“History is important. If you don't know history it is as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”
― Howard Zinn
So, maybe it's because I grew up during a time when people of color had had enough and had no stake in much of anything except trying to eek out an existence among white folks who (mostly) didn't give a good damn about people of color, except as they knew their place and provided services making their white and privileged lives comfortable. Those people of color, descendants of slaves, victims of lynchings and Jim Crow laws and myriad of other shameless horrendous acts, decided to burn it down and arm themselves and white folks in power had no choice but to pay attention because, you know, private property and their stuff. Maybe it's because some things then changed, but some white people and their descendants didn't. Not really. Maybe it's because I grew up working class, but with the help of many people along the way, including government grants to pay for some of my education, I eventually was able to get a legal education. Maybe it's because I've never really made enough money to keep me in line, at least not for too long a stretch of time. Maybe it's because I saw early on in my Christian inculcation my fellow "Christians" weren't really all that serious about following the teachings of Jesus causing me to want badly to opt out of that charade. Bless their hearts. Maybe following Jesus for many has mostly always been form over substance because, consciously or not, most know in their heart of hearts, capitalism, especially crony capitalism, the political economy since Reagan and Christianity were never really a good mix, at least not for the majority of people. No, not ever.
And now, here we are at yet another seemingly insurmountable precipice before we will surely tumble off into the abyss of authoritarianism, fascism or some other "ism," but God, please don't let it be Socialism, much like we were during those tumultuous '60's. But this time, we, the people, elected, mostly through benign neglect (not showing up to vote will cost you, my precious) a demagogue to serve as our president and he's up for re-election in a little over a month. We who have opposed much of what can only be described as the most chaotic and crooked presidency of modern times, are often baffled by his cult-like followers' undying love of all things happening under his rule. We search for ways to make sense of why anyone can objectively look at what's happening day after day, we rationalize and ruminate, ruminate and rationalize and come up with nothing short of one frustrating exercise after frustrating exercise. And then, pandemic. And now Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And we're all bearing witness to just how fragile is our democracy and the rule of law, not to mention our very sanity.
I've struggled with what to say to people about all of this. I'm tired of the memes and the endless gnashing of teeth and apocalyptic speculations. Weary, actually.
Because we travel full-time, we experience different communities on a regular. Many of our fellow citizens living in other states strike us as just like the ones we find in our home state of Alabama. I used to respond when people would say, well, there're rednecks everywhere. Yes, but not everywhere are they elected to office and allowed to make the laws for everyone else like in Alabama. I'm learning that's not necessarily so now. And I don't mean in just the old confederate states either.
I've come to the conclusion, like many of you, that all we have left is our numbers. We must show up in sufficient numbers and take back the government from those who are not capable, would destroy it by various means and have only their self-interest and the profit motive in mind.
That's a monumental task given we are currently not all operating with the same facts. Which brings to mind a Netflix documentary we watched a few days ago entitled, The Social Dilemma. A must watch. Here's a synopsis by Andrew Sullivan in his weekly newsletter:
[We] will be lucky if the country doesn’t erupt in large-scale civil violence by the end of [this election cycle].
And the reason this dystopian scenario is so credible is not just the fault of these political actors. It’s ours too — thanks to the impact of social media. I think we’ve under-estimated just how deep the psychological damage has been in the Trump era — rewiring the minds of everyone, including your faithful correspondent, in ways that make democratic discourse harder and harder and harder to model. The new Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, is, for that reason, a true must-watch. It doesn’t say anything shockingly new, but it persuasively weaves together a whole bunch of points to reveal just how deeply and thoroughly fucked we are. Seriously, take a look.
The doc effectively shows how the information system necessary for democratic deliberation has, in effect, been jerry-rigged in the last decade to prevent any reasoning at all. It’s all about the feels, and the irrationality, and the moment, which is why Trump is so perfectly attuned to his time. And what’s smart about the documentary is that it shows no evil genius behind this unspooling, no sinister plot deliberately to destroy our system of government. One of the more basic motives in American life — making money — is all you now need, the documentary shows, to detonate American democracy at its foundation.
