Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
In regards what was posted in the last entry, it's better sometimes to just relax and take time off from the online madness of social media. It's better to maintain control of your 'righteous mind' and worry about what you control, think about the things that are important to you.
Leave that pop culture stuff out of your minds. None of those celebrities and entertainers don't care much about us anyway, so what's the point of trying to follow them all over the internet?
Then again, not much is what's said here won't matter. All that does is we learn from it and believe we're the ones in control, not social media.
What if every waking moment you were told what to think, what to say, what to write?
What if your social media account is designed to persuade you to lose whatever morals you have and give in to the conformity of society? What if these ‘messages’ chip away at your free will for the sake of joining a user’s ‘Amen Corner’ if their beliefs side with your own? These are questions I’m sure will never come out, but they need to. It’s also something I’ve tried to articulate for months yet each time I’ve tried to write about the influence of social media in our daily lives, the answer somehow eludes me.
Readers, lurkers and everyone reading this, we’re slaves to our digital masters and the evidence proves that. We glare on our cell phones, checking our status updates, wondering how many people are following us, shaking our heads at each derogatory post or unconscionable news story. It’s the common theme of the machines running our lives from the Twilight Zone to the early Terminator movies, except their mechanic tyranny rules us from the palm of our hands (cell phones) or from a stationary screen (home computers and laptops). Sensing how Mankind gets rather bored quickly, it entices us with confusion, messages, agendas, and personalities who speak the loudest, gathering fans and followers in the process. While this is going on, the earth continues to rotate, life still goes on and we become more and more distracted day by day.
For example, I heard a student the other day use one of the millennial terms associated with ‘shaming’. Social media uses words as a weapon very effectively. Journalists now use it in their news programs whenever a pop culture icon or wannabe does or says something so unbelievable you cannot believe what they said or did; uses phrases to encourage us to click on a link that reads “Bugs Bunny had outsmarted Elmer Fudd, but what he does next will shock you.” Curious although we may be, we click on it only to find…..nothing worth the time spent to click on the link. Social Media plays on our curiosity, the desire to learn more, to be entertained. Sad to say this 21st Century new media disappoints us greatly. I doubt Serling or Bradbury would be too happy with the future technology has wrought, instead they would caution us to always consider the human element of our free will and to use that gift greatly.
This is not to say Social Media is the devil’s work. It’s only the individuals who program, posting persuasive and convincing words to the unsuspecting masses that confound our mental freedoms. Whenever I log on a website or to check my email, I can do without the spoilers, ‘click bait’ headlines of “Behind the scenes of the new Penelope Pitstop movie” which I would not be interested or to even see anything from friends, family, etc. that undermines my morals and beliefs. For example, most people don’t want to see two Martians kissing in the nude, but rest assured the loudest voices in support of these Martians will make sure you agree with them – or else. Social Media is a hodgepodge of information which we should be all thankful for, but to see the mess floating online now – we need to determine we have a choice whether to watch the Oscars or not, to support a political candidate, even deciding to wear blue jeans instead of slacks on a Friday.
We all have a choice to live our lives, exercising our free will. Social Media doesn’t dictate my life and neither should yours be dictated by it. Protect your individuality, think for yourself and if you don’t agree with anyone’s view online, stop going to their site, profile and delete them from your consciousness.
Think for yourself, period.
Note: this is the beginning of a monthly update on the following project. Opinions belong and are owned by the author of this piece.
If you live or have lived in the Vermont Knolls district or area of South Los Angeles, you wanted retail. Before the Koreans and the Unrest occurred, residents could go into a Newberry’s department store and shop, or head over to Thrifty drug stores and buy an ice cream cone or other items, even head on down to the National store and buy a pair of blue tinted sunshades that your fellow seventh grade students at the nearby junior high will make fun of you wearing them. This was the South Central Los Angeles of my youth, the retail side of it.
