Democracy and humanity

Democracy has fallen into the trap of all power. It’s become about the wielder of power not about the people.

The idea of democracy is an ideal. It is a hope that giving the people a voice and a choice would motivate them to build a better world not just with other political bodies but with each other. To create connections to each other which would transcend the tribal(us vs them) and become a collective we. Thus we the people. It clings to the idea that the individual can both work towards their own goals while attempting to give others the best chance at good.

But it is here that is the first danger. What is good for me, individually, may be dangerous or disastrous for others.

The second danger is that of the collective. As people grow in numbers, in groups, it is less and less that the logical or those with ideas are leaders and more about charisma and how many people can you sway to your way of thinking.

The first was fought by creating the position of a representative who will take the idea of the collective good and represent that idea to create laws and a nation. With the understanding that failure to represent the will of the individuals who elected them will result in their being replaced. But the hope was that this representative would act in the best interests of the people. Not just give them what they said they wanted. In fact, it’s a bad idea to give people exactly what they want. Our stories are littered with the consequences of doing just that. The destruction of acquiring what we want is recounted over and over. It was the hope that a representative would see what we need to get some of what we want and work towards that.

But we are humans. And representatives almost immediately split into factions and those factions began to shape laws which benefitted those in power. Themselves. While occasionally throwing some bits and pieces to the groups that got them there. Those representatives gave power to these factions to enhance their own power but instead stripped themselves of the autonomy which allowed them the freedom to operate in both their own and their constituents best interests. Instead owing allegiance to the party rather than the people.

So the first danger falls prey to the second and we are thrust back into factions. And worse, we become beholden to them for identity. Because we as humans are swayed by what we are included into rather than a greater idea of self. Most people just want to live lives which are just hard enough to be interesting but not so difficult that there is struggle. So they allow others who want that power, want that struggle to become their rulers.

The only benefit in a democracy is that sometimes people can be motivated enough to act in their best interests and vote to remove those causing them harm. Stripping them of power.

But here is where the faction comes into play. By excluding other voices from the election and allowing only those who they know will act in good faith for their interests. Parties are the very definition of special interest groups yet are always pointing outside themselves at the other.

I don’t have a solution. Because this is extremely complicated and how do we create a system which both minimizes and weaponizes human self interest while allowing for the human need to be a part of a group without giving control to that group while giving enough power to make decisions which will effect other people.

Democracy is fucked up. But it must be ruthlessly preserved even against itself. And it must be brutally examined. Are your ideas for all of the people or only for your self interest? Do you act because you must for the greater good or because it will please your party or your friends? We must be willing to accept that other people and other ideas may be better than our own or our groups and work towards a common good.

This increase(some would say, inevitable increase) in factional power undermines the goals of democracy. And the thought may be to outlaw factions but I would counsel against driving factions underground. It is much easier to fight what you can see.

My hope is that people who seek office will use the parties to gain access to power then use that power against the factions in the interest of the entire group they represent rather than merely for those who elected them.

Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic.

The gap grows in our manic grins

Imagination and hope seem to be the two ways we hurt ourselves the most. We live in some future world where the daily struggle to be alive, to exist, is easy. So we miss what might be in the moment. What opportunity exists right now. But still, that escape of hope is vital. Self delusion is necessary. Without it, we would not be able to function in the corrupt and fucked up world where we are a step away. A mistake away from disappearance. From falling out of the daily beating of ‘normal’ life and into the shadow world where broken people and fractured society walk.

The consequences of failure are so high for most of us that we don’t, can’t, take the necessary risks to get beyond the cliff edge. We depend on hope. On lotteries and sweepstakes and the hope that maybe we can live without being afraid.

This is the consequences of not just late stage capitalism but of a society that believes that anyone can be rich if they work hard enough. And so make sure that the rich don’t have to live in the same world as the rest of us. Because we aspire to be there one day and we don’t want to have our funds taken when we do.

But that’s poor people, honest people, thinking. The thought that a seventy percent tax rate means that they actually pay seventy percent the same way we look at our paychecks and wonder where all the money goes. They don’t. They have access to all the tax dodges and schemes which allow them to pay in the zero to ten percent range. So that’s what they pay. And those dodges are legal. Because they’ve convinced us that them paying less means that somewhere, somehow we will get paid more.

