Are you a charity ‘slacker’? How social media has created a culture of ‘slactivism’

Fred Clark is a blogger, at the Slacktivist blog for Patheos’ progressive Christian channel and is also a graduate of Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. I spoke to him about the term ‘slacktivism’ – labelling people who like and share awareness or charity memes on facebook or twitter without actively engaging with the cause.

Fred Clark gave some outstanding answers. Here is the interview in full.

Alyce: You’ve been blogging about 12 years. These days, just about everyone is on social media, from 80 year olds to 8 year olds. Have you seen (in your opinion) a change in the way people interact now that “everyone” is on social media, not just teens and tech-enthusiasts? Is social media here to stay?

Fred: I started blogging in 2002. I think social media are here to stay, but I expect the forms and forums will continue to evolve. Some folks interact on a variety of platforms, some stick mainly to one — blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. I have no idea what the Next Big Thing in social media will be, but my guess is that we’re headed less toward the “next Facebook” than toward platforms that will allow people to seamlessly combine all of these various mini-worlds.

Alyce: You claim to have coined the term “slactivism” is that correct? When did you coin it, or when did you first see it used?

Fred: In 1994, I was working with Dwight Ozard on Prism magazine, the publication of a parachurch nonprofit called Evangelicals for Social Action, which works to get American evangelicals more engaged in helping the poor and the powerless. We were getting ready to give a series of seminars at the Cornerstone Festival — a big Christian music festival held every summer in Illinois, hosted by the Jesus People USA. The seminars were aimed mainly at younger people — Gen Xers like ourselves who, back in the ’90s, still qualified as younger people.

Alyce: What is slactivism?

Fred: This was right when the generational cycle of fretting about “kids these days” was reaching its peak, much the way we seem at that point right now with older folks fretting about “Millennials.” We were kind of tired of that. “Slackers” had become a kind of all-purpose dismissive term for Gen Xers due to Richard Linklater’s movie of that name. Linklater’s irony was lost on many pundits and scolds, who also seemed to take “Here we are now, entertain us” at face value as the cry of our generation. Even some Baby Boomer activists we admired and looked up to had taken to lecturing our whole generation about our supposed lack of activism, awareness and concern. I think they were trying to inspire us with tales of the glory days from their protest marches in the 1960s, but to our ears they came across like Monty Python’s “Four Yorkshiremen” sketch.

So we set out to tell stories about young people from this supposed generation of “slackers” who were changing the world in ways that people might not notice if all they were looking for was the next March on Washington. We contrasted the ineffectiveness of top-down, headline-grabbing efforts like “Hands Across America” with the smaller-scale, front-line, hands-on efforts of young people creating change as urban homesteaders or Habitat for Humanity volunteers, or a thousand other examples of modest and modestly effective projects undertaken by deeply committed “slackers.”

I titled our series “Slacker Activism.” Dwight shortened that to “slacktivism.” At that time it meant something like what David Bowie sang about in “Changes”: “And these children that you spit on as they try to change their world.”

The word faded away along with the eventual fading of the “Gen X” hype, but it was revived about a decade later to refer to the idea of forwarding an email or clicking “like” *instead* of actually doing anything. Linklater’s original irony — and ours — was lost in the new usage, which reverted to “slacker” as a dismissive pejorative rather than as a defiant rejection of that dismissal — a determination to prove it wrong.

Gen-Xers had originally embraced the term in order to take it away from Vice Principal Strickland types. You might remember him as the character in “Back to the Future” who mocked uber-Gen-Xer Marty McFly by telling him, “You’re a slacker, McFly. And you’ll always be a slacker.”

So I’m kind of disappointed to see Dwight’s word being used now in a Strickland-esque way, but alas, just because he got to coin a new word doesn’t mean he gets to control it. (Dwight passed away in 2005.)

Alyce: I have been reading about charity/awareness memes that are so prevalent on platforms, particularly such as facebook. These are often inspirational pictures or phrases that people like and share, often without really connecting with or supporting the charity. Are these OK, as they “awareness-raise” or so you feel that they are ineffective and pointless? Your honest opinion here.

Fred: Many of these charity/awareness memes are probably, to quote Douglas Adams, mostly harmless. But not entirely harmless. Whatever little good they may do at increasing “awareness” is likely cancelled out by the harm they do at increasing a kind of self-satisfied self-righteousness.

