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Thursday, 24 January 2019

Screwtape #3 - Patriotism

My dear Wormwood,

I hear you've had a new assignment. Don't get too cocky about it, though, or you'll stuff it up like last time.

You say that there's a wave of nationalism sweeping through the country at the moment, and you're wondering what to do with your patient in response to it. Well, we have two choices. If he is the sort that secretly wishes he was born somewhere else, and actually thinks his own country is a bit stupid, then feel free to push him against it. Let him declare that all nationalism is, in fact, idolatrous, and should be stamped out at once. Let him follow this with such conviction that his anti-nationalism becomes poisonous, and is in itself idolatry.

But, if he is of the other persuasion, and instead loves singing the praises of his country - as, it seems, your patient is more than happy to do - then let him declare his love for his country from the rooftops! Let him say that he is the one that loves his country most, that nobody could love it more! In fact, that anyone who does not love their country should be shot on the spot, for daring to consume the same air, the ungrateful swine. Let him put the country upon such a pedestal that nothing could ever seek to replace it.

Let him entwine his ideas of God, with his ideas of his country - to the point where he starts to believe that by loving his country, he is actually loving God as well. And, indeed, those that do not love their country must be unreligious heathen, and need to be converted, evicted, or wiped out! Push him ever closer to the edge, and then watch as he himself jumps off. He will start saying that his country should be pure, clean, undefiled; that nobody should be allowed in, if they aren't special like him. That the swine and the scum should be cleaned off the face of the earth!

And if you manage to convince him in such a direction, I shall speak to the demons own in our political division, as I understand your subject has certain aspirations. I'm sure that with some small encouragement, if he proves to be malleable to our cause, that we could easily see him climbing the ranks to the top. All in the name of his God and country, of course, and none could say otherwise; but really, he shall be nothing more than a puppet, leading those under him as far astray as we can take them.

You doubt that this can happen? Well, my young Wormwood, you have clearly not read up on the human wars of the last century. Do Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany, not ring any bells? Goodness, the education these days really isn't up to par.

Rest assured. If your patient is half the man I think he is - he will do much work for us yet. I only hope that you are up to the task.

Your affectionate uncle,

Friday, 18 January 2019

The Best A Man Can Get....

Is probably not Gillette, but how would I know?

I'm feeling a bit like a broken record, with already a few posts over the last year and a bit about masculinity, but it seems like it's the hot topic of the day. So, off we go again!

If you're not sure what I'm talking about yet, Gillette recently released an ad that's become quite the hotbed of discussion. (Apparently it's #2 trending on YouTube. There you go.) Why? Because it's about toxic masculinity.

For those not down with the lingo yet, toxic masculinity isn't saying, "all men are toxic!" Rather, it's a way of describing a certain group of behaviours often portrayed in men, and generally associated with 'traditional masculinity', that could be called toxic. I do a decent post about it here, but I also recommend this video talking about it. Basically, it's a way of recognising that the traditional ways of saying what men should be like are actually super-duper unhelpful. Boys will be boys? Man up, toughen up? Bragging about sexual victories, alcoholic exploits, speeding or that time you beat someone up? More and more people are recognising now that these things aren't okay, and doing work to discourage these behaviours. But old habits die hard.

In steps Gillette. Which is surprising for a number of reasons. a) Their audience, which is largely men (hence the slogan). And, given b) their previous advertising, probably more of the 'traditional masculinity' or 'toxic masculinity' variety than not. They have a tendency to do ads along the lines of, "use our product, and scores of beautiful women will come running after you." Very healthy, right? Also, c) they're a big company. And finally, d) they have an interesting track record in terms of their moral compass, shall we say.

And yet, they do this. And the ad itself is quite well done. The video is pretty great, really, and it would be awesome to see more advertising like this happening.

But the response was overwhelmingly and immediately negative. A large number of people have now started a movement to boycott Gillette because of the ad, and though there are also many voices speaking out in its defence, not nearly as many. Why? Basically, see the reasons from earlier. Gillette's main audience is pretty much exactly the audience that is going to react against this sort of message. Plus, their motives are....questionable, at best.

So, where are we now? I'd argue that the content itself is done well. But because it's Gillette - people ask questions. People raise issues. Which is fair.

But it's also sad that one of the better pieces of content that has a call for action around toxic masculinity has been shouted down so quickly. Hopefully, in time, we'll see some that are welcomed more openly. I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

....and starting 2019.

Well. I'm doing this slightly later than expected, but perhaps that's for the better.

This year is looking epic and crazy and many other words besides. But also awesome. Let me let you in on a bit of what's on the table.

One of the bigger consumers of my time, at least for the first half of the year, will be directing The Crucible. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's a play about the Salem witch trials. If you don't know about those, Google it. But it's a pretty well-known play, and it's rather big. About twenty in the cast. Which is massive for a play, which often have less than ten in their cast. Five or less isn't uncommon. So, yeah. Pretty big. Particularly for me as a first-time director. Not really sure what to expect, but I've got a good team. And I've been wanting to direct The Crucible for a few years now, so I'm really looking forward to this. But yeah. It's going to be crazy.

Work is chugging along fairly well. Still doing a combined amount of between three and four days a week with the two jobs, which seems to work fairly well for me. Work more, and I have less time for this sort of thing - but work less, and I'm stretching the budget a bit tight! So it's a fun balance. But that's okay. I'm used to that.
Music at church is actually going really well. Quite a bit of growth has been happening in the evening service over the last months, which is very encouraging. More young adults and youth! Which is awesome. I used to be pretty much the only one my age there. Not the case any more! And that's really nice.
Bits at the radio station are moving along fairly well too. I'm getting a little bit of variance in what I'm doing at the moment, which I rather like. Variety is the spice of life! Particularly for me, so that's nice. As always, just enjoying the environment and the people there. Great people :)

I'm hoping to get my tabletop gaming group back on board this year. (See what I did there? ;) ) I've picked up a few new games over the last while, and I may have been a bit naughty and ordered Pandemic Legacy: Season One over Christmas. To say I'm keen would be a large understatement. A game that I'm working on has parts that are actually inspired by legacy games, so I'm really interested to actually give one a go myself.

But, as some of you may already be well aware of by now, there's some bigger news as well. I may be....well.....engaged. :D <3
I know, I know. All very soon. Thalia and I have been dating for a grand total of almost nine months now, and known each other for about a month longer. Less than a year! Preposterous.
....needless to say, we've been talking about it for a fair while, and have given it a fair bit of thought. We're not just rushing into it because we're crazy touchy-feely for each other. (Though people that have seen us together may still describe us in that way.....we're working on it.) We're actually very much committed to each other, and have spent a fair bit of time going over this with God, and getting advice from others as well. We're also giving ourselves a fairly long engagement - mostly just to plan and save up, but it also means that we have more time to really know each other deeply as well.

So, yeah. That's going to be taking up a good chunk of my year as well. We're looking at January next year. I'll be letting people know dates when things are confirmed and all that, which isn't now. But, like I said, we've been talking about it for a while. Doesn't make it any less crazy, though! Particularly when I introduce her as my fiancée.....goodness. (Pro tip: fiancé with one e is for the guy, whereas two is for the girl. Who knew?) I'm still getting used to that. But I certainly prefer it to girlfriend! Never liked the word. But never came up with a decent replacement, either. Anyway.

Well. That's what my year is looking like at the moment. Hopefully, it doesn't get too much busier! But I guess we'll see. I'm hoping I can really keep these (and maybe one or two other bits) as the main things I'm focussing on, but life has a way of throwing your plans every which way. Until next time, folks!