Category Archives: Current Events

how capitalism ruined my birthday

Note: I am being somewhat “facetious” or “tongue in cheek” about my birthday being ruined. I just like pointing out where capitalism has had negative impacts on what our society considers a special day.

I turned 42 on Wednesday. Whereas my birthday have been becoming lower and lower key over the past few years, this year had low-key-ness imposed upon it by the Canadian government. Ben and I are waiting out our mandatory 14 day waiting period in an AirBNB suite in Toronto, about a kilometer away from where my sister, brother in law, nieces and my mom live in Baby Point. It should be noted that the Canadian government are not messing around with this, as unlike the shelter in place in NYC, going to local parks for exercise or local shops for necessities are not permissible activities. Between the actual law, and the justified concerns of my extended family, we are therefore on lockdown with limited exposure to the human population of Toronto.

These were all anticipated mitigating factors on my birthday. And at the time we planned the trip, knowing I would be in lockdown on the day itself, I accepted these circumstances. After all, it would relieve a lot of the pressure on the social side of the birthday, meaning that I wouldn’t have to agonize over scheduling an event in the time of corona. I thought would be able to quietly celebrate with my son, under the radar, and save the big celebration for next week with my family. My mother is the 23rd of August; my brother in law is the 28th, the same day as our release from lockdown, therefore prompting a family celebration. I would therefore just ignore the date, and choose to enjoy my birthday at the appropriate time.

Then we had the Great Uber Eats Debacle and my entire perspective on my birthday changed. Ben and I had ordered sushi for lunch from a local restaurant, using Uber Eats as the laziest option. The order arrived slightly early, prompting me to send Ben upstairs for the contactless, outdoor pickup, as I was still on a work phone call with one of my client’s bigger, more valuable media vendors. Ben triumphantly returned…with only one of the ordered lunch combos. I immediately called the driver, to let him know we had not received the entire order. The driver insisted that we had to call the restaurant to sort the situation out. When we called the restaurant, the business owner was then upset because she had absolutely given the driven the correct order. I continued to text and call the driver, to no avail. Stymied, hungry, and with limited lunch time, I decided instead to burst into tears, collapse into a puddle of cortisol, and give Ben the only delivered combo so at least he would get to eat before returning to comedy.

I continued to Tweet and email Uber to remedy the situation, and the driver eventually texted back and informed me that he had been given the orders and directions from the restaurant and it was clearly the restaurant’s fault for not giving him the correct order. When I asked if the driver could possibly bring the extra meals back, he informed me that he had delivered them to the subsequent customer and that I would need to sort this out with Uber and the restaurant.

This did not resolve the bigger issue, which was that it was my birthday lunch that had been given to another customer, and I had had limited time to eat said lunch before resuming my workday. And while Uber was willing to promptly refund me the cost of the items not delivered, they refused to refund delivery or platform fees. So as I understand it, I ended up missing my lunch, the restaurant ended up losing the cost of the items mis-delivered, and the driver lost his tip. The only entity that made money on this entire transaction was the megacorporation that set its own rules and standards.

It took me some time, as well as an afternoon snack, before I was able to fully think through why I was so very angry about this situation. Part of it was that the driver could very well have checked the receipt that was stapled to the bag we received when he handed off the food. Part of it was that he could also have called the restaurant or done a double-check when I first alerted him to the issue. My bigger issue was why he didn’t take either of those steps at the time, and chose instead to continue on his path to incorrectly deliver my birthday sashimi combo to the next customer on his route. This is where capitalism, and the gig economy, conspire to overshadow the entire incident. My hypothesis is that Uber’s failure to take accountability for the people whose labour they exploit contributed to this debacle in two key ways:

  • The gig economy pays by the job, not the hour. Uber pays based on an algorithm of time and distance. Any additional investment of time by this driver would put his next delivery and his daily earnings at risk
  • Uber offers zero training for their Eats drivers. The entity making the profit here should have been responsible for communicating the delivery roster to the contractor they parceled out the work to. The driver should have been taught to check a receipt or check off the items in an app rather than rely on the restaurant staff and the potential language barrier inherent there

Thinking through this entire issue made me take a step back and re-evaluate who pays for the convenience of these apps, and how that might change or impact the behavior of the contractors who provide these services. Is the Uber Eats system partially responsible for the loss incurred across the board by the restaurant, the driver and me? Or is the driver just a jerk? Perhaps it is both, as I am not willing to discount the impact of the gig economy on this situation.

Taking a step back, I also have to question where else the capitalist system is responsible for my inability to celebrate my birthday appropriately. There’s no question that capitalism and fiscal gain have driven the US response to the coronavirus, as the federal administration have prioritized a return to a “normal” economic state over further lockdowns. Trump has also empowered states to determine whether or not those decisions should be made on a state by state basis, resulting in decisions motivated more by fiscal policy votemongering. The resulting patchwork of inconsistent policy has resulted in continued resurgence of the disease, with almost three times the infection rate of Canada (even Canada’s right wing newspaper confirms America has horribly botched the response!). Hence: the border closure, and the forced self-isolation for all returning Canadian citizens.

