It’s been several years now since Dexter aired it’s series finale on Showtime. Along with most of the viewership, I feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction with how the show decided to end things (more on that later), but at the time it also left me wondering how the story might have progressed if a set of creative forces had taken its reins and run with it. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to wonder too much, as there existed a whole series of books that had inspired the TV show just waiting for me to explore, and contrast with its small screen counterpart.
Fair warning for those still binging on Netflix, there are bound to be spoilers below, and now that you’ve been alerted of it [in bold font, no less!], please don’t send me emails complaining about it. Cool? Cool.
If you’ve watched all eight seasons of the Dexter TV show, and then read all 8 books in the Dexter crime thriller series by Jeff Lindsay, you’ll have noticed some key differences in how the two mediums portray the personality and life events of its eponymous main character, Dexter Morgan.
I’m someone who happens to believe that changes to characters and narratives should not be reflexively dismissed as a negative. It is simply a fact that certain means by which a story can be structured within the confines of a book, does not always translate well onto the screen, and vice versa. Writers often have to make adjustments to allow for pacing, as well as the diverse means by which audiences consume either medium, in order to weave together a consistent and coherent plot. To put it simply: sometimes what reads well on paper, doesn’t always work too great when watched on a TV set (or any other screen). And audiences need to be mindful of this when comparing the differences between the two.
With that aside, these are the major difference that jumped out at me between Dexter, as portrayed in the pages of the books, and the TV series inspired by it, as well as the impact these differences hold for the overall narratives for either medium:
In the TV show, Dexter goes through a clear character arc where we see his psychopathic nature soften as he starts to identify with the individuals in his life, and humanizes as a result of his interactions with them (at least when comparing Season 1 Dexter, with Season 8 Dexter). In the books, no such arc happens. His outlook is the same in the last book (Dexter is Dead) as it is in the first book (Darkly Dreaming Dexter), that is to say, book Dexter remains as narcissistic and egocentric as he always was through every major life event. Personally, I think this difference works best for each medium. When it comes to books, you can still sympathize with a psychopathic protagonist if the story is written from his point of view, and he’s charmingly humorous about his monstrous behavior to boot. We’re just more forgiving because we experience the first-person account with him from inside his head, and had fun doing it, no matter how “bad” of a person he objectively is. Without a doubt, this wouldn’t work the same on a TV Show, or would be very tricky to pull off properly. Viewers want to know that the story they’re watching is progressing forward, and obvious character growth is a key way to portray that progression, otherwise you risk leaving the audience feeling cheated at getting invested in a character who seemingly has remained unaffected by anything that’s happened to them in the course of all major plot points you spent with them [I’m looking at you, Season 8 Jaime Lannister].
In the TV show, the Dark Passenger is just a metaphor Dexter uses to personify his homicidal urges, and in no way supernatural; in contrast, the books take a whole different angle on this whole concept. Book 3 of the series (Dexter in the Dark), makes it clear that the source of all psychopathic tendencies in the world has a supernatural origin, and descends from an ancient sacrificial deity named Moloch. Rather than being a manifestation of his darker urges, Dexter’s Dark Passenger is explained to be an entity existing separate from his own psyche, and is in no ambiguous terms presented as stemming from this supernatural source. It was a weak and nonsensical plot device that divided the fan base when Book 3 first came out, and for that reason gets downplayed in subsequent books. Nevertheless, it’s still there in the subtext and remains weak and nonsensical all throughout the book series’ run, whenever it is referenced again. For those wondering if there is an element of the story the TV show handles better than the books, I would say its interpretation of the Dark Passenger is an obvious winner in that regard. Not only is it more consistent with the tone of the greater narrative at play, it also serves as a better overall characterization of Dexter’s character, as the ultimate responsibility of his nature is still understood to be him at its core, and not the results of some convoluted spiritual influence at the hands of some ancient deity craving for a regular dose of human blood, or whatever.
Finally, the finale conclusions are very different. The last book in the series is titled Dexter is Dead, and although a bit of a spoiler in name alone, I found it to be a satisfying enough finish to the character, and recommend it as an overall entertaining read (though you do need to have also read at least the preceding book to understand many of the circumstances and references made throughout the narrative). In contrast, when it comes to the show’s finale, I defy anybody to defend that horrible last episode to me. I won’t go into too much of the details for those who can handle any and all spoilers except ones regarding a series’ closing scenes, but I’ll give a warning that I personally found the show’s finale to be an incoherent mess that spits in the face of all logic and any viewers who stuck around with it to the end (no, I’m not bitter–you’re bitter!). The final book in comparison is a much more fitting conclusion to the narrative, and has no stupid lumberjacks in sight.
I’m sure there are many other differences one could choose to go over, especially regarding secondary character developments (let’s just say, the books are not too kind with how they treat Detective James Doakes; I mean, he survives throughout the run of the books, but it sure ain’t a good life), but I wanted to primarily keep the focus on the character of Dexter himself. Also, maybe low-key intrigue some of the people I know reading this to read up on a few of the books, so I can finally have someone to discuss them with. Hey, a self-centered, narcissistic bookwork can dream, right?
Never in the history of the United States have we had a sitting President refuse to give a clear answer to the question of whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of powers were he to lose the election. Donald Trump has repeatedly, and unambiguously made reference to the fact that any outcome in the election which does not declare him the victor should be considered illegitimate, simply because he cannot accept the possibility of him losing the final vote count. This is not normal, acceptable behavior for someone occupying the highest office in the land.
Come next week, it will either be President Biden or President Trump who will be declared the President of the United Stated for the next 4 years. We can cry about our lackluster options all we want, but there is no legitimate third option to choose from in our current election system, and this fact won’t change within the next few days. Anyone who identifies politically with the left (to whatever degree), who thinks that another 4 years of Trump is preferable or equal to a Biden presidency, because of some ideological purity test about needing your political agenda realized all at once or not all, is someone who gives zero shits about actually affecting positive progressive change in this country, or the people they purport to be advocating for in the first place.
