There’s nothing wrong with being average, plain, or downright passableat something.
I was watching The Last Dance the other day on Netflix and, of course, felt inferior to those featured.
Then I remembered I’m watching the best of the best – God-given talent combined with ruthless hard work and dedication to improvement. Out of all the people in the world who have ever played basketball, Michael Jordan and co. are at the very, very end of the bell curve:
We always oscillate between the extremes.
Take fitness for example.
Shows like My 600-lb Life show us the bottom of the barrel, the lowest of the low performers in general health – and we lap it up.
It makes us feel better – we’re nothing like that.
Then, take a show like The Last Dance, or the Manchester City documentary All or Nothing – which showcase the highest of the high perfomers in their respective sports.
It makes us feel overwhelmingly average, and, in this society – average is futile.
You’re 30 years old and you’re still not a millionaire? What do you mean it’s not possible? Some guy did it once. You’re just not good enough. You’re average. Mediocre. Forgettable. Everyone must strive to be exceptional.
Yeah, perhaps attitudes like this is one of the reason why people in their mid-20s feel so disillusioned.
Our society shows us highlight reel after highlight reel, millionaire after millionaire, fitness model after fitness model – it’s unrelenting and inescapable. Social media is awash with overnight success stories and superstar app developers who have reinvented the wheel, become loaded with money, bought a private jet, and fly across the world sleeping with any supermodel who comes in their wake.
Then, after seeing it on Instagram, we go back to our morning cereal before our day at the office and wonder if there’s any fucking point.
We feel average in comparison.
One of the greatest lies society has sold us is that an average life isn’t, and can’t be, a happy one.
Having a job that you semi-enjoy with people you can semi-tolerate is a lot harder to get than it sounds. If that’s you, then you’re extremely fortunate.
Not everybody has to chase their dream job and get filthy rich doing it. Having a tolerable job with hobbies outside of it sounds like happiness to me.
A simple weekend with friends sounds like happiness to me.
Being semi-good at a musical instrument sounds like talent to me.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t improve yourself, or you should blindly chase ‘semi-happiness’ instead of passion, or to accept a mediocre salary, it’s just landing there is a lot better than you might think.
Of course, life’s too short to not become the best version of yourself or to not follow your dreams – that’s basic pop-psychology. By all means, chase after greatness.
Just don’t buy in to this narrative that ”good enough” is unacceptable – ”good enough”, sometimes, is indeed ”good enough”.
The only way you can improve in anything is if you accept how good you are right now – great performers don’t think they’re great performers – they improve, improve, and improve some more, and that’s why they’re great.
Sometimes we need to take the weight off our backs and realise that being average isn’t the nightmare we were told it would be.
Today marks one year since my first ever blog post – I Have No Idea What I’m Doing (And I’m Alright With It) (which you can read here)
Since then, I feel my blogging output has seen many ups and downs, peaks and valleys, troughs and….you get the idea. It’s been good at times, and very frustrating and difficult at times.
Although one year is nothing in comparison to the more experienced bloggers out there – I still feel it’s appropriate to mark this event with everybody’s favourite kind of post – a good ol’ fashioned list.
Let’s dive right in.
Lesson 1 – F*ck How Many Followers you Have
The cardinal sin for any blogger is to fixate on how many followers they have. It’s an easy mistake to make, and one I was guilty of when I first started posting regularly. After all, more followers mean more success, and therefore, more income you can make from monetising your blog. It’s simple, right?
Well, not really. The amount of followers someone has is completely arbitrary – it doesn’t matter if you have 10 followers or 10k followers, your posts should always be authentic and reflect matters you are interested in. You should also aim to respond to every comment you can – positive or negative. Chasing after followers doesn’t actually help you in any way, shape or form. Focus on writing good content and let them come naturally. Don’t outsource your need for validation to the masses. Quality will suffer and you’ll lose confidence.
Followers should feel engaged with your blog and they can always detect an authentic post from an unauthentic one. It’s one thing for a reader to not agree with an author’s opinion – but for a reader to detect an air of ingenuity is a different matter entirely. Why should readers care about your posts if you, yourself, don’t?
Lesson 2 – Not Every Post Will be a Hit
Regardless of how well-written, informative or experimental you think a post is – its response is not in your control. Readers either resonate with a post or they don’t. In the advertising world, there’s a saying that no advert is good or bad, it either works or it doesn’t work. It’s the exact same for blog posts, some resonate and some don’t.
I’ve written a few posts in my time that I thought my readers would love – but, for whatever reason, haven’t quite landed they way I’d hoped. Conversely, I’ve written some posts that I thought were very average but seemed to resonate with people rather well.
I think authors can be a poor judge or their work sometimes, and sometimes it’s just best to churn out a post and let readers make their own minds up about it.
Which, conveniently leads me to my next point…
Lesson 3 – Just Write the Damn Post
Look, you should know that not every post will be a magnum opus and, at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter. As Eric B & Rakim once said – don’t sweat the technique. Sometimes you just have to sit down and punch those keys. Read others’ blogs for inspiration. Pay attention to the news. What’s being talked about? What’s not? Why do you think it’s important?
Sometimes it’s a real slog writing a post. My first few posts sucked, as have a few of my latest ones. It’s no big deal. Stop demanding perfection and start demanding consistency. You can’t live up to perfection, but you can get behind those keys and type something.
One you take the pressure off yourself, writing gets a lot easier. There isn’t a blogger alive who doesn’t cringe a little at some of their earlier posts, and if they say they don’t – they’re full of shit.
Blogging is your platform. It’s your voice and readers want to feel that. If you’re writing an opinion piece, it should be exactly that – opinion. Readers want passion, love, hate, outrage, or joy. They don’t want a boring, dry and watered-down voice that always remains on the fence. Be brave.
It can be daunting, I know. Not everyone will agree with you – but that’s the point. You need to be polarising sometimes – a ‘hell no’ is sometimes better than a ‘meh, ok’.
Obviously there are exceptions to this rule. Don’t be a dick and don’t engage in hate speech, of course. I cover a lot of true crime cases, so I have to remain unbiased in that context and just focus on the facts.
It depends on your niche – but, in most cases, don’t hold back and let your true voice come out. After all, why should someone read a dry, emotionless blog?
