Friday, November 11, 2016

only happy when it rains

I've been seeing a lot of talk about all the vulnerable types who will be hurt by a Trump presidency.  I'm afraid to even post this to Facebook, because to even question that will outrage good people that I'd rather not antagonize, but a lot of what they're afraid of is already happening.  This country is falling apart, but this is mostly coming from people who are doing ok.

Their concern for others is admirable and all, but guess what?  It's actually me that's frighteningly close to the top of that list of vulnerable people.  I scrape by on about 10k a year, the official and arbitrarily low poverty line being almost twice that much.  While the GOP salivates at the prospect of shredding the safety net I'm clinging to.  What would that mean for me?  I could lose everything, food, shelter, medical insurance, all hanging by a thread as it is.   I know, I know, that's totally different, because it's my own fault for having crippling mental health issues.

What pisses me off about that narrative though, is that Mr. Trump isn't the real threat.  Replace him with any other Republican, and it's the same.  The real threat we all face is that the GOP now dominates all three branches of government - and that is a very grave threat, and I'm honestly scared.. but it's the threat that I voted for, by refusing to support Clinton.

I voted Stein/Baraka, but I also understand the argument that it was a vote not to stop Trump.  Technically, I live in a deep blue state, so that's not true.  Trump lost by thirty points here, so my vote honestly didn't matter - but I would have also voted Stein in a swing state.  I would have even relished the vote more, because of the protest it equated to.

So, here's the awful socially suicidal truth.  It was the outcome that I wanted.  It is the outcome that I am happy with.  Unlike much of the country, my mood actually improved dramatically, as soon as I heard the news.  I was all fired up and ready to engage with people.  What chaos!  This could be catastrophic, but it could still be a great opportunity for progress.  We're already seeing the fights play out for party leadership, now that their side fucked up so badly.  They lost to Trump, of all people!  Their political careers should be over.

This is what makes unrest so dangerous.  People whose lives are already shit stop caring if things get worse.  Anything for the chance to make things better.  For people who are doing fine, that's horrifying, but you know what?  I find it a little difficult to sympathize with the beneficiaries of a society that's screwed me over this badly.  It may not be entirely logical, but it is indisputably how I feel.

As long as I'm on the fringes, it doesn't matter though.  If I get too desperate and pose a threat, they can just lock me up, but other than that, they don't give a fuck.  What this election made me realize though, is that I'm not on the fringes.  A whole lot of this country is suffering and outraged, and ready to risk burning it all down for the chance to make things better.

When I thought Clinton was going to win, I was despondent.  I've been miserable for months, thinking it was a foregone conclusion, because our lying propagandist media said that was the case.  I had my doubts, I knew Trump had a chance.  I knew turnout on the left was going to be awful.. but I thought Clinton would probably pull ahead anyhow.  The country would be saved from imminent disaster, but the status quo would be reinforced, the left wing of the Democratic Party again soundly vanquished, as Bill Clinton did before her.

For me, that was, and still is, the greater concern.  We need a progressive movement in this country.  We need it to succeed, and neoliberalism is keeping that from happening.  If we can't win this, I think we're heading for dark times that will make being scared of Trump look like a bad joke.  Clinton was the more serious threat, and I celebrate her defeat, fully aware that we're still in serious danger.


Unknown said...

"The middle class - the small manufacturer and businesses, the artisan and the peasant - they all fight the bourgeoisie in order to save their existence as the middle class from extinction. This means they are not revolutionary, but rather conservative. What's more is that they are reactionary as they attempt to turn backwards the wheel of history. If they are revolutionary, then only to the extent to which they face a transition into the rows of proletariat, only insofar as they seek to protect not their present, but rather their future interests, only insofar as they abandon their own opinion in order to adopt the opinion of the proletariat."

Joshua Abell said...

Wow. I'm thinking maybe I should read the rest of that...

Unknown said...

That's my half-assed translation of a passage from a little thing written in 1848, called 'The Communist Manifesto' by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Maybe you've heard of it.

Also, I've lived on 10k this year. Sure it's GBP not USD, but I also live in one of the world's most expensive cities, and still manage to travel and spend a silly amount on books and university crap. Not trying to steal your thunder... maybe I'm not subject to some us related living expenses... or maybe you don't realise that you're doing pretty well, geopolitically speaking.

Joshua Abell said...

Defining poverty gets complicated, but suffice to say, under a crazy right wing government, I could well lose what I do have. That was my main point.

Unknown said...

