“Senioritis,” the Fear of Success, and Dawkins’ Memes

The King of Masks
The King of Masks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I turned in my film analysis for Relational Communication Theory today. The film that I used was The King of Masks. Unfortunately, I had to skip work and the class itself in order to finish it. The paper was, at least, well done.

There are some concerns with my Relational Comm class. I began the semester thinking it will be the easiest class to handle. The material is simple enough to understand, but the work is piling on top of me. For instance, I owe the professor three discussion papers and two abstract papers. The discussion papers are on the reading — something that I don’t do until the three or four days before an exam. The abstract papers, unfortunately, I have no excuse. I simply did not want to do them because they were pointless busywork. The reason why the professor assigned them were so we would start the research on our projects. I have already done that, so doing the abstracts serve no other purpose other than wasting my time.

My grade is on the line, and that is what is bothering me. One would think that I would be compelled to do even menial busywork if I was concerned about my grade. So, why procrastinate? Am I truly infected with “senioritis”? I hope not. There is still so much work to do.

My cousin Sheila called me the other night. That was an unexpected surprise. Her life is preoccupied by her sorority and, apparently, that has had a small effect on her grades. Though that may be true, working at a major in which she really isn’t passionate about doesn’t help either. I suggested for the millionth time that she change her major to music.

“I would like to,” she says. “But, how am I going to make any money? You have to be famous to do that.”
“Don’t you want to be famous?” I ask.
“Yes….” She pauses. So, I finish the sentence for her. “But, you don’t think you’ll get famous.”
“Right.”
“You shouldn’t think that.”

But she does, as we all do. We all fear not achieving our goals. Sometimes, that fear is strong enough to keep us from trying. This is my fear of success, and I’m sure others can relate, as well. We are people who seek happiness. Many of us don’t even know what would make us happy. For those lucky ones who know what they want, there are still problems. What do I have to do to reach those goals? What if I don’t know how to do what’s necessary? Those are legitimate fears. They are the very chains which bind so many of us who have goals to achieve.

“You needn’t worry about money,” I say to my cousin, finding those words ring hollow from my mouth. “Remember, you are a part of a Chinese family. You will never be without a place to live or food to eat.” Now, that, I do believe. One aspect of the Chinese culture that I would like to preserve in my family is mutual assistance. There is great security in knowing you have people who will help you when you are down.

There is a problem with that tradition, though. How do I deal with the freeloaders? When I become wealthy, how do I prevent family members from being reckless? Knowing that the family will bail them out, they might behave irresponsibly. This fear is not unfounded. There is precedence. My third family perpetuates this exploitative meme. [A “meme” is analogous to a gene. It is a term coined by Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene. He defines a meme as “a unit of intellectual or cultural information that survives long enough to be recognized as such, and which can pass from mind to mind.”] Back in the day when the sixth family was well-to-do, they agreed to stand in on the title for the house that the third family wanted to buy. In other words, on paper the sixth family owned the house, but in actuality the third family was making the payments.

One day, corporations decided to downsize. My sixth uncle was laid off, and he lost all his fringe benefits. Luckily, they had some money saved, but they were without any healthcare. If any one in his family got seriously ill, they would be in deep trouble. No one in the family has the free cash flow to pay for large medical bills. Needless to say, the sixth family was stressed. He wanted the third family to claim the house so his family did not look wealthier than it really is, but the third family refused. Not only did they refuse, but they had no sympathy for the sixth family’s situation. They did not even attempt to lighten their burden, knowing full well how much the sixth family has helped them in the past.

This is a meme that cannot be replicated. Families are supposed to help each other, but the security of mutual family assistance is threatened when a family that takes advantage of the group is not punished.

There must be a solution?

Marginalization of Women in Debate

“The debate world is a microcosm of the ‘real’ world,” said my debate partner this year, Kitt K. Nepotism influences how far one gets in a debate tournament just as it influences how far one rises in his/her career. Chauvinism is the attitude of the day. Sexual discrimination doesn’t exist per se, but manifests itself through the marginalization of a woman’s opinions.

For instance, Daerielle C. thought of a debate case where the U.S. government will allow federal funds to subsidize religious as well as secular child care centers. She suggests this to our egotistical assistant debate coach, Robert M. “Maybe,” he says. But, Daerielle can tell from his nonverbal behaviors that he doesn’t like the idea. Being the constructive coach Rob is, he doesn’t articulate why the case is a bad idea. Lo, and behold! Rob’s old protege, Matt D., comes along. Daerielle repeats the case idea to Mister Matt.

