Thursday, April 27, 2017

ANTI-EVERYTHING?


A reactionary is someone who unreasonably resists any ideas or behaviors that are different from the status quo or his/her concept of what is ideal. For example, I am admittedly reactionary in response to gangster rap music. I can reason out its origins and its artistic merits, but I have a gut reaction against its drug culture, violent imagery, misogyny and homophobia. My reactionary distaste is mollified by reason. In other words, I would not promote a ban on gangster rap. I value free speech over my reactionary impulses. I just won't buy it or listen to it. 

Being reactionary is part of being human. There are good survival mechanisms involved in the reactionary response. The fight-or-flight mechanism is one of the most basic. This most likely explains why old people, small children and many people who become extremely ill are more reactionary than others. This interests me because I am older and have survived severe debilitating illness. I am also a retired registered nurse. So, I have been able to look at this issue from several vantage points. My hypothesis from my observations is this: Human beings resist change in direct proportion to their state of comfort or discomfort. 

Those who are extremely wealthy, like Bill and Melinda Gates, may become less reactionary. For example, they may give out some of their great wealth to promote global change. They may become more flexible politically. They may move from opportunism to philanthropic altruism. Those who are extremely poor may also be less reactionary. They have little to lose with change and perhaps something to gain, if they are presented with an opportunity to increase their comfort. They may move from impoverished stagnation to hopeful opportunism. This can be used for bad purposes by bad people, as we have seen historically. 

Those in society's middle have always been the roiling mass of both progressive energy and reactionary resistance. Their gravitation to either pole seems to be related to where they are economically in society. The most progressive seem to be those on the way up economically. The most reactionary seem to be those on their way down economically. Those most moderate in this middle group appear to be those, in capitalist society, who have capital enough to sustain a stable economic future whether there is political/social change or not. Excluding mental illness, education, combined with capital stability, promotes moderation in the face of either stasis or change.

Why is the current anti-everything-Trump mania in the USA seated in the progressive middle? In other words, why are those who are climbing up the economic ladder from the middle (for example, college students) the most hysterical reactionaries against the current government administration? I believe the vehement reactionary wave against anything Trump among progressives has little to do with the specifics of Trump's stated goals or with their loss of the 2016 election. 

The denial of its steady losses by the economic middle of the USA in the recent decades is obvious. Rather than conforming to the globalist goal to knock down their lifestyles in favor of wealth redistribution globally and wealth maintenance of capitalist aristocrats, many in the USA's economic middle have worked more hours, leveraged themselves to the hilt and gone on a spending binge on credit to compensate for the misery of their lives. The result has been a tenuous grip on their economic stability and an increase in their stress. One more stock market failure or banking failure could crack off the edge of the economic cliff from which they are hanging by their fingernails. 

Then why are the wild protesters against Trump generally younger? I speculate that the most vehement anti-everything-Trump protesters are those whose lives are most dependent on the status quo. This sounds counter-intuitive, since quiet conservatives are traditionally seen as guardians of the status quo. 

Consider the children of middle-income families who now medically insure them under Obamacare until they are 25. This is a wide swath of young Americans of the economic middle. Consider the high number of children from the lower level of middle income and lower who have been raised in the expanded food stamp program. Consider the children whose college educations come from the leveraged equity of their parents' homes or businesses. In other words, consider the possibility that these vehement anti-everything-Trump protesters are not social justice warriors. Consider that they may be understandably protesting change in the status quo from a position of personal entitlement. This is not progressive. This is understandably reactionary, but it does not represent some ethical superiority. 

If people in the USA continue to subscribe to capitalism as it now exists in The West and increasingly around the globe, they should catch up with the inevitability of Trumps and Putins. We do not live in a democracy. We live in a republic. Republics throughout history have been ruled by aristocrats. Being reactionary against everything-Trump is basically being reactionary to a system to which you have subscribed election after election for decades. In other words, ignorant conformity in any political direction, combined with operating on a basis of selfish capitalist individualism, will inevitably lead to authoritarian regimes. Bernie Sanders is an anomaly. Trump and Clinton were simply examples of the system progressing farther along to more power for the elite and less for the middle.  

Friday, April 14, 2017

WHY ME? WHY NOT ME?

Actor Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman

I finally caught up with the TV series Breaking Bad. This is an admission of my aversion to commercial TV and conformist adulation of any media. I waited for it to come on Netflix so I could binge watch the complete show, all 5 seasons. And I recommend it.

The show has roots in Greek and Shakespearean tragedies with a little Dickens thrown in. In other words, it is quite brilliant. Its characters and plot lines beautifully convey universal messages about personality, greed, addiction, family and choices. It is an intricate portrait of modern American needs, mores and values.

