it's been 3 years since I started this blog when I just turned 30. Looking back, it wasn't so bad turning 30, you're still on the cusp of starting a new era and there's still time to turn it around so to speak. Once you turn 33, it's like oh shit, it's only 2 years till 35, and then once you're that you're like oh god half way to 40, and then once you're 40, it's like am I still alive even?
No one ever talks about third-life crises when you turn 33. It's probably because by this time, people are in their groove, set in their stride with their lives, or bookending their life by saving all of humanity. You're not quite young enough to "die young" but you're not quite old enough to be like, that was a decent run, life. I'm sure a lot of this is my neuroses talking to me about social norms and what not, but it's been a constant nagging feeling.
This is the reason I haven't been really celebrating birthdays anymore, cause of the reminder of this fork in the road I face of have I really done the things I've wanted to with my life yet? I have trouble getting out of the house these days let alone feel like celebrating my inevitable irrelevance.
So, yeah blah blah chow meow, I was thinking this week on what I learned from all my experiences in the past 33 years has been, and of course this election has been the topic 24/7 for the past year. And it's interesting that throughout this whole mess, I came to conclude that my philosophy has been shaped by my experiences in decision making in poker. Poker requires one to be dispassionate about the results and to look at all choices as objectively as possible, and to also do the same for their opponent, figure out what he believes are his best choices.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that sometimes professional poker players have an irrational confidence in their own abilities to discern things objectively and accurately, and sometimes form laughably terrible ideas and opinions. This stems from their experiences in the game, because the game involves making more "correct" decisions than your opponent, it reinforces the idea that you're an expert at decision making in every arena. I've heard a poker player comment that he is somewhat an expert at acting because he's watched a lot of movies before. I won't be going to him for Stanislavsky training any time soon.
So perhaps even with that caveat, I'm irrationally confident in my own mind in saying that my philosophy is even valid (after all it is an opinion and saying one's opinion is greater than another's well, is subjective in by very nature) or even that it's particularly original, but I believe in a few things from my experiences in poker and life, that as a society (in America, at least):
a) We tend to undervalue the importance of epistemology and suffer from HUGE confirmation bias thinking. We lack the patience to figure out why other people think the way they do and explore the possibility that we may be wrong.
b) We overvalue binary outcomes where someone comes out on top, with our elections, our sports, our entertainment, etc. As a result our positions and our ideas become polarized, with little room for nuance.
c) We get emotional. This last part is human, emotions are what make us alive, and what make us care and gives us meaning to life itself. But emotions tend to color our opinions, changing them from how we feel from one moment to the next, and can distort the way we process information.
d) We're selfish. No matter who you are, this is an immutable fact as a society. Sure, a few people may be altruistic, like mother teresa or something, but as a whole, people simply will not care about issues if it doesn't affect them, unless they find a way to relate to it.
Everyone seemed self assured (on my Facebook feed at least, since I'm not friends with too many Trump supporters) that HRC would become the 45th president of the United States. Indeed, HRC seemed to be a favorite from polling numbers: on election night, gambling sites seemed to believe that her chance of victory was around 70%. Even a friend of mine put down what I thought to be an absurd amount of money on Clinton winning, seeing it as "free money" in his eyes. I successfully convinced him not to put even more money on it, to which he's somewhat grateful, but the point remains, 30% is not nothing. People have a difficulty comprehending what 30%, 20%, 10%, 5%, etc. means in practice, because as humans, it's hard to process that probabilities and turn it into a feeling. Poker players who have played the game for decades sometimes still get emotional when they run into a "bad beat", we feel that the pot has been stolen from us, that we are entitled to it when we are a 80% favorite. In reality however, we should more think of it as that we owned 80% of the pot.
The fact of the matter is, no polling methodology is going to be 100% accurate, and there could be any number of theories why (polling participants giving false information, inaccurate sampling, biased methodologies, etc.) However, social media heightens the idea that WE are right and THEY are wrong, being fed everyone else's statuses. The problem is that if we get our information primarily through social media, it becomes inherently biased as the algorithms are designed to give us information we already believe (for more clicks), and less information that may be offensive and/or undesirable to us. Social media becomes a circle jerk for people to just agree with each other's opinions, and defriend or block or ignore anyone who doesn't.
