On Ayn Rand, Senator Kamala Harris, etc… (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment Video Diary Vlog– Episode #25)

I am utterly in love with the experience of thought. It’s like one can grasp any aspect of the universe one wants to touch and make sense of it, or integrate it with some other aspect….thus…keeping records of thoughts for me helps me pay homage to my love for them. But also, I believe that keeping records of thoughts is akin to tracing pieces of a soul…akin to aiding in the effort of expanding awareness of one another beyond the conventional depths.

TRANSCRIPT:

For the first time in… I actually don’t know how many years—maybe as many as half a decade (?)– I’m taking a look at Ayn Rand’s diaries.

Why?

Since my artistic interest here developed into keeping a video diary, and since I appreciate Ayn Rand’s epistemological clarifications of Aristotle’s laws of identity and non-contradiction, and her talks on objectivity and “Objectivism,” I thought I could at least find some insight or common ground with her, even-though ethics and politics…there Ayn Rand I essentially go our separate ways…Ayn Rand’s being an egoist, and myself…believing in what I call an ethical principle of compassion, which, requires caring about both one’s self, and others– not as an act of self-sacrificial or altruism;(ironically I think it is in one’s self interest to care about helping others, lest the society one lives in should crumble into a rather miserable ethos).

One thing I like about what Ayn Rand writes in the December of 1935 (when she’s only roughly 31….just two years younger than I am now) she is identifying her purposes for what would become The Fountainhead.

This leads me to wonder if I’m doing a good enough job defining my own purposes.

To review and perhaps clarify (?) first and foremost: I am utterly in love with the experience of thought. It’s like one can grasp any aspect of the universe one wants to touch and make sense of it, or integrate it with some other aspect….thus…keeping records of thoughts for me helps me pay homage to my love for them. But also, I believe that keeping records of thoughts is akin to tracing pieces of a soul…akin to aiding in the effort of expanding awareness of one another beyond the conventional depths.

(One reason I love YouTube so much more than Twitter is that someone can post a vlog that is really as long as they feel like, you can gaze into his or her eyes and see the expressions on his or her face as he or she bears his or her soul to you… very little is more precious to me than this.)

There is also my love for preserving time…and essentially traveling time in a way… one reason why I am willing to share with you old videos of myself…despite feeling actually depressed by re-watching them; they bring up awful memories and a lot of shame and humiliation. It is… nonetheless, life preserved…kept…tangible…time travel of sorts again as I was saying.

Anyway, I don’t want to get too caught up with my refrain of purpose though in the context of pointing out what I read from Ayn Rand it seemed appropriate to me.

Whenever I think of Ayn Rand I think also of my Grandfather. When I was…roughly 13 and told him I was an atheist he encouraged me to read The Fountainhead and talked about how Ayn Rand was an interesting atheistic philosopher. He said sometimes that she was his favorite philosopher.

I’ve been waiting for the right time to begin talking to you about Ayn Rand more…a woman who changed my world so fundamentally and so powerfully that I suspect the impact will last most of my life.

To be sure….I can’t tell you everything in a single entry because it’s a complex and extraordinarily long-winded topic…and I think Ayn Rand is complex to discuss because her epistemological ideas are so different than her political ones.

Its like she’s two different people. Objective and then idealistic.

I barely recall the first time I read Ayn Rand…The Fountainhead… I was 23 and a half. Living in Chesterfield, NJ. All I took from the novel… initially was the value–which I already possessed, I thought– of not shying away from one’s individuality, not being afraid to be “different” and challenge [like the novel’s protagonist Howard Roark] the conventions of the masses [Toohey, et al]. That was nothing new to me though… so on a first reading it was essentially Ayn Rand preaching to the choir.

[see 17:41- 20:34 in the video here to get a sense of what I was like at 23 years old in Chesterfield.]

The seocnd reading a year later was quite different. I had just recently turned 25 (or was just about to. I don’t have my dates exact here) and had just thrown out my second novel and quit my brief ustream.tv/YouTube vlogging phase, and was reading Ulysses by James Joyce, which was just too hard at the time for me to read or appreciate.

The problem I had with Joyce was that I would spend hours just looking up words because he went out of his way at times to use words that were obscure and archaic. I can in hindsight appreciate the artistry of that effort. Maybe I’d enjoy his writing more today. But at the time it was not resonating with me. I don’t know what it was I felt I needed to read or expose myself to intellectually then that Joyce just wasn’t offering but I felt myself in a tremendous rut.

I don’t know how many of you know the story but I confided in my wife about the rut and…noting (because she always knows me so well) that I value individualism, she suggested I re-read The Fountainhead and that maybe I’d find some inspiration from it. It felt like I was reading it for the first time. I saw “individualism” in a new light…not as an obvious self-esteem thing but rather…as a philosophical idea deeply in contrast to what she called “collectivism.”

I mean, I hadn’t thought of the philosophical debate before…I hadn’t thought of individualism as a theme to delve into because prior to this…again…the value of individualism… to me… was just a given.

Why did I need to therefore plunge into something which seemed so obvious?

It was also the case, as I recall it now, that, having failed to sell my self-published book, and noting that Ayn Rand managed to write best sellers, perhaps I could learn something from her. How had she managed to be a philosopher who could also make a lot of money?

That was when I decided I needed to delve into her and see if I could figure out her secret.

In exploring the writings about her and things she wrote herself, I was exposed to the notion of money as private property…something you work for that… when taxed… is taken from you… despite your right to that money.

