“Alain de Botton: Status Anxiety”

Food for thought for the evening:

Naomi Klein on Latin America, particularly Venezuela (2007)

Today I’d like to transcribe portions from Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007). The reason being that I was introduced to this book by a close friend back in 2008 during my more “radical” years which involved both feminism and my 4-year stint volunteering within the local peace community (i.e. Left-leaning political circles). Libertarian-leaning as I’ve always been, still I too was attracted to various messages advanced by the Political Left during my 20s, so here’s one example of information I was presented with back then.

Beginning on page 446:

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Despite the attempts of everyone from Pinochet to Cavallo to Berezovsky to Black to portray himself as a victim of baseless political persecution, this list, by no means complete, represents a radical departure from the neoliberal creation myth. The economic crusade managed to cling to a veneer of respectability and lawfulness as it progressed. Now that veneer was being very publicly stripped away to reveal a system of gross wealth inequalities, often opened with the aid of grotesque criminality.

Besides legal trouble, there was another cloud on the horizon. The effects of the shocks that had been so integral to creating the illusion of ideological consensus were beginning to wear off. Rodolfo Walsh, another early casualty, had regarded the Chicago School ascendancy in Argentina as a setback, not a lasting defeat. The terror tactics used by the junta had put his country into a state of shock, but Walsh knew that shock, by its very nature, is a temporary state. Before he was gunned down on the streets of Buenos Aires, Walsh estimated that it would take twenty to thirty years until the effects of the terror receded and Argentines regained their footing, courage and confidence, ready once again to fight for economic and social equity. It was in 2001, twenty-four years later, that Argentina erupted in protest against IMF-prescribed austerity measures and then proceeded to force out five presidents in only three weeks.

I was living in Buenos Aires in that period, and people kept exclaiming, “The dictatorship just ended!” At the time I didn’t understand the meaning behind the jubilation, since the dictatorship had been over for seventeen years. Now I think I do: the state of shock had finally worn off, just as Walsh had predicted.

In the years since, that wide-awake shock resistance has spread to many other former shock labs—Chile, Bolivia, China, Lebanon. And as people shed the collective fear that was first instilled with tanks and cattle prods, with sudden flights of capital and brutal cutbacks, many are demanding more democracy and more control over markets. These demands represent the greatest threat of all to Friedman’s legacy because they challenge his most central claim: that capitalism and freedom are part of the same indivisible project.

The Bush administration remains so committed to perpetuating this false union that, in 2002, it embedded it in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America. “The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise.” This assertion, made with the full force of the U.S. military arsenal behind it, was not enough to hold back the tide of citizens using their various freedoms to reject free-market orthodoxy—even in the United States. As a headline in the Miami Herald after the 2006 midterm elections put it, “Democrats won big by opposing free-trade agreements.” A New York Times/CBS poll a few months later found that 64 percent of U.S. citizens believed the government should guarantee health care coverage to all and “showed a striking willingness . . . to make tradeoffs” to achieve that goal, including paying up to $500 a year more in taxes.

On the international stage, the staunchest opponents of neoliberal economics were winning election after election. The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, running on a platform of “21st Century Socialism,” was re-elected in 2006 for a third term with 63 percent of the vote. Despite attempts by the Bush administration to paint Venezuela as a pseudodemocracy, a poll that same year recorded that 57 percent of Venezuelans were happy with the state of their democracy, an approval rating on the continent second only to Uruguay’s, where the left-wing coalition party Frente Amplio had been elected to government and where a series of referendums had blocked major privatizations. In other words, in the two Latin American states where voting had resulted in real challenges to the Washington Consensus, citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives. In stark contrast to this enthusiasm, in countries where economic policies remain largely unchanged regardless of the promises made during election campaigns, polls consistently track and eroding faith in democracy, reflected in dwindling turnout for elections, deep cynicism toward politicians and a rise in religious fundamentalism.

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Pausing there on page 448 and picking back up again on page 453:

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In December 2006, a month after Friedman’s death, Latin America’s leaders gathered for a historic summit in Bolivia, held in the city of Cochabamba, where a popular uprising against water privatization had forced Bechtel out of the country several years earlier. Morales began the proceedings with a vow to close “the open veins of Latin America.” It was a reference to Eduardo Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, a lyrical accounting of the violent plunder that had turned a rich continent into a poor one. The book was first published in 1971, two years before Allende was overthrown for daring to try to close those open veins by nationalizing his country’s copper mines. That event ushered in a new era of furious pillage, during which the structures built by the continent’s developmentalist movements were sacked, stripped and sold off.

Today Latin Americans are picking up the project that was brutally interrupted all those years ago. Many of the policies cropping up are familiar: nationalization of key sectors of the economy, land reform, major new investments in education, literacy and health care. These are not revolutionary ideas, but in their unapologetic vision of a government that helps reach for equality, they are certainly a rebuke to Friedman’s 1975 assertion to Pinochet that “the major error, in my opinion, was . . . to believe that it is possible to do good with other people’s money.”

