Intermissions For Thought Police (Lockdown Journals I, II) –


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An Invitation

I wrote most of this in May. It started as a personal journal or narrative type post I didn’t have the courage to publish, that morphed into a type of essay, and then a collage of perspectives of sorts. Centered around the same theme, in fivish parts. I decided the many reservations I had about tackling such a big and polarizing topic and sharing it specifically here, were beside the point. Writing isn’t for just giving all the answers, it’s for voicing questions and understanding them better. This includes challenging certain ideologies, as well as articulating their influence.

Writing is also not just for aesthetics, but for sorting through confusion to find some sense. I wanted clarity on the many ideas and feelings, and comfort on different aspects of the self reacting to a collective crisis. I also wanted a place to be sad and angry and not have to feel guilty about it. There was no better friend than the page at times. Though the page can never replace true love lost or a life grieved, it is such a kind place to land at first — at least until it’s time to edit. A place to be understood, to be heard, in abstract or tangible ways. That’s what’s so beautiful about the writing process. The page hears you through phases of relative silence–or conversely through too much noise–and so do others in future who read and enjoy it. And in writing, you hear others too. You listen, to talk. Since we know that language doesn’t come out of a vacuum, but out of a culture. We’re each another vessel for it, so only from there can we build or create, and if we do, we serve, we don’t just take. Even if that’s not the intention. It just happens. It feels important to start some kind of conversation in the world, even if hardly anyone reads it.

“Political” isn’t the right word for the places this topic goes. They are politically related, but I was thinking more philosophically in a way–although that’s not the right word either. Thinking civically, perhaps. What do we really value? How do we want to live? What do we want to pride ourselves on? What does it mean to be united? How connected or disconnected, are we? Why does it matter? And, in what ways exactly are we responsible for the welfare of others?

So I propose that such writing is not fundamentally political, but civic. If we had to use that word political however, since it’s surely unavoidable in engaging civic discourse, I’ll note that I’m disinclined to mix such topics in with other creative work. But I’m not sure where else to put this writing, other than a blog conceived to hold difficult ideas or forms, experiments and misfits from the start. And so I hold true to that. I don’t really like the idea, anyway, that art should somehow remain distinct and above political concerns to maintain its dignity and integrity, and its grace. On the other hand, I understand the problem with political discourse is the risk that it is alienating.

The goal is not to piss people off even more than they already are. If you don’t have the stomach for such discourse at all on an art blog and would rather be spared, you could skip Part III – Part V. Or even just only read Part II “Grandma,” and forget the rest. I wouldn’t blame you.

Why not? Cause there’s a lot more to life than what’s made the news, a lot more to life than what’s on current popular radar at any given time. I’d like to think that an artist’s primary objective is to remind us of that. Then again, that’s kind of why I wrote this. I was moved to stomach it — the more unpalatable aspects of the already terrible — in writing — in sharing — in no small part, to be able to just move on.

December 12 – December 27, 2020

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(BUT… skipping Part III – Part V, it’s just the potatoes without the meat).

December 23, 2020

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Part I

BAD THOUGHTS

Another person in the house just left.  I have the place to myself now.  It’s Friday night. Which has hardly any meaning now, but I wish it to. I want to at least pretend it does.

I scoop rice into a bowl, then pour a turkey chili into it I just made from scratch. To eat another dinner alone, another homemade meal alone.  I find roast dinners hardest to eat alone, although it didn’t always bother me so much.  I fantasize the day I will share these meals. I miss my boyfriend who works a million hours, while I complain to a blank white page and try to prevent from panicking.

Typically I would enjoy the silence and space of an empty house, not now.  I am not up for it.  I am thinking all the things you’re not supposed to say out loud. I am weary of isolation. I am weary of the house.  The whole #togetheralone concept does not pep me up or console me at all.  I am insulted.  I want them to stop trying to make this look good.  It doesn’t even need to be dressed up and sold to us in a fancy package.  It is what it is.  We’re doing this whether we like it or not anyway, and few even raised a fuss about it at first, at least not in public, since staying home was the right thing to do.  Though for how long, sparks a greater debate.