I am basically in lockdown because America’s leadership chose to roll the dice on people’s lives in order to preserve the gains made from the extreme capitalism of the current administration.

I’m not sure if capitalism entirely ruined my birthday. I received dozens of kind texts and Facebook posts from my friends. My mom attempted to make the day special within the restrictions of the law. My family will still celebrate me after lockdown, and my friends will still want to connect with me for a very belated party. However, between my beloved socialist democratic homeland having to put me on lockdown because of my sojourn in Capitalist America, and the gig economy exposing itself as a failed system incapable of delivering my sashimi, capitalism definitely put a major dent in my birthday.

Finally, I would like to note that we re-placed our sushi order through SkipTheDishes.com today, and received the correct order. Both mine and Ben’s lunches were still intact and beautifully presented, and our delivery person took the time to properly wear a mask and set down the food for contactless delivery. We were very pleased and recommend Tokyo Sushi for their lunch specials going forward.

the flattening of 2020

There is a flat aspect to life right now that we are just not used to in 21st century urban America. The world seems like it lacks dimension, like everything has been reduced down to the flat line we’re all traveling on to get to the other side of this crisis. We are so used to lives with so many wonderful aspects, that to be lacking in experiences, whether those are shared or not, renders life strange and devoid of color.

Walking through Manhattan today, I thought about how one of the major impacts of this shutdown is the removal of choice. Being out of the house, walking around a city, my instinct is to be able to take a break in a cafe or restaurant, to be able to go inside a landmark or museum, or to be able to shop if I see an interesting store. All of those choices are gone right now. There is no choice to duck into a store, nor is there an option to sit in a Starbucks and doodle in my journal. At night, the bars and clubs are closed, and there will be no goth club events for the foreseeable future. These small, everyday choices are effectively negated by the pandemic, as all “third places” have been rendered closed until further notice. For a city like New York, which depends on those third places to give its citizens space outside their tiny apartments, this adds a further sense of confinement to the already narrowing world.

The second shared impact is temporal dysphoria effect of the shutdown. The pandemic has created a shutdown state in which we are all reduced to the same daily routines, in the same space, without any of the movement or change that delineated days, weeks or even months. It isn’t just an issue on weekdays, when the workday ends and we lack the transition to home lives. It is the weekends, in which we remain in the same space, often doing the same tasks on a Saturday as we might have on a Monday. It has been the months in which we have not been able to gather for holidays, or attend the events we associate with spring, or engage in any of the societal milestones that usually mark time. Time has lost meaning for many of us, as our spatially based routines have been interrupted and eliminated. Our lives have lost those temporal dimensions.

With the flattening of our experiences though, and the compressing of our sense of time, there is also a shared sense of loss for these strange months. We all feel as if our lives are passing us by. There is a lethargy and a despair that is beginning to set in among New Yorkers, as we go into our twelfth week of quarantine without a real end date in sight. There is a lack of hope setting in, coupled and connected to a deep fear of negative change. We are unable to hope without a timeline for when hope might be practical, yet we are absolutely able to fear the future without a set schedule of when it might arrive. We lack the hope of being able to look forward to all of the things we loved about the city, which leaves us all without a counterbalance to the deep sense of foreboding and dread as to what the city will look like when we are on the much anticipated other side of this pandemic.

Fear without hope means that even this flattened existence feels unstable. The one-dimensional existence we all feel we occupy right now still manages to feel as if it has a deep dread underneath it, as if we are all on a sheet of ice over unfathomable dark waters. Every day we hear new stories of loss, of possibilities being extinguished, either by the disease or by the economics of the situation. It is the only thing that moves time forward, the litany of news that seems to remind us every day that there is a disease threatening the most vulnerable among us, that the urban way of life may be a victim of the disease, and that there is a madman in charge of the country who offers no support or compassion to any victim.

I am hopeful that these will, however, be the darkest days of the pandemic. I am hopeful that we can open up NYC without putting the people at risk who already need more support just to survive, provided we are mindful of that risk as we do so. I am hopeful that experiences and choices will expand, slowly, to give us all back the connection to the city, to each other and to our lives’ experiences we miss so very much. Until then though, we will all have to rely on our sense of empathy and compassion to get through this.

a change of scenery

At some point over the last couple weeks, my beloved apartment became claustrophobic. Instead of the just-right sized space it’s been for the last five and a half years, it became too small for the three people that live inside of it. I am fond of pointing out that we have nothing to complain about; my ancestors on the Lower East Side would have had three families crammed into the space we have, and probably a boarder or two to boot. It’s likely that the women in the family wouldn’t have even left the house, but would have stayed home sewing piecemeal work in sweatshop conditions. I should not be so quick to kvetch, and yet, I am. I love my husband and son dearly, but I am also used to leaving them on a daily basis, and I have not done so for over two months.