I lacked a nuanced way to contemplate the concept of taxation then but I was thinking for the first time about rights and function of government on the one hand, and delving also into Ayn Rand’s more “esoteric” writings on knowledge, logic, conceptualization and such. I was, for the first time, gaining an understanding of knowledge… as possible! (My prior subjectivst epistemology is a loaded discussion. Let us just say for now I refused to accept any absolute, unchanging sense of “reality.”)

So key aspects of fundamental philosophical consciousness were developing within me directly as a result of exploring and contemplating Ayn Rand. That summer especially, I spent every second I could, when not working at the grocery store, studying my Ayn Rand books. I borrowed someone’s copy of Atlas Shrugged and took that novel on, taking notes and writing responses to ideas and such. I want to cite just a few lines from this novel that remain today central to my thinking :

She writes the axiom:

existence exists….something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of percieving that which exists.

A is A. A thing is itself… the law of identity….a leaf cannoty be a stone at the same time…”

And she defines reason as

the faculty that percieves, idenifies, and integrates the material provided by [one’s] senses

the art of non-contradictory identification [adding that] A contradiction cannot exist

(see pp 929-930)

Say what one will about where Ayn Rand unfortunately deviates from there but… the importance of embracing these fundamental metaphysical and epistemological principles, in my view seems like something that one just can’t overstate. It is the basis of science, journalism and truth…of constructive thought.

Still…oh the irony of how Ayn Rand made this tremendous contribution philosophy yet…alas…beyond that, fails to apply her own ideas of non-contradiction.

As opposed to being an Objectivist I think she is more like an idealist…I think she sees ideologies in there pure forms, and sees them only in their pure forms, and I believe Ayn Rand has this view of humans as sort of naturally prone to extreme rationality and thus…in the case of say…a  libertarian political system, where people are given immense freedom…they abuse it…slavery, exploitation, et cetera.

I’ll have more to say about Ayn Rand in the future but I will stick to bringing her up only as is appropriate to where my thoughts are in a given point in time, as opposed to writing some massive thing about her.

***

Two Friends of mine and I yesterday debated some of the candidates in the Democratic Presidential primary election. We spoke specifically about Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. My friend criticized Kamala Harris for changing her views on prostitution.

At one point, he says, she apparently supported legalization and then flaked out. A New York Times article published…conveniently…just today….reports Sen. Harris as on the record in support of decriminalizing prostitution, citing an undated Facebook interview from The Root.

She did also say at a CNN Town Hall event on April 23, that she is in favor of decriminalizing prostitution. Strangely, Reason magazine characterizes what she says as not decriminalization.

Literally putting words in her mouth and misrepresenting her, Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes:

Harris still thinks paying for sex should be a crime, she just wants to classify all female sex workers as victims so as to avoid arresting them.

Disturbingly…in my opinion…. Brown completely ignores Sen. Harris’s point that pimps trafficking minors should be prosecuted. Sen. Harris did not say “paying for sex should be a crime.” I’m not sure why Brown says this. Harris says

we should not be criminalizing women who are engaged in consensual opportunities for employment

My other friend made a comment saying that Kamala Harris flip-flopped on healthcare. I am not sure where he got this information from but it is inaccurate.

Conservative and Libertarian sites widely reported that Kamla Harris said she wanted to eliminate private health insurance plans and then changed her mind. That’s not what she said though. She listed complaints about how private plans tend to harm people and said “let’s eliminate all that” but she never said “let’s eliminate private health insurance.”

It is really haunting how people put words in one another’s mouths. One more reason why I feel so passionate about keeping this video diary…it seems as if many in the media get away with not really listening and that people seem to believe it regardless of what the record actually is.

The first friend I was telling you about….this fellow also criticized Elizabeth Warren for being so adamant about the need to impeach president Trump. This friend emphasized that a year ago when the two of us were passionately pro impeaching president Trump, Senator Warren was not. He thinks she is merely an opportunist who, now running for president thinking she can score political points, says she wants to see the president impeached.

My friend contrasted her to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, saying Pelosi is is more measured. But I disagree. I think Pelosi may be trying to appear measured but comes across as tepid and a slave to re election anxiety.

(By the way…news just recently broke around 10 am this morning…from The Hill and The New York Times:  that Sen. Warren is calling for making it clear that a president can be indicted. This by the way, makes sense, and I am impressed by Sen. Warren saying what absolutely must be said with respect to where policy must go!)

But back to impeachment…my friend views Pelosi’s cautiousness as politically smart…that by leaving the option open but not committing to it quite, she is rallying support so to speak without alienating independents and moderate or uncertain Democrats who will be turned off by rushed impeachment. But Sen. Warren says over and over again that… essentially… some things matter more than “politics” and I agree!

What my friend fears is that if rushed impeachment hurts Democrats that could lead to the GOP’s taking back power and abolishing Obamacare and other healthcare protections. I do understand feeling protective of healthcare policy but I think if every policy position is excessively based on gauges of public support or constituents giving up their support then what conscience does one have? How safe would our healthcare be in such a world then?

My name is Sean O’Connor and I thank you for checking out my video diary vlog. I call it “Public Comment” to underscore the value of commenting on one’s most valued thoughts publicly, of soul-sharing. Though I like to think wide and deep in our increasingly specialization -and -niche oriented international society the three most basic subjects my diary tends to focus on focus on include politics, culture and self. Though my approach is philosophical, political and intellectual, I’m also emotional and artistic. I’m a registered Democrat and thus lean liberal but I don’t bind myself to any political party. I’m 33, live in New Jersey with my wife, recently graduated William Paterson University with a BA in Liberal Studies, and currently work as a writing tutor for Mercer County Community College. Please enjoy my videos, subscribe if you want to follow along, and join the conversation in the comments sections.