These things don’t really spread in order to raise the sort of awareness that produces tangible public support. They tend to function more as a totem signifying “Look at me. I’m good.” They spread like a chain letter, “If you agree to allow me to say I’m a good person, then I’ll agree to allow you to say you’re a good person.” That’s why poor Craig Shergold, who’s now 34 years old, is still deluged with get-well cards sent to his childhood self. People don’t actually care about him as a person at all, they just want to convince themselves that they’re caring people. It’s about their feelings, not about him.

And it turns out that self-satisfied self-righteousness is actually an enemy to the kind of “awareness” that might produce positive change. People who are already convinced of their goodness don’t see any need to change.

Alyce: Are we getting slack as a society? If someone receives a meme on their feed saying “like this if you wish cancer didn’t exist!” or “share if your think this (down syndrome) little girl is beautiful” what do you think they should do? Should they share it? Delete it? Research charities/organisations that support the cause?

Fred: I often just ignore or delete those. Sometimes I try to suggest a more tangible step if someone seems to have a genuine concern for whatever the issue at issue happens to be — something along the lines of that terrific Swedish Unicef campaign where they said, “Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio. We have nothing against likes, but vaccine costs money. Please buy polio vaccine at unicef.se. It will only cost you 4 euros, but will save the lives of 12 children.”

But that’s rare, since as you note, these things tend to be incredibly broad, expressing a sentiment it would be impossible to disagree with and which, therefore, it seems unlikely that the sender is genuinely concerned about.

I tend to describe this as the “Anti-Kitten-Burning Coalition.” Every time some horrific act of animal cruelty makes the news, the comment section in the news report fills up with people who feel an urgent need to clarify that they do not approve of burning kittens. That’s good! I’d hate to see them say otherwise. But the remarkable thing is that there’s a tone of proud defiance to such declarations — as though they were taking a bold and controversial stand for stating what seems like an absolute lowest common denominator. They seem convinced, in other words, that they are a righteous remnant, courageously, heroically, swimming against the current in a world filled with kitten-burners and puppy-kickers and with people who like cancer and hate little girls with Down syndrome.

And the problem with that is it doesn’t stop. Once your identity is bound up in a sense of sanctimonious superiority, you’re never satisfied in simply thinking of yourself as slightly more virtuous than others. You need to think of yourself as vastly better — which means imagining “them” (whoever “they” may be) as increasingly monstrous and depraved. C.S. Lewis called such self-righteousness “the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils.”

Alyce: You are Christian but belong to a liberal church, is that correct? (by this it seems that the church you are involved at has liberal views on issues such as pro-choice, pro-GLBT etc).

Fred: I was born and raised in the fundamentalist/evangelical church and still regard myself as an evangelical Christian. But, as you note, most of my fellow evangelical Christians would say that my pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights views would disqualify me from that community. So nowadays I’m an evangelical Baptist expatriate in the Episcopal Church.

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this is a photo of an angel

Things that are Sweet, Fluffy and Not at all Controversial

Well ho bloody hum, blog readers. You’re lucky I am here at all. Finding no less than three separate people upset by my ramblings yesterday, I am considering shutting this platform down and taking my ramblings elsewhere where I can no longer be found. Why do I even write under a pseudonym? That’s right, Alyce Vayle is not my real name. It’s your name too. This is your platform after all. Last month this blog was read by 8000 people worldwide, so I don’t want to shut it down for the sake of a few itchy people in Sydney.

What stuff do people like reading about the most?

Well, my most popular posts have been about:

I know, I’m surprised too about what people like to read about. I write organically. My job is a fulltime copywriter, so all day I write text that is not my own. This platform is where I express myself, for the pure joy of expressing myself. If you don’t like my blog – there are many others online. Yes, I rant. Yes, I rave. This blog makes me no money and it’s a philosophical platform to share my ideas.

And you know what? You can start your own blog too! I began this one in November 2012 so it is only 10 months old. I spend about 12 hours a week on this blog, writing, uploading, taking photos and managing comments. I spend a lot of time on this place to call my own. The topics that are popular are not determined by me, I could care less about Portia de Rossi, but people want to know about her, or so it seems.