With Biden, progressives and left-wingers will still need to work hard to enact reforms and bring about the sociopolitical change we want to see, but at least we have a chance to put political pressure on him and fight for a seat at the table. With Trump, not only is there no seat for us, there isn’t even a damn table! There’s only a podium serving as a bully pulpit from which rights keep getting threatened that have already been fought for and won.
If you lean even slightly to the left, and haven’t voted yet, I implore you to do so this coming Tuesday. Before any reform to the system can be implemented, some sense of normalcy and sanity has to be restored first, and readily handing the presidency over to a man who openly boasts that only election results favorable to him are acceptable, who repeatedly demonizes half the population who happens to politically disagree with him, who had shown careless disregard for public health, and can’t help himself but incite hate and spread misinformation on the topic (and just about every other topic he speaks on), is the worse evil of the choices given that should not be enabled, even passively.
A lot of what passes for Nietzsche’s image in popular thought is a caricature of what was constructed by the Nazi propaganda machine in the 1930s (largely with the help of the philosopher’s own nationalistic, anti-Semitic sister, Elisabeth). Of course, if blame is to be assigned, then it is only fair to point out that much of the misinterpretations surrounding Nietzsche stems from the man’s own insistence on expressing his views in rather quick, often intentionally obscure musings and aphorisms, leaving his ideas wide open to be bastardized by opportunistic ideologues.
The reality is that even though it takes little effort to sanction an elitist system through Nietzsche’s philosophy, the actually details that accompany the man’s anti-egalitarian values—namely, anti-politics, anti-nationalism [especially anti-German], anti-group/herd mentality—are by definition incompatible with the belligerent, conformist, nationalistic, fascism inherent to the Third Reich’s state ideology. Nietzsche views on the notion of nationalities and personal identities (and the often times conflicted dynamics between the two), reveal a much more complex and nuanced perspective than the picture that has been (still is) often presented of him as the patron saint of Nazism.
In Part Eight of Beyond Good and Evil (1886), titled “Peoples and Fatherlands”, Nietzsche outlines his analysis of European and Western development, and critiques the modern move towards democratic institutions as a step towards the cultivation of a true tyranny. Nietzsche comments that the tribal affiliations that once dominated Europe are eroding away in favor of a more borderless sentiment amongst the hitherto disconnected people:
The Europeans are becoming more similar to each other / an essentially supra-national and nomadic type of man is gradually coming up, a type that possesses, physiologically speaking, a maximum art and power of adaptation as its typical distinction.
For Nietzsche, this development is a direct result of the advent of modernity, and modern ideas, which has made a person’s allegiance to a trifling tribe or nation unsatisfactory in light of modern man’s greater awareness of the world. Thus, a grander identity is needed, and a newer, more encompassing, international personal ideology is required to escape the limitations of the narrow worldview of one’s regional clan. Moreover, as identities and ideologies extend beyond the old local boundaries, a person’s interests will also evolve from the tribal group to the global. Politically, one possible result from all of this will be the development of a pluralistic society, out of which democracy will ascend as a means of appeasing the diverging—and converging—interests arising amongst the new, modern populace. It is within this context, Nietzsche argues, that democracy is born.
Nietzsche understands how this rise of democracy is looked upon as a great progress by contemporary society, but the philosopher himself is wary of the implications that such a system holds for humanity, stating that “this process will probably lead to results which would seem to be least expected by those who naively promote and praise it, the apostle’s of ‘modern ideas.’” Nietzsche is distrustful of populist inclinations, because it unduly gives credence to the degenerate, weaker persons of society to regress the progress of the more innovative value-creators, who will be forced to reside amongst the lowly plebeian masses. This sentiment is directly tied in with Nietzsche’s thesis on the dichotomy of master-slave moralities, the relevant part of which can be summarized as follows:
Our egalitarian sentiment, according to Nietzsche, is a result of the poison we have all blindly swallowed. Our demand for universal moderation, for the value of humility, our aversion to boastfulness as being too impolite in the presence of weaker, stupider individuals, and our desire to reduce the feeling of inadequacy from an opponent’s failures, are all manifestations from the original slave revolt of morality that is promulgated by those who seek to vindicate the virtue of their inferiority by means of social cohesion—to rationalize away personal failure in favor of mass victimization.
The democratization of society is to Nietzsche a move towards the promotion of mediocrity. It will condition us to be content with the will of others as reasonably equivalent to our own, instead of asserting our own interest in opposition to the whims of the masses. In short, our strive to achieve a more egalitarian mindset, will leave us too eager to be content with compromises with positions we fundamentally disagree with, rendering us potentially incapable of identifying and combating the ascension of any tyrannical entity that might see fit to stealthily encroach its power over our person:
The very same new conditions that will on the average lead to the leveling and mediocritization of man—to a useful, industrious, handy, multi-purpose herd animal—are likely in the highest degree to give birth to the exceptional human beings of the most dangerous and attractive quality.
Nietzsche proposes that in a society where the primary aim is to create unanimous equality, the ultimate result will be to create an environment of obstinate complacency (the greatest form of oppression that can be leveled against a thinking person). All this will in turn lead to the sweeping infantilizing of the individual, making her/him dependent on the body of the system as a whole for her/his survival, rather than one’s own strength and merit. A trend that will lead to a population “who will be poor in will, extremely employable, and as much in need of a master and commander as of their daily bread.”
However, the degeneration will not be universal amongst all individuals. Nietzsche explains that “while the democratization of Europe leads to the production of a type that is prepared for slavery in the subtlest sense, in single, exceptional cases the strong human being will have to turn out stronger and richer than perhaps ever before.” According to Nietzsche, in nature there exist those who can only dominate by virtue of their own values, and those who can only be dominated as a result of their inability to create values (hence, they must leach off of the values of others). These two groups do this by the presence of their will to power, that is to say, the very nature of their existence. As long as they exist, they cannot choose to act differently than the manner in which their nature—i.e. their will to power—dictates.
