Reckoning with the American future

I’m about to post up some videos in the next entry and want to give a little background on myself before doing so.

To begin with, the topics he discusses in these videos aren’t entirely a new inquiry for me. Just that I’ve been trying to turn my back on it for a few years now, distracting myself with other matters. Because I don’t know what to do or how to act in the face of that reality presented.

In my late teens, my ex-husband introduced me to information that solidified my libertarian stance and heightened my distrust of the American government and its federal agencies.

In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck, and I rushed down South to deliver supplies and to check on my people, only to later learn that the National Guard was blocking people from transporting supplies down to Gulfport/Biloxi and New Orleans, saying the Red Cross wasn’t able to handle receiving and distributing those supplies (for some ungodly reason, nevermind that the Red Cross received more donations for that disaster than they did after 9/11!) — and that’s something I learned firsthand from a National Guardsman after trying to transport all the bottled water and food I’d brought for my family that turned out to be unneeded in their town. I waited in line with so many others, some with flatbeds full of supplies, having driven hours with no place around to fuel up, and all of us were turned away and told to take our stuff as far north as Jackson. Even those who brought boats down with the intention of helping rescue people or recover bodies were turned away. And yet, many months later the local, state, and federal government officials still hadn’t been able to greatly improve conditions for people down that way. Two years later the Mississippi coastline still laid in ruins (aside from the casinos which had money to rebuild). Yet they wouldn’t let the people of this country come in and take care of our own. Oh no, couldn’t do that. [To be fair, they did eventually allow church groups to come in and help strip out moldy carpet and furniture for people, which my Papa and aunt participated in.] They could bring Blackwater (renamed Xe and now Academi) in to patrol the streets of New Orleans and aid in confiscating lawfully-owned weapons from the people, basically in an act of Martial Law — that they could do. Guess they didn’t want too many witnesses hanging about while they violated those people’s rights and did a piss-poor job of helping folks.

On a side-note, I’d like to go on record to say FUCK THE RED CROSS. I will never ever again donate to that corrupt organization. They did virtually nothing to help people down there and then had the AUDACITY to decide to pocket the donations they received for that crisis, claiming they’d put it toward “future disasters.” Yeah, right. All I saw them do down there was hand out coffee. Seriously, fuck them.

Then in 2007 I got into something that changed my way of looking at things once again. Don’t want to go into too much detail here right now, but when I got back to town I began intensively researching my government’s activities, spanning back several decades. This consumed a good bit of my attention for 2-3 years. I read everything I could find. Lots and lots of news stories. Read Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which if you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to do so. Sniffed around Alex Jones’ site until I recognized him for the charlatan that he is. Watched Lou Dobbs until he went fruit loops. Delved into the writings of Chris Hedges, a former war correspondent. And I was still attending college until graduating in late 2008, mostly studying Criminal Justice by that point. Even some of my CJ professors were highly critical of what was becoming of American police forces.

Just began looking into damn-near everything I could, and it wound up freaking me out and breaking my heart. Forever changed the way I look at my country and my government and everyone employed in its service. I was already skeptical beforehand, but delving into that abyss spit me out straight-up paranoid. During that time, beginning in 2008, I also became involved in the local peace community to protest the wars.

And then in 2011, I just lost my heart for it all. Walked away. Set it all aside the best I could. Decided to continue doing what I can in my own life to not feed this beast anymore than I had to, and basically just took off going my own way. Left the peace community. Said “fuck politics” and aimed to tune it all out. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

But it fucks with my head to just let the world burn and pretend like I don’t care. I do care. It troubles me everyday whether I want it to or not. I just don’t know what to do. When I try talking to people, as I always have and still sometimes do, they often react like I’m the enemy or crazy or just some misguided rabble-rouser. Even members within the peace community kinda viewed me that way, most of them being liberals prone toward optimistically believing this system can be fixed. Couldn’t relate to my fellow students on these matters, couldn’t relate to feminists on these matters back when I interacted with them, and the few people I can relate to on these issues are basically in the same boat I’m in. We don’t know what to do. So we just go about trying to earn a living and learning what we can and tending to our own lives (and voting, for what little that’s worth anymore). Most of my friends don’t care to think about these things, nor do most of the family members I keep in contact with. My attitudes and views are considered “extreme” because I have no faith that this system can be bolstered indefinitely. And I am frequently called “pessimistic” and a “downer” on account of it. Led me to holing up in my apartment a lot of the time ever since about 2012 (that being one reason among several). I’m tired of being the bad guy and don’t know how to communicate on these matters with people who fiercely refuse to even entertain these notions. My best girlfriend told me back then that the things I talk about “scare” her [though, in fairness, she has taken an initiative since to learn more and to be skeptical, which I’m proud of her for]. Hell, I’m scared too. But people would rather you entertain them and tell them what they want to hear and focus on trifling bullshit that matters not one iota. That’s what most people want, I’ve figured out.