Though clearly drawing on a long militant history, Latin America’s contemporary movements are not direct replicas of their predecessors. Of all the differences, the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for protection from the shocks of the past—the coups, the foreign shock therapists, the U.S.-trained torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency collapses of the eighties and nineties. Latin America’s mass movements, which have powered the wave of election victories for the left-wing candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers into their organizing models. They are, for example, less centralized than in the sixties, making it harder to demobilize whole movements by eliminating a few leaders. Despite the overwhelming cult of personality surrounding Chavez, and his moves to centralize power at the state level, the progressive networks in Venezuela are at the same time highly decentralized, with power dispersed at the grass roots and community level, through thousands of neighborhood councils and co-ops. In Bolivia, the indigenous people’s movements that put Morales in office function similarly and have made it clear that Morales does not have their unconditional support: the barrios will back him as long as he stays true to his democratic mandate, and not a moment longer. This kind of network approach is what allowed Chavez to survive the 2002 coup attempt: when their revolution was threatened, his supporters poured down from the shantytowns surrounding Caracas to demand his reinstatement, a kind of popular mobilization that did not happen during the coups of the seventies.

Latin America’s new leaders are also taking bold measures to block any future U.S.-backed coups that could attempt to undermine their democratic victories. The governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina and Uruguay have all announced that they will no longer send students to the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation)—the infamous police and military training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many of the continent’s notorious killers learned the latest in “counterterrorism” techniques, then promptly directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina. Bolivia looks set to cut its ties with the school, as does Ecuador. Chavez has let it be known that if an extremist right-wing element in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province makes good on its threats against the government of Evo Morales, Venezuelan troops will help defend Bolivia’s democracy. Rafael Correa is set to take the most radical step of all. The Ecuadorean port city of Manta currently hosts the largest U.S. military base in South America, which serves as a staging area for the “war on drugs,” largely fought in Colombia. Correa’s government has announced that when the agreement for the base expires in 2009, it will not be renewed. “Ecuador is a sovereign nation,” said the minister of foreign relations, Maria Fernanda Espinosa. “We do not need any foreign troops in our country.” If the U.S. military does not have bases or training programs, its power to inflict shocks will be greatly eroded.

The new leaders in Latin America are also becoming better prepared for the kinds of shocks inflicted by volatile markets. One of the most destabilizing forces of recent decades has been the speed with which capital can pick up and move, or how a sudden drop in commodity prices can devastate an entire agricultural sector. But in much of Latin America these shocks have already happened, leaving behind ghostly industrial suburbs and huge stretches of fallow farmland. The task of the region’s new left, therefore, has become a matter of taking the detritus of globalization and putting it back to work. In Brazil, the phenomenon is best seen in the million and a half farmers of the Landless People Movement (MST) who have formed hundreds of cooperatives to reclaim unused land. In Argentina, it is clearest in the movement of “recovered companies,” two hundred bankrupt businesses that have been resuscitated by their workers, who have turned them into democratically run cooperatives. For the cooperatives, there is no fear of facing an economic shock of investors leaving, because the investors have already left. In a way, the reclamation experiments are a new kind of post-disaster reconstruction—reconstruction from the slow-motion disaster of neoliberalism. In sharp contrast to the model offered by the disaster capitalism complex in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast, the leaders of Latin America’s rebuilding efforts are the people most affected by the devastation. And unsurprisingly, their spontaneous solutions look very much like the real third way that had been so effectively shocked out of the way by the Chicago School campaign around the world—democracy in daily life.

In Venezuela, Chavez has made the co-ops a top political priority, giving them first refusal on government contracts and offering them economic incentives to trade with one another. By 2006, there were roughly 100,000 cooperatives in the country, employing more than 700,000 workers. Many are pieces of state infrastructure—toll booths, highway maintenance, health clinics—handed over to the communities to run. It’s a reverse of the logic of large corporations and losing democratic control, the people who use the resources are given the power to manage them, creating, at least in theory, both jobs and more responsive public services. Chavez’s many critics have derided these initiatives as handouts and unfair subsidies, of course. Yet in an era when Halliburton treats the U.S. government as its personal ATM for six years, withdraws upward of $20 billion in Iraq contracts alone, refuses to hire local workers either on the Gulf Coast or in Iraq, then expresses its gratitude to U.S. taxpayers by moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai (with all the attendant tax and legal benefits), Chavez’s direct subsidies to regular people look significantly less radical.

Latin America’s most significant protection from future shocks (and therefore from the shock doctrine) flows from the continent’s emerging independence from Washington’s financial institutions, the result of greater integration among regional governments. The Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is the continent’s retort to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the now buried corporatist dream of a free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Though ALBA is still in its early stages, Emir Sader, the Brazil-based sociologist, describes its promise as “a perfect example of genuinely fair trade: each country provides what it is best placed to produce, in return for what it most needs, independent of global market prices.” So Bolivia provides gas at stable discounted prices; Venezuela offers heavily subsidized oil to poorer countries and shares expertise in developing reserves; and Cuba sends thousands of doctors to deliver free health care all over the continent, while training students from other countries at its medical schools. This is a very different model from the kind of academic exchange that began at the University of Chicago in the mid-fifties, when Latin American students learned a single rigid ideology and were sent home to impose it with uniformity across the continent. The major benefit is that ALBA is essentially a barter system, in which countries decide for themselves what any given commodity or service is worth, rather than letting traders in New York, Chicago or London set the prices for them. That makes trade far less vulnerable to the kind of sudden price fluctuations that devastated Latin American economies in the past. Surrounded by turbulent financial waters, Latin America is creating a zone of relative economic calm and predictability, a feat presumed impossible in the globalization era.