One of the key factors to the need for space is my renewed commitment to writing. I am intensely private when writing, and will instinctively hide a page I’m working on, which in turn breaks my flow of words. I may eventually publish whatever it is I am working on, but I may also be unable to spin out the concept into a full post, and may not be able to articulate my ideas. When I am working on my art, I am very protective of it, and will even raise my hackles at my beloved husband. This may be a fear based reaction, the old fear of ridicule that haunts many people from childhood, but it’s a reaction I honor when writing.

Over the last few weeks, even outside of my protective sense for writing, I’ve felt myself getting more and more prickly about space, both physical and mental. I feel as if my brain is overfilled at any given time with thoughts that are both superficial and overwhelmingly numerous. It feels as if my brain is overcrowded with short fragments of thoughts, all of which are too truncated to be braided together into a cohesive pattern or narrative, resulting in chaos. Adding in the mental spillover from two other people makes it even worse, a maelstrom of individual pieces, none of which I am able to focus on. I am overwhelmed not only by my personal and professional obligations, but also by the thoughts of my son.

I therefore decided to pick up one of the inexpensive mid-range hotel rooms in Manhattan, the sub-$100 rooms that are now common throughout FiDi and Times Square, where the demand for business hotels has fallen through the floor. After all, without business travelers, and without even the typical amenities of common space and lobby lounges to draw visitors in, hotels are merely trying to literally keep the lights on. I would reserve a room, I decided, and then I would settle in with my Chromebook and my planner, a glass of wine and a takeout salad, and write. I would continue to plug away at my steampunk novel. I would write blog posts, like this one you are reading now (how very meta!). I would be alone with only my own thoughts for an evening.

Over the past week, this ideal also evolved to include a walk to the hotel in question. I decided I would walk to the DUMBO ferry dock and take the ferry across the East River, and then I would walk home via the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning. I would return to that sense of adventure I love so much, setting out with a backpack in a city. Perhaps in the morning, I will go for a sunrise walk through Manhattan. It struck me as time I could re-connect with this city, which I love so very much, which I have not grown tired of exploring in the eight years I have lived here.

I set out this afternoon with a sense of adventure. I felt more like myself again, listening to Tiesto, loaded down with a backpack, walking past the boundaries of Prospect Heights. Except to drive to Central Park last weekend, I have not left the confines of my neighborhood since March, and like my apartment, my beloved neighborhood even feels too small as a result. I walked past the familiar reopening coffee shops and restaurants, heading northwest on Flatbush. I passed the Duane Reade and the UPS store, my most frequent errand locations. It wasn’t until I got to Atlantic Avenue that my steps slowed a little, as I passed the Modell’s with its bankruptcy announcement (although that is pre-pandemic), and then continued to pass store after store after store that was closed, each with a variant of the same note, dated March 22nd, in their window: “To our customers, we are closing to keep you and our staff safe during this global pandemic. Visit us online and come back when this is over.

This should not have been a surprise, and yet, I’m shocked at the emotional impact that this walk had on me. Upon reflection, I believe it was because I am used to my own neighborhood being closed, but seeing the next three neighborhoods in the same condition gave me a more realistic sense of scale of the disaster that has befallen New York City. It is one thing to see a microcosm of the economic devastation in my neighborhood, while reading about it in the abstract in the Times. It is an exponentially harder impact to walk two miles down one street, and see dozens upon dozens of independently owned restaurants and shops closed. Each one of those shops and restaurants had its own story, a possibility brought to life by brave owners who brought their passion to food or wine, art or hardware, clothing or housewares. Each one is now deeply at risk of being gone by the time the world starts up again.

I finally reached the end of Atlantic, where it hits Pier 6, where the ferry to Governors Island remains closed, along with the playgrounds on the pier that Ben loves so very much. I walked up Brooklyn Bridge park, past the piers, past the soccer fields of Pier 5 being used for practice still, past the forest at Piers 3 and 2, past the lawn at Pier 1 where I saw The Importance of Being Earnest (gender bending edition) last summer. And I tried to process this immense amount of sadness that seems to be pressing more on me than it has for weeks as I slowly walked the last half mile to the ferry.

What this feels like to me is a combination of grief and fear, that neither I, nor most of my generation in North America, have had to experience. I am grieving for the loss of New York City as I knew it, the city that represented this ultimate in intellectual sophistication to me. This city has centuries of being heavily invested in the arts in a way that the Pacific Northwest cities cannot replicate at this point in their history. It is a city where so many people are unique that being different seems to be the norm. It is a city where every individual is encouraged to have their own narrative and story and perspective, with none of those being identical or repetitive. I cannot bear to see this city choked to death by bankruptcy, by economic circumstance (even though it has lived by economics and capitalism its entire history). I cannot bear to see New York forced to accept chain stores and the monotony they bring, and I cannot bear to see a city that has so prized individual narratives forced to accept repetitive stories out of fiscal necessity. I fear that the city may not be able to rebuild in a meaningful way, and that the tapestry of New York City may be irreparably damaged.

