Tuesday, November 29, 2022

"Self-made" gets thrown around way too much.

I’m acquainted with a content creator that shared the following opinion with a limited audience via their personal social media profile:

“Most people are offended by people that are self made because they see it’s possible, and realize they simply chose to be mediocre. That’s hard to process.” (sic)

I'll give them the benefit of a doubt that its something they might still be workshopping.

Their opinion prompted several comments—most in agreement, a few requesting some clarification. Observations were made about what it means to be “offended.” Some commented with their personal definitions of mediocrity. Only one other person brought up the term that stood out to me more than the rest, questioning their own understanding of what it meant: “self made”—the definition of which could potentially transform a merely vague notion into a perplexing and ineffable conviction.

I made the following contribution to the comment thread:

“An individual can be self-aware, self-motivated, and self-assured. All qualities that can lend themselves to success when applied wisely—regardless of how one defines success for themselves.

“I don’t think it’s possible to be “offended” by “people that are self made…” for the same reason that I don’t think it’s possible to be offended by leprechauns: one cannot be offended by something that does not exist.”

(I included a link to an excerpt from a commencement speech given by Arnold Schwarzenegger where he emphatically states that there's no such thing as Self-Made Man.)

My comment was met with the following reply by the acquaintance who shared their opinion:

“…I appreciate the sentiment, how would you differentiate those who have created something from nothing VS those who simply inherited or were given everything?” (sic)

I responded with an abbreviated version of the following:

...that's a great question.

Some would argue that the only entity to have ever created something from nothing was God. There are also those who believe that even God’s creations were formed from preexisting matter, and everything that has come into existence since then has been through complex processes that continually rearrange matter and energy that has always existed.

The same principle remains true in this context. You mention “those who simply inherited or were given everything.” I think it’s safe to assume that “everything” refers to “wealth” and all the trappings that come with it—a sense of entitlement, perceptions of power, unqualified influence, etc. I picture the Roy children from “Succession” when I think of this. Our culture equates “wealth”—especially when it’s inherited—with money and property with monetary value. Wealth is a resource—especially in the eyes of entrepreneurs.

One may infer from your question an assumption that people either have resources at their disposal or they do not and that it’s somehow possible for a person without resources to create something like personal “wealth” from nothing.

The problem with that assumption is that it ignores the existence of “public” resources, i.e., the wealth and the infrastructure it builds that we all own collectively and is available to everyone—albeit with varying degrees of access and ability to use them effectively. One might even suggest that public resources are collectively inherited by virtue of being born into an organized society.

The ability of most people to simply function, maintain employment, have somewhere to sleep, food to eat, etc., would not be possible without public resources. People can’t work if they cannot fill out a job application which requires that they know how to read and write—basic skills that most people acquire through public education. People cannot travel for their job, nor can raw materials be imported and finished products shipped without public roads and other public transportation infrastructure. The availability of clean water, basic sanitation services, access to electricity, and the internet, are all public resources.

Every company that makes money with digital navigation software would not exist were it not for the publicly funded and operated GPS system. A resource that can be accessed by anyone, with the right tools, worldwide without having to pay for it specifically. Imagine how much money it would cost to use Google Maps if Google had to design, develop, build, launch, and maintain its own network of satellites.

No individual can realize their full creative and financial potential without a basic education to start with. That includes successful content creators using internet platforms—that do not require any upfront costs; access is basically given away—developed by other people, using a digital infrastructure that would not exist were it not established through the publicly funded Arpanet.

That being said, let’s revisit the question:

“How would you differentiate those who have created something from nothing VS those who simply inherited or were given everything?”

My answer: The former is probably God. The latter is everyone else.

"Self-made man"
(AI generated image
)

However, considering the apparent context of the original post, I don’t think anybody is offended by—let’s just say “financially successful”—people. Financial success is not inherently offensive, nor are the skills used to achieve it.

People don’t find Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos offensive because of their success or their skills. Most aren’t even offended that they started out with inherited wealth—there’s nothing new about that.

What people do find offensive is that Musk, Bezos, and others like them, are narcissistic egomaniacs who refuse to ACKNOWLEDGE their existing advantages. In other words, they’re assholes—which might even remain true if they end up as bankrupt financial failures.

No one is “self-made” because no one exists separately from everyone else. Regardless of how one measures success, it’s not achieved without using existing resources. Those who don’t inherit resources from family can still use other available resources, many of which are publicly accessible.

In the end, there are those who acknowledge and express gratitude for the resources that made their success possible… and there are those who don’t.

How the latter is perceived by others has nothing to do with anyone’s personal choices.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Thinking about r**e babies

 Trigger warning: I'm going to talk about sexual assault, abortions, and lesser-known medical experiments.