And my main point was that you harbor feelings of resentment towards a society that has let you down, which is totally understandable, but it's arguably myopic doublethink for a couple of reasons. You feel like they let you down by not minding policies that hurt people like you, whilst I don't see you recognising that you have probably screwed over some people in the same way yourself. You feel like you're isolated and marginalized in holding the political views that you do and I don't know how long you've had them for, but I think it's a sign you haven't held these opinions for long. Why? Because I promise you people have hated capitalism, corruption, corporations, hierarchy, illegal wars etc. for longer than you could have, there are tons of people whose position on the political spectrum would make you look like Obama, and there are organizations and movements devoted to all of this everywhere, therefore also in the United States. People worry and care about what is close to them over anything else, a phenomenon you compared to psycopathy in one of your previous posts. Yet in my opinion you fail to see that you participate in this as well. You seem to be more focused on domestic policy, for example. I remember you advocating that ISIS is the biggest threat to national security (which is questionable as preparing for war near Russian and Chinese borders is obviously more dangerous than guys the US could stop funding through it's own client states) and I also remember you siding with HRC on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is basically an illegal occupation (and that's an understatement, although that's pretty horrible already). While you can argue that it is a privilege for people to be concerned with their personal safety now, when you've been living your whole life on the edge, we could also argue that you being concerned about better living standards is a privilege compared to somebody who is too busy being dead, being in prison, or too busy watching their house be demolished by the Israeli government. I appreciate that it is not easy to lend your mental resources to political activism or reading when you are just trying to stay alive and I appreciate that the society has failed you among many others, because (I don't know if you've noticed) I care about you, but just because you suffer from a mental illness and your life is shitty doesn't mean you're immune to being a bit of a twat. Are you targeted, followed, assaulted by a sentient being who explicitly wants to harm you, just because of you're you? You're telling me your family would just stand by and let you die if the Republican snakes evaporate what little social security people like you rely on? Even in the unlikely case that they don't help you, I will personally overturn every rock in Burlington, find you (ignore what probably would be a fit of panic from you) and not let you die, if not for any other reason than just to prove you wrong.

Joshua Abell said...

Ok, longer in-depth discussion it is :)

First, to your questions on my political positions, you got them both wrong. I can't say for sure that I've never said anything like that, my positions do evolve.. but not /that/ much, IIRC. Especially regarding ISIS- I can't imagine ever saying that they're our greatest national security concern. Unless it was multiple choice, and the other choices were worse. I'd say the greatest threat to national security is our very own military industrial complex. Can't justify funding all this firepower, without finding excuses to use it.

As for Israel, the core of my argument is not 100% pro-Israel, ala HRC. It's more in line with Bernie, but that's a nuanced distinction people who are anti-Israel don't necessarily appreciate. I'm not anti- any country. There are some things I agree Israel should be condemned for, but I don't like the way the left fixates on them, above so many other countries that are as bad, worse, and way, way, worse. I find the fixation on Israel in particular to be disturbing. I'd rather not argue this point, but I'd at least like you to have a better sense of what my stance is.

In terms of your comparisons of all different types of suffering, this is a huge subject. I'm not even sure where to start, but here goes. First, I'd like to point out that this was not intended as a woe-is-me sort of thing. I know all too well how so much of the world has it a hell of a lot worse than I do. Relatively speaking, my entire country is doing pretty well, by basic metrics of human suffering and poverty. Not quite as well as yours by some measures, both of which behind many of our neighbors.

There are a number of factors involved in how that translates to psychological distress and social unrest, though. Such as how well we're able to function in the society we live in. For example, in some places I've lived, a car is a luxury that I've been happy not to need. In others, not having a car was absolutely crippling. This makes people without cars much more unhappy, and likely to turn on their neighbors who do have cars. Not because they want a car, but more because society tramples them for not having one.

It's a mistake to think people just aren't realizing how good they have it. It's normal to want to thrive within the context of the culture we live in, and one that keeps too many people down, is more likely to generate unrest. It's not just about the people at the bottom, who have it the absolute worst. It's also about the people in between, who still struggle to afford enough food, shelter, medical care. The day to day anxiety generated by the ever-present risk of losing it, and having nothing to fall back on.

Which brings me to another nuanced point. I edited the original post to be less "melodramatic" but yeah, about that. Life is complicated. Some things are never life-or-death until its too late. I come from a small family, geographically scattered, with very limited resources of their own. I don't want to get into all the specifics, but it doesn't work. That one year I spent with relatives was a fluke that is no longer an option for about twelve different reasons.

If I lost my benefits, my life would abruptly get far worse, my mental state quickly following. It's not exactly a recipe for finding the will to persist through the adversity.

Joshua Abell said...

I also have to address that thing about how my political views aren't that alienating. Yes and no. If you're referring to my recent Facebook post, let me be more specific. I've basically lost family members over political differences. People I will never see again, due to geographical distance - now, I guess I won't be speaking with them again, either. From what I can tell, they've decided I'm utter scum. A few closer family members just hate my political posts, and try to ignore them. If politics comes up in person, they just start cursing. That's what I was referring to.

You seem to have put in the context of my greater issues of alienation, though. That has nothing to do with politics. I don't know what the hell it's about, but it's been all my life, whether I was an anarchist, a socialist, or just a good Democrat.