For Facebook and Google and Instagram and Twitter, the business goal quickly became maximizing and monetizing human attention via addictive dopamine hits. Attention, they meticulously found, is correlated with emotional intensity, outrage, shock and provocation. Give artificial intelligence this simple knowledge about what distracts and compels humans, let the algorithms do their work, and the profits snowball. The cumulative effect — and it’s always in the same incendiary direction — is mass detachment from reality, and immersion in tribal fever.
With each passing second online, news stories, graphic videos, incendiary quotes, and outrages demonstrate their stunning utility to advertisers as attention seizers, are endlessly tweaked and finessed by AI to be even more effective, and thereby prime our brains for more of the same. They literally restructure our minds. They pickle us in propaganda. They use sophisticated psychological models to trap, beguile, outrage, and prompt us to seek more of the same.
Alternative views, unpleasant facts, discomforting arguments, contextualizing statistics, are, with ever-greater efficiency, filtered out of what our eyes can see and our minds absorb. And what we therefore believe becomes more fixed, axiomatic, self-reinforcing, and self-affirming. We become siloed into two affective tribes, with dehumanization of each other deepening with every news cycle. And we know what happens when dehumanization through social media is fully exploited. Ask the Rohingya of Burma, whose horrifying persecution was a function almost entirely of a Facebook disinformation campaign, seeded by a few in government and then unleashed by the masses in a spasm of genocidal violence.
And finally, I'll leave you with one of the best explanations I've read recently about why, given everything our president does on a regular basis that would seemingly make any sane and rational person want to run screaming from the building, his followers still support him. Stop trying to make sense of their madness and show up and vote in November.
The question was asked why people continue supporting Trump no matter what he does.
“You all don't get it. I live in Trump country, in the Ozarks in southern Missouri, one of the last places where the KKK still has a relatively strong established presence. They don't give a shit what he does. He's just something to rally around and hate liberals, that's it, period. He absolutely realizes that and plays it up. They love it. He knows they love it. The fact that people act like it's anything other than that proves to them that liberals are idiots, all the more reason for high fives all around.
If you keep getting caught up in "why do they not realize this problem" and "how can they still back Trump after this scandal," then you do not understand what the underlying motivating factor of his support is. It's fuck liberals, that's pretty much it.
Have you noticed he can do pretty much anything imaginable, and they'll explain some way that rationalizes it that makes zero logical sense? Because they're not even keeping track of any coherent narrative, it's irrelevant. Fuck liberals is the only relevant thing. Trust me; I know firsthand what I'm talking about. That's why they just laugh at it all because you all don't even realize they truly don't give a fuck about whatever the conversation is about. It's just a side mission story that doesn't matter anyway. That's all just trivial details - the economy, health care, whatever. Fuck liberals.
Look at the issue with not wearing the masks. I can tell you what that's about. It's about exposing fear. They're playing chicken with nature, and whoever flinches just moved down their internal pecking order, one step closer to being a liberal.
You got to understand the one core value that they hold above all others is hatred for what they consider weakness because that's what they believe strength is, hatred of weakness. And I mean passionate, sadistic hatred. And I'm not exaggerating. Believe me. Sadistic, passionate hatred, and that's what proves they're strong, their passionate hatred for weakness. Sometimes they will lump vulnerability in with weakness. They do that because people tend to start humbling themselves when they're in some compromising or overwhelming circumstance, and to them, that's an obvious sign of weakness.
Kindness=weakness. Honesty=weakness. Compromise=weakness.
They consider their very existence to be superior in every way to anyone who doesn't hate weakness as much as they do. They consider liberals to be weak people that are inferior, almost a different species, and the fact that liberals are so weak is why they have to unite in large numbers, which they find disgusting, but it's that disgust that is a true expression of their natural superiority."
Dunning-Kruger all up in your face.
Well it's all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it's all right, if you got someone to love
Well it's all right, everything'll work out fine
Well it's all right, we're going to the end of the line
Steven and Melanie