Fair warning, I am going to sound a little like The Last Psychiatrist but only in sentiment. Unlike the anonymous shrink, I know how to write things in order so they make sense. What I specifically mean is I am going to rant about a concept that is both wide and narrow: critical thinking.

What is critical thinking? It is the ability to look at a concept, idea, or paradigm free of bias, analyzing it from all possible viewpoints in an attempt to understand it. It is logic and pragmatism, things we used to teach in America back when we had forensics classes (not CSI, but how to argue well) back in our parent’s day (for my fellow Gen Xers, more like your grandparents to the Millenials). And now not only is it no longer taught, it seems to be under active attack.

Please understand this is a very polite and accurate way to say HUMANITY IS DOOMED BY ALL THE FUCKING STUPIDITY, or the shorter PEOPLE ARE IDIOTS of which you’ll see many variations on buttons and bumper stickers. So, what is my specific gripe, you must be wondering. Well, in short: everything. Financial crisis? Caused by lack of critical thinking. Current wars? Same. The slow slide back from the high water mark of equal rights? Same. The collapse of the middle class, the rise of reality TV, the sheer horde of over medicated out of control children…in short, our modern society sucks because we gave up critical thinking.

Or did we? Well…here’s the rub. The bankers never gave it up. Madison Avenue advertisers didn’t. Large corporations didn’t. You know…the people who completely fucked our world up. The people counting on us to not do the same thinking they do.

This is a rant about Frozen, student loans, and the death of America. So what does this have to do with writing? Everything and nothing. We’ll get to that. But if you’re an American or even a citizen of the world (you’re impacted by America, like it or not) this is relevant to your interests.

I’m going to present some cases of how the world is fucked up, and I will add how writing has helped fuck it up, has helped cover it up, or can help us fix it. I want you to see the power all writers, fiction or non, have inside them.


CASE: WHY IS THERE SO MUCH REALITY TV AND WHY DO SO MANY MOVIES SUCK?

So back before the strike of 2007-08 a screenwriter for film or TV worked this way: a producer had an idea, paid them to write a script, and then when the project was released as a movie or TV show years down the line they were paid again. Writers wanted more money and so they struck.

Unwilling to negotiate, producers went on and found ways to make products without writers. So we got Reality Television and movie scripts written by producers and other non-writers. And we, the asshole public, kept paying for it and watching it, so they never went back except for a few shows and movies that more and more are pushed to the edges.

And now screenwriters write the script and don’t get paid until the show or movie airs, sometimes as much as five years later. So now more and more writers are leaving the industry.  Great strike, guys! *sarcasm*

HOW WERE WRITERS INVOLVED?: 

This is pretty self-explanatory, so I started with it first. Moral of the story? Unions do not exist to help you, not anymore, and you need to make sure if you picket no scabs can cross the picket line. Strikes are extortion, so do it right. And perhaps try to aspire to create something wonderful, not just make more money.


CASE: WHY ARE CHILDREN TODAY SUCH ASSHOLES?

You know I’m right. They scream until they get their way, they run around annoying strangers, they twerk before puberty, and white adolescents try to talk ghetto on Facebook. How did we get here? BAD PARENTING.

Let’s go back to the Pepsi Generation. Millennials, that’s your parents. The ones who did coke in the 80’s and created the S&L scandal that set up the modern bubble system the 2008 crash followed, and making us all wage slaves. The problem is, back in the day, we called them the ME generation. Sociopaths, almost all of them. Sociopaths do not know how to raise children.

Children need boundaries. A routine that is followed, a system of positive and negative reinforcement (treats and time-outs). Keeping them clean, well fed, and motivated is hard fucking work. Sociopaths and other self-involved twits have no idea how to do it.

Moving on, we come to Generation X, my generation of which most I know are breeders. See, we were the first generation where everyone got a trophy, even losers, and self-esteem was foisted on us as if it would solve the world’s problems. Our parents, Baby Boomers, were the first generation to be raised in suburbs in a nuclear family so thought the solution was keep the family nuclear but with two jobs, so we were latch-key kids and the first to have television as our babysitters. And now we do the same to our kids.

So now we have parents of kids from their mid-twenties down who grew up without boundaries or understanding success takes hard work, or that cooperative sharing is a good thing. These kids are all about instant gratification, gizmos, and being an asshole. (Take a look at modern TV ads, it’s all assholes one upping one another).