Take the leap and show your readers who you really are.
Lesson 5 – Care About Other Blogs
This is just basic politeness more than anything. No blogger wants to like feel nobody is reading their posts – and empty ‘likes’ on a post don’t mean shit if people aren’t actually reading and digesting them.
Comment, share, and engage with others as much as you can. This is a massive platform and it’s easy to get lost in the pack. A little bit of manners goes a long, long way on here. I love it when people comment on my posts – I’d rather take one comment on a post than 100 empty likes from people who didn’t read it at all.
Again, your interest in other blogs has to be genuine. Don’t just pretend to care about someone’s blog just so they follow yours. People can sense that – particuarly bloggers who are very popular. Trust me, they’ve seen it all before.
Here are just some of the blogs that I’ve grown to really like over the last year – check them out if you haven’t come across them before!
Christian Mihai – https://artofblogging.net/ – a very popular blogger who you’ve probably heard of. No nonsense, genuine content with a voice that greatly inspired my own. Seems like a great guy, too.
Dumbest Blog Ever – https://ifbaird1989.wordpress.com/author/dumbestblogger/ – Unique is the word I’d use to sum up this blog. You’ve never read anything like it before, and I appreciate his experimental nature. He’s also a great, engaging writer with a style not many could pull off. Always comments on my posts, and I appreciate him for that.
Defining Yellow – https://definingyellow.com/my-posts/ – An example of the power of vulnerability. You can tell every post this young woman writes comes from the heart, and you can tell she believes every word she types. I need to read her blog more, admittedly, but her content is guaranteed to resonate with anyone. I often read her work, if I’m doing a self-development post, for inspiration.
Dr. Eleanor Janega – https://going-medieval.com/ – A brilliant, vibrant blog on Medieval history. Janega is a fantastic writer who is able to bring a long-gone era back to life with ease. Her post Not Every Pandemic is the Black Death is without a doubt one of the best articles I have ever read on this platform. If you’re not following her already – what are you doing?!
So there you have it – the most important lessons I have learned in the last 12 months.
I wonder what lessons I’ll have learned on June 3, 2021?
The advert belongs to a guy named Tai Lopez who is one the most famous business gurus on YouTube. Allegedly, Lopez was broke until well into his 20s, before earning a fortune in ‘investment’ – and is now living the good life driving Lamborghinis up in the Hollywood Hills. He also lives in a great, fuck-off big mansion alongside actors and rock stars overlooking the Greater Los Angeles area. He truly is the personification of a rags-to-riches story and, by buying his 67 Steps program, you can be, too.
Well, not really. But, hey, it sounds nice – doesn’t it?
Lopez is just one example of the so-called ‘experts’ who have cropped up on the Internet over the years. Using shady, vague practices, rudimentary business jargon, and an endless list of famous quotes – these people offer their ‘expertise’ to those hoping to escape the 9-5 grind and make a living drinking cocktails on a beach. All for a limited time offer!
I remember the Summer of 2015. It was the time where I got infatuated with self-help and personal development. I can’t remember exactly what kicked it off, but I remember buying book-after-book, watching video-after-video, and listening to podcast-after-podcast. My brain was flooded with a surge of dopamine after buying the latest product or listening to the latest idea. My infatuation quickly turned into obsession – my desk was sky high with books by Tony Robbins, Daniel H. Pink, Cal Newport, and Richard Branson. I was able to apply the knowledge I learned in each book, started my own business, used my extensive knowledge to get a leg-up over my competitors – and by the end of the summer, I had accrued thousands of pounds in profits.
Ok – that didn’t happen.
Instead I just read a bunch of books and listened to a load of TedX talks. I did nothing. But I felt I had.
That’s the problem with self-help addiction – it makes you feel like you’re being productive when, in actuality, all you’re doing is firing dopamine in to your brain and then calling it a day. The term mental masturbation applies here, I think, as your brain is stimulated by the idea of productiveness rather than the actual act of doing things/ That’s how I felt when the latest book arrived – I got a surge of productive energy in my brain every time I opened that first page – and I’d, in the words of a famous rock band, proceed to fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
This went on for the whole summer – and I have now forgotten almost all of the knowledge 19-year-old me acquired in that time frame.
The Shady Business of Hope
We exist in a ‘quick fix’ world. We always have and will always will. In my case, I was looking for that elusive one tidbit of information that would change my life. That one piece of financial information that would swell up my bank account, or that one motivational video that would give me 24/7 drive to start a business, develop an app, or write a bestseller. I even bought a few courses by ‘gurus’ online – whose videos I hope would contain that one nugget of information to set me on my merry way to materialistic nirvana.
Of course, the whole time I was doing this I was merely lining the pockets of those who profited off the most lucrative on human emotions – hope.
Hope is what keeps the human engine running and self-help professionals are more than aware of this. They inspire hope – yet their worst nightmare is you actually achieving hope and abandoning your need for further self-help content. Like a junkie, I was always seeking my next ‘hit’ of self-improvement – ‘‘maybe this course has the answers’‘ ”maybe this book has vital information”, ”50% off?! wow! I better jump on this offer before it runs out!”
It never runs out. Trust me, it never runs out.
Pure scarcity marketing – I should have known better.
But the allure of hope was too strong – offer hope and customers will be at your mercy.
There’s a lot of garbage floating around around on the Internet stating you have to be positive all the time if you want to be considered anywhere close to a success.
This is, again, an illusion which is exploited by the self-help industry to the absolute maximum. Once the idea of perpetual happiness is implanted in your brain, you’ll constantly think of all the ways that your life doesn’t measure up. This makes you sad. This makes you feel like you need something and, look, this self-help ‘expert’ is selling a course which you can buy to help you achieve ‘the good life’. This cycle goes on and on until your wallet is sufficiently drained – just as it was in my case.
Another trope of the self-help industry is the phrase ”never give up”.
