4/20 Fiasco

4/20, a day unofficially recognised as a celebration of all things marijuana, a day to light it up and get high and other such shit. Look, I won’t even ATTEMPT to use the colloquial terms, I’m so square I could lie down flat and get a decent job as a spirit gauge. Point is, if you smoke weed, or even if you just have a general interest in the world beyond your bed, you know what 4/20 is all about. We all have our own ways of celebrating it, though I myself spend it celebrating my brother’s birthday that falls on the same day, but I think the weirdest recent recognition of the day was Snapchat’s Bob Marley filter, a photo filter for selfies that superimposed Bob Marley’s face onto yours and darkened your skin tone to match. Yeah, that does sound weird when you look at a literal description of it. Is this harmless fun? Well…

I want to put up a disclaimer and say I recognise the connection between Bob Marley and marijuana, I’m not an idiot, and my opinions on this are not influenced by the fact I have never smoked anything in my life, closest I get to smoking is salmon. As a liberal man, I support the legalisation of marijuana, it is far less harmful than alcohol, which is legal, and its criminalisation is the result of an idealistic and unenforceable war on drugs, started by our forefathers and fuelled by myths and ignorance. Marijuana is not a gateway drug or chemically addictive substance, it doesn’t blacken lungs or turn you into a violent lunatic, it is a plant that happens to have recreational benefits when set on fire, nuff said. Furthermore, my opinion is in no way influenced by the choice of Bob Marley, I’m not hating on the dude, I am not an avid fan but I do like his music and appreciate the cultural influence of the man. So, with that established, let me explain why personally I’m taken aback by this poor move by Snapback. Cue the non-PC outrage in the comments.

First of all, let’s face it, this is blackface. No, don’t bullshit me, don’t come out with “It’s not blackface, it’s…”, it’s blackface. You are taking a non-black face, putting a black face on top and playing it up for a laugh. Jim from IT is a white dude living with his mother who listens to Weird Al and Stereophonics, his weekends are spent modding Skyrim and he is most certainly not a famous rastafarian musician. Didn’t like that stereotype? Guess what? Black people don’t appreciate the making of Marley into a stereotype of a laidback black man with dreads and a funky hat smoking weed, he is a cultural icon. Snapchat has a history of struggling to accurately represent diversity, evading questions about the percentages of employee races in their company by saying they don’t think of people as numbers. I mean, amen to that but y’know, we kind of need numbers to make sense of what we’re doing, not looking at your bank balance is not the same as making the situation more financially manageable, trust me.

Bob Marley, as a man, was more than just a dude who got stoned and this filter, that immediately slaps his face on yours just because it’s the 20th April, reduces his legacy to his drug habit. Bob Marley was more than just a man who loved his weed and yes he campaigned for its legalisation but that was not all he did, he fought for peace and the fair representation of minorities, he opposed a system that dehumanizes us all but one that especially dehumanised people like him. The music he became famous for showed a love and respect for his culture and his faith, the lyrics of which resonated with the pacifists inside us and went on to influence not only a genre of music as a whole but generations of peaceful protests after him. Also, Marley didn’t smoke weed just for shits and giggles, he did it as a spiritual exercise of meditation, a means of understanding himself.

“When you smoke herb, herb reveal yourself to you. All the wickedness you do, the herb reveal itself to yourself, your conscience, show up yourself clear, because herb make you meditate. Is only a natural t’ing* and it grow like a tree.”

*Source uses ‘t’ing’ instead of ‘thing’, reflecting his accent, I have not changed this text

Read that and understand the difference between what you think he cared about and what he did care about. We far too often recall Bob Marley as just that reggae guy who got high a lot and this filter does nothing to combat that, all it’s done is said “Umm, 4/20, Bob Marley right?”, like some sort of bad joke.

Now, a counter-argument you might have for me is that Bob Marley’s family themselves approved this idea right? Well, hate to break it to you, they’re not the sole representatives of their heritage, it’s not like them saying “It’s not blackface” will make every other black person shrug and walk away like it’s not a problem, who are they to speak for everyone and tell them it’s not offensive or not perhaps cheapening the legacy of a national treasure into a joke? Marley’s image wasn’t a construct like the image of Elvis or Motley Crue, it wasn’t a style picked out to be memorable, he wore the clothes of his spirituality and his culture, making them into easy jokes for stoner humour is like making a Jesus filter for people on Easter. By the way, imagine the shitstorm we’d get if there was a whiteface filter to commemorate a dead white person hey, as a cheap joke no less? World AIDS day, we get Freddie Mercury tashes on everyone. The Marley family are, for want of better words, money-grabbers, licensing the Bob Marley image to everything under the sun they reckon would sell better if it had his face on it. I personally find that disgusting and a forewarning to my children if I ever become famous, if I die and you memorialise me by selling Old Man Wolfe branded soap, I’ll come back from the dead and wash your skulls out with it. Soap. Fucking soap. The man made an entire cultural history of music mainstream and known to the world and his name is stuck on a bar of hemp-scented soap. Fuck me.

