The Humanity of Strangers

 

I will sometimes get irrationally annoyed while I am driving. I will be following the speed limit, and someone at the stoplight ahead will make a right on red, turning in front of me. And if I have to use my brakes, I get annoyed, and if the person who cut ahead of me is driving below the speed limit, I get angry. This person could have waited five seconds for me to pass, and then turned onto the road. They are now slowing me down. When this same person does not maintain the same lane as he is turning at the next light, I will be driving right on their back bumper, ready to hold down my horn.

God forbid this person has an Obama bumper sticker.

But then at the next light I change lanes and am pulling up beside this other driver, this object of my spite. I get a look at him, though we do not make eye-contact, and I can see in his face that he is worried. I feel remorse. I feel bad for antagonizing this person by tailgating him for 1.4 miles, even if he never noticed. I begin to make excuses for him, sure that is he dealing with the death of a relation, bad news from a wife who is packing herself a suitcase, or just on the phone with a boss who is no longer going to give him a paycheck. I can even understand how someone can become, through no fault of their own, deluded enough to support a politician.

Similar grievances happen at the grocery store. I am getting angry at the woman in line in front of me, because she has exactly four items, and she is going through a binder of coupons. I am in a hurry. My child keeps grabbing candy off the rack beside us, and I have nowhere to move. There is no reason for this to take so long, she is buying four boxes of generic pancake mix that are already on sale, why does this creature need a binder of coupons?

But the woman looks up at me and apologizes, was absolutely sure she had the coupons out already, gosh what a hectic day she’s been having, she is sure she has a five dollar bill in here somewhere, really sorry this is taking so long. I feel bad. I imagine this woman is taking care of her grandchildren because her daughter is addicted to FDA-prescribed heroin. She probably has little money, and is a professional coupon-er, one of those people who will sometimes leave with full grocery carts for $5. I respect this woman.

And I try to remember these things the next time I’m on the highway and someone is driving slowly in the express lane, while talking on their cellphone. I try to remind myself that I have little ability to imagine the driver as a person. I have not met that person, this driver who is slowing me down, he or she is nothing but a concept to me, a undefined placeholder for the human being who is driving this vehicle, slowly, in front of me.

I try to remind myself how little I view other people as actual human beings, especially those I cannot see or cannot speak to, cannot interact with – these people are placeholders, vague molds with no filling; bodies, without humanity. I know absolutely nothing about them, and my mind finds it difficult to fill these empty molds with identities, issues, emotions, circumstances, histories. Because my mind is focused on the here-and-now, or on my job, or my family, or what I should do with my hair before my brother’s wedding because I look homeless. I am unable to fill the thousands of molds of the individuals who cross the street without looking, slow down traffic, hold up the grocery line, take forever to return my desired book to the library… every day, a thousand reasons to be angry at and spiteful of a thousand different people – who would actually trust Donald Trump’s mouth? Why do these assholes spend $100,000 on these fucking Porsche minivans?

But I cannot imagine them. And if I met these people, I know I would begin to make one thousand excuses for them, and I would imagine their parents neglecting them, their classmates teasing them, their health insurance charging exorbitant fees and the pressures they feel from a society hell-bent on glitz and ownership of the glitz.

And I do not think this goes without saying, that imagination is the pre-requisite of empathy; that it takes cognitive effort, work, to imagine the life of a person I have no contact with. That, until I have met a person, until they have spoken to me and shown me the color of their eyes – until I am forced to see them beyond their immediate effect on my own person, I do not see them at all: they are only the effects they have upon me, superficially. I do not think this goes without saying, that our immediate, default perceptions do not perceive other people as human beings.

What Is Real and Not-So-Real

I am trying to find a birthday present for a girl I am in love with, and I am having a difficult time. It is difficult for me to stay in any store for more than ten minutes, tops. And forget online shopping, the constant ads and unwanted videos have forced me to find refuge in some sylvan corner of my mind.

The girl I am in love with has many problems. Tammy only had one problem at first, and it was a problem I had too, but we would go on benders together, sometimes on the weekends, sometimes for several days. I have never met someone so easily reachable, the way she shed her skin and let me know everything inside of her. It was beautiful; she was beautiful. In a disastrous way. I now know the extent of her problems, and that she sells herself on Craigslist and Tinder to support those problems; that when she spends a week living in my apartment, it is because business is lagging.