The only consolation to this sadness is knowing that it will resonate strongly with many people, and that so many of my friends and neighbors will be able to understand everything I’m saying. As a person with a mental health condition, I have always assumed that my emotional responses are different than everyone else’s. I often describe my brain as being wired a little differently, as having pathways and connections that either fire in atypical ways, or that, on extremely bad days, do not fire at all. (I assume that the rest of the world is able to feel positive emotions consistently, that everyone else is able to receive those little rewards of happiness that are received throughout our existences for even the most mundane of activities. )

I am therefore surprised to realize that I am sharing an emotional experience with others. How strange it is to feel as if one is typical! I am disturbed because this is a case of mass sadness and disappointment, a circumstance created by disaster, but I am still comforted because it is an experience that so many people seem to be able to understand. I can speak of my grief and my fear and have others say “yes, I understand what you miss, and I understand your fear for our city.” We all have not just empathy, but a true understanding of each other’s emotions. That connection seems rare to me, outside of this kind of shared traumatic experience.

Being here, alone, in a hotel room, I do see that there’s a strange juxtaposition: I wanted my head space back so I could muse on sharing that head space with the rest of the city. But I really wanted my head space back so I could process this sorrow, this grief, this fear, this anxiety. These are the dominant emotions that make up my thoughts each and every day as I worry for my fellow citizens. I fear for all the individuals in all walks of life who make this metropolis so very vibrant. Today, I am more aware than ever of the devastation of the measures we have had to take to contain this virus, and how long and hard the road back to recovery will be.

every day is like sunday

Well, perhaps every day is not quite silent and grey, but it does feel a bit like waiting for an Armageddon. Especially since the President has decided to take this opportunity to start breaking down environmental laws so everyone’s lungs and immune systems will be good and weakened for the next pandemic. (Do not even get me started on how millions of Americans are waiting for checks because Trump insisted on using the government funded stimulus as a campaign stump).

It’s been just over four weeks now since what I still think of as the Day the World Ended, back on March 12th. That evening, I was supposed to go to a very worthwhile charity event with one of our media vendors. My boss and I had been invited to meet our sales reps for blowouts at Drybar before the show, and so we took the subway uptown mid-afternoon to do so. But by the time we got to the Upper West Side, the event had been canceled; by the time my hair was blow dried, Broadway was shut down. The group of us scheduled to spend that evening at the concert immediately went together to a wine bar and spent four hours drinking, watching the news alerts on our phones, as social distancing went from the opt-in it had been two days before, to a critical order to save lives. We knew things were about to change and that this would likely be the last night we had in “normalcy”.

In hindsight, listening to a siren right now somewhere in Brooklyn, this entire day was irresponsible. At the time, COVID-19 was spreading through New York. We had hundreds of cases we didn’t know about. We had a curve of sickness and death coming for NYC that we all drastically underestimated. And I still chose to go to work that day even though the office looked like this:

Of course I suspect many of my teammates who opted to work from home on Thursday the 12th, also were out at bars until all the bars shut down on Sunday the 15th

By Sunday the 15th, when the first wave of businesses were forced to close to prevent gatherings, Paul and I had decided to keep Ben home from school starting on March 16th. We saw the pleas from teachers to reduce the number of kids in school; we had the privilege and luxury of being able to stay home with our child (By “we” at the time, I meant “me”, as OMD went from “rotating staff” to “work from home” over the course of the weekend). I had barely had time to post that decision and rationale on Facebook before the schools shut down.

Two days later, the Canadian border closed, causing me to hyperventilate in panic that I might not be able to get home, as Amtrak and Porter Airlines stopped service to Toronto.

By the end of the week, we were in Cuomo’s version of “shelter in place”, watching as the governor cheerfully shamed our local Greenmarket on national TV:

The city has 24 hours to come up with a pedestrian streets plan to ...

In hindsight, I did not stop to just think through what the impact would be to the healthcare system and how many of our healthcare workers would have to put their own health at risk to save others. I did not know, that last day, that there would be this high of a curve to flatten. None of us knew back in early March that this disease had been quietly spreading below the line of public consciousness for weeks. I knew the coronavirus would rage through New York, and that it would impact the most vulnerable of my neighbors, but I did not realize how horrifying it would be to see New Yorkers put their lives on the line every day for the past month.

I did not know COVID-19 would rage uncontrolled and unchecked through the people who make New York City what it is: our MTA conductors, our teachers, our first responders, and most of all, our healthcare workers.

I did not realize how COVID-19 would kill hundreds of people who worked tirelessly for years to ensure my neighborhood’s children are taught, that we get to work, that we are safe, that we, and our neighbors, are cared for.

I jumped on the #flattenthecurve bandwagon the week after the world ended, but I wish I had jumped on it sooner and encouraged everyone else to do so. I am not sure if more of these brave and self-sacrificing New Yorkers would still be here if all of us had done so.

