Category Archives: Culture and Society

Staying Home Update #1

March 23, 2020

Culture and Society

I am currently one among millions of people around the world staying home right now to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This week and at various intervals over the next couple of months, I want to share my experiences while the world waits for this pandemic to pass.

For the record, I have always been an introvert at my core. I see this time as an opportunity to return to my inward-facing roots, despite having been a performing musician and college student. The timing of this call to shelter at home is actually quite fitting at this stage of my life. Last December (a mere three months ago or so), I graduated from college. I earned a degree in Video and Film Production from Middle Tennessee State University. This means that I’ve been repeatedly asking myself the question “Okay, what now?” ever since and wondering if my degree will basically be useless as we sift through the carnage of this unprecedented pandemic.

Well, for the next few weeks of self-isolation, I have more time to think about my future and how I can apply what I learned in college toward work that earns an income but also feels creatively fulfilling. That’s been on my mind a lot. I’ve been journaling a bit, staring out at the forest that beckons beyond the wrap-around deck of my woodland home, and mostly dreaming. I take a bunch of photos on my DSLR camera as well as edit a couple of film projects I’ve been working on. I am thankful that I now have the time to ruminate.

I also had to cancel a couple of out-to-town trips I had been planning for a while—one to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday and another to film a music video. I’m hoping to carry on with both prospects eventually.

Otherwise, I’ve been neglecting my Netflix feed in favor of books. So far this year, I have read twelve books. I wonder if that makes me a bad filmmaker if I’d rather read a book than watch a movie. So be it, I suppose.

Since I am not able to actually go to a library at the moment, I’ve been using my active free memberships to three different library systems. Here in Middle Tennessee, that would be Davidson County/Nashville, Rutherford County/Murfreesboro, and Cannon County/Woodbury. Their digital collections can be accessed both online and through an app on my phone. I hunt for books that I want to read on all three systems, and I am able to get what I want pretty easily. Did I mention that all of this is free? (Eat your heart out, Netflix monthly fee!! MINERVA!!)

Over the last few days, I’ve also been trying to engage in activities that reduce anxiety AF. The looming threat of contracting a lethal virus that has already killed THOUSANDS of people is kind of wigging me out. So, what does that look like? Pacifist bullet points please . . .

  • Cat cuddling. Yup, you read that right. No, I am not part of the furry community, and I marginally don’t believe that cats are supremely superior over all other species. I simply just LOVE TO CUDDLE WITH THEM SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!! So. Damn. Much. UUUGGHH . . . Now, it doesn’t help that my cat Steinway is extremely affectionate and likes to plop on my face when I sleep at night. It also doesn’t help that we have 4 cats who live with us. Ugh. UUUGGGHHH!!!
  • I play solitaire. Left-handed (of course!) and with an actual deck of cards AF. There is something strangely calming about this game even though I legit lose 99.99999999% of the time. Okay, so I’m pretty terrible at it (obvs), but it’s one of the most zen-like and calming activities I’ve ever come across. The physical act of laying the cards down and slowly contemplating each option and move is strangely relaxing. Who knew?
  • I play music. Specifically, on the piano, cello, and ukulele. I play piano the most, but I practice on the other two as often as I can. Playing music is my emotional-release valve. I can sit at my piano, sing my heart out, and let my feelings wash all over me. It’s important to have an outlet like this, and this is mine. I mostly sing as I play and run through the catalog of original songs that I have written. This heals my spirit in times like these.
  • Staying in touch with friends and family. (AKA Making sure my people are ok). This involves lots of text messaging and phone calls, but I’m about to use Zoom a whole heck of a lot AF! In lieu of actually seeing friends and loved ones in person, this is the next best thing.

There are other activities like knitting, self-care, exercise, and secretly devouring a whole tub of peanut butter AF, but the four bulleted ones are among the most prominent.

Incidentally AF, what am I trying NOT to do while I am self-imprisoning? Again, non-violent bullet points please . . .

