Lonely men and incels (and Muslim extremists)

I do know lonely men and incels are different from each other. Unlike lonely men in general, incels are toxic cretins who feel entitled to sex and female obedience and they blame women for their loneliness.

So, I cringed so hard when Jordan Peterson cried after being mocked by Olivia Wilde as incels’ hero; he asserted that there was nothing wrong about giving the marginalised ones a voice.

Now, as a Muslim, I am going to compare incels to Muslim extremists. I can’t help but seeing the similarities.

Yes, people from both groups do need help….. in fixing their toxic selves. Their worldview compels them to harm others, especially those who don’t share their identities and beliefs. They are hated not because they are inconsequentially different, but because they are dangerous to be around with.

The last thing we need is letting those people feeling even more empowered. They deserve to feel ashamed of themselves.

Now, what if those people didn’t start as such? What if the incels started as genuinely lonely men? What if the religious extremists started as members of marginalised Muslim minorities or Muslims who feel aimless with their lives?

If that’s the case, it shows our failure as societies. Our negligence result them in their desperation to seek help….. and the extremists are the only ones who lend hands, hands which guide them to the dark paths. Then, we have the gall to act surprise.

But, even with such tragic origin stories, I still don’t see why we shouldn’t crap on them. Their idea of self-empowerment is cruelty against others; they cannot comprehend that it can be achieved through other means.

They are also defeating their own causes. They went from deserving our support to ones who deserve to be hated. They also give other assholes more reasons to be negligent and discriminatory towards the likes of them.

I also don’t believe all incels started as lonely men and all Muslim extremists started as aimless or disenfranchised Muslims.

If you are a man who grew up among toxic masculinity, you can easily become incels without going through the “neglected lonely man” stage. If you are a Muslim who grew up among fellow believers who make Islam their entire personalities, you can easily become an extremist without going through the “aimless or disenfranchised” stage.

Overall, in differing ways, they are all victims of circumstances which they had no control over; it is important to acknowledge how they become the way they are.

But, it is also important to acknowledge that the way they are is dangerous. Considering humans are grey, we can perceive them both as the victims and the villains. I don’t see why we can’t feel sorry for incels and Muslim extremists while also harshly condemning them at the same time, especially when they have fulfilled their violent desires.

I don’t see how not condemning them benefit anyone.

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Being a child of a single mother

Indonesia is like most places on earth. It is considered preferable for children to have both mom and dad. In fact, unlike in America and much of the west, almost every person here is conservative; truly liberal-minded people are a rarity here.

And yet, the vitriol against single mothers in America is extreme, something which I don’t see in Indonesia. Maybe single motherhood isn’t as common or talked about as much. But, I never heard about a huge number of Indonesians demonising single mothers, blaming them for every existing social ill.

Worse, those people even use scientific papers – which supposedly claim that children of single mothers are more likely to be worse off – as their evidences. They feel more empowered and, among the gullible ones, they seem to be an ideologically sound bunch.

I have never read those papers. Knowing how zealous ideologues can be, they may either oversimplify the content or straight up lie about it. But, even if the papers truly make such claim, they are peer-reviewed and their results can be replicated by other peer-reviewed researches, I still don’t see how it proves the dangers of single motherhood.

For misogynists, those studies affirm their preconceived beliefs about women, especially their supposed inherent incompetence in anything. For gullible people, they start thinking that the misogynists are on something.

But, for sceptical people who try their best embracing the complexity of reality, they won’t take the studies for granted and they acknowledge that no one and nothing lives in a vacuum.

They realise we are shaped not just by our homes, but also by our racial and ethnic backgrounds, our schools, work places, the media we consume, the dominant political and religious beliefs in our area, the political and religious beliefs we embrace, any places sociologists refer to as the “third places”, any thoughts we are exposed to, any interactions we immerse ourselves in.

If you are truly open-minded, you would not be too quick to blame something on only one factor, you would consider multiple of them.

You would not blame it entirely on single mothers, you would also hold other aspects of the society accountable for severely failing those fatherless children.

Yes, I know there are bloated elephants in the room: the absent fathers.

Unless the mothers slander the fathers and undeservingly end up with full custody of the children, we can definitely say the absent fathers are also a factor to consider. It is not the mothers’ faults that their partners died or were lost on the way to buy cigarettes.

I initially wanted to omit this, as it was too obvious and easy. But then, I remember the people who love demonising single motherhood never talk about negligent fathers and refuse to hold men accountable to anything. In the end, I have to state the obvious.

Now, for my anecdote as a son of a single mother.

I was very young when my father died, I don’t have a single memory of him. I started to long for a father figure when I was a teenager. Inexplicably, that longing feeling died out after I graduated high school.

