On Culture, Ethics, & Responsibility

Had an interesting conversation with friends over the weekend. While discussion topics were ranged and scattered, there was one point in particular that managed to draw out some tangents. We came onto the subject of cultural genocide of the Native populations of North America by European settlers. Look your conversations would get weird around two in the morning too if influenced by Scotch, cigars, and cheap pizza.

The central argument/discussion point revolved around whether or not the deaths and atrocities of Native populations were defensible considering the eventual outcome. After all, the technological and social advances made by civilizations and societies cannot fully be divorced from the negative things they did in order to acquire the resources needed for advancement.

Obviously, these points and arguments are completely theoretical since we cannot go back and alter history, but the talk veered into modern examples like the disenfranchisement of foreign populations to serve our luxuries, the massive use of fossil fuels and natural resources causing climate change, etc. etc. Most would state a singular position and argue from there, but few situations are ever so simplistically black and white.

Yes, big box corporations hire foreign populations at discounted rates, but if they were not present there would not really be an economy to speak of in those regions. Yes, we burn immense amounts of coal on a daily basis, but do you want to go without cheap and more affordable electricity to power your life? These are unfortunate conversations we are going to keep having and will have to come to some sort of consensus because there will probably be a series of tipping points upcoming soon.

There was one example that came to mind that was not brought up during this discussion. Our medical technology is advancing exponentially to the point that we may someday be able to cure several ailments. Currently, there is an entire culture and community that rose from the needs of d/D/Hoh individuals. They have their own language, history, and, basically, culture. Now, assuming we could figure out a way to completely cure deafness and hard of hearing (and not the Cochlear implant thing that mildly adds some hearing back maybe), are we morally/ethically obligated to do so? Even if it results in cultural genocide, essentially?

I don’t have an answer. I really don’t. Frankly, it has been in the back of my head for the last 48 hours and I still have no clue what the correct answer would be. Would love to hear your thoughts on the subject below in the comments.


Lessons From…Paper Towns

I have just finished another John Green novel last week. Specifically, I read Paper Towns which I loved and highly recommend. Yeah, I read Young Adult fiction. Wanna make something out of it? Anyhow, while I was reading this book two things in particular stuck out to me, and, obviously, I felt the need, or urge if you will, to analyze them more in depth. Thus another post. As always SPOILERS ahead.

There will come a day when I do not use this picture as a spoilers warning; today is not that day.

There will come a day when I do not use this picture as a spoilers warning; today is not that day.

The narrative of Paper Towns revolves around the mystery of Margo Roth Spiegelman’s disappearance and the clues she has seemingly left behind for Quentin Jacobsen, a sort of childhood friend, concerning her sudden absence. The story then progresses through various adventures and inclusion of several characters, friends, and future potential allies in solving the great mystery of what happened to the elusive Margo Roth Spiegelman. It really is a great story that delves into some of the “big” questions of life and humanity through the lens of high school seniors and their particular world views. Usually that last bit is what alienates several potential readers away from the Young Adult genre, but in my opinion I honestly believe this exploration of life through the emotional uncertainty that traditionally accompanies teenage life actually makes for more interesting discussions and examinations. There is something pure in the naivety of teenagers that lacks the protective nature of ego adults have.

Moving on, the core of the mystery and narrative of the book concerns the way people view each other and, in many ways, themselves. I wish I could figure out a way to say it better, but the author does an impeccable job himself.

This is Lesson 1.

This is Lesson 1.

Every character in the novel has two selves, or two personas; one is the way they are seen and the other is how they see themselves. Neither version is completely accurate, but both personas influence each other and the actual person they are supposed to exemplify. For example, in the book Margo is seen as a fully different person by almost everyone she knows. To her parents, she is an irresponsible teenager whose actions are an affront to the family and their image. To her friends, and most other students, she is the popular, cool girl who rules the school. To Quentin, she is the perfect girl next door who is the love of his life. As the story progresses, all these images and versions fall apart and something remains from the rubble and ash. Now, these remains are not necessarily the ‘real’ Margo, but it is the closest anyone will see of what the ‘real’ Margo as it is a persona she chose outside the expectations and complications of others eyes and ideas and concerns.