I’m not just out to be a stick in the mud but I feel that making this filter was in poor taste, it’s harmless fun to the white would-be hippies amongst us but to those who share in Marley’s heritage, their sacred herb and an icon of their society is being made into a comic fad to amuse idiots. This will all be swept under the rug before the week is out and Snapchat won’t face any real backlash, nor will the Marley brand lose any customers for a lack of integrity, and that in itself is disturbing. We all, in 2016, just blinked at a show of blackface. Bob Marley, forgive us. Please please please forgive us.

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Before Friendship

It probably comes as a surprise to none of you reading this that my opinions earn me just as much ire as they do respect. For every feminist that stands at my side or ME sufferer that applauds the awareness I raise, there is another person willing to call me an over-sensitive wuss or accusing me of ignoring the struggles of men. Don’t be mistaken, this blog doesn’t get the traffic necessary for anonymous hate mail and when I do receive that, I can shrug it off as easy as anything. No, far more often, the people waiting to the sidelines to jump in with snide comments and putdowns are friends and family. My usual response is try to talk to them one to one to explain my point of view but if they’re gonna be pig-headed or, heaven forbid, insulting, that’s that and their name is quickly scratched from any Christmas card list I have going. I’ll never back down on my morals, I just can’t, morals define who we are, our codes are unique and we must not let others force us to against them or we lose ourselves. I won’t deny it can be disheartening but I won’t ever compromise on that aspect of myself. That said, here are some common arguments I want to lay to rest:

1. “That’s just your opinion”

I will not cut you out of my life for having a different opinion to me. I will not cut you out of my life for following a different religion or voting differently to me (Unless you support a party such as UKIP or Britain First). I understand my friends will have different opinions to me, I have friends who think minions are adorable, that Transformers are dull and that Dynasty Warriors is a braindead button-mashing experience but I don’t unfriend people over that. Opposing feminism isn’t having a different opinion to me, it’s an entire viewpoint away from mine, a whole different set of rules and values that just aren’t compatible with my own. Using feminism as an example, if you’re anti-feminist, then there a whole host of views that you may or may not fall in line with – victim blaming, slut shaming, the ‘place’ of women in society, friend-zoning, supporting such views is anti-feminism and opposing them? Pro. You might not wear the label but if you believe a woman shouldn’t deserve to be abused because of what she wears, that’s a feminist belief. Opinions are singular, you can look past those, what I am talking about is so much more than “That’s just what I think”, it’s “That’s what I deem to be morally correct”

2. “You’re refusing to hear what you don’t want to”

I think it’s fair to say that in this day and age of technology and viral videos and such, burying your head in the sand and ignoring the world around you is harder and harder to do unless you exclusively use the internet to do your Tesco food shop and watch porn and even then there’s probably going to be some crossover. We have the right to speak, the right to listen and the right to ignore, it’s a big deal with free speech. In all fairness, I’m not so much rejecting the viewpoint, I have to accept that such views exist and I am constantly aware of it, that’s why I do what I do, what I’m rejecting is the association of friendship between people like that and myself. I am AWARE of Donald Trump, that doesn’t mean if we met I’d have to have him added on Facebook to know that he is a racist orange gibbon.

3. “Refusing to talk to people with different views is cowardly and proof you can’t beat them in a debate”

This, I hear a lot, a sort of “If you don’t fight your case, you’ve lost” deal, like I’m on trial every time I put a link to a Laci Green vid in a status. I’ll start by saying that flat out refusing to talk to someone just because they’re right-wing or such isn’t how I start, that’s certainly a buffer I have up against new friends or partners, if a date makes a joke about Poland being full of cut-rate builders ruining the British economy by taking our jobs, I know I won’t need to bother asking her out on a second date. I do try and talk people around and I find, more often than not actually, it is not me that first resorts to personal attacks. Granted, in the past, I’ve had a tendency towards dismissing my opponents as imbeciles but more recently, it is often my critics that come forth with harsh barbs. A wide belief is the first to resort to such, is out of actual intelligent points to argue. I will try and talk someone around but if they’re being unpleasant or mocking me or such, I have no obligation to listen to the rest of what they might say

4. “What about Echo Chambers?”