HOW WERE WRITERS INVOLVED?: 

Let’s go back to my grandparent’s generation, bear with me. A woman lived at home until she married, and so did the menfolk. Often married couples moved in with his parents or hers, whoever had more room. Grandmothers and aunts helped raise children and keep house, men worked and pooled their money. This was normal.

Then they grew up and World War II came. Women went to work, men went to war. Men came back, women had savings, and suddenly they had disposable income and could afford their own house. So they moved in, had their kids, and suddenly they lived on one income with little to no help with the kids and keeping house.

So what happened to involved writers? Up comes the advice columnists, women’s magazines full of advice. Movies, TV, books all reinforced the idea that family should be like Leave It to Beaver’s the Cleaver family. Depression ensued, drugs became commonplace, aaaaaaaaand flipper babies. Thanks, Thalidomide!

Their children, the Baby Boomers, grew up feeling ignored. So the self-help industry exploded in order to fill the hole they thought they had. Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s you could make a killing writing a self-help book. Remember, hippies began in ’69, “finding yourself” became a thing, and by the end of the 70’s we had scream therapy and cults all around, and everybody had a fucking book on it. Jogging began as a book with a philosophy. Jim Fixx, the jogger behind it, died young of a heart attack…while jogging. So that’s self-help in a nutshell for you.

Ensuing generations look to self-help books to fix issues. It. Doesn’t. Work. You know who writes them? Ghost writers with an English degree.  The name on the cover don’t matter. It’s a great way for a writer to make more money than simple copywriting when they don’t have the burning passion to write a novel. By the way, this is also how textbooks are written. So…get an English degree and shape the world to your twisted vision!? *evil laugh*

Worse were the magazine writers. You’ve heard of Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment, yes? Well, when you strive for degrees in psychology, like I did, you learn something: magazines lie like rugs. In that experiment, the experimenters had to force the “guards” to bully the “prisoners,” it didn’t happen organically.

Or what about the Stanley Millgram experiment where he had random strangers “electrocute” another stranger because they were told to by a man in a white coat, and many of them turned up the juice to kill? Nope. The overwhelming majority told the experimenters to go fuck themselves. In this case, the experiment was trying to figure out why so many German citizens allowed death camps to rise in Nazi Germany. But the results told us those Germans were a special kind of asshole, but that wasn’t the result the world wanted, so magazine writers changed it to “could happen to anyone.” In Zimbardo’s case they changed it because everyone wants the salacious version.

The problem is, thanks to magazines, newspapers, TV, movies, books, and now the Internet, a whole host of “human nature” facts are being written that are almost literally pulled from the ass of someone with a journalism degree, English degree, or a lot of spare time and an Internet connection. But if it’s written, it must be true! Or so the world thinks. That’s why when the Erickson school of child rearing is poo-pooed in these forums for Montessori or Unconditional Positive Regard, people think they’re doing the right thing even when they are just raising complete assholes, because it’s in writing, and most people have no idea what the Erickson system even is. Way to parent, parents!


CASE: WHY IS AMERICA SO FUCKING HOT AND BOTHERED FOR WAR?

Short answer: money. We make sooooooooo much money on it. Oodles and oodles, and who cares how many millions we kill with military action and sanctions?

Take Ukraine today. Russia wants it to have a legitimate claim to its Crimea region, rich in fuels that will make the owners lots of money. Oh, America wants it too. So how will we get it (and we will get it)? We’ll force them to suffer the destruction of their infrastructure with conflicts with the Russian separatists, and then we’ll give them an International Monetary Fund loan via the World Bank. Go ahead and look up who owns those. It’s the owners of mostly American banks, the people George Carlin called “The real owners of [America].” Once they take the loan, the money goes to contractors to fix the infrastructure. AMERICAN contractors. Ukraine will get NONE of it.

America has similar methods that involve the more fun war. Fun fact: do you know what the American dollar is backed by? Hasn’t been Gold since Nixon’s days. Hasn’t been Greenbacks for much longer. It’s….OIL! That’s right, the physical property backing up your cocaine tubes is crude oil. This means if your country wants to use oil, and we ALL do, you have to use dollars to trade it. Just guess what two countries actively went off that plan and tried to sell oil in their native currency? Give up? Libya and Iraq. Leaders now dead, countries are now fucked. ‘MERICA! Bonus round: what country made noises of doing the same? Iran! So we made noises about bombing them off the planet back and they backed down.