It might seem a bit selfish for someone to just leave without warning or concern for others, but so what if it is? In her case, Margo does it under the best conditions. She is not married. She doesn’t have any kids. She doesn’t really have any responsibilities. To her friends, it seems like one of the worst betrayals she could have committed, but to her it was the only method of finally being her. After all, her friends were not losing Margo, but were losing their image of Margo which was more informed by them than by Margo. Sometimes the only way to really be who you are and meant to be is to simply leave and figure out who that really is.

This is not to say that the adventure Quentin and his friends went on didn’t matter or came to nothing which brings us to the next core principle found in the book. Again the author does a much better job than I.

This is Lesson 2.

This is Lesson 2.

The idea of paper towns in the book is from an old cartographer trick. Basically, map makers would make up cities and landmarks in their maps, so that if they found them in other maps, they would know that someone had stolen their work. Essentially, the paper towns were fake, imaginary things in the mind of the individuals who made them. The primary characters, particularly Margo, in the novel are paper towns themselves. They are amalgamations and creations of the people they interact with. Ultimately, as Quentin discovers, these versions of people we create are found to be fake and wanting and not at all the real person underneath. However, this is not the true importance of those relationships and encounters. The idea of the person might be ‘paper’ but the experiences and memories and moments we had with these individuals will far surpass the person and be far more influential in our development and lives than the people themselves.

After all, our memories are how we filter and learn from the experiences of life. If those memories are slightly different from reality, does it really matter since we still have those images of it in our heads? Thus Green’s words ring true that the memories remain and are what was important.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

On Perception & Interpretation

If you subscribe to any of the popular social media sites, then you probably have seen some discussion, analysis, or debate about one, if not all, of the following pieces of media; Mad Max: Fury Road, the latest Game of Thrones episode, or the Bad Blood music video.

Basically, the main disagreement has revolved around feminist, or anti-feminist, depictions in these pieces of media and entertainment. I am not going to get into that debate because, frankly, I have nothing to really add as individuals who study and are entrenched in feminist discourse have much better points to make than I. However, I find the entire ongoing debate interesting.because it demonstrates the dissidence and various perceptions people have over ideology and interpretations of media.

This is one of the main reasons why I always have a slight smirk when people ask me to justify why I studied English, Literature, Media, and Communication in school. It’s due to shit like this. A single film or song or television show or art piece or etc. has so many different audience responses that universally have almost nothing to do with the actual piece of media that is being discussed. For the most part, the people arguing already have a point they are trying to make and are simply using the movie to boost their original position.

Now, this is not to imply that either group is wrong or right; merely that, like so many aspects of culture and life, interpretation is up to the observer. And the result of that observation and interpretation says more about the witness than the thing being observed. Their decisions and observations are influenced and formed by their background. A lot of people, for some reason, don’t seem to take that into account when analyzing and discussing media.

So, keep having discussion, debates, and conversations about media through every possible lens. Why? Because doing so shows the legitimacy of media and entertainment and, more importantly, legitimate criticism improves art. It seems counter productive, but it is the truth. The only way to improve, to get truly better, is for your mistakes, your errors, your faults to be exposed. Then, and only then, can any artist really make their work better.

Or at least that is what I hope.

Lessons From Daredevil (Netflix not Affleck)

First off, if you have not yet seen the incredible Daredevil series on Netflix, what the actual fuck is wrong with you?! Now, if you do not have Netflix or for whatever cannot access the site, then yeah, okay, that makes sense. Otherwise, seriously what is wrong with you? If you have liked any Marvel property up to this point, you’ll like Daredevil. If you have become annoyed with Marvel properties getting bigger and seemingly more and more unsustainable, you’ll really like Daredevil. If you like quality television and story telling, you’ll love Daredevil. Basically, watch the show. Now. Here’s a taste:

C’mon, you know you want to see this series now, am I right? Of course, binge watching (kind of hate that this is the phrase we went with as a means of communicating watching an obsessive, possibly unhealthy, amount of television) the entire series got me thinking about a few of the interesting points and characters of the show. Thus, I decided to write on it because it is what I do. As always SPOILERS ahead.

Maybe I should've found a Deadpool pic or something for this one.

Maybe I should’ve found a Deadpool pic or something for this one.

The bulk of this post will be focusing on the last episode in the first season (S1 E13) “Daredevil.” So again, kind of major spoilers for both the episode and the series. Just so you know.

