My letter is part question, part concern. I know I ask a few questions in the latter, but can you try to answer them, or try to answer the general underlining question I am trying to ask?
Given the state of the world, you constantly hear how bad things are: poverty, rape, corruption, killings, etc. It seems nowadays that the only way to thrive in society and be successful is to put yourself first, to the exclusion of anyone else, and if you do not, you will get stepped over in life and miss out. Either be corrupt in your life and put yourself first, or live your life by what other corrupt people want you to do as they are in charge of society. There seems (from my experience, I could be wrong) to be no real benefits from serving others selflessly because no one writes about it any longer.
Here is an example. My dad is very self centered. He is the type that worked his butt off his whole life, was given no natural talents, his parents divorced when he was in high school, to which his dad left the family and his mom had to raise all of her sons, an environment that required dad to take an active role in helping supporting himself and his mom at a young age. He never talked about his life at all. I only know him during the years I was alive and with him. Today, his success seems to show: he has a rewarding job, money, his health, a girlfriend, lives in CA (his favorite place in the world), and I think he is happy; he even divorced mom because he thought he deserved better than her. The only thing that seems to be wrong in his life now is he has to work 60 hours a week to keep up. (He manages the entire development and production of medicine.) In other words, he looks, acts and more or less is the example of "work hard and success is yours."
However, he is a narcissist, self-centered and very egocentric. He acts like everyone who is not above him can be treated like an inferior and he can act however he likes. Including his family (old and perhaps new). To the point I want to believe that all the wrongs he has done will come back to get him one day, but now I am starting to think that this is life, and you can and will get away with wrongdoing. He is the reason I think karma does not exist that much.
When I was living with him and was working (I was living with him as he provided free rent and help when I was taking collage classes), I live with my mom because I thought college would be better with Mom. But at the moment, I dropped out and work full time as a delivery driver for a pizza place. He would outright discourage or forbid me from tithing. He says what money I make at my job I should save, spend it on myself, help pay for groceries, and, in his words, "If you want to tithe you can tithe to the house." Even if I did all he requested, he still says to keep what I make. When I asked him why not give money, he said it is unnecessary. (I can see his viewpoint: it is not essential to give to those in need as their lives will not affect your life in any way, and what good you do for them will not give you anything, and therefore it is not worth doing.) Though it does help them, it is not a requirement, is what he thinks.
For example (one of countless, this just demonstrates his personality), one point, when he tasked me with selling the garage refrigerator that was unused, I had a potential client, but rather than picking it up herself she wanted us to send it to her via delivery. She sent enough funds to pay for the fridge and a few extra hundred to pay for shipping, which we had to set up ourselves. Dad thought she was taking advantage of me and told me to decline her order and find someone else. He also read my emails to her and noticed how nice I was to her, expressing patience and understanding about her current situation. (I forget what it was now). He did not like that in the slightest, and several days after he said, "It is not your job to be nice to others, they will take advantage of you. You should only be nice to your family" (blood family, that is).
To summarize, my dad is who inspired me to give and be as selfless as I can. Not because he showed what good helping others can bring, but because he set such a bad example on what success is. I realized I did not want to be successful. The pleasure of success is not worth the price it costs others.
But as of now, I am starting to doubt being selfless is better. I feel like what I do is not enough. Currently, I am working full time at a job to raise money for the sake of helping someone with debt and living expenses, I ask for additional hours at work to increase what I can give as well as be of service more at work. (I try to go with the attitude of "what can I do for others, and what I make goes to my friend" (I keep almost none of what I make; I only take money for gas and occasionally $50 to treat myself, but everything else goes to my friend as I do not have any expenses for myself atm).
Is this a sign that I need to expand my efforts to other things and other people?
So on to my questions.
What good things have you experienced in life that was a direct result of serving others? Not just small things like feeling good for donating money or helping, but real treasures from sacrificing lots and giving lots? Is living selflessly instead of selfishly worth it?
What can you tell people who try to take active effort into serving others, when they feel like their work means nothing in the end, like what they do to serve others is fruitless in the sense of what they do does not help enough to make any real difference, and those who try to do good for others (selflessly without expecting anything in return, not out of wanting something back) that fear that they will wind up with nothing in the end. In other words, do you think that living self-centeredly (if not immoral and greedy) would be best?
What do I do?
PS: I am aware that the law of generosity also says "give one season, receive another season" as in what works you do will not have any immediate rewards, it takes time. I am not writing out of distress.
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These are profound questions you are asking. Let's take it a step at a time, starting with definitions. What does it mean to be "selfish"? What does it mean to be "selfless" or "altruistic"? Selfishness means to only do things that benefit you in some way (financially, materialistically). Your dad seems to follow the path of selfishness, although even he will say that it is okay to help one's own blood family, so he's not 100% selfish. On the other hand, it is not selfish to make sure you are not being used by someone, and it is not selfish to make sure that others do not harm you in some way, or that by helping them, you hurt yourself. This is to say that you need to be sure you are financially secure and physically and mentally healthy first, because when you are not, you are of no use to anyone, including yourself. So, if you, say, don't give a few dollars to a beggar on the street because without that money you would go hungry, that is not necessarily selfish. But if you are well-to-do and have more than you need, then hoarding your money and refusing to help others is selfish. Your dad, apparently, went through a rough childhood, a very scary one in which he struggled to make sure he and his family could survive. This likely planted the seeds for his current attitude.
So, what is being selfless or charitable mean? It means to realize that you are not the center of the world, that the human race and, indeed, the world benefits when people work together as a community, helping each other to build a better world. It doesn't mean that you have to do this to the exclusion of your own health and well-being, but it recognizes that no person is an island. Selfless people give to their fellow humans and to their communities not in the hopes that there will be a payback someday but, rather, because when we create a better, kinder, more loving world, we all get to live in it and enjoy the benefits of that world.
