Sunday, May 31, 2015

two steps forward...

I guess one major reason I've been getting more depressed again is that social security only sent me $600 last month.  I have no idea why.  I didn't even call them to find out. I know this sounds pretty stupid, but I've been hoping it was a fluke.

Obviously, my number one reason for not doing anything about it is that talking to people scares the hell out of me.  If there's anything I have to do which might involve talking to people, fuck it.  Maybe when I'm feeling better.  Maybe I'll figure something else out, in the meantime.  Mostly though, just fuck it.

Especially people who can say no to me, regarding something important.  Like, can I rent this apartment, can I get treatment for this illness, can I have this job, or can you please just give me the bare minimum I'm going to need to find a place to live?  I'm not trying to buy a house or anything here, just rent a fucking hole in the wall room, with no kitchen, and a shared bath.. and last month, they didn't even give me enough for that much.

Chances are though, they had their reasons.  I can probably find out what those reasons are, but does that mean grounds for an appeal, let alone any sort of immediate correction?  Not likely, no.  They calculate it based on all these factors that are completely removed from what's actually needed to survive.  At the low end of that calculation, it's really just enough money to take the edge off of homelessness, and they keep tweaking and adjusting mine, so that I have no idea how much I'm going to be able to count on.

Or, I'm just doing it wrong.  Not navigating the system adeptly enough to get what I'm supposed to actually be entitled to.  I've tried looking into various services, but it's like a maze of dead ends, and I've basically failed to get anywhere at all.  Either this entire system is a cruel joke on those who really need it, or I'm just fucking it up, because just maybe I'm actually disabled or something.

Monday, May 25, 2015

failure to communicate

Years ago, I had this neighbor who was deaf. One night, I saw him confronted by a cop, as he walked across the street from my building.  The cop kept telling him to go home, that he shouldn't be out on the streets so late, alone.  Apparently assuming that his inability to speak was indicative of cognitive impairment.

This man, whose name I never knew, seemed to be very frustrated.  Trying to explain that he was just on his way to the corner store, but the cop wasn't listening.  He couldn't get past the strained speech, and what it meant to him.  Probably not the sharpest pig on the force, but still, surely if someone could explain it to him, and he would stop for even a moment to think about it, he'd be able to comprehend that being deaf was not the same as being retarded.

Even then, I suspect, that getting lost in the moment, he'd forget, and revert to treating a deaf man like a lost child, because that's what his instincts were telling him.  He hears that inability to speak clearly, and reacts to it, before logic and reason have much of a chance to even enter into it.  The ways in which we communicate and understand each other can be so intuitive like that.

It's interesting the way we react to people, on a very visceral level.  All the cues we take in, as we try to assess the sort of person we're dealing with.  It's an important function of social navigation, in many ways, in all sorts of interactions.  It can be a serious problem, when there is a barrier to that sort of assessment, when a person can't communicate, or when their ability to do so is distorted in some way.  We can end up being like that cop, treating a grown man like a hapless retard, because we're so used to depending on information and cues that aren't being adequately provided.

Another time, I remember walking down North Street, and seeing that same deaf man, hanging out with a few other deaf people.  Laughing and joking in sign language, they seemed to be able to communicate with each other just fine.  Suddenly, he was just a normal guy, rather than someone caught in the catch-22 of trying to explain that he was normal.

I've just been invited to a Memorial Day get together, and guess I should give it a chance, but I'm not sure which will be worse.  Sitting alone feeling awkward, or failing to communicate with someone who notices me sitting alone feeling awkward.  

Wait, definitely the latter.  It gets to the point where I just want to be left alone.. yet, I'll go.  Never know when someone there might turn out to speak sign language.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

delineating extrinsic from intrinsic

It is strange, to think about my last post, my assertion that I'm doing much better.  I may need to explain how I personally understand the difference between how I'm doing, and what the world is doing to me.  I get the feeling it might not be quite self explanatory.