The season finale is a grand culmination of the slow burning battle between Matt Murdoch/Daredevil and Wilson Fisk (the not yet named as Kingpin of Crime). Although Fisk is never called Kingpin, his Machiavellian tendencies of playing players and events from the background are apparent throughout the series since his introduction. Furthermore, the entire series tends to focus on the dichotomy between Murdoch and Fisk. In their own way, both individuals do want to help Hell’s Kitchen, their home, to improve.

The major difference is that Murdoch believes that Hell’s Kitchen improves by helping the people within it to make their lives, homes, and circumstances better. On the other hand, Fisk believes in the gentrification ideal of improvement in the sense of improving the buildings, roads, and infrastructure (while lining his own pockets to a large degree) which, in turn, will bring a better class of people and culture to Hell’s Kitchen. Obviously, these two philosophies are diametrically opposed and lead to conflict.

Don't be fooled. Kingpin is light on his feet and punches like a world class boxer.

Don’t be fooled. Kingpin is light on his feet and punches like a world class boxer.

Now, it is rather reductive to simply place Murdoch and Fisk as opposite sides of the same coin or some other cliche, but it is very accurate in its presentation. There ideologies are different, but both characters share similar personalities particularly in their single mindedness and focus. Both their developments into the people they are informed by their relationships with their respective fathers and a major event that became a defining moment during adolescence. The finale episode in season one, along with a big battle between them, also culminates in both Murdoch and Fisk accepting their true core natures. After all both characters have dealt with internal turmoil over their desires, appetites, and willingness to obtain what they really want which brings us to the first lesson: We all succumb to our true natures, eventually.

No matter how cultured, civilized, refined, or educated we attempt to become, we never escape our true selves. This is also true and applicable to anything we might use to define ourselves or the cultures and activities we take an interest in. I can put on a suit and as much of a neutral accent as possible, but eventually my preference for jeans, love of swearing, and slight Texas twang will come through. This might seem like a simplistic example but internal, existential ideas are just as applicable. Similarly for Matt, it is finally admitting that he has the same brawler spirit his father had. As well, that while he does enjoy helping his city, part of the reason why he puts on a mask and goes out at night is simply because he really enjoys hitting people that kind of deserve it. For Fisk, it is coming to terms with the kind of man he really is. He is not meant for the light. His place is in the shadows. More importantly, he is not the savior of the city he saw himself as. Fisk realizes that he is the demon and evil he claimed he was trying to rid the city of in one of the best scenes of recent television.

Somehow Vincent D'Onofrio manages to pull off the whole smart and scary thing.

Somehow Vincent D’Onofrio manages to pull off the whole smart and scary thing.

I wish I could link a video to the short dialogue I am going to transcribe because D’Onofrio plays it beautifully.

[Wilson Fisk]: I was thinking about a story from the Bible.

[Guard 1]: Did I tell you to open your mouth?

[Guard 2]: Let him talk. Don’t mean nothin’.

[Wilson Fisk]: I’m not a religious man… but I’ve read bits and pieces over the years. Curiosity more than faith. But this one story… There was a man. He was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho… when he was set upon by men of ill intent. They stripped the traveler of his clothes, they beat him, and they left him bleeding in the dirt. And a priest happened by… saw the traveler. But he moved to the other side of the road and continued on. And then a Levite, a religious functionary, he… came to the place, saw the dying traveler. But he too moved to the other side of the road, passed him by. But then came a man from Samaria, a Samaritan, a good man. He saw the traveler bleeding in the road and he stopped to aid him without thinking of the circumstance or the difficulty it might bring him. The Samaritan tended to the traveler’s wounds, applying oil and wine. And he carried him to an inn, gave him all the money he had for the owner to take care of the traveler, as the Samaritan, he… continued on his journey. He did this simply because the traveler was his neighbor. He loved his city and all the people in it. /(sighs deeply)/ I always thought that I was the Samaritan in that story. It’s funny, isn’t it? How even the best of men can be… deceived by their true nature.

[Guard 1]: What the hell does that mean?

[Wilson Fisk]: It means that I’m not the Samaritan. That I’m not the priest, or the Levite. That I am the ill intent… who set upon the traveler on a road that he should not have been on.