The problem Nietzsche sees with modernity is that our egalitarian-minded moral system has turned all of this upside-down, allowing for the weaker plebeian caste (who cannot create any values of their own) to dominate the environment on which the stronger noble caste (the natural value-creators) are cultured to stoop to the level of the very masses they should be dominating. This causes a dilemma for those few contemporary men born possessing the noble character trait, where their instinct (their will to power) tells them to reject the moral values of their surroundings and create their own moral values, but their conscience (indoctrinated by the slave mentality of the lowly masses controlling the moral discourse) tells them that subverting their own will in benefit of the herd is the highest virtue of the good modern man. Thus, when any individuals do inevitably rise above the masses (because, in Nietzsche’s view, the masses cannot help but unwittingly condition themselves to be dominated by some sort of master), the resulting value-creators who ascend to power will be as much a perversity of the noble character, as the degenerate culture that has produced them; what will ensue is absolute tyranny:
I meant to say: the democratization of Europe is at the same time an involuntary arrangement for the cultivation of tyrants—taking that word in every sense, including the most spiritual.
Reading these dire statements by Nietzsche through the privileged viewpoint of the 21st century, an observer would be justified to marvel at the prophetic nature of the philosopher’s words in predicting the rise of the totalitarian systems that would follow a few decades after his death.
The rise of fascism in both Italy and Germany appeared to emerge out of relatively democratic phases in both nations’ histories. Likewise, the 1917 October Revolution in Russia that brought to power the Bolshevik faction in the unstable country was enabled by the indecisiveness of the democratically-minded Provisional Government that arose from the 1917 February Revolution. In all of these examples the presence of a democratic political institution did not hinder the advent of repressive totalitarian regimes. Moreover (Nietzsche might argue), the presence of said democracies were instrumental in opening the door to these malignant forces, by having no mechanism by which to eject them from the political process besides the whims of a broken, infantilized population (whom Nietzsche describes as being “prepared for slavery in the subtlest sense”).
However, if one wants to be critical about the possibly prophetic nature of Nietzsche’s philosophy, it would also be apropos to point out that this sort of historical analysis is more the result of selective reasoning then objective inquiry. After all, it is equally true that every single one of the European democracies that yielded the totalitarian regimes of the 20th Century, were themselves preceded by non-democratic political entities, whose infrastructure crumbled despite their lack of concern for creating an egalitarian society. Furthermore, if the oppression of the totalitarian models of the last century are to be blamed on the insufficiency of the democratic institutions that preceded them, than consistency demands for us to also blame the insufficiencies of these democratic institutions on the failures of the aristocratic power structure that preceded them; and so on, and so forth, ad infinitum.
A better way to approach Nietzsche’s position here, is to consider that the philosopher may not be referring to political power at all, but a psychological development: “I hear with pleasure that our sun is swiftly moving toward the constellation of Hercules—and I hope that man on this earth will in this respect follow the sun’s example?” Hercules, of course, is the Roman demigod who is described as having returned from the underworld, and eventually ascended to the realm of the gods by virtue of his strength and valor—a character whose legend for Nietzsche must have served as a fitting representation of the philosopher’s will to power. The fact that Nietzsche states the reference as a question indicates that he was doubtful of the development of man to follow the example set forth by the Roman demigod.
I mentioned before that Nietzsche popular image is heavily, and unjustifiably, linked with Nazism. The falsity of this supposition is verified by Nietzsche’s own rejection of the purity of the German people, a sentiment that is antithetical to Nazi ideology: “The German soul is above all manifold, of diverse origins, more put together superimposed than actually built.” To Nietzsche the idea that Germany is to be cleansed of foreign elements is an absurdity in and of itself, since all things German (for him) are a mixture of originally non-German elements [a truth that I personally believe aptly pertains to all nations and ethnicities]. Nietzsche views the German nationalism emerging in his time as a result of an undefined people attempting to become a coherent identity; it is a compensation for a fault, which in its path “is at work trying to Germanize the whole of Europe” [a statement that perhaps once again hints at Nietzsche’s “prophetic” qualities in predicting the coming decades].
The most surprising fact to anyone whose opinions of Nietzsche have been largely shaped by the man’s false impression as a Nazi-precursor is the philosopher’s staunch abhorrence of European anti-Semitism. Nietzsche seems to understand the potential for his writings to be utilized by opportunistic anti-Semites, causing him to purposefully herald the Jewish people as a superior specimen, in contrast to the anti-Semites who seek to expel them from the continent:
The Jews, however, are beyond any doubt the strongest, toughest, and purest race now living in Europe; they know how to prevail even under the worst conditions (even better than under favorable conditions), by means of virtue that today one would like to mark as vices.
The irony here is that Nietzsche is attributing to the Jewish peoples every positive quality the anti-Semitic nationalists of Europe wish to attribute onto themselves. Just how much of this is motivated by Nietzsche’s preemptive desire to separate himself from the bigoted views of some of his potential admirers is an open question, but what is certain is the philosopher’s complete denunciation of the conspiratorial propaganda the anti-Semites are eager to spread into public consciousness:
That the Jews, if they wanted it—or if they were forced into it, which seems to be what the anti-Semites want—could even now have preponderance, indeed quite literally mastery over Europe, that is certain; that they are not working and planning for this is equally certain.
In other words, Nietzsche is of the opinion that if the Jewish people were as eager for world domination as the anti-Semites claim, they would already be dominating the world by now. The fact that they are neither planning nor interested in this is evident by the continued harassment they have to endure by people who claim (and have been claiming for a good few centuries now) to constantly be a knife-edge away from “Jewish-dominance.” Instead, Nietzsche suggests that the history of the Jewish people in Europe indicates a desire to want to at long last be accepted within the public realm:
Meanwhile they want and wish rather, even with some importunity to be absorbed and assimilated by Europe; they long to be fixed, permitted, respected somewhere at long last.
Even going so far as to insist that to achieve the long overdue inclusion of the Jewish people “it might be useful and fair to expel the anti-Semite screamers from the country.” I mentioned before the possibility that Nietzsche’s motivation for writing this screed against the anti-Semites of Europe is directly tied in with his desire to counterattack any possible conflation between his views and the views of some of his more questionable admirers (it was a move that, while well-intentioned, proved futile in the long run).
