Daily Opinion: I Hope Nepal Isn’t the New Haiti

Haiti shack

If you didn’t already know, Nepal experienced a significant earthquake that claimed 3600-3800 lives on Saturday, 4/25/2015. It may be even more at this point. As beautiful as life is, it can be pretty brutal sometimes too. This morning, I noticed there were several sites showing how to donate to the relief effort. You know what I thought of? Haiti.

Have you seen Haiti lately? It’s not like it’s a hell of a lot better than it was back in 2010 and $1.4 billion was donated by the US that year alone. I believe about $13 billion was eventually raised. So what happened? How could so many people raise that amount of money to help the needy yet the needy haven’t been helped nearly as much as you would have thought once it was no longer a hot news story?

There have been successes for sure. People were fed and given temporary housing. But then other actually lost their new housing to make way for new government buildings. Around 85000 people are in displacement camps with sanitary issues while many others have just opted to building sheds on whatever land they can get a hold of. More affluent areas that had no earthquake victims had new property built for some reason. Hell, $18 million was spent on a rec center and soccer field while people live in squalor nearby.

Vice recently interviewed this dude Jake Johnston who investigated what was going on with Haiti and he found most non-government donated money gets used for emergency relief while government donated money… well that’s a whole other story.

So this one blew my mind: the US embassy actually paid for houses to be built in Haiti… for their own employees. Meanwhile, they never came anywhere near close to completing their projected housing goals while also going way over the intended cost. On top of all this, the companies hired for this work redacts the hell out of their documents so visibility is practically at zero.

I REALLY hope Nepal isn’t the new Haiti, but there’s no way to really know. Experiences like Haiti can potentially sour others on the power of charity. It doesn’t take much to make someone jaded, especially when they try to go out of their way to do some good in this world. Rather than let that happen, let’s put some pressure on our respective governments to be open about where relief money goes. I understand that  we don’t have to give anything at all, but that’s not the mindset I think we should have here. Charity is good. Helping others is good. Ulterior motives while helping others? Misrepresenting where money is going? That’s bad.

Obviously.

I’m not certain how to go about demanding more information about relief efforts, but I do know there’s power in numbers. If you happen to feel the way I do or are involved in something that pertains to this topic, let me know! I’m going to keep reading and whatnot so I can hopefully learn more. Then perhaps I can make an impact, hopefully along with some good people out there.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Daily Opinion: Making a Case for Bronies

Yo Dre, Why Are You Always Talking about Changing the World?

earth

I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of friends recently and it’s been cool to catch up with all of them. As I’ve shared with them the many changes I’ve gone through over the past year and a half or so, there has been a trend I’ve noticed: people asking me why I care so much about changing the world.

Wait… wanting the world to be a better place is a weird thing? LOL.

Okay, okay, I’ll explain it like this because after a call I had with my fiancé, I feel like I finally found the words to properly convey my mindset.

*deep breath*

Much like everyone else, most of my life was spent just trying to make my way through this world. I tried to play fair within the boundaries of the rules everyone told me to follow. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part I was just the nice guy who had to earn his confidence over time rather than having it all my life.

Actually, I started off as a super confident kid, but adolescence isn’t for the weak of heart. A brother’s confidence caught a beat down, y’all.

There was also a nagging thought I had had ever since I was a kid: I’m alive right now and one day I won’t be. I kept that to myself for YEARS because I figured I’d be looked at like a weirdo if I started posing such esoteric concepts as a ten-year-old. Still, why was I alive? Am I supposed to just live and die and that’s it?

Was I a sinner for making a joke about Jesus? I mean, it’s Jesus, for… uh… Christ’s sake. He should know I’m kidding, right?

Am I supposed to spend my entire life working and hope that I stay alive long enough to enjoy retirement? That sounds like a bum deal.

I kid you not when I say I had these thoughts and questions for the majority of my life. I felt like an effing alien because no one else I knew seemed concerned about any of this.

Andre: King of the Weirdos.

During college and afterward, I met a handful of awesome, open-minded people. Folks who are fine with conversing about this stuff. Coupled with that, I soon found out that everything for which I had ambition (a high salary, lots of stuff, a misguided definition of love) brought me temporary happiness at best and straight up unhappiness at their worst. I mean, by and large I was a happy person, but every once in a while the disappointment of not being able to swallow society’s expectations of me and the goals I was taught to have manifested itself in not so pretty ways. In short, I was lost.

If only I knew I wasn’t alone, but people who are lost rarely see the big picture.