I'm not going to get into how there really is no difference.  How it's a delusion inherent to humanity to think otherwise, and all that.  For now, I'm more concerned with how it feels important to draw the line somewhere.  Maybe the pretense helps my brain figure out what we should do next, I don't know.

I'm referring to these distinctions we make, based on our experience and expectations.  Arbitrary benchmarks of good and bad.  Long and short define each other, as Lao Tzu put it.  Another illusion, it's all relative to these other things that are relative, but I'm glossing over that, too.

I'm thinking about how I'm doing, relative to how I was doing a year ago, five years ago, ten or even twenty years ago.  I'm thinking about how much of it is a natural outcome of immediate circumstances, and how much of it is a sign of improvement, psychologically, or physiologically.

I've been running 6-8 miles a week, for a while now.  Until a few months ago, it was something that I wasn't doing much of.  Not for lack of trying, as I've been running sporadically for years.  Very sporadically, but now it's like clockwork.  I've been writing more, and doing various other little things.

I've been looking into this Zen center that's in the area.  I've been working on volunteering at a soup kitchen.  I'm terrified, but I know that I need to start doing more, connecting with people.  I'm actually taking steps in these directions that I couldn't even deal with thinking about, before.  I have more energy to do this with, to push through some of the anxiety with.  I'm an angsty wreck a lot of the time, but I think this is some kind of progress.

There are things I don't have, though.  These are extrinsic factors.  Circumstances that feel beyond my illusory control.  I am very alone in this world.  I would seem almost inhuman not to be weighed down by that.  I have an income that falls well below local cost-of-living.  I don't know where I'm going to live, and yet, I'm the one who's supposed to figure it out. This is something I've never had to figure out for myself, before.

These are circumstances that are worse for me now, and I'm not feeling so much better that I can handle it all that well.  A lot of these improvements are just the immediate effects of the adjustment to my endocrine system, while a lot of my problems are still going to be wired into my brain, from decades of coping.  Patterns that aren't going to shift all that quickly.  As well as some remaining imbalance, because there is no reliable way to test somatropin levels directly, and it's much safer (and cheaper) to err on the side of undertreating, than overtreating.

So, I'm doing better on one level, but not on another, and it isn't depression, when one has good reason to be depressed.  That I feel like I'm hanging on by a thread here might actually be pretty damn normal, even if the path I've taken to get here is not.  So this is why I say I'm doing better, but not exactly cheering about it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

the synergies of gastrophysical hedonism

Made a curry last night that came out pretty well.  I let myself be talked into adding vegetables that I don't usually combine.
I have these very specific ideas of what synergizes with what, but I'm not entirely sure these ideas aren't completely random.
Aside from onions, garlic, ginger, tomato (because they go with anything)
I added carrots, bell pepper, green
beans, mushrooms, and chickpeas.

Some of those combine with some others, but there are a number of them which feel antithetical to me..  Texture, flavor, size or shape?  I don't really know why.  I usually just go with these inclinations, although they do end up limiting my repertoire.

So, this curry came out pretty well, and yet, I'm not sure.  Might have been better if I'd followed the amorphous rules I normally do, but on the other hand, there's something to be said for getting a wider variety of nutrients, anyhow.

I also experimented with using gochujang, instead of sriracha.  Gochujang has a uniquely east asian flavor, normally not what's found in a curry, but it turned out to work very well.  Better than sriracha, but sriracha always feels like cheating, anyhow.  I pretend I'm adding heat, when what it really adds is sugar and salt.  Gochujang has more depth, although in the end, I did feel like it needed a little more sugar and salt, too.

There are some stereotypes which have more than a grain of truth to them.  There is something about getting stoned that makes me feel like everything is fine.  Whatever I've driving myself up a wall over isn't really such a big deal, after all.  Being that it's not such a big deal, I can just do something else, and stop worrying about it.  I can cook, just post about cooking, or whatever I feel like doing.  Unfortunately, sometimes there are things that I really do need to worry about.