When one country does face a financial shortfall, this increased integration means that it does not need to turn to the IMF or the U.S. Treasury for a bailout. That’s fortunate because the 2006 U.S. National Security Strategy makes it clear that for Washington, the shock doctrine is still very much alive: “If crises occur, the IMF’s response must reinforce each country’s responsibility for its own economic choices,” the document states. “A refocused IMF will strengthen market institutions and market discipline over financial decisions.” This kind of “market discipline” can only be enforced if governments actually go to Washington for help—as Stanley Fischer explained during the Asian financial crisis, the IMF can help only if it is asked, “but when [a country is] out of money, it hasn’t got many places to turn.” That is no longer the case. Thanks to high oil prices, Venezuela has emerged as a major lender to other developing countries, allowing them to do an end run around Washington.

The results have been dramatic. Brazil, so long shackled to Washington by its enormous debt, is refusing to enter into a new agreement with the IMF. Nicaragua is negotiating to quit the fund, Venezuela has withdrawn from both the IMF and the World Bank, and even Argentina, Washington’s former “model pupil,” has been part of the trend. In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Nestor Kirchner said that the country’s foreign creditors had told him,” “‘You must have an agreement with the International Fund to be able to pay the debt.’ We say to them, ‘Sirs, we are sovereign. We want to pay the debt, but no way in hell are we going to make an agreement again with the IMF.'” As a result, the IMF, supremely powerful in the eighties and nineties, is no longer a force on the continent. In 2005, Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio; in 2007, the continent represented just 1 percent—a sea change in only two years. “There is life after the IMF,” Kirchner declared, “and it’s a good life.”

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Stopping on page 457.

My thoughts follow. To start off with, I continue to have mixed feelings over such material, more so now than ever before, because I do take issue with the policies of the IMF and am aware and critical of Big Corporate excesses. There remains truth in concerns over externalized costs and the ongoing pursuit of cheap labor and cheap resources extracted from nations where few alternatives are available. One could argue, as my stepdad and others do, that these examples of corporate outsourcing for production of products brings much-needed money to these communities and provides more opportunities than they otherwise would have. Yes, but what is to become of them when these plants up and leave, headed for other locations where even cheaper labor pools and/or resources can be had? Appears to leave economic devastation in their wake, which we can also see in the U.S. where communities depended on businesses that moved their operations to China or Mexico (as occurred in my own hometown down South). Sufficient alternatives don’t tend to spring up in the vacuum left behind, leading to a rise in economic and social problems in those areas, which can then turn political. I remain perplexed over what can be done about this, though I grasp that simply shrugging our shoulders and expecting people to make do with what little is left isn’t much of an answer. But neither is trying to implement a communistic/socialistic model instead since that too will prove unstable, and likely even more so.

This conundrum has left me frustrated since either way we turn it appears we’re damned. Though capitalism offers the most promise out of the modern models we’re presented with, corporatism that has arisen out of it is proving extremely alienating and inhuman. As in it forces humans to adapt to it, yet it cannot adapt to serve the needs of humans. Globalized corporatism adheres to a different set of values than do most human beings, which then stokes strife that often enough does result in political upheaval on down the road. Somehow this matter must be addressed, yet neither leaders on the political Left or Right are willing (or able) to do so. What Naomi Klein refers to as “neoliberalism” is often enough used interchangeably with the term “neoconservatism” and is embraced by both major political parties in the U.S. For whatever differences may be ascribed to these two terms, what they each fundamentally share in common is political fusion with global (multinational) corporate and banking agendas. And it’s that unto itself a lot of us out here continue to take issue with.

Now, was Naomi Klein’s book biased? Yes it was. She put her own political spin on events based on her Leftist political outlook. Certainly can’t claim her to be politically neutral, independent, or nonpartisan in her delivery there. And I understand that nowadays in a way I didn’t 10 years ago. Everybody’s got an agenda, or so it seems. So let’s look at a current news stories on how Venezuela is faring these days.

An article from The Guardian (Jan. 21, 2018) titled “‘We loot or we die of hunger’: food shortages fuel unrest in Venezuela“:

Angry about empty supermarket shelves and soaring prices, some people are breaking into warehouses, ransacking food trucks and invading outlying farms.

During the first 11 days of January the Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict, a Caracas rights group, recorded 107 episodes of looting and several deaths in 19 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

[…]

There have been previous incidents of looting but analysts fear that the current wave could linger amid the Venezuela’s economic freefall.

President Nicolás Maduro blames the country’s woes on an “economic war” against his government by rightwingers and foreign interests.

But his critics say his government has disrupted domestic food production by expropriating farms and factories. Meanwhile, price controls designed to make food more widely available to poorer people have had the opposite effect: many prices have been set below the cost of production, forcing food producers out of business.

Meanwhile the government has less cash to import food because of its mismanagement of the oil sector, where production has fallen to a 29-year low. Hyperinflation and the collapse of the currency have put the prices of foodstuffs available on the black market beyond the reach of many families.

But rather than reforming the economy, the government has resorted to handouts and far-fetched schemes.

So somewhere along the way that experiment obviously failed, and within a mere decade of when Naomi Klein’s book hit shelves. What are we to make of this? Seems to me that while relying on the IMF indeed proved problematic, so did switching over instead to a socialist scheme.