If you have a dream – you must vehemently pursue that dream with all your might if you have any hope of catching it. If you even think about giving up – you’re worthless. This dream, and only this dream, is your only calling in life and you must do whatever it takes to get there. Sleep on your friend’s couch. Sleep on the street. Eat dust if you have to. Hijack Nakatomi Plaza. Jump out of an airplane with a burlap bag full of money. Cause a mass riot. Whatever. It. Takes.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m not saying you should have no ambition, desire, or to crumble at the first sign of adversity, I’m saying some dreams are just bad ideas. Failure can teach you many things and can lead you down a path that you never would have considered. Dreams and ambitions can change as one ages – and there’s no shame in giving up on ideas if you’re really not feeling it.
Unkle Adams is a rapper out of Saskatchewan, Canada. He’s not giving up his dream until he makes at least a million dollars out of his music. He’s never given up, stuck to his guns, and is now over $200,000 in debt. He’s sold his home, his car, and has been ripped off by nefarious characters at every opportunity. ”Failure is not an option, I have to make it”, he states in the video. His music still hasn’t blown up and, sadly, it looks like it never will. Unkle Adams bought in to the ‘don’t give up’ spiel, and is now paying the price for it. It’s sad.
I think there’s a time and a place for self-help. There are some out there who do offer good content, and have proven experience in whatever field you are looking in. It’s probably a good idea to read a Warren Buffett book if you want to get into investing – it’s probably a good idea to study Bill Gates if you own a software company – and it’s probably a good idea to read Michael Jordan’s autobiography if you’re an athlete looking for guidance. Unkle Adams could have benefited from listening to others in his field and perhaps could have gone about things smarter.
The self-help industry will continue to expand, I have no doubt. Especially after we all crawl out of our quarantines and seek inspiration. The industry is probably already rubbing its hands together as we speak as it waits to bombard us with ”how to get rich after the pandemic” content.
Improving yourself is always a good idea – it just needs moderation. Working hard is always a good idea, if it’s intelligent work based on measured improvement and results. Positivity is always a good idea, as long as you’re willing to wake up and smell the coffee sometimes and accept a bad or poorly thought out idea.
The self-help industry needs you more than you need it. So keep that in mind next time someone offers you the ‘secret’.
The secret is – it’s probably bullshit.
Have you ever been scammed/deluded by the self-help industry? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to like, share, and read more of my posts!
On May 23, 2014, 22-year old Elliot Rodger murdered 7 people in Isla Vista, California, before shooting himself in the head in his crashed BMW.
The killings were part of his so-called ‘Day of Retribution’ – a killing spree motivated by revenge for his perceived lack of romantic and sexual ‘success.’
Rodger’s rage had been brewing for a while. He had grown sick and tired of being ‘ignored’ by girls for so long, left to ‘rot in loneliness” and witnessing girls pick ”obnoxious brutes” over himself – the self-proclaimed ‘Supreme Gentlemen’. After his death, he became the patron saint of a new, dark, disturbing internet community known as ‘involuntary celibates’ or, simply, incels.
Although the word ‘incel has been around since the late 1990s, the community has gotten much more attention in the last six years or so due to number of high profile events which I’ll get in to as we go on. Incels believe that due to certain factors (such as height, appearance, ethnicity, and mental health) they are unable to attract a partner. Although the first incel website was created by a young woman (and was named Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project), the movement is now almost entirely comprised of young, heterosexual men. It has also gone from dealing with compatibility issues and social awkwardness to now being near-exclusively fixated on sex (or the lack of it).
Incel websites are, as you would expect, extremely misogynistic, racist, self-pitying, and have large amounts of self-entitlement and narcissism thrown in, too:
Incels subscribe to the ‘black-pill’ philosophy – that they are all decaying, helpless creatures who have been shunned by society, and are destined to live miserable, hate-filled lives at the hands of the women who didn’t ‘choose’ them sexually. Women are referred to as ‘femoids’, and attractive, desirable men and woman are dubbed ‘Chad’ and ‘Stacy’ respectively. A big part of incel culture is the notion of the ‘incel rebellion’ – an imagined time when incels take control of society and overthrow the ruling Chads and enslave the Stacies as sexual objects against their will. Rape and sexual assault are endorsed on incel forums, and decent, respectful men are labelled ‘faggots’ or ‘normies’. According to incels, women lead easy, problem-free lives,and feminism is derided as a ‘cancer’ as it, in their minds, gave women choice and autonomy that they don’t deserve. Political correctness is also condemned, and incels often use extremely anti-Semitic and racist terminology. A strong, almost obsessive, fixation on the shape of human skulls is also highly present in the incel community. They, incels, believe that ‘Chads’ have more desirable bone structure than incels – and that the unchangeable nature of bone structure is one of the main reasons why incels fail to find a sexual partner:
The incel community steadily grew and grew on websites such as 4chan, Reddit, and the now-defunct incels.me throughout the 2000s and 2010s. However, the greater incel community received wide media attention following Elliot Rodger’s 2014 killing spree. Elliot was the son of film director Peter Rodger – and his attacks followed a disturbing and cautionary video posted on his YouTube channel the evening prior. Titled Elliot Rodger’s Retribution, the video details his plan to kill every ”stuck up, blonde slut” on campus, to get revenge on couples, and to ultimately have the last laugh on those who rejected him in the past. His manifesto, titled My Twisted World, was also mailed to his family and therapist in the preceding hours and detailed his long-standing hatred of women, ‘Chads’ , and his parents.
The attacks were lauded by the incel community. Rodger became a de-facto martyr for everyone who embraced the ideology, some calling him a ‘hero’ and a ‘saint’. In 2018, Alek Minassian killed ten people during a van attack in Toronto, posting a Facebook update praising Rodger and stating that the ”Incel Rebellion has already begun!”. In 2015, the Umpqua Community College shooting was perpetrated by Christopher Harper-Mercer, who also praised Rodger and had often spoke about the perils of virginity. Harper-Mercer, like Rodger, killed himself before police could catch him.
I think it’s necessary to explore where this ideology comes from. Whilst incel culture is horrendously racist, sexist, and xenophobic – not all incels are mass murderers. In fact, most are merely lost young men who have been brainwashed and, in some cases, bullied into the subculture. A big part of inceldom is the perpetual state of being alone, and the ‘black-pill’ philosophy condemns and rejects any, and all, forms of self-improvement. Young, impressionable minds are permeated by other incels, who constantly maintain that one will always remain an incel forever. Incels do not treat each other with respect and often advocate suicide to any follower who speaks about their depression. Indian or Pakistani incels are referred to as ‘currycels’, Chinese or Japanese followers are labeled ‘ricecels’ and black ones are called ‘blackcels’ by either whites, or themselves. The incel persecution knows no bounds.