Maybe in the past wealth built things. Roads and schools and infrastructure. A thin cynical maybe. But now, wealth only builds more wealth. And companies do not pass record profits on to their employees. They pass them on to their stockholders. Which isn’t us, because we can’t afford to play in their arena. And even if we tried, that extra ten dollars a year isn’t going to change our life. And neither is the extra ten grand that tax cuts profit them going to make a difference, if they even notice.

So, why do we keep doing this? Because we hope. Because we secretly aspire to be there “one day”. And we think ten thousand is alot and we would love to have that money. But we are not them. And we never will be. The system is gated. And even if you squeeze through the bars, somehow…and become the wealthy. You do so leaving behind the millions of people who weren’t lucky enough to have the opportunity, the twin composition of chance and foresight, to squeeze through before you close the loophole behind you.

Other capitalist countries don’t have our problems. Because they have societies which are not built on iconoclastic single points. Which aren’t built on the idea that anyone can be rich. And while that thought structure is useful, it is also harmful. And we are seeing first hand exactly how harmful it is when protections are stripped away in an effort to protect their wealth. Rather than protect the rest of us from their casual predation.

Holidays are approaching

I’ve stayed up way too late doing nothing in particular. Watching strange shows from Brazil with great English voice dubbing. Looking at my phone wanting to feel connected…
Then it flashes me the battery warning and I think, “probably time to go to bed.” My cats asleep in the middle of my bed and I’ll displace her so instead I remember I need to write a post for tomorrow.

This week is Thanksgiving in the USA. Another holiday that has its roots in blood. As if all holidays aren’t problematic icons embodied in a yearly ritual to enshrine the victory of one group over another. I mean it’s hypocritical to teach that it’s about some historical togetherness and all but I question whether or not that actually matters. Knowing the truth about history is a good thing and it can help avoid past mistakes in favor of all new atrocities.

But being mad about a holiday seems pointless. Get together and change it if you need to. Change the name and people’s cultural relationship to it. But mostly, it’s an excuse.

That correct. All holidays are an excuse. Mostly it’s to take a day off. For those lucky enough to be able to afford it. And even for those who can’t, its the opportunity to say fuck it, I’m taking this time for myself. For my family, if you’re into that kind straight laced social structure. It’s a way to be irresponsible in a state sanctioned corporate sponsored commercially acceptable way.

And it’s a time to say hi to that cousin you only vaguely remember. To try to restrain yourself, or maybe this is just me, from getting into sociopolitical arguments with people capable of only spouting talking points and appeals to authority. (Headline-If you are making an appeal to authority without data to back it up, you’ve already lost the argument.) And eat food you wouldn’t normally eat.

Some people, mythically to my mind, get to hang out with friends and have fun. I’ve never seen it, except on Single person Christmas, aka Halloween, and even then that a socially awkward sexually charged powder keg. It’s one overly fruity mixed drink away from making a pass at your married boss with his wife right there. Or laughing at someone’s use of fetish gear as costume and demonstrating proper flogger technique in front of people you know are friends of friends who will spread that like wildfire.
Not that this is a bad thing, I just don’t like awkward conversations about what drunk, no filter me, said when I am sober slight filter me.

Maybe I’m just not who these Holidays are aimed at. I know there are people who love this stuff. Love the gossip about nothing and the skirting of taboo topics at least until someone says grace.

Another thing I don’t do. I’m fairly certain my lip service Christian family would neither take a blessing from my faith nor would my faith be likely to bestow blessings. Honestly, if asked for a blessing, I think the proper response would be something like, “The choices we make have consequences. Whether those consequences are good or bad depends on where you are standing when they occur. This means that whether we act or not, either is a choice. Make sure you make your choices wherever possible. Don’t allow your choices to make you.”

But there is no appeal to a higher authority which seems to be the point of prayer.

So maybe I just don’t get it. Or maybe I do. But in any case, Holidays are meant for people to pause and see. To look around in the frenetic drawn out scream, and maybe, for once, listen.

But what do I know? I’m just a man who needs to move his cat, so he can go to sleep.

We only have freedom to choose when we are not in danger

When we speak from a position of strength, we forget that not everyone has the same privilege. Without a calm place to stand, without stability, there is no safe place to strike out from. It is the most fundamental human need.