To be delved in deeper at a later date…

“Bret and Eric Weinstein, Brothers Together at Last”

On the Rubin Report:

Monday evening journaling in frigid February

Had a snowstorm today that caused half of my appointments to be cancelled. So go winters in the Midwest. Wound up taking me over 3 hours to go where I needed to, dodging around all the cars spinning their tires in the middle of the road or in snowbanks along the side. Didn’t have my snow shovel on me so I couldn’t be of much use to any of them. Pretty dangerous to get out and try to push vehicles since other cars can slide on the snow and ice and wind up running into you. That actually happened to my second cousin decades ago, though not due to snow — he was just trying to help someone push their car that died when another car rounded the bend and struck him, pinning his leg and resulting in it having to be amputated. Tragic accident. Makes one think carefully about offering help to vehicles stuck in the middle of the road (most especially at night and on a winding country road as in his case).

Another tragic accident: I knew a girl several years back whose aunt and uncle were traveling up north after I believe coming down to attend a funeral. Icy conditions led to several cars piling up on the freeway, including theirs. Her aunt was injured so her uncle exited the car to go around to her side to try to help her, and that’s when another car slid into him. Killed him.

In short, these are reasons why I don’t play in traffic, especially in dangerous weather conditions. People up here who’ve lived here all their lives ought to have the sense to put snow tires on their vehicles. Helps tremendously. Hence why I never get stuck anymore. Used to get stuck all over town, having to shovel myself out everywhere I went. But no more. Now I cruise around the rest who are spinning in place and go about my business. I occasionally stop to try to help, but they better be in dire straits (because of examples outlined above). Taking a big risk exiting your vehicle on roadways on days like today. Was a clusterfuck all around town. Cars in the ditch every few blocks. You would think people who didn’t absolutely have to come out in such conditions would’ve stayed their tails at home, but alas, no. For some reason the roads were completely packed, seemingly more than usual even. And I’m not aware of any event going on to draw so many out.

Anyway, I headed home as soon as I could, leaving them to their demolition derby. Been inside since the afternoon, keeping warm. Cooked a spaghetti bake dinner that turned out well. Lots of garlic and also added zucchini to it, served with a side of green beans. Took a nice bubble bath and then trimmed my hair, all while listening to Eric and Bret Weinstein chatting on the Rubin Report.

Sipping coffee now and preparing my nails for re-polishing. Just trying to take it easy these days, still adjusting to the shifts in my personal life. Haven’t spoken to Former in a week, nor have either of us attempted to reach out to one another. And that’s good. It’s for the best.

Did stop by that local bar last night where I had my issues over a week back. Wanted to apologize to the bartender lady in case I acted a fool. Can’t remember, but I assumed I had. But she said no, that I actually wasn’t the problem that night. That real-life troll asshole I can’t stand started lacing into me, calling me every name in the book once he got past a certain level of drunkenness, and she tried checking him. I recall none of it since I had a lot to drink that evening (hence why I quit drinking and am back on the wagon ever since — that night being outside of my new norm). Was good to know that I wasn’t a problem child in there though. She said she and I had been outside smoking cigarettes and that as soon as we stepped back inside he just went off on me. Sounds like the douche. He’s a real thorn in my ass and has been for over a year now. Just a super insecure older guy who can’t stand to be ignored, and I have absolutely no time for him. I ignore and avoid him, and that apparently just irritates the hell out of him until he’s too fubar to not share his thoughts with the room. Hence why I avoid him. He’s a shitty drunk who’s a dumb jerk normally with nothing going for him except superficial charm. Treats his ex-girlfriend the same way in there, and I now hear he’s taken to lacing into a few other women the same way. Short guy with a bad attitude who surely wouldn’t run his mouth like that to another man, but he’ll talk big shit to women. Ugh.

Anyway, I was just in there for an orange juice and to clear the air with her. And he wasn’t there yesterday so it all went fine. Had run into another bartender lady who works there at a separate lounge I was at with a galpal the day before, and she alerted me that the rumor mill informed her that he and I had a fight that night. Like I said, I don’t remember it. And when she approached me, after having heard about the ordeal secondhand, she let me know I was welcome back in there and that she wouldn’t let him talk that shit while she’s working, which was nice of her. He’s such a permanent fixture in that place to where I rarely go in anymore (maybe only 2-3 times since I quit drinking last summer). Not interested in being harassed for no reason by a guy holding a grudge over god knows what. He was a dick to me back in the day, so I learned to leave him alone. I quit even being cordial because he kept being verbally abusive toward me, though that has continued regardless. Why? Because he’s a major alcoholic with problems in his life, all of which he created but won’t face. And I know all about his problems, so he probably doesn’t like me around since I serve as a reminder of someone who knows what a loser he actually is. Doesn’t matter that I’m silent toward him and let him be — he can’t let me be. Why would a 52-year-old man behave like that? I assume because his life is just that empty and pointless. Otherwise he wouldn’t sit up in the bar half the day, everyday, wasting money he doesn’t have, further wrecking his already-declining health, berating women who don’t want to talk to him.

There’s a little bit of history there dating back about 1.5 years. Made the mistake of hanging out with the guy for about a month or so in the summer of 2016. Worst decision I made. But I was lonely at the time and my former partner was trying to date other people, so I went with it. And in short order it didn’t work out. He and I had absolutely nothing in common besides drinking, and as already stated he’s a really shitty drunk once past a certain point. Truly am embarrassed I ever gave that man the time of day back then. But, on the upside, one good thing about meeting him is he has served as a potent cautionary tale on what not to become. As in, if you kept drinking like you did you risked becoming someone like that over time. And that’s all he is to me anymore and all he has been since we parted ways over a year back — an example of what not to do.