At times, I've let that get the better of me, but these days, I generally wait until evening, when anything I need to do is indisputably out of the way.  My angst tends to plague me even then, when there's nothing I can do, anyhow, and it's really nice to get a reprieve from that.  Yesterday, I skipped it entirely, so today I made an exception and vaped a bit early.  I wish I could claim to be a beacon of responsible use, but the state of my existence can really give a misleading impression, suggesting otherwise.

It's actually kind of strange, the way whatever problems a person has, from schizophrenia to depression, from anger issues, to laziness, to forgetfulness (despite [1][2][3])  If they do any recreational drugs, those drugs become the culprit, and while sometimes there can be correlation or even causation, more often, there demonstrably just isn't.

In a sense, I wish I could say that this is me, at my worst, but in many ways, this is the best I've ever been.  Sad as that may be.  It's just not good enough to get through the circumstances I'm in, nor to be cheerful in the face of it all, but still.  Depending on far you want to go back, I'd say I'm actually doing much much better.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

event horizon

Sometimes, all that keeps me going is curiosity.
I start thinking about how desperately I just want to bail, and yet, I can't help but want to see what the world is going to do, over the next forty or so years.  Even if I don't have much hope for myself, I just feel technology is moving so fast..

The next century could be the most interesting in human history.  It just seems crazy to miss it, if I don't have to.  Even if I can't get much of anything else right, I should be able to hang on, clinging to whatever niche I can.

Friday, May 15, 2015

up the creek without a paddle

Ok, so setting aside the discussion of causality and excuses- all the ways in which I completely failed to get myself on any sort of path towards independence.  We can chalk it up to the hurdles of poverty, compounded by mental and physical health problems, or we can just say I fucked up.  I made bad choices.

Fine, regardless, what does that mean, for how I can move forward from here?

Let's imagine I wake up tomorrow, miraculously feeling like I can finally navigate society effectively enough to do anything I might need to do.  I still have no idea what I'm actually supposed to do.  I have no idea how to rectify these bad choices I've apparently made.

Getting a job wouldn't even be realistic.  I have no work history, and no 'skills.'  I learn quickly and could excel at any number of things, but what are my chances of convincing an employer of that?  The only people who would be indiscriminate enough to hire me, would be those filling jobs no one else wants, and there aren't a lot of those around these days.

I'd have to expend all sorts of effort, applying for lots of minimum wage work, where I'd still be just as poor as I am now, only spending all day doing something miserable.  I don't think it would even be a step forward, and would be all too likely to undermine my hypothetical miraculous recovery.  I'm pretty sure that's just being realistic.

Other than that, what options do I actually have?  I can't even afford a place to live, nevermind any sort of skills training or college.  I have no idea what to do.  I'm supposed to stay positive about.. ok, I don't even know what I'm supposed to be positive about.

That I might be able to find a room to rent (i.e. shared bath, no kitchen), that will cost my entire disability check.  That seems like a lateral step, more than any actual progress.  I'll just be trapped in a different situation, where I'll be able to safely veg out all day, without being judged for it, but I'm not sure that wouldn't be just another bad choice I'd be making.  Being alone on disability is apparently untenable, so how do I break free of this?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

work ethic relativism

In discussions of wealth and poverty, ambition and work ethic comes up a lot.  The idea being that income is a choice, to some degree.  Even if we concede that not all people have the same choices, the choices we do make, of course, enter into it.  Still, there is a huge discrepancy in how we tend to judge those choices.

Choices are based on priorities.  Not everyone has the same sense of work ethic, not everyone cares about amassing wealth.  Some people are much more inclined to do the bare minimum to get by.  They're the people prone to being branded unmotivated or lazy, but such judgements vary widely, depending on the circumstances they're working with.

Take someone born to relative wealth, someone with lots of opportunities, who squanders a whole lot of it.  Maybe they travel to discover themselves, or maybe they just party too much, but ultimately, by and large, they still end up doing ok for themselves.  Not as wealthy as they might otherwise be, but even doing very little with what they have, they're able to get a decent career going, and do ok.  How often does someone going from financial comfort, to making all the "bad choices" that would send them spiraling into poverty?  They make all sorts of bad choice, but can almost always recover.