For weeks I was envious of those who lived alone as I negotiated space with multiple roommates; then became grateful for the company; now find myself envious of those who live with just a partner.  Things make sense one minute then fall apart the next.  Deeper things too that need to change bubble up to the surface amidst an inventory of life as it was.  How odd that so many who are still working seem to be working harder than ever, while the rest of us don’t work at all; as such there seems to be a rift in understanding.  Like everyone else in my shoes I sit at home with unstructured time, and a list of projects I struggle to pursue in the face of anxiety.  I am occupied, I am lucky, I am very privileged to have this time, I do not deny that I have benefited in some ways, yet I feel unsafe.

This is quite different for those who kept their jobs versus those who didn’t.  It is just a whole different reality.  I’m not sure there is much sympathy for those who give it all up for an unknown or indefinite period of time, suppressing incomes and livelihoods to just hope that our jobs come back later.  Or like, recognition that we even did and do so.  Because we give up more than just money.  It is not all about money, actually, as temporary government action helps to fill in the financial gaps.  We give up our security, our stability, the future we’ve built for ourselves and have been counting on, we put it all at risk.  If you dare complain about the situation, people call you selfish.  They dismiss you and your feelings.  Or write you off as a “Trump supporter” which is actually a completely irrational leap in logic.  But it is just as selfish to expect a generation and a half to endure a second financial crisis in a lifetime, and not feel upset about it.  It is just as selfish in this situation to demand other people reflect one’s own ideas, beliefs, values or agendas unquestioned or else we disrespect their intelligence and their humanity.  In the name of carrying out whatever we personally feel is the greater good for the greatest amount of people, we’ve become rather aggressive and inhumane toward any sort of debate that doesn’t serve our own ideology.

As certain leaders, journalists, experts, professors, and other professionals dismiss the effects of the shut down as a mere inconvenience to be endured, some in a shaming tone no less, they fail to read their insult and comprehend that for so many, this is way beyond a temporary lifestyle disruption.  A livelihood is not a “convenience”; surely we can understand it is far more than a convenience – but perhaps it takes someone who still has their job to make such a statement.  On that note, it is in fact convenient indeed for one who has, to insist that another have not.

I might use a word as modest as “inconvenienced” in certain cases, yes, perhaps for those who keep their jobs (excepting health care workers), or who are able to work from home, or who are retired, and can not access or enjoy the usual amenities or the company of others.  But for those who lose their job and perhaps risk it for good, who may risk severe income or benefit reductions over a number of years, who prepare to potentially change their whole life path and start over in a new direction, who may watch buying power shift evermore to the top 10% of earners, who risk never quite catching up at the ultimate expense of their own health and wellness, I hear things among us like “our lives are forever changed.”  I hope that’s not true.  But for many of us right now this may not be so temporary, as many presume.  Even if we are lucky enough to return to work as we left it, this is a game-changer of our entire perspectives.  Anything could happen, especially in the next two years.  Anything.  Many of us are not going to forget that so easily.

I hope it’s not true.  I really hope it’s just a fear.

May 16, 2020

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Part II

GRANDMA

Friends can be like family, but it is also not quite the same thing.  I find myself thinking about my mother, and other people’s mothers.  I know the multitude of reasons why I didn’t have a family of my own, which is why I have this lifestyle now.  To begin with, my childhood family story is a bit of a riot.  I still turned out ok, but there are consequences to such a story that take a long time to escape.

I have two wonderful grandmothers who are still alive today so I’m very lucky in that way.  When I was a teenager I think, a younger teenager, I remember visiting one of my  grandmothers.  I walked in to the big kitchen and felt nervous being there.  She said, “Would you like a tuna sandwich, honey?” Her voice so calm and tone so sweet but I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t know if I was hungry.  I probably was but couldn’t be sure.  I didn’t want to disappoint her.  I didn’t want to make her make me the sandwich, but maybe she wanted me to eat it.  I didn’t know.

“Ok.”  I agreed to the sandwich.  So I sat down on the long polished wood bench at the gigantic kitchen table made of the same polished wood and I stared at the colorful woven oval placemats and felt awkward.  The dining room table was even larger and it had its very own room.  The silverware solid, heavy, shiny.  When she set down the clear plastic plate with the swirly designs popping from its surface in front of me, something about the experience felt alien.  I think I was supposed to feel comforted.  The sandwich looked cute on the plate.  Fluffy.   Carefully centered.  Placed so as to avoid crushing the bread or patting down the mini peaks and valleys of tuna salad, so that the whole thing puffed up and out a little.  Grandma knew how to make it special.  How to make something so simple look like it had a personality.  I stared at it, and I didn’t understand something but I wasn’t sure what.  I ate it amid a mixture of odd and uncomfortable feelings.  I ate it; even though I am not so wild about lots of mayonnaise, tuna was still a favorite.