  • Endlessly scrolling through my Facebook and Instagram feeds. I already have a love/hate relationship with social media. I see them as our modern-day Big Brother. They are so darn addictive, and that bothers me. So yeah, trying (and sometimes failing) to NOT do that.
  • Become consumed over my anxiety about the coronavirus. This is a tough one. Not only do I want to avoid dying a painful death all alone in a hospital, but I also fear for my elderly loved-ones and friends. I’m trying to stay calm, but this is difficult.
  • Become obsessed with productivity. Prior to graduating, I worked my smooth Asian ass off!! I attended every class and aced virtually everything. (Not to brag of course, but I earned every damn A that I got.) Ultimately though, I payed a heavy price for this. My social life and valuable connections with friends tanked, and I became overly preoccupied with being productive ALL OF THE TIME AF. This isn’t healthy because there is immense value in chillaxing and doing nothing whenever possible. I missed out on a lot of chillaxing and fun in college, and now, I make it an intention every day to have time to take naps, stare at my foot, or literally do absolutely nothing at all. Yup.

Well, that’s my life so far as I am at the beginning stages of my stay-at-home-self-sheltering-try-not-to-die-of-the-plague stupor. I hope you find your own way through these uncertain times. Take a moment to be thankful for your health and for the privilege of having a boring afternoon. Sadly, some of us do not have that luxury any more.

Until the next update, cuddle away!!

-Roqué

Compassion In the Age of the Coronavirus

March 16, 2020

Culture and Society

With the onslaught of the Coronavirus, the realities of daily life all over the world are quickly changing. The traditional ways that we as human beings interact must be adjusted into what feels like an impersonal and counterintuitive model. The life-affirming connections that simple handshakes and hugs foster must stop completely. People have to stay several feet apart out in public while not touching their faces. It seems safer to assume that everyone has it and to let this color how you carry out any interactions with people.

What I find the most troublesome about these necessary precautions is how they might encourage people to harbor a panic-driven fear of the disease and each other. By and large, interactions fueled by fear can open the door to racism, violence, and all sorts of phobias and anxieties that simply do not do anyone any good.

As an alternative, I propose that we proceed into these scary and uncertain times with compassion in our hearts both for ourselves and everyone in our daily lives. This involves a shift in our mindset about the precautions we are all taking to safeguard our wellbeing.

Much talk is circulating about social distancing as a way to combat the exponential viral growth of this disease. Staying indoors and forbidding any interaction with the outside world is a core practice in this ideology. Rather than relegating this behavior to one based upon fear of others who have the contagion, I believe that it is rooted in a far more compassionate framework.

When we practice social distancing, we essentially limit the spread of the virus. This means that our healthcare system, including emergency rooms, respirators, medical staff, and other important resources, can be utilized by people who are truly at a greater risk of dying. The fewer infections there are, the more resources we have to save more lives. In a worst-case scenario, healthcare workers would have to pick and choose who is more deserving of treatment if all the available options become scarce. I cannot imagine having to make those kinds of choices.

Social distancing is an act of compassion because it makes resources more available once Covid-19 hits a critical mass. If I do not get sick, then that frees up medicine and a respirator for someone else (potentially even an elderly loved one) who desperately needs it to save their lives.

This is just one example of how we can understand the compassion behind the preventive measures we are taking to mitigate the rising catastrophe.

Ultimately, we all play a part in saving lives in our own communities with the precautions we take. Let your actions be guided by compassion, and hopefully, even with the inevitable casualties to come, we can prevent the devastation as much as we can humanely, respectfully, and with the dignity we all deserve.

-Roqué

People Are More Eloquent with Their Actions

March 2, 2020

Culture and Society

I have been thinking a lot lately about how I engage with people throughout my life. In addition to close friends and family members, I interact with various acquaintances and creative collaborators. It has often been a tricky thing for me to discern the intentions of others in order to decide whether or not he or she is someone who may offer up more harm than good.

