Winning! Internet Arguments

As many of you know, internet assholes are everywhere, and they exist in many different varieties. From the dopey douche-bro who can reach no higher than schoolyard insults, to the smug pseudo-intellectual who insists that scolding and belittling amounts to a “discussion,” you’ve got quite a motley crew out there, just waiting for the opportunity to feel superior to you. Once you let them in, there’s no escaping: you’re locked in an exhausting battle of wills that will only end when one of you gets bored. There’s no face-saving in a situation like this, and even though nobody cares but you and the person you’re dueling, odds are that you’ll end up feeling pretty bummed and strung out when it’s all over.

Well, folks, I have good news for you. I have solved this problem. Next time someone comes at you with cocky, smirking arrogance, wave them away with a tactic they can’t possibly get past: the Fortune Cookie Defense.

Yes, the Fortune Cookie Defense. It’s a surefire way to frustrate and annoy your opponent, while making you look transcendent and unflappable. Please observe the following example:

  • Random Asshole: What a mindless and vacuous comment.
  • Me: Your high-minded principles spell success.
  • Random Asshole: lol your videos are stupid and nobody likes you
  • Me: If you refuse to accept anything other than the best, you very often get it.
  • Random Asshole: btw is that you in your picture? ugly fuck
  • Me: Your shoes will make you happy today.
  • Random Asshole: wtf is that all you can say.
  • Me: People enjoy having you around. Appreciate this.
  • Random Asshole: whatever

No asshole can puncture your ego if you just read him his fortune. If he replies, just give him another one. Repeat until he stops. Acknowledging an asshole without really acknowledging him shuts him down very quickly. The beauty of the Fortune Cookie Defense is not only its impenetrability, but its effectiveness as a reversal move. It makes you into the troll, while turning your enemy into an increasingly ineffectual, yapping chihuahua. The angrier he gets, the stupider he looks. Your internet pride is invincible with the Fortune Cookie Defense, so get out there and start trolling, folks!

The “Culture War” Is Really Humans Vs. Culture

Make America Angry Again! It seems like everyday now, there’s some TV show or public event aimed at upsetting the president, followed by a Trump Tweet that fires everyone else up. Everywhere you look, you see angry racists, angry anti-fascists, angry feminists, angry football players, and angry celebrities screaming, waving their arms, and killing each other with cars over something Trump said or something Trump did.

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Come on people. Look at this guy. Does he really deserve this level of validation?

Now, I realize that the issues that have Americans so enraged these days aren’t entirely the president’s fault. These are old fires being stoked, but we’re not going to douse by throwing tantrums or going out of one’s way to piss people off.

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Yeah, I’m talking to you, interchangeable NFL protesters. Now, I don’t care about the National Anthem or all this disrespecting the flag one way or the other. To me, those as symbols, and I leave symbols to the same people that George Carlin does. The way I see it, you’re just exercising a right that this great country is based on. I’m proud to live in a place where you needn’t worry about getting lynched, stoned, or even fired for your actions. Whether I agree with you or not, however, I still think you could find a better venue to share your viewpoint.

Let’s be honest: Monday Night Football is not the place for you to speak your minds. In fact, you’re not hired to speak at all: you are modern-day gladiators, paid to beat the shit out of each other in an arena for the pacification of the public. That’s all you are, and that’s all anyone cares about. As for me, I don’t care one whit. If you want ruin your careers and damage the reputation of the company you work for, then go right ahead. Maybe it’ll get Americans to stop thinking about football and start thinking about real issues. I just think you’d do better to speak at a college, publish an essay, or even write a letter to the editor, for crying out loud. You’ll have a smaller audience than when you’re on your precious tee-vee, but at least you’ll know that the people you do reach will actually give a shit.

It’s the egotism that bothers me more than anything. What kind of self-absorbed douche gets on a soapbox in the middle of work? If some dude at my office decided to interrupt every workday with a political message, the rest of us would throw our staplers at him. And don’t give me that shit about free speech. The First Amendment only protects you legally. It doesn’t mean that your friends, family, employers, or sponsors will like what you have to say. There are consequences for saying the wrong thing, so suck it up, buttercup.

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Then you’ve got the people who love to say that the president has emboldened racism and hate groups. Once again, I think those people are giving Trump a little too much credit. These organizations have existed, and will continue to exist, for years and years. You can’t blame Trump, a professional narcissist, for these violent rallies that are going on. Have we forgotten that the president works for the citizenry, and not the other way around? We hired him. Trump became president because we voted for him, not because he reached into his bag of racists and Russians and pulled them all out to vote. He is a reflection of us. Cruelty and ignorance are All-American home goodies, baked at three-hundred and fifty degrees for over two-hundred years.