A more intellectual challenge that can be issued on Nietzsche’s passionate defense of the Jewish people, is the seeming contradiction it creates with the man’s staunch attacks against religion, in particular against Abrahamic monotheism, of which Judaism is the founding faith. A reasonable counter Nietzsche could make is that nowhere in his defense of the Jewish people does he defend any of the religious tenets of Judaism; rather he is aiming to point out the prejudice unduly leveled against the Jews as an ethnic group (which is what their most vitriolic defamers classify them as). Another point of consideration is that Nietzsche’s defense of the Jewish people, as an ethnic group, is completely compatible with his broader worldview regarding master-slave moralities. As a quick summary, Nietzsche divides human society into two distinct castes: the aristocratic nobility (the value-creating masters) and the plebeian masses (the herd-minded slaves). Amongst the aristocratic nobility, who–according to Nietzsche–are the rightful arbitrators of what is morally good, a further distinction is made between the knightly-aristocracy and the priestly-aristocracy; the latter of which are the ones who have provided the intellectual means for the lowly plebeians to charge a slave-revolt against the purer morality of the more noble caste—a slave-revolt which has permeated and shaped the moral conscience of modern man. In this scenario described by Nietzsche, the ancient Hebrews would occupy the role of the priestly-aristocracy, which has created the opportunity for the revolting slave-morality of Christianity to perverse the nobleman’s superior morality.
But Germans and anti-Semites aren’t the only groups Nietzsche holds in low regard; his opinion on the English are equally negative, dismissively referring to the nation’s philosophical contributors as the archetypes of modern mediocrity:
There are truths that are recognized best by mediocre minds because they are most congenial to them; there are truths that have charm and seductive powers only for mediocre spirits: we come up against this perhaps disagreeable proposition just now, since the spirit of respectable but mediocre Englishmen.
Nietzsche’s sentiment here could be due to his perception of the historical influence English thinkers have had in fostering the atmosphere for what he considers to be harmful modern ideals. Nietzsche’s reasoning may partly be justified by the fact that English parliamentary-style government has served as a model for many forms of European democracies; a system which, as discussed earlier, Nietzsche views as contributing to the “mediocritization of man.” This reading is supported by the philosopher’s persistent equating of the lowly plebeian values with the English nation, in contrasts to the superior (in Nietzsche’s eyes) French culture, “European noblesse—of feeling, of taste, of manners, taking the word, in short, in every higher sense—is the work and invention of France; the European vulgarity, the plebeianism of modern ideas, that of England.” Here, Nietzsche’s personal biases are leaking through the prose, showing his preference towards the Latin countries he spent a great deal of his creative career residing in, in hopes that the temperate climate would alleviate his poor health. France, in particular, is a place he developed a great deal of fondness for, an affection that was further encouraged by the fact that the German nationalists of his time (à la Richard Wagner) held French culture in very low regard. In contrasts to the barbarianism of the northern cultures of Europe, Nietzsche described the French as possessing a more timid and sophisticated taste and mannerism:
Even now one still encounters in France an advance understanding and accommodation of those rarer and rarely contented human beings who are too comprehensive to find satisfaction in any fatherlandishness and know how to love the south in the north and the north in the south.
Of course, it can be easily argued that Nietzsche is engaging in a very selective form of cultural analysis in his heralding of France as a society that has transcended politics and nationalities. Furthermore, one is even justified in pointing out the apparent contradiction in Nietzsche’s reasoning, since the ideals of the French Revolution played a large part in nurturing the call for democratic reforms throughout the European continent—at least in spirit, if not in practice—a historical development Nietzsche claims to despise wholeheartedly. The inconsistency in Nietzsche’s condemnation of the English for their historic role in nurturing democratic principles, but failure to acknowledge France’s equal part in this modernization effort, is a shortcoming that cannot (should not) be easily overlooked by even the casual reader.
On the face of things, Nietzsche’s opinions of nationalities and patriotism appear direct and concise, as he spends page after page polemically dissecting and chastising all who fall for such “infantile” ideals. However, the man’s mindset on the modern development of Western society seems to be somewhat murky at times. He writes as if he loathes the coming uniformity of society (a sentiment instilled through the growing influence of democratic institutions), but at the same time he condemns the narrow-minded tribalism on offer from the nationalists. This leaves open the question on what sort of political development Nietzsche would like to see come about to reverse the wrongs we are currently on. Moreover, is it even possible to develop any political ideals from a man whose philosophy is so staunchly anti-political to begin with; will not any such attempt result in complete failure, on account that one cannot successfully create an ideological foundation on inherently polemical premises? I think Nietzsche’s primary goal on the issue of modern politics ought to be viewed more as a social criticism, rather than a social framework. For instance, when it comes to European affairs, the philosopher distances himself from both the nationalist and democratic factions, but is astute enough to realize that the former is a final gasp of a dying sentiment, and that the latter will be the ultimate trend amongst modern man, because (above all else) “Europe wants to become one.” Yet, despite the potential that lie with the aim in greater social unity, the underlying principles upon which this globalizing trend is based on, is something Nietzsche simply cannot support in good spirit.
 Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil, Part Eight “Peoples and Fatherlands,” section 242.
 Ibid, section 243.
 Virgil, Aeneid, 6.395.
 Ibid, section 244.
 Ibid, section 251.
 Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals, “First Essay: ‘Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad,’” 1887, section 7.
 Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, “Peoples and Fatherlands”, section 253.
On Tuesday, October 13th, at 7 a.m., early voting for the 2020 General Election started in Texas. Going by the trend of previous elections, I assumed showing up at 7:30 a.m. would be enough to ensure a quick, no fuss, in-and-out through the process. I was very wrong about this, a fact I found out as I drove through the parking lot of the local Hotel hosting the polls. About the only thing I managed to do that morning was navigate around crowds of people hurrying to join the already sizeable line that had formed from the sidewalk, all the way leading up to the doors of the designated voting polls. Not to be dismayed, I thought there was a chance that it was a case of numerous people having the same bright idea of trying to fulfill their civic duty as soon as the doors opened to allow them to do so.