So I ignore him if I see him. For whatever reason he can’t stand that, so I tend to steer clear of that establishment since I’m not fond of being yelled at and called a whore and a slut just for being in the vicinity when he’s had a few too many.

Thankfully most drunks aren’t that bad. Or else I would’ve given up on bars long ago. My goal in life at this point is to be the opposite of that guy.

Anyway, mentioned I met with a galpal a couple days ago. She texted me on Friday so we met on Saturday and had dinner. Caught up on what’s been going on and have plans to start mall-walking again beginning next week. She struggles with her weight and wants to start working on getting it down again, and I can always use more exercise myself. That will give us each something to do a couple evenings a week. Will be good for me to get out more. Still haven’t returned to the gym yet. Difficult to feel up to it when it’s this cold and snowy out. But soon enough…

Played cards with a couple other ladies on Sunday afternoon at a coffee house. Learned the card game Golf for the first time. Was fun.

Planning on attending a meetup group this Sunday. Believe it’s an atheist luncheon. Might as well. Probably good for me to get out and try to socialize with new people instead of spending so much time in this apartment. Winters here can be pretty isolating, especially when you’re trying to change your lifestyle and aren’t exactly sure where new to go.

Am planning to re-listen to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations in audio format while out and about this week. Will also be ordering new audiobooks in a couple of days, though not sure which ones yet. Considering checking out Murray Stein’s Jung’s Map of the Soul since there’s a local discussion group that’s reading it and meeting at the library once a month. Also contemplating getting Noah Levine’s Dharma Punx.

A glimpse into Stephen King

Another lazy evening perusing on Twitter and Youtube, taking it easy. It’s cold as hell outside, and there’s nowhere to be until tomorrow. Sipping seltzer water like usual, watching the wheels go ’round and ’round. Which I need to do. Polished my nails. Re-watched one of Kevin Hart’s comedy specials (after first watching Dr. Jordan Peterson’s latest appearance on Joe Rogan’s channel). Baked brownies last night and handed them off to my neighbors this morning. Hopefully they like their new home. Liked having them as neighbors.

The gossip of the day: Stephen King came out typing shit about “karma” in regards to that train full of Republicans crashing into a garbage truck in Virginia. Killed the man in the truck who one source claims was 28 years old. Seriously injured another person. Sad state of affairs there, and then King wants to be crass about it. Pretty harsh, man. Especially coming from a guy who himself was run over by a van years back. Heard all about it in his memoir On Writing, purchased a year or so ago. Followed that with his book The Running Man, which I really liked (leading us to rent the film by the same title which turned out nothing like the book and sucked). Re-watched part of the movie Misery around Christmas time and even went to the theater with a friend a while back to see the new rendition of the movie It (which we didn’t care for, though I remember the original being terrifying back in the day). Grew up reading his books, from Cujo to Gerald’s Game, and watching a few movies based on his books.

So I’ve had Stephen King on my mind from time to time. Moved on to books by other authors (mostly nonfiction) for much of my adult years until randomly stumbling across his book Desperation at Walmart during my last visit to Mississippi in 2016. Proved entertaining enough.

No question that he’s a talented author, but I’ve never been a fan of his politics.

On a slight side-note, I recall watching a talk between King and John Grisham a year or more back where King’s demeanor struck me as kinda off-putting:

Is it my imagination or does the man ooze with a sense of superiority? Snooty and goofy, if you ask me.

Anyway, knowing what I know by now, it really shouldn’t surprise me that Stephen King would pop off a tweet like that.

That’s Stephen King in the raw. Can admire his craft but still think his personality sucks. Stuck in his own bubble.

Sad what political ideologies can do to people. Makes one wonder who a person might’ve otherwise been had they not gotten drunk on the asshole kool-aid.

“Joe Rogan Experience #1070 – Jordan Peterson”

What I’m listening to tonight:

Hello darkness, my old friend…

Come to find out, Twitter can be bad for the soul. Only started checking it more regularly in recent months, previously barely caring about the platform. Didn’t have much use for it other than as a place to store articles and links. But now I check the feed typically daily and scan through all the political grandstanding. Ideologies gone wild. Some are completely in love with Trump, while others entirely despise him. Then they foam at the mouth at one another and get worked up into a tizzy. Rinse and repeat day after day.

Feels like watching a bunch of handicapped weirdos attempting to compete with one another. Which in that sense is kind of nice since it helps me to feel more “normal” by comparison.  lol

Then again, sanity is fast becoming a rare luxury — or curse, depending on how you experience it. What’s that quote about how it’s no testament of health to be well-adapted to a profoundly sick society?

That’s the one. Krishnamurti said it.

It’s like living within a clown car, or a clown bus. Everybody’s at each other’s throats, looking for reasons to get offended or trying to get a humorous slam in. We’re going to meme ourselves to death on such platforms.

Was talking to a friend earlier today on the topic of U.S. politics and how people are losing their shit over Trump every stinking day since he took office. My friend has been tuning out the news for the most part, but he too considers Trump to be batshit insane. Okay. Well, I’m not interested in defending the man. Just strikes me as kind of funny since I can’t see how Hillary Clinton (or Bill too, for that matter) or Obama or 75% of Congress are any better. It’s one big fucking circus. And if you’re still buying into the Left/Right paradigm and believe one party or the other has your best interest at heart, you’re a naive and/or willfully blind fool. That’s my position and it has been for a long time now. Can’t shake my distrust of either side, especially knowing that each “team” received the same Big Corporate backing, meaning they’re serving the same masters.

