Saturday, July 15, 2017

я don't speak human

I've tried to leave my past behind, old patterns of thought and behavior.  Years of life lessons that have not worked out well for me.  I've tried to free myself from who I was, who I am, but a few old songs can bring it all back.  I'm reminded of what it's like to think I can believe in myself, whatever that might really mean.

Put it to music, an artful narrative, to which I relate.  I'm reminded of how like everything, it's so much a matter of perspective.  None of the facts change, only a difference in what's valued.  How we assess the importance of everything around us.  Who we are, what we do, where we're trying to go in life.  It's not something that can be right or wrong, per se.

Perspectives can however, be undermined by how well they achieve, at the very least, that which they might claim to value.  It's a whole lot easier to tell humanity to fuck right off, when you're doing ok, going your own way.  Practicalities, like taking care of our own needs, food, shelter.  Not being forced to ask for help.  Maybe I wouldn't need help, if America weren't so dysfunctional, but still.  Taking my disability check really takes the wind out of that whole "fuck right off" thing - as would devoting most of my waking life to some shit minimum wage job, really.

What does it really mean, not to speak human, to embrace alienation, to tell society to go fuck itself, and all that entails?  It means something very different, when it's spending your life living alone in a basement.  It makes it so much harder to remember why I've done this to myself.  To have much pride in my resolve, as I sit around feeling lonely and miserable.

Maybe early in life, I should have just engaged more in popular media, music, movies, sports, like everyone else?  It is weird to think about how.. well, yeah.  I could have done that, and honestly, it would have made life a whole lot easier.  Not that such a trivial choices would matter as much now, but I can see how at the time, it could have meant all sorts of things turning out better for me, if I'd been more socially connected.  If I'd even just attempted to join the herd.  Especially now, as I can see how often people welcome the attempt itself, as a sign of good will.  I can see how maybe it has been problematic.. tacitly telling everyone that everything they like sucks.

Not to make it too black and white, I'm not even talking abject negation of self identity, but I could have branched out more tactfully, without all the alienation.  I could have made some effort to be normal.  That does seem to be what lots of people do, balancing their individuality with wanting to be welcomed by their peers.  I've been listening to so many different interpretations of my life, it's easy to lose track of what I do know.  I was very clear in my rejection of any such notion, often even putting it into writing.

Maybe not an entirely rational choice.  I might misjudge values, of what was worth striving for, and what was worth holding onto.  There is fixation of sorts on self-identity tied into it all, in everything from aesthetic preferences to deeper ethical concerns.  In an abstract sense, I can see how I probably would have been better off, doing things differently.  In theory, if I were to get a do-over of my life, which I'd play like a video game, from a safe difference.  Without all the complications of having to feel any of it.

Some things never change though.  If I have to actually sit through sports and pop music?  Oh, hell no.  Fuck that.  Screw you, humanity.

It occurs to me that left-wing politics might be the closest I can get, to ranting about the things that bother me about people, in a way that resonates.. with people.  That gets lots of upvotes from random strangers on Facebook.  That sort of thing.  I'd really rather be hanging out in the woods doing shrooms and playing music, though.

Friday, July 7, 2017

wealthiest poverty in the world

Under a recent post calling into question the legitimacy of American exceptionalism, I commented that the US is exceptional in one particular way, generally considered positive.  We're number one in prison population, and military spending, but lots of people are against that.  The one thing we do clearly have going for us though, is that we are the wealthiest country in the world.

I was actually surprised how many people laughed at this.  We can bicker about whether it makes more sense to measure wealth per capita, or in total - but even per capita, the US ranks way up there.  It's simply a fact that this country is one of the wealthiest in the world.  I certainly didn't expect that to be so controversial that people would laugh.  

That's kind of shocking, right?  The wealthiest country in the history of the world has half its citizens thinking it's broke.  Literally, no money to do anything.  We're too poor.  I don't think people even understand what wealth means, let alone the national debt they claim to be so concerned about.