Now, on the other hand, take someone with much the same mindset, born into poverty.  They aren't driven to work themselves to the bone for minimum wage, they squander what scant opportunities they have, derailing their chances of ever making anything of themselves, maybe even sabotaging their chances of working entirely.  They end up in a downward spiral, doing whatever they need to do to survive, whether that's welfare, or crime, or dumpster diving.  There's a good chance they end up corralled by a few bad choices, and it will widely be deemed their own damn fault.

This expectation for those in poverty to be bootstrap swinging overachievers is such bullshit.  The middle-class aren't held to the same standard.  They're allowed to make mistakes.  Not everyone has the same sort of motivation, the same sort of priorities.  We are who we are, but coming from a wealthier family, people have all sorts of options to do reasonably well for themselves, in spite of these sorts of character differences.

When someone born into financial stability doesn't want to pursue a workaholic life to maintain that same degree of wealth, it may stress out their parents, but they aren't going to end up homeless or in prison.  It's a reasonable choice.  When someone born into poverty has the exact same neurochemical predisposition though, they're completely fucked, and treated like they deserve it.

So much of this discussion seems to come down to two different schools of thought- poverty is either the fault of those who are poor, or poverty is a natural outcome of circumstances.

Of course, there are all different sorts of poor people.  There are all different sorts of wealthy people.  Some are highly motivated, some are what we might call lazy, and everywhere in between.  Those with an abundance of opportunity have all sorts of slack, to screw up here and there, to make some bad choices, some mistakes, and still go on to lead productive lives.  While the poor are expected to be highly and consistently motivated, and often, even that isn't enough.

This idea that poverty involves cultural or even individual character flaws would mean that people jump from one socioeconomic class to another, all the time.  Of course some people are lazier than others, but for people with money, it doesn't really matter as much.  How often does someone grow up in a well educated middle-class household, only to end up on welfare?  If it were really a matter of being lazy, why don't people fall from wealth to poverty more often?

Some of us are trying, some of us not so much, but holding the poor up to a broadly unrealistic standard isn't a solution.  Focusing on personal differences between types of people is a distraction.  Look at the empirical facts about poverty in the aggregate, and it's pretty clear, the only thing that's consistently wrong with poor people, is that they were born poor.  In a society that's decided poverty is their own fault.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


When I was in middle school, I remember looking at all the other kids during post-lunch recess, and thinking that they were incredibly annoying.  Maybe even nerve wracking. They were so frenetic.  Maybe it was just a defense, but I don't recall it feeling as though they had something I was lacking.

It felt like they had something that was completely alien to me.  It's only made me ever more nervous, since.


Another day, another three or four Americans gunned down by their police, and one from a while back has some breaking news:  No need for a trial or anything preposterous like that.  The cops decided they didn't do anything wrong.  An innocent kid is dead, but no actual crime has been committed, so move along, nothing to see here.

They know, mostly just because the man who killed the kid says so. Not that he'd have any reason to twist the truth a little, or anything.  Besides, must be written in stone somewhere that cops are infallible witnesses.

I'm a little vague on the details of this one, but from what I can gather, this cop barged into an apartment with his gun drawn, and shot an unarmed black man a few seconds later?  And claims that the unarmed black man attacked him?

Which must be true, because said crazy black man was on drugs - Xanax, pot, and shrooms, mind you.  Not the crack cocaine we've been told makes black people nearly invincible, or anything like that, but Robinson probably started yelling, when someone stormed into the apartment.  You know how scary that can be.  At the very least, that cop thought he was about to be attacked.

Also, we know Robinson was violent, because he'd hit two other people, earlier that day?  Acquaintances he'd lashed out at or something like that?  Who were completely fine? Not to say that's ok, but still, not quite the same as attacking a cop with a gun pointed at you.  Unless of course, he thought the gun-waving psycho who just came bursting into his apartment was about to shoot him.