So I stay alone a lot more now and wrestle with these thoughts in my own time. I can talk with my best guyfriend about them, thankfully, but he’s one of the only ones nowadays. Everybody else is consumed with shopping and alternative medicine and playing on Facebook and basically pretending that whatever is wrong with this country isn’t so terribly bad and eventually will sort itself out. So I turned to youtube and my beers and said “fuck it” for the most part. If they don’t care, why should I? Well, because I can’t help but care. This is just my nature to analyze everything that comes my way and to empathize and worry.

I say all of that because I’ve been wrestling inside with my conscience which tells me I’m not doing what I ought to be doing. Not sure what I ought to be doing, but tuning out isn’t it apparently. And I doubt I’m ever going to have any internal peace until I figure out where I ought to be directing my energies. Not interested in movements much anymore though. Found groups to be stifling and fraught with groupthink. And I imagine my little contributions won’t amount to much, but I suppose every little bit helps. So…that’s what I’m reckoning with and brooding over in private these days.

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9 Responses to Reckoning with the American future

  1. Wyrd Smythe says:

    The ugly thing is that this sort of corrupt and repugnant behavior has always been a part of the human experience. Truly, it was “ever thus,” but what makes it different (at least to my eyes) now is the sheer scope and power of human operations these days. The greatest evil way back then had a fairly local effect, both in geography and in time.

    But as our tools became more powerful, and our systems more interdependent and interconnected, our ability to wreak havoc grew and grew. It seems astonishing that we could fuck up the entire planet, but, sure enough, we’re well along the way to doing that (and some feel we’ve passed the tipping point).

    And you’re completely right that it’s unsustainable. Something will happen to upset the apple cart and (to mix metaphors shamelessly) all the blocks will come tumbling down. There really isn’t any “if” anymore… just “when”.

    A disturbing trend I’ve noticed recently is that wealth is isolating and protecting itself more and more. On some weird level, maybe this isn’t entirely egregious… it might insure some survive the coming fall. On the other hand…. damn!

    The trick to sanity, I think, is finding the other things, the positive things in life that give you joy. Some people do it by, as you say, refusing to engage to much on topics that are beyond their control. (And, of course, people will always resent you for forcing them to face topics they know to be true but don’t want to face. My posts about violence in media are the most under-read, under-commented of any of my posts.)

    What’s that prayer about ‘give me the strength to change what I can and courage to deal with what I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference’? Something like that. What else can we do?

    • Byenia says:

      Good comment, Wyrd. And I don’t know what exactly any one of us can do. I just know that I feel like I need to be doing more. It’s been striking me as a spiritual issue by this point, by and large. Because honestly I think it’s gonna suck either way we go from here on out. There’s no way to fix this system, because it’s all gone global and is too complex of a tangled web. The political route is totally corrupted so trying to effect change going through the “proper channels” is a complete waste of time, IMO. But still, I feel the need to reach out in some way to others. It’s something I’m going to have to keep pondering on…

      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        And, of course, we totally should do those things that move us (so long as they are positive and affirming). As you say, the question is what and how.

        I’m reminded of a bit in M*A*S*H (the TV show) where someone (I think it’s Hawkeye), in answer to being told, ‘You can’t fix the world!’ agrees and says he is only trying to make his little corner better, because that is possible. And the more people that do that, the better the world becomes.

        I know a blogger who lives in Canada who is deeply (life’s mission deeply) into charity work. She even started a second blog (her primary being a more traditional personal account blog) devoted to advice for charity organizations — dos and don’ts and other tips. These are based on her years working in such organizations.

        She’s not a ‘big picture’ person at all — not inclined to discuss or write or think about global issues. (She even acknowledges that maybe she sees the world through rose-colored glasses. She’s a hugely upbeat person — almost annoyingly so. Almost. 🙂 ) She just tries to make her little corner better, and she urges others to that path. That seems to be a way to be as engaged as you can stand without losing your sanity, and it seems to offer a path where one can do some visible good.

        Some seem to feel “raising awareness” is a worthwhile pursuit, but I’ve never been too sure it doesn’t just give the participants a “feel good” feeling that they’re “doing something.” There’s an old saying about leading horses to water.