Apparently it’s difficult for most people to accept that our politicians don’t give a damn about us. But they don’t. And once voter fraud becomes less detectable they won’t even care about winning our votes. Will just lie to us and keep the shitstorm humming right along. It’s what they’ve been doing as far back as I’ve cared to take notice and only gone off the rails more so in recent years. Like their aim nowadays is simply to entertain us and keep us divided and at each other’s necks, thinking we’re waging battles with one another that matter.

Meanwhile the richest get richer along with their politician lap dogs, and our government grows more powerful and less concerned about the will of its citizenry. Not that any two of us can barely agree on any one point. We the people are a clusterfuck of chaos jabbering at one another…just as I am doing on here tonight. Not sure if it makes more of a difference than talking to oneself. Seems not to since so many knee-jerk away from hearing or reading opinions they don’t already hold.

We will indeed wind up with the government we deserve…

Listened to my friend today lament how there should be “more compromise” between these two political parties and their adherents. Compromise? I had to laugh a bit at that notion, as if being a centrist is any kind of stance to take between those nut-job extremes. Said to him that we’re confronted with Party 1 which is pushing socialism/communism with the endgame winding up being totalitarianism vs. Party 2 which is pushing corporatism masquerading as free-market capitalism, also destined toward its own form of totalitarianism eventually. Pick your poison. Ultimately looks like a choice between different forms of slavery to me. Soul-sucking either way we turn.

In moments like that I wish the Libertarian Party were up to snuff anymore, but it hasn’t been since the days of Bob Barr. Gary Johnson, though I voted for him twice, is not a strong leader who makes enough intelligent, relevant arguments. Just keeps pining away for legalized marijuana, as if that might solve this nation’s problems. Frickin’ joke. All of it is. Which then makes me a bit more curious how the Alt Right will wind up factoring into this scheme, especially since so many claiming that political badge are associated with disgruntlement toward Jews and promoting the study of “race realism” in furtherance of their goal of racial segregation and the formation of ethno-states. Not a fan of their plan either.

No country for old men…or this middle-aged woman in the political outfield, wondering where the fundamentals of our Constitution have gone.

People talk, talk, talk, talk. Argue, argue, argue. And where is it getting us? Who are we convincing? Too many of those who come to see our duopoly politics as a big scam wind up tuning out and growing apathetic, which is understandable to a point since fighting this mammoth (along with so many people ideologically possessed on both/all extremes) looks like a losing battle. Futile. Basically like begging to go down history’s memory hole as a “lone wolf” madman framed as being against society. And in a sense we are against society, or at least what it’s becoming.

But there are no brakes on this clown bus. We’re cruising straight to where we’re headed. My bet thus far has been on the Political Left loonies winding up with the power to impose their utopian fantasies on the rest. But who am I fooling? Global corporatism is a force to be reckoned with, and they buy (or at least strongly seduce and help corrupt) most politicians of any stripe. So we’re looking at a fusion of wannabe-Communism/socialism within a corporatism context. How do you figure you’re going to get around this inevitability? The Alt Right doesn’t differentiate itself as being in favor of regulating corporatism, so that way doesn’t offer a true alternative either.

So then what? If people were going to stand up against this Machine, we’d have done it already, decades ago. The truth is that we’re too comfortable right now, too consumed in our own lives and the pleasure and curiosities new technologies bring. Many are also consumed with raising families — very energy intensive. Trying to earn money and then entertain ourselves to death, like everybody else is doing. Trying to learn life’s lessons and get our shit together. So no, most of us are in no position to do a damn thing about the trajectory we as a society are on. And as already stated, going up against this Beast, this Leviathan, would include going up against probably half the populace as well since they’re protective of this status quo (including the Progressives and so-called “radicals” who like to destroy shit). We’d all be lost without this convenient infrastructure, which would be severely damaged if enough tried going toe to toe with our current government. Would be viewed as treasonous behavior, unacceptable. Would mow you “patriots” down in the streets.

So what then? Vote? I’m so far past believing my vote matters, especially since I don’t vote two-party and most others do. Am a minority within a polarized/polarizing society.

Feels pretty pointless to keep bitching about it, but oh well. I’m going to anyway since that helps me keep my own sanity while observing what’s unfolding. This shit isn’t going to become functional — it can’t. It’s broken already, irreparably. Too corrupt — politicians, media, citizenry and all. We’re all already too dependent (no matter how independent you might like to consider yourself to be within this grid). And we’re too afraid. Rightly so, considering a true attempt at revolution would likely result in a bunch more of us locked in cages.

So what do we do? Pretending like it’s all okay isn’t an option for me. Nor is pretending that I don’t care. And don’t tell me to just go out and volunteer for some cause! Sick of that advice and already put in my time on that through the local peace community. Turned out to be a bunch of Leftist apologists for Obama, thereby not truly independent nor free from ideological obsessiveness. Hanging around with a handful of so-called “truthers” doesn’t sound too alluring either since unfortunately some of them are truly wackos.