So here we are four weeks later. We adjust every day to a “new normal”, until that new normal shifts under our feet. At least one day per week now feels like the Day the World Ended over again, as things change faster than I can mentally process. This week, two of my friends came down with COVID-19. This week, the layoffs started at OMD. And when the first round hit yesterday at work, I shut down and spent the evening numbing my brain as much as possible:

For the record, I was drinking organic tequila mixed with CBD infused, watermelon flavored sparking water, because I intend to remain as bougie as possible and also did not need a hangover today.

This is not waiting for Armageddon, but it does feel, every day, like there is a next step towards some sort of partial apocalypse: more sickness, more death, more sorrow, or, on the other side of this COVID-19 coin, more jobs lost, more people without even basic resources, more people vulnerable than ever before to the consequences of the extreme capitalism of America in the early 21st century. Every day is like Sunday, and even a beautiful spring Friday has an undertone of being silent and grey. We will all wait this out, we will all get to the changed world on the other side. I just wish we didn’t have to all bear witness, together, to as much despair and suffering on the way as we all will before this is over.

now panic and freak out

Many, many years ago, back at a small agency called Integrated Media Solutions (now integrated into Assembly at MDC), one of the agency owners thought it would be smart to put “Keep Calm and Carry On” posters around the office. My immediate smart-ass response was to purchase a “Now Panic and Freak Out” T-shirt

Image result for now panic and freak out
This was honestly more apt for the context at that job.

It’s a good thing that I still have that T-shirt, because this mentality has taken over the entire world this week as the coronavirus panic spreads across continents. My college friend who is now in Basel, Switzerland is waiting to be put on quarantine. My former co-worker in Melbourne, Australia is trying to buy supplies at the local grocery store only to find bare shelves. And here in New York, lines for Trader Joe’s are two hours long, while the Park Slope Food Coop volunteers frantically try to keep the shelves stocked. Y’all, it is not even a real apocalypse and you’re all terrifying me in your survivalist style hoarding.


WHY ARE YOU BUYING WATER???
YOUR TAPS WILL STILL WORK.
Panicked New York shoppers are stocking up on water and toilet paper (Photo NY POST)

I am rationally not afraid of COVID-19: Paul and I are both young-ish and in good cardiovascular shape, and this particular disease only manifests as a bad cold in 80% of the population. What is terrifying is the global response that triggers my anxiety from years of reading flupocalypse novels. I’ve read The Stand at least four times. Station Eleven captured me with the intensity of its characters and vision, an elegy for the world as we know it today. Severance struck me with the comparisons of nostalgia and routine comfort to a fatal disease. All of these are haunting novels that portray the extreme transformation of the human aspects of the world due to the spread of a highly contagious flu, and I have absorbed each of them. Hence my low grade fear and anxiety as everyday people around the world engage in preventative actions that could well be from any of these books. It is too easy for my brain to connect the coronavirus preparations being taken in NYC to plot points taken out of an apocalyptic narrative.

Most recently, I read Kimi Eisele’s The Lightest Object in the Universe, which is described as “hopeful apocalyptic fiction” for its depiction of communal living and support among neighbors. However, the book opens with a quick history of how the infrastructure fell apart, depicting a series of economic and environmental factors, including the flu, leading to the breakdown of electricity and supply chains:

“The Lightest Object in the Universe”, Kindle edition.

Eisele’s factors are more Snow Crash than the Stand, with hyperinflation and oil supply chain breakdown. While the complete breakdown of the supply chain and power grid may be unlikely in the immediate future, the impact of the coronavirus on the world economic markets has made me feel that we are all more financially vulnerable than we would like to think we are. Seeing the impact of the virus on the world’s economies, combined with the obvious drain on the supply chain from stockpiling for quarantines, it is a reminder that the reason dystopian fiction sells so well is because we are always only two steps away from society potentially breaking down, with or without without the electrical infrastructure we’ve built on for the last century.

In the event of a breakdown of society in the U.S. though, my family unit is better poised than most to survive thanks to our experience in the Scouting and Guiding systems. I have never been worried about mine or my loved ones’ survival. Rather, I have been worried about having to deal with everyone else acting like a crazed maniac in irrational attempts to survive. Seriously, New Yorkers, you are buying bottled water and stripping stores bare over one confirmed case in Manhattan where the woman is already quarantined. Stores are sold out of what I still call “SARS masks”, even though less than half the population bothers to get a flu shot. I can’t find the statistics but I would bet money that the same people who are preparing for the flupocalypse are also not washing their hands any more frequently than before. What kind of mayhem would result if this disease had a higher mortality rate than 2.4%?