And this is why I slowly back out of Target, because I wanted maybe a stuffed animal and chocolates or the yoga mat she talks about, but I walked into Target and the first sensation to hit me was the overwhelming, profuse scent of buttery, buttery warm popcorn. There is no reason for a grocery/clothing/miscellany store to sell popcorn as soon as you walk in.

But I can’t blame Target for getting their money’s worth, but I still can’t do it, because the warm popcorn gets me settled and comfortable and I want to browse without worry and I only think about Tammy and how she called my mother to wish her a happy birthday. Tammy was absolutely perfect until she stopped living in my apartment, sleeping at her own, calling me middle of the night sobbing needing me and I run over there and she won’t let me in. Is someone else here? No, it’s the TV, I think I’m going straight to bed to sleep this off, thanks for checking on me.

It’s even difficult to go grocery shopping because I’m told constantly told the entire grocery chain is somehow my community made up of my neighbors who share my concerns and know my name and my house and who my parents are, and I have no clue how the Albertson Corporation considers itself such a wonderful place for neighbors to congregate, but I always buy my food from their grocery stores, and when I finally get out finding myself ramming the grocery cart into the nicest car nearby.

Because I also don’t understand how a Prius can turn me into an adventurous pioneer of the American West when I absolutely have no time because of work to pay the lease on the stupid car that has difficulty getting over speedbumps. But I do understand why Tammy spent exactly 53 days living in my apartment and going out of her way to connect with me and make me happy and make love to me because I was the sort of man she’d been desperately searching for her entire 23 years of life….

I drive between stores and malls in silence with the radio off, because the moment a billion-dollar-profit, public university hospital tells me they’re dedicated to improving lives through advanced research and spectacular customer-service I want to plow my car into the store-front windows of a McDonald’s, aiming for the fucking Ronald clown and his crew of child-luring diabetic fuzzy-things.

And if I’m hurt or vulnerable or sad I know I can knock on Tammy’s door and she’ll let me in. She’ll hold me and stroke my hair, and tell me she loves me needs me It’s Okay, Sweety, and we’ll blow molly and she’ll let me make love to her, sad, pathetic, desperate, self-deceiving love. And then I’ll call her everyday for the next week but she’s always too busy to get lunch because she currently has a forty-year-old father of two who’s paying her rent this month.

I haven’t voted in the election because of Tammy. What am I supposed to do? What am I to make of President and VP photo-op jogging in solidarity with obesity? For Christ’s fucking sake, what am I to think of Bush reading to kindergartners the morning Manhattan went to billowing clouds of Trade Center rubble?

This is what Tammy has done to me, 53 days of painting herself with my dreams, opening every inch of herself to me, selflessly, seemingly, dedicating herself to my needs and fears a complete manipulation of my perceptions and opinions; furtive, psychological, emotional deception, manipulation of what I thought was real, honest, true and she does this to dozens of men, all the time, she is currently staying with me because she’s been evicted.

I give up and go to Walmart, just resignation, laughing to myself, and my laughing echoes out of me at the autistic woman making $8.50/hr to greet people at Walmart, the big plaque on the wall commemorating  Walmart’s on-going dedication to whatever they gave a million dollars to. I buy Tammy a baseball bat and seven livers from the meat department; I schedule her an appointment to see Walmart’s optometrist (she has 20/20); she’s going to love the fucking shit out of these Fourth of July lawn decorations and the pallet of Pepsi One that has only ONE CALORIE per can and absolutely nothing else. And I’m paying for all of this, even the three random Bridgestone tires and the cart of pool toys, all on my credit card, the one I have from JP Morgan Chase that says Freedom on the front in big, clear, satisfying letters.

 

Why Third-Party Votes Are More Important Than We’ve Realized

Media pundits, politicians, and everyday Party People (Democratic and Republican voters), tell us every four years that voting for a third-party candidate is a waste of our votes. I wrote-in Ron Paul in 2012, and this was apparently a waste of my vote, because I apparently helped Obama win his re-election by not voting for Mitt Romney.

If you’re supporting Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton, you’re wasting your time and only helping Donald Trump by not supporting Clinton, the only ‘real’ candidate who can stop Trump. Apparently.

The media and the political class (and the Party People who eat-up everything they say) tell us that what matters most is stopping the Greater Of Two Evils. You don’t want Trump to be president, do you? So you have to support Hillary Clinton, even if you don’t agree with everything she says and does.

We are hard-pressed to find a media-outlet that does not swing left or right. You can make the argument that CNN and NPR don’t have political leanings, but it doesn’t matter much – media, and the way many people think about politics, are led by Fox News, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times.

