Saturday, September 10, 2016

Things I sometimes think that I think

I think I am turning into a bit of a hermit, going for days on end without getting much further than a couple of miles from Kintala and her dock. The only people I see most days are those at the shop. They are amiable, good at what they do, and have accepted me after only a couple of months. But we are co-workers, not really friends. I don't carry a phone anymore, it rarely rang anyway. (I am not very good at phone conversations.) Maybe not carrying a cell phone is the new definition of “hermit” in America. Sometimes people connected with work ask me for my cell number. I tell them I have one but don't bother with it much, so the number will do them little good. That usually sparks a cartoon like “double take”.

If I did happen to have my phone on me, and someone called from work when I wasn't working, I think it unlikely I would answer. I may be semi-un-retired at the moment, but I gave up thinking my worth has anything to do with my work several years ago. I learned the hard way that the overwhelming majority of the people I have worked for were only interested in how much of the money I generated by working for them was money they got to keep for themselves. Many of them openly resented the fact that they had to share any of “their” money with me in pay or benefits. All of them considered the job I did as theirs, loaned to me for their exclusive good. Many also seemed to think all of my time was theirs, to be used as they saw fit, including talking to them on the phone when I wasn't at work. (At my last job the boss actually called me after work to tell me that I was unemployed. Another job ended with a phone call on the Sunday afternoon of the Labor Day Weekend. America is good at vicious irony.) Maybe they are right in thinking such since, after all, that is what makes capitalism, capitalism. 

In any case I think one nice thing about being a bit hermit-like is that no job is one that owns me anymore. I do any job as well as I can partly because that is how I was raised, and partly because that ideal really is one that serves to make America great. How could any society where all of its people were dedicated to craftsmanship and excellence in every facet of life be anything but great? Still, should any job I have go away tomorrow, it would not be much of a blow. Kintala moves. My home goes with me. I own my tools and know how to use them, and I think that is where real value lies.

I think pretty much the same about politics as I do my phone; sometimes useful, but often best ignored. I think there is a lot of heat being generated in the current election, but not much light. It is an election over which party, which candidate, is the marginally less loathsome. A shame, really. But I think, as do some others, that this is the best democracy money can buy. And any democracy as bought and paid for as this one is going to be of poor quality, questionable value, and uncertain future.

Still, I think I will not be voting for Mr. Trump, but my reasons are pretty simple and not particularly political. Some of the people I love most on this whole planet are bi-racial, female, or both. I have friends and distant family who are gay. Many of the good people I do work with are Spanish-speaking first and second generation immigrants. And I am only a third generation immigrant myself. 

Mr. Trump is enthusiastically supported by every white supremacist organization in the nation. He is enthusiastically supported by people who loudly claim to have the god-given right to judge, condemn, harass, and oppress people who are gay. He is supported by many who really do think women are second class citizens, deserving of less pay and less say about how they live their lives. And someone should remind Mr. Trump that he is only a third generation immigrant himself, that a lot of the people he wants to deport have Spanish-speaking family who have been living in this part of the world a lot longer than his.

I think America is at her best when she does the hard, gritty work of eliminating discrimination in any form. I think she is at her best when lifting all people up is the goal, and putting anyone down is openly criticized. I think she is great when she seeks peace and not war. And I don't think any nation that is hostile to the refugees it created with the wars it fights has the right to claim "exceptionalness".

Not that this election, itself, matters all that much, since I think Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton are more symptoms than they are candidates. My favorite example is that Mr. Trump likes to boast about the politicians he has "influenced", and Ms. Clinton is certainly a politician who is open to being "influenced". It always works out that the people in power, which includes those who wield political power, economic power, or both, eventually get greedy with that power. The workings of the society get twisted so they can claim for themselves an ever-increasing portion of that society's wealth. It happens in dynasties, kingdoms, tyrannies, republics, and democracies. Eventually the greed leads to ruin and a different group of people end up with power. And the whole cycle starts all over again.

So I think it may well be that we are all members of an insane species, one that keeps doing the same things over and over again: worshiping greed, lusting after power, fighting wars, and thinking – somehow – that this time things will work out for the better. But I also think that maybe, sometime in the far future, those living with our future as their past will see things more clearly, change their thinking, and watch things work out differently. I like to think that someone will be around to learn from our collective mistakes.