I took it upon myself to figure this thing out. I’d love to get into the details of how I did it, but not everyone in my personal life would be accepting of the choices I’ve made even if they’ve helped me for the better. I personally don’t care about the opinion of others, but I’m not about to stir the pot unnecessarily either. That being said, I figured myself out. I figured out that I was much more and much less than what I thought I was. To be specific, I’m not special. Not as an individual at least. But I’m also much more than just a man; I’m a part of everything. Just in the same way that a blood cell is both the individual cell and the blood. I am this reality in which I exist, the individual and the collective.

It may sound crazy to people who won’t get what I mean, but stick with me on this because it all ties back together.

I found my happiness and it was pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I spent some time patting myself on the back for having the wherewithal to discover my own answers while still being open to the beliefs of others. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered not everyone reciprocated this feeling. On top of that, I was all too aware that I didn’t actually care about the fancy job, having a bunch of stuff, or many of the other things I was taught to want. What was the point? My happiness and sense of peace was far more important and I learned I could have that independent of any external factors.

So why was I still here?

This next part may sound concerning if you don’t know me at all, but I’m not about to apologize for thoughts that crossed my mind. I seriously questioned why I should keep playing this unfair game of life. You know, the one where we’re expected to follow rules that not everyone is actually following. Where people hate, murder, cheat, steal, and whatever other vile acts humanity is capable of. Why do I want to continue working at a thankless job where I didn’t agree with many principles? I already found my happiness. What was the point of continuing? None of this would help me maintain my sense of inner peace. For all intents and purposes, I would have welcomed being done with life. Not in a negative way, but more like there was nothing I felt this world could offer me and I certainly didn’t want anything from this world either. I was happy being benign, but family, friends, and the rest of society had invested too much in me already. I wouldn’t be let off the hook that easily.

Sigh…

Then a funny thing happened: I met my soul mate aka my fiancé. The story of how we met is nothing short of fate. I say that because, seriously, how it happened is ridiculously improbable (I’ll save that for another day). The point is, I found my reason for enduring a life in which I had no stakes. Soon afterward I was laid off from my job, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise despite it being an initial burden. I had the opportunity to create a life that I wanted, not one shaped by what I was taught to want. I wasn’t about to sacrifice my own happiness again.

But then I looked at the the rest of world and couldn’t help being put off by all the ills around me. Remember, I saw myself as both the blood cell and the blood. I’m both the being and the reality. Therefore, how could I just sit idly by and be unconcerned with inequality, war, discrimination, greed, etc? That’s quite the impossible task given the way I think nowadays.

We’re all sharing the same house. If I was living with someone who treated me unfairly and was trashing our home, I would probably move out or ask them to leave. I don’t have that option. I have to figure out how to coexist in this house. But I don’t want to live in a sh*tty place either.

This time there are no questions. I have to do what I can to fix this house. Not just for me, but for all the people out there who are walking the path I once walked. We’re all just trying to figure our way through this life and we’re the victims or beneficiaries of people who came before us. That doesn’t excuse crappy behavior, but I understand why we aren’t living in utopia right now; there are a lot of lost people out there just trying to fit in where they can.

And this is why I want to bring positivity to this tiny, insignificant rock we call Earth. If I have to be here I’m going to do my damndest to only make an impact that helps rather than hurts. It’s why I’m going vegan. It’s why I want to exclusively use reusable energy. It’s why I’ll always be against our current form of capitalism. It’s why I’m writing this now. Believe me when I say I love you all and I only want to see you happy too. ALL OF YOU.

But I’ll always love my fiancé more. After all, I don’t know if I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for her, heh.

Peace out, party people.

Let’s Come Together and Be Extreme Non-Extremists

Alright, so let’s get into this. It’s not going to be a sunshine-and-rainbows kind of topic, but if that’s all life was about then we’d have no problems to address.

We definitely have a lot of problems to address.

Al-Shabaab, a group linked to al-Qaeda, decided it’d be a cool idea to massacre 148 people at a university in Kenya. Why? It doesn’t matter, but apparently it has something to do with Kenya sending troops to battle extremists in Somalia. Christian students were separated from Muslims and the rest is… tragedy.

The human race has a cancer called extremism. You know, people with such strong beliefs that they’ll do just about anything in the name of them. Many people point at religion, but let’s be real here, extremism in any shape or form is ridiculous and I’m pretty sick of it. It’s easy to point a finger at religions, but any ideology can be taken too far.

Maybe I’m an optimist, but I firmly believe we can come to some common ground as long as there are enough reasonable people out there. The question is, do we have enough reasonable people who care enough to speak up against the unreasonable ones? I have no clue; optimism doesn’t always equate to certainty.

The thing about extremists is because they’re, you know, extreme, they have the drive to organize and effectively make non-extremists roll their collective eyes and say, “WTF are these crazy people doing?” But our head shaking and finger wagging from afar aren’t exactly effective tools, now are they? If they were we’d probably have less so-called “whack jobs” running around murdering people who simply live a life with which they don’t agree.