Why do we keep blaming the president for all our problems anyway? He wields no real power. Sure, he puts his name on the bills, but his position only exists for one purpose: to provide “good feelin’s.”

Let’s be honest again: for all his impressive oratory skill, what did Barack Obama really change? I mean, really, as in the quality of our daily lives? Any changes in my life during his presidency were brought on by my own efforts. He certainly didn’t turn the country into some femi-homo-disarmed-Euro-paradise like conservatives feared. All he did was send warm, liberal fuzzies through the television while business, war, and politics went on as usual. In 2017, we just exchanged one talking head for another, one that says what the other side likes to hear. And still, nothing is changing. Do you have more money in your pocket than you did before Trump became president? Do you feel better protected from terrorists and scumbags? Is the nation a warmer, happier place than it was last year? Nah, but at least you have your alpha-male role model shouting down those pussy libtard snowflakes, and that’s all these people need.

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Therein lies the trouble we face: mindless tribalism, or as the magazines are calling it, the “culture war.” People are trading their individuality for groupthink and entering into twisted crusades against each other. You can’t say it’s only happening on one side, either, or else you wouldn’t see the childish clashes we’re getting. Those militant morons out there chanting and whining don’t care about making life better for anyone, they just want to feel morally superior to those they disagree with, by shouting them down and belittling them. When they vote, they don’t consider which candidate will improve the nation, but the one that will run their enemies out on a rail and silence them for good.

Now here’s the truth: if that’s the way you think when you vote, then you’re admitting that you don’t want a president, you want a king. That makes you a defector from democracy, and a supporter of despotism. You are precisely what Benjamin Franklin warned us about, and precisely what the Revolutionary War was fought to tear us from. In a democracy, everyone gets to speak, and in a society as diverse as ours, a tug of war must exist in perpetuity.

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So what’s the answer? I don’t know how to calm these nutballs we see on TV every night, but I do see the difference between them and the regular people that surround me in real life.

The fact is that regular people don’t get so worked up over these things. They’re too busy trying to survive. They have households to manage, families to raise, budgets to balance, jobs to attend to. They stay informed of policy and vote, but they don’t allow their identities to be so wrapped up in gang mentality that they want to kill the opposition. They are decent, reasonable folk who want to live in peace, not to create trouble where it needn’t exist.

It’s time we started taking responsibility for ourselves. We have to stop surrendering to the waves of manufactured consensus, and start owning up to our actions. Terence McKenna once said that “Culture is not your friend.” It aims to control you, to categorize you, to paint you as something you might not want to be. In fuming over the latest stupid tweet Trump made, you are playing straight into culture’s hands. Focus on your life, your reality, your people, your God. Consider how to improve your world practically, and don’t let anyone else, especially some nimrod on television, tell you how you should do it.

The Internet Critic Conversation

Okay, here’s the premise: Daniel (D) submits image/story/cartoon to website. Random site user (C) decides to leave a comment on it. Here’s how it invariably falls out. Keep in mind that this has happened to me many times, with many different people.


C: This is bad. Just bad. Idea has been done a million times. Obviously you don’t know what you’re doing.

D: That’s a little rude, not to mention unhelpful. You’re giving me no ideas on what to improve. Every idea has been done a million times, so you might as well say this about every bit of art on the site. Finally, if I don’t know what I’m doing, perhaps you could be kind enough to enlighten me? If this is all you have to say, then just leave it alone.

C: Well, this being an ART/LITERATURE/PORTAL SITE, I don’t feel I have to hold back on what I say. You need a thick skin around here, so don’t get so butthurt. GOOD DAY SIR

I then discover that C has blocked me from further contact.


Now, I really don’t care what people like this think of my work. Obviously they don’t have any real opinion; they just want to break stuff down and feel superior to someone. As you probably already know, I get like that myself.

No, what pisses me off is the childishness of it, the lack of self-awareness. Don’t they realize that I too, am allowed to say what I want on these particular sites? Don’t they realize that just because they can say what they want, it doesn’t mean it’s going to go over well? And don’t they realize that blocking me because I called them out on their shoddy critique shows a pretty damn bad case of butthurt on their part?