When the Koreans took over and opened up swap meets in most of the stores including a shoe store adjacent to an old Lerner's clothing store on the next block, we lost our neighborhood. The stores, the money earned and rent of buildings totally belonged to them. No money was given back to the community they established their business. The fires of the Unrest burned down these stores, turned the merchants into armed snipers and resulted in most of the buildings and merchants, gone. From 1992 until the present day, the empty lots are the only reminder of the result of rage, some would wager righteous anger.
But hold on! The Vermont Entertainment Village promises to restore the former glory of the ‘Vermont Strip’ by adding new stores and shops for the people. In fact, let me show these two clips of the groundbreaking for the new entertainment center last April. Can’t you feel the excitement? Can’t you taste the hope?
Words. That’s all this is. As much as I would like to feel happy retail is finally coming back to the neighborhood, deep down inside you and I know the entertainment center is not for people such as the author of this piece. It’ll be ready for the gentrication crowd, the hipster millennials who believe this dying world belongs to them. Once again, the long standing residents of South L.A. who endured everything from drive-bys to the Unrest will not be catered to. Oh, it’ll be for a while until the ‘gentrifiers’ move in but once they do, the South L.A. I grew up in will be replaced by a newer, hipper term “SOLA”. I hate that name already, but this is what our former councilman advocated in his last term in office.
In this blog, I hinted at the inaction of this site before, how nothing was being done and perhaps never will. As of last April, I have been proven wrong. There is movement on the site, although it’s at a snail’s pace right now. I’m reminded in my eighth and ninth grade years at a different junior high school, an old Sears building was torn down and replaced by the Vermont-Slauson shopping center, which now has a drug, grocery, K-mart and discount stores as their anchors, plus it has Subway and McDonalds (the discount store replaced the Burger King). At the time, that was considered to be a big deal. What this new entertainment center promises are restaurants, banquet halls, grocery store, everything the videos mentioned are in the works.
Forgive me if I am skeptical about this project. It’s simple to find reports that there are difficulties on reaching the Winter 2016 completion date. Nearby Inglewood is ready to go with their Hollywood Park project that will transform that city into the upper echelon of Southern California destinations with a stadium (at this time, it isn’t known if the NFL will approve the City of Champions Stadium and other proposed plans at this time). One gets the feeling once Inglewood is done, the gentrifiers will come flooding in. The dominant ethnicity will change but then again, this is the risk gentrication brings. West Oakland is a prime example of that.
I need to write another essay to explain my thoughts on gentrification if I haven’t hinted on it in past articles, but rest assured the people of Vermont Knolls wants retail. It has always wanted retail and this entertainment center promises much of it. It’s a destination spot to be sure in a neighborhood that continues to have its share of challenges as evidenced in the #100days/100nights scare last summer. One look at the village's website will prove if and when the entertainment center opens, those problems will be solved. For the moment, let everyone raise a glass and celebrate; the Vermont Entertainment Village is set to open…..soon. When it does, it will be the end of a community which deserves more, so much more than what it’s been through in the past.
The art of writing can be many things. It can be used to lift up, inspire and provoke action for the reader. It can also be a source of controversy and deep discussion. In the past few years with the rise of social media, writing has lost its persuasive power, the engine that drives imagination, creativity and causes one to reflect and ponder their status in life.
Indeed, the only statuses that concern most people now are those they post constantly in a social media page or profile. Not a day passes that the public is exposed to the life of the reader or receive a word of inspiration and hope with a picture of their favorite celebrity attached, as if they are the ones who came up with the quote or affirmation. The common social media post leaves an impression for only a few seconds or in the case of a few wayward individuals who use the service and leave a less than impressionable message, the fervor could last for a day, but then not much more than that. Contrast that to the great works of literature which last for generations. Could Shakespeare survive in today’s fast-paced, digital world where “all the world’s a stage” and “to be or not to be” instantly appear in someone’s timeline only to see it disappear minutes later? Great literature and that includes essays, missives and other forms of written communication leave a persuasive impact. They challenge us, cause us to look within and to witness the beautiful and ugly within ourselves. It has been noted that the rate of retention in printed works are much potent than digital. Although this is a new generation of the digital world, it is proven that the printed word is more powerful than words on a screen, even in a forum such as this. That printed book is always nearby, ready to be devoured and absorbed in the human heart.