So where does this leave us? I don’t know, man. That’s a tough question and I don’t think I’m equipped to answer it alone. But I have ideas and I’m willing to cooperate with anyone who simply wants to live in a world without violence and inequality. Is that so much to ask? I’m not asking for a complete 180 in a day, but what’s it going to take here? We have super pro-Americans taking up arms to fight a war with the government and they’re not scared one bit. We have groups like ISIS straight up recruiting people worldwide for a cause not all Muslims are down with. We have power-hungry leaders willing constantly threatening wars that I guarantee most regular folks don’t care about. Do I need to go on?

I’m not saying we need to take action now, but I really want to have like-minded people come together with me on this. We’re the only ones who can put this whole thing back into balance. Well, maybe not the only ones, but we can sure as hell make an impact. Cancer doesn’t stay benign forever.

Peace out, party people.

Mistaking Climate Change for a Fairy Tale… Sigh

Photo Credit: Christopher Michel
Photo Credit: Christopher Michel

Over the weekend, I helped a friend of a friend for a freelance project. For all intents and purposes, he was a really nice guy albeit a bit overly chatty.

As he yapped my ear off, our conversation veered into a really interesting direction.

Client: So where are you from?

Andre: New Jersey.

Client: Oh man, I feel sorry for you guys. How you holding up with the snow there?

Andre: It’s actually not so bad right n-

Client: You see, this is what I don’t understand. I hear all this talk about global warming, but I think it’s nonsense. How could we get so much snow if global warming is real? Those guys are bulls**t.

Andre:

I wasn’t about to get into this topic because I would school this guy. However, he’s not alone in his thinking. For some reason, there are a number of Americans that debate this as well.

I’m living in Crazy Town.

I can’t blame them though – not totally anyway – because some of our own leaders deny climate change like a bastard child.

No offense to all the bastard children out there.

I LITERALLY heard a politician once say, “I disagree with scientists.” Think about that for a second; the guy who sits in an office all day discussing man-made politics disagrees with people who research things like climate change for a living.

LOL.

That’s no different than Bible thumpers who still think evolution is some theory bred from the bowels of Satan himself. But instead of god being the motivating factor, money is running the show here. Oil companies lobby to keep this machine moving and their friends in high places shovel BS down the public’s throat as a result.

Symbiosis FTW, amirite?

Later that night, I watched an episode of Vice (if you aren’t watching, you totally should) that focused on rising ocean waters and, good Jeebus, is this more of a dire situation than I first thought. Call it willful ignorance on my part, but I had no clue Antarctica was melting at such a rapid rate. I had no clue very flat countries like Bangladesh are already feeling the effects with receding coasts. I had no clue we are facing an inevitable crisis.

Inevitable.

I know, I’m quite the little ray of sunshine today, right?

It seems humanity is in quite the pickle, one that we’re not prepared to eat. But maybe this is something on which we should focus because our future generations will have to carry this weight. I mean, at least I don’t have kids nor do I plan on having them.

But what about all the parents out there? Are they actually cool with this? I really, really hope not because this is the future we’re facing. One day we’ll be gone and someone else will have to bear the weight. If we’re on a runaway train, let’s at least plan on how to brace for its eventual crash.

Or, you know, we can just keep pretending this isn’t a thing.

Spoken Word Piece: Timeless

Photo Credit: Gustavo Medde
Photo Credit: Gustavo Medde

Everyone and their mom is trying to tell me what love is
Claiming I wouldn’t know; this relationship is too young or something
My mother says it takes years of happy moments and frustrated tears
Fighting, compromising, and a dash of luck to make it here
Oh, the hubris of youth, how could I know after little more than 12 months?
Is that what you think? Sorry mother, your theories have led you astray
What if I were to say I knew before the first day
I knew before we spoke. I knew before I knew her name
She was nothing more than a feeling, said my spirit, not my brain
When I heard her voice I was positive this wasn’t simply a fluke
Somehow I knew. Probably because love is unmistakable
The jaded claim it’s a fable while mother dearest
Raises an eyebrow at the thought of it appearing
But what do I know? I’m just infatuated, right?
Smitten, sitting in the midst of a honeymoon phase. That’s got to be it!
If you say so.
You’re free to your opinion, but this doesn’t change the fact that I know
Do you have to find gravity? No?
It’s just there. You may take it for granted, but even without science you know
I know love. It was always there. I didn’t have to work to create it
This is why I can’t engage in a rousing round of debating
Gravity existed before science, but now science backs it up
This love existed before us, I don’t need to back this up
I don’t need validation because I know love the way I know gravity
The way I know I exist and my mother is my family
If you need proof of love’s existence, I get it, people think seeing is believing
Except the very things we see are the things that can mislead us
So which is it? The proof or the feeling?
It’s a matter of perspective that defines the roof from the ceiling
Effort doesn’t change what was and will remain
This love always existed, except now I know its name

Previously: I Want a Puppy

Blogging When (Almost) No One Gives a S*** about What You Have to Say

photo

I’m a blogger. I kind of feel like that’s the writer version of an attractive woman saying she’s a model. I’ve seen models at church runway shows. On YouTube, of course, because I might just spontaneously combust should I dare step into the lord’s house. Sex before marriage is still a sin, right?