Incel forums are part of the broader ‘manosphere’ which is an area of the Internet containing ‘men’s rights’ activists and pick up artists – who often share and promote ‘strategies’ to entice women into sleeping with them. The ‘black-pill’ philosophy is derived from the ‘red-pill’ – which is a worldview built on rejecting feminism, promoting conventional masculinity, and sexualising women to a high degree. As sexist and cringey as the ‘red-pill’ philosophy is, at least it promotes an attitude of self-improvement and sufficiency – something that the ‘black-pill’ rejects entirely. Angry young men enter the rabbit hole – and the usual complaints that one may have in regards to dating get progressively more extremist and reactionary the further one goes down it.
I think a case could be made that there are pressures on young men to be successful, attractive and sexually and socially confident – and a lot of young men don’t have an adequate support system to open up. Young men aren’t a finished article by any means, and it’s completely valid to feel lost and jaded – especially in a society where older men have a lot more status. However, the problems with the ‘red’ and ‘black’ pill philosophies is that the former attempts to mask these issues by being materialistic and promiscuous, whilst the other, of course, is simply hateful and bigoted. Both of these philosophies don’t actually encourage getting to the root of one’s mental struggles, and, to an impressionable mind looking for an answer, the idea of blaming everything on the Bogeyman of Western feminism becomes enticing.
Addressing the Incel
I feel it’s important, for a minute, to get inside an incel’s mind if any of us have any hope of removing the movement. The only way we can understand is if this sizeable subculture is understood first. From there, we can de-construct the movement and, hopefully, begin to remove it from our society.
The sinking feeling of being unwanted is one of the most human forms of pain we all have. Chances are – you, reader, have been rejected, stood-up, cheated on, walked out on, ‘ghosted’ or been in an unrequited situation at one point in your life. It’s not a fun feeling for anyone and, yes, it can lead to a state of self-loathing, social withdrawal, jadedness, or even misanthropy, in extreme cases. I believe incels take this very normal and very human pain and blow it up to almost unrecognisable and apocalyptic levels. The expected potential pain, that is part and parcel of any romantic or sexual relationship, is blown up to the maximum, and the importance of sex, dating and relationships are put on a pedestal so high – they become terrifying to incels to even think about pragmatically. I think dating is paradoxical in nature as the less time one spends thinking about it, the freer the individual becomes to develop true, intimate connections with the opposite sex. If everything is this massive, high stakes, or-all-nothing scenario, one would be frightened and stifled to talk to the opposite sex in the first place. The misogyny and racism comes in once the incel has viewed themselves as worthless, helpless specimens for a while, and they need something other than themselves to attach the source of the feelings to.
Perhaps the incel’s most fatal flaw, though, is their view on dating being some kind of marketplace built on meritocracy. That is, the ‘best’ man or woman gets ‘awarded’ sex or relationships based on how ‘good’ they are – akin to how employees are awarded for exceptional work in the office. Whilst qualities such as personality, appearance, fitness, and sense of humour have their place in their importance – simply stating that one person’s attraction to you is entirely based on a pragmatic decision is nonsense. Attraction is an intangible, abstract feeling that is not based on a critical thinking level, rather, an emotional one. You can appreciate a person’s attractiveness yet not be personally attracted to them, and you may not have a distinct reason why. The incel’s failure to address others’ emotional decisions is a big component in their overall feelings of rejection. Rarely, in the real, ‘normal’ world, is rejection a personal thing. Attraction is merely there or not there. A lot of incels, particularly Elliot Rodger, displayed a narcissistic temperament – he paradoxically thought of himself as ‘supreme’, yet continued to ‘rot’ in his self-inflicted ‘loneliness’. It’s almost as if he believed he was impervious to rejection but, deep down, thought nobody would ever want him.
This is where the incel shoots themself in the foot. The loneliness, rejection, ostracisation, neglect and defeatism are all self-inflicted. There isn’t a curse on these people disqualifying them from relationships by default – they do it to themselves, and their horrible attitudes to women and ethnic minorities are the real reason they don’t get any action. However, the negative feedback loop gets worse and worse as more and more people (often women) are disgusted by them, which only makes their hatred for others and themselves stronger. Add in a subculture built on bullying and ‘black-pill’ mentality, and it’s easy to see why incels exist in such high numbers. Fellow incels pull other incels down in to the deep, dark hole of rejection, and the learned helplessness keeps them chained to it.
We can’t help incels unless they help themselves – it’s a subculture set up to defeat its followers and to keep them chained in an imagined prison, and only they have the key. Not women, not Chads, not Stacies, not ‘normies’, but themselves. I suggest them to actually look inward for once, although – that’s probably asking a little too much.
When thinking of the many geniuses in football who have graced us with their presence over the years, I bet the following names come to mind:
Ronaldo (the Brazilian)
Alfredo Di Stefano
You could make a case for any of these players being the greatest of all time – whether it be for their goalscoring prowess, passing ability, skill, or overall technique. All of these players won a haul of individual and collective trophies, had glittering careers, and were the subject of some of the most expensive transfers of all time. They also were, and still are, beloved icons in their respective nations and will always be remembered as tremendous ambassadors of the sport.
But none of these players came even remotely close to matching the genius of one man – Carlos Kaiser.
Kaiser, who was born Carlos Henrique Raposo, played for ten clubs during his career – big clubs, as well. He had spells at Brazilian giants Flamengo, Fluminense FC, Bangu Atlético Clube, and Club Puebla, to name just a few. His long and storied career lasted an impressive 13 years – which is damn remarkable for any player.
There was just one problem, though, Kaiser never actually played a single game of football in his entire career.
Yes, you read that right.
Carlos Kaiser spent, and was paid for, 13 years of a career he didn’t even participate in. His life as a professional footballer was a complete and utter sham – and, in order to pull it off, Kaiser performed a tactical masterclass that would leave any manager green with envy.
So, how did he do it? How did he weave his way through ten different clubs without detection? Are people in football that stupid?