Why did Officer Kenny have to do that, again?  Storm in, guns blazing, like he was in some sort of action movie INSTANTLY escalating the encounter to a life or death situation?  By himself?  Was that really by the book?

How does that not make the outcome his own damn fault?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

escherian hell

“Free will is an illusion,” Harris writes. “Our wills are simply not of our own making.”  I'm a big fan of Sam Harris' though I've only read one of his books.  I intend to read others eventually, but it seems I haven't done so, yet.  I've seen lots of his interviews, debates, panel discussions, and the like.  I've read his blog posts, excerpts of his books, etc.

His take on free will being something that caught my attention, in particular.  I wrote a blog-like post about the irrationality of free will, many years ago.  It wasn't called blogging, back then.  It was just my Geocities website, which I used to display some of my art and writing.  I have no idea if it's still out there on the internet somewhere, or if it was even any good, but the point is that I've thought this way for quite a while now.

Only recently have my views been bolstered by scientific studies[1], indicating that we actually act, before we consciously think.  That the ego really is just an observer, that reflects what the unconscious has already decided to do.  It takes the necessity of logic out of the equation.  No longer needing to explain why the concept of free will makes no sense, we can actually point to the neurology of it, and say, look.  Face facts or don't, but this is just how it works.

Another interesting study[2] found that if you mess with the timing of neurological action and conscious awareness, people can hear their own thoughts, as if they're being thought by someone else.  They can perceive their own actions, as if someone else is doing it.  They essentially become aware that they're not in as much control as they'd thought, and feel as if they've gone crazy.  It's been postulated that a natural mistiming of this sort may be the cause of schizophrenia.

It's one thing to understand this at a cognitive level, but another to be aware of it.  To feel it.  Schizophrenia would develop procedurally, as neural pathways form in ways predicated on the confusion of this mistimed cognitive function.  Neuroleptics may calibrate the brain differently, by slowing it down.

My own mental health issues seem to be quite different, but maybe even inverse to that.  A miscalibration of a different sort.  Even on hallucinogens, I am remarkably grounded.  Which isn't to say that I don't have crazy thoughts- even when not on hallucinogens, this is not to say that I don't have crazy thoughts- it's just this disconnection, a miscalibration, of thought and action.

I'm aware of my thoughts with a sort of objectivity that seems a bit unusual.  Maybe hallucinogens mess with that neurological timing as well, making me feel more normal in some way.  Maybe this is why at the peak of a trip, I've noted that I feel more like who I really am.  No longer out of step with myself.

I feel as though I've spent most of my life, waiting to see if I'll do anything.  I get very apprehensive about anything I might need to do, because I'm not entirely sure that I won't just sit here.  I don't understand why sometimes I do one thing, and sometimes another.  I can tell you the thoughts and feelings behind it, but not why those thoughts and feelings went one way, instead of another.  For me, the question of free will is neither deeply philosophical, nor mired in neuroscience.  It's just experiential.

Though, it is a delusion that may exist for the distinct evolutionary advantage it yields.  Even delusions can be quite motivating.  Come to think of it, delusions can be especially motivating.  The delusional, especially motivated.

This may seem to be a paradox, an implication that if we choose to believe in free will, this will be of some benefit, contradicting the entire premise, but that's putting the cart before the horse.  The language we use entangled in conventional assumptions.

We don't choose what we believe.  Rather, if the unconscious leads us to believe in free will, it's indicative of a particular type of mindset, and neurochemistry.  Which I'm suggesting may be correlated with motivation, in both action and belief.  That is, rather than trying to understand, or self-reflect, just go go go.  Take the most half-baked nonsense and run with it.  In doing so, perpetuating a cycle of action over consideration.  A cycle which naturally leads to both highly motivated behaviour, and a stark lack of rationality, but the bottom line still remaining, that we are who we are.