Echo Chambers, for those who are unaware, are the idea of having a social media account that is loaded with nothing but people who agree with everything you say or do and as such, you become both big-headed and narrow-minded. I mean, if a hundred or so people are telling you on a near daily basis that you are very clever, attractive and morally righteous, surely it stands to reason you might one day believe all that to be fact? Well, aside from my hilariously out-of-hand anxiety having the power to keep any sort of ego of mine in check, not all my friends agree with me on everything I do and we are all capable of critical thinking. Dangerous as it is, I will always peruse the comment sections of news articles and videos, to see different views being expressed beneath. Largely, I’ll admit, it is people making vulgar remarks and such but there are a broad spectrum of opinions represented in these places, some fact-checked, some not, and I will take my time to mine the internet for comments actually worth reading. However, beyond that, on something like Facebook, can you blame people for wanting to be surrounded by people that like them a whole bunch and tell them nice things when we as a society are so readily prepared to pull one another apart? If you want an Echo Chamber, go ahead, you can always self-administer some doses of reality by watching the news or going outside, you don’t need a quota of dickheads on your Friends list to water down your self-confidence.

5. “You won’t win anyone around to your way of thinking by unfriending them”

Err… I’m sorry, when did that become my obligation? When did it become my job to try and win the hearts and minds of every person I meet? No, you see, the BLOG is where it’s my job to defend my viewpoints because that’s all this is, this is literally a website full of me saying shit I think and believe. My Facebook is just my day-to-day thought journal and means of contacting friends and sharing dumb photos I like because penguins are in it or it contains a pun or something. In my daily life, I have every right to just tell someone to piss off because Jacob Wolfe needs his space, Old Man Wolfe, on this site, is the guy doing the debating and lengthy arguments and such and if I need to illustrate my point, I can just tell Facebook friend “Go read this thing I wrote THEN talk to me”. I’ll defend my beliefs at any point in life, sure, but a highlight of the digital age is that if someone is an annoying wanker, you can click a button and they no longer exist in your radar, why would that not be a feature I would make use of?

Well, that’s that then, feel free to use these points in your own rebuttals when you have to explain to your parents why you blocked Aunt Carol on Facebook because she won’t stop sharing anti-vaccination posts on her profile. Your media, your choices, you don’t have any obligation to argue with people if you don’t want to and your beliefs are more than just opinions, they make you who you are and if people can’t accept them, they can’t accept you and that’s not on. Tolerance is all well and good but it’s a two-way street so don’t just put up with nonsense for the sake of being a good person, you have to let yourself break away from toxic influences. Just keep up to date on the world affairs and you won’t lose sight of reality behind rose-tinted glass (And hey, fuck reality once in awhile, take an evening a week or something or an hour of the day to just forget David Cameron is in power and go play a game or watch a film). Remember that you are no less for wanting to spend more time in the company of people like you and that it is a clever move to remove people from your life who will only cause you harm or upset. Okay? That’s all.

Really need a sign off phrase…

You Will Never Speak For Me

Okay, I’ve been inactive, I’m not even going to explain myself on that one this time because it’s a common occurrence, it’s what being a man with limited resources and unlimited depression does when he has a blog. I’m back, with a vengeance I might add, to put in my two cents on Autism Awareness Month, particularly, how many of you might be approaching this the wrong way. My first point, is your profile picture covered with a blue filter? Well then, read on, you might reconsider that filter by the end of this article.

Autism Awareness Month, largely paraded by the charity Autism Speaks, is about raising awareness of the trials and tribulations that come with autism, both for those who are on the spectrum and those who have loved ones that are. Speaking as a man both on the spectrum and related to another who is, I won’t deny, there are trying moments in life that were daunting to us but perfectly normal events to the other kids in classes or colleagues at work places. Social etiquette, for example, eluded me for so long that I got angry at other people for having it when I did not, I came to think of myself as living in a world of imbeciles, not realising that not only did the world struggle to understand me, I too struggled to understand the world. However, my biggest qualms with Autism Awareness can be summarised thusly:

  1. People are AWARE, what they lack is UNDERSTANDING
  2. Autism Speaks

I shall challenge these points in reverse order to how they are listed, because Autism Speaks is to autism what Donald Trump is to Mexico – hilariously misinformed and full of hatred towards their people.