HOW WERE WRITERS INVOLVED?: 

Anyone remember when the New York Times printed that Hussein was buying yellow cake uranium, and America used this as a pretext to come back for Gulf War II: Electric Boogaloo? Yeah. It was a lie. Bullshit. But the public believed it because it was in a newspaper.

Just for fun, go and read everything Mark Twain said about newspapers. Keep in mind over a hundred years later the only argument for change that can be made is it’s gotten worse. 

Of course TV news is far worse. Talking puppets, most will actually read whatever you put on the teleprompter without question. The true vanguards are dying out, leaving bleached blondes and fatherly men pretending to have witty banter with them at commercial breaks. They make more money off advertisers when news is bad. Fear makes people buy. This is why murders in your local town, no matter how unimportant to the community, make the news, but the wholescale slaughter of Palestinians under Israeli occupation does not. Too far, don’t care. A police chase two streets from my house!? I need to see that!

The point is, if you didn’t read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World you need to. NOW. That’s the world we live in more and more, not Orwell’s 1984 which is an almost childish Us vs. Them fantasy like Gunsmoke (which by the way is the #1 favorite TV show of the neocons. Fun fact to make you cry!)

And just because it’s a script in a newspaper or on TV does not mean it’s true. The information you actually need (the coming bond crisis, the impending student loan bubble burst) never appears, but we know exactly what Kim Kardashian is up to this week. And, sad for me, it’s not keeling over dead in a motel room with a Boy Scout. I would be rather tickled for that story.


CASE: WHY IS THERE SO MUCH MISOGNY IN THE WORLD?

In the 1970’s my mother burned her bra. She campaigned for a better equal rights amendment specific to women (didn’t take. ‘MERICA!). She raised me on tales of Ada Lovelace, Catherine the Great, Elizabeth Blackwell, and Rosalind Franklin among many others. For her, life just got better as a woman year after year. Then she died in 1998 at the height of so-called “Girl Power” which seemed to mean shaking your half naked ass to inane pop songs being so proud you wrote the nonsense. Sorry, Spice Girls, but Freddie Mercury you are not.

Now in 2015, if I go into an online game and let others know I’m female, the incoming messages are just alternating “go make me a sandwich” and “show me your tits.” When I tell people I am a feminist they assume it means I hate men. My own brother screams how Anna Sarkesian is wrong on a few games in one of her videos and never played it (because men’s rights jerks will respond to your “the entire forest is one fire!” by arguing to the death this one tree isn’t even scorched).

Ads are back to making women look like idiots, computer scientist Barbie lets the menfolk write the hard code, and everyone splooged themselves that Frozen had two princesses! Actually, it had one, a queen, and the central message was still “girls, if you have a hard problem, run away from it and someone else will fix it. But this time it’s familial love, not romantic, so, like, bonus points, amiright?”

We’ve backslid. Increasingly there are fewer girls in math or science in college, fewer women in high level corporate job or the science and math fields. And in movies and books, the best career we can hope for is to be a baker!

HOW WERE WRITERS INVOLVED?: 

Disney. FUCK Disney! Fuck the fucking fuckers, in the ass, no lube, no reacharound! Fuck you if you think Disney films are great. Oh, so you’re gonna bring up the Lion King as sacrosanct? Well, fun fact: Simba’s dad is the leader of the pride, meaning all cubs are his children. So Simba and Nala are half siblings! Where’s your god now?

Male writers. What. The. Fuck? How do so many of you write women like you’ve never met one in your life? Were you raised by roving lumberjacks, or what? Woman in the fridge, damsel in distress that becomes gift to the hero, these are puerile male fantasies. Yet so common, when George R.R. Martin writes women as actual human beings, everyone is so shocked at how well he writes women! Well, he still has them think about their tits way more than the average woman ever does. We do maybe twice a day…usually because our bra hurts or we have an underboob itch. That’s it.

And then women writers!! DOUBLE what. The. Fuck?? When we got to the table, we just kept doing what the men had been doing. Why? Why do women in movies only talk about men? That’s not reality! My best friend and I talk about politics, culture, books, movies, family, food, and a million other things besides men. For god’s sake, can’t two women just have a scene talking about a really cool home business idea they had? Tupperware parties? I’ll take anything at this point.

