Captain America and the Conservatives

How’s about that for a title eh? Not one I ever thought I’d be writing, that’s for sure. So what’s this about? Well, in a recent issue of Captain America, the titular character fights against a super villain called the Supreme Serpent, a white supremacist trying to keep illegal immigrants out of the country by terrorising the southern border of the USA. Captain America, who I should remind you is black in his current incarnation, doesn’t much like this idea and comes to the rescue of the terrorised immigrants, defending them and facing off against the white guy. So how’d this go down? FOX News lost their shit basically, calling this a bunch of liberal brainwashing bullshit made to vilify the white conservative as being just as bad as Hitler or ISIS and asked that Marvel make the villains less white guy and more… Muslim… No shit, they genuinely suggested a Muslim extremist villain, saying that such a character is more typically seen as an enemy of America than a white guy ever would be… Let that sink in. Done? Okay, rage with me here…

Straight away, let’s address Captain America and what he represents shall we? To the unobservant eye, Captain America is just patriotism given a face and a large metal shield to wail on Nazis with and you could be forgiven for thinking that but it’s untrue. You see, Captain America was originally designed to resemble the Aryan male, a handsome blond muscular youth with blue eyes, lantern jaw and that good work ethic that made him gosh darn perfect. You might guess this is because he is meant to be the American ideal of a wholesome robust farm-boy looking character fighting for justice but it goes beyond that, it was essentially a cruel cold kick to the balls for the Nazis. The Nazi ideal was also that of a super heroic blond boy, the fact that their fantasy was the one punching Hitler in the face served as a message, that a truly ideal man does not hold to absurd visions of supremacy. Hitler was wrong, his own male fantasy was the one kicking him down and telling him not to demand perfection of others because a core part of freedom is diversity, in being diverse we are free to be different people, having a set ‘this is what you should aspire to be’ rule limits diversity and tries to push people into a pigeonhole. However, Captain America is also the representation of the values the American people are supposed to hold in high regard – honesty, defense of the innocent, righteousness – fast forward to the modern era and we have a black Captain America because, well, why not? A black man can represent those core values of righteousness, look at Martin Luther King, Jr. for example! There was no liberal brainwashing behind making Cap a black guy, it was just Marvel acknowledging that the USA isn’t the land of the white, it’s the land of freedom and justice and justice doesn’t have a particular skin colour.

So, with that in mind, this isn’t a battle of left versus right through Captain America versus Supreme Serpent because Captain America isn’t the living embodiment of the left-wing, he’s just what patriotism should be – a love of one’s country but not a blindness to its flaws, a citizen of their homeland but a citizen of the world too, always striving to encourage their nation as a whole to be better. However, FOX identified with the villains here, calling WHITE SUPREMACISTS the right-wing conservatives in their audience. You know what that means? FOX News just openly admitted, through their own stupidity, they’re white supremacists, they see these white-skinned terrorists in snake costumes with assault rifles and think “Hey! That’s me! I’m not a bad guy!”. Conservatism and white supremacy aren’t, and shouldn’t ever be, one and the same, one is a mindset based in traditional values, the other a penchant for racially motivated violence. I mean, at least FOX News are self-aware, I’ve been calling them a bunch of bigots since I first stumbled across the mindless hate-mongering of Bill O’Reilly and here they are, feeling sorry for terrorists in snake costumes and demanding Captain America make it fair by beating up some Muslims or Nazis.