A balanced approach may be ideal, but good luck convincing your unconscious mind that it's doing it wrong, when every effort you take is really just an effort to be who you already are.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Today is not going well.  For the most part, it's been typically uneventful, I'm not particularly depressed, or anxious, or anything like that.  I'm just tired.  Really tired.  This is the central symptom of somatropin deficiency, and some days are better than others.  Being treated for it, I feel better overall, but I still seem to have some off days, and this has been one of them.

Somatropin is the technical term for growth hormone.  "-tropin" means hormone, but "soma" does not mean growth.  It's Latin for "body."  Body hormone.  More apropos, I think.

I'm not particularly anxious, but feeling this way is one of my bigger sources of anxiety.  If there were anything I had to do today, it would be difficult.  Not just difficult, but painful.  If it were anything that might last more than an hour or so, I would have to bail.  I know from a whole lot of experience, that this feeling doesn't shake off.  If I try to function in spite of it, it just builds until I buckle, screwing up whatever I'd been trying to do.

I did have an interesting discussion this morning, about the mental health system, beneath an article about the questionable efficacy of SSRIs prescribed for anxiety.  A lot of my forum comments are like this.  A bit lengthy.  To even compile a few from this morning seems like a lot to cram in here, but its an important issue to me, and disqus comments tend to get lost forever, pretty quickly.

My first comment was just a reply to the article, itself..

In my experience, SSRIs are not only worthless, but they actually made depression worse. I'm not even talking about just trying one of them, for a month or so. I've been on lots of them, and I know that they need time to work. Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Paxil, Effexor. Some, they've done nothing at all. Others have robbed me of months of my life, while trying to give them plenty of time to work.

I always hear from others who say they've worked wonders and all that. Either everyone is just different, and sometimes they do work, or some people are just more prone to placebo effects than others. I'm honestly not sure which it is.

Then I saw another comment I liked, quoting part of it:

"You can't talk someone out of an anxiety disorder any more than you can talk them out of schizophrenia."

Well said. Therapists will often disagree with this, because they've had anecdotal success, but the fact of the matter is, lots of people with mental health issues endure those issues their entire lives, no matter what they do. We can treat the symptoms, but the condition doesn't ever just go away.

Then I got into a discussion with a mental health worker, but I just want to post my side of it.  Should be self explanatory enough, although context can be found via the article link above.

[Finally agreeing to take psychiatric medication] "only to find it's not the magic cure"

This is another thing that really bothers me. People often talk about medication as if it's a solid solution to mental health issues, and the vast majority of the time, it's just not. Even when it does help, it doesn't help all that much. It might be a good idea for some, but the widespread treatment of psychiatric medication as a comprehensive solution is just dangerous and irresponsible.

* * *

Sometimes meds seem to work, sometimes therapy works, often people need both - but sometimes even both isn't enough. Sometimes people are better off without meds at all.

Personally, I wish the mental health industry would treat people from the perspective that even if nothing works, that's ok. If medication and therapy work, that's great, but even when they don't, that's no reason to treat people as if there's something unacceptably wrong with them. Keep upping the dosage, piling on side effects, making everything worse.

When it comes to mental health, first and foremost, people need to feel ok with who they are. Too often, the industry pushes this idea that we need to recover at all costs, while simultaneously telling us to feel good about ourselves, as we are.

I'm not sure that's exactly supportive.

* * *

In my experience, people often need help, in practical ways, such as help finding a job, help finding a place to live, help getting to a doctor, etc, etc. People often need real help, but instead, they're told they have to do it themselves, and they have to "get better" before they can do that.

Imagine if people with physical handicaps were treated this way. Sometimes "getting better" just isn't realistic, and other types of help might be appropriate. At least in the meantime.

It is a very tough call, I know.. but too often I've found the mental health system not only ill equipped to deal with real problem solving, but even opposed to the idea.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

circumstances matter

"If you're Martin Luther King, and it's 1965, and you're making that long march through Alabama, certainly you can look around and say 'wow, at one point in Alabama, my ancestors a hundred years ago were enslaved... Isn't it something that we've progressed to a level where I'm not enslaved.  That's progress."