Granted, I give everyone a solid chance first, but a little bit of observation can go a long way toward preventing drama and unnecessary hardship.

Outside of how they articulate their feelings, I pay closer attention to the non-verbal cues of how people communicate.

For example, do they hold open a door for the person behind them? Do they at least attempt to clean up a mess that they have made, such as offering to take their plate to the sink after dinner? Do they adhere to the rules that have been previously stated within a specific context, such as remembering to take off one’s shoes on subsequent visits after this request was first stated?

You can argue that these considerations may be quite minor, if not a bit nit-picky, but in my mind, they speak to the broader qualities that a person may possess. Kindness and a sense of courtesy can be exhibited when opening a door for someone else. Awareness and gratitude can be implicit components of wanting to help clear out and/or clean the dining table after a meal. Respect is conveyed when you honor the traditions of a different household by taking off your shoes upon entering.

These tiny acts can be far more eloquent than anything a person may say. Conversely, negative behavior also speaks volumes. Someone who makes a mess of a place without bothering to clean up betrays a degree of carelessness. Taking an unreasonably long time to return a borrowed object or pay someone back can be a similar statement.

For sure, we are often more attuned to the words we hear and the conversations we have because of the plainly spoken truths they provide. Paying attention to someone’s actions, however more difficult it may be, might be just as enlightening, if not more so.

Give it a try. Pay attention to what people do and see how it varies against what they say. The answers you find might surprise you.

-Roqué

The World That I Envision

February 17, 2020

Culture and Society

The year is 2020. I question how far we have actually evolved as creatures on this planet. Certainly, we can travel to outer space and fly, but is this as good as it gets? How do we determine what that “good” is?

As I see it, we exist far away from who we could become, and these are two issues that stand at the core of what holds us back:

  • We constantly repeat a history of greed and colonialism.
  • We have not learned how to innovate without harming our natural environment.

Whether by force or economic means, countries impose control and dominion over others just as they have in the past. Poor neighborhoods with affordable housing are being consumed by gentrification and grubby realtors. We are polluting our air and water, and our oceans have become dumping grounds for plastic that will take thousands of years to biodegrade. Entire generations of people are obsessed with their cell phones and social media. Multi-national corporations such as every oil and gas company, Apple, and Google use their expansive influence and unlimited resources to further their own agendas.

Perhaps it’s not all bad because there are genuinely decent and kind people in the world, but is that enough?

I have some ideas for a different future—one in which human civilization thrives harmoniously with the physical environment and compassion supersedes greed as an inherent motivator.

I envision a world in which . . .

  • All societies take the time to understand and celebrate the values of their indigenous roots.

    Long before the industrial age, indigenous communities thrived all over the world by carefully and thoughtfully utilizing the vast natural resources of our planet. They planted their own food and went on fishing and hunting expeditions. They lived in smaller, sustainable communities and were true stewards of the land and its resources. Sure, they never knew the pleasures of indoor plumbing and air conditioning, but they clearly were fine without any of those modern amenities. It would be worthwhile to study and understand how these communities achieved so much with so much less than we have now.

  • We would get rid of cars.

    The invention of the automobile changed the trajectory of our modern lives. While I am grateful that it eliminated the use of cruel horse-drawn carriages, it created a Mount Everest-sized mountain of other problems. Instead of the more sustainable system of trains and railways that America and many other countries were using, the whole world switched to using cars which needed paved roads everywhere, hundreds of thousands of miles of highways in constant need of expensive upkeep/repairs, countless acres of land used for parking lots, air pollution due to smog from cars, landfills with millions of old and unused vehicles, daily car accidents all over the world that have killed and/or injured thousands upon thousands of people, and lastly, billions of dollars we all spend on gas, oil changes, tires, insurance, and so much more.

    Imagine what we could do with all of that land that we need for parking and highways? More green spaces? Schools? Playgrounds? Imagine how much money you could save not having to pay for a car? The possibilities are endless. We have sacrificed too much to have this convenience. Let’s bring back our trains and railways everywhere.