Everybody frustrates me. This whole game irritates the hell of me. Try to tell myself not to take it too seriously, that perhaps we humans have to go through hell before we can recognize what’s truly of value. As humans before us have gone through over and over and over again. The lesson never sticks for long. Succeeding generations always wind up hell-bent on having to relearn it all the hard way, and perhaps it can be no other way. Technologies change our environments and lure us into thinking that this time if we try to play God it will work out for the best. This time we know something our predecessors didn’t know. This time around humans are more clever and innovative, talented and genius, plus connected through these amazing new digital networks. This time things will be different and we won’t all wind up victims to human fallibility and folly. This time we have precision, SCIENCE, on our side.

And this time we’re just as crazy and naive as any other time in history, albeit modern technologies allow us to take our dreams to greater heights that will lead to far greater destruction when our bubbles burst and cold, cruel reality sets in in the end.

Yeah, I’m the bringer of bad news. What optimism I reserve goes toward those speakers who do spread brushfires in the minds of many and get us dreaming outside of this box and reassessing what matters to us fundamentally. Never know what might prove to be a game-changer. Keeping an open mind for those unforeseen variables. “Nada es imposible.” So some like to say…

Feel like I keep writing this over and over again, year after year. Doesn’t change much, regardless of which political players switch positions. Just not sure what this perspective is asking of me. Seems to want to keep coming out, yet I’m no artist so I don’t know where to put it. Part of me says that what matters is the journey, not the destination. Because we may see a horrible crash up ahead is no reason to bow out of the game. If anything that should probably make us stronger, recognizing how little we have to lose in the end. But nations come and nations go. None are slated to last forever unchanged. If this is the future many of our fellow Americans want, then who am I to step in their way of having it? Don’t have any kids to leave behind in this nonsense. But it seems wrong to not resist the formation of hell on earth. Seems like that would be the ultimate calling for any of us, assuming we’re able to discern what’s what, which we tend to all disagree about. So we’re not going to be on the same teams, quite obviously, and so be it. It’s an individual endeavor anyway, regardless of what the collectivist ideologues would have you believe. Starts inside oneself.

We’re all dreamers…it can be no other way. To live and not dream is not to live. There will be no utopia in the end no matter which direction we choose to head in. Only approximations of hell, some better and some worse. Guess it’s a question of what suffering we’re willing to endure and for what, why. Because either way we’re going to suffer, you can bet on that. Most especially future generations once the public coffers dry up and more jobs are demanded to be provided by Big Government and its Big Corporate partners. In one sense this is history repeating, but in another this is a new phase with new challenges and new technologies very different from anything that came before. Greater likelihood for a far darker depth to descend into as well. In this age of manipulative psychology, global economics, and centralized power like never before seen.

It used to scare me, but I’m growing numb under its weight in recent years. Tired of being afraid of the unknown on the horizon. Also very tired of those who fancy themselves as optimists who are prone to freak out over my outlook, chastising me for viewing it this way, as if it’s simply a choice I make. Should we take pills and hide our eyes and cover our ears? Should we continue hiding in our addictions and drama and constant distractions? Is that truly the better way? Or should we learn to grow stronger in the face of these possibilities and set aside our utopian fantasy that we’re heading toward a fantastic future? Which seems like the most realistic and sane approach to you? Because you’re going to suffer either way, guaranteed.

The thought that keeps circling my mind this week is the fear of dying and the fear of living. So many of us fear both, and are thereby rendered paralyzed. So we stand idly by and watch what unfolds. Just another form of compliance since we wind up dragged along into the future whether we like it or not.

You would think such thoughts would be depressing, but I’ve been thinking along this line for so long now that they’ve actually transformed into something slightly reassuring. Perhaps because it forces me to view life in a day-by-day manner. Can’t change the past and can’t completely control the future. So we’re left with doing what we can with what we have right here and now. It boils down to how one lives his/her life. Outcomes be damned since that’s beyond our scope of power.

I do wish I had more answers than this. But apparently it comes down to one’s values, though I’d argue half the problem presently is that pet preferences have replaced values in our political arguments. Pro this and anti that is all we seem to hear anymore.

Getting tired so that’s enough journaling for one night.

Tuesday night journaling in late January

OK. Going to try this again today since my earlier entry was a bit too personal and therefore needed to be marked private.

Keeping it simple, I’ll just say this. My worry over the “relapse” last Thursday wore down and I no longer am as concerned about seeking outside help, at least so far as AA is concerned. It’s not that difficult to keep the alcohol out of my mouth (having made it over 7 months since the last time I drank and am right back to leaving it alone again), and my knotted stomach days later continues alerting me that it felt abused. That was a glitch, a momentary bad idea that I take full responsibility for, and it had a bad outcome (that shouldn’t be too surprising). Certainly not as bad as it could’ve been, though, thank god. Not worth playing Russian roulette with it, as I full well know already. I’m going to chalk that up to one bad decision in 7.5 months of sobriety and simply carry on with my plan to keep alcohol out of my mouth. Might not always be easy, but it is simple.

If I feel the need to reach out for external help, I will do so. Nothing is off the table in that respect. But my fear has abated and I recognize the situation for what it was. It feels like a showdown with “the devil” because indeed that is essentially what it is. And so be it. Hanging out with a bunch of recovering alcoholics doesn’t sound like the smartest way to confront that problem though.