Now, as a thirty-year-old man, I am glad I was raised by one parent. It is emotionally burdensome to face the demands from one parent. I cannot imagine facing demands from two!

I don’t know what kind of person he was. He might be able to balance my mom’s burdensome bearing. But, it is also possible he was either equally burdensome or my mom’s biggest apologist. Considering what kind of person my mom is, you have to be either toxic or permissive with toxicity in order to enjoy her presence, let alone marrying her.

Oh, and so-called manliness is not a concern. For one, I don’t give a fuck about conforming to an arbitrary and ever-changing gender role. But, even if I do, my conservative mom loves upholding gender roles anyway. She loves shaming me every time I show lack of interest in anything automotive and outdoor-related… or, more frequently, show my fear of height.

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My thoughts about the Try Guys

Since I watched Shane Dawson’s conspiracies and ghost-hunting videos, I cannot help myself from judging the critical thinking of my favourite entertainers, including the Try Guys. Sadly, scientific scepticism is not their forte.

And it is ironic because Ned is a Yale chemistry graduate and he fails to bring scientific scepticism to the group (a good reason to not worship people’s educational backgrounds). There are some videos where the guys take the words of so-called experts for granted. But, I think the video that sticks out the most is the acupuncture one.

Admittedly, this is one of the most entertaining Try Guys videos, mostly because of how Eugene’s discomfort juxtaposes with the others’ comfort and the acupuncturist’s charm and wit. But, I am also annoyed by how quickly they accepted the validity of acupuncture.

They could claim they felt the qi flowing inside them. But, there is such thing as placebos. Just because one feels better, that does not mean one actually gets better. You feel better after the treatment because you believe it works.

Okay, I just watched the video again and I was wrong about Ned not being sceptical. He actually was, even though he eventually changed his mind. He and the others might actually feel something. But still, I doubt they were feeling the qi.

Even though I am no biologist, I do know our bodies have sensory neurons all over. So, when one gets stabbed by pointy objects, one ought to feel something; no sensations means one is medically fucked. The sensation they were feeling might be the acupuncturist messing with their nervous systems. But, all four of them failed to realise that which inevitably led to their acceptance of alternative medicine.

I also have another less consequential problem with the Try Guys. On Youtube, there are videos exposing how unfunny the quartet is. Even though I haven’t watched a single one of those videos, I do understand why some people think that way.

Sometimes, when they have guests on their shows, they don’t even bother to read the room; they clearly make jokes only for their online audience, not the one right in front of them. As a result, I often see the guests looking awkward; it somewhat reminds me of Rhett and Link, whose antics have been known to put off some of their guests.

I know I sound a bit too harsh on them. I make it sound like they are unfunny idiotic hacks. In actuality, I don’t believe they are.

Despite the presence of thoughtless jokes, there is also an abundance of wits. In fact, I notice the guys have become wittier as time goes by; they have been entertainers long before their fame, giving them many years to learn. Not to mention there are also guests whose sense of humour is in tune with theirs.

I also cannot be certain about their idiocy. Regarding their validation of acupuncture, it is hard to say if they were being sincere; they might try to not offend the charming and seemingly-nice acupuncturist. Or maybe, they changed their mind about its cogency after they recorded the video. Basically, we should never take people’s words for granted, especially if they are public figures who are known for carefully maintaining their images.

But, even if they are indeed easily duped by pseudoscience, I still refuse to call them entirely idiotic. I mean, they are content creators who maintain their success even after leaving a big corporation that can generously provide resources for their endeavours. If anything, I believe their quality increases after their departure.

In general, the content of their videos can be described as escapist fun with occasional bouts of seriousness; the seriousness often includes topics like health, gender, immigration and even the Try Guys’ own personal lives. They have been thematically consistent throughout the years. But, their professional independence does bring changes to their videos.

First of all, they have bent their definition of ‘trying things’, as shown by the time when they tried to make Eugene AKA Mr. Aloof to sit on Keith’s lap; despite its bizarre yet oddly wonderful pointlessness, the video -which some fans consider as simultaneously the best and the worst- lives up to the group’s name (kinda). Because of that one video, I am expecting more of such outlandishness in the future.

Second, fans have been noticing how the Try Guys have been more carefree than ever. The thing is Keith, Ned and Zach have always been exuberant and I never notice any notable increase in their carefreeness. But, when it comes to emotionally-reserved Eugene, I do notice the change.

Some fans believe the independence, no matter how stressful it can be, is a joyfully liberating thing to have in one’s grasp. Others believe he exaggerated his stand-offish personality just to make Buzzfeed videos more entertaining. I personally speculate that Eugene is happier because he felt he was constantly being used as a clickbait by his former employer.