A perfect example of the above is the United States of America. The current capitalist system and influence of conservative politicians has created a world in which the 1% have 90% of the country's wealth. They don't share this wealth; they hoard it for themselves. The idea of the "trickle-down economy" in which giving tax breaks to the wealthy and letting them build huge hoards of gold like dragons in caves does not work, as proven by numerous economists. What IS the result of such hoarding? Well, we now live in a country where people are literally dying from lack of money and health care, where the infrastructure that everyone uses is crumbling, and where there are high crime rates and drug use because people are desperate, depressed, and without hope. This lowers the quality of life for everyone. And it also creates political unrest and destabilization. Furthermore, on a worldwide scale, it has led to global warming, which is going to destroy coastal cities and lead to mass migrations, war, and water shortages that affect the wealthy as well as the poor.
When your dad tells you that being kind and generous to others offers no payback, that is because he is thinking in financial, materialistic terms. Will volunteering to plant trees earn you money? No. Will donating clothes to a charity buy you a new wardrobe? No. Will helping a roommate get through a difficult time in their life by helping to pay their bills or giving them a shoulder to lean on get you a job promotion or a university grant? Of course not.
The rewards of being a good, kind, generous, and selfless person are largely intangible. Imagine the kind of world we would live in if everyone followed kindly principles? We could literally eliminate hunger if billionaires decided to use their excess money to feed people. We could get rid of pollution and make the fear of climate change a memory if corporations were not so profit-driven to pollute so they could please their stockholders. There would be no war if no one tried to take over other countries or deny others their religious beliefs or ethnic background. Students wouldn't be buried in school loan debt if we made college education free, and this would lead to an economic boom, too. Yet, none of these acts would benefit the donors financially, materialistically.
The key to being selfless is not expecting a payback. It's not charity if you expect money or favors in return (and it's not being a good Christian if you are only nice to people because you expect to be rewarded in Heaven). How would you feel if someone gave you a birthday present worth $50 and then said, "Okay, that cost me $50, so now you owe me." Would you think that was a good friend or family member? Now imagine yourself giving someone a present that they truly didn't expect and that they totally love. Doesn't that put a big grin on your face?
Oh, and guess what? When you feel joyful for making someone else happy, that improves your mood and this, in turn, improves your health. Studies show, too, that happy people live longer! Isn't that payback? And that one is actually quite tangible! (Note: this benefit requires that the giver have empathy; some people lack empathy, sadly).
All this is not to say you should allow yourself to be used. No. This seems to be your father's fear, and perhaps comes from personal experience. He sees everyone out there as a potential user, and so he has built walls around himself to prevent outsiders from using him. The problem with this is that now he lets no one in and he has, frankly, become a big douchebag. He might look happy and materialistically successful on the outside, but it is rare for such people to have loving, caring relationships. They tend to have trophy spouses, have family that resent them, and are in constant fear of losing what they have (which is why he works 60-hour weeks). This is what engenders conservative politicians. It is the same mentality that creates dictators. Sure, the dictator is all-powerful, but he is in constant fear that he will be assassinated or overthrown and put in prison. That is not a happy life.
As to your concern that helping others won't make a difference, you are incorrect. I can understand why it might seem so. When we are overwhelmed by the media reporting wars, poverty, pandemics, global warming, political corruption, and on and on, it can be discouraging. What can one person do?
A lot, actually.
When you exert acts of kindness in the world, it has a cascading effect, the results of which you might not see or realize (at least, not right away), but they are there. Being nice to others can make the people you are kind to say, "Hey! There are good people in the world! This makes me happy, and now I want to pay it forward!" Like a pandemic where one person can infect three or four people, and those people infect three or four people, and on and on until millions are sick (maybe not the best analogy), so, too, do acts of kindness spread around the community and the world. And those acts of kindness can be seemingly tiny. For example, compliment a coworker or a restaurant server. Take the trouble to tell the boss at a fast food place that you thought Sarah at the cash register was very kind to you. It doesn't have to cost money to be nice and to put a lot of good vibes out into the universe.
You ask me, directly, in your letter, "What good things have you experienced in life that was a direct result of serving others?" The letter you are reading is an example of what I do selflessly. I don't get paid for writing this column. I don't get awards or even, really, any recognition. Yet, I feel like it has done a lot of good for many people (cf. https://www.askpapabear.com/testimonials.html). You added, "Not just small things like feeling good for donating money or helping, but real treasures from sacrificing lots and giving lots? Is living selflessly instead of selfishly worth it?" Again, in this question, you are looking for evidence that selfless people get back "real treasures" for their acts, although you don't really specify what qualifies as such a treasure, though you assert that "feeling good" is insufficient reason.
Other than what I have noted above, writing this column gives my life a sense of purpose, and that is a profound reward. You see, I started writing this column right about when I was in my midlife crisis years, wondering what the hell my life was all about. It wasn't enough just to be doing okay, making money enough to live. I wanted a purpose, and writing this column gives me that. It is the most rewarding thing that I do in my life other than helping my disabled spouse and other family members. What is, after all, the purpose of life? Is it just to exist? Is it just to hedonistically pursue pleasure? I, for one, don't believe so. I have concluded that the only thing that truly brings me happiness is not material goods or money or even sex. It's making the world a better place as much as I possibly can.
I hope that answers your questions.
First of all, I'm a huge fan of your site, and I'd like to thank you for being such an amazing, kind and wise person! Keep it up!
Now, I'm not here to complain about my issues since I'm proud to say that I'm really happy with myself and will continue to be happy! Thanks both to your knowledge and positivity and my efforts! I'm only here to share my view on why there's so much sadness in this "modern", "advanced" world and how realising this changed me for the better and rescued me out of a vicious circle of self-pity, anxiety and sadness.
I'll try to keep this short, and I'm sorry since English isn't my native language so sorry if it sounds weird.
So, everyone keeps bragging about how the world today is so "advanced" and "modern" and how science is this aaaamaaaazing thing that is only improving our lives and will continue to do so. But that, of course is not the case at all because, how I see it, science hasn't really solved any problems or made our lives "better" by any means, it only replaced previous issues with twice the time as many worse ones. Science didn't make us better, happier and compassionate... It only did the contrary.