One reason being that I texted this guy I met a couple years ago who had a horrible drinking problem and finally went to AA (he preferred the atheist meeting that is held downtown) and got sober. Good for him. We talked about all of that back then, and then we lost contact over time. I reached out to him the other day, while I was lying around on my comfy sack trying to recover from Thursday’s shenanigans, to ask if he is still off the booze. Unfortunately the answer is no. Said he made it 19 months and however many days. Said he broke his ankle a few months back and wound up moving back to his hometown and is now back to drinking with no desire to quit again anytime soon. Hmm. That’s disappointing since that guy was a poster-child for someone who needs to lay off of alcohol. The stories he used to tell me were disturbing, and I witnessed enough firsthand from him, which is largely what ended our interacting. So…that’s a bummer. And that guy was avidly on board with AA back before.

Not saying AA doesn’t work, just noting another example where someone in that program returned to the drinking lifestyle. Not exactly wanting to subject myself to making friends with people who are going to fall off the bandwagon and return to boozing. Strikes me as counterproductive, like it would be better to instead meet people who don’t have drinking problems. Because I have no desire to return to that lifestyle. It’s frickin’ suicide in my view, and so many of the people who’ve succumbed to that way of life for many years are bound to return to it. I intend to be an exception, and will be. Unless (or until) I grow old and get cancer, then all bets are off.

It’s not a lifestyle for someone wishing to live and make productive use of their years on this planet. Leave it for the hospice cases.

Heard too much negative stuff about AA. Though I’m willing to read their literature online and acquaint myself more deeply with their ideas espoused. Just don’t think hanging around with a bunch of its members is the best gameplan for me personally. I’d rather go it alone primarily. Social support can come by way of friends and family.

The counselor lady I used to see and sent an email to over the weekend has yet to respond. So I’m starting to think she doesn’t work at that clinic any longer. Might look her up to see if she’s practicing elsewhere in town. If not, I may consider arranging a visit with a therapist who specializes in addictions, since it might be good to gain more insight from a professional perspective. Maybe. We’ll see.

I’m not one to trust the mental health field much, but that’s just me. My Papa licked this addiction on his own, as have plenty of others, so I know it can be done. It’s one day at a time regardless. But I have so much anger and frustration toward that time in my life and the barscene as a whole (and my idiocy within it) that it’s not tempting to return to. Thursday night was the result of a self-destructive impulse to block out other pain in my personal life, which didn’t do a damn bit of good and only left me feeling far worse afterward, as to be expected.

As for my personal life… Former has fully moved on to this new lady and has announced her as his girlfriend. I’ve given him my blessing on that when we spoke at length yesterday. Undeniably an odd and crazy dynamic between us two. But now he gets to move on in this new relationship, and I told him I’d prefer to hear fewer details in moving forward. Their personal business is and should be their own. He’ll have to turn to other friends for those types of conversations. Yes, I asked some questions, and now I’ve heard enough. We intend to remain in contact, though less frequently, and I plan to reduce that further as time goes on. Because I really need to care for myself right now, having already devoted the last 7 years to our chaos. I’m admittedly a little miffed about a couple things he cared to share last night that I thought were attempts to rub salt in my wound, plus he confessed to lying to me on one matter, which was irritating. What’s going on with him? I’m not entirely sure. But either way,  we’re headed in separate directions now. I wish him all the luck and want the best for him, and he says the same for me. And we will remain friends, albeit at a much further distance.

So, it’s been an interesting new year thus far in that respect. All of this was inevitable and I accept it. Is for the best. That man and I cannot communicate effectively with one another to save our lives, and that gets to become her problem now. Don’t mean that to sound bitter, but damn. I deserve to purge our drama out of my system, and so I am. Not feeling sad any longer, though I will undoubtedly continue missing him a bit since we spent so much time together. But it’s also a relief quite frankly. Been on this carousel long enough. Wayyy past feeling disoriented and nauseous. He’s not a bad person, nor am I; we just had a ton of problems and weren’t suited for one another romantically, as we began figuring out long ago. I look forward to experiencing less stress in the coming months, as I’m sure he does as well. Those two already have a vacation scheduled in the spring, so I’m sure she can keep him entertained over in her corner at least long enough for me to work this attachment out of my system in case they don’t work out and he gets to thinking he can come back to me until he meets the next one. Nope. No more of that will be tolerated. Hurts too much to deal with that yo-yo bullshit.

And then I basically blogged the same damn thing I marked private earlier. Ugh. Oh well. This has been my life. Won’t claim to be thrilled with all that’s been going on (actually quite the opposite), but there it is. I’m a little over half a year into giving up alcohol (aside from last week’s reckless outing), and then I got to start off this new year saying goodbyes to my ex-boyfriend whom I’ve gone through the longest breakup in recorded history with. Was a unique relationship, to say the least. But I am actually very glad that both of these phases in my life have come to an end and that now I am free to head elsewhere. It’s all an adjustment though. Was pretty sad for a couple weeks there, but c’est la vie. This is the best timing for this to occur, and we both knew this day would come eventually. He sounds very happy and excited, and she sounds like a decent person, so far as we know. So, good for him. And that’s that.

Turned my attention to cleaning some in my apartment today after work and resumed re-listening to Mark Manson’s audiobook The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Didn’t make it to the gym this afternoon since my left foot still hurts, but soon enough. Later I began listening to Kevin Hart’s audiobook I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons while out at a little Chinese buffet that I enjoy.

Am supposed to bake brownies for my neighbors who are moving out on Thursday, which I may do later tonight once the dishwasher finishes up.

It will be quieter around here, but that’s okay. I need some time to myself right about now.