Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Reading Like Mad

You know, I don't need to hear anything more about how feckless Donald Trump is. I need our schools to get back into the business of cultivating actual educated citizens. I need television to restaff news offices with thoughtful educated people, part of whose job would be to analytically educate the adult populous. I need local newspapers to be back. I need my country back. I'm sick of being entertained to death. Especially when I want the news!

I once did love America, and I hope I can again. The position of president is the position for an authentic leader. A leader in the process of actual leadership hardly needs to announce their authority. If they do their job, their authority will be self-evident. Just like our many truths.

I read as though I will finally understand something so fundamental that it will be communicable, and spread throughout the world just like a virus. At this late age (mine, not the world's) I actually still feel that it must be out there somewhere.

What a fool's game! I am far too old, just like our proposed and actual presidents are.

I tried reading Finnegans Wake once (or ten times) and I guess that there are people who like crossword puzzles. Now I'm trying to read William Gibson, who sometimes writes the same way Joyce does. I'm hoping for insights like the ones I've gotten from Thomas Pynchon (before he descended into Joycean purple) about how the world is constructed.

In the midst of the Plague, Apple released the new iPhone I've been counting on so that I could afford to replace my six-year-old handset which is so long in the tooth that I'm mostly waiting for it to move. It was a silly postponement on my part, given how much I pay for monthly service up against the cost of the phone.

The new phone is wonderful. The little touches that I find each day improve my experience, and especially the speed. This is all very pleasant. But mostly I'm struck by how very similar it is in all ways to the phone I've now retired. And this is supposed to be an age of innovation?!? Well, I do remember fondly back when a television "set" would last for 25 years. Innovation may be so much smoke and mirrors, up against the real world.

No matter how hard Joyce and Gibson are to read, it should be harder to read Chinese, but it's not. I see almost no reporting in our MSM over here about how and why China got back to work.
With almost zero COVID-19 in China anymore. I see almost no reporting on how China is eating our lunch in the realm of innovation.

I don't mean with cell phones, or even with 5G (which I can't imagine ever caring about - though I think that businesses probably can and should). I mean with their nationwide initiatives, with which the Chinese people are nearly all on board. Just as they did with cell phones, they will leapfrog past the legacy processes we're stuck with They never did have to wire up for phones.

China will never be held back by a creationism-like wacko theory about how and why it's wrong to involve government in economic decisions; in those things like transportation, healthcare, communication, power generation, and sustainability - and certainly education - where there is no elasticity to demand.

It's very hard not to conclude that we've been dead here for a very long time, and the corpse is already rotting. How else to explain the politics of Republican normal carrying on in the midst of what by any measure is a very real crisis. Even if most of the crisis can be attributed NOT to a virus, but to our out-of-control immune responses, it's still a crisis. People are still needlessly dying, and the economy is still needlessly shut down (look at China, please!).

The American immune response is contaminated and conditioned by racism and climate-change denial and evolution denial and belief in a cartoon God and brain-dead belief in some invisible hand all over the place. That invisible hand is prodding us to our extinction.

Bizarrely, the stock market hasn't collapsed. Well, of course not! First of all, it serves the rich, and second of all, it reflects our decades-long move away from bricks and mortar to something we lovingly call on-line. Meanwhile nobody's working and we talk cost to fix our system as though we can't print money, even while we're printing it hand over fist. And letting the states run dry.

In just the way that technology accelerates and amplifies all underlying trends - now certainly to include racism and xenophobia - it will amplify our deadly response to what China is up to in precisely the way that it amplified the effect of a few dozen terrorists who were able to bring down the Trade Towers. A mostly symbolic action turned deadly in earnest. Our systems had already gone haywire.

With all the reading that I do, I don't remember many details. Hell, I can't even remember if what I read was in Chinese or English much of the time. I hardly ever remember authors, which is probably why I never could be a sports fan, nor certainly a scholar.

But I do remember good stories. I remember important insights. I especially remember grand insights which change and rock my world. I don't think I can possibly forget what I learned by finally reading Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene during this plague. That's despite the fact that I quibble (in my previous post) with his dogmatism about cosmic processes which are not strictly-speaking material.

I am more excited by genuinely meaningful explanation about how things work than I am about nearly anything else. And given my propensity to forget, that makes a difference to me. I can't forget such knowledge once I learn it.

And I certainly won't try to deny it on the basis of ideology.

The thing that we Americans suffer most now is that we actually truly do believe that there's nothing that we need to do to keep our country alive. We seem to believe that America is immortal. We seem to think that we uniquely have some divine spark that other peoples lack.

We don't. We're all asleep at the switch and staring at our iPhones or at other screens up to and including Jumbo. We - all of us together - need to bring Lazarus back from the dead. There is no Jesus of the sort who will do that for us.

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