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On my Atheism Phase, “Universally Speaking,” As Anthony Kiedis Puts It (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #18)

I dismiss entirely a notion I believe is in part upheld based on postmodern type grounds that confine people to little groups of their own values which have nothing to do with groups beyond theirs… (even if so called intellectuals want to think themselves the only people who can intellectualize in a meaningful way)– I mean…this is not directed to so called “intellectuals” though I admit there are grounds to describe my tone as “intellectual” or “esoteric”

TRANSCRIPT:

Hey ‘y’all! (Yes, yes, my fondness of the expression “‘y’all,” despite my coastal, NJ/NY Metropolitan intellectual “Yankee” ((?)) upbringing and cultural practices ((?)) manners of putting things ((?)) continues to grow)

I understand, based on viewer feedback that I might want to try not speaking so slow. Why do I do it? Can I blame my poetry phases? My acting phases? I don’t know. I do like the weight of a word.

Anyway, I want to ask you: do you identify with any particular religion?

I mean, when “push comes to shove” as they say (Yes, I love to say “as they say” and I love those little sayings “they” say— of course…who is they? Some mysterious crowd of people in our minds?) …

I mean, when faced with your sense of mortality or your contemplations on the subject of life in a general way…you know…that very wide angled panoramic view of our births, our childhoods, teenage years, young adulthood (ah…channeling Walt Whitman’s genius poem “Eidolons” here?) the intense desire for sex and whether or not you believe in the depth of romantic relationships, and whether or not you believe in monogamy, marriage, parenthood, sense of purpose, sense of meaning….the meaning of the work you do and the money you make, spend, save, how much you do or do not care about how what you do impacts your health, what you make of social life, whether you want friends, what those friendships are supposed to be like in your mind, how you handle disagreements, when you think about what care about, what some of us might refer to as your “values” or “priorities” or “interests”– when you feel sad and reflect…do you in that context call yourself an Atheist, a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a Sikh, a Buddhist? (Just to name a few “religions” or “ideological identities” of the many possibilities).

To what extend have you, within the greatest depths of your convictions, justified, on the granular level, those kinds of religious, ideological, philosophical beliefs you have?

I remember the first ideological/philosophical/religious thought I ever had.

Now, I don’t know where I first heard of the concept of a “God” but I remember at roughly three years old, I asked my grandmother if God was a boy or a girl and my grandma said: “God is whatever you want it to be.”

That is one of the earliest memories I have in general and perhaps closest to the vertabtim of any of my early childhood memories.

I don’t know when it occurred to me that my father’s side of the family was theoretically “Christian” and my mother’s “Jewish,” but I remember when a dear friend of mine asked me what my religion was. I was not older than 13 when that happened and first I joked and said I was Jatholic because all I knew was that there was contradictory religions professed in my complex family with mother, father, stepfather and stepmother all possessing very unique ideological notions.

My dear friend pressed me to really think about what in fact I identified with regarding religion.

I got to thinking about “Santa Clause” which I knew was a lie by then (or a fun, make-believe idea perhaps we want to call it?)

I got to thinking about scientific concepts such as empiricism (terribly ironic too because I failed Math class and didn’t care at all about science…yet science reined supreme in my mind regardless of my interest in it)

No. I did not know the word “empiricism” or if I did, I don’t remember knowing  or using it then. But it did appear to me…whatever God could theoretically be, it is beyond empirical reach…and absent any legitimate scientific proof as far as I could understand, atheism seemed a perfectly fair mentality to me.

And I thought….the God idea is exceptionally comforting…and I thought…interesting that someone would claim to be the son of a God with no proof and people just believe it…and just believe these heaven and hell ideas. And they have the pretentiousness to tell you that God is something you just have to be primed to “feel” and have “faith” in and if you can’t there is something wrong with you.

I became a full fledged atheist and yet my best friend at the time was what he called a “Seventh Day Adventist Christian.”

Our deepening ideological differences, as opposed to creating some kind of crack in our friendship, appeared to give it tremendous strength. I cannot begin to tell you how many countless hours this individual and I spent debating, from every angle we could, the question of why one should or should not believe a God exists.

And moreover, how should people regard a text such as the Bible?

And…what would the implications of these things be? For example, from certain Seventh Day Adventist Christian perspectives I was exposed to, various aspects of sexuality were regarded as sin.

No sex before marriage.

No masturbating.

No lust.

That always troubled me as much as the notion of a God. I thought the notion that a person should not masturbate or explore his or her sexuality was one of the most absurd notions one could possibly come up with.

And there was music many of these kinds of Christians were not supposed to listen to, and ideas of women as subservient that some of these Christians possessed, and a perplexing fixation on Republican politicians…

Other questions that were raised… from the perspective of many who believe in God– I came to learn from this friend of mine-. For example: since God absolutely existed, they thought, truth in general was an absolute thing.

So this was all an introduction for me to the questions of “philosophy” and ethics.

I wonder…if it were not for this brilliant person…this deep, intellectual, philosophical thinker I was so lucky to meet, whether I would have delved so deeply into those topics so many people I know refer to as intellectual or philosophical.

Beyond the scope of the atheism versus Christianity debate I had with this person and then others as I began to develop my own beliefs….and whatever questions arose in this realm…I never thought about concepts such as “philosophy” or “intellectualism.”

I didn’t even…as a teenager, know the meaning of “philosophy” and ironic as this may seem, anyone who, at that time, might have thought themselves “intellectual” was probably somehow — I don’t know how I arrived at this conclusion– detached from life in a more visceral sense.

Because I was an “artist.”

I wasn’t troubled by (or in fact in possession of the confidence to contemplate) notions some might consider “esoteric.”