        But who knows. My awareness has been expanded over the years by the efforts of others, but more by books and serious writings and studies (my own and others). I’m still pretty sure posting a comment on Facebook isn’t enough. 🙂

        • Byenia says:

          Yup. Agreed. 🙂 Still sweeping my own corner and trying to figure out how to expand that in a way that might just maybe console my conscience for a while. Expiating guilt can be hellacious. Just trying to still figure out where to go from here. Gotta be able to live with the results too, so I keep taking my time, allowing for pondering since I remain unsure.

          • Wyrd Smythe says:

            I understand. One can end up trying to balance regrets for not doing something with regrets over doing the wrong thing. I tend (and maybe it’s a guy thing to rush into things) to error on the side of the latter. I used to have a sign in my cube with a quote from Thomas Watson, Jr., former CEO of IBM (the one who coined the simple slogan: THINK!). The quote was:

            The worst possible thing…was to lie dead in the water with any problem. Solve it, solve it quickly…If you solved it wrong, it would come back and slap you in the face, and then you could solve it right.

            I also tend to agree with the thing about forgiveness being easier to get than permission. That doesn’t really apply here, but — again — the idea of not sitting still waiting for the exact right answer.

            There is also that it can be hard to figure out if a thing is right unless, and until, you get in there and try it. Things are different from the inside than from the outside. I’ve had it work both ways. Something that felt right turned out to feel wrong once I tried it. And vice versa.

            You love animals… would volunteering helping them be something worth your while, or would that not address human needs sufficiently? In my case, I don’t much care about humans that much, but I have thought about giving time to the local animal shelter.

            • Byenia says:

              Hey Wyrd,

              Nah, not interested in volunteering with animals since I spend so much time around them as is.

              Let me see if I can explain my own conundrum. I recognize that involvement in political movements isn’t my bag, having figured that out through past trial and error (useful as that insight proved to be). And I’ve pretty much lost faith in the “proper channels” in this country, plus relinquished the dream to expatriate. So this leaves me with a very local focus. And it’s great to hone in there since I’ve eliminated other avenues of activism.

              But then I run into the second issue of not being much of a team player and preferring to deal with people one on one when I must be in social situations. So that winds up reducing down the options for local activism since I’ve come to find dealing with most strangers so draining. I can donate money to groups, and I can show up at the occasional protest rally, but hanging out with these people on a regular basis in person just isn’t something I’m up for at this juncture.

              So that brings the focus down even narrower, to my own direct sphere of influence and friends, and that’s where I’ve been focusing a lot of my attention for a couple of years now. Which is good. I personally think that’s the best place to turn toward right about now, especially for me. And that involves a lot of introspection and pondering, as well as considering how I’m impacting my people, for better or worse. That strikes me as worthwhile, though one can turn that into navel-gazing quite easily and wind up stuck in circular analyzing to where it can be self-defeating. To cure that a bit, I read to bring in new information to break out of that cycle. But even there, productive as that feels on a personal level, it leaves me feeling like I’m not doing much to impact any of these macro issues. And that leads to a good measure of guilt. But there again I go back to the futility of trying to do much in the way of constructive activism through the “proper channels” or through becoming involved in large group movements. So, it winds up feeling like a catch-22 where I realize the sphere where I have the ultimate amount of power to change happens to be on such a small scale that it isn’t likely to make any real difference outside of that immediate level of impact.

              But then again, I try to remind myself of the butterfly effect and the importance of sweeping one’s own porch and living in accordance with what one preaches. So, maybe it isn’t futile, despite feeling so. And probably the reason why I feel it is so futile is precisely because I’ve come up surrounded by so much pressure to become involved in big groups working toward “progressive” change. Otherwise you’re dismissed as a schmuck who cares about nothing beyond yourself. And that’s likely just propaganda talking there.

              Then there’s this sense that not much really can be done on the macro level right about now. We’re too deep into it, too entrenched, too dependent on the current setup, as a nation and a culture. Just feels selfish though to throw one’s hands in the air. So I flip back and forth and wrestle with my position on the matter, not wishing to decline into full-blown nihilism.