“Oh, you mean the recent Bush proposal where he only funds secular child care centers?” Matt says. “Include religious ones, huh? What a great idea!” Without even acknowledging that the idea was Daerielle’s in the first place, Rob turns to Matt and says, “Yeah, I think that is a great idea.”

That scene by itself might speak only to the amount of respect that Rob has for Daerielle. Maybe Rob just doesn’t think Daerielle is smart enough to come up with a case on her own? (That alternative is just as bad.) Yet, if one combines that scene with his self-disclosed chauvinism, belief that the woman’s role in debate is to appeal to female judges and make the team look P.C., and his general outlook of women as whiny, clingy, sexual objects, then he clearly marginalizes women.

From Rob, we see a general pattern with the male membership in debate. He and his cronies talk and drink together. Women are invited into their social circle not for the purpose of interaction, but intercourse. The men who are married are not exempt: they can fantasize intercourse with these women, or live vicariously through the stories of their playboy pals. Nevertheless, the women who enter the circle cannot but feel harassed. They are not accepted as people, but as objects. Ironically, the tournament actually held a conference, Gender in Debate. Thus, the marginalization of women in debate is widespread enough for such a forum.

Consequences of Refusing

Will four hours of sleep get me through the day? Back in the days when my years of life were less than my number of fingers, I had no trouble. These past few days, though, I have been getting little sleep. So, a drooping head and sleepy eyes will most likely be what my professor will see today!

I’m at work. So, I really cannot write too much. In less than six weeks, I will be working here no more. In less than six weeks, my semester will be coming to a close! Shouldn’t I be excited? Scared? Yes, I should be. Yet, I am not. I’m too worried about all those stupid assignments that are late. I need to get my act together!

Refusing Sleep

Why don’t I just go to sleep? My bed is right behind me. It is ready to embrace me with its soft, downy arms. It is eager to keep me warm through the night. It would be honored to let my burdened back rest on its supportive frame. Yet, I choose to let my feet grow numb to the cold. I am slouching like a ten-year old at an adults’ dinner party. Ignoring the seduction of my bed, I am like an Arcata corner bum who refuses to take advantage of the opportunities right in front of him.

I know I just want to write. I want to write about this weekend. My experiences at Denver, Colorado provided much insight into the world I must navigate in soon. I want to account for details, but sharpness of mind is dulled by the lack of sleep. Perhaps I should listen to that tired voice. I will try sleep.

Bonsai & Relationships

Now… I would like to reflect on a personal issue. This Sunday evening, I will be talking to L-. We planned on discussing our relationship. I would like to be in a commitment with her, but I have reason to believe she does not want to be in one with me — or anyone else, for that matter. Her feelings for me are uncertain. She has not had a boyfriend in many years. Perhaps she fears her loneliness makes her desperate to be in a relationship that she knows will not work out? That is a legitimate fear. Yet, any relationship is fragile. No one can be certain whether a relationship will continue.

A bonsai tree, for instance, is very sensitive to its environment, and its survival depends largely on the caretakers. The caretakers must commit to provide the bonsai with the best environment possible, and to make the necessary efforts to help it grow.

A relationship is like a bonsai tree. The two people are the caretakers. Proximity of the two people, their feelings for each other, their career goals, their needs and obligations to others constitute the environment. There may be other factors, but this environment has a high impact on a relationship. Similar to raising a bonsai tree, the people must commit to provide the most fertile environment possible. This may mean not living far away from each other. A good environment also might mean less ambiguity about the feelings for the other person, changing the career goals of both persons, and/or working out a compromise to meet both persons’ needs and obligations.

Is it possible that a relationship might not be possible under certain circumstances? Yes. A bonsai tree cannot grow to look like it has been blown by the wind all its life, have its trunk embracing a rock crevice, nor can its roots wrap around a large crystal sphere. That does not appear naturally. These unique characteristics take a lot of effort and patience on the part of the caretakers. Likewise, the uniqueness of a relationship takes a lot of effort and patience. Two people might one day find their relationship meeting an obstacle, a rock wall. They may choose to let it end there, or they can use that rock as support to grow taller. The relationship can grwo around the obstacle, in its crevices, and use it as a foothold to reach places it otherwise cannot. In the end, the relationship will be uniquely beautiful, just like a bonsai tree that had done the same.

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