I want to digress briefly on this concept of the esotertic here.

I am very opposed to a real niche type approach to communication—that is to say, I try to the best of my ability to speak to you in as universal a way…as universal a perspective as I can.

And what do I mean by that? By Universal?

I mean…I don’t view myself as talking exclusively to “intellectuals”  or “artists” or “academics” or “YouTubers” or “Facebookers” or “millennials” or my contemporaries…I mean…for all we know…someway and somehow, this video file will reach an alien life form that can somehow….decipher it.

My point is this…I dismiss entirely a notion I believe is in part upheld based on postmodern type grounds that confine people to little groups of their own values which have nothing to do with groups beyond theirs… (even if so called intellectuals want to think themselves the only people who can intellectualize in a meaningful way)– I mean…this is not directed to so called “intellectuals” though I admit there are grounds to describe my tone as “intellectual” or “esoteric”

((Oh, that reminds me of another “conviction” I had growing up as a kid and a teenager…I didn’t believe in cliques….didn’t want to belong to, confine myself to, or identify with a clique…I didn’t want to be a “jock” or a “nerd:” or a “dork” or a “geek” or a “stoner” or a “goth” or a “punk” or an “emo” or a “band geek” or a “theater geek” or a “bad kid” or any type of group-oriented identifying thing… (though naturally I was an atheist in a purely objective and descriptive sense).

This actually contributed to chronic loneliness as everyone around me seemed to gravitate towards a particular crowd and even when I did gravitate this way or that way I never felt bound to or married to my gravitation.

Getting back to my point here… I’m not targeting anyone IN PARTICULAR here.

What’s that line by Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chilly Peppers?

“Universally Speaking I win in the long run”

And this chain of particular thoughts is to be continued because it’s complex and who doesn’t love a good “to be continued?”

LOL as I love to say. Talk to you tomorrow


Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 

A Better World? Who’s Gonna Care? (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #17)

…suddenly it occurred to you that in fact, if you look at it from this other perspective, you could make more money doing x, reach more people doing y, keep your soul doing z, et cetera…

TRANSCRIPT:

To what can I attribute the confusion over the decades plaguing me with respect to matters of career?

So many things happen to interest me.

In the broadest sense, I suppose we could perhaps characterize my condition as culture transfixion syndrome? (My father– who was a psychologist– actually hypothesized sometimes that I suffered from ADD. Ironically now I’m the opposite of the ADD type– I enjoy hyper focus to the point that the slightest distraction irritates me like nails on a chalkboard– even innocent things like a text message alert from my cellphone while I’m reading and taking notes on the news.)

Anyway, my point is that in my utter fascination with life and culture, naturally–I hope you’d grant– I like envisioning cultural improvements: better movies, better politics, better literature, better philosophical principles. How does one pick from that lot when one wants, in the broadest sense, to conceptualize what it might mean to help and do one’s part in advancing us towards “a better world?”

Yes, since I was a kid I’ve had lofty ambitions though in those days perhaps those ambitions were… more egotistical?

Marred by my sense of utter and complete incompetence, I suppose the perfect elixir was the dream that one day I might be the opposite.

You know…day in and day out envying like mad hell the people you think look so much better than you, who are so much smarter than you, who come from so much more money than you— of course you might, in this context, dream of something that feels better. I think even when I used to want to be president of the United States— at least the first time I believed I wanted to do that– in part I just wanted to believe I really could achieve it! When you have the bizarre notion that everyone around you is just inherently better than you…if you have a certain kind of defense mechanism you want to think you could be as good…maybe even sometimes you want to think…I could be better…to feel like you are better…or best! Have you ever “been there and done that?” Wished for the feeling of true excellence? The kind that wins you praise, money, sense of power?

But at some point– I can’t say exactly when– I began to change and care more about…just wanting to prove to myself I could acquire and develop a basic sense of competence and critical thinking ability.

One reason I’ve always been so shy is because I knew at least that I didn’t really know how to think about things critically– how to process, for example, the latest news that…oh…for example…if we were to apply this to today’s news…that Google said to hell with Huawei! And what that means..

. (I say, Go Google Go! Right on! God bless China and all but I’m not for enriching those who imprison critics and Uighur Muslims just for being critics and Uighur Muslims. And I think Google demonstrates some sense of integrity– even if in theory it is good PR to suspend business with Huawei and the protest isn’t entirely genuine– Google didn’t HAVE to make any kind of stand. There’s plenty I don’t know about Google but I know I respect that they’re not afraid to make Huawei think!)

Anyway, my point is that just a few years ago I would not have had the courage to even contemplate technological news because I lacked the confidence.

And so now…to get…psychological with you…it would seem…my sense of ambition is transforming…focusing less on maybe…subconscious (?) needs to believe I can grow more valuable than I believed I was — and now…more on …very…direct…interests.

Is “direct” the right word?

I’m interested in thought in a very cut and dry sense…personal thoughts on navigating through life, interpreting and processing the surrounding culture, and acting ethically, thinking logically, talking “straight” as some may put it…straight as in straight forward, not heterosexual…though I am heterosexual but I have nothing but love and support for the LGBTQ movement, sexual liberation, and all of that.

I should tell you, the career aspiration confusion though…it was more complicated than that.

(Hey…if you want to know the value of an English degree or a few literature courses…it’s understanding in a visceral way, beyond the psychology “research” papers, the complexity of human nature…I think we are rather rarely so 1, 2, 3, or 4 etc dimensional.)

Even when I’ve been at my most belligerent and condescending, would you believe me if I insisted to you that I had good intentions?

