Saturday, October 5, 2013

Chaos in today's world and in my mind

Recently I have been fascinated by the whole Miley Cyrus phenomenon.  I kept flipping back and forth, between thinking that she's in control of what she's doing (following Madonna, Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera et al.'s footsteps in using sexuality to catch attention so she can sell albums and transition into an adult market), or if she is a train wreck about to break down (like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan etc).

This piece written by Mara Wilson, the child star in "Matilda" and "Mrs. Doubtfire", helped me understand better the need for Miley and seemingly all child stars to go through this rebellion phase, because Disney forces their child stars to remain cute and innocent for the fan base when in reality they have been fully exposed to the ugliest aspects of the adult world (sex, drugs, porn, politics, power struggle, lies etc) by working long hours in the entertainment industry.

So why am I so obsessed about pop culture stars' acting out phase? Because at 33, I am really confused about life myself.

We've got a financial system that is completely unsustainable; we've got disproportionally large number of psychopaths holding power in high position political offices, financial institutions, and mega-corporations around the world; we exploit third world countries to keep the every day things we own cheap and abundant; there is an overabundance of porn on the Internet; our food sources are pretty messed up; terrorist activities and shootings seem to be a frequent occurrence now despite the billions (trillions?) of dollars put into flight security and global data surveillance system;  global warming and environmental pollution are only getting worse; the world seems to be moving towards the extreme (extreme right wing in Europe and North America; fundamentalists rising in the Muslim world); the education system cannot keep up with rapid changes in the world and the needs of the modern businesses/industries; and we're supposed to tell our children to behave, act appropriately and courteously, study hard in school, and they will have a good life?

To be fair, this simplistic message is just what my mother taught me all my life and made me resentful today. Maybe other parents have more intelligent values to teach to their children (fend for yourself, as this world is chaotic and unfair?)

I do believe wholehearted that Steven Pinker's conclusion that the world is less violent and probably today than it used to be hundreds and thousands of years ago.  I am probably more likely to encounter violence in my every day life 300 years ago than today. However back then there were no televisions, no 24-hour news channels, no internet, no Twitter, and therefore people would only know about bad things happening around their neighborhoods, and not received up-to-the-minute updates about wars happening half way across the world, or radioactive leakage in another continent that could harm the locals and eventually make it to our neighborhood.

As someone who grew up extremely sheltered and who wanted to dedicate her whole life researching cure for cancer and/or work for charities, I feel pretty disillusioned about the flaws within the field of science and NGOs.

I guess this is why so many people turn to escapism - excessive partying: sex, drugs, music, obsession with appearances and pets. Others turn to spiritual pursuits, which is what I did for awhile, but it also felt more like escaping than waking up for me.

I think my biggest issue is that I don't feel my parents or my family are proud of me, since they have no idea what scientists do and don't think highly of the profession in general. My mother associates level of success with the amount of money one makes. Rationally I know her values are wrong, but I'm still saddened to have parents who ignore current economic climate and expect me to make lots of money some day because they encouraged me to get an advanced degree.  Also, over the years, I focused too much on my studies and not enough on establishing solid friendship with a social group with similar, more healthy values. I just didn't know the importance of socializing. Now I am among people who either keep to themselves and their own social circles, or among overachiever girls who are just as confused as me. Some of them are still in their pursuit towards becoming a professor/group leader, which is not a problem in itself, but what scares me is that they also seem to be willing to do whatever it takes to get there, just like how other leaders got to where they are today.

It seems that I am surprised by a lot of the happenings in the world because people are a lot more selfish than I thought they would be. I don't know why I assumed people are less selfish in the first place.. maybe because I've been taught I should be more generous? To cope with this I should really be less concerned about matters that don't affect me immediately and focus on my own life, but I find it difficult since my work requires me to think out of the box and ponder in terms of big pictures.

One way to cope could be that I aim to be less emotionally tugged by all the external stimulants. Right now I'm like a rag doll, where every provocative image, every piece of sensational news, every slight insult by someone I come in contact with invokes a strong feeling or reaction from me. A wise friend encourages me to remain an observer, to not judge if these provocative events are good or bad, and to not react to everything that's happening. I think it's very good advice for me but I find it difficult to achieve.

Back to Miley Cyrus -- she's pushing boundaries of social norms, experimenting with herself and the system. Parents and the more conservative populations  are outraged, but I think it's interesting that her performance at the VMA wasn't censored (she mentioned herself that she thought there was a chance it could). I'm not saying it should or shouldn't be censored, just that it wasn't. However, the word "molly" was bleeped out. Why wouldn't she experiment with how far she could get if she can get away with it? There does seem to be a huge disconnect with the governing censorship system and the public opinion -- breasts can be exposed but nipples are somehow a dirty thing to show and can damage innocent children's souls (remember Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction caused a huge uproar). Movies with extreme violence can get a PG-13 rating, but nudity is automatically rated R and swear words need to be bleeped from radios and TVs. I do think that the broken censorship system sends the wrong message to children, especially when kids are inclined to try all the things that authorities forbid them to do.

I'm only concerned that public opinions can get to her eventually. People are just not nice these days, especially when they can express their judgements anonymously on the Internet. I'm certainly guilty of judging people too quickly, especially when I come across something unfamiliar and radical to me.

My homework for next little while is to judge less, react less, and rein in my over-scattered thinking. I direly need to center and ground myself.

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