Image by Sergio Flores
Pretty sure that the subject's motives
were not intentionally ironic.
The anti-abortion movement likes to call themselves “Pro-life,” but it’s more accurate to describe them as “Pro-birth” since they can’t be bothered to care about anything beyond that. Many of them preach that all pregnancies must be carried to term, no matter what. You can try to educate them with the fact that “…if you factor in fertilized eggs that fail to implant along with pregnancies that end in
miscarriage, around 70% to 75% of all conceptions will end in pregnancy loss.” (emphasis added) But they won’t listen. Miscarriages might as well be elective abortions in their minds. Fun fact: a miscarriage is sometimes referred to as a “spontaneous abortion.” That’s probably why there are anti-abortion types who want to outlaw miscarriages as well.

One of their more heartless assertions is the idea that no exception should be made for someone who becomes pregnant due to being raped, not even if that person is a child. This is often justified with platitudes akin to “something wonderful resulting from something tragic.” Wonderful for whom? It’s never made entirely clear. Hypothetical adoptive parents? The new life that’s allowed to come into the world? That’s usually as far as any explanation goes because they only care about preventing abortions. Anything beyond that—physical and emotional trauma, pregnancy complications that could result in death, medical debt, child poverty—is not their problem.

Since there’s just no reasoning with these people when it comes to the law or even trying to get them to care about what happens to so-called “fetal persons” after they’re born, I want to make a suggestion in regard to pregnancies that result from rape.

I think it’s cruel to force someone to carry to term the offspring of their rapist. Since the anti-abortion mob cares more about the birth of the potential child than the life—or basic human rights—of the person carrying it, I think it behooves them to consider alternative means of gestation.

I’m not talking about utilizing an artificial womb that’s separate from a human body. I’m thinking more about a possible convergence of prenatal medicine and restorative justice. More to the point:

Require rapists to carry their own babies!

"Junior" (1994)
Universal Pictures
Just hear me out!

If a person is not allowed to terminate a pregnancy that resulted from being sexually assaulted, then someone should figure out how to safely transplant the fetus into the body of the rapist so they can have the baby—I imagine the delivery would have to be by cesarean section, of course.

Consider the implications: the victim’s right to bodily autonomy can be somewhat restored, the fetus can still be carried to term, and the rapist gets a whole new perspective when considering the consequences of their actions.

This would present an excellent opportunity for the anti-abortion mob to clearly demonstrate that they are really most concerned about the lives of the unborn… and not just a medieval desire to exert control over other people’s bodies.

Excuse me for just a moment; I hear some complaints from the anti-abortion mob in my head—I assure you, this is completely normal; I’m not hallucinating; I’m a writer. It’s all part of the process.

Some people might think it would be wrong to impregnate a rapist with their own baby, probably because the rapist would ostensibly not be given a choice in the matter. The very idea of violating a person’s body and implanting it with a quasi-parasite seems… distasteful.

The phrase “My body, my choice” comes to mind. I’m told—probably by the same mob in my head—that it was popularized during the pandemic when people were conflating inconvenience with tyranny because they didn’t want to wear masks in public anymore. Who would have thought that it could be applied to other aspects of personal liberty and the rights of individuals not to worry that decisions about their lives and bodies are being made by other people or the government?

If only there were some sort of document or “bill” that would codify everyone’s basic inalienable rights and perhaps a way for us all to understand better that one person’s rights do not entitle them to infringe on the rights of others, we probably wouldn’t even need to have such disturbing conversations. Somebody should totally get on that.



Wednesday, June 15, 2022

***Puente’s Personal & Professional Progress rePort***

(Originally posted on Facebook to a limited audience on June 13, 2022)

(Quasi-confidential)

I’ve said this before: I try to keep my public posts on social media light, entertaining, and/or thoughtful. However, from time to time, I want to share things that may only interest a specific cohort of friends and/or colleagues.

For example, when seeking recommendations for something local to me, I try to limit my audience to a geographically defined list of friends. My brothers in California might know the best [insert hypothetical resource] that’s just down the road from them, but that wouldn’t help me in Utah.

I also have a “Spiritchal” list as a courtesy to friends who consider themselves agnostic or areligious and who aren’t as keen to see that sort of content in their newsfeeds. There’s also a very select group that’s privy to humorous posts of a certain color; I don’t just add anyone to the “Blue Humor” list—anymore.
There are also times—similar to the moment when I choose to share this pre-written and edited collection of thoughts—when I feel the need to share something personal with only a close circle of friends. At those times, I’ll limit the audience to my list of “Confidants.”

However, this particular post—which is only kinda personal but also related to my professional endeavors—will be more accessible without going 100% public. I’ve also chosen to tag some specific individuals for their confidential feedback. Still, anyone who can see this post is invited to share any thoughts and suggestions they might have privately. So, here we go…

*takes a deep physical and virtual breath*

It’s been a rough decade—I suppose I could add the words “so far,” but, man, sometimes it feels like it’s already been at least a decade or two! Regardless of whether or not some acknowledge that it has not ended, the Pandemic experience continues to impact everyone in different ways, and I’m no exception. I’ve been diligent enough to have not contracted COVID-19, and I’m vaccinated and boosted. At first, I didn’t think that lockdown would be that big a deal for me because I’m kind of a homebody anyway, but it has taken a greater toll than expected. I’m grateful for the love and support of my wife and family and for having access to resources and tools to help me cope. Still, they also have their limits—in all fairness, I’ve seen a lot of improvements in the VA healthcare system over the years, but it’s still woefully underresourced. Late last year—with Danica’s encouragement—I decided to resume talk therapy. After months of waiting for a slot to open up, I was able to attend three remote sessions before my therapist informed me that I had to go back onto a waiting list because they found themselves unexpectedly leaving the VA. I can only assume that they were unaware of this imminent change until after they had agreed to take me on as a client. And so, the wait continues. I have a new appointment with a new therapist… scheduled for September.