I reasoned that perhaps as the day went one, the crowd would become less daunting to face. With that in mind, I returned to the same place later that afternoon, thinking an hour long lunch break ought to be enough for me to run through the process. The scene I returned to at 2 p.m. was a somewhat shorter line of people, yes, but not by very much. But I had 60 minutes, and even if I stood there for 45 of them, it would still be worthwhile to have the act behind me. The problem was that whatever the afternoon line lacked in headcount of responsible citizens compared to its dawn-hour counterpart, it certainly made up in its overall lack of forward mobility (as if mockingly striving to serve as a metaphor for the socioeconomic reality of America’s working class).
Suffice to say, I did not vote on the 13th, because I underestimated the rise in political awareness experienced by my fellow Americans over the course of the last four years. Hence, I ventured out again the next day, determined to match this dedication in turn. Waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning., and heading out the door no later than 5:30 a.m., I made it in line just before 6, and before the first rays of sunlight peaked through the horizon. I armed myself with all the essentials: knapsack, a bottle of water, a Neil Gaiman book for company, and a pair of headphones in case someone around me decided to hold a private conversation just enough decibel units too loud to render my reading efforts moot during the hour long wait to the polls.
When the doors opened I was seventh in line, and got to cast my ballot within 12 minutes of entering. On my way back to my car I felt a bit groggy from sleep deprivation, but was reassured about my decision to arrive early when I saw the wait line to the doors had again stretched out to meet the 100 persons mark, same as it had the day prior. All in all, it was a worthwhile effort, and one I hope many of us managed to endure safely to its completion, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the election cycle, for the sake of enforcing the integrity of our electoral process.
The reason why I felt the need to go into so much detail about my voting efforts here, is that almost five years ago, two articles were published on KR titled The Value of Voting? and Is Voting a Civil Duty? in which challenges were made to the de facto assertion that voting is an essential duty, and that it is intellectually lazy to fall back on the trope that those who abstain from participating in the process are exhibiting a personal flaw. The articles also clearly state that they are not attempts to discourage voter participation, but are meant to encourage the politically active among the populace to employ more empathetic strategies when trying to persuade the politically disgruntled and apathetic in our midst to become involved in the electoral process.
Within the context that they were written, the arguments in the articles are valid for their intended purposes, however, in light of the repeated attempts at voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement via online commentary meant to do nothing else but create obfuscation and confusion among the voting public, it is paramount to not allow one’s words to aid or be hijacked by bad faith actors looking to use them to stealthily signal boost their own toxic agendas.
Sad as it may be to accept, the current political climate is not one that allows for nuanced thought experiments that can just exist unhindered in a vacuum, because political realities and their consequences do not exist in such vacuums. Now, more than ever, effort needs to be exercised at distilling whether self-professed comments looking at “just wanting to have the difficult conversations” are genuine calls for intellectual rigor, or sly trolling attempt looking to smuggle through customs debunked and historically bankrupt ideologies, under the guise of harmless memes. And just as partaking in the electoral process is a worthwhile effort, so is clarifying one’s position to eliminate their potential to serve the needs of those one finds abhorrent.
Having taken as long a break as I did it from posting updates to this site, and having done so just as a pandemic got started to boot, it would be weird if I didn’t address the 2020 lbs elephant in the room. Namely, I’m fine and healthy, and have remained so for this whole year (so far, at least).
Part of the reason I managed to avoid COVID like the proverbial plague is the fact that, unlike many of my fellow Americans who serve as essential workers in our struggling economy, my place of employment was able to transition its staff into a work-from-home setup early on in this ordeal. Hence, I was fortunate that the burden of figuring out how to properly socially distance from my coworkers was never a serious threat to me, even when the confirmed number of infections continued to climb.
When we consider the fact that the people who had to remain in continuous contact with the public, day in and day out, and put their health at risk so that the rest of us could reserve the services we needed to uphold some level of comfort during this trialing time, are also by far among the lowest paid workers in American society, it doesn’t take a whole lot of big-brain thinking to figure out that something in our society is seriously messed up. But I digress.
The point of this post isn’t to complain about the imbalance in the modern day economic model. What I really want to discuss is a realization I made during my seven month (and counting!) tenure as a remote worker. It’s a realization that many have already made long before me, and long before corona was on everyone’s lips (and mucus): the traditional office is obsolete and serves no purpose in a 21st century workforce.
Now, hold on. Whether you agree or disagree with me, I do come carrying caveats, just in case.
Let’s just start out by saying how this statement is not absolute, of course. Putting that out there right off the bat, before readers start emailing me a list of office jobs that can’t be done remotely. I know these roles exist, and I know that they’re vital, and I know that there will always be a place carved out for them in the white collar workforce. However, allegorical counterexamples don’t change the fact that, as a whole, a lot of what the average office worker does by going to a cubicle every day, could be just as well adapt into a home office setting. And workers could do so at a reduction of costs for themselves (save on gas, save on meals…hell, save on clothes if you don’t feel like wearing pants anymore as you work–it’s your living room, Bob, go nuts!). But it’s also a cost reduction for the employer, as they would no longer need as extensive of a physical office, if most of their staff is working remotely. Note, I said they’d have no need for an extensive physical office. I understand that there will always be a need for a skeleton crew of individuals to run the daily administrative responsibilities at a company’s corporate location, but the argument is that such a space needed to contain a handful of individuals ought to be a lot more affordable than the space that’s needed to house a staff of two dozen or more for forty hours a week.
The second thing I’d like to address is the appeal to the need to foster workplace camaraderie between coworkers, and how working remotely will cause us to lose this experience of bonding with the people we share an office with. While I don’t doubt that there are many out there who bond, socialize, and form lifelong companionship with their coworkers, I would guess that for every employee who falls into that category, there are are at least six or seven employees who have little to no interest in viewing the persons sitting in the desks around them as people to get chummy with. That’s not to say that most people necessarily view their coworkers negatively, but there is a big difference between being friendly with others, and being friends with them. I’d wager that for most of us, coworkers fall more in the former, than the latter camp. I can’t help but think that this idealized notion of camaraderie between employees exists mostly in the minds of a management class who doesn’t really grasp just how little time the average American worker has to fraternize with their colleagues while they’re rushing to meet deadlines, and process a full day’s workload.