Some pointed to Dubai as an example of what wealth looks like, so this was my response.
 America doesn't spend its wealth on infrastructure or its people. It just redistributes it to the top, where the wealthiest people horde it. The way that they put it, they're allowed to keep their own profits, instead of being taxed - but where do they get those profits? From the American people, from workers to consumers.  
It's all part of the same economy, and by not paying into it enough, relative to what they're extracting, it makes America look a lot poorer than it is.  
Yeah, we could have cities like Dubai, but we don't. 

On the other hand, people take issue with the idea that anyone in America is really poor.  One posted an article about how many of these so-called poor people have cellphones and computers.  I've mentioned that I even had video games, growing up.  My parents were new to credit.  My father didn't seem to understand or care that they couldn't afford the things he bought.  Computer stuff, mostly.  At least we didn't live somewhere that throws people in prison or beats them to death for that sort of thing, right?

I think a lot of the issue isn't really just personal wealth, but how much spending there is on infrastructure, mass transit, public education, public places of all kinds.  In all of that, America has been on the decline for decades, because of the idea that wealth is personal, and those who have it should be able to keep it.  Well, turns out, they don't like spending on that sort of stuff, when they have jets and properties all over the world.  Personal wealth inequality makes the absence of public spending all the more glaring for those that don't have other means.

The inadequacy of a cellphone to substitute for luxuries like healthcare, education, or owning any land at all.  These things being much more expensive than a phone or even an old computer.  The problem is largely one of wealth inequality, where the richest Americans drive up the costs of everything.  In the US, a person can get a few hundred a month, which would be enough to live well in many places - but in the US, it's not enough to even pay the lowest of rent, let alone food, utilities, or anything else.  Simply having money is not wealth.  It's all about context, and what the wealth is worth, relative to everything else in society.

Wealth is a measure of the economy, the flow of goods and services, resources, labor, and consumers.  Wealth is nothing without the economy that gives it value.  Yet there seems to be this widespread belief that the more a person takes from the economy for themselves, the more they must inherently deserve it.  Americans think their country is poor, yet don't understand how national wealth has anything to do with those making millions of dollars from the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

counter culture

I was maybe twelve years old when I started taking an interest in music.  At first, just stuff that I heard on the radio, but rapidly evolving from there.  As my tastes refined, they moved further and further away from mainstream.  It certainly feels as if I just like what I like, but maybe there is more to it than that.

For some reason, my taste in food comes to mind next.  I know appreciation of good food isn't all that unusual, but McDonald's and Budweiser is most premier cuisine in America.   In my experience, the masses have downright horrifying taste.  Still, just to be sure, I also like my food so spicy that literally no one I know can eat it, other than me.

Don't get me started on people with their jobs and their families - my thoughts on all that are more complicated than aesthetic aversion, and yet regardless, here I am.  No job, no family.  I can't really relate to any of that.  Just another way in which I'm some kind of alien.  On the one hand, I want to say that this isn't exactly of my choosing, and yet, it sort of is.  I refused to prioritize anything like that, when I had the chance.  I had no interest in doing what everyone else was doing.

Then there's politics.  I voted for the candidate that only got 1% of the vote.  There does seem to be a pattern here.  It could be that I feel some sort of need to define myself in contrast with what I perceive to be normal.  An aversion to people that allows me to take pride in my isolation.

Or, it could be that social behaviors reinforce interests, establishing herd behavior.  Spending so much time alone, I've just sort of gone my own way.  Almost any direction is going to be away from mainstream. I seem to do this when it comes to almost everything in life, so maybe it is some of both.

In recent years though, I find my interests in all sorts of things gradually waning, wondering if it's because none of it is being socially reinforced.  It all just feels sort of hollow.  It's deflating being the only person I know who likes anything I like.. but I also know that my tastes aren't that impossibly obscure.

The problem compounded by leaving my apartment no more than absolutely necessary.  Always for as briefly as possible.. which I'm afraid might be because going places and doing things got really discouraging after a while.