Well, yes, and no. Kaiser was a gifted athlete with pace, strength and endurance. He was certainly tall enough and powerful enough to pass for a professional striker – so he at least looked the part. Getting a trial at a club came easily enough, but the real complexity of Carlos’s plan came afterward.
Kaiser would make sure to get acquainted with local sports reporters immediately after his trials (which he almost always passed) and use his charm to persuade them into writing generous features on him and his ‘ability’. He would then showcase his athletic gifts in front of the coaches – showing off his pace and athleticism during drills. His ‘roadrunner’ approach to training would impress coaches, who would then report to the manager about his talents. The manager would then turn Kaiser’s trials into a full-on contract offering. Carlos would then, of course, accept the offer.
However, actually playing football was a bridge too far for him. After all, what kind of monster would expect a professional footballer to…I don’t know…play a game once in a while? I’m surprised Carlos didn’t contact Human Rights Watch after being given that ridiculous demand.
Carlos, the genius that he was, would then formulate the next part of his plan – he would feign injury to get out of playing. He would point to his legs and say he had picked up a muscle injury after ”training too hard” and that he would need a least a few weeks’ rest to heal up. The manager would always comply – understanding that a big part of Kaiser’s ”game” was his pace – and, without it, his playing would be greatly affected. Therefore, the team would suffer. It’s all about the team, right?
This charade would go on and on throughout the clubs that he ‘played’ for. During his ‘rehab’, Kaiser would deliberately let himself go – piling on weight and neglecting his exercise regimen. Using his metabolism to his advantage, he would then quickly shed the weight and return to training substantially fitter than when his manager last saw him. When the manager saw his progress, he would always be astounded at the speed in which Kaiser had ‘healed’. When it came time to put his name in the starting XI, Kaiser would implement his short-term contracts to bail out of the club, almost akin to a paratrooper diving out of a ready-to-explode aircraft.
“I just didn’t want to play. It’s everybody else’s problem if they want me to be a footballer. Not even Jesus pleased everybody. Why would I?”
It was rinse and repeat. Kaiser would implement this plan at each of the ten clubs he played for, never missing a paycheque.
He did once become close to being exposed, however. During his time at Botafogo in 1981, Carlos staged a telephone conversation on his cell-phone within earshot of his fellow teammates and coaches. He would often do this to evoke the impression he was in high demand and was always talking with other clubs who could potentially pay him more. Carlos called upon his language skills to speak in English in front of his mostly-Portuguese speaking colleagues. However, a coach (who also spoke English) overheard the ‘conversation’ and realised the phone call merely consisted of a string of English gibberish whose words made no sense together in a sentence. When the coach confronted him, he realised that Kaiser’s phone was a toy and was not functional whatsoever.
What happened afterwards is not known – somehow, Carlos got away with it.
Carlos found himself at Flamengo next. Flamengo are a big, big club in Brazil. They’ve won the Brazilian league 7 times and recently faced Liverpool in the FIFA Club-World Cup competition. They’re almost like the Brazilian Manchester United. However, Carlos (like the champion he was) didn’t let the club’s status faze him – he was going to con them, as well. Putting his Botafogo experience behind him, he came up with a new plan – to steal the identity of a much more famous player.
That player’s name was Carlos Enrique. Winner of the 1984 Copa Libertadore, against European giants Liverpool. The Copa Libertadore is one of the most prestigious honours in club football, and Kaiser’s hijacking of Enrique’s identity was his most grandiose act of fraud yet. Once again, he implemented his plan of phantom injury to escape playing time once again – bailing out when he felt he was close to being exposed. He also would pay fans if they chanted his name in front of the owner of whatever club he was at – his fantasy truly knew no bounds.
Carlos Kaiser ‘retired’ in 1992 – leaving behind a storied, illustrious, and…empty career. He will be remembered as the beautiful game’s most beloved fraud, as teammates still (for whatever reason) speak highly of him today:
“He is a friend. He is very dear to us all,”
“Kaiser never did anyone any harm; he just wanted to be happy.”
Former teammate, Mauricio
Carlos Kaiser is still alive and well today. He released a documentary called Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never To Play Football in 2018 – where the world at large was exposed to his schemes. His legacy in the sport is impossible to discuss as he, you know, never actually played – but his charm and penchant for excuses has done more for his legacy outside the game than step-overs or beautiful goals ever could. If anything, he’s an example that you can do whatever you want in life – as long as nobody ever finds out how bad you are at doing it.
It was one of the most infamous stories in the history of professional wrestling.
It was a case that almost brought an already-maligned industry to its knees.
It was as a case was surreal as it was shocking, as confusing as it was damaging, and as infamous as it was notorious.
Of course, it’s the case of Chris Benoit.
Authorities in Fayetteville, Georgia, were called to the Benoit residence on the morning of June 25, 2007, after Chris, one of the biggest stars in WWE, missed several shows without explanation. His son, Daniel, and wife, Nancy, had also not been heard from in several days.
Benoit had been with the company for seven years. His career started in Calgary, Alberta, where he developed a reputation as an intense, serious performer with a demeanor not dissimilar to his real-life persona. He later moved to Japan, putting on critically acclaimed displays with a multitude of talented and acrobatic wrestlers. By the end of the 1990s, he was seen as one of the best in the world – and found himself in seriously high demand.
Professional wrestling is a much more complex and nuanced form of entertainment than its given credit for. Fans know it’s not real. The key to Benoit’s success was he made wrestling feel real – as any great performer does. Pro-wrestling is built on storytelling, emotion, and intensity – and Benoit, the performer, had all three attributes in spades.
It’s due to this ability that he won the companies top prize, the World Heavyweight Championship, in March 2004. His eighteen-year journey of blood, spandex, and adversity was finally recognized with the catharsis of being at the helm of the world’s biggest promotion (WWE) in the most famous arena on Earth – Madison Square Garden.
Everything seemed to be perfect in the Benoit world. Chris was on great money, had a loving, caring family, and was the top guy in the world’s top promotion. The company had enough stock in him to let him run with the belt for 5 months (which is quite a long time in wrestling), and he continued to entertain his legions of fans week in and week out. Although he did eventually lose the title (passing the torch, as it is known), Benoit was still scripted and presented as one of the company’s top performers. He used his acquired career capital to shine a light on and work with younger performers to help establish themselves and eventually follow in his footsteps to the World Heavyweight Title. Throughout his career, Benoit was known as a consummate professional who lived and breathed pro-wrestling, and would often punish himself for a perceived poor performance by ruthlessly exercising to the point of vomiting.