Safety and security is more than a good neighborhood or a job. It is the sure thought that tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, there will be enough to eat, there will be a home that does not itself contain dangers, and despite what problems may be thrown at us, we will have a support system of people and seeable graspable opportunities which insure our continued lives and futures.

Most of us don’t have that. At best we have 2 of the 3 and hope that in some far off unknowable future we will be able to start planning for more than today. Most of us won’t make it to that future.

We are stuck on a ferris wheel which we stepped onto, all naive and full of dreams, hoping and thinking that tomorrow will be better. And that’s the best case, many were forced into darker alleys and worse choices by main circumstances.

How do we make it out? As a people, as humanity, how do we stop breaking the hearts and minds of our people just to perpetuate systems which promote the continuous devolution to barbarism.

I don’t know. And it’s hard to think of how to do so. I’m not safe. And it’s only because my broken heart and mind won’t allow me to sleep, that I’m able to get out even these words. All the while, wracked by doubt and worry and fear, thinking about the morning. When it all starts up again.

Thoughts on vitriolic speech

When we succumb to vitriolic language, we lose credibility in the marketplace of ideas. When one group espouses that all members of another group are inherently of no value, they set up a scenario of escalation by the people who most embody their statement and alienation from those who do not. That alienation has the opposite effect of the intended statement. Statements such as this are intended to highlight a problem and start a discussion but they have the opposite effect. Statements such as this polarize the accused group, causing not disintegration or fracturing but instead causes the majority of that group to, at least initially defend the group or try to differentiate themselves from that grouping.

This then leads to the people saying nay to the hyperbole, which then leads to a demonizing of those that say nay, then leads to anyone who might want to participate in a discussion about it to go silent. Because when all members of a group who have no choice in being that are vilified, outside of people who like to argue, they will see that discussion led to even worse things. And so, silence.

If no one is talking except to shout slogans and hashtags at each other then nothing can be accomplished. No discussion. No sharing of ideas can occur if you force the individual members of the group to acknowledge that you are right before you will speak semirationally with them.

Both sides shouting, no one talking, no progress is made. People want it all fixed, right now. Societies don’t work like that. The idea has to permeate the culture first. And do we want to have a hateful idea permeate a culture. It’s simple to tell if an idea is hateful. Just turn it around. Apply it to yourself and your group. Do you feel affronted? Angry? If someone said that about you would it make you feel good? If not, then you are spreading hate.

Hate is easy and it causes human emotions to flash hot. But it is destruction. Maybe you think to burn it down to rebuild it. But hate breeds more hate until there is no one left to rebuild. Or if there is, it will likely be people who rebel against your hateful ideas. Either way, you don’t accomplish your goal.

It is easy to say no compromises. But that is not how advanced societies function. Dictatorships do. But they don’t last and neither do their policies. One or two human lifetimes is the most you accomplish.
Real forward progress is accomplished by understanding and the slow process of new ideas embedding into youth and age giving way to the youth as policy makers. It’s slow. But it is effective and lasting change.

If you feel the need to fight, fight for someone’s rights. For someone’s life. For each other. Giving into hate creates a situation where things can’t change.

Hiding in our lives from ourselves

These phases and phrases that pass us off as normal, do us few favors.

Normal is hiding, normal is manning up or doing as you’re told instead of what’s right.

It’s keeping silent and saying everything is fine when you’ve bought the gun.

It’s saying I need to work through this alone when being alone makes it worse but we enshrine independence as some kind of peak but it’s other people who lift us up.

It’s being cruel to get the laugh and watching their heart crumble a little.

It’s presenting strength and calm
when inside the storm is raging
and just one touch or word could make all the difference
but no one knows to say
because this facade we build is crafted day by day
and today it looks like any other.

Normal is the killer of dreams and the striving for the middle when the extraordinary is right around the corner.

It’s the lie we tell ourselves to make it all better, that this is normal.

That we have to accept this because most people do
but the truth is we don’t really know
because we are all trying so hard to present normal.

We’re dying from normal. We’re losing our selves to normal. We’re slipping away day by day feeding into the great churn of buy this, it’s normal.

But it’s not too late to steal their normal and make it steel toed boots and black dresses and 5 o’clock shadow.

It’s not too late to make this normal their weird. Weird is their term for different, for outliers.

Weird is my term for kindred. I like your weird. Be weird with me. Fuck normal.