And Disney: can we stop telling girls being a princess is great? Real princesses exist and it’s hard fucking work. They have to be educated and capable, in many countries they have actual governmental roles to fulfill. They have to speak multiple languages and know how to negotiate. So if you’re going for the cool clothes and sparklies, let’s raise up queens to the pedestal, they have all the sparklies! Fuck Anastasia, Catherine the Great was awesome! She pulled Russia into the modern world, solidified its empire, and had a great system for getting the best dick in the kingdom into her bed. We can make it PG, but where’s her movie?


CASE: WHAT’S UP WITH ALL THE CRAZY SEX STUFF?

Specifically, why are we arguing so much over gay marriage? Why are there so many transgendered people? Why is rape constantly argued about? Why do we have such a heart attack over a breast with a pastied nipple in the Superbowl?
Well, see, America is an empire. On average, empires last about 250 years, or 10 generations-ish. They go through stages:

Pioneering
Conquests
Commerce
Affluence
Intellect
Decadence
Decline and collapse

Guess where we are? Commerce? Yeah, we don’t manufacture anything but destruction any more. That’s gone.

Affluence? That was the when we expanded corporations, CEO salaries went up, and we built Las Vegas, because…fuck you, that’s why.

Intellect? Doesn’t it seem our country is getting stupider? Abstinence and “Intelligent Design” is being taught in schools, clearly moronic ideas, for example, so we’re past Intellect. Watch PBS and if you were alive during the age of Intellect you too can feel your soul die.

So here were are in Decadence. Oh, the collapse is beginning, the 2008 collapse was a herald. But in Decadence it’s all about sex and violence. Think of Roman orgies and gladiatorial combat. Now slide your eyes to the television. See any similarities?

HOW WERE WRITERS INVOLVED?: 

I won’t get into gay issues or trans people issues in terms of what makes them this way (I would just ask for both to recognize we bisexuals are real, we’re not unicorns, we do fucking exist), but why are these the really hot subjects right now? SEX SELLS. The market is saturated with competitors to get you news, so the more edgy the subject, the more enticing copy that can be written.

Remember how Rolling Stone printed the article about the college student who said she was raped by X people in Y fraternity at Z time, and the entire school suspended Greek activities? Do you remember when REAL journalists did an actual investigation and found out half of X people weren’t near her at the time, and there was no party as she claimed at Y frat at Z time. Now, she was likely a victim of sexual assault, but the details are way off. But why is this national news? Rape is all too common, so why don’t we report on the sad stats (1 in 5 women will suffer a rape, and less than 2% of all assailants will ever be convicted)? Because that’s depressing. But if we write about a case we know is full of holes, it starts a debate so we can talk about rape, which means we’re talking about sex!

Disney again! Why are so many Disney shows showing 11-15 year olds in relationships? Accusing partners of cheating? Or claiming they believe in abstinence? Because it’s how we can talk about sex without explicitly talking about sex.

Go onto Youtube, search for “documentary” set filters for long (over 20 minutes) and sort by either rating or views. Top one? A nearly five hour documentary about sex. Hardcore subject matter, for free, on Youtube. Good luck getting Net Nanny to filter it out.

And good luck finding a magazine for women or men that isn’t screaming some variant of the word SEX on the cover. Hello decadence. Talking about rape, gay rights, and transgender people allows us to talk about sex and still feel like moral prudes Americans are supposed to be, because we’re not talking overtly about sex, amiright?

CONCLUSION:  Suspension of disbelief. Remember learning about that? Millennials, maybe not, Gen X or generations before, yes. It’s the art of making your reader stop critical thinking. It’s making them get “lost” in a story.

And we’ve done such a good job of losing ourselves to stories as a species, we can no longer recognize nonfiction from fiction. Statistics? Lies and easily manipulated, they mean nothing.  How many respected journalists have been fired or criticized for lying or plagiarism? How many people will follow any “hot diet” that gets a book and a push with supplement tie-ins? How many people think anecdotal blogs (even this one!) are fit to give advice?

These are all problems that have numerous causes and will require complex solutions (or we’ll just blow it all up, probably more likely) but the best thing you can do is start thinking critically. Question what you see! Realize TV shows and movies are NOT reflections of life, they are fantasies! Demand better fantasies! Kill your television and do what you can to escape ads!

And writers…can you at least pretend to have ethics? Think beyond a paycheck or book sales to what impact you have on the world.

Actually, that’s good advice for us all: remember, this world is something we all share, and what you do affects others. You know, the actual butterfly effect of chaos theory, not the craptastic Ashton Kutcher movie. Critical thinking can help you learn the differences between them.