I recommend blogging – but you must be able to spend time on it. If you want any help, ask me a question and I can tell you what I know about it. I am no expert. I cannot even code. BUT – I can write and that’s one of the things you’ll need to be able to do. Guh! I’m doing it again – getting all narky on you. I don’t care what you do. Go and do your own thing if you don’t like my blog. I’m sorry if I rant and rave.

Anyhoo.

In the light of my recent narkiness and self-importance, I have decided to devote a whole blog post to things that are sweet, fluffy and not at all controversial. Here we go.

Bunnies

Sweet and fluffy, everyone likes bunnies. They are great at Easter, lovely as pets, provided you don’t want a pet that will love you back. Yes, it’s true. Bunnies do not like people. They also shake quite a bit, as some warm-blooded animals shiver to generate more heat when they get cold. There are many interesting studies on brown adipose tissue and how new born rabbits respond to cold. Many people think they shiver because they are scared. They are just warming themselves up and generating heat.

Bunnies are never controversial, always nice. Except when they are found in plague proportions and invade countries and get sore, weepy eyes and myxomatosis. Oh no! Even bunnies can be controversial! What else can we talk about?

Fluffy chickens

Yes, I love fluffy chickens too. Sweet and yellow, they make a really cute noise when they cheep cheep cheep. Where I live there is a big show at Easter where you can go and see many little fluffy chicks walking up ramps and generally looking very cute. Everyone loves fluffy chickens, they are never controversial.

Except when the baby chicks are euthanatized at birth. Only females are valuable to farmers, so all the boy chicks are gassed to death. Jamie Oliver showed this live on TV. The audience was appalled, but if you eat eggs, this is your business. Yes, even baby chickens can be controversial too. Oh no! What else?

Dandelions

Oh we all love dandelions, because we can make a wish. When I was a little girl these were prolific in Canberra where I lived. I used to love blowing the little spores and seeing if I could get them all off with one big, blow. Usually I could not. The real name of the dandelion is the taraxacum, which isn’t nearly as appealing. Giving things nicer names to make them more appealing is nothing new. A gorgeous landmark in Australia – The Three Sisters were given that name to make them more appealing, In fashion, Agyness Deyn was born Laura Michelle Hollins and changing her name on the advice of a numerologist basically began her modelling career.

Dandelions are never controversial, unless you suffer from hay fever. Lots of people are actually allergic to these lovely little plants. A warning: If you are allergic to dandelion, drinking dandelion root tea may induce a severe allergic reaction. You may develop sores along the inside of your mouth. Severe breathing difficulties, such as shortness of breath, chest tightness or wheezing may also occur in dandelion-sensitive people who drink this type of tea. (source).

So – as you can see, even sweet, fluffy things can be controversial.

If you don’t like my blog, or you are bothered by my ranting and general tone of voice, here are some other blogs for you to try:

  • Penelope Trunk – she started Brazen Careerist and she now lives on a farm. Her asperger’s will make my writing seem like a cheery walk in the park. Read her blog please.
  • Oh She Glows – Angela Liddon takes great photos and blogs about health and vegan food. No ranting, or next to none.
  • Bhardwazbhardwaz – is a friend of mine and an excellent blogger. He does not rant and is very gentle, kind and gives some very interesting information.

OK? There you go. Let’s not discuss this any further. Good night.

this is a photo fo an empty plate

Returning to Eating Meat After Vegetarianism

Yes, I know. I know. I’ve been down this path before too and I am not ashamed. I first flirted with vegetarianism when I lived in Perth, Western Australia. If you have never been, please make sure you never go. Perth is a crappy place, full of sad and lonely people who don’t know how great the rest of Australia is. I feel bad for them. But it was in Perth that I first became a vegetarian.

I have a story about it. My friends and family have heard it oft-a-time, so skip over this part if you know me. It was a bright, sunny Perth day. I was alone, as I often am, enjoying a solo holiday at a cheap resort, probably between jobs, or men, or both… I can’t remember. I had made a trip to the local markets and being near the water I ended up with a lovely bag of fresh prawns. I took them home and set about de-shelling them.