Anywho, I started blogging back in May of last year, but I slacked immensely when it came to effort. I would basically post something once every two weeks, which means I was more of a guy who had a blog as opposed to an actual blogger.

I don’t know what changed, but sometime in August, I went full gusto and began blogging (and in some cases, over-blogging) consistently. I had a schedule. I started podcasting. I had recurring posts. I had… a limited audience.

Well, what in the H, E, double hockey sticks is that about? Don’t get me wrong; I largely do this because I love it. Writing is a passion of mine and I don’t think that’ll ever change. But I can’t lie, it’s a bit disheartening to put a ton of effort into something that only a small number of people enjoy. I’m only peaking at 100 visits per day, for Pete’s sake.

One.

Hundred.

And that ain’t everyday, folks.

I’ve read a ton about how to create a successful blog and, truthfully, some of those tactics work. I know because I used them. However, I prefer writing about the things that I like to write about.

Duh.

So now I’m in a bit of a kerfuffle. How do I get people to pay attention to my posts about achieving world and inner peace as much as my posts about achieving financial freedom and food photography?

Huh? Were you waiting for me to answer my own question? I have no clue how to do it; I’ve only been blogging since August! Jeez, you people have such high expectations.

I believe in doing things smartly in order to grow, but I’m going to keep writing what I want to write. Sure, I want to build an audience, but it’s going to be on my terms. I was already doing this, but it’s time to loosen the shackles a little bit and toy with ideas I never executed due to self-imposed boundaries.

No more, I say, no more!

Whew, now that I have that out of my system, allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Dre.

Spoken Word Piece: I Want a Puppy

Sir Francis Pugsly

I want a puppy
Don’t judge me, pretending to be above me
All I want is a puppy, but I don’t have any money
Okay, wait, maybe I could just ask for a puppy
Somebody please, can you do a brother a favor
I swear you’d be my personal savior
If you just give me puppy
Please
With gumdrops on top; not a shot? You puppy hoarding bumbaclot
Pardon my patois, I didn’t mean to offend, my friend
Just lend me some advice on how I can attain a puppy
All I want is a puppy
Okay, fine, I’ll get a job, just stop calling me bum or slob or whatever
Let’s see what monster.com has to offer for worse or better
Cover letters, résumés, sweating bullets thank god for three piece suits at interviews
Can you spy my sarcasm?
Can I have a puppy, goddamn it?
Well, finally I’m hired, only 50 years until I retire
But in the meantime, can you guess what I’m doing with this first paycheck?
Correct!
I’m getting a goddamn puppy
Haters gonna hate, but nobody better judge me
Because truth be told, I secretly hope that he’s cuddly
I made the mistake of stating this publicly
And I was called a faggot, all because I want a puppy
Salesmen hungry for commission spot me on my mission
They say, “Hey, buddy. You got puppy insurance?”
Dog house? Versace dog blouse? No?
Step right up, if you plan to own a puppy, you’ll certainly need this stuff
Don’t have the money now? Turn that frown upside down
Better yet, forget the frown, jot your information down
Get 20% off as long as you apply for this credit card
Your puppy dog needs the finest
You want him to be happy, don’t you? Then don’t fight it
And ignore those silly terms, this ain’t for reading, it’s for signing
Well, alright I suppose, if you really say so
Maybe you’re right, I’ll sign, crossed T’s dotted I’s; How could I say no?
It’s all for my puppy
But the days are getting ugly, trust me
Even with this puppy I dubbed Sir Francis Pugsly
Because it seems all my money goes to debt
And all the money that I don’t have goes to stuff
I appear to be stuck; such is life?
No, such is the pursuit of having, stressed from work getting blasted
On Henny and Jack, double fisting with two glasses
All because I wanted a mother fucking puppy
That’s it. That’s all. But look at what this system wants from me
Why did I want this puppy in the first place?
It was simply a thought one day; I feel it was a Sunday
I was thinking it’d be awesome to someday have a puppy
Now I have a puppy and money, such a joy to be me
I know it’s a lot to ask, but I’d gladly give this puppy back
And all this other stuff for a chance to be free

Previously: Losing You