Monday, May 27, 2013

Vol #2, Col #10: Breaking Up is Hard to Do…Especially When You Live in a “Wired World”

I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely one who ops for a “clean break,” whenever possible. Regardless of whether we’re talking a business deal gone awry, a messy split with a romantic partner, or a desire to cease communications with someone you’re not quite certain as to how they ended up on your friend’s list in the first place, once the presumed benefit of continuing the relationship has been lost, I frankly don’t see the point, especially if final discussions turn heated or dwindle down to nothing more than juvenile personal attacks. Let’s face it folks, we can’t be friends with everyone and if someone no longer wishes to have us in their lives, we should respect that.

Now, if you just interpreted what I stated as self-serving, don’t kid yourself - ALL relationships are based on some idea of mutual perk, even the seemingly altruistic ones (ie: people participate in charity work yes to help those less fortunate, BUT ALSO because it provides them with positive recognition by others in society, it looks good on the old resume, and because it provides oneself with a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction that you are "giving back").

This “alliance strategy”, of course, can be traced back to our evolutionary history: it is and always has been in the best interest of any species to maintain strong ties to its kin in order to ensure protection and survival of its kind. Kin, in the modern sense of this perspective then, can be defined as those with whom you share the SAME values, morals, attitudes, beliefs, passions etc. – these are the individuals with whom you already have and/or wish to make a connection. On the other side of things, there are those with whom you’ve had falling outs, and/or those whose values, morals, attitudes, beliefs, passions etc. are dissonant to yours. From a “survivalism” perspective, this latter group stands in the way of the perpetuation of people like yourself; therefore adding to their “fitness” by expanding their network isn’t in your best interest. Make sense? In other words, you are who you hang with.

So what does all of this have to do with being “old-fashioned?” Well, frankly because we live in such a “wired world”, it’s next to impossible (particularly if you work in the entertainment business, like myself) to maintain any sense of anonymity. Essentially what I’m trying to say is that nowadays even if you block all incoming hate mail on one social networking site from an established antagonist, you can easily find yourself being “cyber-stalked” through another or worse, having your identity “mimicked” without even knowing it, whereas eliminating delinquents from your life at one point was as easy as changing your phone number.

I mean seriously I’ve had ex-bfs from h.s. with whom things ended EXTREMELY unfavourably along with my old h.s. bullies friend request me on Facebook  - are you kidding me? Why the hell would I want anything to do with them? Moreover, why the hell would they want anything to do with me? I’ve still got my battle wounds, and those are not really times I wish to ever revisit. Thanks.

While admittedly, people are far too free-wheeling about the level of personal detail they are willing to put online, I also feel that the idea of privacy is being disregarded to a whole new level because of social networking sites and the “net”.

The other day, for example, a teenaged girl got suspended by her school because someone anonymously sent her principal a photo, stolen from her Facebook page, which demonstrated her participation in underage drinking. Agreed, this is an illegal act that should be sanctioned, but seeing as the drinking did NOT occur on school grounds and that likely the photo was submitted by one of the girl’s adversaries (no doubt because someone stole someone else’s boyfriend), I really don’t feel that the principal was justified in getting involved. If anything, he should have contacted the girl’s parents and allowed them to deal with her as they saw fit.

The points I’m trying to make here are as follows:
1) it is NEVER in proper taste to air one’s dirty laundry publicly.
2) Be respectful of the desire for privacy of others. I mean, considering how easy it is to track people down these days, if they wanted you to be in their lives, you likely already would be.
Finally, 3) If someone has decided they feel it is necessary to “cut you out”, accept it; continuing communications, after all, is only likely to merit you a higher place on their shit list. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vol 2, Col 9: “Exper-tease”

I swear, everyone thinks they’re a bloody expert. Well, let me let you in on something folks – just ‘cause you read a single Wikipedia entry, watch a documentary, or peruse a National Geographic article on a given subject does NOT entitle you to a valid opinion. True, when it comes to abstract ideals like love, much of one’s perspective is formulated based on his/her feelings. Therefore, I nor the next person can justifiably tell you that your feelings are wrong as they are governed by the laws of subjectivity. Further, there is NO logic in emotion (ie: oftentimes the way you feel is not rational given the circumstances; something which I’m sure we can all attest is a “truth”). With that said, the problem I have is NOT with peoples’ feelings (who am I to judge that?). No, the issue I seem to keep encountering pertains to the breeding of ignorance and misinformation. Worse, the persons who are doing said “breeding” somehow have convinced themselves that they are worthy spokespeople on subjects in which they have little to no formal training.

