T for Tom

How Am I Supposed to Feel?

Posted in Prose by johnsontoms on October 6, 2013

How am I supposed to feel about this?

As things get worse, other things carry on.  Enough other things carry on and everywhere everyone can act like nothing is happening.  There are still the magazines to tell you how to dress, the televisions to tell you how to vote, the radios to tell you how to dance, and the schools to tell you who to be.  We walk the streets in a mired identity that believes somehow it is singular yet, all around us, are others of us.  And every one of us, alike and the same, carries on like nothing is happening.  “It will pass” and “it will end soon” are spoken intelligently like we know, like we have the answer, because it feels right, doesn’t it? But what is it to feel right?  How did we arrive in a place where giving to others is a political battleground?  And while there are so many things to indicate that such an emotion is a path wrongly taken, that too – that feeling that giving to others is a human right, not a charity – could be a symptom of years and generations of going about it all wrong.

After all – what about where we are says anything we’ve ever done was good?

Because here we are, stuck in the middle of a government shutdown during one of the most volatile, divisive, politically eruptive periods in American history staring down a mounting list of problems as society continues to rift, debts continue to grow, men and women continue to be shot down, racial divides thicken, sexual and religious inequality persist, and there to oversee it is a government body that collectively said “fuck it.”  It’s a remarkable thing to say, maybe finally, that democracy has failed.  It has failed us, it has failed itself, and I begin to wonder how much longer we can sit by and try to patch the holes in a ship that is clearly capsizing.  What’s so wrong with revolution after all?

But we mustn’t think politically.  These problems are too rich to play with numbers, too significant to meet with logic, for logic and numbers have long been thrown away.  In many ways, logic and numbers brought us to this point – where, for sake of a seat in office, for sake of identifying with regimes and ideas, for sake of wanting to keep what’s ours, we’ve given up on the idea of charity.  Frankly, this all boils down to politicians and their supporters that refuse to help those in need, by providing a simple basic service, medicare, that might keep someone alive.  Isn’t it incredible? I mean, how can we look at ourselves and say that we’re debating people’s worthiness to live?  That’s what’s going on.  And I don’t know how to feel.

It should be so much more simple than turning on the switch again, and as much as I want someone to do it, it won’t change the void and disillusion I have – this feels like something that should be changing my life, but I feel nothing.  I’m more frustrated from the loneliness, the normality of it all.  While I walk around trying to grab onto people or words or ideas to make sense of what’s happening, the world keeps spinning and in it are people that watch it spin.  As a government employee I should be affected, changed, impacted, much less enraged, but I got paid – one of the few, and I’m still at work, and I’m carrying on, and nothing’s changed, except that my government has failed.  That idea has done more to me than any paycheck ever could.

I can’t accept living in a world so disengaged.  These are acts of tyranny, the times when politicians get drunk on the eve of watching the government die.  But I can’t very well blame them for living within an environment that watched such behavior blossom and become, largely, a mode of acceptable behavior beyond punitive action and free of ridicule; in a sense, everyone was doing it, so what’s the big deal?  That millions of lives worldwide ride on it.  But, like everyone else who keeps checking their smart phones for updates or watching their televisions for sports scores or checking their internet for cat photos, distractions keep us from realizing what’s going on, feeling the gravity of the situation, and knowing for once that we’re in a bad place.  We’re on a slow boat to anarchy.

Decisions are being made for spite.  Real world, heavy decisions are being made for spite.  Ones in particular that shut down a government and make literally zero logical sense other than to enrage voters and chase reelection.  Where are we when this is acceptable political behavior?  And more than what can be done, how did we arrive here?  Has it always been like this?  How should I feel about this?

The arguments are so compellingly strong against the behavior of the few that have made this happen.  The irrational decision to fight a bill that has been signed into law is never one that will make sense, and, as the president has calmly said, “are tactics designed to ransom the government and its people for things that will not change.”  I believe that’s an impeachable offense.  But it’s not important.  I can’t get over the fact that in the 21st Century, this new millennium, we still have people who refuse to help others.

