I really don’t know life at all

11 02 2019

I have been insufficiently cynical.

Tough to write that—cynicism has been my schtick since I was in high school—but the accumulation of more-and-less recent events have clearly revealed that I have been a goddamned Pollyanna about my fellow human beings.

Oh, I know, people can do terrible things great and small, that we are selfish and mean, blah blah. Big deal. I can say we suck all day long and even believe it, but does that belief emanate from the very marrow of my being?

Apparently not.

Now, maybe this is good, maybe this is bad, but I feel like I’ve caught myself out.

Example: Howard Schultz. I know, but this isn’t about yet another rich guy’s delusion that making money qualifies one for the presidency; no, this is about his dumb-ass comments that billionaires shouldn’t be referred to as such, but as “people of means” or “people of wealth.”

Yes, the billionaire who thinks his billions qualify him for the White House doesn’t want us to foul his pure air with such noxious terms as “billionaire,” but to be kinder, gentler, toward such sensitive souls as himself. To notice his massive pile of money is simply. . . unseemly.

You’d think I’d be disgusted by his disdain for social welfare and horror at a wealth taxOh no! after paying a shit-ton in taxes I will only have a mega-shit-ton of money left!—and I am. But rich people grabbing at all of the monies is nothing new.*

No, it’s the goddamned sensitivity about the rest of noticing that they’ve grabbed all of the monies and the expectation that we should cater to those sensitivities. Your gaze wounds me! Avert your eyes!

Yes, we’re supposed to pay attention to him because he’s a billionaire but not that he’s a billionaire. Uh huh.

*Okay, I’ll be honest: the depths to which rich people will go to get more riches does shock me. I’m aware of the concept of loss aversion, but once you have so much money that everything is effectively free doesn’t this concept lose its mojo? Aren’t we now out of the realm of cognitive biases and into that of sociopathy?

Consider the Sacklers, the crazy-rich family behind Purdue Pharma and one of the main drivers of the opioid crisis. They denied oxycodone was addictive, even as

Kathe Sackler, a board member, pitched “Project Tango,” a secret plan to grow Purdue beyond providing painkillers by also providing a drug, Suboxone, to treat those addicted.

“Addictive opioids and opioid addiction are ‘naturally linked,’ ” she allegedly wrote in September 2014.

Jeez, I remember this episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Or you could compare the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma to the executives at Omni Consumer Products (RoboCop, natch).

I mean, the Sacklers’ desire for MOREMOREMORE MONEY is beyond cartoon villainy, and yet, there it is.

I don’t get it.

Money is useful—that I get. It’s portable and transferable and in a society in which you must pay for goods, necessary. I’ve been broke and not-broke, and not-broke is better. But how much beyond not-broke do you have to go before you can say, “okay, enough”?

I’d guess that we’d all have different beyond-lines, and that we’d probably side-eye each other’s lines, so, okay. But not to have any lines at all? Not to have any concept of “enough”?

I guess, in the end, that doesn’t shock me. It puzzles me, but doesn’t shock. But the willing reduction of one’s life to the pursuit of MORE MONEY, the expectation that MORE MONEY is all there is, all that matters and ought to matter?

That’s fucked up.

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Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Keepin’ it cool

13 08 2012

Fist, stick, knife, gun: I’ve been approaching this campaign as if it were gang warfare—and it is, of the metaphorical sort.

Total up the blows, the blood, the chipped teeth and broken bones; politics as smashmouth. It is unfortunate, as I mentioned to someone who recoiled from my cold analysis, but the evidence leaves little room for any other conclusion.

There is another reason for my phlegmatic response to outrageous behavior: I really do find it outrageous, and only by turning off my emotional reaction to the bullshit and the lies that I can get through the day without hurling my computer out the window.

For example: Romney and Ryan argue that they can “save the American dream” and that Obama is “trying to change America … into something we might not recognize.”

Pure boilerplate, nothing out of the ordinary for a presidential campaign, designed both to run down the other guys and fire up your own side. It isn’t and won’t be the worst thing said during this election season.

The analyst observing this cage-match from the catwalk merely takes note of the theme: the country’s going off track and we’re the men to get it back on track—again, nothin’ new, there.

But the citizen, the partisan, reacts to this boilerplate with her own boiling rage. What the fuck are they talking about, save the American dream? The fuck they know about anyone else’s dreams? And Obama trying to change this country into something we don’t recognize? The fuck these motherfucking motherfuckers saying about the goddamned president of the goddamned country? This pomaded pair calling the rest of us traitors? Motherfucking mother. . . .!

You see how it is.

There are some political matters on which I can genuinely modulate my response, allow room for both emotion and reason, but when it comes to the depravity underlying presidential campaigns I have to choose between the fanatic screaming LIES! or the dispassionate amoralist jotting down points for this side or that.

The bloodlessness I bring to this campaign isn’t entirely affected—there is a kind of satisfying. . . calm to the Machiavellian perspective—but it is willed. I cannot see through the turbulence of my partisanship, so I use cynicism to tamp it down and grant me clarity. That, to me, is a reasonable decision.

Yet if I am unbothered by the amorality of the choice itself, I do admit that my willingness to make it marks a kind of resignation on my part. I don’t know how things could get better, don’t know that I could have any role in making them better, so instead of trying to find a way through this, I set myself above it all.

Or below, as the case may be.





Wipeout, pt. II

3 11 2010

I am an ideologue.

No, not particularly happy to write that, and as quickly as I might state that that’s not all that I am, I also have to admit that it is also that I am.

I bring this up to consider the interpretations of elections. After the Republicans suffered reverses in 2006 and 2008, a fair number of activists blamed those reversals on the lack of conservative steadfastness. Had the GOPers only stuck to their guns, these folks said, we’d a-won.

Yeah, right, I thought.

But that same thought skittered around my mind in the lead-up to this election. If only the Dems hadn’t been so pusillanimous, election night would have been a bleed rather than a hemorrhage.

In my defense, I was thinking more about tactics, whereas the conservatives were thinking more about policy. I’m not a moderate, but I think welcoming moderates (and even conservatives) into the Democratic party isn’t a bad thing: I am most decidedly not a purist on political matters.

But that interpretation rather too conveniently lets me off the hook. I want the Dems to push hard, to ignore squeals about the supposed unfairness of maneuvering to enact their agenda, and I want that agenda to reflect my leftist views.

When you win, goddammit, you act as if you’ve won.

And when you lose, you obstruct and resist and dissent and do what you can to limit the damage likely to flow from the other side’s win.

That’s how it is, for Dems and GOPers, liberals and conservatives. Shut up about the process—really, SHUT UP. It’s terrific when you win and terrible when you lose and all your whining about fairness or rudeness or partisanship is just so much rote rot. If you truly think it’s unfair, then change the process; otherwise, shut up.

So that’s how I know I’m an ideologue: However annoyed I may be when political adversaries obstruct what I want done, I don’t think they’re wrong to obstruct. In fact, if they think they can best achieve their aims through obstruction, then they’re fools if they don’t obstruct.

That’s not cynicism; that’s smart politics.

And finally, I know I’m an ideologue because however fatigued or Machiavellian I may be, I do believe ideas matter, so much so that I find it easier to deal with those who actually want to do something—even if I hate that something—than those who want to win just to win.

Even I’m not that cynical.