It is inevitable and yet we fear it. It is the one essential feature of life before death and yet we hate it.
I am in a period of rapid, exponential change and I am terrified and I am worried and I am consumed with guilt for everyone I leave behind and I am overwhelmed with joy for everyone I have yet to meet. I leave a change wake. This is either a fault or a virtue depending upon who I affect and who is affecting me.
My family will always affect me and those who don’t affect lose me like clockwork. I shed my skin like so many reptiles, and crawl back to the den I’ve always occupied. I would sit in a park in public with hundreds of other people, for days, making clear demands, only to be swept aside by cries from my fellow campers that my ideas are not potent.
The pigs infiltrated Occupy, whether police or just sexists, and they brought us down with their stubborn refusal to accept our terms.
It is irritating, like being offended at your spouse: you’re stuck with it, and it irks you. A decade and more of distrust in government has given me a long-standing inability to appreciate the current moment. No matter how good things are in America, I’m pretty dissatisfied overall with the state of the world that America runs. The only thing I can think of is: will this get better?
I reminisce, and pontificate on the past. I fantasize, and anticipate the future. I always seem to have a difficult time remaining in the here and now, where there are material conditions to observe. I am a dreamer, of a former and of a future self. My ideology demands proof but my heart sings songs about the sunset in intangible, convoluted, hypocritical keys. I believe only in that which can be proven through material analysis, and pretend the Zodiac is a valid GPS unit to the map of universal truth.
I can’t reconcile this. At a certain point I stop trying to conceptualize the reality in which I live and, I just hold my fears proudly. I don’t know what happens when I die, I don’t know if cosmic forces control us intentionally or indirectly, I don’t know how much mass or matter, or how many stars exist, I am just this genius monkey on this twirling, spiraling globe out of control and by the time we might answer all these questions we’ll all be dead in the ground, hurtling through suns.
Magic isn’t real.
I worry about my ability to stay afloat given my total ignorance of the current. I have no actual idea who Mackelmore is, and for that matter what is a Lorde and why are Grammy? I give no actual fucks about awards presented from a music industry that has killed all my favorite artists. I like music that never gets invited to the Biggest Music Event of the Year because it’s just that fresh, challenging and new. I listen to bands years before they’re on TV, just like I watch comics and just like I vote Sawant.
In another world, a more perfect one, I’d be content to sit and be present while memories evaded me and the future was a wonder of mystery I couldn’t conceive. But something about my brain, mind, mind-body insists upon inference, demands to determine the path we’re on based on the path we’ve traveled. I don’t think of my brain or my mind as separate from me, the narrator, but I certainly wonder sometimes, from where does this narrative come?
I look forward with hope, no matter how bad the past and present may be, because I have always looked beyond how bad things were, toward something more. I did not have an ideal life by any means but I persevered because I am an eternal optimist, and I know that better things are ahead, for everyone I hope.
In April 2012 the New York Times reported that the number of retractions from scientific journals has increased as of late. Not just because the number of papers published has increased, but also because a larger percentage of poor-quality papers have been passed, many of them if not willful manipulations of data, then certainly negligent.
One cause: increased competition in the sciences. There are more scientists than ever before, but not as many new sciences, so there aren’t many new professional scientific associations, so there aren’t as many new journals. In the world of science, the journals are it: publish or perish.
In this environment, a contrary finding, hugely damning of current scientific consensus on a given topic, or that drops a bombshell into what was whence considered solved, carries the incentives of money and notoriety. Never mind if the paper is retracted, it will never, ever die. Once published, the author is set for life so long as the author remains righteous, even if the journal retracts the study.
Competition is driving a rush for scientists to put out research that seems revelatory but is wrong. The authors either know, or they don’t. And in this case, ignorance isn’t quite so bad as the intentional scientific huckster. And thanks to the internet, being published isn’t even necessarily required. It’s publish, or perish, or pretend.