I’ve also come to acknowledge that some of the difficulties that I’ve been struggling with actually predate the Pandemic. As some of you are aware, in 2018, I experienced a “Lumbar Compression Fracture” and spent the better part of that spring and summer with very limited mobility—I even had to use a wheelchair. While I’ve physically recovered from that experience—for the most part—it also had a major psychological impact on me, leading me to second-guess myself and what I’m capable of doing—especially as an actor and filmmaker—mostly out of a genuine fear of injuring myself again. I have participated in some filmmaking projects since then—both in front of and behind the camera—but not without struggling with a great deal of anxiety, making it difficult to put myself out there as much as I used to and further delaying some tasks like getting my acting reel and online portfolio updated.

My efforts with my non-profit organization, Utah Filmmakers™, have continued as best they can—a distinct brand has been evolving, I’ve secured ownership of additional trademarks registered with the state and some premium top-level domain names, and its outreach into the community has expanded a bit with a new Mentorship and Associate programs—but I feel like I’ve spread myself too thin. As I’ve mentioned to a few of you that have been tagged in this post, I’m struggling to effectively manage the programs I’ve implemented, which has contributed significantly to my general anxiety. I don’t want to pull the plug on anything, but I can’t just walk away.

Last fall, I spoke with a consultant about Utah Filmmakers™ and was frank about how I have been running it—mindful of all due diligence but still mostly on my own. At the end of our conversation, they asked me what they could do to help me, and I said, “Ya know, if you could just summarize what we’ve talked about and offer some pointers on the most important issues, that would give me a better grasp of what I should do moving forward.”

They emailed me a detailed summary of our conversation and some very helpful suggestions that included things like strategic planning, building a Board of Directors that’s more than just a list of names, and joining the Utah Nonprofits Association and the Utah Cultural Alliance. Those last two were really easy since I have been a dues-paying member of the UNA and UCA for a few years.

At the start of 2022, I did reach out to the UNA and the UFA™ Board of Directors to discuss my desire to try and implement some practical changes and clearly define the long-term goals for the organization. I downloaded some literature, then I “got distracted” by the fact that Utah Filmmakers™ was approaching its 20th Anniversary, bringing with it a distinct collection of stress and anxiety—which seemed preferable to deal with at the time. Now that that’s out of the way—for the most part—I know that I need to shift my focus back onto the organization itself… and, once again, I feel paralyzed by anxiety.

I’ve developed some pretty good organizational skills over the years. I think I’ve proven to be an effective film producer when I’ve had the proper resources to work with—specifically, funding. While I think I’ve figured out the broad strokes of a strategic plan for Utah Filmmakers™ moving forward—see the flow-chart that accompanies this post—I feel I’ve hit a wall as far as what I’m capable of managing on my own.

I’ve never been very effective at nonprofit fundraising. However, I am pretty good at bookkeeping, managing due diligence, submitting tax forms and reports on time, renewing permits, and maintaining memberships, registrations, and licensures.

My experience with recruiting individuals to take a more active part in Utah Filmmakers™ has been difficult. I’m always hesitant to ask anyone to do anything without being able to compensate them in some way—I’ve managed to secure a few grants over the years, but nothing substantial enough to hire someone even for general administrative functions. When I can offer something tangible and with quantifiable value—sponsored t-shirts, free Google Workspace accounts—I still feel conflicted when asking people to follow through on their commitments. I don’t want to pester anyone, to be seen as demanding, or create the impression that I’m ungrateful for the assistance I can garner for what little I’ve been able to offer for it.

I want to reorganize Utah Filmmakers™ as an organization. I need to rebuild the board of directors with individuals who will commit to actively participating in its mission. I’d like to recruit board members with more practical nonprofit experience—especially in basic governance and fundraising. I want to include individuals actively associated with other organizations and businesses with similar goals related to filmmaking and the film industry—I’m also open to more formal partnerships with other nonprofit organizations. I believe it’s possible to do this without creating any conflicts of interest because such individuals would be able to help ensure that Utah Filmmakers™ is not reinventing the wheel—i.e. doing anything that’s already been successfully implemented by another organization, business, or agency.

I think that Utah Filmmakers™ offers something of value to the community and the local film industry. As much as I want to keep working at this, I just don’t think I can keep doing it alone. I need help.
If you’ve managed to make it through this post (especially if you weren’t directly tagged in it) and you can help me accomplish some of the goals I’ve described above—or know someone who can—I’d like to hear from you.

You can email me at admin@utahfilmmakers.org