The Ninja Dilemma

Fun fact: Ninjas wore dark blue, not black, as that is harder to see in low light.

Fun fact: Ninjas wore dark blue, not black, as that is harder to see in low light.

I went back and forth over whether to watch “Gangnam Style”. On one hand, it’s the Internet meme of the moment (and has been for some time) and the most-watched video on YouTube, and on the other hand, I’m not sure if I give a shit. I still remember the moment at which I first heard those words, as people on Facebook started posting pictures or whatnot that in some way mentioned “Gangnam Style”. My response was to post a status to the effect that I did not care what these words meant and knew only that a few days ago, I had never heard this bizarre phrase, and now, I had. Of course, it’s been parodied a million times since then, and I’ve heard the song in one or two places, but I still don’t really give a shit. It reminds me of the time when I first heard of this Justin Bieber character, and paused with my cursor over the link to the video for “Baby”. Perhaps it is helpful to maintain a certain level of pop culture awareness. Then again, I knew it was going to suck, so I didn’t watch it. This seems like a lot of effort to spend thinking about a silly four-minute K-Pop single, but there’s something larger at work here.

I read this article earlier and was bugged quite a lot. It’s by a writer I admire at one of my favorite websites, although I have to say that David Wong has always had a tendency to generalize. Here, he makes a lot of good points, but as always, he sort of glosses over some of the less convenient aspects of his topic, and seems uncharacteristically defensive towards the end. For those too lazy to click the link and read it, let me explain: Basically, David Wong (real name Jason Pargin) argues that you–yes, you–need to stop counting on your personality traits to get you through life and start actually getting shit done. A valuable message, but one that is easily perverted. Wong posts the scene from Glengarry Glen Ross in which Alec Baldwin delivers a profanity-laden “pep talk” to motivate insurance salesmen to start closing deals. It’s interesting that Wong cites this scene, as its message, essentially, is that if you want to get ahead, you have to stop caring about human decency and focus only on material goods. This movie is sometimes shown as a training video for actual insurance salesmen, or so I’ve heard. If you haven’t seen it, you should, as it’s one of the best films of the 90s. That said, I don’t think Baldwin’s beautifully delivered words are anywhere near as inspirational as Wong seems to think. If the only way to make it in insurance sales is to sell your soul, then get the fuck out of the business. I don’t want to be an amoral douchebag who cares only about his fancy car and watch, and if you do, then stay the fuck away from me.

It may be true that passively expecting people to come around to loving you for who you are is a waste of time, since the best way to get people to love you is to show them that you can live without their love (a bit of a catch-22, but not so hard to accept once you get used to it). There is something even a little bit sexist in the way that Wong claims that women don’t care if you’re a nice guy, only if you’ve got shit like a swell job and winning style. I know women who have had a great deal of trouble finding nice guys, but are surrounded by dickheads who expect their cocky bravado to make them wet. The article is almost Objectivist in its dismissal of people who don’t contribute, and really, who is David Wong to say that others don’t contribute? So you edit a popular website and have written one or two books. Big deal. You don’t heal the sick, and even if you did, that wouldn’t necessarily make you better than somebody who sits around all day eating junk food and watching reality TV. There is no more lazy and disingenuous line of argument than to try to preempt criticism by guessing what the other party will say. So you think I’m being mean? Well, you just can’t handle the truth! Yeah, that, or I have my own truth and think yours is bullshit. It’s not a bad article, but it really pissed me off, and truth be told, I think it’s kind of dangerous. Hell, next to that, “Gangnam Style” seems positively benign.

The world does not and should not operate as a market. I am not here to sell my goods and services, I am here to learn and to introduce a few new ideas of my own. By the same token, I do not expect others to, as one of my favorite douchebags accused Obama voters of doing, give me stuff. If you have something to contribute, sooner or later, it will work its way out of you. Don’t focus on doing things so much as just, you know, being honest about what you want. Unpleasant surprises happen a lot. Every now and then, the pleasant ones happen, too. You get better at preventing disaster as time goes by.

My housing situation has been the cause of a great deal of stress over the past year-and-a-half. I think it’s because bad things happen to me, and I rarely feel as if I have any agency. I’ll be sitting in my room, reading a magazine and minding my own business when ninjas burst through the window and start fucking shit up. I’m doing my best to fight off the ninjas. But don’t blame me if I get my ass kicked a few dozen times before I get the hang of it.


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