I held each insect-like prawn in my hand and I felt the hard shell. Crushing it with a snap, I would then pull the head off the prawn, watching as this greeny-grey gunk oozed out of its body. I’d throw the head away, wondering how on earth that some people eat prawns’ heads as a delicacy. Then, I ran my fingernail along the back of the shellfish, and I pulled the hard shell away from the fleshy body, pulling off its legs, in clumps. Then I’d run my fingernail along the vein (or “poo pipe” as we lovingly call it here in Australia) and remove this so the flesh is now just a soft, white, un-insect-like thing.

I put them in a fry pan with some butter. Then I turned them onto my plate and turned on the TV.

There was a documentary on commercial fishing. It struck me then how you never see dead farm animals on TV. You never see a heap of dead cows, sheep or chickens. But you do see occasional shots of dead fish, still flapping, on conveyor belts.

There were so many fish. Some alive, some dead. Some moving vigorously, some still. I imagined what it must feel like to be in a pile of your dead brothers, some alive still. But I know that fish do not have the same consciousness levels as humans, so I feel a bit better.

But they do have some consciousness. Or some cognition. They do have feelings. They can defiantly feel scared.

On the conveyor belt on TV, there amongst the thousands of fish carcasses being carried to another place, a crab had also been caught in the nets. He was majestic, and still very much alive! He made a break for it. With the will of a creature that really wanted to live, he raised his little pincers to the sky and started to scramble over the bodies of the dead fish on the conveyor belt. Freedom! He seemed to say – I must find my way to freedom!

I looked down at the remaining prawns on my plate. How had they been caught and were they once as majestic as that crab? I tell you that crab spoke to me.

Many people who are occasional vegetarians also choose to eat fish. These are technically pescetarians. Because of my crab experience, fish, and particularly shellfish, are foods I really don’t like to eat.

Sew.

Onto my flailing vegetarianism. For a while I have been vegan and I am still very passionate about vegan food. However, after some emotional trauma earlier in the year, I was unable to eat, sleep or function normally. The only foods that would go down were fast foods, take always and cheap crap full of preservatives. The thought of eating a bowl of oatmeal made me gag, the idea of eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger was like a safety net. For the first few weeks I could only manage a bite or two. I lost some weight. I felt just terrible.

But now I am happy again. I am feeling really, really good. And I am eating some meat. However, I still find it gross to cook and eat myself. I am happy to cook it for others, but then I don’t like to eat it. I have only cooked meat for myself (from scratch) once in the last year (can you believe it?) and I had to throw the lot away. I couldn’t face it.

Anyhoo.

I will not go on about this anymore. But I need to listen to my physical body and right now she likes meat. My mind may be an eternal vegetarian, but my body may require changes every now and then. There could be other reasons I am feeling attracted to eating meat. My earthy needs are changing. My body changes every day!

“…an Indian Tantric practice that emphasised the breaking of Hindu societal taboos by having sexual intercourse in ritual, drinking alcohol, eating meat and assembling in graveyards, as a part of the spiritual practice. The term Vama-marga literally meant “the left-hand way” in Sanskrit, and it was from this that Blavatsky first coined the term.” (source) Yup, I will not assembling in any graveyards – but you may catch me breaking the other societal taboos.

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Dealing With Haters by Talking Up Your Achievements

I have a friend who has taken to reading my blog and then criticising the things I have written about. “Hash browns?” he’ll text, “…how lame!” or “I can’t believe you write a whole post on what you wear – how vacuous.”

I have noticed that people really love to criticise people who are doing things that they wish they had done themselves. The friend I am describing is an artist, or should I say, should have been an artist but was too lazy to ever do anything about it. He would spend hours and hours telling me about projects he hoped to do one day – and you guessed it – they never get done.

Tall poppy syndrome

This is something we know very, very well in Australia and I can say that it does not exist so much in the UK and in the USA. According to Wikipedia: Australia’s usage of the term has evolved and is not uniformly negative. In Australia, a long history of “underdog” culture and profound respect for humility means that we cannot tolerate someone we perceive to be “up themselves” or full of pride. This may be a historical consequence of Australia’s English feudal heritage.  Our Australian convict history set up an us and them mentality, or the “Tall Poppy Syndrome”.

Got that? A profound respect for humility.