Yes. I know it’s long, but the whole speech is necessary to make the following two lessons make full sense. It demonstrates the strength and power of both lies and truth and shows how ideologies and beliefs and faiths and the teachings of those things can be formed for one’s intent and purpose. First off, Wilson fully believed in his self falsity of savior of city. This pushed him to actually try to help his city. His efforts and tactics were misguided but would have been effective in improvement to some degree. As well, he faced the light and become the face of reform as a means of guiding the city more effectively. Ultimately, this fails and Wilson resorts to fully embracing his identity as a villain or “ill intent”. It is also his mantra that will keep him sane and powerful in prison ready to attack and seek revenge after his incarceration ends.

The next point is more interesting, at least to me. Fisk admits that he is not a religious man nor does he seem like a scholar of theology, but this text made an impression on him. For a long time, he used it as a guiding rod. He was supposed to be the good Samaritan helping his neighbor. All his actions and deeds were justified, or at least deemed acceptable, because he saw himself through that lens. Once he can no longer delude himself, he shifts his position in the story to the villain who took from the man traveling the road and left him for dead. In a matter of minutes, Fisk shifted his personal world view while still using the exact same biblical story. Which is kind of the point of philosophical and religious teachings; their malleability and allowance for interpretation makes them applicable to whatever the hell you want to say or believe in. Thus, it is not necessarily the texts that impart wisdom, morality, beliefs, or values, but, instead, it is the people that apply their own wisdom, morality, beliefs, and values onto the texts they read.

I think this is what made the series so damn enjoyable; the full characterization and agency of the villain, and to a large extent the secondary characters like Karen and Foggy as well. Most characters, especially heroes, are defined by their conflicts and obstacle and their response to these complications. In superhero stories, your hero is only as good or interesting as his foes. In real life, we grow, evolve, and show our true potential in the face of adversity and conflict. It suck, but doesn’t make it any less true.

Thus endeth today’s lesson(s). Also, go watch Daredevil. It is so good!

On Obsession

I have written on the subject of obsession before, sort of, but it came back to mind after watching the incredible film, Whiplash. GO, WATCH THIS MOVIE! It is just fucking amazing and deserving of all the accolades and notoriety it received. I won’t spoil anything, however the basic narrative revolves around Andrew (Miles Teller) trying to become one of the greatest jazz drummers ever under the tutelage of the iron fist of Professor Fletcher (J.K. Simmons).

Quick Note: There might be some SPOILERS in this post, so if that is going to be a problem for you STOP reading. Go see the movie and then come back and read this.

Yeah, that is pretty much their entire relationship and the movie in a nutshell. In essence, the core of the film centers around questions concerning concepts like genius, nature versus nurture, obsession versus devotion, and what it takes to reach one’s full potential.

Andrew wants to be one of the greats. It is not enough for him to be good, or even great. He aspires to be one of the immortals who is remembered for decades after his death. He wants his name spoken of with the same reverence as Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, and other greats musicians. He desires this so much that he becomes obsessed to the detriment of everything else in his life. Romance, sanity, health; everything is secondary to Andrew’s goals of being the greatest drummer.

The best part of the film is that this is not simply hyperbole or wish fulfillment. Andrew does not just become an awesome musician because he is the protagonist. Nope, not that kind of movie. Instead, the audience is treated to the hours long sessions of him practicing in a small room (even sleeping with his drum set to have as many hours of practice available) sweating profusely until his hands are blistered and calloused and bleeding. There is no glory or pomp or circumstance just the pain and blood and agony of drilling every movement into his muscles improving incrementally, or at least attempting to.

Then there is Professor Fletcher’s involvement. He, like Andrew, wants to achieve greatness. However, he is not striving to be one of the great musicians but instead to find and create the next great talent. He pushes his students beyond their breaking points; physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is the equivalent of cutting and forming a diamond in order to get the “flawless” stone. We are led to believe that Fletcher’s methods are cruel and cause horror and terror among his students, but they also seem to be effective to some extent. Or at least it suggested they might be by the film’s conclusion.

This obsession with greatness is Andrew’s driving force (and Fletcher’s as well) and it kind of makes sense to me. I know this film should be taken as a sort of cautionary tale, but honestly to achieve anything, much less be great at something, requires a certain amount of sacrifice. Yes, it appears the Andrew has lost a great amount due to his desires and obsessions, but they were things, people, relationships he willingly let go of.