There are two types of woo-spooners. There are the pushers and the pushees. The pushers know the science is bunk, but they’re making money off of it. They’re selling books on vaccine-autism links, they’re doing speaking engagements on the dangers of fluoride, they’re getting their climate-denial columns published, they’re on TV telling you how to lose thirty pounds with baking soda in a way you shouldn’t talk to your doctor about. The pushees, poor souls, believe every contrary word, and remember the seemingly bombshell arguments and foist them upon everyone around them because it seems like news. The pushees are generally either scientifically indiscriminate, never much caring about who tells them what they think they know and never much looking into it; or they’re apoplectically disillusioned, spit-flecked with rage at an economy that has never much helped them, with every frame of the Zapruder film memorized by number.
I point out the profit motive in playing scientific pretend, as opposed to in publishing, only because pushers often shroud their bogus claims in a web of conspiracy, activating that paranoid instinct in the pushees who most clearly need to calm down. “The vaccine makers, or the GMO producers, or the fluoride manufacturer, or the chemtrail sprayer, or the government, or Al Gore, or the medical establishment, is suppressing the truth, manipulating the media, and buying the journals off. You can’t trust what the majority is saying because the majority is deceived: the journals, the professionals, and the people who trust the journals and the professionals, are all in agreement and that’s suspicious and scary. Tell everyone you know.”
While this is certainly possible, while industry and government certainly can suppress findings, this truth is not itself proof that all contrary findings are truth. Rather it indicates we must examine contrary findings thoroughly, ad infinitum, with respect to the scientific process, thorough documentation, and a demand for peer-review and replicability, when qualified scientists can conduct controlled experiments separately and arrive at similar conclusions, double-blind. The contrary-for-profit publishing model is unsustainable in the stone-cold face of empirical evidence. Let’s just hope we don’t all end up the rubes of the profit makers, no matter if they’re systemic conspiracies of corporations and governments, or the money-grubbing actions of lone pusher jerks.
It sucks how many people are in hunger. Hunger and poverty go hand in hand but there is no guarantee that impoverished people are hungry. Almost assuredly, though, hungry people are poorer economically than they need to be to acquire food and eat until full.
I find this arrangement deplorable and I would hope as we struggle we keep the hungry in mind. At the same time, I am fully aware that revolutionary struggle can oftentimes make things a lot worse for the poor before they get better.
This is one of the reasons socialism is difficult; capitalism provides cheap foods to busy poor people. While a value burger or taco might not have all the nutrition one needs, it can make the difference between a hungry person and a full one, and at a lower cost than anything else, so it seems perfect when a person is in a bind. For such a reason, looking down on fast food, and cheap goods like those at Walmart, and looking down on consumers of these things, doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Often leftists take lifestyle approaches to their politics; spending decisions become the ultimate exercise of agency. So Chipotle replaces Taco Bell, and Whole Foods replaces McDonalds. The means of acquiring goods barely deviates, just the vendor. Not much of a change, eh?
In the long term the goal is to eliminate the exploitation and retain the options. If you want poor nutrition food in a hurry, fine, so long as you chose it. Rarely would the average consumer of such things always choose them in an even offering, such foods are just all that is available at that price point. We have to determine an exit strategy from our current situation to a better one. And that path is not easy. It will almost definitely not be able to offer the affordable, high speed, low-nutrition crap that’s at McDonalds.
A common fallacy in revolutionary thought is that revolutions immediately establish the societal goals they set out to accomplish. This thinking ignores the needs of capacity and institution building, of establishing dual power, an alternative state operating within and around the current state. Rejection of the current state and adherence to the revolutionary apparatus is required at some point in the transition; otherwise, the modes of production of the current state remain in effect, and no change can occur and last. And so it is here that a very difficult situation arises: how do we convince the proletarians, whose day to day hunger may be immense and whose ability to strive without starving is exceedingly limited by capital’s constraints, to reject the easy food of the value menu?
Briefly: we must feed the masses. Hunger is unacceptable, malnutrition is a non-starter, for any sustainable revolution against capitalism. We must focus early on establishing a food system that is ethical, where workers on farms are themselves able to survive and eat, and where affordability is maximized before the role of currency in food exchange is eliminated.