I understand a little about this syndrome because I spent a couple of strange years in the American school system as a child. From the ages of 6 to 8, I was allowed to freely express my little heart out, and I enjoyed school almost every single day. My teacher was American and many of my fellow pupils were too, with lots of internationals thrown in. The school I went to was the American Embassy School in New Delhi.

Aussie kids vs. American kids

Problem was, when I got back to Australia, everyone thought I was “up myself” which is an Australian expression meaning vain and boastful. Children in Australia are not taught to speak their minds, they are not taught to broadcast their achievements. This is painfully apparent to me when you see a little kid being interviewed on the news after a  house fire or something. When the newsreader puts the mic up to the mouth of an Aussie kid and says, “What happened?” the Aussie kid will say (even if they are as old as 8 or 10), “Ummmmm….eerrrr. I…. dunno. There…. uh… was a fire.”

Whereas if you ask an American kid in the same situation, “What happened?” he’d be able to say, “I saw the fire approaching and I ran to the house to get my dad. My dad was able to get my mother and dog out of the house and we called the fire brigade.”

American kids are taught how to speak up for themselves. Aussie kids are not.

Acting in LA and talking yourself up

I have a friend who moved to LA. She and her husband are established actors with many film and TV credits under their belts. She too pointed out to me that Americans don’t have as much trouble talking up their achievements as Aussies do. Typically, in Australia if someone asks how you are going with work, the appropriate thing to do is to downplay your achievements, The more you have actually achieved, the less you are encouraged to say.

So my friend in LA would find herself in a dinner party conversation, talking about her acting work and totally downplaying it, which she said actually confused LA-types who were much more used to people talking UP their achievements than talking them DOWN.

Australians HATE airs and graces

Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald has an opinion on this: “(Australian) Citizens know that some among them will have more power and money than others… But according to the unspoken national ethos, no Australian is permitted to assume that he or she is better than any other Australian. How is this enforced? By the prompt corrective of levelling derision. It has a name—The “Tall Poppy Syndrome”. The tallest flowers in the field will be cut down to the same size as all the others. This is sometimes misunderstood…It isn’t success that offends Australians. It’s the affront committed by anyone who starts to put on superior airs.”

Personally, I find that some of the most successful people I know talk themselves UP. One of the radio announcers I produced for was a master at this. He constantly talked up his talent, his show, his co-host, his guests and made them sound more professional and more important than they were. And you know what? It worked. In the ten years I knew him I saw him go from a nights announcer to the number one music jock in the country. He now earns two million a month, from what I have been told.

So talk yourselves up, people! Don’t let people cut you down. They’re probably just envious that they aren’t doing anything with their lives and you are.

this is a photo of mcdonalds vouchers

The Lure of Free Crap and Why I am So Easily Bought

I had been anticipating this Monday for a week now. This was the Monday I was due to get my complimentary hash brown at McDonalds. Yes, if you read my blog you know that I love McDonalds. For the last couple of weeks I have been looking longingly at the promotional poster that declares: for the next FOUR Mondays in a row – I will receive a free breakfast product – as designated on the menu by the Maccas marketing department.

Today was hash brown day.

If anyone deserves a free hash brown from Maccas, it is me. I eat McDonalds every single morning, weekend and weekday. My Maccas breakfast (Maccas is what we call McDonalds in Australia because we are lazy and laconic) is without a doubt – the highlight of my day.

Here’s the thing. I don’t often eat the hash browns.

Only 153 calories, I like the Sausage and Egg McMuffins more. Every morning I get one and a large filter coffee. HERE’S THE THING:

I pay 50 cents MORE each morning to avoid the hash brown.

No, no – don’t think I’m crazy. I know myself.

To get a Sausage and Egg McMuffin MEAL – I would pay $6.20 at my local Kings Cross Maccas. To order a coffee and McMuffin only – I have to pay $6.70. I gladly do this because if they give me the fried goodness of the golden hash brown – I will eat it. If I eat it every day – I won’t fit into my jeans. So – I pay $0.50 to avoid getting it. Every single morning.

SO – back to my story.

Today was Monday – and it was free hash brown day at Maccas. I woke up feeling excited. I had a spring in my step as I loped towards the golden arches. Today would be a good day.