There are countless examples of aspiring individuals asking well known established artists the age old question, or some variant of, “How do I become like you and achieve your level of success?” The answer is always the same, “Go do it.” I know it sounds trite and cliche, but it is the most honest response anyone could give. Their is no road map to success, especially in artistic fields, but the one common factor among every great writer, poet, musician, singer, dancer, and artist was that individual working their ass off to get where they ended up.

Did other factors play a role? Of course, but even so they worked and worked and continue to do so. That is what made them great. Andrew’s path is just the culmination of that philosophy. Does he already have some inane talent? Possibly, but at that high level where everyone has talent, commitment and work, to an obsessive nature, separate the elite from the great.

Obviously, the criticism would come of whether such devotion is healthy or recommended. Frankly, I don’t know. Would someone with such a singular focus and purpose have a “happy” and fulfilled life? Depends on what that means to an individual. All I can say is that I understand why someone would desire to be so great at something that everything else would be forgotten. Would I recommend someone do that? I don’t know. Nor do I think I would try to “fix” or help someone who was going down that path.

So what do you all think? Is there anything in this world that you would pursue with such blind obsession in order to obtain it? What would you be willing to sacrifice to achieve it?

Looking forward to your responses.

Lessons From…Longmire

Like most Texans, I have an odd fascination and relationship with Westerns, in any medium. When done by an obvious outsider, they are at best pastiche or generic “cowboy” stories without really getting the nuances and subtleties of a true stoic, rugged, cowboy character. Thankfully, Longmire manages to capture this visage, and the necessary accompanying elements, without becoming cliche or kitschy.

Obviously, I marathoned the series as soon as it appeared on Netflix, still available by the way, in order to prepare for the upcoming fourth season on the the streaming service. Of course, a few episodes stood out and the desire to examine them at length would not leave my head, thus this post. As always SPOILERS ahead.

I wonder if I owe anyone money from using this image so much...

I wonder if I owe anyone money from using this image so much…

While I highly recommend a viewing of the entire series, I will be focusing on a single episode for this analysis; specifically the fifth episode of season one title “Dog Soldier.” The premise/synopsis of the episode is pretty simple, if not unfortunately tragic. Cheyenne children, stolen from their families on the Cheyenne reservation, are then taken from the orphanage/foster homes they are placed in by a man referred to as the “Dog Soldier,” the last member of a band of brave, defiant Cheyenne warriors hunted down and executed by the US government for fear of what they represented (at least in the history and narrative of the show). Although this story makes for intriguing drama, it is sadly too truthful, and not just as historical reminder but as a present problem and issue.

Been protesting since this country began and shit hasn't changed much.

Been protesting since this country began and shit hasn’t changed much.

Which brings us to the first lesson: We must wake up, face the mistakes we are complacent in, and correct them. These types of situations can’t even be considered repeating mistakes of the past as that would imply that those errors were actually fixed at one point. Honestly, Native/Indigenous people are still getting screwed over by governments at every level (google Mauna Kea & protests) as a means of acquiring what they have and converting the Native population into “civilized” individuals, i.e. carbon copies of WASP’s without the same privileges. I don’t know how long such actions will continue, but as the series, and life, demonstrates the people will never stay down and will fight back for what is theirs; as well they should.

Beyond the initial narrative, the episode also introduces a favorite subject of most audiences: vigilante justice. Once the core group of protagonists learn of the description of the “Dog Soldier,” Longmire and Henry, his Indian sidekick (look the show isn’t perfect), realize it is Hector, a vigilante of the reservation. He basically gets justice/revenge for people by beating the shit out of those who did them wrong when the law is unable or unwilling to do what is right. As Henry states, “Hector is a sad necessity of rez life.” Longmire reluctantly agrees but still has to find and question Hector. Entertainment is filled with such characters that work outside the realm of law and order to fill the gaps the system has left. This inundation of such figures leads to a conclusion: We believe that the justice system we have created is flawed and wanting and we believe that a lone figure can force fair, ordered justice by sheer force and will. It is the American dream and notion that a singular person can make a difference, but it also abdicates responsibility on our part in how or why the system is broken. We can complain about the injustice of it and wait for the vigilante hero to come; all the meanwhile doing nothing to actually correct and fix what we have let be broken. Perhaps, the actual lesson should be to take action and forget complacency.