Fear of the disease has become irrelevant in the wake of the imminent disease strike in NYC though, so we’re preparing for quarantine at home. We’ll stock up on dried beans and rice, canned tuna, frozen and long-life storage vegetables. We’ll prep to work from home, or to have stores around us closed, because we can. I am more concerned for those who cannot take time off, or who cannot afford to stockpile, or both. Food pantries are worried about providing supplies to people in case of a quarantine. Care workers, especially those working with vulnerable populations like the elderly or hospitalized, are already underpaid and given little time off – is it any wonder that the outbreak in Seattle is centered around a seniors care facility? We have set up a society where we have a massive working population whose pay and vacation are so limited that they literally cannot withdraw from contact with others at the risk of food and shelter insecurity. It is meaningless to have a quarantine in a society with this level of inequality. Perhaps, after all, a societal collapse is not only imminent, but needed: a panic and freak out for the ages.

the post online argument shameover

shameover (n):

1. a feeling of regret and self-shaming that remains even after the cause of the event is forgotten by everyone but you
2. a feeling of regret and self-shaming that continues after a particularly shameful action

I am in the throes of #2 of a shameover from arguing on the Internet.  It isn’t the argument itself I’m ashamed of, but the sheer waste of time it represents.  It’s time I could be spending with my family, or time I could be practicing the piano, or time I could be doing my writing class homework.  It’s time I could use to clear out my work inbox or finish up some Scouting responsibilities (as District Commissioner and acting GSM for one group, the Scouting never stops) or just return personal emails.  There’s a dozen ways I could productively use time.  Arguing on the Internet is not one of them.

Duty Calls

Therefore, after two hours of generally wasted time arguing over the child migrant separation crisis, I have a shameover.  And it feels awful.  I feel like I do when I over-indulge in other ways.  I feel like I do when I carb binge, when my blood sugar spikes and I know it will eventually crash as well.  I feel like I do when I watch waste of time TV.  I feel like I do when I spend too much money, on impulse, on an item I do not particularly need and cannot return.  I feel like I do when I drink two glasses of wine too fast and know it will mess up my sleep.  I feel like I did last week when I trolled Trump supporters on the street. I feel like have cost myself something I cannot get back: in this case, time, energy, and a whole lot of adrenaline.

I consider it a waste of time to argue online, because  no argument online can be won anymore.  No one’s mind can be changed anymore.  No one wants to acknowledge logical points or even facts in an age when everything can be dismissed as “fake news”.  There was once a day when people would engage in civil, well thought out discourse on bulletin boards; now we all wallow in fallacies of online arguing.  There is no winning an argument or changing anyone’s mind online anymore; there is only being better at arguing and feeling better about being right.

The only saving grace of arguing online is that there are some cases where I learn something new.   Which I did, actually, tonight, from the original post that sparked the entire argument, which was moderately educational!   This Medium post similarly argues that arguing is a positive in that it helps one “bulletproof” one’s arguments.  Unfortunately, it’s almost always at a disproportionate amount of time and energy investment to argue for that knowledge.  Often, the knowledge I get from arguing online is information could have acquired elsewhere without paying such a high price in time, energy and effort, without arguing, without getting my blood pressure and my adrenaline up.  If I go poke around outside my own liberal bubble, I am pretty sure I can hear others’ points of view without having to waste time being polite and logical to random people I don’t even know who jump in the middle of an argument and decide to engage via deflecting and whataboutism.

Idiot

TRUE.  Because one person’s “FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE” is totally representative of thousands of other experiences and makes them an expert in the subject!

Why then, do I continue to waste time arguing online?  It inevitably results in me losing sleep, not over the argument itself, but over the guilt of the waste of time and energy from it (not to mention the adrenaline coursing through my veins from any argument).  I think it’s because there are two factors of appeal to online arguing for me: the need to hold people accountable for the social injustices they are supporting or failing to fight, and the need to be right.  On the one hand, I have always wanted to crusade for justice and against what I see as wrong, so having the entire Internet in which to do so is great for arguing for what I see as morally correct.  On the other hand, I just really like being smarter than everyone else and I will totally admit that.

Arguing online may hold a thin veneer of justification in that it allows one to try to use rhetoric to convince someone to do good.  Perhaps one will have the opportunity to impart knowledge and understanding to someone else.  Perhaps one will learn some critical piece of information or insight into the logic of the argument.  Perhaps one will learn a new way of looking at something, a new perspective that helps one understand the initial discussion topic better.  In some cases, when people share their perspectives with me, I’m actually grateful for the insight and knowledge.

However, ultimately, the knowledge that one cannot win an argument on the Internet means that if one is arguing, one is very likely arguing wholly due to ego.  It then requires a degree of mindfulness to recognize one’s ego as a primary motivator so one can pledge that one will not argue on the goddamn Internet and then have to write an entire blog post on why doing so is a bad idea before one can peacefully fall asleep.  Now, 900 words later, I feel like I’ve acquired some of that mindfulness – and I can go to bed.  Goodnight world!  Tomorrow is another day of being nicer on the Internet.

 

I have to stop reading the comments

I have to stop reading the comments

Do not ask me why I read the comments. It is always a mistake. Whatever the topic now, it manages to devolve into a set of crystallized black and white beliefs from the Left and the Right. This year’s crop of holiday messages has been the worst yet, as people have used those as jumping-off points to insult and express their dislike of the politicians posting those good wishes.

