What is Wrong With Us?

I’m worried about us. Humans, that is. And it has everything to do with cell phones.

I had my final show tonight. Seussical. A culmination of 3.5 months of hard work. It was a great show. I’m so proud of my actors and tech crew who pulled it off. But what I saw tonight sickened me. And it made me worry about us. Us humans.

I was sitting in the audience. That’s what I do as a director. When the show comes around, I always consider my work to be finished. So I enjoy the show from the house and see what my many months of work has produced.

I’m proud of this show. We had a lot of things go wrong, but we weathered the storm and put on a great show for the audience. But here’s where my worries enter.

Right in front of me was the uncle of one of the performers. And he couldn’t pay attention. At all. I mean at all. If he went a minute without checking his phone I’d be surprised. He came to the show, paid money for a ticket, was there to watch his nephew, and yet couldn’t pull himself away from his phone long enough to even pay attention to the show going on in front of him.

I’m worried. Very worried about us. Us humans.

He was looking at his Facebook feed. I mean studying his Facebook feed. The same feed he monitors all day long. And he couldn’t pull himself away from it for even a few minutes to watch a great production with his NEPHEW being one of the leads. No. That was too much. His Facebook feed was so compelling that he couldn’t look away.

What does that mean for us? It’s not good. These screens have become our dictators. Our gods. Our everything. And he (and it’s not only he, it’s many people) couldn’t bother to pay attention to what his nephew was doing on stage. (rather brilliantly, might I add) He couldn’t bother with actual life. He needed the virtual. He couldn’t pull away. He needed the feel of the screen — the thrill of the scroll. He turned his back on his own kin for a cheap thrill of a tiny screen.

I am sickened. For all of us. What will we become?

What is wrong with us?

Texting and Driving: Redux

I originally posted this a year ago, but it recently came up again in my classroom and thought it might be timely to post again. I asked my students how many of them have been in a moving car while someone was texting? 39/52 said they were. Wow! How incredible it is that parents value their children so little. You think that comment is too harsh, well it isn’t. Texting and driving is 17 times more dangerous than driving drunk at the legal limit. 17 times!!!! That’s crazy. The post below will give you the particulars. I told my students that they should grab the phone and throw it out the window. After all, a broken phone is much better than a dead child. Here we go: 


This feels like a public service announcement. Here goes …

I had a long interesting discussion with some of my students today. First I asked them how many of them had been in a car while the driver was texting. The answers were overwhelming. Our of 46 people surveyed, 38 indicated that they had been a passenger when the driver was doing something even more dangerous than drunk driving.

More dangerous you ask? I can’t be serious, can I?

Car and Driver Magazine did a study by rigging a redlight to a car and having a driver drive unimpaired at 70mph on a desert track. When the redlight was flashed, it took him .54 seconds to hit the brake.

Next, it was a person who was legally drunk (.08) and it took that person .54 seconds plus 4 feet to hit the brake.

Next, they tested a person who was reading a text or email while driving. It took that person .54 seconds plus 36 feet.

Next, it was a person who was writing a text while driving. It took that person .54 seconds plus 70 feet.

Can anyone see the problem here? People commonly, day in and day out, are using their phones while driving and endangering everyone around them – and they think they have it all under control.  But they don’t.

I’m pretty sure parents lecture their kids on drinking and driving, but perhaps have overlooked something even more dangerous that happens all the time.

As I told my students, each car has this unique device called a brake in which one can stop, pull off the road, and read their text message if it is that important to them.

There is also something called not answering the phone. We have become so conditioned to immediately reaching for our phone when we hear the ding or feel the buzz. It’s as if we are expecting breaking news or a word from God himself. In reality, 99 percent of the text messages we receive are so mundane that we could wait days to read them without ever altering the orbit of the earth around the sun. You can be confident that there is nothing earth-shattering in that text that can’t wait a day, let alone ten minutes.

I hope everyone will think seriously about this. Put down your phones. Stop endangering those who are riding with you and who are driving around you. You just might save a life.


The Internet May Doom Us All (or at least make us all feel stupid)

If it’s in print, it must be worth paying attention to!

