Tuesday morning journaling in February

Yesterday was a very dark day over here. So far this morning I’m feeling kind of numb. Not sure what all to say about it. Gets very tiring going through these depressive episodes, though yesterday was likely of my own making due to drinking the night before. That poison depresses the hell out of me, clearly so. One more reason to leave it alone forevermore. There truly is no upside to imbibing any longer.

But some nights it feels necessary to escape myself for a little while, hence why I chose to drink again. Doesn’t work though. Just piles on more pain. Makes it harder to get through the next day with a raging headache. Makes me feel emotionally spent and crazy.

I’d love to blame the alcohol alone, but my time quitting it taught me that this depression is just a part of who I am regardless. Apparently got to live with it somehow into the indefinite future with all of its accompanying anxiety and obsessive thoughts. Honestly, some days I’m not sure how I’m going to manage that. I can quit drinking for good (and will), but this I don’t know what to do with. And I’ve come to the conclusion that nobody else can help me with it. All that is paraded as “help” for it comes with their own consequences and side effects and problems, sometimes as bad as that which they’re designed to treat. Been down that road before and learned that lesson. So…not sure what to say about that.

People say “mind over matter,” but what is over mind? Do you really control your own mind? Can you truly claim to control your thoughts and emotions? Sure, we might choose not to give in to them, but we don’t control all that happens in our heads. Can’t.

Is it a consequence of nature or nurture? Probably both in most cases. I’m to the point where I don’t care what initially created this or got the ball rolling. Doesn’t matter. Just matters that it’s here and won’t go away no matter what I do. And I get to feeling so frustrated with myself for envying the lives of others, their coping skills and social connections and less neurotic personalities. Would love to be able to accept myself as I am, but I’d be lying if I said I did. Just can’t seem to forgive myself for ruining some things, much as I know it does no good to worry on that now. It would be one thing if it were just a couple regrets, but a lifetime of regrets is harder to stomach. Especially when I’m not sure how to move forward from here.

To speak about this is to invite criticism. People will say you have to get up, get on with living. Quit feeling sorry for yourself. Quit dramatizing and catastrophizing. I agree and wish it were that simple. Hence why it’s so frustrating. I see others bounce back from so much worse, and I know I could too perhaps if I had something to believe in. That being the ongoing existential panic I can’t shake. My own logic and reasoning actually sabotages me in that arena, on top of the emotions I can’t stanch. I can see it all pretty clearly, but I don’t know what to do about it. I’ve thought about this many, many times over the years and still I can’t seem to fix it. Spoken to friends until I’m blue in the face. Doesn’t appear to be a problem I can think myself out of. No amount of expression provides lasting relief.

The closest approximation to a heaven on earth that I can comprehend has evaporated. I keep telling myself if I just get over this next hill, maybe there will be something worthwhile on the other side. To just have faith that there’s more to this life than what I’ve experienced thus far. That I can someday be of service to others through what life’s teaching me. And that’s what I really want to believe.

But right now it all seems so far away and I’m stuck in the middle of this long winter for now. Am not blaming anybody else for this predicament. I know they can’t fix it either. It’s my own mind playing tricks on me again. And my life as it’s been constructed up until this point is pretty fucking disappointing. And this degree of isolation is doing me no favors.

Everywhere I read people saying that you just have to learn to be alone with your thoughts. But there has to be some sort of balance, we being social animals. Too much time alone with our thoughts is crazy-making. Turn toward the internet and it’s crazy-making too. Political talk is crazy-making. Observing the lives of others as if on the outside looking in is depressing. More time alone doesn’t appear to be any sort of remedy. If anything, I need to get out of this cage of my own creation. Break free and get back among others.

But I don’t wish to complain, and it feels like that’s all I do anymore. Brings people down. Makes them worry when they’ve got other problems to tend to. And that makes me feel guilty. So it’s a feedback loop that keeps perpetuating this. Other factors contribute too, like probably hormones and events I can’t or won’t accept. Two days ago I felt pretty steady, then snap. All turned black in a matter of hours once again. And it gets so fucking tiring to keep going through this, wondering what’s wrong with me, why can’t I be like those other people? Why can’t I be stronger than this? Why can’t I be healthier than this?

I don’t know. The more I learn, the less I know to be real and true. So much seems like a mirage anymore. Can’t trust my own mind with its compulsions and expectations and gremlin voices and irrational fears. To have something this self-destructive living inside oneself, pretending to be oneself, is maddening over time. Makes you not trust yourself.

This isn’t how this game is supposed to play out. I wanted to be triumphant in some areas in life. Needed to forge connections that lasted. But I broke it all and now I don’t know how to put the pieces back together. Yes, we are individuals alive in amazing times with so many options and choices, and yet we’re more lost than ever before, knowing not which directions to take. And when we fail, we have only ourselves to blame. And when we need help, we have only ourselves to rely on. That’s the downside to modern life.