Hector is the big, scary one that can crush your head with his fist. We could all use a Hector from time to time.

Hector is the big, scary one that can crush your head with his fist. We could all use a Hector from time to time.

The episode ends pretty commonly with the children being returned to their families and the responsible parties being arrested and brought to (actual, non-vigilante) justice. However, there is an interesting, if admittedly a little heavy handed, monologue that Longmire says to the main antagonist of the episode, the social worker who took all the Cheyenne children from their families for profit (it’s explained in the episode, I swear). As I said, the whole speech is a bit long winded, but it boils down to an intimidation tactic where Longmire insinuates that all the chaos and violence and actions that occurred over the last few days may have actually been the spirit of the “Dog Soldier” working through people like Hector and Longmire to help its people in their time of need. It is not apparent if he honestly believes this (particularly considering his own visions, past, and connection with Cheyenne culture and traditions) or if he is simply trying to trick the social worker into turning herself in.

This is not metaphor. This actually happened in the show. Like I said, it's not perfect.

This is not metaphor. This actually happened in the show. Like I said, it’s not perfect.

But maybe that is not the right takeaway from Longmire’s speech. Perhaps he offers one of the best explanations of the supernatural to be given on television: maybe there is no “spirit” working but instead it is people finding strength, conviction, and purpose in the spirit and meaning of those supernatural stories. After all, the “Dog Soldier” is supposed to protect the Cheyenne from harm and evil, so does it matter if it was Hector and Longmire who did the heavy lifting as long as the Cheyenne ended up safe and righteous? If the stories inspired them, isn’t the “Dog Soldier” still, in some way, doing his duty?

Thus endeth today’s lesson(s).

On Motivation/Self-Help

Today for work, I had to attend mandatory “Professional Development Day.” It is honestly the most backward ass, non-term imaginable. The definitions of ‘professional’ and ‘development’ are questionable at best as far as this event is considered. Basically, I have to go to several seminars where people discuss ideas as to how to improve my ability to teach. It would be wonderful if that actually happened, but more often than not it ends up being a huge waste of time. Seriously, I was just checking out social media on my tablet the entire time. Honestly, I think the reason for this is my work’s weird obsession with hiring motivational speakers to come in and “advise” and motivate us.

When did the motivational speaker movement begin? Really, who figured out that racket and realized they could make bank for talking without actually offering anything. Now, obviously, I may be a little critical of the position and function of motivational speakers (similar to my thoughts on self-help industry which will come up in a moment), but shouldn’t we be? I mean what do they actually do?

Sure, they go to organizations and speak for a few hours to motivate the employees/workers there while shilling their, usually, self-published books on whatever bullshit philosophy they have been spouting. Yeah, I am not a fan of motivational speakers but not without good reason. These are not coaches or mentors; they are simply cheerleaders that don’t stay for the conclusion of the game.

I get that people need a boost every once in a while, but what is more useful is actual knowledge and skills and purpose to work toward and with. If all you have to offer is an encouraging word then get the fuck out of here. I can watch an inspirational video on YouTube of different animal species becoming unlikely friends. It provides the exact same endorphins and motivation as a speaker at a heavily reduced rate. Same thing applies to self-help books. Most offer nothing than useless maxim and platitudes without substance. Besides, wouldn’t the type of person seeking self-help not really be the best suited to take information from a book and apply it to their lives? After all, if they were capable of helping themselves in such a manner, why are they buying the books in the first place?

Truly that is my biggest complaint about 99% of the self-help/motivational industry: lack of substance. There are some within this industry of appearances, books, audios, etc. that offer legitimate help and methods of improving one’s self and/or prospects, but most offer nothing and charge ridiculous amounts of money for the privilege of giving you that nothing. In reality, even for the few genuine people within the motivational/self-help industry, the biggest scam is that none of it will be effective without you.

You could read every book, listen to every audio/podcast, do every recommended task/activity, and even have a one on one session with Tony fucking Robbins, and it would not matter jack shit if you are unwilling to change. That is the big kicker. It’s all meaningless because ultimately the impetus for actual, legitimate change and motivation will always be internal. There might be external desires and wants that push you further, but the improvement and change will always come from internal forces and needs.

What do you think? Am I, perhaps, being a bit too harsh and critical of the self-help/motivational industry? Not critical enough? Let me know.