I know, I know. “Just ignore them,” you say. Normally I do. The last time this happened, though, the criticism was leveled at the concept of the work, which I did not create. The idea belonged to the man who hired me for the commission. I wasn’t personally offended, but I felt compelled to stand up for my collaborator. Bear in mind that I did not use any offensive language. I simply said that it was rude to slam the idea without offering any positives. The “critic” then whipped out the tired old speech about their right to say whatever they want, and added that my art wasn’t even that good anyway (no details of course). Then I got blocked. It all fell out exactly as it did above.

The only analogy I can think of for it is that it’s like watching a grown man stick his tongue out at you and mean it. All you can do is squint incredulously.

You’d think I’d be used to this sort of behavior by now, but I’m not. My attitude toward humanity is like that toward a bad movie: I keep hoping that it’ll get better somewhere. It never does, though, and my mind is continually boggled. I mean, they can’t all be this stupid, can they? Can they??

I’d better just relax. Anyone have any Oxycontin?

We Want to Believe

About a month ago, I started a new job helping out at a local high school. I work with teachers who have to wrangle huge numbers of kids. Growing up, I had a reverent opinion of teachers: they were important figures who knew far more than I did, and their knowledge and authority were to be respected without question. Now that I’ve gone behind the scenes and tinkered with their tools, I’ve realized something else.

These people don’t know what the hell they’re doing.

They’re barely keeping things together. Organization is minimal, and buck-passing is common. They talk a big show to keep the students in line, but they don’t have any real power beyond vague, abstract threats. Nevertheless, the kids cower from the dreaded “referral,” and inevitably submit.

Now, I’m not saying this to knock teachers, nor to praise the rebellious nature of teenagers. I’m saying it because seeing the truth of the situation, and extrapolating it to the macrocosm of society, led me to a revelation: no one knows what the hell they’re doing. Not our parents, not the government, not even the faceless black shape we grimly refer to as “the corporations.”

Why do you think corporations pour so much money into lobbying for laws that benefit them? To hoard gold and power in their greedy quest to dominate humankind? Doesn’t that sound a little silly? They may be giant businesses that exist to turn a profit, but that doesn’t make them Sauron, Dark Lord of Mordor. No, they don’t lobby to harvest riches from the middle class; they do it because they’re terrified of losing everything. Remember what happened in 2008? A handful of morons made some dumb decisions, and the whole system nearly collapsed like a house of cards. Some of the biggest banks in the world, perfect representatives of the “evil moneychangers” we despise but won’t stand up to, broke under the strain. If you knew that you could lose all your money because of some idiot’s bad behavior, wouldn’t you try to protect yourself, too?

When Bill Clinton got grilled over the whole Monica Lewinsky thing, people got pretty pissed at him. It was adultery, it was deceit, it was illicit, dirty sex. Behavior far below what we expected from the leader of our country.

Why?

Bill Clinton is just a man, and men get horny. They cheat, they lie, they sleep around. Commonality shouldn’t excuse such behavior, but it also shouldn’t make it shocking. So why were so many people so upset? If someone lives in the White House, that makes him or her a saint? Why did we load such unrealistic expectations on some dope from Arkansas?

Fake crises are bad enough when it comes to public weirdness, but once you get to real, nation-shaking events, things go absolutely batshit. When John F. Kennedy was shot, and the World Trade Center towers were annihilated, conspiracies cropped up everywhere. There was no way that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. It didn’t make sense that terrorists could overtake planes with box cutters. The towers couldn’t possibly have fallen because of burning jet fuel. It goes against everything we’ve been taught. Such chaos simply cannot happen in the world we live in. Clearly there were Other, Darker forces at work. Right?

I don’t like to instantly trust official stories, but come on. We’re talking comic book super-villainy here. People whisper about Satanist celebrities and cabals of arcane cultists without the slightest bit of irony. They honestly don’t realize how ridiculous they sound. The outlandish idea that the Jews and the Illuminati are building and destroying lives at will somehow seems more plausible to them than what is far more likely: that the people we put in charge fell asleep at the wheel.

Look at what happened on 9/11. Look close. What you’ll see is the repetition of a perfectly normal human response: freezing up at the prospect of getting caught in a mistake.

How many times has your boss entrusted you with an important task that you went on to fuck up? How did you feel about it?Weren’t you desperate to correct the matter before anyone else found out, or at least to hide it until you could sneak away?

“Well, yeah,” you might say, “but that’s just my stupid little job. I’m nobody. These guys have real responsibilities. They’re supposed to have things in hand.”

Ha!