I ran afoul of some local friends by stating my argument against “easy” food as one against “lazy” food, food available because capitalism makes cheap, low-effort food available to poor people in a way that an underdeveloped socialist regime cannot. It is the responsibility of anyone who identifies with revolutionary struggle to work for solutions that bring food out of the clutches of capital and under the direction of the multitudes: nutritious, available, free food. It’s a vital early step in dual power that can’t be disregarded or ignored. The revolutionary fast food restaurant needs to open early in the transition.
I made the mistake in a recent conversation, in my desire to make this truth about capitalism seem less desirable, in using the word “lazy” to describe this food, and that terminology was then ascribed by someone observing the conversation to the poor people eating it, as though I thought poor people were lazy (news flash: poor people work harder than anyone else). Such a horrid view wasn’t my intention but you know how intentions go when met with perception. I meant easy, cheap, low-effort food. The kind of food that keeps people hungry, just barely fed, and lacking the control over their own food supply. I called it “lazy,” when a better word might have been “gruel.” It’s what you get, and if you don’t take it, you starve.
We can’t ask people to starve.
The truth is that creating a world with less suffering will almost certainly require struggle in the shorter term; to replace our illegitimate and abhorrent exploitative system from the ground up is almost certainly going to require a period where the benefits of the illegitimate and exploitative system are cast away. It is an ugly and uncomfortable truth for those of us who are interested in getting to better world, but one we ignore at our own peril. It’s part of the package you accept when you strive to replace the current state with a better one. All of us who are used to being poor and hungry would do well to stock up on food, procure a few garden tools, and get ready to be a bit hungrier while we build an arrangement that does a more equitable job of distributing precious sustenance.
In a strictly Orwellian sense, George Orwell was a racist anti-communist.
However I cut my teeth on dystopian fiction. For a time 1984 was my favorite book. I have since graduated. I am now really into Player Piano and White Noise, if I want to read dystopian fiction. Both books make more sense, and are more beautiful to me, though I’ll bet the scoundrel Don DeLillo is typical of an older white guy, the way he writes them so well.
However my interest in Orwell was mostly to do with his treatment of language in a bad government, and he spoke about controlling a language to control people. In the novel, there’s a fictional bureaucratic entity, cutting words out of official usage with nefarious intentions.
I don’t need to imagine this process being:
- a product of bureaucracy, government or corporate or corporate-government
This isn’t a fiction. We lose words, constantly. Words fall in and out of popular favor. If you need proof, look at baby names coming and going. Not a lot of Ethel’s being named nowadays, quite a few Kristins when I was in high school, whole lot of Angeliques today. Words come in and out of favor, popular culture is rife with references to the jargons of the past, and our fiction with the possibile slang of the future.
And Orwell invented a bit of future slang that ended up being very prescient; his satire of his own civilization combined with a keen technological foresight made 1984 a dystopian map to the US in the 70s and 80′s when I was an adolescent. As I said, I’ve graduated, but I still like the term “thoughtcrime.”
As a basic concept, “thoughtcrime” is having a thought that falls outside of acceptable notions of what you’re allowed to do by the weird oppressive regime. I’m not under the impression that I’m going to be arrested for thinking and saying things (right, NSA?), but I’m fully aware that there is a stigma associated with revolutionary leftist ideals, even though they make sense and are defensible over capitalism and its blind hunger for more. That realization makes for a bad conversation, thanks to a century of popularized bashing of reds.
So it always throws a wrench in the works, bringing up capitalism as a problem, because people need to be convinced. And of course I can’t just say “communism,” because that’s revolutionary, and of all the things to have been made taboo in the United States, founded by anti-tax anti-religion zealots murdering millions, to speak of a well-organized popular revolution where everyone struggles against history to make a better way? Well that’s just crazy talk.
And of course I have the benefit of being surrounded by liberals, damn them. If I lived in the fascist bully-rape-culture conservative boys’ club suburbs I could just get lynched.
Tune in next time for episode 2: The Fascist Bully-Rape-Culture Conservative Boys Club is the Ministry of Love