If it’s from a “reputable” site, it must be true!

The Internet makes us all susceptible to bias or right-out lies; Therefore, it is the duty of every person who goes on the web to judiciously and skeptically approach EVERY piece of news which one comes across.

Here’s a post a wrote awhile back entitled “If you can’t read the news without spreading rumors, then …” Read post here

It would seem like most people in the world haven’t followed my advice. Hmmm. Well, let’s try again. Here’s a link from Christianity Today which explains very well what to do when someone reads stuff on the web. It’s great advice. Check it out:  Christianity Today link

The uproar this week surrounds a fake news story about a pastor being arrested for not being willing to perform a gay wedding. Can you imagine what followed? How many people shared this on their Facebook page only to have their friends share and their biases confirmed by something which was entirely not true.

But this is not surprising. Everyday (literally) I see memes and articles on Facebook and other outlets which, if they aren’t true, they are extremely misleading. They come from all points of view – liberal, conservative, Christian, atheist – everyone has an agenda and are often times willing to skew the facts a little to better their point of view.

You, as the reader, have to be smart. You have to be able to see past the ridiculous statements and the political spin to look at the issues in a level-headed manner.

Please. Don’t pass on anything without verifying the facts. Don’t accept any news at face value. Don’t believe anything the Onion publishes. (I feel bad for those who have accepted the Onion’s news as real. Oh my.)

If you spot fake news or misleading information, confront it (with grace) to pass on the correct information. If you pass on information which you find out later to be wrong, make amends. Re-post and set the record straight. It can make a big difference.

In this digital day and age, we all must be the eyes and ears which guard the truth. Don’t sit back and expect the media to do it for us.


Respecting the Creative Works of Others

A group of my students was given two tasks. First, how do people use digital media without giving the creator proper credit or compensation. The ways were many: streaming video from non-paying sights, grabbing photos off the web for a project, buying pirated DVDs (a huge market right in the open here in Malaysia), downloading music from YouTube, etc …

The second task was for them to list reasons that people give in order to justify the use of digital media without properly giving credit or compensation to the creator. Again, there were many justifications. Here are a few:

  • It’s free on the Internet
  • I’m a poor student.
  • It’s so easy to do it!
  • Everyone else is doing it.
  • Law enforcement doesn’t seem to care about pirated DVDs, so why should I? (this one applies to our situation in Malaysia and many other countries)
  • Those entertainers make enough money!
  • Songs are too expensive. $1 a song!

For people who care about ethics and laws in so many other parts of their lives, these excuses are just that: excuses. The logic behind them doesn’t exist.

How about “I’m a poor student?”  That may be true, but there is no rule written anywhere that poor students are entitled to listen to music they didn’t pay for.

“It’s so easy to do!”  It also may be easy to slip a candy bar in your pocket the next time you are at the grocery store, but it doesn’t make it right.

“It’s free on the Internet!” It’s only free on the Internet because someone believes they can break copyright law without consequence. I’m pretty sure if the person who posted it illegally every created something of value that others wanted to pay for that they would think twice about giving it away for free.

“Songs are expensive.” No, actually, they aren’t. I’ll prove this in a later post.

“Everyone else is doing it.” Do I even have to attack this justification?

“Law enforcement doesn’t care; Why should I?” This is the classic situation of justifying bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior. There have been governments in this world that justified murder, does that mean you shouldn’t care about someone’s life anymore?

When you get right down to it, people use and abuse digital media either out of greed or laziness. Someone might steal a passage from an essay to make their own essay sound better. This is pure laziness. When people download illegal music, that is all about greed. They surmise that their money should go farther than anyone else’s. They believe that they are entitled to have more than what they can afford. Living beyond our means – and digital life makes it all so easy.

But there is no justification in the world which gets around the fact that downloading a song without paying for it is stealing. It’s really that simple. It just doesn’t feel like stealing because digital media can be duplicated an infinite amount of times and the original is still there.

But if you like a song, a book, a movie, think about all the hours of creativity that went into producing it. We must, as a society, begin to value the process of creativity if we are to reap the rewards and enjoyment of that creative process.

I hope we all will make the decision to respect the creative works of others.