Technology comes at a tremendous price. While it may enhance our daily lives and become entertaining toys for the masses, it creates a loss to critical thinking based on the number of written pieces over saturating the internet or when a catchphrase is mentioned by a social media user that tickles the ear but isn’t deciphered properly and critically by the mind. Our emotions prompt us to react quickly and suddenly to any words that we deem offensive to our social collective without a moment to mentally digest the impact of said words.
How long shall we as a generation endure without the works of pure, natural persuasion in our literature? Shall we continue with the attention seeking, sensationalist literature that arouses the physical but fails to stimulate the mental or will we as a society turn back to the works that consider our place in this universe knowing there will always be injustice in every corner, under every rock but inspires us to act? Amid the quick and rapidly vanishing digital posts of outrage and dissent, the larger issue is that we as a society are missing out on a crucial part of our existence; the words that shape and mold our thinking and motivates us to move forward.
True story: in the middle of the 1992 Unrest here in South Los Angeles, a well known congresswoman stopped me as I walked the sidewalk observing for the first time the carnage the firestorm left in its wake. A long line which stretched out for two blocks of residents waiting to send mail to a post office that had been closed since the burning of buildings began, stood in a hot sun. This is when the congresswoman stopped me.
“I need one hundred black men.” She spoke in the same authoritative tone you often hear when she makes an appearance on talk shows or criticizing the president. The congresswoman told me to wait until she rounded up more brothers to help her with her cause of passing out bottles of water to the hundreds of people standing in the street, waiting for the nearby post office to open. I waited for ten minutes, which stretched out to twenty, then thirty. The congresswoman didn’t return, nor any of her aides (none were there if I can recall). I decided it would be best if I left for my trip was for exploratory purposes only. It was my first time out of the house since the Unrest began and passions had died down. But it was only the beginning of something else.
Consider a councilwoman from a neighboring city sitting down with an actor turned activist who sparked cleanup efforts, watching them on television stressing the need for calm, but also relating the pain the community feels, to the reasons why citizens burned buildings down. Then the same councilwoman is found guilty of a financial matter that puts her in jail a year or so later. What if you saw public, political and even spiritual ‘leaders’ of your race on television as the ‘go to experts’ yet they shut out other voices in the community? All of this may now be seen on YouTube channels, reminding us of these chapters in history.
I have found that whenever there is a crisis by nature or man-made, there are a few individuals who have no problem stepping out of the shadows to increase their platforms or to make them known to you and I. The national media who rarely covers the interests of citizens living in urban areas or the “inner city” unless there is the drive-by death of the week parade the same community activist or politician who speaks outstanding, eloquent words to capture the public imagination except to the people they’re speaking for. The Unrest had its share of individuals who were willing to explain the pain and frustration of the citizens who live in South Los Angeles, Compton and other areas of interest.
Perhaps and the author of this piece is not sure, is the basis for the number of 'experts' and 'activists' seen on cable and on the internet, sprouting their opinions as if they are a congresswoman, councilwoman or minister of a local church. Yet, the experts who speak for you and I now have experience with campaigns, editors of publications print and digital, and other assorted media and venues. A few have well earned doctorates and there are those who articulate their causes without fail plainly and passionately. However, in this growing culture of celebrity where all it takes is a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account to capture the imagination of the public, may we all be reminded those who have actually felt the pain of racism, sexism and economic disparity will always be the ones who need to be heard. The culture of celebrity or the need to become the next Dr. King and Malcolm and others will only lead to a lot of wasted emotions, hot air, and not much done.