Really, even if my thinking has suffered severely from extreme irrationality and subjectivity, I’ve usually had good intentions and usually have desired deeply to do my part in making this a “better world.” Even in my acting days, as a young teenager…for example, I played an Auschwitz survivor, and wrote the one-man- movie about him, and the goal was to raise awareness about the importance of never forgetting the Holocaust.

I also played a cocaine addict. I didn’t write that movie but took the role seriously because I believed in raising drug addiction awareness.

Even in my love for the Bee Gees by the way…their music is about romantic love…as opposed to anger, hatred, utter depression and despondency…

So…you get these lofty hopes for the world in your mind and you wonder—well I don’t know if you do…but I have…I wondered…what is the best way for me to make this a better world based on my understanding of what a better world might be!?!

And the little things can mess it up. For example, at times I’ve not wanted to be a poet SIMPLY because I know very few people care about poetry and therefore my efforts could be in vein.

At times I’ve not wanted to write political commentaries because…unless I have a column…who is gonna care. It’s not like the New York Times is gonna publish my Facebook note. It’s not like my opinion holds so much weight. So…when your ambitions are intense and for awhile your convinced of a particular strategy by which to express your ethical hopes only to find that some bit of information suggests…seemingly credibly to you— that your strategy and your plan is ultimately useless…that no one will care…(isn’t that the worst one…feeling no one will call in the massive din of competing voices?) or that suddenly it occurred to you that in fact, if you look at it from this other perspective, you could make more money doing x, reach more people doing y, keep your soul doing z, et cetera? Could I get an amen on this one folks?

Have a great day in the meantime and I shall chat with you tomorrow.

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 


On Finding My Dream Job Because YOLO (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog– episode #16)

How does one determine one’s dream job and why does it matter?

TRANSCRIPT:

Good day, folks! (Yes, I’m playing with my opening line today. Usually it’s just “greetings ladies and gentlemen!” but I want to embrace experimentation)

But moving on: What do you want to be when you grow up?

This question, and my variety of answers through the years (I’m 33 years old now…does that count as “grown up?” Sometimes I think not working one’s “dream job,” or not earning a desirable wage are things that can make one feel less “grown up,” “adult,” “empowered to practice responsible adulthood,” et cetera, as the “grown ups” talk about property taxes they pay on the homes they own, the expenses related to bringing up their children, et cetera. This is all worked in to my confused notion of equating landing your dream job with growing up).

One of the privileges that I believe Americans and other Western countries, along with the wealthier factions of other nations, get to enjoy is aiming for that  “dream job”— conceptualizing such a thing—what is my dream job?

As the strangeness of our still relatively new internet economy continues to shake up the old order of things, that seemed to endure… approximately from after  World War 2, and into the early part of the first decade of the 2000’s, and as a millennial in this changing marketplace, the notion of a job worth putting all of my effort towards capturing has boggled my mind a bit.

For example, intellectually speaking, since I tend to think about and approach questions in what I think is an academic way, I thought seeking a job in academia was entirely logical for me.

With over two years of experience as a writing tutor “under my belt” (as they say) and a lovely 3.98 GPA, graduate academia seemed like simply a natural progression of what I’ve already been doing.

But academia’s prospects, as I’ve scoured Indeed.com and Glassdoor.com, and as I’ve heard insiders speak out on the budgetary bleakness of prospects even for those armed with a PhD under their belts, and as the revolutionary abundance of information and resources for digital productivity available on the internet seem only on the uptick, I’m not sure, as a long term investment, that the depths of academia seem so wise—at least, not for me.

I’ve been troubled over the question of where I’m supposed to look for a “job,” how exactly I’m supposed to look, et cetera.

Obviously, I could render my college education, which I poured my very life and soul into – perhaps to excess?—utterly useless and just dive back into some easy retail position where I won’t make so much money, unless I rise on up into management, but that simply doesn’t interest me.

Ha!

This reminds me of something someone recently said to me: “you young people” he said, “have to be happy” — as opposed to just finding work.

But why not?

YOLO, as they say.

(Do they still say that?)

I do not want to waste my life negating and denying the depths of my soul engaged in activities that mean only a simple means to an end.

If there is a God, which I speculate there is, what an insult to IT, (I don’t call God a he or a she as I think God is neither quite a person or an advocate of sexism) to simply ignore one’s potential, one’s soul, one’s dreams!

Okay then, so what the hell do I want to do with myself?

Perhaps you’ve heard this story of mine. By the time I was 10 years old I thought I wanted to be an actor, screenwriter, movie producer. In the years that followed I idolized Meryl Streep, John  Travolta and Tom Hanks—among other actors. When I was about 13, In the depths of my John Travolta craze ,I fell in love with the unique and romantic style of their Bee Gees and the music they produced for Saturday Night Fever.

(I asked a handful of my coworkers if they had seen it. Most had not. It reminded me of middle school days and how I felt very, very alone in my love for the Bee Gees. Everyone else was into Brittney Spears and Eminem. I could not relate to either. )

But I wanted to do what the Bee Gees did: write songs.

That became my new dream. Of course, I could not sing or play a musical instrument, so I’d just have to be a poet.

Upon my entrance to college, I juggled desires to write novels and poems, and in a fit of cockiness and naivete I dropped out, thinking some how I could “make it” as a poet. And then I wanted to be a philosopher (though  not one who got a university degree). And then I wanted to be a politician. And then I wanted to be a documentarian. And then I wanted to be a political commentator. And then I wanted to do this. And then I wanted to do that.

My point is this: I’ve contemplated so many possible jobs and through the years, struggled to “stick to one.”

Of course…some of you might be able to relate as we now live in what is for some considered a “gig economy.”