Science doesn't "improve" our lives, it actively replaces our real, natural lives and experiences with simulation, replicas and failed attempts to surpass nature. In it's delusions of grandeur, science is shortsighted... It creates and invents more and more, always focusing on how it will "make the world better" but never on how these Inventions could be used for evil, or how they could backfire in the long run and destroy people's lives and so many other side negative side effects... Just because something can be invented, doesn't mean it HAS to be invented. Science invents things for the sake of it, always under the pretense that it will improve the world, while being blind to the counter effects.
This talk about science matters because science has removed all real life activities and experience with replicas and simulation of said activities and experiences. There is no more need for exploration, risk, real thrill, challenge... All is replaced and packaged into the virtual existence, or heavily roboticised and automated.
Why go outside and explore nature when, on a click of a button, you can immerse yourself into many virtual, idealised worlds without having to go into the real, "dangerous" world? Why go to concerts and enjoy a good time with your friends when you can simply listen to music on your phone, computer or TV, in the safety of your own home? Why indulge in dangerous, tiresome sport activities when you can play sport games or watch other people do sports, all the while eating snacks and not breaking a sweat? Why travel and see the world in all its beauty when you can watch other people travel on travel shows or just open up Google Earth? Not to go on any further, you get the point.
Science created a world free of challenge, risk, no major problems, everything made easier, everything made readily accessible... Served on a silver plate, all the while eliminating the need to even leave your house and socialize. You can do all those things, and many people thankfully still do, but that number is rapidly decreasing...
It is so horrible that we are allowed, in many ways forced, to live such sheltered, passive lives. "Lead" is not a proper word, "watch" or "observe" is more suitable. A life where nature and reality, failure and experience and all the great things that make life are made "obsolete" by the virtual, the packaged replica... In which there is no real consequence, no real failure, no thrill... no love. Most activities replaced by video games, relationships and romance replaced with over-idealised, readily available porn/anime/hentai (all of which replace the need and the want for real sex, because it's so "perfect" compared to the real deal and seriously skews the expectations of what people should be), real socialisation replaced by "social" media, real comedy, parody and jokes replaced by "memes" which bleed the humor dry, real labour replaced by machines and automatic processes.... Real reality, with all it's flaws and beauty, replaced by safer, risk free artificial copies that are more easy to access and provide no real repercussions to failing, which is necessary for growth. I do not live in the "first world", but this especially applies to it.
All of this combined, you get sheltered, deeply unhappy people with very unrealistic expectations due to overwhelming exposure to over-idealised fake reality, and with insufficient failure and experience from said failure due to resorting to risk-free alternatives, the same people, when faced with real problems or when comparing their own lives to that of a idealised ones they see in games, TV, anime, whatever, they start to feel empty, insufficient, "not good enough"... But overexposure to the fake world and insufficient exposure to the real world make those people not realise the difference between one and the other... I was one of those people, always depressed and anxious, ever sheltered and passive, always escaping to the virtual world in which I don't have to put any real effort or face real pain from failure... Always comparing my life to over-idealised ones I saw on social media, in film, games and anime and always thinking how I'm not nearly as "good enough", because due to not enough experience in the real world, I projected the picture perfect things I saw in the virtual to real life people which were only perfect on the surface. Many people do this, unfortunately... It was always like that until I got a grip on life, and on risk, and failure and grew stronger from it and realised that I'm not as weak and "useless" as I had thought and that other people weren't as perfect or as happy as I thought. That was all due to my skewed perception of what life is supposed to be, and what love is supposed to be, heavily skewed by porn, anime and other media, which is why I view anime and porn as especially dangerous due to the fact that it can skew expectations tremendously... Especially to the inexperienced youth. Another thing are the artificial and unrealistic beauty standards that come from western media that is especially troublesome and dangerous... Many people have gone insane with anger, bitterness and pity over them, but that's all just fantasy and NO ONE can achieve those standards. It just isn't realistic... I thought I was "ugly" all the time and constantly saw other people do the same, and even now they do... Thankfully, I saw through the bullshit and am much happier now!
I'm sorry for my English, I might have forgotten to mention many of the things I wanted to, but I hope this makes enough sense. I see that the people in the west, especially the USA, live such lives with unrealistic goals and expectations provided by society and further abused by consumerism. Am I correct on that?
I'm just so afraid of what's going to happen to the world, science isn't going to stop anytime soon... It is a sad world in which the human experience is made obsolete by artificial, picture perfect virtual worlds. All of life packaged safely in a magical rectangle, all the knowledge in the world contained inside our devices, all at a click of a button, all in the safety and comfort of our homes... But science can never replace nature, a copy can never surpass the original... We are paying dearly for not realising that, aren't we? The spiritual made obsolete by the material...
Thank you for reading, Papa Bear!
Theo (age 19)
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Thank you for your intelligent and well-thought-out letter. Your English is quite excellent, by the way, thanks to European education (you don't say what country you are native to, but pretty much all European countries excel over the USA's pathetic public schools). On to your question/statements....
My two initial reactions are: 1) it is dangerous to generalize about anything as being "all bad" or "all good," and that includes science; and 2) it sounds like your main concern is with virtual reality, the internet, and the media (TV and movies) giving a false impression of reality and depriving people of exposure to the real world, which leads to unrealistic expectations about life. Let's address these two issues.
Science is both good and bad. Medical science, for example, has come a long way in treating previously incurable or untreatable injuries and diseases. Physics, biology, astronomy, mathematics, etc. are teaching us the true nature of reality, which has helped explain the world in ways where religion has utterly failed. Science can solve problems such as how to deal with climate change and pollution (it's only politics and greed that get in the way). Yes, science can give us bad things, too, such as plastic waste and nuclear warheads. That's true with everything, though. There is always good and bad. Don't blame science; blame the people who use science for ill.
Going into the specific area of science and technology that you are complaining about: the way it creates a world that protects us from the real world. This can include everything from the internet to living in climate-controlled houses and cars. Yes, science has separated us from nature in many ways, as well as from social interaction. Religion does this, too, if you haven't noticed. Religions such as Christianity teach us that nature is "bad" and only heaven is good (which results in mankind treating nature like garbage), and it keeps us from understanding other people through mistrust.
