Change Everything (or, Warming Up for ‘The Game’)

When Arthur Dent landed on Hawalius, “the planet of oracles and seers and soothsayers” in Douglas Adams’ Mostly Harmless, he found an old fortune teller living in a smelly cave swatting giant flies from dead goat-creatures, who gave him a photocopy of the story of her life with all the major decisions she ever made underlined, and told him to do the exact opposite.

This is my feeling of what it’s like being an American today. We may not think that the way we live, the things we like, and the opinions we hold are bad, each thing taken by itself, from seemingly innocuous indulgences like celebrity YouTubers and pizza delivery to graver issues like education and foreign policy, you may even believe these things are pretty great, but the increasingly unavoidable fact is that everything we do, have done, and continue to do, has brought us to where we are today.

Who can say which thing or things are responsible for what went wrong? No amount of reflection will be able to unravel the tangle of causation. The only thing we can take from it all is that if we are unhappy with how things are, and if we are serious about wanting to change things, we may not need to change everything, but we have to at least be prepared to change everything.

And who can do that? Who can change how they are? Who even wants to? We have a fantasy that civilisations can turn themselves around when they are on the wrong path, when really they move in one direction, and crash, and begin again. People don’t change, they double down.

And so we remain the old lady in the smelly cave swatting giant flies from dead goat-creatures. Because in the end, even a fortune teller cannot prevent herself from becoming what she has become.

-BeLessHuman

The Guardian: A food addiction has defined my entire life. And it is slowly killing me

As someone who doesn’t like eating, this is fascinating and alien. A woman’s struggle with food addiction, or ‘food addiction’, depending on your take on the issue. I have no solid opinion either way.

Read the article here.

-BeLessHuman

NYTimes: Donald Trump: The Gateway Degenerate

Devastating opinion piece. One to file away and return to in 100 years time. Show your grand children. Analyse in history class.

“Republicans, blinded by fear and rage, thirsty for power, desperate for a reclamation and reassertion of racial power, have cast their lot with the great deceiver and all their previous deal-breakers are now negotiable.”

Read the full article here.

-BeLessHuman

BBC: Dissolving the dead

Green-cremation: Just another way to go?

Fascinating to see what you think and feel as you read it. Don’t read it even though it makes you uncomfortable. Read it because it makes you uncomfortable.

Either way, read the article here.

-BeLessHuman

Notes on America from James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name

Insights from over 50 years ago cut even deeper today for the fact that we have learnt absolutely nothing.

On anti-intellectualism and the myth of America:
[W]e [as Americans] have a very deep-seated distrust of real intellectual effort (probably because we suspect that it will destroy, as I hope it does, that myth of America to which we cling so desperately).

On racism and poverty:
Now I am perfectly aware that there are other slums in which white men are fighting for their lives, and mainly losing. I know that blood is also flowing through those streets and that the human damage there is incalculable. People are continually pointing out to me the wretchedness of white people in order to console me for the wretchedness of blacks. But an itemized account of the American failure does not console me and it should not console anyone else.

On the American dream:
The people, however, who believe that this democratic anguish has some consoling value are always pointing out that So-and-So, white, and So-and-So, black rose from the slums into the big time. The existence–the public existence–of, say, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. proves to them that America is still the land of opportunity and that inequalities vanish before the determined will. It proves nothing of the sort … and the inequalities suffered by the many are in no way justified by the rise of a few. … Furthermore, the American equation of success with the big time reveals an awful disrespect for human life and human achievement. This equation has placed our cities among the most dangerous in the world and has placed our youth among the most empty and most bewildered. The situation of our youth is not mysterious. Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. They must, they have no other models. That is exactly what our children are doing. They are imitating our immorality, our disrespect for the pain of others.