Autism Speaks is not a happy jolly charity as they might have you believe, their solution to the struggles of the autistic community would be akin to Oxfam forming a militia and marching on Syria, Autism Speaks seeks a ‘cure’ to autism, a ‘prevention’ of it. Don’t believe me? Check their ‘About Us’ section on their site:

“Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism”

Direct quote. Causes, prevention, treatments and cure. You know, like it were a disease. Autism Speaks has been called out in the past on recommending things such as bleach enemas and allowing parents to express their desire to ‘fix’ their child, sometimes with said child in the room. Now this, this is personal, this isn’t just social justice speaking, this is “You do not tell me that I, my brother and thousands of others are broken human beings you need to fix, we are fucking beautiful”.

You know what you’re saying when you want to cure someone of autism? You’re saying you want to kill them and replace them with someone similar but normal. Autism affects how someone sees the world, how they think, what they like, what they don’t like, what knowledge they have, what things they will remember, their hopes, dreams and fears are all dictated by autism, it is not a disease or curse but a whole other way of existing as a human being. I have tried to explain this to people as being left-handed in a right-handed world. You may have challenges trying to be like the others but in the end, you find a way and your way is different but it works just the same in the end and there’s no reason a left-handed person is less valid than a right-handed one. You could try to make that person right-handed but it would change how they do everything, it would mean they had to relearn everything they ever knew about how to interact with the world and your friend or family member would be someone entirely different for it. In a sense, you would replace them with someone you perceive to be more normal, or rather, more like what you think should be normal. If you want to screen for autistic children or find a way to fix them, you want them dead. This isn’t a disability, this is a way of being human that you cannot understand and that is why you want us dead.

So you might understand why I say we don’t need your awareness campaigns, much less do we need a charity that thinks of us as a blight to be remedied. Autism and aspergers aren’t things you need to raise awareness for, they are things you need to raise understanding of. I generally scoff at awareness campaigns, who at this point is still clueless what breast cancer is? We KNOW what cancer is, we KNOW what diabetes is, we KNOW what Parkinson’s is, teach people what it means to live with these things and how to help those who have to, make people understand why diabetes isn’t just “Ate too much sugary food” or why cancer isn’t just “Thing that can kill you but if you take pills and go bald, you might not die”. The ALS Ice Bucket challenge was the last awareness campaign I agreed with. Why? I HAD NO FUCKING IDEA WHAT IT WAS. Awareness is Stage One, Stage Two is education. Imagine if your teacher taught you to read by pointing at a book repeatedly and went
“That’s a book. People read those”
Ok great, how? Why? Where do I get a book? What is a book for?
“That’s a book. People read those”
I am aware that is a book, tell me more.
“That’s a…”
YOU SEE THE PROBLEM?

Also, putting autism in a class with cancer and motor-neurone disease in that it is something you raise awareness for, you class it as a problem. If a charity is ‘raising awareness’, it is telling you there is a problem to be fixed. If there is a disease we cannot cure, we need to be aware of it. If there is a country ravaged by war, we need to be aware of it. If there are people dying in ways we didn’t realise, we need to be aware of it. What the fuck do we need Autism Awareness for? I’m aware it exists, what else will you do Autism Speaks? Nothing, except witter on about how hard it is to deal with your kids because they’re noisy or won’t keep their jumper on or don’t like other children.

I’m sorry to get so angry, except I’m not. Autism Speaks does not, has never and probably never will speak for the autistic community, it speaks for those who wish there wasn’t an autistic community, and I personally am glad there is an autistic community. I tried talking this over with my brother, who also has autism, and he thought perhaps he wouldn’t miss it if he didn’t have it and I had to try to explain to him he couldn’t perceive not having it because having it has shaped his entire being. The idea of being neurotypical is just inconceivable to me, it would not be me, he could have my face and voice but he would have different friends, feelings and interests. Please, for goodness sake, do not partake in lighting it up blue, “Go Red Instead” is a counter-campaign about raising awareness of Autism Speaks, who, if they want centre-stage this month, let’s make you aware that they’re not just about helping families live with autism, they’re about helping families NOT have to live with autism, helping families abandon autistic children, helping families mutilate autistic children and poison them. Check it out at the link below and please, remember that autism doesn’t need a cure, it needs people to realise that we are just like you, seek to understand us like you seek to understand your fellow men, for we are they.

http://profile.actionsprout.com/o/18D37E