But, back to science. Let's focus on virtual worlds and social media and movies and such. What you say is, often, very true. I've seen people get immersed in gaming, for example, as a way to hide from a difficult world. It is far easier to be Zardok the Savior of the Fifth Realm than to be Edmund Peebles of Tiny Town, Iowa, who can't hold down a job at the local McDonald's. Likewise, with porn (and this is a huge reason why many furries are into furporn, I believe), it is more fun (and stress-relieving) to pretend you are a well-endowed muscle wolf who can ejaculate 10 gallons of spoo from your 5-foot-long penis than it is to be a lonely 20-year-old who is too nervous to ask a girl on a date because he is terrified that if it leads to sex he will be too nervous or awkward to perform. The fursona aspect of it is a way of wearing a mask--not to conceal your identity so much as to relieve the anxiety and tension that arises if one were to reveal one's true self, which leaves you exposed to being judged by others, and if there is one thing most people crave it is positive validation, not criticism.
Yes, movies, television, RPGs, and even comic books take us to fantasy worlds that are not realistic. This can be a lot of fun, but it is also very limiting. Let's go back to furporn for a second. While one can be a sexy furry with many partners online, the stimulus here is limited to the visual and the auditory. Compared to real-world sex, you miss out on all the other senses: touch, smell, and taste. And so, you are only getting about 40% of an actual sexual experience. I, for one, would much rather have the real thing than sit and watch a naughty furry animation.
The same is true with experiencing nature. Yes, you can take virtual trips online or watch a travel show on TV, but again, you are only getting part of the experience while also neglecting some physical exercise. You can learn a lot of stuff from a documentary, but you don't get an experience you will remember. An example from my life: Ten years ago, my sister took me whale watching off the coast of Baja. Oh. My. God. You go out in tiny boats where the cow (female) gray whales are swimming gently about with their calves and these magnificent creatures come right up to the boats and interact with you! You can pet them, smell them, feel their presence. Far more amazing and memorable than watching a National Geographic special.
Neither online porn nor TV shows will ever replace the real thing, as you wisely conclude. Fortunately, they never fully will. Just as when people feared that the invention of Betamax and VHS tapes would keep people from attending the movie theater proved incorrect (except when you're in a pandemic), technology will never fully replace real life.
When it comes to furries, I believe that one reason people want to be anthros is because, deep down, they recognize how humanity has become separated from animals in nature, and this is their way of reconnecting with wildlife. Now, one of the greatest things to do as a furry is to go to furcons and furmeets, but the main reason the fandom has grown by leaps and bounds can be chalked up to the internet, which allows for communication throughout the world (as I am doing with you right now, my European furiend). Many furries can't go to cons and meets for one reason or another, so the internet allows them to do this. You can thank science for the ability of people to connect in ways they never could before.
Again, good and bad, Yin and Yang, positive and negative. It is the dual nature of our lives.
To answer your last question about science and technology replacing the real world, no, I don't think it will--at least, not completely. There will always be people like yourself who want to go outdoors and do things, interacting with nature and other human beings. Look at what is going on now with the pandemic. Yes, people can watch football on the telly and they can watch movies and talk in chat rooms, but they are screaming to "get back to normal," go see sports and concerts in real auditoriums and stadiums. They want to hang out with friends in bars. They want to go to a beach, even a crowded beach, and enjoy the people and surf. Humans are social beings. They want to interact with real people. How many furries do you talk to who are sad that the conventions have closed? There is nothing like fursuiting in public and getting real hugs. A glowing screen will never ever replace that.
I am glad that you have wrested yourself from the virtual world to experience your life. That's a great thing. You needn't reject it completely, however, or label it evil. As will all things, balance is the key. Find what is good with technology and exploit it for good use. For example, I could not do my current job without the information I have access to when researching online. Yes, I could go to a library, but that is limited compared to the terabytes of information online.
Balance science with nature, technology with the spiritual, and temper it all with wisdom and compassion. That is the path to a happier future.
Sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’ve just been very busy with woodwork and social stuff. However, recently I’ve been thinking about the sad and dark stuff that happened in 2020 and how so much I wasn’t expecting just how low the year could get.
I’ve been feeling down lately (though I stress I wanna live more than anything). The news and all the horrifying stories about COVID-19 and the horrific crimes committed by police (the fact I now cannot trust them with my life given my mild Autism and hearing about police murdering Aspies [people with Asperger's] is both depressing and disturbing), the numerous deaths of beloved figures from disease, the recent financial recession in my country. Not to mention the natural disasters that occurred earlier in the year and so many events I were looking forward to getting cancelled.
I’ve also suffered a relapse in depression. There are nights where it’s been so overwhelmingly miserable, I just want to cry myself to sleep. I struggle to smile and find the situation so hopeless, I can’t stop frowning. I just wanna smile again and feel hope and light, not this looming despair and darkness that leaves me paranoid of a horrible disease. It’s so scary and uncertain.
I’ve been feeling lonely lately. Trying to get out of the house to help my mother out with shopping and seeing a friend is to try and cheer myself up. It’s hard to feel hopeful when the news is destroying my faith in humanity and the global pandemic is killing so many people. I’m just so overwhelmed.
I also felt a sense of guilt from what happened with Etika. I wanted to help him because I could empathise with him and wanted to help him but when I heard he was blocking people trying to help him, I didn’t do anything because I loved his stuff and I wanted to not bother him. I was scared when I heard about his disappearance and was devastated when I heard the news of his suicide. I’m crying typing this because I feel so guilty I didn’t do anything even if doing something kind meant being blocked for trying to be a good person.