Our political discourse is dominated by the division of a polar-opposition: you are either right or left. If you are right, anything left is antithetical to your beliefs, morals, ideals; towards which ever side you identify with, the other side is antithetical to who you are as a person.

If you do not agree with Trump, you are going to vote for him, because Hillary (or Sanders) represents everything you disagree with. In fact, if you’re a Republican, you’re emotionally resentful of Hillary and Sanders. You have to be, because they represent the negation of everything you are as a person. The same stands if you’re a Democrat, being emotionally resentful of Trump and Cruz – these people are against everything you define yourself by.

If you see yourself as a Democrat, you are always going to vote for Democrats, because the only other option is the antithesis of you as a person. You will always vote for Democrats. Likewise for Republicans. Regardless of who the nominee is, you will support your party’s nominee to prevent the election of a candidate who represents the negation of who you are as a human being.

It doesn’t matter what the Republican Party has done in the past, or what the party says they’ll do in the future; it does not matter who the Republican Party nominates, or what policies they support, you will vote for Republicans.

What reason, then, does the Republican Party or the Democratic Party have to give a shit about your opinions? For what reason should your chosen party support the policies you favor? You have one choice to make: vote your party, or its polar-opposition.

You will never vote for your polar-opposition, no matter what. Your chosen party has your vote locked in. They do not have to care what you think, what policies you support, as long as they pay you lip service and position the ‘other’, the polar-opposite, as an evil you must emotionally resent.

If you vote for a Republican or a Democrat, your vote is worthless, because your vote was cast years ago when you realized it was You And Yours or Them And Theirs; your vote is worthless, because the party you vote for has no reason to support the policies you support (except, of course, while campaigning) – witness Obama pushing the TPP, opening drilling in Alaska, expanding the NDAA, letting the Pentagon give war-machines to police; witness Bush passing No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, letting the NSA spy on everyone, creating the Department of Homeland Security; Obama deporting ‘illegal’ families, Bush letting them in.

This will not change, because your chosen party has no reason to change.

This is why voting for third-party candidates matters more than voting for Republicans and Democrats – by voting for third-party candidates, we force the Republican and Democratic Parties to abide by our ideals, morals, and opinions, to win back our votes.

If you emotionally resent Hillary Clinton, but don’t like Trump (or Cruz), don’t give your vote away – vote for the Libertarian Party, or the Constitution Party.

If you emotionally resent Donald Trump, but don’t like Clinton (or Sanders), don’t resign your vote – vote for the Green Party, or the Socialist Party.

We can continue to vote for people we dislike, just to stop people we hate, and continue to watch our chosen Parties defy their promises and lip-service, or we can weather four years of someone we hate to force these two major political parties to pay attention to our opinions, to support the policies we desire.

Third-Party votes count more than any other vote. And the more people vote for third-parties, the more important these votes will become, the more the Republican and Democratic Parties will have to pass policies we actually approve of.

Want to stop the Republicans from taking over the country? Vote for Socialists. Want to stop the Democratic Party from taking over the country? Vote for Libertarians. The people you hate might win elections for a few years, but the politicians who pay lip-service to your opinions will actually have to start following your opinions, and their respective political party will be stronger for it.

In all, there are 37 third-party political platforms. Not all of these participate in national elections, and not all of these are on all ballots in multiple states. Here’s an excellent list at Ballotpedia.org outlining which third-party platforms are in what states.

Take back American Democracy; vote for Third-Party candidates.

Whatever Your Glass May Be

The feeling you get when your tongue is wet

just once or twice

not three times yet,

and the hollow in your chest

it begins to condense, around the point within.

A jittered sensation, anticipation,

in the chest a hollowness begun to expand

to rid of reason, logic, fear and doubt,

the sense of self and all that is man.

Bring fifth and sixth and seventh and tenth,

and into the brain it pushes a dent:

the pour-hole, the spigot, faucet of the soul

pouring itself into a vastness unknown.

Eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, twenty:

the emancipation of the chest’s confines,

the wholeness and freedom and innocence sublime,

of a swirling forever teetering laughing round,

only to find:

the virility electric

desperate to break forth,

dependent on a constant source,

is the soul’s real bind.

Progressive Contradiction

We view the world in polar opposites, sets of two’s set against each other: men and women, white and black, night and day, love and hate, right and left. A person or a thing must be one of these; a thing can never be both polar opposites, or else it would be a contradiction and explode into some inward -8^8 dimension.