Friday, June 30, 2017

the babbling of chimps

Listening to Sapolsky often gets me thinking about how distracting the narratives we tell ourselves can be.  How often there's something biological going on, that we have no clue about.  So we explain our lives this way or that, without ever suspecting that it's all just a faerie tale we've dreamed up, to compensate for our ignorance.

Often incredibly enduring, as we start learning it young, guided by the faerie tales of our elders.  Trying to understand how they live, what matters.  Onto our social interactions with others, and what matters to them.  The peer groups we learn to identify with, or against.  Everything people around us teach, intentionally, and unintentionally.

As our worldview develops, assumptions form from its foundations.  Everything learned, then built upon those foundations, never to be questioned.  Meanwhile, we've actually got neurotransmitters and hormones pulling us this way and that, through the well-trodden pathways we've forged in our years of acting in the repetitive ways that worked for us at the time.  Driven by the lessons we've learned, how life works, what we're supposed to be striving for, what we might achieve, and what we learn that we can't.

I think back on my childhood, and I can see how I was essentially railroaded by circumstances into the ostensible adult that I am.  As a kid, learning that I wasn't like other kids, that I couldn't achieve positive results by socializing with them.  I came to identify with my sense of alienation, even take pride in it.  An effort to make the most of the situation, which I carried with me, the story of my life, who I am.

The benefits of social behaviors were not for me, as far as I could tell, and I think that turns out to include growing up, learning to function in society.  This seems to be part of the natural process of learning, adapting, and nor did I have any sort of guidance or resources to make up the difference.  I can understand what went wrong medically, socially, parentally, financially,  developmentally.  How this was calcified and deeply internalized over the years of just living with the reality of it.

I understand why that's so difficult to do anything about, but I need to figure out how to do something about it anyhow.  I think what it comes down to is independence.  That's why I go back to the issue of work, all the time, but it's not just a matter of money.  People seem to have a sort of social capital, too.  The more confident they can be, about functioning socially, the less they need much money.  Whether it's knowing that wherever you go, you'll be able to work something out with the local populace, or just having friends and family, community.

People run the whole gamut, but the more alone and socially incompetent a person is, the more material poverty is compounded.  Seems lots of people end up in much worse situations than I, for roughly similar reasons.  That is, to put it in very broad terms, failing to navigate American society well enough to achieve what we're told is almost trivially easy to achieve.  It's completely insane that I actually have more money saved than most Americans do (1) To be clear though, I am in the bottom ten percent or so.  Just good at not buying much of anything.

I seem to be what Chomsky refers to as the precariat.  Such an apt term, but this is made all the more precarious by social isolation and ineptitude.  What if this is not who I have to be?  Is that possible?  Sometimes for a flickering moment here or there, I think maybe there is an solution to be found, somehow.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

really late bloomer

I often think maybe I'm just developmentally stunted.  Not emotionally, or intellectually, but something that develops a little later.  I've never heard of it framed as a developmental issue, but that's what it feels like.  I fear that wandering alone in the wilderness might not be the right way to learn how humanity works.

I feel this constant angst, because I am not independent.  I could have the rug pulled out from under me at any moment, for whatever reason, and I have no faith in my ability to survive if that happens.  I think it would be a little crazy to have such faith, knowing myself a little better than that, and just how badly I'd likely handle the stress.

I find it very difficult to allow myself to be immersed in anything, lest I wake up to find myself in such a situation.  An obsessive hyper-vigilance, and a hesitance to even fight it, as I'm not entirely sure there isn't good reason for it.  Could be stress hormones misfiring, could be frighteningly rational, I don't know.  Better to keep obsessively worrying about it, just in case.

I could figure out how to build myself a shack, plant myself some crops, fish if it came to that, but of course, I'd have to buy land first.  Pay taxes.  I feel like I was never ready to be an adult, earn a living, be a part of civilization.  I don't know that I can get a job, or work if I had one.  I feel like getting out of bed every day is just about all the responsibility I trust myself to handle, and there are some days when even that feels like pushing it.  It's the zillion interactions involved in getting anything or anywhere.