Also, one massive thing that traumatised me and made me feel terrified was my Mum’s so-called friend (I’m just gonna call him “J” even though he has the same name as my brother which I find insulting). I noticed early on in 2019 when J was emotionally abusive to my mum, gaslighting her and making her feel as if he was the only one who truly loved her(my separated father is 10-times the better partner than that bastard). He was also screaming at her at times. I could hear them through the paper thin walls. He threw things and was cruel to her. First time that happened my brother and I (and my dog Jake though neither of us got our shoes on and I couldn’t get my phone or wallet from upstairs) ran out while my Mum called the cops (this is before my trust in them was destroyed this year) and her bloody bruised face still haunts me. Second time it happened at night after he “apologised” to her and threatened to kill himself if she left, I couldn’t take it anymore and screamed at him to get out and stay out! I never once trusted him and my mum screamed at me that I should be glad dad and mum are in separate relationships. I don’t appreciate abuse. I always had a gut feeling not to trust him but I was nice to him anyway before the second time because I wanted to give him a second chance. He even gave me chew lollies but I suspect it was a bribe to shut me up and it didn’t work. I now associate the packet of lollies with that asshole. I hate them.
Both times, he destroyed something in the house (the car park door on the 2nd time) and made my mum cry. I hate myself for being so scared. I hate that man for what he did and it took every bit of willpower not to attack him the second time he attacked my mum. He’s also taller than my mum and me so he’s intimidating. He’s a monster. A cruel, manipulative and evil sack of shit who I hope I NEVER see his face again.
By the way, I should clarify despite my sadness at my parents separating, they’re still good parents who care about me and my siblings.
The 2010s were honestly some of the darkest and lowest points in my life. I was seriously hoping 2020 would actually improve things but it just got worse. I really wanna hope 2021 is slightly better but I have no idea. I wanna be a parent before I’m 30 but I’m worried if I’ll be a good parent given that I remember a social class from primary school when we were given a younger student from another class to help as a “parent” and I wasn’t there for them so they were given to someone else and the kid told me to my face I wasn’t there for them and were disappointed in me. I know it was just a school Project but it haunted me ever since and makes me scared I’ll be a bad parent for real. After some horrible abuse I went through from that shithead, I realised how important my family mean to me. I really wanna be a good loving attentive father one day.
I guess my questions are this: is there any hope for the future and how can I be a better person? Also, hope your leg’s okay, Papa Bear. I was rather worried when I heard the news from you. Stay safe, mate.
From a concerned and unhappy canine.
Sam the Dog
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Wow, there is a lot going on in this letter. There are at least four questions here: 1) Given the current state of the world, how can I be optimistic and hopeful about the future? 2) How do I deal with my mom and her abusive boyfriend? 3) Should I be a parent soon? 4) How do I deal with my feelings of guilt regarding Etika? (Please note in future that you are only supposed to ask one question per letter, but I know that writing this down is a catharsis for you, so it's okay this one time.
Let's start with the second one first. Domestic abuse is a serious business. Your mother's boyfriend is emotionally abusive and, it sounds like, even physically so. There is not too much you can do until your mother recognizes this, and there are many psychological reasons too complicated to go into here as to why she might be so reticent to change her life. I'm not sure what Australian police are like, but if you do not trust them to help with domestic abuse problems, I would recommend you contact Lifeline Australia (https://www.lifeline.org.au/), which offers services concerning suicide, domestic abuse, and other crisis support services. Start with them.
Next: Etika. What happened to Etika is not your fault. Could you have done more? Sure, you could have tried to talk to him more or recommend help for him, but ultimately his choices were his own. You do not own other people's fates; you only own your own fate.
Should you try and be a parent before you are 30? Ideally, in my opinion, no one should try to be a parent until they have their shit together, but if I could somehow enforce that, Homo sapiens would become extinct in a couple of generations. Almost no one has their shit completely together, so the second option would be to have your shit mostly together, meaning you had enough income and could provide a stable environment to nurture a child into adulthood. Do not become a parent for your own selfish reasons (I cannot count how many times I have heard people say, "I want a baby so I have someone to love me" or "I want a baby so I have someone to take care of me in my old age" or "I want a baby so that I can have someone to carry on my legacy.") All of these reasons are wrong reasons for bringing a human being into the world. So, ask yourself: "WHY do I want to bring a child into this crazy world?"
Lastly, the BIG question: How can one be optimistic about the future in such a grim year? To get a grip on this, one must accept that life goes in cycles. There are good periods in history and bad ones; economic good times and depressions; periods of political stability and periods of unrest. I sympathize with your unease in this Time of Trump, which is simply horrible. I am very nervous that our American republic is being destroyed and we are regressing into a past when racism ran rampant and when destroying the environment was the status quo. Right now, it is about 50/50 as to which path we will follow in November, and it is truly disturbing how many Americans still support Trump and his evil reign of hatred and racism. Let us hope that voters will turn things around, but if not, and we get four years (or more) of Trump, even then there is still hope because, as noted, eventually evil is overthrown and things improve. The only question is whether that happens sooner or later. Of course, you are in Australia, which is a stable, fairly socialist country (compared to the US), so you should be okay, especially since Australia is doing better handling the COVID-19 pandemic than many countries (South Australia is considered one of the safest places on Earth regarding the coronavirus). I think you will be okay. Hang in there.
Looking worldwide rather than just in Australia, yes, there has been a definite swing toward right-wing regimes in recent years. Countries including the USA, Brazil, the UK, Hungary, Poland, and Austria have growing right-wing movements. This is the result of a couple of things, including reactionary movements against immigration and the success of liberal legislation giving rise to counter-legislation. Basically, white, conservative Christians fearing they are losing power to brown-skinned people who follow other faiths or who are liberal socialists. So, we get a political phenomenon based on changing world demographics. As with any active system, there is turbulence during a transition from one equilibrium to the next. Things will settle down eventually, but it could take decades.
You can't take on the world by yourself. But I do like the saying, "Think globally, act locally." If you wish to do something, get involved in local political, social, and environmental groups, and see if you can lend them a hand. That will ease your sense of being powerless because you will be doing something constructive.
Good Luck to You! Take Care! Bear Hugs!
Dear Papa Bear,
I'm writing to you because you've helped me out multiple times while I was a teenager, and it just felt nice to come to you for advice once more as an adult! So for that, let's start this off with a thank you.
So, the TLDR of my situation is that my parents divorced. Dad retired from the army, kicked me out. My mom helped me move to California, where I had a lot more job opportunities. Mom is moving back with her bf in January, and I'm planning on leaving California. They (half) joke about you needing to make $30/h or higher to live here on your own haha. It's just a bit too expensive for my taste.