              So, I guess in one sense I know what I need to do and am working at that, slowly but surely, but just am not content with my personal progress and am tortured by the notion that we’re going down regardless by this point in time. Maybe it’s an unwillingness to accept the current situation in its entirety, and maybe it’s a feud against my own wishful thinking. Just trying to hold onto the fight, for whatever reason, and feeling guilty about descending into entertaining myself to death along with the rest of the herd. But one can care and speak up and interact with others and share stories and see if that has any impact. Beyond that, I just don’t feel like I have a dog in that fight anymore. And I guess I feel kinda bad about that, wanting to be of service while at the same time wishing to stay in my own little corner of the world and away from the lunatic masses.

              I can understand the need to jump in and take some sort of action, but I can also understand the hesitance to do so in fear of making things worse. And that whole conundrum literally wears me out emotionally and intellectually. Every analysis I conduct leads back around in a circle or a downward spiral to where I just don’t see a way out, not politically speaking anyway. My dreams are obsolete and were long before I was born.

              So apparently it comes down to the Serenity Prayer…learning acceptance for that which I don’t have the power to change and focusing on what little I can. Just feels so trifling compared against the big picture, but perhaps that’s how it can feel for anyone. Doesn’t mean such localized or personal action is meaningless despite its seeming insignificance compared up against mass movements and whatnot. I think we’ve been fed so much topsy-turvy “logic” to where what’s real seems inadequate and where we feel pressured into pursuing lofty ideals. But I have no energy for such ideals. They strike me more and more as being distractions in their own right.

              And so I return to my pondering…and this is likely where I’ll stay. Gotta make peace with that somehow apparently.

  2. Wyrd Smythe says:

    Heya B. I wondered if working with animals might be too much more of the same for you. I can appreciate the sentiment. It sounds like you’ve very thoroughly explored the parameters of your situation, and I think your final sentence really sums it up exactly.


    Just feels selfish though to throw one’s hands in the air.

    Maybe, but what is the alternative? As your own analysis determines, at this point, it kind of comes down to “saving yourself” so to speak. Or at least finding a way to be okay with your own life. From what I know, you do a lot more than most people even think of doing!

    • Byenia says:

      Hello again Wyrd,

      I’ve been working with animals for nearly 7 years now, and typically 7 days a week. Didn’t take off any time in 2014 and will not be able to this late in the year. And that’s fine. Had a lot going on there. This summer was the hardest in terms of aging or sick pets passing on, and one I’ve been caring for since 2008 was put down yesterday due to complications arising from lymphoma. Sad situation. Don’t think I can add much more of that without creating a complete imbalance in my heart and mind. When I’m not at work, I tend to focus on humans and ideas, just to maintain some sort of equilibrium. Which probably all makes sense to you.

      Isn’t it funny how guilty we’re encouraged to feel for being “selfish”? But sometimes centering on the self and those in close proximity is the best thing we probably can do. I come online and see so many folks wanting to work toward major changes to overhaul society, and I can totally relate with the sentiments involved…but my own moral leanings tell me to leave this system alone so much as I’m able, that true remedies cannot come through it, not as it stands today. It appears to me too far gone, so I’m left with this nagging feeling that the best I can do is love my people and learn to be better toward myself too in preparation for whatever is to come. Because I lack the power to do anything about all of that. It’s too big. And sometimes, admittedly, that scares me. But I’m trying to learn to be stronger so that I can provide support to my people since I know some of them are scared too. Either way, we have one life to live (so far as we’re aware), and I don’t expect to be around 30 years on down the road. But we can try to make the best of what we have in the meantime, and perhaps that’s all we really can do. I don’t know.

      But I have appreciated your conversation over time. Thanks for the support. And I hope you’re still doing okay. Saw a couple posts you had up about sports not too long ago. If nothing else, we can be grateful for the blessing of beer! LOL It’s going to be okay, either way. Or at least life is going to do whatever it’s going to do. Being too worried about it probably doesn’t do a lick of good.

      • Wyrd Smythe says:

        Exactly so. An analogy to the need for — at least occasional — “selfishness” is how adults on airplanes are instructed to put their oxygen mask on first before dealing with their children. Obviously this insures they remain conscious and capable of protecting their children.

        The danger in selfishness, as self-aware people fear, is that it can seem a slippery slope to self-centric thinking. As with most things in life, especially the powerful ones, balance and self-awareness and self-checking, are key.

        I have a buddy with a tee-shirt that reads, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. ~Ben Franklin” In point of fact, what Ben said is more intricate, and about grapes and wine, but the sentiment is the same. I’ve often wondered about things such as barley (which has very interesting properties that make it perfect for beer) and yeast beasts that piss alcohol and marijuana and certain mushrooms or cactus buttons. Gifts from god or just happy coincidence? [shrug]

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