Captain America, incidentally, shouldn’t go on to fighting ISIS or Muslim Extremists, there is clearly enough racial prejudice in the world without printing comic books showing gratuitous violence towards Muslims as a heroic thing to do. If Captain America exists to be a role model, racism isn’t part of that aspirational standard he should set, that’s one good reason he’s a minority – it’s not about being white, it’s about being right! Kids need to see a socially responsible hero, that’s what Captain America is for – Iron Man shows what technology and ingenuity can achieve, Hawkeye is a hero who doesn’t need powers to keep in league with the best, you don’t have to be special, you just have to try and Captain America is saying that it doesn’t matter what your background is, what matters most is that you are a good person at heart (Thus why he was a weedy kid originally and then beefed up, it was the good in him that mattered, he was never meant to be just some typical action-figure hero). As for the argument that he needs to go back to fighting Nazis, well, White Supremacists are the new Nazis, look at Trump. Build a giant wall to keep Mexicans out? Hunt down all illegally bought guns but let licensed people keep theirs, a clever sounding move until you realise illegal weapons are prevalent in poor neighbourhoods and legal ones in affluent areas, essentially meaning self defence will become a matter of how much of it you can afford to buy. ISIS are awful yes, but their tactics are made to instill fear, to turn people against each other and encourage the hatred of the white majority. Why? Because scared people are irrational and easily broken. White Supremacy, that’s a fear and loathing of difference that turns to violence – lynching, organised marches, cross burning – amassing huge swathes of people into the most intimidating displays possible to inflict as much damage as possible. If an ISIS attack is a small tactical guerilla affair to make you paranoid, a Neo-Nazi march by the extreme right wing is a bunch of angry thugs starting a riot because they don’t like being so paranoid.

In short, this comic isn’t a criticism of patriotism and conservative values, it’s a criticism of racism and extremist mindsets and there should be a differentiation between the two. If you see these white guys getting attacked by a black hero because they harassed Hispanic children and your response is “This is political brainwashing, thanks Obama!”, then think again, think hard. Captain America was taking down a bunch of armed madmen attacking unarmed civilians, that’s what a superhero does, race and nationality don’t come into it. If you want Captain America to fight with Nazis, over zealous insane crackpots who love their country and believe it the best country in the world, well then I have news for you – he just did.

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Phone Zombies

No big political issue to throw at you tonight reader, nor is this a funny film review or commentary on the gaming industry from my disgruntled inner nerd. Let’s take this back to where this blog began really, so so long ago where I was just pointing at some random aspect of modern culture and going “You know what? That’s fucking irritating”. Today’s topic then is the curse of the phone addict/junkie/zombie and my response to this apparent plague is not what you’d expect but to put it in brief – there’s no such thing as phone zombies, you might have a few individuals glued to their screen just because but for most of us, we have perfectly valid reasons to stick to our cells and mobiles, whichever term you prefer.

You’ve probably seen pictures circling around on the internet, usually in your Facebook news feed of these zombified masses surgically attached to a smart phone, groaning for likes and trudging around like the undead. You’ll hear statements like “Kids these days” or “Look at what our generation has become”, all these sad statements that read like written shakes of the head, as if your mother and your inner guilt got together for lunch to write something for you to read. At first, you might react in the expected sense, feeling bad, feeling like you should ‘look up’ as one video put it, get over social media and not be one of these grotesque creatures but here’s the thing, it’s a load of bullshit. I mean, don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of using social media as a platform to berate social media and modern technology, what a stupid thing to do. The whole ‘smartphones equals dumb people’ thing is lazy, untrue and just self-congratulatory intellectual smugness from people who developed life skills before the internet became so accessible, some self-satisfied way of peering down people’s noses and then expecting shares and likes for this wise insight into the modern world? Get over yourself. I’m all for intellectual smugness and celebrating one’s own knowledge, I do it myself, but doing it in the sense of this elitism is just rude and only exposes you as a total arse. I much prefer the path of making a reference only a choice few will get, you exclude some so you feel like you know something particular but you don’t slap anyone in the face as being less worthwhile than you, it just means you exist in different realms of interest. You just know whoever made these pictures and spread them around thinks they’re so damn sage and clever, pointing and sneering at those of us committed to our technology but when you then upload it to the internet as self-promotion, you’re basically jerking yourself off on a stage and calling the audience a bunch of wankers.