So when January comes, I'm hoping to go to Kansas, but I'm unsure, actually. It'll be my first time on my own. I was always planning on moving out but so many things in life kept happening that my plans kept suddenly changing.
When it comes to that time, do you have any advice on moving out on your own? How much money should I have saved up? What things should I do to make sure it goes smoothly? Advice on getting an apartment for the first time?
Sorry that this is a big question. It's been weighing on my mind a lot lately.
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Welcome back. It's weird, this column has been going on for about 8 years now and, yes, some original letter writers who were teens back then are now adults. How fast you grow up!
Depending where you live in California, you need to make more or less money. For example, it's much cheaper to live in the Central Valley than in a coastal city, but I get what you're saying.
Moving across the country is a really complicated and involved process, and I could write a book on just how to do that. Really, too much to say for this little column of mine. But I can give you a few pointers:
Hope this helps. Good luck!
Have you heard the news lately? A Soyuz capsule recently returned to Earth after a 6-month mission to the International Space Station, which was a complete success. Whoever these people are became international celebrities. There will likely be schools named after them. The only problem is the Chinese are not allowed on the International Space Station, which is totally racist. I mean, it's not like they will steal technology that is part of the ISS. I blame the U.S. government for that. It is holding humanity back by not letting the Chinese go to the ISS. What will it take for people to make Uncle Sam change his mind?
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The history of international cooperation in space is long and complex. As you likely know, mundane exploration in space began with the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States. When the USSR launched Sputnik in 1957--the first satellite--Americans freaked out and decided to work on their space program. Then, the USSR put the first human, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968), in space in 1961 aboard the Vostok, which freaked out Americans even more. That year, President Kennedy made his famous Moon Speech about putting a man on the moon and returning him safely home, which we did eight years later with Apollo 11. Once the United States declared itself the winner of the Space Race (that depends on whether you consider having the first man in space or on the Moon more important), it wasn't long before we began to lose interest. Indeed, it is my belief America would never have put Neil Armstrong on the Moon if the Russians hadn't challenged us to do so. The last man to walk the Moon's surface to date was Astronaut Eugene Cernan in 1972 with the Apollo 17 mission--nearly a half a century ago!
International cooperation made its first mark on history with the Apollo-Soyuz mission in which a Soviet and American spacecraft linked up in 1975. Other countries began forming space agencies, including Japan, China, India, and the countries of the European Space Agency (ESA). Of these countries, only the programs in the U.S., Russia, and China have put men and women into space using their own vehicles; all three have also put craft on the Moon, but only the Americans have put astronauts on the moon (Russia, China, and India have landed unmanned craft on the Moon).
As for the ISS, this is a partnership formed between the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and the ESA. Members of these participating countries have all been on the ISS crew. The reason why there have been no Chinese on the crew is that China is not a partner in the ISS. This is not a racist decision; it is a political one. China is seen as a competitor and rival among current space agencies, and they are actually doing quite well developing their own space program independently of America, Russia, and Europe.
That said, it is Papabear's opinion that the future of humanity is in space, and the successful exploration of space will not be fully realized without the cooperation of all nations. Indeed, it is my fondest hope that space travel will, one day, unify humanity with a common goal, bringing our countries closer together and even, perhaps, helping us all realize that we are all one people and that we should not separate ourselves based on nationality, race, religion, sex, or gender.
Perhaps one day....
I have launched a sub-fandom of my favorite tv show. It is a furry kids show on Qubo, and I feel that none want to join it as it is under a free domain. This is a forum that I launched. I feel really lonely in this sub-genre and I don't want to give in and give up on it. In what ways could I get others to become interested in it or join my newly created sub-fandom, so I have people around me to share it with? I hope you can help!
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That's a good question! I suggest you treat your endeavor like a business. When the wise businessperson has an idea for a product or service, before putting a lot of time, money, and effort into it, they do market research to see whether or not there is a demand in the first place. It wouldn't do to, say, manufacture thousands of Roseanne Barr dolls if you discover that the actress is no longer popular and no one wants anything to do with a toy based on her.
The solution, then, is not to play around with the forum itself, trying to create ways to make it more attractive to lure people in; rather, what you have to first do is find your customers. I don't know what the show is, but you might start there. How popular is this show? Are its ratings going up or down? Search the Web and see if there are already forums for the show or for other Qubo kids' programs, join them, and start chatting with the people who are participating. If you discover there are a lot of fans like yourself, that is when you start putting the word out: "Hi! I've created a forum for the Qubo show George and Martha [or whatever it is]. Come join the fun at www.forumcommunity.net/514889 [not a real page] and chat with fellow George and Martha fans!"
This isn't Field of Dreams where you build a baseball field and the ghosts of past players automatically show up. When I began this advice site, I did so because I saw there were lots of furries out there who wanted some advice. Once I was confident that was true, only then did I launch "Ask Papabear." You should do likewise. Find your customers, talk with them, then start putting the word out on the Web at any place that they gather online.
I am no native English speaker, but still I do know enough of the language to understand some of its quirks.... With that in mind, having heard the term "ostracized" now and then, it being synonymous to shunned leaves me rather perplexed by it's playful implications. Would a furry which feels correlated to ostriches feel weirded out by such term?
Darkaos (São Paulo, Brazil)
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LOL, the word "ostrich" and "ostracized" have no relationship. Ostrich is from the Old French word "ostriche," which just means "bird." Ostracize is from the Greek word "ostrakon," which means shell or a piece of pottery. In ancient Greece, when someone was to be banished, their name was written on a shell or piece of pottery (potsherd).
The English language has an interesting history, drawing from languages that include Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon, and Nordic tongues, as well as other languages. Anyway, I assure you that no furry who has ever felt ostracized would even think this has anything to do with ostriches. There are no "playful implications" about it, I'm afraid.
Your English is coming along great! I know a little Spanish, but no Portuguese, so you have me at an advantage for sure.
Thanks for a fun question!
