Social Justice by Way of the Tetraodontidae and Tetris

The blowfish (Tetraodontidae) is a relatively small creature with almost no capability of fending off predators.  Its defense mechanism is to “puff up” to nearly twice it’s size and the appearance of strength and fish badassery serves to ward off creatures bent on devouring it.


Two white guys on the street below my window (I live above a bar in Wicker Park, so do the math on how many of these encounters I hear from my living room), both a bit drunk, both angry and aggrieved about something, both puffing up like the blowfish.

One of them yells “I’ll kick your fucking ass!"

No.  No, he won’t.  My experience in drunken bar fights (which is considerable but only legendary in my own mind) is that 9 out of every 10 guys who *tells* you he will “kick your fucking ass” is posing and is highly unlikely to even throw a flailing four-year old kid punch.  The guy who actually kicks your ass just does it without preamble.

I see protesters in lock step facing down policemen in riot gear and they often get a defiant “go ahead, make my day” glint in their eyes.  They yell at the cops as if the solidarity of the crowd gives them some sort of protection.  Their righteous anger pumps up the blood and jacks up the image of invincibility.  I’m certain they are terrified on some level, knowing that pepper spray or a billy club or four cops on one protester would instantly render them helpless, but they “puff up” to seem unafraid.

These protesters don’t look that much different from the supporters of Trump or Cruz except that those raging, angry people are mostly white.  Which means they have much less to fear from the authorities given the intense racist inequity in how cops treat black people when they get loud and angry.  That said, these supporters of the Outraged, Classless Political Animals created by reality television, Internet activism and the courtship of the Religious Nutjobs in the eighties, soup themselves up to seem far more scary than they are.  What they are is a group of frightened, intolerant, low education Americans terrified that the tiny slice of Americana they identity with is going to be ripped from their clawing stubby fingers.

We post on our social media walls the affirmations of how badass we are, how impervious to the opinions of others we have become, and I see blowfishes everywhere.

What I see is scores and scores of people who feel defenseless and, like the aforementioned fish, expand themselves to give pretense that they are not to be trifled with.  I see an impotent rage that brews when someone receives a parking ticket or finds their car towed.  The railing away at how unfair things are in a society of people solely looking out for themselves.

"Speak softly and carry a big stick." -- Theodore Roosevelt

We live in a society that, since the very beginning and even before, the loudest voices with the most agressive language tend to win.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease and all that.  The customer who bitches loudest gets the freebie because, in the end, it's easier to just give him what he wants than have to listen to the bloviating.

When the Universe grants the food pellets to the rats who squall the most vociferously the message is simple and obvious.  Blow fish the shit out of your daily problems.  Go online and type your grievances ALL IN CAPS SO THAT EVERYONE KNOWS HOW GODDAMN PISSED YOU ARE!

Unfortunately, when everyone is blow fishing, the din of noise and posturing becomes so overwhelming that we all stop listening to each other and the quiet fish in the corner with the big stick is getting things done for himself.

The quiet fish.  Like the Koch Bros.  Like the CEOs of Monsanto and BP and Target.  The invisible heads of major media.  The CEOs of banks and insurance and pharmaceutical companies.  The guys who sneak in the shadows and control things with big sticks, they are the enemy of the rest of us.  They are the predator fish looking for some delicious luncheon comprised of poor, ignorant, angry and impotent people with some fava beans and a nice chianti.  These guys don't bolster up a false image of strength because they don't need to - they pounce when they feel like it and couldn't give two fucks about your rage-filled Facebook wall or your 100-person protest of downtown businesses.

So...what is your big stick?

If you're living in a more rural area and you tend to see the world through a more conservative/libertarian lens, it is likely that your big stick comes in the form of weapons: rifles, pistols, knives, kevlar vests, night vision goggles.  If you live in Montana, you're one of those militia, 2nd Amendment cats hunkered down in your bunker just waiting for the predators to come for you.  The only problem in this perspective is that you tend to only see the government barracudas and ignore the presence of the political and corporate sharks.

If you're living in a more urban area and you tend to see the world through a more liberal lens, the gun thing probably isn't your style.  You likely truck in organizing protests, online petitions, writing think pieces, holding panel discussions - your big sticks are ideas and activism.  Unfortunately, just like our militia types, unless you have massive numbers on your side, your weapons are as effective as a single gunman against an army.  If you don't get your ideas out to a LOT of people (ie. massive publishing blocks or expansive social media reach) then you and your 50 friends aren't really gonna make a dent.

Neither stick is really that big.

Humanity is an incredibly adaptable life form.  The blowfish is a blowfish and no amount of anthropomorphic Disneyfication can allow the blowfish to change itself into a different kind of fish with different kinds of defenses.  Humans can change their tactics; can change their perspectives.  What is required is a shift in personal paradigm to no longer inflate the ego to defend the self and create a big stick while engaging in a pattern of focus.

Life is not like a game of chess.  Chess was created at a time when people were viewed as expendable in the pursuit of power.  In that paradigm, most of us are pawns and that's just a shitty way to approach life, yes?  We all want to be the Queen (the most powerful piece of the board) but it isn't likely and in the game of chess, a pawn has to have the help of every other piece to achieve that kind of status.

Life is more like a game of Tetris.  The only way to win is to continue surviving the game, piece by piece, connection by connection.  The only enemy is time and the increased speed of the digital gravity.  The big sticks in Tetris are patience, focus, and tenacity.  The key to "winning" is foresight and smart choices in which pieces to drop, how to spin them and the ability to see how things fit together.  Seeking immediate justice - RIGHT NOW OR I'LL KICK SOMEONE'S ASS! - is how someone loses the game.

Patience.
Focus.
Tenacity.

Shift your game, change your defenses.  Stop being a blowfish.