It was his professionalism which made his absence from a show in Texas so notable. Benoit was supposed to be wrestling C.M. Punk for the companies third-tier World Championship – a big match. Some fans had bought tickets just to see the two of them work with each other. C.M. Punk was one of the company’s brightest up-and-comers at the time and a match with Benoit would help solidify his place in the canon of WWE television. As the authorities approached the gates to his residence, they had ample cause for concern.
Benoit hadn’t been the same after 2005. If the previous year was the apex of his career, this year was the lowest. The pendulum of professional wrestling is a cruel one sometimes. Benoit’s best friend on Earth was Eddie Guerrero – the two became friends in Japan in the ’90s, had been in WCW (the second largest wrestling promotion at the time) together, and eventually jumped ship to the WWE in 2000. The two were inseparable, Guerrero’s extroverted and affable persona seemed to somehow mesh with Benoit’s brooding intensity rather well. They had an unspoken bond and would always be there for each other in times of peril. When Chris won the World Title in Madison Square Garden, Eddie was the first to come to the ring to celebrate with him. Guererro happened to be the other World Champion (the WWE Champion) at the time. The two were often written off and underused because of their relatively small sizes – and had transcended a world dominated by giants to become the leading men of the WWE. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script.
They also couldn’t have written a crueler ending – as 38-year-old Guerrero died in a Minnesota hotel room on November 13, 2005. His death came both as an enormous shock and a frightening wake-up call as years of drug abuse caught up with him. The whole industry was shaken to its core as massive changes in drug testing became the norm. A whole encyclopedia of previously-allowed substances was banned in an instant. Wrestlers and fans alike mourned but none were affected quite as profoundly as Chris Benoit, who broke down during his tribute the following night on Monday Night Raw. The already quiet and reclusive Benoit recoiled into his shell even more in the following months – hardly conversing with anyone in the locker room, appearing even more stoic on camera, and keeping a diary where he wrote to Guerrero about his daily life. It was his way of keeping Eddie alive in his memory.
Benoit continued to wrestle every week. It was the only career he had ever had – and perhaps his routine kept his mind occupied and grounded in the present moment. His intensity and proficiency inside the ropes never waned, his appearances never got less regular, and he continued to perform high-risk maneuvers, such as the Diving Headbutt, every show.
Benoit was known for his hard-nosed, self-destructive style of wrestling. He’d often take unprotected steel-chair shots to the head, get smashed in the temple with championship belts, fall off ladders, and land on his head performing moves. If you’ve ever set foot in a wrestling ring, you’ll know the canvas is not forgiving and it takes weeks to get accustomed to landing on it. Benoit had suffered numerous concussions in his career and had apparently forgotten how many he had received when asked.
It is also obvious that Benoit used steroids. His physical frame was enormous and he was still considered small by wrestling standards. By the time 2007 rolled around, his brain (and physique) had 20 years of wear and tear on it – although his outward persona remained, to his friends, as calm and as pensive as ever.
His Fayetteville residence was equally calm from the outside on that June morning. Authorities had now entered his gates and were heading towards his back-door after finding the front entrance locked. Upon walking into the house, they were greeted with a chilling, anonymous emptiness in the front room. It was is if there had been activity only a short time before but, for some reason, was not there anymore. As if the lights were on but nobody was home.
Sadly the eery tranquility didn’t last. As police ventured upstairs, they found the body of his wife, Nancy, lying dead on the bathroom floor. She had been strangled and a bible was placed next to her. A short time later they found seven-year-old Daniel who had suffered the same fate. They later found Chris Benoit’s body hanging from a lat-pulldown machine in his home gym down in the basement. Authorities immediately knew that there was no need for a suspect hunt – they knew who the culprit was. A letter, penned by Chris Benoit, was later found with the introduction ”I am preparing to leave this Earth”.
It’s been almost 13 years since the incident. Media coverage focused heavily on the steroids that were found in Benoit’s house and lazily blamed the murder-suicide on ‘roid rage’. WWE came under intense media scrutiny almost collapsed under the sheer weight of the case. The name ‘Chris Benoit’ was quickly scrubbed off any piece of WWE-related media as his career and existence were swept under the rug in a flash. Wholesale changes came in banning chair shots to the head and intentional bleeding. Concussion tests were swiftly introduced and those with them were not to be cleared to wrestle. The landscape of the industry completely changed, and WWE has been rated PG ever since 2008.
Chris Benoit’s crimes obviously do not deserve to be defended. However, the closest anyone has to an explanation came when his brain was analyzed by former wrestler (and now scientific author) Christopher Nowinski. Nowinski’s company, the Sports Legacy Institute, found that Benoit’s brain had been so badly damaged from his years in the ring that it resembled that of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. He was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which is a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated strikes to the head. Side effects can include paranoia, depression, reckless behavior, and seething aggression. A toxic cocktail for a man who was already severely depressed after losing his best friend.
I am in no way defending Benoit’s actions and I agree with WWE’s move of erasing any mention of him. Perhaps the depression and CTE tell us how Benoit reached his eventual state, but nothing can ever tell us why he chose to do what he did. Nor is it my place to speculate here, as I’m not going to cheapen the sanctity of two innocent lives by turning their case into rambling conspiracy-fodder.
In the end, Chris Benoit almost single-handedly destroyed the very industry he loved so much. His legacy as a performer still remains, but he has disqualified himself from any further discussion within the industry due to his horrendous personal acts.
The ‘why’ behind this is a torturing question that will always go unanswered.
Richard I was one of the most beloved English monarchs ever. Nicknamed Lionheart, his status as a respected leader and brave military general earned him numerous accolades during his brief lifetime. Over 820 years after his death, he is still considered an icon in British and French history.
The 41-year-old King was still considered quite young, even for his day. Upon a visit to the region of Limousin, France, King Richard was observing the castle grounds of Chalus-Chabrol, strolling proudly, back and forth, in its courtyard. Upon gazing up towards one of the towers, he observed a young man practicing his crossbow skills – to which Richard encouraged with a cheer of support.