Unless you’re relatively young and have a job in the STEM fields, you may likely be forced to learn how to juggle and integrate a number of jobs just to pay your bills. In this context, the swirl of job prospect confusion worth injecting a deep personal investment in seems understandable.

Anyway, so goes the story and context of my contemplations regarding “dream job” over the last few decades.

What about now? Now I have a bachelor’s degree. What do I do? What do I want to do? What do I really want? (And what SHOULD I do?)

Do you think I am a narcissist if I say THIS, HERE, is what I want to do? (Well, people buy Charles Bukowski books…he wrote this way, but he glamorized his misogyny and alcoholism, so I have to believe this could be [ or ought to be] more marketable than that, as I strive to project a more constructive world view…Identifying what I think, and sharing it all in that context?

Talking to you about my thoughts.

I realize not everyone can be what some call a “YouTube Star.”

I’ve plunged myself into research on the question of how vlogs and blogs manage to become widely shared. Some tips WordPress rather ambiguously suggests: be “interesting, important and/or funny.”

Of course what does that mean?

By the way…I’m not funny.

I cannot be funny. I don’t know how.

I may have told you this before but it seems to be a genetic defect. Anytime I make someone laugh it seems to have been pure accident. Moreover, and perhaps this explains it…I don’t really enjoy trying to be funny. Not that I don’t enjoy those who do. It’s a pleasure working with, and socializing with such people. But it’s simply not me.

I have a “serious” disposition. (Maybe we can blame my father? He used to say, when he took my picture, “don’t smile” in a dark, quiet, ominous voice.).

To be clear, it is not as though I’m depressed or depressing or melancholy or incapable of smiling. In fact, I tend to be in a good mood most of the time.

So what do I mean by “serious” anyway? Less so than serious, I suppose, overall I simply just tend not to joke a lot.  More so then…a lack of joking than extreme impersonal “seriousness.” That, and I always tend to be in the depths of my psychological and philosophical evaluations of things—do I agree with workplace policy? If not, that tends to annoy me and I try and conceptualize a better policy.

For example, at the community college where I work: how do they decide how newly admitted students will be placed into their first English or Math classes or if such coursework ought to be required? This is a loaded discussion in itself so I won’t digress, but I have my opinions, and my opinions seize me like air seizes my lungs. (Or should I say, like my lungs seize air).

So perhaps more so than serious, I am extremely “opinionated” and passionate about my opinions. (The opinion page is my favorite page in the newspaper, and for awhile I was an opinion page editor for the College VOICE, so I suppose that much adds up).

Then with respect to the question of what job out there I desire…first and foremost, I want a job where my opinions count.

One of the most miserable aspects of working retail is that my opinions counted for nothing. (In fact I felt as if I counted for nothing since I was paid severely little…I think a whole 10.50 an hour in my prime with a random and inconsistent number of hours per week?)

For example, the customer, they tell you, is always right.

That is far from true. Sometimes the customer is right and sometimes the customer is wrong.

Not that I fail, by the way, to appreciate doing all one can to make one’s customer happy. I do believe in exceptional customer service.

But not at the expense of being insulted, being treated as a robot, not being worth a “hello, how are you” and just turning into a receptacle for the customer’s anxiety to get out of the store as quick as possible and lodge their sometimes irrational complaints at you, maybe because a coupon was expired for example, but they demanded it to be honored anyway.

Meanwhile…they’re on their cellphones treating you as if indeed, you are literally just a transactional machine. I tried to articulate my beliefs in a set up where cashiers could preserve a bit more dignity but…I will give you a perfect example of how little management cared.

A man who used to work for this one place I cashiered, his name was Bob— may he rest in peace now— he was an older man, I think close to his eighties if not already in his eighties, and had given decades of his life to this grocery store company and Bob had some ideas on how the store might improve its operations.

So he wrote it all out in an 8 page letter—that is what he told me—and gave it to the man who owned the stores. The man never so much as acknowledged reading it or even receiving it.

If at all possible, I do not EVER want to work for such an arrogant, disinterested company ever again.

Opinions, if they are backed by facts and logic, ought to at least count for something such as basic respect.

I’m not saying I’d rather be on the streets. We do what we must in this life. But to the degree which we can identify and strive for what we most deeply want— I’m stating as much for the record!

The WordPress article also says to be “important.”

I’m not sure I know how to be important— at least not in your eyes, though I do know at least what’s “important” to me, and in fact, I try to treat that which I view as important with “the utmost importance.” (I’ll give forms of that word a rest now. Ha ha. As I try to be slightly funny. I didn’t say I would succeed but I give myself credit for trying)

That’s why I try to read and take notes on the news every morning. What, of consequence, is occurring in the world? Even when things don’t appear to affect me directly—take the abortion question for example, as I am not a woman and thank God and knock on wood but my wife and I don’t appear to be embedded in a scenario right now where we have to address the question—it affects the society I live in, and I believe the well-being of society impacts the well-being of the individual, even if it is beyond the scope of his or her recognition…unless you choose to be totally oblivious…which by the way… I’ve done before…

I don’t mean to suggest that not having an x amount of knowledge on the news necessarily means someone is oblivious.

That would be unreasonably and rudely presumptuous. Though I would say, getting back to this YOLO issue….

If you only live once, will you make the most of your look at the world…at the universe…will you see it with as much depth and understanding as you can, or will you…cheapen your experience?

Thus, you see, I find a relationship between importance and richness of life experience even if I have not quite figured out how to make myself important and enriching to others, or how to show that I could.