COLD late Saturday night in February tunes and journaling

Went out for a few hours earlier. Unsweetened tea all night, visited with a few people I hadn’t seen in a while, listening to tunes and watching the winter olympics (mostly curling). Good to get out of the apartment sometimes, go be social. At least hang out in the presence of people. But goddamn it’s cold outside.

Back in and warming up now. Tune currently playing in the background, Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”:

Prior to that, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord” with the Carter Sisters:

One from earlier in the evening:

That was Depeche Mode’s “Hole To Feed.”

We’re a weird fucking species, man. WEIRD. Difficult to make sense of, inside our own selves included.

On a separate note, I don’t need AA meetings when I have bars. Any bar will do if you want to bear witness to the problems that like to accompany alcohol consumption. Case in point, tonight I ran into a barpal who’s regularly at this new lounge, having known him from the old bar that closed about a year back. Big-time drunk. And it’s sad to see continuing to unfold, now going on knowing him nearly 3 years. Partied with him and his friends a few times in the past in his garage and new house. Don’t wish to go into the details that are his business, just sad to see him going down like that. He used to talk with me about how he wanted to quit, but now it’s obvious he’s given up on that plan. Congratulates me on my success though, which I appreciate.

Some people handle it better than others. But hard, regular consumption degrades us all over time. It’s the nature of the drug.

Not wanting to come off as judgmental about everybody at the bar. I like this particular new lounge, and it’s far less drama than most other bars in the area. A bartender from the old bar transferred over there, so it’s nice to go in occasionally during his shift. Believe I’ve been in there 3 times since December, then not since August. Never been drunk in there, though the regulars from the old bar that came over have witnessed plenty of that out of me for a couple years prior. But it’s nice now to be able to just chill and socialize a little and people-watch. Ponder a bit. And there are a number of people in there who are supportive of quitting drinking and a few others who don’t drink alcohol who hang out there too. So, not a rough environment like some of the other shitholes around.

Though bars are kind of a depressing scene either way—no question—perhaps more to me now than ever. Even the nicer bars. An asshole I don’t like dropped in shortly before I took off to head home, telling the bartender about how he got an O.W.I. last time he drove home from the bar. Paid nearly $6,000 so far just for his lawyer — god knows what the fines will be. Said something about it affecting his license.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t have $6,000 lying around. Can’t pull it off my credit cards either.

A D.U.I. will fuck you up.

Have no idea how I avoided one all those years. My friends say it’s a miracle, and it was. Talk about Russian roulette. And it would’ve probably made me lose my job. I knew that, and yet I gambled anyway many, many times. Eventually the odds are we’ll get caught. Or wreck into another car. Or a tree.

Thankfully, some play it safer than others.

That was “Done Got Old” by Robert Belfour.

We’re all getting older…

Sometimes it’s best to call it when there’s still time. Why do we wait to hit some sort of rock bottom to force our hand? And how many “rock bottoms” does it take?

There are so many ways one can become addicted. Can become addicted to attachments with certain people too. Come to find out.

Jotted down some notes earlier and taped them to the wall. Made a list of attributes for the HELL I’D LIKE TO AVOID and another one for the greener pasture I’d like to strive toward. Then listed a few goals for this upcoming year. Focal points to try to keep my mind on track going forward.

Turnpike Troubadours — “Before The Devil Knows We’re Dead”:

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “I Need Never Get Old”:

Still never tire of that song.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “S.O.B.”:

Son of a bitch

Give me a drink

One more night

This can’t be me

Son of a bitch

If I can’t get clean

I’m going to drink my life away

[…]

Now for seventeen years I’ve been throwing them back

Seventeen more will bury me

… Yup.

I’ll tell you what, Schweppes black cherry seltzer water has been a big help. Keeps me content, replaces beer nicely, with no calories or sweeteners.

Need to quit smoking soon enough.

“Blood Sweat and Murder” by Scott H. Biram:

Blood, sweat, and murder
Black luck and trouble
Head full of sorrow
I’m in a whole lot of trouble now

Long-time favorite, “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earl:

Dwight Yoakam’s “Fast As You”:

Listened to a lady barpal tell about her crazy antics tonight. She also mentioned having been in treatment three times in the past. She’s a grown woman, at least my age. Sister to that other fella mentioned already. They came up in a good family by all accounts. Have good jobs. Mentioning it as an observation.