Dialling back the rage, I’m going to say I’m pretty attached to my technology, my phone and laptop in particular. If I go out, my phone comes too, even if only briefly. I wouldn’t say I’m glued to it, I just keep it handy in all situations and never go too far from it if I can help it. Whilst out, I’d check it about once an hour unless I receive a call or text or alarm of some sort, generally if I’m out of the house then I’m doing something important or social and so I don’t have time for sitting and texting. Now why do I keep it handy, you ask? Well:

  1. Job applications – Made several, still waiting on feedback/interview invitations.
  2. Emergencies – What if I have an accident and need help? What if someone else needs help?
  3. Friends – Sometimes, I get messaged out of the blue or I’ll be passing somewhere I know people in the area and I can quickly ask those nearby if they’re free to grab coffee or whatever.
  4. Easily reached – I can tell people when and where to expect me whilst I’m out. If I’m going to be late, people will know.
  5. Anxiety – This might sound stupid but I can panic without my phone because of reasons 1 to 4, what if I miss one of those important calls or texts that tells me I got a job or a friend of mine has just been kicked out by their partner and needs someone right now? I find those things almost always happen when I’m not immediately available, missed two phone interviews whilst on the can!!

And that’s not even considering the fact phones have changed so much since I was a kid. I could understand worrying when a teen wouldn’t give up their Nokia, it was an easy way to blow through money on essentially talking to people you lived a few streets away from and otherwise playing Snake whilst you awaited their response but now? Long distance relationships, phones that can access the internet to let you read the news, check out new music videos, catch up on missed matches, meet potential romantic partners – the world is in the palm of our hand these days, can you not comprehend how amazing that is? What used to be a computer, a watch, a calendar, a landline and a newspaper all now fits into a device the same size as a library card! I remember making an old man steam with frustration as he told me off for staring into my lap at some goddamn screen and I looked up to tell him
“Actually, I was trying to understand this Syrian crisis thing, I write about current news. What are your views on the subject?”
I was not bothered for the rest of my bus journey. I’ve caught wrong trains and gotten myself stuck in tight spots, panicking and reaching out only to receive those reassuring words of an old friend that I’d be alright, I’d find my way home if I calmed down and if I got that lost, they’d drive out and find me. Without a phone, damn, I’d have been stuck out in the wrong end of England for a while just running around screaming in panic. Oh, and when you get an unexpected text from someone, you know that means you crossed their mind, they cared about you and wanted to show it, that is so goddamn satisfying and nice. Nothing makes my day like someone just sending a text like that, something small and sweet.

We are attached to our phones because they are extensions of ourselves, we want them to match our style, we load them with apps we would use, they are full of photos we took and numbers we want to call. The smartphone is a portal to saying hello to people you can’t just greet at their address, to learning new things and hearing great jokes or amazing songs, people who criticise these things as making us idiots just don’t know the potential of such technology. If your kid is a ‘phone zombie’, ever considered why? You’re probably cursing the fact they’re glued to social media right? Calm down, we all are these days and even so, it helps them stay in touch, it’s not like teenagers have an abundance of money to go for coffee every time they feel like chatting. Don’t smugly look down on them, certainly not if you’re making that “Oh what is the world coming to?” speech from your Facebook profile, because my generation and the generations thereafter just happened to be young enough to embrace the technological revolution and run with it, you’re nothing better for clipping people’s wings because you can’t fly.

Privilege Check

Trigger Warnings – None

So would you believe it, my attempt to lighten the mood by writing an article about comic books seems to have gone down just as well as being the only lepper in the swimming pool, not too many people want to get too close and so as it happens, yesterday was a flounder on the site stats. Lesson learned I guess. Anyway, moving on, I haven’t done anything political in a while, let’s do that shall we? Sorry America, this isn’t going to be about casting your ballots, although do do that, but I want to talk about a common argument of the left-winged amongst us that always falls short, and I apply the term argument generously.