The King was without his chainmail that evening and his headpiece was the sole item of protection on his person. After applauding the young man once again, the King was suddenly struck in the shoulder by an arrow he was too slow to dodge. The assailant then ran away in a haste, leaving the fallen King where he lay.
Richard’s wound worsened over the next few days. It had turned gangrene and the infection was dispersing throughout his body – despite all efforts to save him. Richard, on his deathbed, summoned the young man to his chamber for a meeting.
The Medieval period was particularly brutal when it came to punishments. There was no shortage of violent, painful, and humiliating fates that criminals were condemned to – and, think about this, this young man had just killed the fucking King of England – God only knows what plight awaited the killer.
However, Richard forgave him. The dying King pardoned the young man, gave him the princely sum of 100 shillings, and sent him on his way. He told his killer ‘‘Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day”’. Unwilling to die vengeful and vindictive, Richard’s random act of kindness, conducted just before he slipped away into death, cemented his status as a true Lionheart. When the public remembers Richard I, the first thing that comes to mind is his unexpected and seemingly unjustified act of a much-unappreciated art – forgiveness.
What is Forgiveness, Anyway, and Why Does it Matter?
Forgiveness is the act of letting go of internal conflict, anger, resentment, or disappointment towards either an individual or a group of people. It is the release of negative emotions within the body, a catharsis from all the toxic emotions that have silently brewed in the mind of the forgiver. Actual forgiveness – real forgiveness – is when the act is voluntary, and not darkly obligatory.
Mark Manson, in his stellar blog, covered the case of Balbir Singh Sodhi – a Sikh man who was gunned down in broad daylight by Frank Roques, who ”wanted to shoot some towelheads” as revenge for the September 11 attacks. When Roques was arrested and sentenced to death, Sodhi’s brother, Rana stood up in court and openly declared that his family had forgiven him, and that his execution would rob Roques of the chance to become a better person and develop remorse for his crime.
The jury, stunned by Rana Sodhi’s compassion, downgraded Roques to a life sentence instead. After some soul-searching, Roques apologised for the murder of Balbir Sodhi. Rana visited Roques in prison, where the two shared a tearful embrace. I would recommend reading Manson’s original piece, as the story is deeply emotional, inspirational, and the Sodhi family are a stellar exemplar of everything that is good in the world. There would be another tragedy in the family the following year when the third Sodhi brother, Sukhpal, was accidentally gunned down in San Francisco after being caught in the crossfire of a gang fight. When asked about the two tragedies, Sukhpal Sodhi’s son Sukhwinder declared, “What are you going to do with anger? We like peace and we are a peaceful people.”
I think the Sodhi family put a lot of our problems and issues into perspective. They also teach us about the pointlessness of anger – and how it merely adds to already existing feelings of grief. That does not mean Roques deserves anything. It means that the Sodhi family can make the first step at moving on without being restrained by resentment.
Scientists know that forgiveness does wonders for the body. It has been shown to increase mental health, improve marriages, and even help people live longer. The book Forgiveness: Theory, Research, and Practice (McCullough et. al) describes the benefits of not only forgiveness but also the repentance of an aggressor – ”when taken together, repentance and forgiveness form a cornerstone for the healing of emotional and relational wounds after transgression”. Without these two forces, both parties will both be emotionally worse off the long run – holding on to negative emotions wreaks havoc with not only the mind but the physical body also.
Forgiveness is letting go of the past and moving into the present. It is not the same as a dismissal – forgiveness is necessary but the importance of boundaries is also key. Boundaries form a force field around oneself that protects the individual from future wrongdoings. Boundaries allow you to live life in peace, knowing that you won’t get fooled again. Whilst forgiveness may be key for own life, boundaries are the mark that protect your new-found clarity.
To sum up, forgiveness is done by you, and for you.
What Happened to the Kid who Killed Richard I?
Well, he was caught, skinned alive, and hanged by one of Richard’s mercenaries immediately after the King’s death. Whoops. But King Richard’s heart was in the right place.
Moral of that story – sometimes you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.
Ever since time began, mankind has been enamored with finding alternate solutions to major historical events:
Was there an armed man on the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza during the Kennedy assassination?
Is Area 51 really a secret arena of alien life?
Was Pearl Habour actually a false flag operation conducted by the U.S. government to justify war with Japan?
Did Smithers actually shoot Mr. Burns, rather than Maggie Simpson?
Ok, maybe that one is not so important.
Our quest for getting to the bottom of things has lead us down some interesting rabbit holes over the years. Some intriguing, some plausible, some batshit insane. You’ve been there, I’ve been there – we’ve all been there. I remember spending countless hours on YouTube watching every Tom, Dick, and Harry proclaim that the Moon landing was faked because they zoomed in on a grainy photo and saw a boom mic’s reflection in Buzz Aldrin’s helmet. I knew it was nonsense, but, still, I gladly invested my time into watching it.
The problem with conspiracy theories is that they often need an additional conspiracy on top of them to make them even remotely plausible. Let’s say the Moon landing was faked, for example – and it was indeed an elaborate Hollywood hoax. Well, that would mean every single employee at NASA, in conjunction with every single employee at a Hollywood studio, would have to be on the act. Not to mention all the broadcasters who shared the event with millions of people worldwide – and all the technology companies who made the phony rockets. That’s a lot of people involved – oh, and not one of those people has ever come out and revealed the hoax and sold the story for billions of dollars.
It’s just ludicrous. Yet we can’t help but be sucked in by them.
The world is a fucked up, confusing, random place. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. Countries are torn apart by war, famine, disease, or political and economic meltdown. Random nobodies like Mark Chapman can take down beloved cultural figures like John Lennon. There’s no reason or rhyme to the world sometimes. Things just happen.
I don’t think human beings are content with that, however. We’re a deeply empathetic and inquisitive species. We like order, we like resolution, we like meaning. The fact that paradigm-shifting events can come out of nowhere and Presidents can be assassinated by lone nobodies (although that one is dubious) are notions that just don’t sit well with us. In the book Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories, author Rob Brotherton explains this further, much better than I could, by stating that ”conspiracy theories resonate with some of our brain’s built-in biases and shortcuts”. He goes on to explain that our childlike ‘intentionality bias’ sticks with us into adulthood. When we’re young, every event has to have a meaning behind it. This is why small children will ask ‘why?’ after every attempt an adult makes at explaining something. Young minds need order and structure in order for them to make sense of a world that is brand new to them.