Jesse Pinkman, a central character who is a meth addict, frequently whines indignantly "Why me?" whenever asked or told to do something he doesn't want to do. Jesse is the perpetual adolescent, representative of today's spoiled middle-class youth. He has invested nothing in himself in order to contribute to society. He has been enabled by materialistic parents. He takes unless bullied into contributing something. He turns his own home into a meth den to block out his loneliness and desperation. Then he plays with the addled meth heads in his home like dolls or pets. They are his bitches in Jesse-speak. Parallels to the adolescent emperors of ancient Rome. 

The "Why Me?" culture is part of the generalized victim culture in developed countries today. It is fueled by personality politics and celebrity obsession of narcissists. If a person feels unrecognized or coddled in any way by society in this sick frame of reference, he/she becomes a victim. The reality is that a victim of this kind is actually a victim of self-oppression and/or character disorder. Sufficiently mesmerized into a group-think with other self-identified victims, this individual can easily be manipulated to violence and destruction. In the fog of false victims everywhere, actual victims of harmful injustice go unnoticed and ignored.

I learned something about this at an early age. My mother, a strong and capable woman, was prone to say "Why me?" whenever I got sick or was found to have some problem requiring intervention.  My wise old-school pediatrician heard her say this in his office when I came in with a nasty infection in my preschool years. He looked at my mother over his spectacles with a frown and said sternly, "Mrs. Creeden, he is a child. Children get sick." That doctor treated me with special tenderness whenever I came in after that. The lesson may have been wasted on my mother, who continued her "Why me?" responses, but it was not a lesson wasted on my impressionable mind. 

The irrational cult of victim status and the irrational cult of unrealistic human happiness are intertwined in a society ruled by commercial media. These cults are also fueled by the technology of instant selective information. Victims gather views, tweets and retweets. Celebrity lifestyles, mostly unearned in any rational way, are pushed into the faces of the struggling masses as ideal. The role of average hardworking citizen is no longer valued. Practicing simple honesty and decency within one's lot in life is seen as dysfunctional, depressive or weak. Aggression, begging, whining, indignation and bragging are the acceptable standards of modern behavior in many segments of society. If a person's goal is to always feel special, he/she is condemned to a frustrated life of "Why me?" and "Why not me?".

I like to deconstruct "Why me?" for myself whenever tempted to think it. "Why" is simple for me. There is no "Why" in the Universe as I understand it. God, sin, karma, heaven, hell ... all these "Why" constructs mean nothing to the rational me, yet I manage to live a relatively peaceful and responsible life with normal incidence of human pain and suffering.  The "me" concept, as a descriptive of some uniquely central human being in a vast Universe, also means nothing to the rational me. I am a construct of genetics and environment, no different than any other creature on a purely existential level. If anything, my consciousness of my own unexceptional state on this planet is as much burden as attribute. Starting there has helped me survive, persevere and function with relative serenity in a Universe which really doesn't care if I do or don't. 


Thursday, April 6, 2017

AGE OF MASS UNCONSCIOUSNESS


Yes, I am a product of my time. The natural way of things is to age into obsolescence, whether trying to or not. As upbeat and with-it as we may try to be, old people cannot fully experience the world which the young populate. The reverse is also true.

If you swim in a New England pond today, you do not know what water uncontaminated by acid rain feels like on the skin. You do not have the experience of minnows and tadpoles so numerous that they are tickling your legs when you stand near the shore. When you walk along a beach on Cape Cod, you no longer see scores of skittering sand crabs at the surf line. These experiences are etched on my brain, but are completely absent from the brains of 20-somethings. That imprinting of the brain effects the way we experience the world.

If never being able to sit down in a subway car at rush hour is all you know, you most likely cannot easily relate to outrage about overpopulation or exploitation by property developers. Most young city dwellers would readily shrug when attention is brought to the forest of cranes erecting tower after tower in their cities without any commensurate improvements being made to public infrastructure. This malaise is enhanced by the lack of a skeptical media, print or visual. McLuhan's prophetic The Medium is the Massage is here in full force.

I am not prone to nostalgia, but I have a sharp sensual memory, photographic actually. Perhaps my memory is why I am not as nostalgic as some of my peers who remember their old world through an enhanced haze. For example, when I think of trolley rides here in Boston where we once had 140 street trolley routes, I remember them being cold in winter and hot in summer. I also remember sliding side-to-side on the leather bench seats as the trolley careened around a corner. So, when I ride a rare trolley car today, I relish the climate control and bucket seats, but I regret not being able to sit down much of the time. My attempts to exit a packed trolley car with polite expressions of "Excuse me." are thwarted by headphones on the ears of passengers staring at screens with mouths open. 