Get real: the more responsibility one has, the more hesitant one will be to admit that one dropped the ball. And that’s what happened on 9/11. In that case, the ball dropped very quickly, and fell on all of us. But hey, if you don’t keep an eye on the guys in the cockpit, then you have to accept that sooner or later you’re going to crash.

You think this country is easy to keep a grip on? With all the information and knowledge flying around these days? Folks complain about the government getting bigger, piling on the bureaus and filling in the committees, but this is only happening because our world is growing so fast, our hapless leaders can’t get their arms around it. They might as well try to keep an angry bear in a half-nelson; without increasing efforts, that sucker is going to break free.

Very few people are comfortable with this notion. It’s hard to accept the idea that the high kings above are just stumbling in the dark like the rest of us. It’s much more comfortable to put our faith in the guy with the slick suit and white teeth, even after he’s demonstrated, on multiple occasions, that he’s not worthy of it. We believe, with a fervor that borders on fanaticism, that the confident man must have everything under control, because the alternative is too awful to contemplate.

Our society thrives on false idolatry, the veneration of the televised. People like Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Lebron James, Sofia Vergara, and Taylor Swift are held up and presented as gods, and we buy into it like rubes. Our own lives and experiences are played down as dull and insignificant, while all the excitement we hear about only seems to happen to “everyone else.” So we relinquish our power to institutions and symbols, beg for their scraps of money and property and credit, and willfully make ourselves theirs to play with, to reward and to punish, to herd and to slaughter.

It’s a lot easier than understanding that not one of these people is better than anyone else, and that each of us is responsible for his or her own fate.

Now, I realize that I’ve written about some outlandish things here. Spirit guides, God, machine elves, and such. The difference between myself and the idol-worshippers is that I don’t claim to know the truth about these entities, nor do I put much faith in them. A mighty force may have created this universe, but that doesn’t mean It has any kind of plan. For all I know, It’s dancing us into creation because It doesn’t know what else to do. Despite all the evidence I have that spiritual guidance occurs, I remain skeptical, even of my own theories. My chief complaint here is that too few people are willing to examine themselves, to explore their consciousness, to consider their experiences, to recognize themselves as reality, and the idols as illusory. If an individual must break away from society to remain sane, what amazing things could happen if we all became individuals?

The Perils of Being a Wallflower

“Metaphorically, DMT is like an intellectual black hole in that once one knows about it, it is very hard for others to understand what one is talking about. One cannot be heard. The more one is able to articulate what it is, the less others are able to understand. This is why I think people who attain enlightenment, if we may for a moment comap these two, are silent. They are silent because we cannot understand them. Why the phenomenon of tryptamine ecstasy has not been looked at by scientists, thrill seekers, or anyone else, I am not sure, but I recommend it to your attention.”

~ Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelics, Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFO’s, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, & the End of History. (1991).

Dimethlytryptamine: the granddaddy of all hallucinogens. I’m not interested in trying it, as the results sound a little overwhelming, but I am very curious about the psychological, emotional, and spiritual implications of the experience that many of its users have shared.

Terence McKenna described the five-minute DMT trip in great detail: after smoking or otherwise ingesting the ayahuasca plant, the user sees a colorful mandala. It starts out small, as if in the distance, but then it grows and approaches. When it fills the user’s vision, a tearing sound is heard, as of ripped cellophane. The user pushes through the mandala like a Trojan onto the football field, and enters a vivid, sharp, unearthly landscape that is described as a vast, underground dome.

Then the entities show up.

McKenna called them “self-transforming machine elves,” which sounds ridiculous. Nevertheless, he insisted that this was the most fitting term for them. They are the size of basketballs, and their surfaces continually roil, bubble, and shift. They bound up to the user like happy dogs, and they speak in a nonsense language. Nonsense or not, though, the user understands exactly what they’re saying. The message is understood as, “It’s so good to see you! We’ve been waiting so long for you to show up!” This message is “felt,” rather than translated. McKenna says there is a warmth and a welcome, a sense of hospitality and eagerness that has no menace or threat to it at all.

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After the greeting, the elves, as though knowing that their time with the user is short, quickly demonstrate their powers. They urge the user not to give in to astonishment, but to pay careful attention to them. Then they pull a series of miraculous, impossible artifacts out of thin air, like a child eager to show off his or her toys. These objects, like all the other elements of the experience, are mystifying and bizarre, both organic and geometric, and constantly changing. The user is invariably amazed, whether it’s a first-time trip or not.

Next, the entities remind the user not to freak out, and they do something even weirder than the demonstration: they gather before the user, and leap into his or her chest! Users say there is no discomfort in this, or any physical sensation at all, though that fact alone can still be disconcerting or frightening.