In the mean time, some of us can try to think a little differently. We can think that living in small homes is better than living in mansions. We can think that generating power at that home, and using it carefully, is better than depending on a creaking and questionable infrastructure. We can think that conservation and living well with less is better than unbridled consumerism, that lusting after unending growth in a finite world with finite resources really is insane. We can think that waste is wrong, and do as little wasting as we can.

We can think that walking or riding a bicycle is better than driving a car, and so drive as little as necessary while walking and peddling as much as we can. We can think that a community built with that kind of thinking is a good place to live, and build some more of them.

We can think that truths should influence politics, and not the other way around. We can think that we know the difference between propaganda and news, ignoring the former and seeking the latter in matters where we have an interest. We can think that most people are more like us than different, that we can usually allow for the differences that do exist, that we can get more done by working together than by competing with each other. We can think that minding our own business is far better than minding someone else's.

We can think that thinking, all by itself, is a good and valuable thing, and do more of it.

At least, that's what I sometimes think that I think.


Stuart McCullough said...

What great thoughts!

Jon Kutassy said...

A good post, and a welcome one. I was wondering if your quietness since the storm had a more sinister reason. Glad you're both OK.

Patrick Wire said...

Really nice post. Actually made me stop and think about several topics but perhaps the most important is that I need to stop and think more.

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

I am not a big Hillary fan. But I think it unfair to call her merely "marginally less loathsome." There is good reason to believe she would be a competent steward of the office. And, for the record, some of our best presidents (in the eyes of history) have been deeply flawed personally. And vice versa.

TJ said...

Truth to tell Jon, mostly my quietness is due to working 40 hours a week again. I have gotten back into the swing of it...sort of. But at the end of pretty much any day thinking hard enough and clear enough to write anything even remotely coherent is a reach. Weekends are spent doing errands and storing up a bit of energy for the week to come. Beside that we haven't moved in months so there is little of the "cruising" life to write about, though sometimes something at the shop will light a little spark of a tale. We will be on the move again some early next year, hoping to spend a few months in the Islands. Next summer we will be back here for one more go round for stuffing the kitty while, it looks like, having a Daughter and family around for several months. If it works out that way it should be a pretty good or no.

The storm missed us by just enough to be mostly sound and fury, some unbelievably hard rain, a a couple of outlandishly high tides.

Stuart and Patrick, thanks for the kind words. This election is a bit like a lit stick of dynamite...handle at your own pearl. I don't believe I have ever seen so many reasonable people completely abandon all sense of reason before, and I remember some of the late 60s and early 70s. Never thought I'd live to see the day where the US of A went even nuttier than it did back then. We survived that but, this time?

TJ said...

Jeffrey, you make a valid point. I happen to think Ms. Clinton is far less loathsome than is Mr. Trump. However, it must be admitted that those at the right end of the political spectrum feel just the opposite. Such massive cognitive disconnect is kind of astounding, that the (so called) “values voters” (ie Christian Evangelists) support Mr. Trump as some kind of god appointed savior while regarding Ms. Clinton as something akin to the spawn of the devil may be the most hypocritical posturing I have ever seen. But, again, they think the same of people like me. Some of them are friends of mine who also happen to be smart people in most other things, which pretty much doubles my feeling that the nation has spun completely out of control already.

And, to be perfectly honest, if there were any viable choice other than Ms. Clinton I would be voting for her / him / it. Though Ms. Clinton's politics are certainly a far cry from those of Mr. Trump, they are still problematic. She is as much a consumer capitalist as Mr. Trump, and as deeply embedded in the corporate culture of Wall Street and international business interests. Since that world view / economic model is the driving force behind anthropological climate change, many of our wars, resource depletion, and economic inequality, it is unlikely she will be much of a leader in responding many of the challenges facing the nation and the world.

She is also as much a war hawk as anyone in government. (Henry Kissinger? Really?) A Clinton White House will see no end to the drone assassinations or the “war on terror”. The militarization of America's police forces will continue apace, and military spending will continue to rise. American will continue to imprison more of its population than any other nation on earth.

Ms. Clinton has clearly decided that “the liberals” will have no choice but to vote for her, and she has veered hard to the right, courting Republican votes. The concerns of Sanders or Warren will have little impact on (another) Clinton Administration, and both have already been kicked to the curb.

That Mr. Trump, in spite of being every bit the raving lunatic thinking people like to point out that he is, is still within shouting distance of winning this election, is pretty clear evidence that Mr. Clinton is, at best, an uninspiring candidate in her own right.