People say they want to quit, but they don’t really. Not yet. I said I wanted to quit for at least two solid years before finally pulling the plug. Sometimes I get scared that I’ll prove weak and succumb to that scene again, but I really hate what alcohol does to my life and am already well-aware that I can’t moderate. No point in continuing to try to do so. Luckily for me, drinking stopped being much fun by the end. Those whose friends and family are all involved and make it seem like fun probably have the toughest challenge. This is one instance where I’m glad to be more of a contrarian loner — makes it easier to part ways and say fuck ’em. Mean as that may sound. You care, but what can you do about somebody else’s choices? Nothing. It’s theirs to make. Hard enough keeping one’s own ship afloat.

Certainly not there to preach the virtues of not drinking — wouldn’t matter anyway since they already know. We’ve all tried quitting before.

What I find interesting is how the barscene atmosphere itself proves a bit intoxicating. No drugs required. Maybe it comes from being submerged in a rowdy gathering of any kind. Nice to find out.

Oddly enough, I don’t crave alcohol all that much while out at bars nowadays. Not sure why. You’d think watching people drink would make me want to all the more, but actually not very strongly. Had stronger urges sitting alone at home.

Doesn’t feel like I’m missing much. Headaches and various pains. Making a fool of myself. Risking an O.W.I. if I’m stupid enough to drive. Saying shit I might wish later I hadn’t said. Wasting lots of time and money. Etc.

Obviously the gremlin inside still wants to drink. Which isn’t surprising since it’s proven hell-bent on pursuing mindless destruction. That’s just what it does apparently. Can’t reason with it; just have to stop feeding it. Keep the alcohol out of my mouth. Simple as that. And simple doesn’t necessarily equate with easy. That’s the trick, in a nutshell.

Anger has proven invaluable in kicking my ass away from that lifestyle, mostly anger with myself. Some like to think keeping a “positive” frame of mind is where it’s at, but I disagree. That can turn into coddling oneself. Being too permissive. Hence how we got into this mess over time. There’s definitely a point where getting pissed and staying pissed seems more fruitful, serving as a propellant and barrier for re-entry. Getting fed up with disliking oneself so goddamn much and perpetually feeling disappointed for caving is key. Pretending like it’s a never-ending party when it’s long since stopped being merely that isn’t “positive” — it’s deluded. But each has to arrive at that conclusion their own way, I guess. *shrugs*

This year is still young. Continue reading

Getting better acquainted with postmodernism

This morning I came across this article in Areo by Helen Pluckrose titled “No, Postmodernism is Not Dead (and Other Misconceptions)” (Feb. 7, 2018). I highly encourage others to read, including those of us who once identified as feminists and/or come from social science-related educational backgrounds.

In the article she states:

The emerging intersectional feminists were guided by Crenshaw and they adopted the postmodern ideas of cultural constructivism by discourse and drew further on the moral and epistemic relativism and notions of hierarchies of power and privilege via their incorporation of aspects of postcolonial and queer theory that the multi-faceted nature of intersectionality requires. They rejected the pure deconstructive approach because it was politically unproductive, and they sought to map social realities. They developed a strong focus on identity politics which the earlier postmodernists had not, following Crenshaw and those who expanded upon her work. This form of feminism dominates the academy and activism now.

Very interesting.

This piece helps me in further clarifying an ongoing irritation I’ve had with people blaming Karl Marx and “cultural marxism” for all that is occurring in identity politics these days. What is happening now has evolved out of and away from what philosophers of old had to say, so it’s become a new beast in its own right, effectively divorced from liberal constraints that were integral to those historical social theories and ideas.

Hence why some of us also say what we’re witnessing today isn’t a liberal movement — it’s illiberal to the core. That’s the truth. Because it has become unshackled from its liberal underpinnings despite originally arising within the Political Left. It’s evolved way beyond and is barely recognizable when compared against true liberalism.

“It is very common now to encounter feminist, anti-racist, LGBT activists who espouse postmodern ideas but seem to have no idea of their genesis.”

That’s also very true.

As I’ve mentioned before many times, Social Sciences was my major (along with a minor in Criminal Justice) in college and yet I’m wholly unfamiliar with postmodern thought (outside of a little exposure to postmodern art). Never did I ever study Foucault or Derrida, though there was much talk about Karl Marx (probably why he winds up blamed for so much of this). Nor do I recall learning about Kimberlé Crenshaw, though the name definitely sounds familiar. When I get in later I will check one of my old textbooks to find out what may have been said about these persons.

Furthermore, I spent my late teens to mid 20s referring to myself as a feminist and reading feminist blogs and articles, and yet I gained no grasp on postmodernism. Heard the term but never dug deeply into what it was about, not realizing its relevance. In fact, it was Dr. Jordan Peterson’s use of the term within the last several months that has stoked my curiosity to finally learn more about it.

To be continued…

“Identity Politics & The Marxist Lie of White Privilege | Dr. Jordan B. Peterson | SNC 2017”

Tonight I believe I found the best speech thus far from Dr. Jordan Peterson:

“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.

_____________________________________________

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.