I don’t know if that’s an exact theory, but the gist’s correct: it can’t be night and day simultaneously, you can’t have war and peace at the same time, you aren’t going to turn the lights on by turning them off, and you’re not going to have rotten milk that’s fresh.

Therefor, we choose to value one polar-opposite over the other. It is better to be wise, good, and alive, than it is to be dumb, mean, and dead. Be greedy for yourself, or selfless for the masses. You can support Individualism, or you can support Collectivism.

Much of politics is framed around polar-opposition. If you’re against one, you’re for the other: you can be a Republican or a Democrat, Conservative or Liberal. And, if you don’t straight-forwardly identify with either or, you can only describe yourself, and you will only ever be described by others, as being more Red or more Blue.

Which brings me to Progressivism. Generally, Progressivism is a Collectivist ideology – find me a Progressive who disfavors unions, or who vocally supports personal greed at the expense of the community.

In our society, Collectivism is tied-up with Government – Government is of the people, for the people, by the people; Government is a social institution wherein people work together, collectively, for the collective good (ideally, anyway). Progressivism argues for collective government.

Which is where the Progressive Contradiction lies. Because, no matter how democratic a government is, a government is run by individuals. The President will have four years to individually pass whatever Executive Actions the President chooses. The FCC decided, on its own, to enforce Net Neutrality laws; the individuals who run Medicare/Medicaid have decided, on their own, to change the way they reimburse doctors; someone at the Pentagon decided to sell extraneous military equipment to police departments.

Our system of government relies on individuals who act on their own, or, at least in small groups.

Any system of government depends on authority to survive – these people must have authority over these other people. And, once a person is given authority over others, the collective becomes a series of individuals exerting power over other individuals.

Authority is the imposition of this will over another will.

There is nothing Collective about wielding authority over others, no matter how Progressive a policy is.

I’ll pose the argument that the only action that is collective is the action done for others, not to others. It is not collective or progressive to collect taxes, or pass regulation, or to have any government at all. It is only collective to work with others in non-compulsory agreement. It is only progressive to make a lot of money, and give it all to a children’s hospital. The only thing that is collective is cooperative, not authoritative.

I won’t pose the argument that we need to, in any short amount of time, disband all governments and organize into an anarchic society, but I will argue it’s where we should be heading, however slowly. All we need to do is stop quiveling about authority; instead, selflessly dedicate our time and efforts to others.

 

 

Free Trade And Wall Street

NPR covered free-trade deals today on On Point.

Some basic facts were established – our trade-deficits with China, Japan, Mexico, and everyone else are staggering; our exports with Mexico have grown tremendously while also strengthening Mexico’s economy, which helps stabilizes Mexico; China, Japan, and a few other countries offer foreign companies heavy subsidies to manufacture in their own countries, and also that China happens to require several big-name corporations like Intel and Boeing to share their technologies with the Chinese government; these countries will even build factories for these companies (Hey! Here’s a free manufacturing plant! Come abuse our poorest citizens!) – and that the WTO has also set the precedent (copied in NAFTA and TPP) of allowing corporations to petition tribunal courts that are allowed to require governments to change their laws: if a company feels that Cambodia’s government is breaking the free-trade pact by passing too-strict of regulations, the company can literally take the Cambodian government to court.

The guest who was for free-trade deals such as NAFTA, the TPP, and the WTO, blamed our Houdini middle-class (where’d he go?) on a lack of education and infrastructure.

The other guy kept mentioning how these free-trade deals are always so favored by Democrats, like The Clintons and The Obama, but also by both The Bushes. He said special interests have been driving these trade pacts because they allow these companies to circumvent wage laws, environmental regulations, etc.. Then he finally came out and said it’s because of businesses like CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan – all of whom, as the guest points out, funded both The Clintons and The Bushes and The Obama – that we have these horrible trade-pacts, because they’re the ones saying what should go into these pacts.

Master of an empire bigger than most nations.

That’s the craziest conspiracy theory I ever heard of! Wall Street commandeering both parties to establish word-wide trade-zones which they themselves dominate! Egregious accusation!

 

Get rid of the damn free-trade deals. Of course The Kings of Wall Street manipulate both parties, and write our free-trade pacts. We can replace them with tariff agreements – hey man, you lower yours, we’ll lower ours, deal? Tariff agreements, without China building factories and staffing them with unpaid slaves for US companies to go ravage.

Who knows? Maybe GM, after getting a bailout, will move its factories back to the US!

 

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