I’ve also been told that productivity is a concern when it comes to work-from-home, and that it’s demonstrably higher when they need to go to an office away from their homes, as it enforces the separation between one’s professional and private life. Granted, I’m single, and live alone, and have no children. So I don’t want to lecture those whose living situation is different than mine, nor do I want to resort to deferring to testimonials from married parents living in a multi-family home, who also happen to agree with me. I will simply say that, I’m amazed employers are having trouble figuring out what they should do with unproductive employees, just because they happen to be working remotely. After all, if you’ve spent any amount of time grunting it out with us plebes on the floor of the office, you’d know that there is always one or two unproductive members of the staff sitting in a cubicle only a few feet away from management’s vigilant eye. And I have yet to hear anybody try to make the connection that these individuals’ lax attitudes must be tied to having to put on a tie and sit in a box for eight hours a day. I’m not saying it is; I’m saying that short of raw metadata into the subject, we’re both just speculating to fit our narratives.
I could go on for much longer, but I want to finish by admitting that this time last year, I was fairly open to the idea that traveling to a work office every morning was more ideal for most company jobs than having the majority of such employees work from home. Face-to-face training, interpersonal meetings, and even just the casual “Hello!” in the break room seemed like integral parts of the working experience to me, and I could have been swayed into believing that they were necessary parts we shouldn’t abandon. But now that I’ve worked remotely for the better part of the year, I just don’t see the point of having people shuffle to and fro to desks and cubicles, where they’ll be immersed in work for hours on end, only to occasionally look up from their daily reports to nod at the equally overworked person sitting next to them. The amount of genuine human engagement most of us experience in the office isn’t enough to satisfy the basic socializing needs of the most introverted members of society, let alone the majority of people who fall closer to the median of that spectrum. And if human engagement is why we’re holding on to an increasingly outdated concept, we’re probably better off figuring out how to find it elsewhere.
Remember the days before COVID19, when dating was just about navigating awkward minefields, and bizarre expectations we (mostly) setup for ourselves? Those were good times. Not from a morale standpoint, but at least every time I stepped outside I didn’t have to fight the nagging feeling that any casual conversation I entered into could be a potential death sentence. I miss those days.
Social life, and the social culture that surrounds it, is by necessity an idealization of extroverted personalities. Being outgoing, adventurous, flirtatious–i.e., sociable–is the go-to characteristic that storytellers revert to when they want to make a character likable. In contrast, if they want to convey the point that a characters is not fully well-adjusted, the usual trope is to make her/him socially aloof (or downright inept), awkward, withdrawn, or not good at the basics of human interaction (somehow Sherlock Holmes can deduct all the intricacies of human behaviors to get an accurate read on people’s personalities, right down to their favorite toilet paper brands, but can’t figure out that he himself is a total asshole, huh?). Given this subversively negative portrayal of introversion by media and entertainment sources, it’s no surprise that many introverts will eagerly seek out any medium that affirms some level of humanity to the introverted individual.
Self-help books on Amazon that deal with introversion not as a maladaptive flaw, but as a perfectly valid state of personality, garner a lot of support, both in their reviews and the number of sales. Online communities (which tend to skew heavily towards the introverted side of the personality scale anyway) will often share supportive words and studies showing that being an introvert doesn’t simply end at “not being social,” but encompasses a wide array of positive traits, too, such as thoughtfulness, self-sufficiency, and creative aptitude. One could even argue how the ease by which social media has taken over the personal interactions of much of modern human communications, that this digital age we’re enjoying caters much better to our introverted tendencies, given the control users of these platforms have in terms of getting to tailor interactions to their personal comfort levels.
Personally, I definitely lean more towards being an introvert than an extrovert, so I’m inclined to welcome any positive press bestowed towards my fellow shut-ins (relax; we’re allowed to ironically use these demeaning terms among ourselves). But going right along with the introvert’s supposed knack of thoughtful introspection, I would be doing my tribe a disservice if I didn’t point out that for many people the introvert label has become somewhat of a cop-out to avoid uncomfortable situations, or avoid taking steps towards any semblance of self-improvement on the social front.
Everybody has bouts of introversion; even the most socially lively among us. Usually these show up while we’re in the midst of new social surroundings and experiences. What seems to separate the self-identified extroverts from the self-identified introverts is the way they respond to said experiences. Extroverts will use the initial discomfort to energize themselves and try to turn the unfamiliar setting into something familiar (thereby increasing their comfort level with it), while introverts tend to see these social settings as a drain to their energy and will approach them like a tedious chore (thereby not concerning themselves with increasing their comfort level in the situation, but focusing on the comfort they’ll get to enjoy once they’re finally able to be alone again). I’m admittedly generalizing here for the sake of brevity, so calm down with the caveats and nuances I know you’re preparing to angrily type my way (we introverts do have a penchant for pedantry, after all).
With all this bit of pop psychology aside, I want to get to matter that I have observed pretty prominently for a while now. For a lot of us who identify as introverts, we often use the label as an excuse to cover for our shyness. As I said, everyone is introverted some of the time, but I’ve noticed that for many of us who define ourselves as introverts–not just as one of our personality traits, but the defining trait of our identity–what we seem to be doing is using the now more socially acceptable fact of being an introverts to hide the still less acceptable fact of just being too shy.
What reason would any of us have to self-delude our own egos this way? Well, for starters, to say that you are an introvert is to say that avoiding social settings is a part of your nature, while admitting that you are just too shy for social settings might make you sound like you are fearful, and therefore make you feel like a coward. It goes without saying that being shy doesn’t make anyone a lesser person, but it’s also unavoidable that most of us would rather not advertise our fears and insecurities to the rest of the world. With the rise of respectability given to genuine introversion, many of us see it as an opportunity to mask our social fears and anxieties behind it. Meanwhile, we continue to feel withdrawn and isolated, and continue to fall deeper into the despair of loneliness; making it much worse for ourselves because we’ve now fooled all those around us into believing that being alone is our preferred state of being. And because we have convinced others (and, on a surface level, ourselves) that we are innate introverts, whose default nature is to be away from others as much as possible, we eventually find it impossible to seek out what we truly do crave at our core: companionship and camaraderie.