At this point, a sort of “bubble” grows in the user’s body, like an expanding gas. It rises into the user’s throat. If the user relaxes and lets it come out of the mouth, the most incredible part of the trip occurs. The “bubble” expresses itself as a song of glossolalia, a musical string of gibberish that the user cannot fathom, even though it is not dissimilar from the language the elves used.

What’s more, the nonsense words manifest themselves visually: expanding from the mouth as artifacts of the very same kind that the elves created.

In describing the trip, McKenna didn’t go much farther than this, so I guess that the user wakes up shortly after this curious creative rush.

Now, what the hell does this all mean?

While tripping, a DMT user does not physically go anywhere, and yet, by all reports, the landscape they envision is completely foreign, and clearer than any dream. It all looks “realer than real.” What this tells me is that the user does not travel outward, but inward.

Somewhere inside his or her own mind.

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The subconscious, perhaps? The entities are so glad to see the user that it reminds me of the near-death experience — those who’ve gone through it describe the sense that loving spirits are awaiting their arrival. It’s such a warm feeling that they presume the entities to be deceased family members beckoning them to Heaven. Are they peeking into the same realm where the DMT dome lies?

I think – and this is the theory of an untrained goofball with limited formal education – that the “elves” are messengers, ambassadors of that subconscious self that we usually suppress.

I see the subconscious mind as a foundation: a neglected part of ourselves upon which we build an identity. This identity is a hemlock chalice. It is the product of societal myths that are drilled into us from childhood: values, judgments, opinions, worries, assumptions, things we think we want, ways we think we should behave, things we think we are. We perch at the top of this tower with a monocular, watching for trouble ahead.

Sometimes, the subconscious foundation doesn’t like the weight that’s pressing down on it, and it lashes out. Being so far above it, we sense this shouting as feelings of unease, a distant banging on the pipes beneath us. Most of us ignore these unbidden thoughts and ideas, or bury them under distractions until they go away.

The DMT upends this situation. It pulls the user down from the imaginary tower and forces him or her to look at the foundation, at the dreams and thoughts that they ignore. And they have a lot to say.

“Pay attention. Don’t freak out. Watch what we do, and then do it yourself.”

So what is the lesson to be learned? How does the spontaneous creation of impossible objects help us? Moreover, why is it that we’re able to imitate these alien beings so accurately? It can’t be done in the real world, but in the trip it happens by simply allowing it to happen. It is simple, and yet inexplicable, like willing our hands to move. It must be because the elves are part of us, right? So it seems to me that they’re not teaching us something new; they’re reminding us of something that we have forgotten.

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I say “we” because this is an experience shared among DMT users of many stripes. This raises another question: how can so many people receive such a singular message? Is it possible that they all receive it from the same source? If so, what is that source? Instinct? Adaptive memory? Jung’s collective unconscious?

God?

Alan Watts, a staunch advocate of Hinduism, pointed out a fundamental difference between the religions of the East and the West. Whereas Christianity and Judaism profess that God is a sort of engineer, an omnipotent father figure that built the universe and knows its every end and purpose, Hinduism describes God as a dancing, many-armed force that did not construct the universe, but expressed it, and continues to express it, like a song. The concepts of past and future, good and evil, death and life, are all meaningless to God; It simply is, right now. The vibration of existence, the so-called “cosmic wiggle,” is the result of the endless movement of God. This means that each of us is an extension of God’s dream. We are not connected to each other laterally, like a spiderweb, but rather we each extend from the same hub, which is…well, I don’t know exactly.

It is possible that the machine elves, by joining with us and showing that we are as powerful as they are, want to help us regain our true personas, return to our foundations. That wouldn’t explain, however, why so many people experience the same thing. Perhaps the machine elves are trying to remind us that since we are capable of creating life and matter with nothing but wholeness and will, we are not far removed from God Itself. God exists through us, and as such – blasphemous though it may sound – we are God.

It’s a theory. I would never presume to know what God is, or why It does what It does. However, these concepts seem to line up with the psychological knowledge that I’ve gathered. The problem I have now, though, is that I don’t know how to apply these ideas. I am still too shy and afraid to heed my own feelings as a writer, as a cartoonist, and as a person. I may be part of God’s dance, but that doesn’t mean I know the steps.

I suppose that, when I am ready, the answers will come to me. Should I continue to examine my dreams, act on my true feelings, and follow the directions that my being provides, I think I might figure it out.

One day.