"Also, if every day somebody comes home, and beats you with a tire iron, and then decides to stop beating you, that would be progress - but it doesn't change the fact that you are down on the ground bleeding."

~Ta-Nehisi Coates

In case, taken out of context, the meaning of this is lost, Coates is talking about how oppression can have lasting consequences.  Slavery ended, but the people who were slaves were not suddenly fine.  They're still at a severe disadvantage, relative to the rest of society.  In so many ways.  Expecting people to be able to just pick themselves up, brush themselves off, letting bygones be bygones.. no, that's just not realistic.

This doesn't even get into all the ways society continues (to this very day!) to oppress people, to make getting out of that hole incredibly difficult.  A hole this country put them in, and then wants to be able to claim has been left in the past.  Like when you finally stop beating someone with a tire iron, and then demand they stop whining about their broken limbs, and get their shit together like everyone else.  When not only weren't they given medical attention, but those injuries were instead aggravated in all sorts of ways.

No, slavery has never been resolved, as long as the consequences of it still result in situations like those we're seeing from Baltimore to Ferguson.  All across the country, black communities trapped in generational poverty, hounded by police brutality, all of that compounded by everything from redlining to mass incarceration and the ongoing war on drugs.  The beatings haven't entirely stopped, let alone has much help been given for recovery.

Prior to his assassination, Martin Luther King focused on the correlations between poverty and systemic oppression.  American history has widely chosen to disrespect his efforts on that front, by leaving it out of history books, and thus, the popular consciousness of who he was, and what he was actually trying to accomplish.

[Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Solution to Poverty]

This is because circumstances matter.  We live in society that uses the delusion of meritocracy and personal responsibility to protect the haves from the have-nots.  They claim we can't afford to help the poor, while passing all sorts of tax cuts and corporate handouts for the wealthy.  It's pure selfish plutocracy, masquerading as ideological nonsense.

There are all sorts of reasons people end up in insurmountable circumstances.  Racism is a big one.  Bigger and more complex than most Americans have any concept of.  However, it's far from the only circumstance holding people down.  Poverty alone is a massive trap for all sorts of people, even when it isn't compounded by racism.

I grew up poor, in a poor black neighborhood.  My father tried to raise a family of four, on 17k/year, while my mother went to college.  When she graduated, she left him, and went on to support us on closer to 25k/year- in a town with a median income of 107k/year.  We moved constantly, and we could barely afford food or rent, never mind much of anything else.  It might have been ok, under otherwise ideal circumstances, but that's not how life tends to go.

You can take the basic limitations of circumstance into account, and try to focus on the anecdotes, the people who managed to succeed, in spite of the odds, and say everyone just needs to do that - but circumstances are far more complicated than any single metric.  Some poor kids have better role models in their lives, or live somewhere with better assistance programs, or benefit from a more resilient neurochemistry, and often, it has a whole lot to do with plain old luck.

Anecdotes are practically meaningless.  To be at all serious about the issue, you have to look at the aggregates.  The statistical norms.  The FACT that the vast majority of people who grow up poor stay poor their entire lives, while most people who grow up well off stay well off.  This is not because poor people are inferior in some way.  It's because poverty begets poverty, and we live in a society that does less and less to counteract that.

Our social safety net helps some of us survive, but it doesn't do much of anything to lift us beyond that.  At best, we're given just enough to scrape by, so that's about all most of us are able to do.  Just survive from one day to the next, rather than ever having the means to build on that.

It's still poverty.  It still begets only more poverty.

Friday, May 1, 2015

thin skinned

Wait, so when I was the only third-grader who insisted on keeping hand lotion in his desk, it wasn't because I was crazy?  I actually have a medical condition that causes that, and all the people who thought I was crazy just had no idea?

Not that there's anything wrong with crazy, but maybe thinking I had some kind of OCD or something wasn't helpful.

What I was listening to, circa 1986