It took me some time to accept that deep down I wasn’t just an introvert comfortable in solitude, as much as I was also a shy kid who was afraid to engage in social settings, despite actually having a basic desire to do so. This shy kid eventually became a shy adult who embraced his more introverted qualities, because it was easier than having to confront my honest fears on the matter, and leave myself vulnerable to the very sort of judgment that caused my shyness (and nurtured my introversion) to begin with.
Much like stage fright, I can’t promise that shyness ever really goes away. Whether it’s origins are ultimately caused by nature or nurture (or a combination of both), once you mature through life with it, you’ll always feel some of its affects on you. But there are ways to lessen the sting of it, especially when it comes to your outward interactions with others. It takes effort (a lot of effort), as no book, seminar, or inspirational quote can do the job of remolding the way you see yourself, and the way the world interacts around you. But it can be done. And if you are a self-identified introvert reading this, I would ask you to consider whether, for you too, it is perhaps simple shyness that is at the root of what you believe to be an inherently introverted character.
And if you are considering finding ways to overcome the negative aspects of shyness that are keeping you from being as happy in life as you could potentially be, a giant step forward will be to admit the fact of your shyness to yourself. The next steps forward are more incremental, and involve making a combination of small and moderate changes to your way of thinking about socializing and interacting with others. One giant step backward to any possible progress, however, is to cling to things that allow you to hide from the reality of your fears and insecurities about achieving the social life that would satisfy you (whatever extend or comfort level that may be), and pretending that your lack of social interactions are the result of being an innate introvert, when it probably has more to do with simply being a person whose shyness has caused them to avoid the initial discomfort of socializing. There is no shame in not wanting to be alone, but hiding from this want and continuing to deny it to ourselves out of a misguided sense of loyalty to an identity we have adopted to cope with our shyness, is the best way to guarantee a lifelong refuge in a misery that need to be.
In case you’ve been leaving on an Amish commune for the past several weeks, there have finally been moves to proceed with a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. In response, conservative political commentators (and even some left-wing commentators) have been going into overdrive to obscure as much of the key details concerning the basis for the inquiry that it’s important to do a quick rundown of events:
In September 2018, Congress appropriated $400 million in military aid to Ukraine for the 2019 fiscal year to assist the Ukrainian military in their ongoing fight against the threat of Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The aid continued to be withheld until September 11th, when the funds were finally released.
Two additional facts that give context to the timeline above:
On July 25th, 2019, President Trump has a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky. On August 12th, 2019, an anonymous whistleblower complaint cites the July 25th phone conversation as evidence of Executive abuse of power on the part of President Trump to “advance his [Trump’s] personal interests” as well as to “help the President’s 2020 reelection bid”, among several other troubling points raised concerning Trumps actions and motivations in the course of his conversation with the Ukrainian president.
On September 24th, 2019, President Trump released a non-verbatim summary of his phone call with the Ukrainian president, which shows that Trump does bring up the alleged wrongdoing of Hunter and Joe Biden that he would like the Ukrainians to investigate further. There are no explicit statements by Trump in the 5 page document where he says that he is withholding the $400 million in aid until and unless Ukraine complies with his request to look into the Bidens, or to aid in his 2020 Presidential campaign. Though one could just as easily argue that the very act of holding the aid in the first place (and lying about the reason for the hold, and then contradicting said lie when questioned), and bringing up settled legal matter with a foreign country regarding a potential political opponent–not to mention the fact that this entire document is not an official transcript of what was actually said in the conversation–makes this a very facetious Hail Mary for the no-impeachment crowd to clasp onto. It is also of note that in his conversation with the Ukrainian president, Trump never mentions his concerns regarding corruption in that country; the primary reason he gives for holding the funds months later (which, again, contradicts the dubious interagency process reason he gave to Congress even prior to that).
The fact that President Trump lied to Congress about why he was holding the already year-long approved military aid to Ukraine is enough to warrant an impeachment inquiry. Full stop.
Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 of the U.S. Constitution grants the House of Representatives “sole Power of Impeachment”. Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution lists the grounds for impeachment as “conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Constitution does not expand on how to define either “high crimes” or “misdemeanor,” leaving that at the discretion of the House of Representatives. In the Federalist Papers, however, founding father Alexander Hamilton defined impeachable offenses as, “offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”
If you want to argue that there is nothing wrong with Trump looking into the corruption of a nation that has already been approved to receive military aid, be my guest. If you want to argue that you just plain don’t care that he lied about his original reasons for refusing to release the aid, go ahead. If you want to say that Trump should not be impeached at the end of it all because he gave contradictory reasons for holding the aid, you are perfectly entitled to your opinion on that But you cannot say that the President intentionally misleading lawmakers as to the reason why funds–which they had already appropriated for a specific purpose–were not being released, does not, at the very least, warrant said lawmakers to investigate his conduct and behavior in the matter, considering a precedent of deceit and outright lying has now already been well established. All which can be argued to fall within Hamilton’s definition of being “an abuse or violation of…public trust”; i.e. conduct that falls well within the realm of warranting an impeachment inquiry, if not outright impeachment itself.
And that is the key issue to always keep in mind when discussing this topic. Absent of any conspiracies and deflections getting thrown around to poison the well against the legitimacy of even holding an inquiry to determine if the President’s actions merit impeachment, the fact remains that Trump admittedly lied to Congress as to the reason why he was holding the $400 million in military aid from Ukraine.
As is to be expected, the Republican members of Congress have shown no principled backbone on this matter whatsoever. They are firmly on Trump’s side, and have remained so through every contradiction, lie, and gaffe on the part of the President and his Administration’s officials. And will most likely continue to do so, regardless of what evidence is presented to them.
An impeachment inquiry is the bare minimal that is called for here given the facts of the case, and it is well within the rights of the lawmakers within the House of Representatives to pursue it. Because if the established law on a President’s potential abuse of his office and position is not pursued to its fullest extend necessary, regardless of political or partisan maneuvering or concern for how it might affect the 2020 election, said law will be rendered a shameful reminder of our public servants’ inability to live up to their oaths to this nation, as well as our inability to hold them accountable to it.