I wasn’t feeling that great though.  I think I was supposed to feel at home.  But I didn’t.  I felt bad.  The adult word for that feeling is guilty.  Grandma was doing all this, for me.  Grandma works so hard all the time, for everyone.  But I didn’t know that I deserved to be cared for.  I actually did not know.

She’d have to do the dishes, I thought, so maybe I should do them instead.  But there are a lot of dishes over there, from some other meal.  Should I do all of those?  I do not know what to do as I sit eating my sandwich.  I want to be a good kid.  But I am tired, so tired.  So tired.

Grandma’s beds so poofy like white and beige clouds I don’t know what will happen if I try to sleep in one, would I sink in too much and feel weird.  Anyway, nobody should be sleeping right now.  I shouldn’t fall asleep on the couch.  I shouldn’t be rude.

There is a concept of what family is “supposed to be” like, in a general sense of at least meeting and maintaining a certain standard.   If your concept of family is warped by tragedy, your concept of love may also be warped for a while.  For a while, but not necessarily forever.   Old wounds can heal.  Other people teach us things beyond the scope of the original family.

Ideas start changing, shifting, and feelings also.  Occasionally in leaps.  You might’ve managed essentially alone for a very long time, in the same way you’d always done because you did not know any different.  Until you do not want it to be that way anymore.  And know that it doesn’t have to be, and it won’t be.  Change might be too scary to welcome without a fight, but it finds you anyway because that is what is supposed to happen.  Especially if that’s exactly what you aim for.

I do not blame my mother, with whom I grew up, for the flaws she found impossible to overcome.  The alcohol, the violence, the homelessness, the intermittent chaos.  While she is accountable for certain things, I do not blame her for anything I could not do now, either, as the present is what I am accountable for.  I was the oldest child and things were harder to hide from me.  I do not know what it is like to be my mother.  Despite everything, she did give me gifts for which I am grateful, many of them unintended gifts.  Just because someone does not know how to love properly, or “normally,” does not necessarily mean that they don’t love.  Just because we do not get what we want from someone, does not mean that we should look down on them, nail them to the cross.  Even when it feels needed, it’s probably not even worth it.

Writing and reflecting about Grandma, her house, her homemaking, I realize I feel a different emotion than the way this whole situation has made me feel, even a different emotion than the way I used to feel during some of our visits.  Comforted. 

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Everyone is dealing with this crisis in their own way.  Some people want to be alone.  But we have to keep in mind that others need us too.

We must keep in mind that it is one thing to say to someone that you are there, but it is another thing to actually be there.

It is also another thing to genuinely want to be there, but truly not be able to.  And this is really felt, or not felt.

Who is present?

Who is listening to us?

Who is holding us dear, in a crisis?

And who are we holding dear?  I recall some wise words Dad had shared.  He said, “Somebody told me once.  You know what, man?  If you want a friend, BE a friend.”

Connection is probably more important than ever, and we probably ought to insist on it above and beyond all else in whatever way we can accomplish it.  Even as I too struggle to live up to my own ideals.

May 16 – May 17, 2020

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(To Be Continued)

Intermissions For Thought Police (Lockdown Journals III, IV)

Vera Rima 2020

**I don’t usually tackle such topics here — before reading please see the intro for this project, from first section (Lockdown I, II)

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Part III

REALLY BAD THOUGHTS FOLLOWED BY ACCEPTABLE THOUGHTS

If we could just set party affiliation completely aside for a moment, completely aside.  Clearly the most troubling aspect of this pandemic lockdown situation is addressing (or avoiding) certain ethical, moral, philosophical, and spiritual questions haunting the whole affair. Deciding as well, what ought to take priority.

There is the simpler question – not easier but more simple – the most practical question.  Experts and politicians essentially pleading with the public — how can we get people to understand, internalize, and accept the fact that this is considered the worst epidemic in 100 years and that is why we must all each take action and participate in a solution?