On Republicans for Impeaching Trump & Soft (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog–episode #14)


THE TRANSCRIPT:

Greetings ladies and gentlemen. Today I want to talk to you briefly about the stability of the Republican obsession with subservience of sorts to Trump, the blessing and curse –I’m being slightly rhetorical and hyperbolic here– of freedom of productivity, and my slow but steady development of thoughts on crafting and aesthetics of the vlog…as both a means of effective, meaningful communication and as an artistic medium

 Republican Congressman from Michigan, Justin Amash, and Fox New’s Chris Wallace recently offered a slight iota of new criticism aimed at Trump from Republicans and the Conservative Media, which I find at least a little uplifting, though by no means  am I deluding myself with notions that this means there’s a significant crack in the egg, so to speak.

Yesterday, Representative Amash Tweeted:

Here are my principal conclusions:

1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report. 2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct. 3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances. 4. Few members of Congress have read the report.

He tweeted quite a bit…he also said:

Impeachment, which is a special form of indictment, does not even require probable cause that a crime (e.g., obstruction of justice) has been committed; it simply requires a finding that an official has engaged in careless, abusive, corrupt, or otherwise dishonorable conduct.

And, regarding the actions of attorney General William Barr,  Fox News Journalist Chris Wallace said on television last Friday :

“he clearly is protecting this president and advocating his point of view on a lot of these issues.”

He also conceded that :

“I think there are other lawyers who would say…he certainly was not forthcoming [to congress] about what he knew about Mueller’s opinion”  

I wouldn’t quite characterize Wallace’s attempt at objectivity a victory for holding Attorney General Barr, or President Trump accountable, however, I believe we must note that Fox News — the Trump train propaganda machine— doesn’t…as far as I know… pressure or require its so called journalists to entertain the notion that Barr is putting his strange and perplexing public relations protection of President Trump above honesty and justice. (By the way, do any of you have a theory on the story with Attorney General Barr? What does he GET out of working as another one of Trump’s sycophants? I wonder– but don’t have grounds to quite suppose– if Trump has some kind of blackmail on people like Barr, Giuliani, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham– people who so strikingly changed their anti-Trump tune).

What are we to make of the perplexing reluctance of Republicans and Conservatives to stand up to President Trump with respect to…virtually anything? Are we witnessing not just the cliche political corruption but true moral corruption, a swath of politicians, lobbyists, and pundits who have chosen to switch off their consciences as we find ourselves with direct evidence of president Trump’s obstruction of justice, violation of the constitution’s emoluments clause, cruelty towards political asylum seekers  (some of whom are children or babies) and expressed admiration for tyrants?

The psychology and their supposed pragmatics behind it truly arouse my curiosity.

You may note I’m producing these vlogs a little differently now. Now, I write down what I want to say, even if I improvise or omit  additional comments here or there. You may also note that there is no podcast accompanying this vlog. I’ve been inspired most of all by Chris Hayes of MSNBC, who has his show at 8 PM five days a week, a weekly podcast, and the occasional article. I like that pace so I’m adapting a similar approach.

(By the way, I highly recommend Hayes’ New York Times article “The First Presidential Impeachment” about the book “The Impeachers” which is about the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, back in 1868. Typically, commentators refer to Watergate when contemplating the prospects of a Trump impeachment, but I’ve been saying for months to consider the Andre Johnson impeachment because I believe this may be one of the greatest examples of a president who appears to contrast the majority or plurality ethos of the country he or she is supposedly “leading”)

The question of how to approach this new world of digital media self expression fascinates and excites me, but also confuses me. It’s a luxurious confusion though. That is to say, even though i get frustrated over questions like how often to vlog or podcast or post something on twitter or Instagram, i’m privileged to probe THESE questions as opposed to, “how am I going to afford dinner tonight?”  

The complexities of freedom is a topic that has occupied my contemplation for over a decade now.

In the miserable summer of 2007,(I say that summer was miserable because it was the summer of my near homelessness in Tampa, where thanks to the charity of the man who owned the hostel I stayed in, I had a place to live and food to eat)– this was when, for the first time in my life, it seemed that we possess so called “free will.” (As to the question of whether or not I still think we do, I call myself a “soft determinist”– I think we experience what feels like choice; that is to say, our minds inherently contemplate and land on an option…and our inclinations and knowledge would count as  factors with respect to that “choice”– the “choice” as an action occurs I believe, in our minds– but can we fight the deeper, more fundamental genetics, biology and physics involved? I don’t think so)

But my point is that my awareness of some sense of free will, which first came to me twelve years ago now, has always complicated my approach to “free productivity” — by that I mean…with a full sense of creative autonomy, whether it is a question of “what do I want to be when I grow up?” or, now that I’ve decided what kind of “art work,” “product” or “service providing business” I want to produce, and now that I’ve found the confidence to do it my way as opposed to being told how to do it, how do I determine certain creative specifics? For example, take this vlog— how long should it be? How often should it be done?

Two things I tried to keep in mind the most: how those I most admire approach these things— I mentioned Chris Hayes before—, and of course, CONTEXT. This is something that totally slipped my mind over the last two weeks. For example, it should have been obvious to me that videos require more concentration…more mental energy– so perhaps the hour long camera in my face vlog concept turns out to be irrational…my stepfather did describe these as “long winded”– they were too much so…i apologize; if I want to go on for longer I think that is more ideal for podcasts as they allow for more listening flexibility–

I can’t get over how exciting this vlogging concept is to me and the question of what it means to me to make the most of it. I see various elements to it. I see it as a sort of open, public, video journal, I see it as talking to “the world”– or the universe (assuming this is preserved and in the future people can watch this from their smart phones on a terraformed mars or on some space station ), I also see it as something quite similar to the personal essay. In that sense, additionally there is something artistic about this. So I took the advice— I forget which site I read it on, or which vlog I heard about this in– and tried to be mindful of my background, to show you something more than just plain white, that adds to the context or depth of my “personality.” I’m curios though, do ya’ll prefer a plain white background, or something which exudes more personality?  Please let me know. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Public Comment is a personal journal vlog and podcast where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

Please feel free to share your thoughts with me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter at 
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment 


On marketing (part 1: anxiety), free thought (part 2), and free trade

Listen to the podcast

or watch the video

My incompetence thus far in self marketing, the development of my understanding in the value of free thought, and a look at the debate over free trade and protectionism in the realm of trade policy.