To allow an executive to not even face the formality of an investigation into his potential wrongdoings, sets a precedent from which there is no return; from which only further abuse and corruption is guaranteed to follow.
I make no secret about the fact that I consider the self-help industry to be largely bullshit. That’s not to say that striving for personal improvement isn’t a worthwhile goal, and there is certainly no shame in seeking out sources that will help one achieve said improvement. In fact, I’m a firm proponent that everyone should go out and find personal fulfillment and work towards better clarity, understanding, and all that great stuff that make a person a well-adjusted and psychologically healthy individual. Be it yoga, video games, sports teams, fitness, mountain climbing, elaborate cooking escapades–if it floats your boat and leads to a better version of you, than, by all means, ride that wave home to shore.
The problem is that the self-help industry is something very different from just a resource for genuine self-improvement. It’s a profit-driven marketing scheme, propagated by charlatans with a cult-like sense of self-importance, whose bottom line is to prey on people’s insecurities as a means to secure their own monetary success and celebrity status–where helping people overcome their actual problems is an afterthought, if it is given any real thought at all.
Noting the handful of (arguably) legit self-help trends that I’m sure some readers will be eager to point to as the exception to my condemnations above, I would hope that most of us can at least agree that what is commonly referred to as the pickup artist (PUA) community, largely operates as a racket.
PUA is the umbrella term for various seduction and attraction methods put forward by a loose-knit collection of self-styled experts in the field that claim to be able to help men get sex from women. Now, those within these communities will undoubtedly disagree with my description here, and will want to claim how their “techniques” actually span a variety of confidence building and self-improvement exercises applicable to a wide range of a person’s life beyond just sex and seduction. But in all honest, I dare anybody to point to a single legit PUA source whose underlying material isn’t about showing men how to get laid with a higher quantity of attractive women. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
Books, seminars, workshops, blogs, podcasts–there is hardly a profitable venue the PUA market hasn’t reached. The gurus delivering the message will almost always be decently attractive men themselves, who will always claim to have at some point been just as clueless about approaching women as the love-shy men currently seeking their advice. The methods they are teaching are therefore tested, and street verified, with the transformation and testimonial of the now suave pickup artist himself as the ultimate proof that you, too, can reach this level of Casanova sexual prowess with the ladies. These PUA gurus will offer samples of their services for free online, but to really get the full affect of their wisdom you will eventually need to commit to attending their infield training camps, the cost of which can range up in the thousands (yes, thousands!) of dollars.
I’ve never been much of a business man so I will foolishly distill down the basic message of all PUA methods, techniques, and skills, into two all-encompassing points:
Don’t be needy.
Play the odds.
The first point covers all the basics of not coming across as desperate, or fixating, or being too accommodating towards any one women. And the second point emphasizes how in a world of varying sexual appetites, simply approaching enough women will statistically increase the likelihood in your favor that at least a few of them will be willing to interact with you, and possibly even have sex with you.
That’s it. Those are all the tactics PUAs have to offer in a nutshell. All the jargon, all the insider terminology, essentially falls under points 1 and 2 above.
Now I’m going to go one step further and actually tell you the key universal truth about attraction. Are you ready? There is nothing you can do to make someone attracted to you, if they weren’t already inclined to feel attracted to you. In case you need it put more bluntly: There is no trick, method, or approach you could ever learn or master that will make someone who is otherwise not attracted to you, suddenly want to have sex with you.
Oh sure, you could wave millions of dollars in a woman’s face that will entice her to pretend to be attracted to you. Hell, the incentive of gaining riches could very easily make a number of straight men agree to fondle your genitalia, too. But they still won’t be attracted to you; not really. Not anymore then they were inclined to be when they first met you, and knew nothing about you.
If you need further convincing of the validity of this key universal truth of attraction, indulge me with this thought experiment. Think of a person you are just not sexually attracted to, at all. There doesn’t need to be anything physically wrong with them, and they could be a perfect lovely and decent human being in their own right; they’re just not your cup of tea as far as sexual attraction goes. Now try to think of anything this person could ever do or say that would suddenly make you feel sexually attracted to them. Can you think of anything? No? Exactly.
Pickup artists know that this is the truth, and it’s part of their long con. They understand that it really doesn’t fucking matter what you say to a women, just that you approach her in the first place. Because what do these PUA gurus say to the men who have spent 2-3 paychecks worth for their advice when they still end up striking out with a women under their tutelage?–“Don’t worry about it, man. Just go on to the next one.” Which is correct and good advice, but hardly worth the shitload of cash they had these men put in to receive it. But men who lack experience with talking to women in the first place–let alone dating them–don’t know that. They think there must me something more to it, like a secret code that can be deciphered. But there isn’t. No code, hence no cheat code; ergo, no shortcuts or tricks.
You will only be attractive to the women who find you attractive, and you will only find these women by talking to and approaching enough women in the first place. And as long as you act like a decent enough human being, you will manage to keep the attraction of these women long enough that they may agree to have sex with you. That’s it. No book, or method, or lecture, or dishonestly edited “infield footage” will give you anymore insight than that.
There will be some number of readers who will nod along in agreement with everything I have written in this post about PUAs and their tactics, but will part with my unwillingness to outright attack the men they prey on for personal and financial gains. They might say that if you are the sort of person who is so easily taken in by obvious grifters, you deserve little no sympathy for it. If you are of this mindset, I can’t say anything to dissuade of it, but I sincerely cannot find it in me to go along with this line of thinking.
If you are the sort of person who takes advantage of another’s self-conscious personal flaws, and seeks to make a livelihood out of other people’s pains and loneliness, it is you who is the bad person, not those who were unfortunate enough to fall into your predatory sights. And PUAs, like all these self-help guru charlatans, are essentially just predators who have found the venue by which to turn their predatory natures into a profitable market. And they deserve the ire of any decent person who crosses their path for it, and they don’t deserve to have any of that ire deflected onto their victims; regardless of how gullible the latter group may seem in the grand scheme of things.