I've managed to bounce around for twenty years in spite of this, grinding through as few such interactions as possible, but I've been shaken from just accepting it, by realizing how fragile this stability can be.  I'm not comfortable being dependent on the whims of my psychotic clown government, and this is the very same issue that prevents me from just leaving.  I need to learn to how to function as an adult human among humans.

Maybe taking growth hormone has something to do with why I'm feeling this need more.  Maybe it's interacting with cortisol in some way, and I'm not used to it.  Maybe coincidence.  It's like there's been this new chemical reaction going on inside my skull somewhere, that looks a lot like, "Wait, I have to worry about my own survival?!  Are you fucking kidding me?"

Whatever the case, it doesn't seem to be enough to overcome the fact that I never learned how to do this properly.  There's doesn't seem to be anything in particular to learn, though.  This is why it seems more developmental.  Like my brain was supposed to shift into a different gear, but it never did that.  I don't even know what starting to move in that direction is supposed to look like.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

new york chomsky

"We lived, [...] about a hundred miles from New York.  When I was 11 or 12, my parents would let me go to new york by myself, on the train, I'd stay with relatives, and hang around anarchist bookstores and Union Square."

Chomsky's words could be my own, here.  I stayed with Daniel there, behind the museum, many times.  I walked a lot, but I think maybe I was supposed to attempt speaking with people, in some manner.  Not the sort of ghost that I was, drifting in and out, unnoticed, engaging with nothing and no one.  Except the food, when I could scrape together enough courage and crumpled bills.  New York has some of the best food I've had anywhere, and sometimes it was even pretty cheap.

I couldn't really afford to do much but wander.  I did hang out at lots of book stores.  Once in a while, even bought one.  Sometimes went to see live music at this one tiny punk club I liked.  Mostly just did a whole lot of walking though.  Even at places and times, I really should have been more nervous than I was.

Doesn't seem exactly like the behaviour of someone overcome with anxiety.  An over active fear center would be more generalized, and that doesn't seem to be the case with me.. maybe that's why social anxiety doesn't necessarily feel like anxiety.  Maybe biochemically, it is something a little different.

I was fine, as long as I didn't have to interact with anyone - and yet that was possibly the whole point of all that wandering.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

yeah and also but then

Sometimes responding to a comment, I get a little carried away.  Sometimes I even catch myself, and decide, eh, doesn't matter.  Post it anyhow.  Other times, maybe it does matter, so I'll just cut and paste it somewhere, instead. When comments are too long, people don't even read them.

It's usually much better to say less.  It can even discourage replies, as people don't want to respond in kind, nor in contrast.  At times, I even do this in person.  Some tell me that I'm prone to rambling.  Odd characteristic for an introvert, right?  Maybe I've just given up on being social, because people kept telling me I was rambling.  Not much point when no one's listening.

Crazy thing is, strangers seem to like it.  Facebook just informed me the other day, that I've accrued over 84,000 upvotes.  This is not from my profile, as nobody I know ever likes anything I post - but posting comments on public articles, sometimes even at rather awkward length.

I don't know what's going on, but it can be a bit addictive.  Not just the conversation and positive feedback, but just the act of venting my thoughts.  I don't know if there's any good reason for it, or if there really needs to be.  Scattered, alternating between tweets, comments, and blogging - but even then, always careful not to make it too long.

It helps having a theme.

At the very least, I'd love to see Democrats make this central to their platform.  Not just repealing Citizens United, but acknowledging that the problem goes deeper than that, and offering some sort of plan to do something about it.

From what I can tell, so much that's wrong in the world comes back to greed, the wealthy trying to get wealthier in some way.  Using their wealth to get our legislators to help them do it - and we're the wealthiest country in the world.  

Arguably doing the most damage.  Not directly, but also indirectly, including all the different ways we interfere with other countries.  It's always about American "interests," largely being defined by our industry, finance, and business, through the favor they've curried with our politicians.  Often by helping them get elected.

I could probably just ramble randomly and at great length for no reason and to no one, but I think that might be somewhat less productive.