The minute I walked through the glass doors I could feel the celebration in the air. The team had even put up bunches of cheerful balloons. I was reminded of a passage in Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Big Country where his local American postal office puts on some coffee, tea and donuts in a “Customer Appreciation Day”. Bryson is charmed. He says his loyalty is bought.

So today. I march up to the counter with glee and there is a new and very cute young man serving at the counter. I can barely see his smiling, pimply face because of all the balloons. He talks my order and tells me that I should make my order “a meal” because it’s cheaper.

“Oh no, “ I say, “I never get the meal.”

The others counter servers smile. They see me every day. They know that I do not want sugar with my coffee. They know I do not want to make my order a meal. They know I want my food to take away. They know me.

But I assume that I am going to get a FREE hash brown because it’s free hash brown Monday. But alas – this is not to be. I am NOT given one, just A VOUCHER for one! I feel really ripped off. I cannot even use my voucher today. I have to wait until tomorrow.

This is cruel and unnecessary. This is consumerism at its worst. JUST GIVE IT TO ME NOW.

photo of a woman injecting botox

Botox: How I Have Wrinkles and I Don’t Care

I am not a huge fan of plastic surgery and I have been quite vocal about this in the past. Last night I saw a very beautiful woman, she was probably about my age, 34. I actually couldn’t really tell because she had obviously had quite a bit of work done to her face; not major surgery, but lots of botox and fillers and some collagen in her lips.

I live in an inner-city village in Sydney, it’s very urban and there’s a great mix of people from yuppies to junkies, from urban mums to hookers. It’s awesome. On the corner of my street there is a big beauty salon which tells me that I can pay them $600 and they will inject my face with chemicals that will make it freeze, so that it appear that I have smoother skin, fewer wrinkles. Apparently this will make people think I am only 25 instead of 35. And if you are a woman or a man, one of the best compliments you can get is to be told that you look younger than you are.

Why would I want to look younger than I am?

Honestly, I have a few wrinkles. I first noticed these at age 28 and I have to say, I liked them. I know that sounds weird. I kind of liked this very clear evidence that I was growing and changing and getting older. “I have gotten older!” they said to me, “Look at me! I exist and I am ageing!”

There’s nothing wrong with getting older; it is not a moral failure. In fact, as a woman I find that my opinions are listened to more now that I have passed the 30 milestone. I am a grown-up now. I have bills, a wrinkles and responsibilities. But I still occasionally sit cross-legged on a train station with a back pack shovelling fries into my mouth while texting my girlfriends and reading English gossip pages. I am not dead yet.

The problem I have with botox specifically is how stupid it is. I am aware that I have wrinkles and these make me look old but I’ll be damned if I am going to chase my wrinkles around my face with a $600 needle hoping this gives me happiness and confidence. When will the needles end? When would I stop? At 40? At 60? When I have white hair and liver spots?

I have to let you read this great article I found on a recent show about plus-sized beauty pageants. The show was called There She Is, and it was a documentary.

“The winner is reflecting on her one-year reign as the American Beauties Plus Pageant winner and expresses disappointment that the red carpet hasn’t been rolled out in honour of her victory like she’d envisioned. It’s a genuinely heartbreaking moment after following the stories of two very lovely contestants who both admit they’ve struggled with self confidence and the negative judgements of others. It appears the stamp of approval offered by winning the pageant hasn’t brought any of the inner peace they’d hoped for (which isn’t that surprising given its focus on the outer). I feel like it’s an instant many of us, no matter our size, have experienced, that point when you realise chasing beauty is a quest with no actual true endpoint of ‘Yay, I’m finally fine!’”

If you would like to read the rest of this excellent article by Nicole Elphick here is the link.

There is no end point to beauty. Yes, it’s true I am being very “judgey” here and I have to acknowledge that in some cases treatments like botox are generally harmless and give people a confidence boost. Why should I care what people do with their time and money? As you know (if you have come to this blog before) I get quite upset at needless materialism, especially vacuous pursuits like filling an entire room with Hello Kitty crap.

I never bought the whole, “Plastic surgery gives me confidence” line but even I have to admit that there are some cases where it is essential, such as kids born with cleft palates. And who am I to judge if somebody is really unhappy with their nose and one simple surgery can make a huge difference to their lives? Why should I care if a pretty lady at the end of my street wants to pay $600 to have poison injected into her face?