I don’t think we ever grow out of this – the world is too huge of a place, events are sometimes too complex for us to even comprehend, and the need for explanation is too large for us to simply go without. Chances are, you believe in a conspiracy theory right now, perhaps several, or have done in the past. Now, some of them might hold water, that’s ok – but it’s the very fact you have these beliefs in the first place that make conspiracy theories continue to flourish and thrive in minds off all ages. No matter how crazy or grounded they are, the need for alternate endings is a quintessentially human quality. We all feel the need to have some kind of power and control over our lives, and conspiracy theories provide exactly that. The unknown is a dark and scary place, and human minds do not like being there. Furthermore, our governments are hardly known for their transparency and unbiased agendas.
Ultimately, conspiracy theories appeal to our most human emotions. Perhaps we’ll sleep better at night if we reassure ourselves that there is a deeper meaning to the most tragic and callous acts that humans do to each other. If every X has a corresponding Y behind it, our pattern-seeking brains can achieve catharsis and closure. This is why logic is not paramount when creating conspiracy theories, as the emotional need we all have for them is greater. Even as adults, we still hope that the World is indeed a pragmatic and calculated place rather than an area for random and sometimes unjustifiable events.
Conspiracy theories definitely have the potential to make us crazy – however, perhaps we’d be even crazier without them.
Fracturing, shattering, social disharmony, An invisible threat makes them reach for their armoury. Seeking a scapegoat to bestow all the blame, Fingers land on my heritage and then comes the shame. *** Where I see my skin they see yellow-stained targets, To launch insult missiles and harsh verbal rockets. The air is an echo of […]
I was lying on the grass of Sunday morning of last week Indulging in my self-defeat
My mind was thugged, all laced and bugged, all twisted, wrong and beat A comfortable three feet deep Now the fuzzy stare from not being there on a confusing morning week Impaired my tribal lunar speak….
These were the opening words to LEN’s 1999 hit Steal My Sunshine – a song whose catchy melody and nonsensical lyrics were drenched in the sunny optimism of the 1990s. The song was a sleeper hit – gaining traction on college radio stations before exploding on the mainstream charts later that year.
Listening to pop songs from that era reminds us all of one thing – the 1990s were a very innocent decade. Almost naively innocent. Commercial air travel was relaxed and fairly unscrutinized, children could play outside till late in many areas, the Internet was still new and hadn’t taken over our lives yet. Looking back on that era evokes a feeling of incorruptibility that has never returned to our society.
There were darker, edgier themes in 90s music, sure. I’ve already covered the rise of grunge and how it permeated the minds of the young and disillusioned. However, pop culture, in general, was as its most wholesome in the 1990s. For many, the future seemed brighter and more peaceful. War seemed to be a thing of the past – communism was over, and the Berlin Wall was demolished. Furthermore, 24/7 news cycles weren’t around yet, so the public wasn’t bombarded with bad news every day. There certainly still bad things happening, but our ignorance gave us all bliss – and we seemed saner for it.
Music doesn’t exist in a bubble. No matter how nonsensical lyrics can get, songs and albums resonate with the public for a particular reason – a particular vibe, mood, and energy that is prevalent in the social climate. In the 1990s, both the United States and the United Kingdom had every right to be optimistic – Cool Britannia had risen with Blur and Oasis, football almost came home at Euro 96, and Things Can Only Get Better was a major hit on both sides of the pond. The U.S. economy grew 4% every year from 1992 to 1999, there were huge drops in violent crime, and unemployment rates plummeted.
It was perhaps the best decade ever in terms of entertainment. Cheesy family sitcoms were out, and more experimental offerings such as Seinfield and The Simpsons entered their golden years. Film was taking more chances with the likes of Wes Andersen, Richard Linklater, and Quentin Tarantino – the latter creating some of the best films of all time. Video games were entering the 16-bit, and later, 64-bit era – which excited audiences despite not knowing what ‘bits’ really meant. It just sounded futuristic.
We can’t talk about 90s music without mentioning pop-punk. Wheatus, Blink-182, Green Day, and The Offspring gave many young people an outlet for their angst – however, their songs could be appreciated by many due to their catchy melodies. Again, there was a naivety to the music that sums up the lives of young people so well – they had no idea what was in store in the first year of the New Millenium.
The fall of the Twin Towers brought an end to numerous things. The sense of optimism vanished, people became vulnerable, and the naivety gave way to harsh reality. Patriotic country music took centre stage initially, as it understandably gave relief and pride to a nation that was brought to its knees. In the UK, dreary post-Britop became prominent, with outfits such as Coldplay, Travis, and Keane becoming successful. Cool Britannia had disappeared as quickly as it had arrived, and the optimism that was felt in Britain had largely subsided due to collateral damage from 9/11. The following year, 2002, featured more material from bands such as Creed, Godsmack, and Nickelback – who were descended from the mega-popular Nu Metal movement in the late 90s. Audiences resonated with their more brooding view on the world and gave many an outlet to express their anger. Eminem’s Lose Yourself was a smash hit that year – one of the more abrasive songs in his catalog. Pop music in 2002 seemed much more jaded overall.
Whether or not music would’ve changed without 9/11 is impossible to say. However, I don’t think pop music has quite been the same since. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but there’s a certain quality in pop music that has been absent for the last twenty or so years. Perhaps we’re just wiser to the world – technology has lifted us out of the blissful ignorance we all once felt. War is a very real and everyday part of all of our lives – WikiLeaks has exposed surveillance laws we had no idea existed. Pop music is now much more adept at addressing difficult social issues. Perhaps we’re better off for it – but, for many, it’s never been quite the same. There is now a generation of pop artists who only know September 11th from documentaries – and 9/11 is no longer at the forefront of young artist’s minds. However, there were still several generations of artists who had to reset their musical radars and agendas – and it still affects them today.
I think September 11th did steal our sunshine – and we’re still trying to get it back.