Then there are the questions that curiously reveal flawed and hypocritical value systems within parties.  Such as, how much is the actual or de facto “sanctity of life” worth?  Why do some groups value it above all else in certain situations, such as the abortion question, but not in other situations, such as the pandemic question?  Or the reverse: why value it above all else in the pandemic question, but not in the abortion question?

Who reads confirmed cases as an approx. 1-4% death rate, and who reads them as a 96-98% chance of recovery?  And how does that basic difference in perception influence their perspective?

And then there are the really really taboo questions.  How much can we reasonably expect from someone, from a whole population, to sacrifice for another, for a stranger, or even for ourselves in this exact scenario?  To what extent exactly do we ask them to suppress their own needs, goals, principles, beliefs, liberties, mental health, future, in the harsh reality of this system so contingent on self-reliance, in which people have little to no safety net outside of what they build for themselves in their lifetime? 

Self-sacrifice is generally a choice in this system.  But in this system, forced economic self-sacrifice appears to be flirting with tyranny.  Flirting.  If you don’t like something, normally you could bail, choose another path, if you have the courage.  But there’s no leaving this.

Nobody wants to hear it but the fact is that you can not save one group in this situation, without sacrificing another.  Especially with regard to health, safety, and economic pain.  The question is who is it ok to sacrifice versus not sacrifice, and under what circumstances is this actually okay – where do we draw that line.  Who or what is worth more, in this country?  As reported in numerous articles in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Politico, and many others, we already know that those losing the most are the ones who already have the least to lose.  While the bottom 25% of earners who are already the most economically unstable and insecure demographic upend their lives, those who keep their jobs and their futures relatively intact are already among the highest earners.  And does it make us selfish to even draw attention to this cold hard truth?  I think it is only the responsible thing to do.

We can not pretend that the impact of this reality doesn’t deserve our attention and care.  Yet we expect these people to take the hit quietly.  Even those whose jobs go away and do not come back, or whose jobs return in far limited capacity, or those who return to work with less quality jobs than they had before, starting over now from the bottom.  There is in fact a human price to pay for this plan.  Not only economic, but everything else that goes along with that such as mental health, addiction issues, relationship struggles, and indeed poorer physical health in the long term and less financial resources to deal with these issues.  Yet the attitude is that it’s ok to disregard the suffering caused to these people because if they don’t accept the terms given then they are immoral, greedy, callous, selfish, anti-science, and don’t care if people die of coronavirus.  To question the chosen course of action at all is to offend humanity itself.  The protocol is assumed to be worth it.

But such a position is, I’m afraid to say, not only manipulative, but also beginning to look like an abusive one to take.  It’s not quite because we are shutting things down.  It’s because of this casual disregard toward the have-less, an attitude so neglectful and dismissive it would suggest a deeper contempt built in to our cultural values.  It’s a trend that’s become a runaway train, and now finally backfires in a big way.  As reported in the New York Times piece I’ve mentioned already, since 1980 the after-tax income of the bottom half of earners has risen only 20%, and the middle 50%, while the wealthiest has risen 420%. The Economic Policy Institute reports that CEO pay has risen 940% since 1978, relative to “typical” workers who only saw a 12% rise.  As Vox bluntly puts it, “the rich are getting richer at the expense of everyone else.”  Yet even in a pandemic, debates abound on the extent to which the have-less take advantage of the system, live off the state, expect something for nothing, expect special treatment on someone else’s dollar.  

Indeed, it is not only the lowest classes who are being squeezed.  I’ll add to this essay now (that I actually wrote back in May but frankly didn’t have the courage to post) that more recently on 12/8/20, a news program on KQED radio reported on research about the income inequality gap that basically started 45 years ago in the 70s.  They said that the cost to the bottom 90%, to make the top 10% richer in this time period, is over 2 trillion dollars.  I believe in the range of 2.4 trillion (but don’t quote me on that exact figure — to be real, I heard it just as I turned on the radio in the car).  And if this gap had never started in the first place, then today the median income of around $50,000/yr, would today be $92,000/yr.  Over $40,000 more per year.  

Is Giving Money Away “Unfair”?