OK – I think I will get off my soap box now. All this judging of others is making me tired. Please share your opinions with me if you care to – I would love to know what you think about botox and plastic surgery.

Photo by kurichan+ thank you!

TV and Movies from the 80s: Thanks for the Spiritual Enlightenment

Why are you laughing? Couldn’t it be possible that sometimes we receive spiritual teachings in the most unusual ways? Really, in my personal experience, you just never know where interesting concepts come into your lives. There is actually a theory that myths hold the same weight in our minds as historical figures; for example, Alice in Wonderland is as real to me as Joan of Arc; Superman could be as tangible to me as Jesus Christ.

Well, think about it.

Who’s to say what is real and imagined? Who is to say what really happened and what is allegory or symbology? They told me I was born in 1978, but I don’t remember. I have to take their word for it and what do I have to prove about something as real as my own birth? A couple of dusty documents and a grainy 70s photo or two. I have to trust in the information I was given to verify that I was, indeed, born in 1978. Really, it seems like a pointless thing for anyone to fabricate.

So, back to myths. These stories from the 80s below are made-up. They are fiction. In two of the cases, they are based on real archaeological facts, enhanced in some cases for entertainment. But to me, these movies and TV show taught me things about how the world works and introduced me to concepts as a child that I have become interested in investigating as an adult.

Thank you The Mysterious Cities of Gold (for teaching me about lost civilizations)

This show seems to have been put together by a Japanese/French director and animator and ran originally from 82 to 83, when I was about five years old. I remember this show very well. Interestingly for a cartoon- this one is set in the Renaissance period, 1532 to be exact. A young kid called Esteban decides to go on a journey to The New World in search of his lost father and the lost Cities of Gold.

I know, trippy, right?

golden condor

The concept of searching for the Seven Cities of Gold in the New World really impressed upon me as a kid. How’s this for a theme, Wikipedia calls it ‘a mix of ancient South American history, archaeology, and science fiction’ which it certainly is. During the 39 episodes, the crew meets Incas, Mayas and Olmecs. They find amazing lost ancient technologies, such as a solar-powered spaceship called The Golden Condor. Anyone who has subsequently gone on to read Theosophy might draw some comparisons with the teachings of Blavatsky. That may be drawing a long bow, perhaps, but the concept of ancient beings having flying machines has been explored heavily in docos like Chariots of the Gods.

Thank you Back to the Future (for teaching me to think fourth dimensionally)

On to the best movie trilogy of all time (barring perhaps my next pick) there’s not a kid from the 80s who didn’t watch, love and enjoy this great series of movies. This was where I first learned to concept of space/time continuum, a pretty large concept to grasp when you’re not yet 10. Presenting it in a movie like this made the concept very clear.

Back_to_the_future_timemachine

Time as a linear concept is a true mindf**k when you get down to it. Is time linear? Does time exist? How to I exist and relate to this concept called ‘time’? Anyone who has gone on to study the thermodynamic arrow of time discovered by German physicist Rudolf Clausius in the 19th century may be questioning time as a linear concept too. Will a broken coffee cup eventually form back together? Are you sure?

Thank you Raiders of the Lost Ark (for sparking my interest in ancient writing and artefacts)

Many of us kids of the 80s ended up with a healthy love of archaeology thanks to sexy Harrison Ford. My 3-Unit Ancient History class in my final year was absolutely packed, but that might be because Mr Holden looked exactly like the capped and whipped hero of the movie series. As a very young child, I was introduced to the idea that our knowledge of this planet and our rules and laws all come because of what has survived from past civilizations. Information can be lost, valuable artefacts can be hidden and stolen. It happens every generation.

raiders

It also taught me that it’s important to learn how to translate documents, and to consider your sources for information: is the information you are being given about how the world works coming from a reliable source? This movie also taught me (at the tender age of about six) that there were generations beyond my own and my parents and grandparents. There were ancient peoples whose writing I couldn’t even read, and sometimes there was writing that survived so long that no one could read it at all.

So…you see what I mean? Interesting concepts can be found everywhere – even in mass-produced, heavily marketed, Hollywood produced TV shows and movies of the 80s.

Tell me: What TV shows do you love? Any that have left a lasting impression on you?