I have a similar experience of being in an urban neighborhood today. I grew up in the most densely populous American city of the mid 1950's. 48,000 of us lived in less than one square mile. That city was relatively quiet by today's standards. There were no blasting woofers in cars. There were fewer cars altogether. One of the loudest sounds was the occasional human voice of a tradesman hocking his wares from a small van or even from the handles of his pull cart. Knife sharpeners, rag collectors, metal collectors. Now I am bombarded through closed double-glazed windows by a constant flow of city rumble. Trucks, sound systems, helicopters, a parade of pedestrians sharing their phone conversation as they walk by my house. This noise goes unnoticed by my young neighbors who seem to think this is a quiet neighborhood.

If we were all conscious of how polluted our air is, perhaps action would be taken aggressively to fix it. If we were all prone to walk through our neighborhoods, rather than ride, perhaps we would all be aware of the unnecessary noise and litter we encounter. If we were all conscious of the high water marks at our nearest beaches, we would be outraged, not disappointed, at anyone who denies environmental crisis. If we were all conscious of the ravaging of our planet by the petrochemical industry, perhaps none of us would even consider buying a large gas-powered vehicle. 

But this is the age of mass unconsciousness. Too many human beings have turned to electronic technology to block consciousness of their surroundings. In poor, overpopulated countries, this is a natural fit, exploited by vendors of phones and headsets. In urban America, even Liberals will turn to watching video reports of war and global poverty rather than actually doing anything about either. How can any individual have an impact on the quality of life on the planet when that individual cannot even acknowledge the humanity of the stranger next to him/her on a subway car? If the young are inured to deteriorating human ecology, what is the hope for our human ecology in the future? 


Saturday, April 1, 2017

OLD FOOL


I found the house I am now residing in on April Fools' Day five years ago. Unlike today's dismal wintry weather, the sun shone brightly on flowering gardens that day. The real estate agent who was hosting the open house was tidying up in preparation to leave when I arrived. The house had as many flaws as pluses, but it spoke to me like the eyes of a scruffy puppy through the bars of an animal-shelter cage. I saw potential. When I called Peter and told him that I thought my seemingly endless search for a place had ended, he laughed and said, "I know. It's April Fool." 

Fooling people has become a regular methodology in our society. It is governed by liars and thieves. An oil company executive now determines our embassy policies and covert activities in the world. A climate-change denier runs the Environmental Protection Agency. A casino-hotel mogul is President. Our economy is firmly in the hands of scheisters on Wall Street, who own our most vocal Progressive politicians. No fooling.

I have been a fool. I foolishly allowed my parents to rule my life for far too long. This cost me an assured Ivy League education in favor of a continuation of a Roman Catholic education, which had its intellectual value but lacked the social provenance/confidence of an Ivy degree. I went to dental school post-grad to please those same parents, even though I knew in my heart that I would never be a dentist. I foolishly thought pleasing them would get them off my back. It was displeasing them that actually worked. They disowned me for the first time when I left dental school after one semester. They disowned me the second time a few months later when I came out to them as a gay man.

I learned to embrace the lessons that came from foolish failures. I had help from some worldlier peers and far worldlier older men whom I met along the way. I was lucky to become an adult gay man at a time when our subculture still valued the wisdom of older gay men. We didn't see them as trolls, today's dismissive framing of all old gay men by spoiled youth. My mentors ranged in age from 45 to 85. One ancient had been a silent film actor and bum boy to a German archduke. Others were CEO's and high ranking public servants. At high-tea soirees and between the sheets, I polished my formal heterosexual education with the healthy cynicism of their lessons. 

The faux-Progressives at Google have now apparently decided to prevent children, defined in different ways in different places, from viewing any gay content on YouTube. I don't mean pornography. I mean anything that makes references to homosexuality. Their censors are reportedly planning to restrict certain "unacceptable" political and social commentary as well. I wonder if they will protect children from gender reassignment information or anti-White racism. In other words, You Tube will become a propaganda tool for creating generations of brainwashed fools to come.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This is old wisdom. However, it is based on the assumption that I have free access to the information necessary to avoid being fooled a second time. I feel so fortunate to have come along at a time when I was able to access information freely in libraries and on line. Future generations may have to fight hard for that access to truthful information. The door on the light of truth is closing rapidly. Once closed, the key to that door will be held by the 1% who rule. And they themselves may become fools by eventually believing the fabricated lies they foster to maintain their own power. This has happened in human history over and over again.