It’s impossible to see good in any comments anymore. The right jumps in to say that we Lefties are all “libtards” (officially my Most Hated Term Ever) and refuse to see The Truth about the Current POTUS, and/or His Associate Hillary Clinton and/or The Current Canadian Prime Minister. That “truth” is usually that that the “libtard” in question is wearing blinders/corrupt/biased in ways that are MUCH worse than their counterparts on the Right. If only us lefties were smarter/less fooled by MSM/more willing to admit it, we’d realize the leaders we chose are awful in their own right and that we are too stupid/selfish/elitist to choose REAL leaders like Current Right Wing Extremist. (Oh, and also, Obama is a Muslim/Trudeau hates Christmas)

The Left states that the incoming President is racist/going to get us all nukes/corrupt, and that the outgoing POTUS/his associate Clinton/current PM Trudeau is the best, classiest leader that ever was or could have been and NO MATTER WHAT they are definitely better than PEOTUS/past PM Harper. They would like to cite a lot of racism and prejudice that the Right is responsible for, and would like to also cite Russian hacking/Russian affiliation/Russian arms race as a factor.

What frustrates me the most is that neither group is playing on the same playing field. They are each shouting horrible insults at each other in knee jerk reactions of hatred that require the mental gymnastics of lumping each and every person into the same category. I do genuinely believe that there are many more incorrect facts and honestly just plain wrong beliefs by the Right, and that a lot of people with single-issue reactions (ie. this week’s “Obama is the WORST EVER for not using his veto to help Israel” crew) are lying to themselves and/or believing outright false news in order to make themselves feel better about the fact that A Possible Nuclear Winter Is Coming And It Was Fairly Elected In.

The Right continues, when sane, to announce that Obama was the Worst President Ever because of one or two things he did wrong; the Left continue to exaggerate Trump’s less concrete (and therefore more easily dismissed) problems to stand on a platform of Righteous Indignation and Moral Superiority.

How about this?

  1. The Left will focus on actual, well written statements. Not “Trump Will Get Us All Killed”, not “Trump Grabs Pussies”, not “Trump is Racist”, but “Trump has Business Conflicts Of Interest and had Bob Dole broker a call with Taiwan for his own hotel empire’s growth, thereby risking our relationship with China.” Or “Trump is pandering to a Christian population and is expressing vocal support of policies and laws that are in direct conflict with our Constitution”. Or “Trump isn’t attending security briefings but apparently has time to watch SNL.” Or even “Trump’s entire cabinet bought their positions and will never have the country’s best interests at heart over their own business kickbacks.” (This is my favorite because I really can’t handle having decisions over minimum wage made by a fast food CEO, or decisions on our foreign relationships made based on what’s best for Exxon)
  2. Perhaps we could also politely suggest that the Right put the same amount of fucking effort into digging up dirt, corruption and shadiness among Trump and his ridiculous excuse for a Cabinet that they did into finding all that circumstantial evidence against Hillary to believe she was corrupt. If they’re all so great at seeing through the screen of decency that Obama and Clinton throw up over their shady backdoor dealings, maybe they can apply that superpower to the new League of Supervillians that will be running the country? Insulting Hillary and telling us about her corruption is moot right now, maybe those watchdogs could look for corruption in the administration they somehow thought would be less corrupt.
  3. The Right will stop the absolute wall of hatred they throw up at every possible opportunity, like posting those stupid “crying laughter” emojis, saying that the Left is whiny, or calling us “libtards”. I hate “libtards” because it’s a generic insult calculated to be offensive, and I hate being called “whiny” because I don’t like the President Elect and insist on expressing my distrust of him and his coterie of 1%ers at every possible opportunity. You know what’s whiny? The government of North Carolina disenfranchising the state by taking all legislative power away from the democratically elected governor. Or, for that matter, continuing to complain about losing the Civil War for over a hundred and fifty years. Being “loyal opposition” to a PEOTUS you don’t trust isn’t even in that league.
  4. The Right will also stop citing proven false statements like Obama being a Muslim, Planned Parenthood selling fetus parts, LGBTQ being a “lifestyle choice” or climate change being a myth. Science exists, please stop denying it.

What we should do is just all talk about why we are so fucking emotional about this. I know why I’m so emotional. Every single member of Trump’s cabinet will make decisions that are bad and wrong for me, my family, my community, my city and my country. Most of all Trump’s policies on climate change will put my beloved hometown underwater within my goddamn lifetime. And to add insult to injury, my NYC income tax is now paying for security at Trump Tower because the PEOTUS won’t even live at the White House. Do you all realize how much that is taking away from my son’s school budget? DO YOU?!?

This is what I mean about emotional. I perceive these things as genuine threats to me & mine. Insulting me though, does not serve to help. And me insulting other people who believe in Trump because they are upset that Obama chose to stab Israel in the front today (JESUS BARRY REALLY?!?) or who genuinely believe that Trump is the choice for bringing back jobs to their small towns is not going to help in much the same way.

