society and that is shaped by the external community. This self is what Mead called the "Me." We behave according to the social cues and norms of the community. However, while using social cues to guide behavior, one also has the ability to choose one's behavior. Mead called this, the "I". The "I" is what prompts us to make our own decisions, outside of the societal current. According to the same article, Freud went a step further to state that the determined "I" can make a decision that the "Me" eventually adopts, as in the way of pioneers or folks whose new ideas or discoveries forge a new path for all... so the "Me" becomes changeable and fluid.

In my mind, the logical conclusion must also be that the "Me" is the foundation of the "self"- it is our given name, our family, our community, and the lessons the world has taught us. The "Me" makes us self-aware, not be confused with self-conscious, by understanding that we are a part of something greater- that not only are we never alone, but that we must also consider others' right to exert their own "I". Because our individual experiences shape the "I", there cannot be an individual "right" or "wrong", but there can be a societal, "Me", right and wrong from which we gather our social norms, mores, and taboos.

So, while sitting at the rave with my legal name printed across my chest and with strangers knowing my name and even calling me by that name (I not knowing theirs), I suddenly felt unusually comfortable.

I was comfortable because I was Me.

I wondered if the "Dancing Galaxylights" in the room would have taken-off their clothes, dressed in drag, had sex, vomited, cursed, and were so high they couldn't speak would behave that way around Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa? Would they teach their kids that it is okay to be naked if grotesquely overweight, just because they should love their bodies, despite what others in society believe? Maybe some would.

But I'm wagering that the pseudonyms and the pseudo-selves who are students, financial advisors, professors, lawyers, doctors, bankers, are all Tom, Mary, Bob, and Jane in their everyday lives. It is unlikely that a lawyer named "Dancing Galaxylights" would be very successful.

When talking with a very bright party guest, he said, "In an aggregate community, let's say in a small community, everyone would know everyone. There would be no secrets. We would know all there is to know about who the best cobbler, baker, or farmer is and we would go to that person to obtain goods and services in order to satisfy our needs." Bingo.

At the party, the people who claimed to be expressing their true selves, in this particular setting, didn't even know each other's real names much of the time. They were shocked that we would dare use ours and some thought it downright boring to not come-up with a groovy monicker.

Aside from people who hide behavior according to an ever-changeable penal system that now punishes, but that someday might change, to me, the party people who wouldn't offer up their real names (and many did offer them after seeing ours) and who behaved so vastly different than they normally would if a part of regular society, were suffering. We do it all the time in society... take politicians for example, societal behavioral standards are much higher for those in positions of authority than for the common person, so they hide their true selves; otherwise, people might not like them and it would jeopardize their careers or personal lives.

Our society, in its age of technology, believes that somehow privacy should exist... but should it and is that realistic? Further, does a "threat" really exist or is it constructed by paranoid deviants who would rather hide behind computer social networks, only allowing some people to know who they are and what they have to offer the rest of us?

Perhaps we should all wear our profiles around our necks.

And a good rule of thumb for all you younger people who wouldn't normally strip naked in front of others unless you're high as a kite, love yourself, even if no one taught you- But first, that means, knowing yourself and what is best for you. Before you embarrass and lose yourselves further, ask this question: "Would I behave this way in front of my parents?"

If the answer is, "Yes," Hell, go for it. Get naked and have mom and dad join you and call you whatever the heck you wish. If not, perhaps, your real name ain't so bad after all.