On justifying our crimes:
The world has never lacked for horrifying examples [even if Birmingham is worse, no doubt Johannesburg, South Africa, beats it by several miles, and Buchenwald was one of the worst things that ever happened in the entire history of the world]; but I do not believe that these examples are meant to be used as justification for our own crimes. This perpetual justification empties the heart of all human feeling. The emptier our hearts become, the greater will be our crimes.

More on the myth of America:
This illusion owes everything to the great American illusion that our state is a state to be envied by other people: we are powerful, and we are rich. But our power makes us uncomfortable and we handle it very ineptly. … If we ourselves were not so fond of this illusion, we might understand ourselves and other peoples better than we do, and be enabled to help them understand us. I am very often tempted to believe that this illusion is all that is left of the great dream that was to have become America; whether this is so or not, this illusion certainly prevents us from making America what we say we want it to be.

On education:
It is hard enough, God knows, under the best of circumstances, to get an education in this country. White children are graduated yearly who can neither read, write, nor think, and who are in a state of the most abysmal ignorance concerning the world around them. But at least they are white. They are under the illusion–which, since they are so badly educated, sometimes has a fatal tenacity–that they can do whatever they want to do. Perhaps that is exactly what they are doing, in which case we had best all go down in prayer.

On false nostalgia:
I am afraid that most of the white people I have ever known impressed me as being in the grip of a weird nostalgia, dreaming of a vanished state of security and order, against which dream, unfailingly and unconsciously, they tested and very often lost their lives.

 

Quotes from Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin, collected on irepeatinmysleep.wordpress.com.

The Great Housing Reset of 2017

Why should people who are too poor to own the roof over their head pay money every month to people who are rich enough to own more roofs than they have heads? I have an idea: How about rich people pay for the privilege of housing poor people?

Housing is a basic human right; it’s not an investment opportunity. I don’t care if it’s the smart thing to do; fuck you and your negative gearing. There are people who need it more than you. A person’s right to housing is more important than your right to make money. And we shall defend this through higher taxes on investment properties, through stricter regulation of rental markets, by disqualifying corporations from owning residential properties, and by providing everyone with real opportunities to own their own homes.

Most people live somewhere. They have a roof over their heads, they have a room they call their own. They just don’t own it. The homeless are not homeless because there isn’t enough housing. This isn’t musical chairs.

Welcome to 21st century feudalism. It’s the same playbook as 1000 years ago. Keep the people working to pay their debts. Keep the people working to pay their rent. Keep them working, keep them down. Because as long as the poor are kept scrabbling just to survive, they won’t have time to fight for a fairer system.

So tonight, we’re going to change all that. There’s going to be no more rent and there’s going to be no more mortgages. It will be known as the Great Housing Reset of 2017. And it’s the simplest thing. All you have to do is go home. Go home to that house, to that room; just go home. Because tonight, wherever you lay your head, that house, that brownstone, that flat: tomorrow, it belongs to you.

-BeLessHuman

BBC Future: The man who studies the spread of ignorance

Some quotes from the article:

[I]gnorance can often be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common idea that there will always be two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion. This was behind how tobacco firms used science to make their products look harmless, and is used today by climate change deniers to argue against the scientific evidence.

“This ‘balance routine’ has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every story, that ‘experts disagree’ – creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance.”

[I]gnorance spreads when firstly, many people do not understand a concept or fact and secondly, when special interest groups – like a commercial firm or a political group – then work hard to create confusion about an issue.

About the Internet: “While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors.”

Read the full article here.

The Guardian: Free housing should be a universal right

Why should people who are too poor to buy a house (or flat) pay money every month to people who are rich enough to buy multiple houses (or flats)?

-BeLessHuman

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/10/free-housing-universal-right-free-market

Futurism.com: Can you picture a world without money?

Humans are greedy, power hungry warmongers. Don’t be misled, we have the technology and resources to make the world a better place, to make life better for everyone. All we need to do is be less human.

-BeLessHuman

https://futurism.com/videos/can-you-picture-a-world-without-money/