Par exemple: just the other day I was watching a news broadcast about the obesity epidemic in the US. No word of a lie, the so-called “expert” they brought in claimed that a good majority of this problem could be attributed to the fact that the foods we are consuming are being cooked in plastic containers.

According to this “expert”, the plastics in which foods are packaged contain chemical compounds he has coined “obesogens” which interfere with the body’s natural homeostasis, therefore detrimentally affecting our metabolic rates (ie: the amount of calories we burn, the amount of food we need to consume to be satiated, and the amount of fat that is stored versus burned off per meal). Now, I would never discount that wrapping our foods (or anything else for that matter) in plastics is highly problematic as yes they do contain many toxins that should NOT be ingested in any capacity. HOWEVER,
1) this “expert”’s argument allows obese individuals to entirely skirt the blame for their situation by failing to acknowledge that it may be the ACTUAL QUALITY OF FOOD they are consuming that is at least partly to blame (not the mention their lack of exercising).
2) this so-called “expert” (from my reading of his bio) has NO actual qualifications in the domain of health and nutrition. In fact, he is a Professor of Surgery and holds a Masters in Business.

While medical doctors do receive some health and lifestyle training, I have it on good authority that this is a very LIMITED aspect of their seven year foray at school (as the old adage goes, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”), not to mention there is a growing proportion of doctors/clinics that have direct ties to pharmaceutical companies (for research funding purposes) making their “health advice”, I should think, at least a little bit partisan.      

If you think that I’m just picking on the media and what they choose to disseminate as “fact” however, you’re wrong. According to a seminar I attended last year put on by accredited mental health care professionals, there is a growing proportion of “average joes” engaging in self-diagnosis practices and diagnoses of their close friends and family. Christ, if we went by what everyone “claims”, we’d all be labeled as suffering from manic depression and/or obsessive compulsive disorder. But I should point out that this phenomenon is NOT exclusive to health concerns – it’s everywhere and in regards to everything, and strangely even manages to make unquestioned leaps of faith (ie: like kids who claim to be proficient and skilled musicians simply because they can rock GuitarHero or businessmen questioning their mechanics because so and so at their work, who works in a completely unrelated field I might add, said that they didn’t need to have their car’s oil changed every 5000 clicks to ensure optimal functioning….right)

Although in some ways, as a lifelong D.I.Y.-er, I find it empowering that “knowledge” is no longer relegated to the rich, super-educated or the clergy, and that we now have collaborative forms of collective experiences being shared globally, this newfound accessibility of knowledge requires the development of new abilities: namely superior b.s.-detecting skills (checking people’s credentials before taking what they say as “fact” might be a good starting place), and the learning of the differences between information, entertainment, and infotainment, especially given that “citizen journalism” has gotten such a grasp over the mainstream, and the mainstream has become corporate controlled.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Hey, wait a minute Ms. RCP, with all of this knowledge talk, you yourself are being a hypocrite,” I’d like to point out that
1: I’ve been hired by this fine newspaper of yours to share my OPINIONS based purely on my own observations and experiences
2: you are welcome to disagree with me or IGNORE me anytime, and
3 MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have NEVER once stated that what I’m saying is “fact” (unless it’s an observation, of course) or that I’m an expert (yes, I have knowledge in an assortment of domains, but I humbly admit there is always far more I can learn). Therefore, in conclusion, what you are reading is MY TRUTH and a truth to which I feel others may be able to relate to; hence why these articles are published in the “editorial” section.

*Little known fact about Wikipedia*: a few years back, there was a young man verging on adolescence who felt entitled to have an opinion. Claiming falsely that he was a post-graduate of several of the most prestigious academic institutes worldwide, he successfully had his incorrect “edits” on a multitude of important subjects accepted by “the free encyclopedia” and averted detection for quite some time. One has to wonder, how many people first off read his information? Worse, how many people accepted his information as “truth”, and then committed actions based on it?  Scary ain’t it?!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Vol #2, Col #8: Gimme Some "Credit"

I once knew a musician who upon receiving his O.S.A.P. cheque in the mail ventured off to his local music store and blew the whole thing on a Pearl drumkit. As for school? Well I guess you could say he equally blew that as well. Now, it goes without saying that musicians typically aren’t the most savvy when it comes to managing their finances (a quick review of MC Hammer’s history will more than demonstrate what I mean). However, this phenomenon of frivolous and irresponsible spending, especially among the student-aged population, is not exclusive to us artistic types. Case and point: I was at the bank the other day meeting with a teller regarding some business concerns, and as she relayed to me, apparently having a bank account containing several thousand bones for someone my age is somewhat of an accomplishment (accordingly it entitles you to a whole slew of benefits from the elimination of bank fees on personal accounts and annual credit cards, to automatic credit approval etc. etc., but I’m not here to advertise my bank’s services).