It is also possible his increasing devil-may-care attitude has nothing to do with his professional life. Nevertheless, I cannot help myself from thinking how plausible those speculations are. Of course, as they are speculations, I must refrain myself from accepting them as the absolute truths. But, as much as I love seeing the goofy side of Eugene, there is a third change that I love the most: the videos’ durations and narrative chronologies.

During the Buzzfeed years, the videos have varied durations; some are as short as two minutes while others are over twenty-minutes long. But, I notice the less-ten-minutes-long ones dominate the playlist. The videos’ storylines are also predominantly linear.

After leaving Buzzfeed, their videos’ narratives have become more nonlinear and the durations have become significantly longer; most of their videos are over ten minutes long with the short ones being a tiny minority. While some may find these aspects too trivial to concentrate on, I think they have greatly enhanced the quality of the content.

More nonlinearity means less sluggish pacing and more enhanced conveyance of emotions, consequentially creating a more captivating storytelling. I also love the challenge (if one can call it that) of deciphering timelines of nonlinear stories without the help of time stamps and, thankfully, Try Guys’ nonlinear videos almost never have them; I hate the unnecessary usage of time stamps as it discourages the audience to take more heed of what they are watching.

More time span means more capacity to showcase more content (obviously); it prevents the feeling of hastiness, it does not keep viewers out from more interesting happenings and, most importantly, it allows the Try Guys to convey a wider range of emotions. I still stand to my earlier description about how their content is mostly fun and occasionally serious moments. But, thanks to the longer durations, there are more manifestations of grave emotions.

Buzzfeed Try Guys videos are like the typical American sitcoms; their seriousness is so rare that they are still considered as comedies. Post-Buzzfeed Try Guys videos remind me of Marvel movies; while light-hearted and may be seen as overrated by some, the mixture of jokes and emotional depths easily put them in the drama-comedy category (if drama-comedy also includes non-fiction).

Dramedy is one of my favourite genres ever. Light-hearted enough to not take itself too seriously, sombre enough to emanates and encourages thoughtfulness. It has the best of both worlds… and I fear the Try Guys will choose only one in the future. The fear comes from them being featured on Youtube Rewind 2018.

In case you don’t remember, Youtube Rewind 2018 is something that can only be described as Youtube’s shameless effort to embrace advertising-friendliness by the means of disregarding the real circumstances of the Youtube communities. If you were a content creator who had never expressed discontent against the establishment or whose content was never deemed controversial, you would be the platform’s golden children.

You would never experience involuntary demonetisation and suffer any consequences for breaking any rules, ensuring a constant stream of fame and fortune. Such privilege is encapsulated by being featured on Youtube Rewind 2018. Basically, the Try Guys haven’t offended the Youtube establishment. Yet.

Of course, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with not being openly anti-establishment. The problem is not being so comes with a lot of perks and those perks may discourage anyone from being more thoughtful and truthful. Frankly, I understand why anyone would keep their mouths shut, especially if one is a financially-independent content creator like the Try Guys.

As I have said multiple times before, their videos have no hesitance in embracing thoughtfulness. If they intend to stay as the establishment’s darlings, there is a possibility they will refrain themselves from creating meatier and riskier content… or worse, will remove the thoughtfulness altogether. But, at the same time, I am also glad they are Youtubers instead of Hollywood personalities.

One thing that I and many other fans love about the Try Guys is their embodiment of healthy masculinity. They are willing to try things many men will feel uncomfortable about, including wearing make-up, wearing women’s pants, getting nail extensions, naked wrestling, drag performances and wearing women lingerie. Their masculinity is anything but rigid (which really triggers Alpha-wannabes Youtubers). And, thankfully, Youtube allows this so-called gender ‘deviance’.

No matter how much you hate it, Youtube is certainly more socially progressive than Hollywood. On the website, members of racial, sexual and gender minorities can enunciate their own authentic and unfiltered voices, some members of the ‘beauty’ community (beauty does not refer to personalities) are men and, of course, male Youtubers are popular despite or probably because of their unorthodox masculinities.

Compare the situation to one of Hollywood, where cis-heteronormativity is still the law of the land, where the groundbreaking character Newt Scamander is considered a boring male lead protagonist for not fulfilling the gender stereotype; while the most outspoken figures are indeed progressives, many of the values imposed by the higher-ups are still very conservative and outdated. Hollywood still has a long way to go.

In the end, no matter how tyrannical Youtube can, it is still free enough for male Youtubers to express wholesome and undogmatic versions of masculinity. So, unless the higher-ups decide they want to impose puritanical gender norms on the platform, I will still love the Try Guys regardless.

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