Poverty sure hasn't helped.. but you almost seem to question the definition of poverty, which I don't get. Can I afford food? Sort of. Rent? Sort of. I manage to scrape it together, just barely. Not eating as well as I'd like. Rent is 80% of my income, but rent doesn't get any cheaper than this. I can't really afford all my utilities. I'm not sure what to do about that, but I always manage to scrape by one way or another.. and this is how I've lived, my whole life. Is it like being a refugee in a war torn country? No. Of course not.

Oh right, and speaking of war torn countries, of course I worry about foreign policy. HRC is a hawk, and who the hell knows what Trump will do. If either one put me at ease, on that single issue alone, they would have had my vote.

Unknown said...

Discussion? I just said what I felt. Wasn't looking to get myself into a conversation where I need to talk to you about you in the form of an argumentative essay.

Joshua Abell said...

I can be argumentative and verbose, yes. Also, you touched a few nerves, and didn't accept my initial attempt to brush it off. Lastly, you're on my blog. Talking about me is what I do here.

Unknown said...

Okay, now that I have the resources to address this, I'll give it a shot. I tried to go back in time on your facebook to find the exact posts, but you post a lot and I got dizzy from all the scrolling. It doesn't matter. The reason I'd want to do that is to show you that whatever my perception of your opinions is, it is based on real examples and not my imagination, and I'm sorry if I've been unkind to you in any way as that is pretty far down the list of things I want to do in life. Lower than setting my own hair on fire, I'd say.

On second thought, I might have been wrong about having enough resources to do this. Still, I didn't want you to think I was trying to attack you... but that should've been pretty obvious, or so I thought.

Just one thing. My country is definitely not better at treating disabled people than yours. You'd probably be dead there.

Joshua Abell said...

Maybe, but growing up in very different circumstances would probably have made me a very different person, so it's impossible to say. Latvia wasn't the country I meant though.. My apologies if I was wrong to refer to the UK as 'your country.'

Unknown said...

Yeah, it would've been completely different. Not in a good way though. You'd still have hypopituitarism and I don't think they know this exists. I've tried looking. I'm depressed and don't bother telling anyone because that just doesn't register as a real thing to anyone apart from my friend who studied medicine.

You'd have free healthcare until 1992 and the USSR for all it's faults cannot be accused of letting people die in the streets - poverty was not an issue, as weird as it may seem with all the queuing for bread. But forget about saying what you think or listening to music you want to. Also being a jew was... tricky. you might have been completely fine, or you might... not. It's hard to tell. My dad had, err, problems of the assault kind because he looked like one, but in the end that just meant he made friends with jewish people and nobody died. Other people would say that's a load of bs, I've been brainwashed and they never had a single problem, like my former partners dad - but they're Russian so that's probably why. I'd say who cares about that when there's a very real chance of you disappearing if the wrong person hears something 'bad' about you that may or may not be real, ffs.

Now? Unless you has someone supporting you it wouldn't be realistic. You'd have to work, and it's horrible and if you think the bureaucracy in the west is bad, that place would drive you up the wall.

It's less that you were wrong, and more that I don't even know what right is. I don't feel like I have a country. I have nothing.

Unknown said...

though you'd be born too late to experience any of those on yourself I guess. My dad was born in the fifties. Anyway, it's still shit.

Unknown said...

If it looks like I question poverty, it’s because of a few reasons. One, that I’m not particularly proud of, is that I am a bit skeptical when if comes to people who have it bad in the western world, because I’m biased. Doing fiscally badly here sometimes… a lot of times, seems better than doing well where I come from. My idea of poverty is waking up on Christmas day and watching homeless people put on an ambulance because they froze to death, you otoh have access to internet and weed so my brain says ‘he can’t have it too bad then, can he? Scraping by and not eating as well as I want to sounds pretty standard to me’. I’ve cheated my way out of paying utilities which has saved me a few times, but I suppose the main reason why I’m not a bum is because my friends help me out and I help them when I can. As fragile a social support system it is, it’s still incredibly important. Which brings me to my next point, I know I can barely help myself, but at some point (hopefully, if I don’t go completely mad) I will find a way and when I do, I can help you, that is, if you let me. I don’t know whether you Ignored me saying that because I wasn’t clear, or because you thought I was joking, or simply because you just want me to leave you alone (something that’s been pretty tough to figure out by the way), so I’m kind of lost on that, but whatever.

When I mentioned your political alienation, I tied it into social alienation because even if you don’t have a family it’s pretty awesome getting involved with organizations where whatever debate you’re going to have starts from a much further starting point that it would in most other situations. Inequality, is assumed, people just argue over how better to mobilize in order to fight it, destruction of capitalism is assumed so people argue over how to move forward with it etc. It doesn’t sound like much, but there’s solace in solidarity. Losing family members, I don’t know much about, since I have only a few, but I’ve lost one of them due to political differences (he thinks all Muslims are insane terrorists), although even if it weren’t for that I guess I wouldn’t be keeping in touch anyway because they’re not a very nice person, to put it mildly :)