Ever heard the term ‘check your privilege’?. Basically put, it demands that someone shut up and consider how lucky they’ve been in their life and what they have going for them in terms of gender/racial/socio-economic factors that play to their advantage before they make comments such as “The reason poor people are poor is because they don’t work hard enough” or “Women only rally to feminism because they hate men”. Granted, these are stupid comments and are usually attributed to rich white heterosexual men, but telling said individuals to check their privilege is not the way to enlighten them to the struggles of a working class Joe or a lesbian denied her rights to marry. Check your privilege sounds good but it is, in a way, a form of racism because it basically tells your opponent “You are wrong because you are white and rich”. Ok, so what you’re saying there is that they are who they are because of where they come from and certain people from certain walks of life are just stupid? Remind me what we’re fighting for again?

Of course, not every white straight male is a privileged one and whilst I do have to admit I can enjoy some male privileges such as walking around topless if I so please or being more likely to get a job than someone called Stefano just on the basis of my Anglican name, I don’t consider myself all that privileged – working class roots, a life of living on the bread line and despite my advantages, the job market is still not embracing me with a big hug and promoting me up the ranks like it was going out of fashion. If you didn’t know me and told me to check my privilege in an argument, you’d have to make a lot of assumptions – that I’m straight, that I’m cisgendered and so on and so on. Not a great move, you know what they say about assumption, you make an ass out of you and me (Read it aloud, makes sense). You shouldn’t make assumptions about someone’s past and have that be your basis for an argument and you certainly shouldn’t reduce someone to a product of that background, they are, despite what you might think, still human and human hearts can be turned if you know the art to it

I might be the wrong man to make this point but is telling someone to check their privilege not just a horribly cynical point to use in an argument. You hear straight white male and immediately roll your eyes? Well fuck, that’s me and I’ve used this blog to make points for mental health, left-wing politics, sexuality spectrums, I’m only a few piercings and some green hair away from a modern day hippie. Your opponent in an argument is always a human being, I should hope, they have fears, traditions, values, interests and if they don’t believe in something you do, they have a reason, perhaps a flawed reason or one they don’t even realise but a reason. If you want to win an argument, by which I mean win them over to going “Oh yeah, you’re right…” then you have to find the reason they don’t agree with you and work with it, don’t just dismiss them because of that reasoning. I’ve had friends who’ve seen my flawed views and instead of going “Well you would say that, you’re a guy”… Ok, some have said that, but some have instead taken the time to challenge my views and help me achieve a broader understanding of feminist issues or sexuality issues or so on. You cannot assume someone will not empathise, or they won’t, and demanding they do with three small words is as effective as slapping them and then asking for a hug. No, fuck your hug, you slapped me

You have to realise, we can’t look at someone with a reasonably comfortable life and just tell them they don’t understand. Make them understand, duh. You should also note that even those who might understand what you’re going through won’t fully empathise because nobody is going to understand what you’ve been through quite as well as you do. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, we need allies, not enemies, wouldn’t it be great to get more rich white guys to say something on behalf of the minority groups out there? Idealistic dreaming, maybe, but not impossible and certainly worth trying as it has happened, remember that Texan sports presenter who defend the coming out of an American football player? I don’t remember names and probably should look them up but everyone saw fat, well-paid, white guy from Texas and assumed “He’ll call him a fag” and then instead the guy admits he’s uncomfortable around gay men, not out of hatred but out of a lack of understanding but he’s not against learning and he certainly doesn’t make the player any less of a man. I was impressed when I saw that, as was Ellen DeGeneres, who had him as a guest. If you want people to agree with you and understand your point, treat them as human beings, don’t dismiss their inherent humanity. I know it’s hard, they might be really ignorant but you have to try before just giving up on them or nobody will ever learn anything because very few people change their opinion on something overnight and they certainly won’t if you just flip them off

Remember what the goal is – to promote understanding, acceptance and equality and as such you must understand, accept and revere your opponents as equals so that you might make allies of them. I’m not the perfect example of this, I can make assumptions like any human being but we should make an effort and never just ignore someone on the grounds of their income or their race or we’re just as bad as the elitists. Reverse elitism, that’s it, check your privilege is reverse elitism