Imagine if we said to the wealthiest 10% of Americans, I’m sorry but we need you to contribute to coronavirus relief also, so we need to tax an extra 10% of your income this year, and next. No.  Surely this would not fly, were the wealthiest Americans comprehensively required to give up their money in the same way the less fortunate classes are required in this scenario.  No, instead many wealthier Americans are enabled to further increase their assets, buying up property and other investments at the lowest rates, moving money, or at the very least recovering loses rather quickly.  Surely we couldn’t get away with expecting them to surrender their own paychecks, surely we do not expect the same selflessness.  Giving is a choice — a luxury.

All this would seem to highlight wealthier Americans as an unofficial “protected class” in a collective crisis. While service industries are shut down by order of the government, no less.  And to those billionaires who do voluntarily donate to relief — before we get too misty-eyed about their heroism — I wonder why we couldn’t have all paid our employees a little more to begin with.

Do those affected employees and small business owners who resist the shut down “only care about money”?  Well, how about the wealthiest Americans, do we think they don’t care about their money?  Let’s try it.  Let’s see how “selfish” they may become, when their own checks are involuntarily cut by those in charge — no choice in the matter.  Let’s see how righteous and altruistic we can ALL be when it comes to the coronavirus.

It would seem that when wealthier Americans “unfairly” benefit, it’s not only par for the course, it’s, well, simply a byproduct of our action plan, which was the right thing to do for the good of all.  But when the less fortunate “unfairly” benefit, suddenly it’s “socialism.”  Political gaslighting at its finest/worst.  Problems in the system, it would seem, are only created by people make too little – not when they make too much.  

Discussions on this deep double standard hardly even exist.  Reportage on the wealth gap is rarely engaged in any kind of meaningful, lasting way.  Because for some reason it is not even worth talking about.  It seems to be, not very interesting.  As we attempt meaningful conversations about race and gender, the conversation about institutionalized economic inequality remains an elephant in the room.  It’s no wonder that in this moment, one’s level of income and access to resources determines not only where their livelihood, quality of life, and future lie in the social and economic spectrum — it also determines where they lie on the political priority list.

I have heard one person say, “I guess I just care more about old people than poor people.  I guess that’s just the truth of how I feel about it.”  Based on how things are going, I suppose we could say that this is a value judgement that’s not unpopular. Now, I’ll be the first to say that the people I’m most concerned for, the people I hope most to be protected from illness, are my two elderly Grandmas. I do not want my Grandmas to get the virus, certainly not to die of it.  We know that our elders are among the most vulnerable to covid fatalities. 

Yet, let’s also consider that while there are indeed many poor elders, by and large the elder generations are already known to be among the wealthiest, and they also hold a great deal of political power and influence. We know that they are on their way out of the workforce or already out of it, while the most economically vulnerable who still need to work, are asked to risk everything they have to protect others.  We know that we can’t have overfull hospitals to the point that there’s not enough space to treat people. We know that a certain amount of shut down is inevitable, as leaders see fit. Will it really “cost too much” to assist those of working age who do make this economic sacrifice, for the health of others, many of whom are of retiring age? Is this generational inequity another cold hard truth we simply bypass, in favor of the cold hard truth of “saving lives”? 

Here’s why lower earners need help, generous help, not half-assed help.  Because if we don’t, then we are literally asking them to fund the cost of saving lives.  We shut down, by order of the government – ultimately at their personal expense.

Why? Because debt is inevitable as a result of the pandemic and consequent shutdown.  So do we, collectively as a country, take on the burden of this responsibility for the greater good of all?  Or do we demand that certain individuals will — in fact the individuals least equipped to do so? 

The long-term ramifications of the disease and the shut down remain to be seen, as are further actions taken toward a greater good in future.  Greater good for whom?

May 27, 2020

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Part IV

Inquiry: the Luxury of Giving, the Price of Philanthropy, “Just” Poverty

Q: How Noble Is the Luxury of Giving?