IN THIS EPISODE:

When it comes to self marketing (as opposed to political marketing, or marketing for an employer), anxiety and a complicated array of thoughts, at times, stifle me.

I have a fear of annoying people with my requests for their time, feedback, money and/or endorsement, most of all because I understand many of us are quite busy and bombarded with other people asking for our time, feedback, money and endorsements.

Also, I often think of how money can corrupt.

Money doesn’t talk, it swears

obscenity, who really cares?

Propaganda, all is phony…

-Bob Dylan

I wonder: am I corrupted, in my self-marketing by an unreasonable desire for money, attention, praise, undeserved self advancement, narcissism, et cetera? (I certainly believe in my early twenties I suffered from slight narcissistic tendencies, though as a defense mechanism since I suffered from severe anxiety, depression, and self esteem challenges. That is to say, I desired undeserved praise, attention, and introspected just for the sake of gaining awareness of my own thoughts as existing things, not for the sake of understanding and vetting them!).

I also think of other examples where money seems to blatantly corrupt individuals, companies, corporations, politicians, et cetera—(Weapon producers/dealers, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, oil/energy companies).

Those insecurities aside, obviously we need resources to live and also it is reasonable to stand up for the products/services we believe in, whether we are advocate consumers, or involved in the product(s)/service(s) ourselves. After all, why should something one offers, when it is of value, linger in vain?

That, I believe, would be unethical.

So I tie my sense of self marketing to the moral convictions motivating those aspects of myself I “market.”

So what do I say then, is the moral marketability of my shared “free thoughts?”

Frankly, I question how much genuinely “free” thought is truly “out there” when you consider not just profit concerns/ popularity concerns and how that could inject bias into shared thoughts but also how people (I have done it myself. Example: when I was obsessed with Ayn Rand) can slip into dogmas. Even postmodernism can become a dogmatic blinder, as opposed to mere healthy skepticism and independence.

On a separate note, I want to initiate a conversation about trade policy.

There are two articles I recommend. One by the Economist and one by Foreign Policy. The latter addresses the politics versus the economics of free trade, as well as policy options with respect to how we might want to deal with the inevitable harm to certain job holders that free trade results in: Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) which serves like compensation specifically for those adversely affected.

Tell me what you think. Email me at sean.publiccomment@gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/sopubliccomment

Public Comment is a video diary styled vlog and personal journal podcast where I share my free thoughts on politics, culture, and self.

On Acquainting Myself With Technology, Determining What’s Interesting, and Friendship (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment video diary vlog–episode #10)


I suffer from extreme ignorance with respect to all things STEM so this new phase of learning about computer and internet technology– specifically dealing with live and recorded audio and video files– is challenging. Still, I find it fascinating and relevant to culture awareness and literacy. If only that was enough to keep all my treasured friendships afloat.
LISTEN TO THE PUBLIC COMMENT PODCAST

So since I can’t afford the best equipment just yet, and since I lack any kind of support staff some of the technological aspects of my presentation, alas, suffers. At some point in life one must, if one suffers from degrees of perfectionism, come to terms with the fact that one simply cannot do it all. I read about this earlier today on a website that is new to me: fastcompany.com– a technology news site of sorts, it seems. “Make peace with incomplete knowledge” is what the article suggested.

I’m working on it!

One of my struggles, which you may have heard me mention earlier, is that I get so flustered trying to research everything I want to learn, trying to pay attention to as many aspects of the world around us as I can, trying to be what some may refer to as a “well-rounded person.” (Political news, entertainment news, podcasts, radio, art work, history books, social media, business news, technology news, blogs and vlogs, et cetera….) I accept and I am in the process of making peace with the fact that nobody can be perfectly well-rounded. (I mean, I get it…nobody can be perfect at anything. But still, one wants aims, standards, et cetera, right?)

Focusing on politics, culture and introspection as may three main topics of interest help me find a sense of balance. That may seem counter intuitive, especially with respect to culture. Isn’t culture such an endless thing? Yes. But if I think in terms of getting a look today at just one, or just a few key aspects of the culture, and other aspects tomorrow, then that helps relax me. (As opposed to saying: an article on psychology for ten minutes, then another ten minutes on real estate, on but then what about technology news?…If I just think…pieces of culture…I have a topic and I can free think based from that center).

If you know me or if you take even a quick look at my website, the depth of my interest in politics is pretty blatant and substantive, but what about my love for introspection?

I see introspection, I think, on two levels– the private, and that which I consider with sharing. How does one decide what to keep private and what not to keep private? A friend of mine said there is really nothing one must keep private, though context of course, he said, does matter. Why talk about say, issues relating to what happens in the bathroom if it’s arbitrary?

I love having friends, but it brings me tremendous chagrin to think of friendships that either I have lost, or that seem as though I have lost. I hate to think I played any role in the destruction of friendships and relationships I’ve been a part of but I aspire at least to preserve those relationships I’m blessed with today, and hope to revive lost relationships some time in the future.