P.S. Here is a word for you to learn as you study English (or any language): etymology. Etymology is the study of the origins of words. It is a fascinating field.
I have an interest in furry bellies and growling stomachs, whether they be male or female. I think this started when I was young, when I watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. When Pooh’s tummy rumbled, I was allured by how round and fluffy it was and the sound it made. I was also enamored by the likes of Baloo and Little John. Now, this interest has evolved into a fetish. I still watch cartoons, and I find it satisfying whenever a character’s stomach growled. I used to look at furry belly art and fat furry art on DeviantArt, Twitter, and FurAffinity. I was even interested in drawing my own chubby characters. I even participated in a couple of furry belly role plays. Then one day, my parents caught me in the middle of an RP on an Amino devoted to furry bellies. They were disturbed by the content of that Amino. I argued that it wasn’t anything like boobies or genitalia, but they weren’t having any of it. In an effort to persuade them, I eventually showed them some of what I’ve been looking at. I have been looking at fat furries along the lines of the following pictures (Prepare for a long list):
By the way, I am not gay. I am a straight Christian. My parents already told me about masterbation. I know that there is such a thing as too fat. I try to avoid fat furry pictures with explicit content. Anyway, in my personal opinion, I see nothing wrong with the above pictures (although the nose bleed in the 5th picture might show otherwise). However, my parents still weren’t happy about me looking at furry bellies even after I showed them some pictures!
I think that furry belly and fat furry art falls into a grey area between the light side of the furry fandom and the dark side. I still want to draw/look at those chubby characters, but I’m worried that I might wander into the dark side, and therefore make my parents mad. My question for you has many forms, but I can choose only one. Are furry bellies SFW?
Anonymous (Age 17)
P.S.: I also have Asperger's.
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If by NSFW you mean Not Safe for Work, I would say that browsing any furry art while at work is not really acceptable to your boss(es). People have frequently asked me about whether looking at furry stuff at work is okay, and my answer is this: If you are at work, you should be working and not surfing the Web for personal reasons. Simple, yes?
As for your belly interests, there is nothing wrong with liking big bellies. As you likely know, there are all kinds of sexual preferences in the world. People often label them as "fetishes" because humans like to use disparaging terms for anything they don't consider "normal." This then makes the person who has a "fetish" feel bad about themselves, which then leads to neuroses, guilt, self-hatred, and even psychosis.
The truth is that Mother Nature likes variety, and that is why not everyone likes straight sex with stereotypically attractive people doing things only in the missionary position for the purpose of procreation. According the online magazine Healthline,
“Sexual fantasy is highly varied across the spectrum, so fetishes might simply be one element of our diversity in terms of sexual interest and arousal,” Jessica O'Reilly, Ph.D., a sexuality counselor since 2001, told Healthline. “That means we'll have different tastes just like we do in food.”
My advice: do not feel guilty about liking bellies. As long as you are not hurting anyone, enjoy whatever you like. If your parents don't approve, that's their problem. I know, I know, we all want our parents' approval, but it is exactly that need for their approval that drives many people crazy in life. Respect your parents; they have experience and knowledge you don't have yet, but don't be afraid to form your own opinions and beliefs.
This is the second time I have written to you. During my studies, and even before, when I grew bored of TV series, I turned to following world news, American news, and some conservative Internet commentators.
Through these, I learned about the Social Justice Warrior movement and its misguided ways. The extremist members of this movement propagate hate against white people. Is it really ok to hate based on ethnicity? Why did the term "people of color" come to existence with the meaning of non-white people? Is white not a color? If not, then why is black considered a color in this sense? For both white and black are considered shades, not true colors, in art. SJWs connect "whiteness" to the colonizers of the Americas and not only to them, they extend the meaning to all Europeans, a crude generalization and racism on their part. One might ask the question why is it that they only view white people as not belonging to America when, in fact, African slaves were brought there to replace "the Indians" (native Americans), because they couldn't handle the burden of slavery well. So, in this sense everyone except native Americans should get out of your continent, the thought of which is quite absurd. Even so, why do they think it is ok to blame the younger generation for the sins of the older?
When commentators speak about gender and race issues, they make it sound like that SJWs are everywhere and pose a big problem. Because I'm not living there, I have limited means of gathering information. So, I would like to ask you: how widespread is this belief in your society, especially in the furry fandom, since it's known to be one of the most accepting fandoms? Do people get hung up on chasing nonexistent offences, intolerantly preaching tolerance, or is it just a magnified issue which doesn't come up as often? What is your opinion about this in general?
Farkas Ürdüng (23, Hungary)
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I think it was comedian Eddie Murphy who did a humorous stand-up routine about color. Talking about white people, he noted, “When white people get cold, they turn blue; when they get angry, they turn red; when they get sick, they might get yellow or green, but when black people are cold or angry or sick, they’re still black. Seems to me white people are the ones who are colored” *snerk*.
Your letter seems to entangle two separate issues: social justice warriors and white guilt. They are not always the same. SJWs are objects of criticism because they are a form of troll, using insincere outrage over things they have heard are not politically correct and then having vitriolic fits about them online to score social justice points, so they will be seen as popular. Such people only do their “activism” online and do not do anything constructive in the real world to effect real change. In other words, they are frauds. Their use of politically correct mantras is just a tool for trolling; they don’t truly care about the issues they complain about.
Let’s move on to the politically correct movement in America and white guilt. Here is an extremely brief overview of the history behind it: As you are likely aware, the United States has a long history of oppressing other races, especially African Americans and Native Americans, but also other groups, including Chinese and Japanese immigrants, LGBT people, and, of course, women (who weren’t even allowed to vote until 1920, long after black men were “technically” permitted to vote, though many factors made this difficult, such as Jim Crow laws). Beginning with the 1960s Counterculture Movement, which centered in universities, especially those in New England and the West Coast (University of California, Berkeley, was the epicenter), and the Civil Rights Movement led by such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., there was a strong reaction against the injustices perpetrated against minority groups. A dissonance needed to be resolved between these injustices and the American image of being “land of the free and home of the brave.” Obviously, unless you were a white male, most Americans didn’t even start to experience real freedom until just the last few decades of our history.
