Put this up on Facebook earlier...
I am reading a book called Nixonland. It is giving me the most thorough education I have received to date on the political landscape of the 1960s in the U.S. Thanks to this book, I can trace the thread of our current affairs back to that era—indeed, back to our origins as a country—with greater clarity.
In Nixonland, there is fresh evidence on every page of something I’ve long known in the abstract: National politics is the dirtiest game there is, and, accordingly, we should be deeply skeptical of anyone who seeks and holds office in our federal government. It takes a special kind of asshole to be successful in such an environment — one that requires duplicity, intellectual dishonesty, viciousness, cynicism, and a willingness to exploit and betray whomever or whatever is necessary in order to get ahead. It takes dangerous measures of single-mindedness, hubris, and grandiosity to willingly enter that fray.
In a way, it's refreshing to be reminded of the basic truths of politics — chief among them being that politics are about controlling and wielding power. In that light, it all makes sense: History has shown us over and over again that human beings tend toward corruption and degradation in the course of power’s pursuit.
In an odd way, it is also refreshing and encouraging to be reminded that the political and social strife we face today isn’t really anything new, per se. That is not to minimize the importance of current events, or of people's suffering; but it is to contextualize them — to acknowledge that all things today are inextricably connected to what went unresolved yesterday. There must be causes for the effects; things do not occur in a vacuum.
Anyway, Richard Nixon, driven forth by a wicked inferiority complex, was brilliant, pathologically dishonest, and probably one of the sharpest, most resilient political figures in the history of American politics. He was a sonofabitch, and he was a crook. The only difference I can tell between Nixon and anyone else on that type of stage, then or now, is that he took that extra step over the line and got caug
Posted today (4/1/16):
Spittin’ in the wind, we are. Spittin’ in the wind. Most of us are guilty of it -- I certainly am. Here’s what I mean:
Lots of us are passionate and full of opinion about worthy and important causes, and we understandably head over to our online platform of choice—Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, etc.—to create and share media that advance those causes we hold so near and dear.
I don’t take issue with that in and of itself, of course. But I suspect that, most of the time, it amounts to precisely nothing where action is concerned. Even if we have carefully avoided creating an online echo chamber for ourselves, and even if our friends somehow represent all the foibled nooks and crannies of the political spectrum as it exists today, the most that any given post on Facebook is going to do is collect a bundle of likes or host a series of impassioned, feverishly typed comments.
And then everyone logs off and gets back to their normal daily business of living life.
What a wasted opportunity.
We live in a representative democracy! There are human beings who are elected into office at each of the local, state, and national levels of government whose jobs it is to work toward the creation of a more just and excellent society on our behalf -- and, lest we forget, we are the keepers of the keys. We get to vote ‘em in, and we, if we wish, get to vote ‘em out. And in the meantime, we have every right to tell those office-holding humans that are beholden to our interests exactly what’s on our mind where these various important issues are concerned.
Our society is imperfect, to put it mildly, and we have a long way to go. Lots of us, for any number of reasons both simple and complicated, are struggling very badly. We face many challenges, some of which are unique to certain populations, while others are unique to certain municipalities, regions, and/or states, and others, still, are shared by us all.
My working hypothesis these days is that if we harnessed even a fraction of the energy we expend on social media creating, sharing, and debating our many important causes and issues, and instead engaged our elected representatives at all levels of government through phone calls, letters, petitions, emails, etc., We the People would get a lot more done than we do now.
No April Fools here, friends. Have a tubular Friday and a gnarly-delicious weekend.
Today, I read a newspaper -- that is, actual pieces of paper with words printed on them -- for the first time in many months, if not years. What an interesting experience. It seemed the articles -- tactile and immediate -- held my attention much longer than their on-screen counterparts.
I hypothesize it has something to do with the meaning, roughly speaking, we ascribe to each medium. Newspapers are only newspapers. They are objects designed and created with a singular purpose. Computer screens, on the other hand (or mobile devices, tables, or whatever) deliver information and imagery of all stripes, limited only by the consumer's momentary impulse, whim, or interest. In other words, newspapers are for reading the news; computers are for doing much more than that alone. In contrast to my digital experience, when I sit and do something as relatively basic as read a newspaper or a magazine or a book, my impulses, whims, and temporary pursuits into various tangential avenues seem to recede into the background somewhat.
Of course, that isn't always my experience, and, from what I understand, it isn't necessarily an experience shared by others. Still, it's an experience, and I thought it worth sharing.
A friend of mine posted a short article from the Huffington Post about a teaching assistant who quit her job, started "twerking" on Vine for money, and is now raking in the cash. (Click here for the article, but be forewarned: A Vine of her twerking features prominently in it.)
I started writing the following reaction to it on Facebook, but I think this is a more appropriate forum.
The title of this article is silly clickbait, obviously. That notwithstanding: As long as money exists, there will be plenty of it in sex, drugs, sports, entertainment, and the prospect of 'more' money. That's the stuff people really want, and the stuff that people will go to great expenses of time, effort, and cash to obtain. I'm not judging or bitter or trying to be shocking—I'm just making a statement of fact: It simply is.
In my opinion, this story is a byproduct of that fact, as well as the fact that, at essence, we simply don't care enough about certain institutions and services to do what it would take (i.e., radically alter our socio-political landscape) to ensure that service providers such as teachers and teaching assistants are well-compensated, whatever that means. We can hem and haw and express outrage, but at essence, we don't care. If we really truly did, things would change accordingly; but we don't, and they aren't.
As it is, money flows toward institutions and people that provide value, whether real or perceived; and as I mentioned earlier, people value sex, drugs, sports, entertainment, and more money. So here we have a teaching assistant who, depending on your perspective, is either (sadly) making a spectacle of herself, or is capitalizing on and benefiting from her accurate perception of the labor/goods-and-services marketplace. It's probably a bit of both.
Call it "unjust," call it "reprehensible," but the fact is, that's the world we live in—and, I would argue, the world each of us creates: moment by moment, day by day.