Realistically-speaking though, a few K is really nothing – I mean maybe a few month’s rent or a really wild party, but after that, I’d be out on my ass in the street if I didn’t manage to bring in an income some way or another. Here in lines the problem: automatic credit approval and credit cards have not only made us completely lose sight of the true value of anything monetarily-speaking, but also have and will continue to lead to economic crisis. But…is it the banks’ fault? I’d argue NOT entirely.

Banks are money-making institutions. They approve you of credit, and the longer you take to pay off your expenses, the better the business is for them. Admittedly, in recent years, several institutions got greedy and handed out credit approvals far too easily. But, look where they are now - it’s not like they didn’t get their just desserts, too. 

On the other side of the equation however, I mean stories such as the one I opened this piece with, or others wherein people change their permanent residences and phone numbers to avoid the repo-men of one institution only to have their slates wiped clean by another, are FAR too common. While in these situations, it’d be easy to blame the banks for approving said individuals in the first place as extensive employment and credit checks are supposed to be run prior to being approved for loans/grants/mortgages etc., you cannot always predict who’s just gonna take a loan and run with it. Further, when you receive advanced monies from a financial institution, you are required to sign legal documents binding you to the responsibility of paying back the monies with interest, within a certain timeframe. Therefore, the people who are taking advantage of the credit system we have in place are not only spitting in the face of the banks, but also in the face of the entire legislative structure we’ve established…not to mention they’re making it increasingly difficult for those who truly need the startup capital (ie: small business owners, students, first time homeowners or car purchasers) to get approved.

Considering that employment opportunities are increasingly being offered on a temporary contractual basis, fewer companies (unless you’re lucky enough to become government employed) are granting their employees extensive benefits packages let alone pensions, and it’s difficult to obtain executive positions without being over-credentialized and paying your dues with a company for quite some time (partly because of the eradication of mandatory retirement), relying on plastic for everything (which by definition means putting off all expenses to a future time when you hope to have more money) is not a smart idea for anyone. Further, buying “toys” with money that could be put away for serious and meaningful expenses in the future (ie: your wedding) might be something you want to consider (even if you don’t believe you’ll ever get married. Fuck I didn’t for sure, and I’ve been made to eat those words!)

I mean this consumerism situation has gotten so out of hand that seeing engaged couples recruiting randoms via Kijiji ads to attend their Stag & Does just so they can raise enough money for their upcoming nuptials has become a regular thing! Really?! I don’t know about you but I frankly am rather uncomfortable with the idea of sharing anything related to my “special day” with strangers, not to mention I question what kind of individual(s) would attend the Stag & Do of a couple they’ve never met just to offer them money. People are generally pretty damn purse-clutching when it comes to their finances (especially these days), and that sort of altruism is rarely seen without some sort of underlying agenda (ie: maybe they need to launder their dollar bills? Just a thought.).

Maybe I’m at an advantage here because my pop’s an insurance advisor, but no matter what bad financial situation I’ve been in for the past several years, I’ve consistently put away $100-150 per month into a retirement savings plan for my future. When we were kids, and our parents bought us piggy banks, we seemed to have the right idea. We’d save, save and save until we had enough to purchase something really valuable to us, or better yet, we put it all into the bank for good. Somehow, as we grew older (and clearly NOT wiser), we decided instead that buying that video game or wasting all of our funds on getting trashed was sufficient for our futures. We could just plastic everything anyway and living in debt – well there’s certainly no longer a stigma attached to that as it’s become the norm.

But here’s the thing: you never know what the hell is going to happen in your life. You know that age-old expression, “even the best laid plans…” I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to spend my entire existence chained to a desk. Perhaps you should all be asking yourselves very seriously, “how much money do I actually have in the bank?” If you’re bargaining on surviving on just a few grand (or less) come hell or high water, you’ve got another thing coming to ya. Start saving now. Start saving while you’re still young. According to recent statistics, the average Canadian is not safe financially (ie: living comfortably with all the amenities I’m sure ma and pa still provide for many of you free of charge) at retirement age unless they’ve got a few million (YES, YOU READ CORRECTLY).