As I drove home, listening and furiously checking election updates on my phone, I was surprised and not simultaneously. I didn't fully understand what had happened (one of my initial theories was that people were too embarrassed to say publicly they were voting for Trump so polling numbers were inaccurate). But I knew that the numbers suggested that there was a lot more discontent with the Democrats than they would have you believe. By the end of the night, I could almost believe Trump on his assessment of the bias of CNN, when they wouldn't even call Florida after 95% of the votes were in, presumably for the sake of making it seem like a close race for more viewership.
I'm going to make a few controversial comments here that I've mostly kept to myself for a while. And I'm trying to think of the reasons why I've kept them to myself. It's because the current social media and internet information does not have time for nuance, they can only process ideas in links, tweets or grams. Anything you say can be retweeted out of context and/or twisted by the media to mean something else. And no, this is not a defense for some of the things Trump said, because those are inexcusable, but it makes it hard for people to say something they believe without being demonized. And part of the reason I care about that is because I have somewhat of a public image to maintain in the mere hopes that I become somewhat relevant in my industry any time in my life time.
But as I said, I'm getting old, so I'm getting to an age where I simply DGAF anymore about things and thinking the possibility of relevance in my industry may be slim anyway. So here goes nothing.
To me, the new Ghostbusters movie was terrible. It was not a good movie. The jokes were flat, the special effects were cheesy, and the writing was simply lazy. The reviews were mediocre, but even that was giving it too much credit. When the first trailer came out, I thought it looked horrendous. And apparently, so did many other fans of the original.
The reboot was intentionally made with an all female cast to a popular big budget franchise. However it felt like it was almost too purposefully engineered to be that way, like a studio exec (I'm looking at you Amy Pascal, still mad about Spiderman franchises) said, "Oh we need more women on screen, let's make them Ghostbusters." The problem was that it felt disingenuous, like they were morphing characters instead of creating them from scratch. That brought about the label that anyone who disliked the movie to be a misogynistic and against equal rights for women. I love Paul Feig's movies and writing, thought Bridesmaids was a comedy of that year, etc. But I felt kind of annoyed that if I didn't like something, I was automatically a bigot, that I was blocking progress, that hey maybe I should stop hating women so much, when it was nothing about that, not on an even so-called subconscious level. One of my biggest peeves is when someone questions my objectivity without basis.
For me, these opinions kind of gave me perspective on how a fringe Trump supporter may feel right now. They might feel ashamed of how they voted because of social media pressure to conform to what everyone thinks is the smart/moral/whatever choice. And sure, it's easy to say fuck em if you know someone who voted this way and they should "know better", but that's not even giving them a chance to explain why. And while there ARE racist bigots and you're probably more likely to be one if you voted for Trump, that doesn't make the whole voting bloc racist/xenophobic/misogynistic/etc. To get the answer into who they are, we have to dig deeper.
I've looked at some of the polling data so far and have examined the narrative that this election was a "whitelash". I admit, my initial thought hearing the results was that the white supremacists all came out last night and voted like crazy to take "their country back". I've read a ton of posts saying that Trump voters value their lives over my rights as a woman, a PoC, a black, a Hispanic, an African American, LGBTQ, etc. But the data shows that as a country compared to the election in 2012, white turnout was lower as a percentage overall (70% of the electorate compared to 72% last year) AND more white people voted for Mitt Romney than they did for Trump (59% to 58%). Surprisingly, minority voters supported Trump more than Romney across ALL minorities, black/Hispanic/Asian except other minorities (which I suspect to be a lot of Muslims though I'm not sure if they are under the Asian umbrella, but even that percentage was not a great difference).
In reality, the staunchly Republican states were just as racist if not more in 2012 than they are now. And although racism was definitely a platform on which Trump was running, it was ultimately a lot of pandering to his main constituents, people who were already racist, to presumably win the Republican primaries. Our country's racists didn't become more racist, they just became more vocal. To get a clearer story into what happened, we have to have a closer look at the swing states. Did they turn "racist"? Did more racists go out and vote in those states?
Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin were states in which Obama enjoyed decent polling margins in 2012. However these states were the biggest losses to Hillary's campaign. It's reported that Hillary even skipped going to Pennsylvania because she thought it was safe. As we begin to sift through the data, we're finding that entire counties shifted from being pro-Obama to pro-Trump. And sure, we can blame them for being self serving, but the fact of the matter is a lot of these areas have been ravaged by technological unemployment, and they simply don't have the luxury of voting for simply a social platform, they needed an economic one. They voted for the Democrats in the past and they didn't get help. And although it may be an irrational and perhaps not a "correct" decision, they felt that Trumped-up Economics™ would give them a better chance at economic hope than Hillary, which they saw as a continuation of the democratic platform, no help or jobs. We're also finding that many Democrats in those areas simply just did not vote as they had in Obama's years. They lost hope in the Democrats, but that didn't necessarily mean they endorsed the other side. Hillary simply did not inspire as much as our current president.
We are so quick to judge the other side for not agreeing with our platforms we're ready to be all like fuck those fucking racist assholes, defriend me and fuck you the moment we face defeat. But if we take a minute and think about who voted and why, we might get a better idea and understand the other side a bit better than quickly jumping conclusions. Those voters in Pennsylvania, were they misinformed and given empty promises by a charlatan businessman? Perhaps. But HRC didn't even take the effort to make them promises, she took support for granted, running on "moral high ground". People have time for morality once they have food on the table. Can you imagine how a destitute worker in Bumblefuck, America must feel when they get told by someone who has the luxury to complain about their lives living in Los Angeles or New York on Facebook that they're a terrible and morally corrupt person for their voting decisions?
We're all bigots, we all have prejudices. It's because we're ultimately lazy, we don't want to get to know anyone with different opinions than us, opinions we may find insulting or offensive. And it's easier for us to process groups of people as one way or another, that's how bigotry happens.
I was at a party recently, where I was probably in the upper 80-90th percentile in terms of age. I came across a young white male who was wearing a MAGA hat. Being in a fairly liberal city at the time, I asked him, "You're wearing that ironically, right?" And he was like, "No, bro." And that was it. I didn't really want to talk to him anymore. I labeled him as a probably racist bigot and went off to talk with my friends. I didn't really give him a chance to explain why or find out more.
But politics requires us to find out and understand. It shouldn't involve simply picking a side and blindly adhering to what they say every time. Perhaps that's why I'm so disenchanted and uninvolved, I ultimately want to remain lazy and uninvolved. It's too much effort for what I ultimately deem to be a pointless exercise, getting worked up over an outcome I don't have much control over. But after the results, I feel compelled to think and form an idea on how to act on what's happened.
Unfortunately, this election has larger immediate consequences than ones in prior years. The racists have come out of the woodwork and made their voices louder than ever. But we were fooling ourselves if we thought these dudes were awakened by Trump (unwoke?), they were always around. Perhaps if I gave that MAGA bro the courtesy of a conversation I could've began the process of unbigotrifying us as a people. We need to be vigilant for sure and protect those attacked by racists that are unable to defend themselves, but we also need to understand that 50% of America does not believe in bigotry. The same people that supported Obama in overwhelming numbers just 4 and 8 years ago supported Trump. But we say that because it's easy, it's easy to want to blame something tangible and someone for what happened instead of learning and understanding.
If I could impart anything from my years of "wisdom" it's this: we need to take time to process and understand. In the age of social media, it's tempting to be the first one out there with this provocative opinion that will galvanize people in a certain way. Trump's understood that from day 1 of his campaign, and has used it to his advantage. It's great to protest (legally) and make your opinions known, but I would always encourage keeping an open mind to having flexible opinions to developing information. Reacting emotionally can only carry so far, and may ultimately have the adverse effect of what we all want, positive change.
As for my thoughts on actually turning 33, they'll probably come soon enough with more entries on my last project. I've just been...lazy. As per usual.