At a certain point, don’t the wealthiest Americans (perhaps at least the top 2% if not the top 5%, but especially billionaires) kinda have to donate some money, to get rid of some of it before it starts to work against them? Sure they don’t actually have to, and some argue that they don’t contribute enough in recent years. But for those many wealthy who do, giving is largely to their benefit. Mass sums donated means tax-free deductions. Courtesy of outdated policy in fact, the wealthy receive the most generous deduction for charity–even if donating a more modest proportion of earnings than many lower income doners who can’t access any deduction. For the wealthy who take advantage of this benefit, charitable contributions could also enable manipulation of the tax bracket as desired. So, I wouldn’t assume an entirely altruistic motive for charity on their part, although I don’t doubt that they may enjoy it too.

Q: Aren’t Massive Donations By the Wealthy Kind of, Problematic?

In theory, with the largest quantities of giving increasingly concentrated among the wealthiest, don’t we end up with too few people deciding where all this wealth goes? Aren’t we supposed to be able to vote where mass sums of money in our society get prioritized? Isn’t that theoretically what would happen, for example, if monies from mass donations were collected through taxes instead? Isn’t that what would happen if more people were all paid a little more, who in turn paid higher taxes on their earnings, and then those extra funds were divided up according to the will of voters and elected representatives? Instead of excess corporate profits disappearing into tax loopholes, bloated salaries at the top, and then a few select people paid exponentially even more than that? And, incidentally, an inconspicuous “budget vote” for those few that essentially “counts more” as far as how to spend unfathomable sums in charity? Not to mention that charitable donations concentrated through the wealthiest ensures that the interests of the wealthy are, by and large, prioritized.

And what about how much buying power the richest may enjoy when it comes to actual voting — essentially, direct sway over elections?

Q: If the Wealthiest Can Afford to Give So Much Away, Why Is Pay So Low in Lower Tiers?

Now keep in mind that I am just a layman on these topics, so I pose this more as a question, but I’m also not an idiot. And these things just don’t make sense to me. In the case of Amazon – let’s get real. $15/hr is a total joke — and not just in California where I live but in plenty of other places too — and people are catching on to the ways in which Amazon exploits its labor and undercuts a whole industry. People who work there are so busy that they barely have time to go to the bathroom, so it’s not like the company can’t afford to pay them more. Wouldn’t it have been better to pay employees a billion dollars more, and increase their standard of living, instead of ending up with so much money yourself from the success of your businesses, that you can afford to give dazzling amounts of it away to some choice groups or causes?

In the Amazon example, I get it that Bezo’s personal wealth is not the same thing as Amazon wealth as an entity. However, even as a layman I assert that it would be dumb to think that your personal wealth has nothing to do with your business entities. I’m a videographer and I work for myself, and somehow the money from my business ends up in my pocket. And I don’t really want to hear what Bezos claimed income is, considering that his actual wealth is tied up in investments everywhere and let’s not pretend that that’s not for a reason and that the whole thing with all the numbers appears to be highly manipulated anyway. Then again, maybe I’m just not rich enough to understand how you can be so rich yet somehow boast of a relatively piddly income.

Now, you can donate to the homeless, OR, you can help prevent homelessness — by paying and benefiting people little more than the least possible amount that you could possibly get away with (and then acting like you ought to congratulated). You can also donate to early childhood education, but a lot of good that’ll do if their undervalued parents are overworked, stressed out, and can barely afford to feed and clothe their kids properly, let alone have much time to actually parent them.

Isn’t it an odd thing, generally speaking, to direct corporate entities paying bottom dollar to workers, make billions, and then donate a billion dollars to some special interest thing, when if all this wealth were spread out more in the first place, then everybody’s life could improve instead of select few? Select few, who then select remote beneficiaries of their fortune, totally alienated from their means of production?

And no, just because I used the phrase “means of production” doesn’t mean I’m a Marxist, ok? It just means I went to college. All this just means that I think we could probably do better. Ok? Couldn’t we do better? And it’s quite possible that we must do better. After all, people like William Graham Sumner warned us in What Social Classes Owe To Each Other, too much power in the hands of too few is a great danger to our system. I’m not diving deep into that – I read the book in college. I’m not a scholar on this subject, I’m a citizen with questions.

And again, maybe that’s part of my problem. Maybe I’m just not thinking like a rich person. I’m thinking like a concerned citizen. Does that make me an idiot? Naive? Or do I legitimately wonder what it means to really “only care about money,” as we sit here in a pandemic?