[Side note: your statement that “African slaves were brought there to replace ‘the Indians’ (native Americans), because they couldn't handle the burden of slavery well” is untrue. Indians experienced slavery, it’s true, under the Europeans, but when it comes to Americans they were more often slaughtered, run off their lands, and put in re-education schools where they were forbidden to use their native languages. Africans were brought in to work the fields, primarily in the South, although a number of Northerners had slaves until those states started making it illegal. In other words, the Indians (who were perfectly capable of being slaves and often were [especially under Spain]) were mostly seen as a people to be exterminated (they posed a challenge to the white American concept of Manifest Destiny), while the Africans were considered a labor resource.]
After generations of work by civil rights leaders, America made progress in its laws to finally treat minorities better. As with any tidal change in society, there are reactionary forces led by about half of America (at least) that is still extremely prejudiced towards these groups. But because it was no longer legal (or at least ignored) in American society to be overtly prejudiced and abusive towards these groups, they kind of went underground. An example: before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages, the state of Michigan passed a state constitution amendment banning such unions. Before it went to a vote, however, polls indicated that most Michiganders were against the amendment. You see, even though the polls were anonymous, people didn’t want to be seen as prejudiced, but when they entered the voting booths, they voted for what was really in their hearts: hate. The same is true with racism in many parts of this country. For example, local leaders in some southern states have removed voting centers in areas with black majorities to make it harder for them to vote, but they say the reason is because they need to cut election costs.
Now, with a racist jackass inhabiting the White House and a majority of minority-hating Republicans in Congress, hateful Americans everywhere have felt empowered to once again spout their prejudices (currently, it is mostly aimed at Muslims from Arabic countries and at immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and south of the border). Republican leaders justify their actions by labeling Muslim minorities as terrorists and immigrants from Mexico and Central America and other points south as moochers stealing money from American taxpayers. The words on the Statue of Liberty have no meaning to right-wing people.
To point out your correct observation that all Americans are either immigrants or descended from immigrants (except for Indians [and, by the way, it is okay to call them Indians], who got here first), conservative politicians and other Americans do acknowledge this, it is just that they would prefer our immigrants to come from places like—as Trump requested—Norway, which he considers to be not a “shithole country.” The problem there is that people in Norway are generally much happier than Americans and have no compelling reason to flock here en masse.
Like a game of ping-pong, with the counter-revolution of white conservatives on the rise, you are now getting a counter-counter-revolution of left-wingers and those who are obsessed with political correctness, and part of this political correctness is a self-loathing (if you are white) for all the injustices of the past, even if you weren’t personally responsible for them. This is why Columbus Day is celebrated less and less and why there was a recent movement to destroy monuments to Confederate leaders.
As we bounce back and forth, the two extremes become more and more extreme, while moderates in the middle become scarce. Today, we have a deeply divided nation that is literally (judging by voting) a 50/50 split between liberals and conservatives. Add to this the fact that we have lost the ability to compromise in Congress, and that social media encourages people to express hostile opinions without having to hear counterarguments, and you have a real mess on your hands.
Social Justice Warriors are just one symptom of a much larger issue: a country that is as divided today as it was just before the U.S. Civil War and all that this implies. Some states, such as California and Texas, are even mulling over the possibilities of seceding from the union—something that is becoming a possibility because of the lack of true leadership in Washington, D.C.
As for the furry community, it is well established that its members tend toward the left, politically speaking, though there are some conservatives within the fandom, which would imply that there may be more SJW people in the fandom than in the general population (I have no statistics on this, however; it’s just a hunch). I believe that the SJW phenomenon is one restricted, for the most part, to the online world. Mostly, this is people raging against the wind to little or no effect. I find it an annoyance that is easily ignored and avoided.
Much more important than the impotent SJW population is the very real fact that the United States is in serious trouble—politically, socially, economically. Indeed, this is coming to a head involving the Constitution and the power of the Executive Branch, which, at this point, could go one of two ways: 1) in the 2018 and 2020 elections Americans start to regain their senses and bring back some sanity to Washington, or 2) we go the way of Nazi Germany and descend into a dictatorship that would mark the end of the United States as we know it.
And how are things in Hungary?
I wanted your thoughts about a dream or nightmare, I had a few months ago, Since our last letter (see this column from 2016) I've done some research into chronophobia and would seem that's what I'm suffering from, there where some suggested things a person with chronophobia should do, so I took out ticking clocks or anything that would remind me of time out of my bedroom and made some lifestyle changes that would take up most of my free time, which honestly helps me sleep more easily at night
Anyway to the dream. I was working, nothing unusual, familiar faces and surroundings, than suddenly something hit me, I went from standing to being laid out on the ground faster than I could think, as I lay there, I tried getting up only to realize I couldn't move, all the familiar people around me began to panic as they looked at me, didn't take long for me to realize I was dying, my eyes were open, but everything was fading to black, the familiar voices started to fade to silence, however I didn't feel any fear or regrets, my literal thought was " My time is done, let's see what's on the other side " but that's when my mate pop into my mind, than I struggled as hard as I could trying to force myself to stand, telling myself " I can't leave him, I can't die! " that's when I woke up already sitting up in my bed, in a panic I hopped out of bed looking for my mate, only to realize he wasn't there and for the first time in years I cried
I had this dream while at work, it was very vivid and to this day it gives me chills, I haven't told my mate about it, but everyday I tell him I love him, since than I haven't felt fear, not even during a " bumpy " helicopter ride, but at night chronophobia sets in even more now, I wanted to know if you had any thoughts on this? Does it have a meaning or connection to my fear of time? Or maybe I'm just thinking about it too much? Love to hear from you and as always thank you for reading.
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I believe this is all related to your earlier letter and your fears of the future and of aging. A fear of dying is definitely tied into these. With your apparent PTSD, I hope you will not be offended if I suggest it might be a good idea for you to explore another career besides firefighting. Have you thought about this? I am not questioning your bravery or commitment to service, but for your own sake (mental and emotional health) there is no shame in looking for something that doesn't stress you out so much.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.