And that’s just America. I am deeply afraid for Canada, and afraid that the culture I grew up with and so strongly believe in — that of diversity and mutual respect and being just plain nice to people — is being eroded as people begin to take on American-style exaggerated blanket statements as mantras so they may justify adherence to a slate of politics they may or may not entirely agree with. For example: justifying the concept of “screening for anti-Canadian values” and saying that “67% of Canadians agree with it” [sample size or survey too small to make this accurate, btw] because you don’t like the Liberals fiscal policies are two totally separate things from the Conservative slate In Canada, we do not have to have absolute partisan politics with prejudice and insults the way we have in the USA. The fiscal conservatives in Canada should be perfectly capable of saying, “I don’t like Trudeau’s carbon tax but I do like how he is willing to work with pipeline companies,” without having to go into personal insults and undying loyalty to the Ghost of Stephen Harper and/or The Threat of Kellie Leitch and their racism — or, worst of all, saying things like “we need a Trump.”

Canada has been divided East vs. West before, and we do not need to follow America’s shitty example of being divided Rural vs. Urban now. It’s fine for those who do not like Trudeau to post that their Christmas is fiscally bleak because they don’t think his financial policies for the country make sense, but to constantly say he is a corrupt pretty boy out of touch with reality is making those statements far less part of a Loyal Opposition and far more part of a Knee Jerk Partisan Loyalty — or really, just Being A Jerk.

So that’s why I have to stop reading the comments. It literally sets my heart racing to be impersonally attacked, to have the leaders I support and believe in and the service they have done to their country reduced to insults so that those on the Right may continually believe in 100% of their political slate and their extremely poor choices. Claiming climate change doesn’t exist so you can be completely on the Conservative Train isn’t necessary. It’s OK to not agree with the entire slate of stupidity, and it’s OK to say that Obama did a good job of climate change legislation even if he wasn’t a friend to Israel.

It also makes my blood sugar spike to read the pandering and retroactive re-writing of history to eliminate things like Clinton or Trudeau’s pay-to-play fundraising. Right now I am also disappointed about the glossing over of Obama’s policies on Israel (REALLY BARRY YOU WANTED TO BE A DICK ABOUT THAT INSTEAD OF FORCING A SUPREME COURT APPOINTMENT?!?!?!). But I do think the selective perception and fake news is a more common phenomena on the Right as we see this increasing psychological phenomenon of justification and self-placating regarding an extremely bad decision to elect and support Trump. This is why we see the walls grow more absolute and the statements less truthy with time. This is why seeing the right wing trolls really upsets me because they are so illogically and unnecessarily mean, and they especially come out when the Left make emotional, sugarcoated and/or panicky statements.

Perhaps we could all agree to make more logical and polite statements on the Internet as a first step to healing the divide between the two Americas…and what will, if we don’t stop it, become two Canadas as well. That would make me more likely to engage in productive and intellectually challenging discourse, instead of being outraged and responding in a non-constructive way. It would also be nice to be able to make statements on the Internet without worrying about being attacked, as I am posting this on Medium, because I know ultimately, I will get comments from people who do not agree with me about one political point or another and will argue about it.

Just, if you must argue with me, please do not call me a libtard, or insinuate I am whiny, or that I am ignoring the fallacies of the Democrats/Liberals. I may not be as familiar with all those fallacies — but I’d be willing to hear logical statements about them. Saying Obama is the worst, most divisive president in history though and ignoring the legacy of economic and environmental good he did in his last eight years of service, however, is not going to make me listen. Calling the current PM “Trudope” or insulting his hair is not relevant to an argument against his tax policies or foreign aid distribution. Just stop. Please. And allow me to read the comments once again.

23andme mixups = hilarious baby swap results!

We recently sent our DNA samples (read: spit) to 23andme for analysis. “We” being Paul and I. I caught the 4/23 special of a $99 all-inclusive DNA analysis, and promptly signed us up. I wanted to know what conditions we may be at risk for so I can try to avoid them, and I was also hoping some data may come up on my DNA other than “Northern Europe”. Unfortunately, I don’t think they can go as far as saying, “you have a genetic marker only found in [insert family legend heritage here]”, but they may be able to clear up whether my Eastern Russian great grandmother had genetics similar to the Inuit.

I’m just going to have to hope that they don’t accidentally swap out our DNA as happened recently. I would hate to think that my baby was SWAPPED AT BIRTH because anonymized DNA data results told me so. Oh, wait, I can LOOK AT MY SON and immediately see a family resemblance (Baby Ben looks a lot like Baby Paul, only with my eye shape and my golden skin tones.) Seriously, can’t you just tell your kid is yours through common sense and common obvious traits? Ben looks and acts like he’s a mix of mine and Paul’s DNA. Even if I saw results to the contrary, I’d assume they were wrong because he’s so obviously OURS.

Anyways. We await our DNA results in four to six more weeks. I’m sure more commentary will follow.

Oh, and BTW – speaking of Ben – I know I owe a lot of blog posts about his Pacific Northwest adventures. They’re coming. I promise.