Do I just, not know how it all works? And if not, then why? How can I live here and be a college educated citizen and not know how it all works? Is there something I’m missing out on, as an average person wondering what the fuck is wrong with this picture? Why does nobody seem to care that much? Are we all just, too burned out? Is life too exhausting to even ask the questions? Will people hate us, if we dare? Or are we just, lazy as fuck?

And fearful?

Tell me this ISN’T how it works.

One thing that paying workers less and donating billions to special interest groups instead, is it makes you look good. You get to play hero… once again quite possibly, albeit rather indirectly, at the real-time expense of the lowest-paid workers in companies who scrape by paycheck to paycheck, probably with little to no savings, and have barely any future. And it makes you look good in the sense that the richer you are, you can secretly compete with the other richest people in the world for the title of who can be the richest one of all. Or as a company, secretly compete with all the other most powerful companies, to see who will make headlines for the top spot.

So if you’re going to be in this game, I guess you better be a little parsimonious, at least until that crown is yours. Am I wrong? Or am I starting to think like a rich person? I’m not sure, but I might be. I wonder if you kinda have to, to see through it? Who am I to say.

But the bottom line is, it’s a choice what to pay people, right? From top to bottom. Can’t act like it’s not a choice. So what are the reasons for that choice?

Q: Do Underskilled Employees “Deserve” To Be Paid So Little?

There’s always the argument that lower-tier employees are paid so little, because their skills aren’t worth very much. But even if unskilled or underskilled labor doesn’t require much more than showing up, does that mean that such employees don’t deserve a true living wage? Do we really think it is “just,” in America, for an underskilled laborer to work full-time, and yet still live in relative poverty?

Maybe it’s just me, but something must be wrong in our evaluations.

Are CEOs just not, doing well enough yet to justify paying more at the lower tiers? As affluent Americans’ wealth skyrockets, why would it seem right that lower tier pay profoundly stagnates? When growth happens, and the cost of living rises, doesn’t everyone deserve to be getting more? I don’t get it, or I’m missing something. Or worse — this is actual reality.

More to the point, is it really so fair that the upper tiers should be worth SO much more? Is the exponentially higher pay of a CEO really, so earned? So justifiable? Research indicates that it is not. But if they don’t really deserve to be paid so much for just showing up and having a certain title, then explain to me now why anyone at all in the lower tiers should still need food stamps and other assistance, for just showing up?

So. Perhaps it is time we call bluff. When somebody opines that underskilled employees deserve to be paid so little, perhaps we ought to point out that the upper tiers are paid well too much more, than they deserve.

December 14 – December 21, 2020

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Intermissions for Thought Police (Lockdown Journals V)

Vera Rima 2020

**I don’t usually tackle such topics here — intro for this project can be found here, from first section (Lockdown I, II)

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The Root of the Problem

Wherever we fall on the ideological spectrum
It’s worth asking, why are we so angry?
It’s not enough to just say “divided.”

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Part V

Tough Love for Americans (and hope beyond the conflict)

Once again setting party affiliation completely, absolutely, totally aside.  It’s true that many are quite happy to sacrifice, for saving as many lives as possible and slowing or preventing the spread of disease.  Others question whether this solution is truly proportional to the problem, considering the multitude of other problems to be created in its wake.  Whatever the case, I find myself disappointed in the condescending, self-righteous, patronizing, and even irrational attitudes I encounter, even among people whose values I generally share. While I rarely tackle “political” topics here, in this case I feel it essential.

It is a fact that unfortunately makes many uncomfortable, that people in this system have the right to assemble and protest under any circumstances when they are unhappy with the decisions their leaders are making.  People who protest perfectly valid and sensible policies, are not all automatically idiots.  Ignorance may abound, but only as much as it abounds on the other side of the aisle as well.  Quite simply, the people just see it differently and they do not agree.  They do not agree that the course of action is appropriate.  Whether we agree or disagree on any issue, whether we scoff or not, dissent must be permissible.  Now let’s be clear, I am not talking about dissent that occurs as a result of a misinformation campaign and conspiracy theory – that’s a whole other subject.  This is not about what we could probably refer to as a “misinformation crisis.” I’m talking about legitimately justified dissent provoked by verifiable choices, decisions made, actions taken by elected representatives and leaders.