In an argument the other day with a coworker, his reasons for support of such behavior circled around the fact that the many shouldn’t take care of the worthless few.  Never mind that over 40-million working adults can’t afford healthcare, and that 1 in 5 choose to go without, these people are infringing on the capitalist efforts of the few who have.  The few who have earned a little bit, who have something others don’t and don’t want to share.  It didn’t mean anything to him that his own friend, another coworker standing near us who is a father to four children and previously earned less than 30,000$ a year, couldn’t afford health care were he not in the military.  The first man was convinced that “the country’s gangsters” would “abuse Obamacare” to “get things they don’t deserve.” How in the hell is this kind of idea real?  How the fuck can people go on living like this and saying these things?

That to me is a more pressing issue than the government shutdown.  I don’t know what to feel because the issues at hand are not the most important.  Even as millions ignore that it’s even happening, for the few who are paying attention I want to say – look harder.  This is not about politics.  This is about human behavior.  This is about human emotion.  This is feeling.  This is about the ideas of religion and philosophy and the culture of fear.  This is about thinking.  Thinking goddammit, and are we thinking anything at all.

Because if we’ve gotten everything so wrong, it means also that how we think is wrong.  To its worst end, maybe the idea that we should help each other is wrong.  To its illogical conclusion, maybe we should accept that life is a series of births and deaths and attempting to save a life is pointless, nay, harmful.  It’s frightening because it feels so wrong, but that’s what I’m talking about – if everything we think is right is actually wrong, then what about the opposite?  How long before we give it a shot?  How long before we don’t have a choice?

We can’t keep going about things the same way forever.  History is a series of trial and error, a long steady line of mistakes, theories, hypotheses, test and conclusion.  Along the way there have been the romantic few who dared to accelerate the process: Plato, Pythagoras, Copernicus, Newton, Da Vinci, Kant, Bacon, Einstein, Tesla, the ones who through philosophy, mathematics, science, and sheer curiosity dared to dream of a world with answers derived from simply asking questions.  They were the ones who about them saw a world that didn’t work quite the way it was advertised, and they sought (and succeeded) in providing a few more ways to think.

But with these foundations for thinking having been laid down for thousands of years, our contemporary state seems scripted.  In a way, the greatest thinkers and doers have been said to answer humanity’s greatest scientific and moral dilemmas.  We know that humans should persevere to help other humans, and we are left to figure out how.  We know that electricity can stimulate particles to create energy, and if harnessed properly, can compute equations at a percentile of the human brain’s capacity, and we are left to figure out its greatest use.  We know that particle physics can dissemble the known universe, and we’re left to figure out how to make it possible.  We know that people shouldn’t die young, and we’re left to figure out why it’s still happening.  It’s like putting together an existential puzzle where the factions of the earth each have a piece don’t believe that other pieces are needed.  If only these factions could cooperate.  More exciting still, is that there is more thinking to be done.  Look no further than the perilous state of things to know that we haven’t gotten most anything figured out.

I’m not the first, lord no, not the first to have this idea.  If I’m lucky I’ll have even a fraction of the success those before me had with it.  In the 18th Century, Immanuel Kant became fed up with the way things were presented.  Having seen a recorded history of the world and its moral dilemmas decided by faith, Kant proposed a way of thinking that stated directly why humans felt such moral gravity and how such faith failed to answer the implications.  It was revolutionary: “Up to now it has been assumed that all our cognition must conform to the objects; but … let us once try whether we do not get farther with the problems of metaphysics by assuming that the objects must conform to our cognition” (Critique of Pure Reason).  Essentially, the way we perceived our experiences is a consequence of our predisposed ideas, or, we get what we want from things.  Kant was raised in the church (big surprise) and a stern home education focusing on the use of Latin and classic theologies.  In short order, a boiling point for the thinking man.  And while it is important to notice the things he was able to conjure, the beautiful and mystic moral questions he was able to transcribe, it is most important to evaluate his positive assertion for the necessity of thinking – our experiences conform to our ideas, or the way we want them.  And he didn’t want to be like that.  Everything he was taught to believe didn’t seem entirely right because, as he correctly hypothesized, it was a result of scatological heresy passed down in the form of history to be taught as truth.  He didn’t know what truth was out there – he just knew that what he was being told was wrong.  And for his efforts we have the greatest works on Moral Metaphysics ever assembled, paving the way for why the human brain seeks cognitively to search for the best emotional solution.