  • All municipalities would impose strict limits on housing rental rates.

    The concept of affordable housing is becoming more of a myth in virtually every developed country in the world. Rents increase, and this creates a flood of new problems. Poor communities (mostly immigrants and people of color) are priced out of their homes and displaced. Property values increase so much that only the absurdly wealthy can live comfortably in a good area (I’m looking at you San Francisco). Class lines become more clearly defined along racial lines. The creative class of artists (musicians, writers, visual artists) have to relocate, and this sucks the vibrancy and life out of a community.

    So, what if we had reasonable limits on what people could charge for rent? It would be a step forward toward creating a more equitable housing market that is sustainable for the long term. Families who need homes take care of their neighborhoods across several generations. Corporations that buy out entire neighborhoods only want the money.

I could go on endlessly, but these are just some of the ideas I have for a world that I envision. I write all of this to plant these ideas into the collective awareness of what we know.

Let’s use our powerful imaginations and ingenuity to do right by our planet and our future generations of humans. Our greed may only lead us to our demise, but compassion for all things can unlock limitless possibilities.

-Roqué

Do Not Get Your News From Social Media

February 9, 2020

Culture and Society

During the last presidential election cycle here in the United States, it has been confirmed by several reputable news sources and government agencies that Russia tampered with our election. I do not know the full extent to which they did this, but one of the more notable ways was through social media.

This sounds like it came out of an espionage novel, but the truth can be as nefarious as fiction. Russian operatives created fake news sites and blasted Facebook and Twitter with stories that were aimed to dis-inform the general public with slightly skewed or blatantly false information. These stories and headlines were often shared and discussed by users of social media, and with enough time and replication, the perspectives of millions of people were influenced.

Now in 2020, we are approaching the apex of another presidential election cycle. If we do not learn from our mistakes of the past, we are woefully doomed to repeat them.

I have taken the following simple steps to avoid reading news on social media (These apply toward whichever poison you prefer be it Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram).

  • Limit time spent on social media.

    This is the first line of defense if you know in your soul that you cannot live without being on sites like Twitter and Instagram. The less time you spend on these sites, the smaller the likelihood that you will click on the sensational headlines that your friends share. It’s not likely that your friends are vetting the sources of these stories or the websites they came from, however benign your friends may be.

    Avoiding social media as much as possible will significantly minimize the possibility of disinformation spreading to your brain. Try limiting use to a specific time of day for only an hour. Leave your phone somewhere hard to reach. Do whatever it takes. It’s also likely that you’ll find something better to do with your time.

  • Be discerning about what you click and read on social media

    It’s one thing to read and comment on a personal story or anecdote that a friend shares. It is another thing entirely to click on the news links people display. Not only can these websites provide false or misleading information, but they can also have malware that can get into your computer. (Again, this sounds crazy, but the technology exists.) You do not have to click on any news headlines at all, but if you have to, proceed with caution and a questioning disposition.

    I find it much more useful to connect with friends about their lives than to discuss political opinions and news. That is the filter that I use to navigate through my feeds.

  • Use legitimate sources outside of social media to get your news.

    As the previous election demonstrates, the algorithms and technology behind social media cannot be trusted. When I disengage from the addictive cult fashioned by Mark Zuckerburg and other powers that be, I seek out actual news sites for detailed information and varying perspectives. This sounds like more effort, but that’s a small price to pay to avoid the mind control that social media seems to be intent on weaponizing.

Incidentally, here is a list of news sites that I like to frequent. Have a look if you are curious, and to make it more convenient, create a folder on your web browser’s “Favorites” list to house them all for easy access. (If you do not like any of these, proceed with caution and skepticism to find others.)

This year’s presidential election will be fraught with drama and noisy divisiveness. It will be more important than ever to be clearheaded and focused on the platforms of different candidates and how you feel about them.

Stay engaged and informed, and please, do not get your news from social media.

-Roqué