Dissent is not misinformation in and of itself — although it is rather convenient to call it so when we do not agree.  Protest and dissent are a communication, an interaction between the public and leaders.  Dissent is not a liberal enterprise or a conservative enterprise.  It is an American enterprise.  Like it or not.  Agree with it or not.  Believe me, I am angered by some of the things people object to, and especially angered by those fighting to take away rights we have already won.  But I would still stand up for an opposing side’s right to express their view, as much as I really really don’t want to, because this is a right I also want to have for myself.  Free speech is a treasure for all of us – just as much for “us” as for “them.”

When people want change or they do not agree with what their leaders are doing, they protest to have a say in the matter.  It is very important that we do not erode this.  Of course this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t critique a protest or an argument, but we can choose how to use our own voice in an effective way.  An effective way, hopefully.

However

Valid as protesting the shut down may be in one sense, in another sense it also underestimates our creativity and potential for vision.  Let’s not forget, we are already free.  A fight to defend freedom as it is, in its current concept as we know it, may be short-sighted as it is limited.  And essentially, backward thinking if we are fighting for a freedom as we knew it, rather than seeing and utilizing freedom as it is available to us now.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can get creative in what our idea of freedom is, if we want this force, this crisis and our response to it, to become generative rather than destructive.  Because on an average day we do choose to flirt with a variation of “force,” too — a level of force by choice, and we still find freedom in this.  We choose school, university.  We choose jobs, bosses.  We choose hard core exercise regimes.  We choose relationships.  We choose limits.  We choose to be “forced” to do things in our own lives.

This situation with the pandemic is obviously unique, I am not arguing that.  But we do choose constraints on a regular basis because for most of us, a certain level of constraint may ironically bring more satisfaction and more freedom.  So we can get creative now.  We can do things differently.  We can choose another kind of freedom.  We can reimagine our lives right now.  We can say, if I had this whole life to do over again, what would I have done differently?  What would I have started, what would I have followed through on, had I the confidence and more importantly, the time?  Because we have nothing but time now, if we are “stuck” at home.  If we can just wade through the stress and anxiety… it is good to ask questions, but it is also good to reimagine, to reinvent.  We can honor the recommendations, and still be free.  We could even be more free.  Anything is possible.  Anything.

May 27, 2020

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(Part VI

FINAL THOUGHT I)

I’ve always preferred poetry, since poetry is better at questions than answers.

Poetry knows that nobody knows all the answers.

Even at its most candid, poetry rises unknowns and mysteries, prizes them.

I wrote all this because poetry won’t, however, be my cop-out.

June 9, 2020

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Let These Words Be Unimportant

 

Let me whisper.  Let me bring these words to you, let them turn yellow then purple like light diffusing through polluted air.  In a sound of voice I long to hear and embrace floats near me.  Connect these words in us through this space, not by chains of past offenses identity crises and grievances.   Let them feel comforting and welcomed, not as wounds, feel like birds at dawn singing through cold air or a bell tower carillon drop notes over chaotic streets on the way home from work in the evening.  Let these words mean nothing, let them be nothing, let them exist for no indisputable purpose or explicit reason, yet not be treated as meaningless.   Let them not be crowded out with opinions, nor create such crowds.  What makes such opinions more meaningful?

What if I have no history anymore.  What if I claim nothing.  These words have tongue in them, lips, lungs, I want for them to not be pushed to sting.  Let me kiss with them.  Let me exist with you as if there were nobody else before us, and nobody to jump down our throats after.  I have slept with these words when hungry, when lonely, now let these words take company.  Let these words be a place to land, not just a springboard to and from troubles, not as an opiate either but a place to be fearlessly awake together.  Let these words be a world that’s not too smart for romance.  Enough views crowd us one after another, it’s blinding.   If we come from nowhere beyond this moment, if only by sound we could touch these screens delicate as paper, what if.

Your voice alone is wonderful to me.  Carillon notes blending and separating over rivers inside sending little messages barely heard, grow more resonant.  I long to hear beauty instead of these arguments.  Then these words will not chase you down, will not hunt you.  For truly I long for you and for no opinion.  I long to hear words exist less for the purpose of proofs, divisions, violence, information.  Thus let their intelligence here stake no claim.  Let these words be unimportant yet significant.  Be available and abundant.  Let them be valuable.