This is of great consequence in the modern day.

The Age of Information after all is pummeling us like a steamroller from hell.  Life is advancing at such a speed that profits are proportionately related to the amount of technology used in production (I just came up with that, but fuck, isn’t it true?).  The trickle-down effect of this relationship affects you, the user and consumer and producer, in the market economy of “slave wages,” for lack of a better term.  Basically, you need money to survive; in order to make money you need a job; in order to keep a job you have to operate within the confines of the jobs demands; the job will remain present and profitable in so long as it is within the curve of advancing technology; you, personally, therefore must stay within the curve of advancing technology.  And so begins a life connected infinitely to the radio waves of the internet, radio, television, and cellular life.  As much as I have removed television from life (I have not one, do not watch more than an hour each month in public spaces), and as much as I try to refrain from other modes of consumption, I have to keep my e-mail updated to receive important communications from coworkers and my employer.  As a resident of Europe for a couple of years now, the easiest method by which I can contact anyone, sadly, is Facebook.  This relationship with technology can vary in degrees, but the necessity to operate in the modern has us crippled.  Instead of thinking, we’re consuming.  Instead of running ahead, we’re catching up.  Reactive, not proactive.  And while we know that we shouldn’t be so easily directed by the flow of traffic, we know also that we should be able to answer life’s simple questions of survival – food, shelter, family, in that order, thank you Maslow – and in the Age of Information we can do that.  It isn’t until that process is interrupted that we will realize the true order of chaos around us.

Because, truly, what have we gotten from this modern world?  We’re too afraid to believe that the things we own, all the total sum of the products, emotions, and ideas that we possess within our mind, could be as strong as the house built on the sand, to use a well-known analogy.  It’s frightening that everything we know is wrong.  Frightening, absolutely shaking.  So while the government goes into shutdown, while our government is failing, we sit back and watch the television and focus our time on distractions to make it seem less real.

The failure of government is a real and shocking truth in this country that no one yet is fully conceptualizing.  Just imagine now – think of all the times you’ve heard the battle cry, “it’s unconstitutional.”  The indictment on any unjust action as “unconstitutional” is as strong or stronger in this country of ours than any previous moral judgment ever used, biblical or otherwise.  It’s a way of life here, in the blood.  The Constitution is our bible, our religious document.  Invoking its charges, we’ve been led to believe that only be the words of Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers (just men, mind you) we’ve been able to forge out a world of peace, freedom, and liberty through a system of government we call democracy.  For nearly 250 years it has been the calling card to successes large and small.  And now it’s wrong.  It doesn’t work.

I’m telling you that democracy isn’t working.

John Adams, of a few people, said as much: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty.” (letter to John Tyler, April 15, 1814, The Collected Works of John Adams)

It is not without any sense of irony that we should also discuss the exact mechanics at work for this failure: in the attempt to make irrelevant the voting power of the republic collective, Federalists relegated the proportionality system of delegates (equal in proportion to population) used in the House of Representatives to the lower tier of the legislative branch, one not responsible for creation of law.  It is however, as part of a bicameral legislature, while not able to create much, capable of at least saying “no” once in a while, as it has and is right now and goddamn it you fools.

Just reading over the words in the above paragraph seem to place the government (which is after all, a group of men getting together, and nothing more) in the same lofty levels as the heavens, the after life, and the karmic truth.  But it is just a group of men entrusted to make decisions for the majority.  It is a tool of voice, a tool no different than the microwave, the refrigerator, the latex condom (less effective, in fact).

What have these tools, these inventions, these governments given us that in any way solves the problems we’ve raised and known to be quarrelsome?  For all the things we’ve created, how then can we not solve something as simple as war with an answer as simple as peace?

It means to me that the entire way of thinking is wrong.  Everything.  All of it.  Peace as we know it is a false concept.  Death as we know it is a false concept.  War, government, politics, state borders, all false.  Sex, reproduction, gods and love are all in the mind, as are feelings of esteem, courtesy, jealousy, pride, anger, frustration, and accomplishment.  Charity, benevolence, kindness, sympathy, and compassion are as equally useless and hollow as hate, violence, prejudice, and intolerance.  We feel and believe all of these things as a result of what we’ve been told.  None of it is true.

It means that my feelings of disillusion, too, are misplaced.  It means I shouldn’t feel that the anarchy is slowing creeping our way, because I should not expect anarchy to be weighted proximally by equal feelings of remorse, regret, fear, and anxiety, as I’ve been taught to believe.

It means I should sit back and welcome the chaos like the warm rising tide that swells in the night with the weight of a dark, burning moon glowing lowly over the horizon never to spin its face the other way because it knows like we know that change is violent and it takes all the power of the sun and stars to make a giant transform its way of life.




…But I really cannot articulate enough, over and over again, this sentences:

How do we live in a world still filled with people who think its okay to operate with hate in their hearts?

How do we still live in a country that operates on blatant and unreal racism and bigotry?

Why do people continue to refuse to help other people?

What is it about personal possessions that is much more gratifying than charity?

I mean, seriously. What do you have that you can’t live without that makes affordable healthcare for people in need an impracticality?

There are a lot of things that can be written in political science journals about the shifts happening right now, and I think the strongest is this – this government shutdown is proof that the two-party system is largely institutionalized beyond a point of referendum, as seen in the power of the radical Tea Party (side note: I’m glad that some outlets are finally labeling the Tea Party as “radical”).  Or, essentially, because of the fear engrained in the historical ideology of the antebellum South and the corporate donations made to the Republican Party on behalf of the gentrified companies that are run by people with such ideology, the Republican Party as a whole must pander to its ideas and wishes rather than dissemble or realign.  I mean, for fuck’s sake, they call themselves the Tea Party – they want things they way they were hundreds of years ago, you know, before a black man took over the presidency.

Which leaves me with two questions:

1)   How do these people survive in this world?

2)   Why aren’t we working harder to eradicate their antiquated beliefs?

Whatever.  Just go post something about #shutdownLOL on tumblr while you order your Pumpkin Spice Latte because that’s all you wanted when fall season rolled around because the movies are still on and its NFL Sunday and I’ve got to work tomorrow and the fall premiere season has started on television and gas prices haven’t gone up and my baby boy brought home his first homework assignment from kindergarten today about the alphabet and isn’t it cute when we get to dress him up for Sunday service? and next week we’ll go to grandma’s and eat that casserole she loves to make but I’ll take my hat off at the table this time even though you know I love to wear it everywhere I mean how often do you see me without it and a can of Bud Light because that’s what a man is supposed to wear even if he’s in the club, just like getting out the muddin’ truck it just feels good speaking of which where are the boys going this weekend? I need plans for Halloween something to do after watching the football game but let’s keep it cheap ‘cause we have to start saving up for Christmas time you know the boys want a new video game system this year the fancy one that everyone else has because I don’t want to him cry about it you know I’m not good with this but I wasn’t out too late I just needed a day to get away there are so many things going on right now I just needed to relieve some stress yes I’ll pay the bills and it’s your turn to walk the dog and I don’t care I just like my coffee black I’ll get it for you after the next paycheck and no I’m not worried about the government shutdown because it doesn’t have anything to do with me #LOLlolololololololol