Monday, January 25, 2021

The Virus of Racism; The Virus of White Supremacy, the Loaded Code, the Virus

Clipped to my refrigerator is a stack of coupons. These are not coupons I looked for or clipped (there's clipping and there's clipping). These are thrust upon me for things I actually did buy and likely therefore will buy, and they have the value of actual dollar bills. They are therefore hard to discard, though I will likely never use them. I feel precisely the same way about buying orange juice in plastic bottles that are built to outlast Armageddon. I just can't.

These coupons are meant to manipulate my purchasing. Less visible is the trade in cookies meant to manipulate my purchasing online. Unfortunately, of course, those are also meant to manipulate what I read and therefore what I think. 

Happily, I don't spend too much time on shopping, so it all becomes background noise. I turn in my bottles and cans not for the deposit, but because they are more likely to enter the right stream for recycling. As if recycling could possibly make a difference. Oh please bring back waxed paper, hand-wrapped. Returnable bottles for milk and juice. We just don't care.

I am, of course, neither virtuous nor well-off. If I were, I would simply pay no attention to all this noise. I have only so much time to deal with things I can't control, and adjust my preferences in preference to having them adjusted for me. Style: absent. Curb appeal: nil. Fine. 

It's hard, though, to adjust my reading preferences, and the better the source the more wordy it seems. Proper (non-fake) media outlets like to thoroughly document what they present. The combination of endless Trump terrorism and COVID updates is just exhausting. People look to each other for the executive summary, and sometimes the ones I overhear are just plain wrong and even dangerous.

Then there was Amanda Gorman. There is no executive summary. And yet some are made angry. Some won't or can't listen. Beauty in words and in deed can and will be used against you, right AOC?

What are the roots of this anger? By way of science and math, I bypassed pretty much any and all poetry or even literature in the large sense, on the way to College. I felt bypassed by the knowledge my betters had. Well off and properly virtuous they all were. And so I started over with Chinese, and learned to read poetry in that tradition.

Of course I found that the rules, the meter even, had all been appropriated by and for the state. It still goes on, in form the same. And so what about science? Isn't it trued in the very same way? You think you read found and well-founded conclusions, but no, peer review means the same for science as it does for getting published in the New Yorker. There is a larger narrative that you must fit.

There simply is no way to get good information out there if nearly no one has the energy to cull and read the good stuff. Something a little shy of truth is the settlement. I barely penetrated a minuscule elite with my reading of Chinese. Even beyond the mass of Chinese, even now, though they get more of their classics along their way than we do of ours. They learned how to lay Faberge eggs too, if they were lucky.

We all have to settle somewhere on an explanation, but wouldn't it be nice if the one we settled on were genuinely authoritative at the same time that it didn't condescend to our intelligence and crap detection abilities?

On an executive level, we now know that the more deadly viruses are the ones that led to storming the capital. Our science on those is much shakier than the science on wearing masks and generating immunity for the pandemic virus. Either virus has the potential to unravel society, but both combined, and synergizing, have been truly deadly. 

Ultimately any center for power is corrupted. And yet the Chinese tested for poetic prowess once upon a time. Might we? They also brought COVID to heel, in ways that we might find, well, abusive.

Some have settled on an understanding that leads them to refuse masks or to refuse inoculation. There is understandable anger at the differential impact on different types of business. It certainly doesn't seem fair, and it's likely dangerous, that wage earners are tanking while investors soar. We are becoming polarized in many more than those two dimensions that are all we seem to have now in politics.

Polarized dimensions are the stuff of evolution, and yet we won't even dance together anymore. No wonder transgressions of gender are so important. It's not only about the genes.

We know that to combat the virus of disinformation, we need to rebuild trust. We know that it has something to do with a failure of our public education system. We know that it has something to do with some deterioration in our sense of shared purpose; even here in these United States where most of us still do retain something near to love for the ideals on which our nation was founded. Even those who stormed the capitol are motivated that way, however bizarrely distorted their 'reality' is.

Yes, of course I am anti-fascist, and I don't need to turn that into a coded meme for violence. We are all anti-fascist in our hearts, unless we project a kind of friendly fascist onto some fool out to manipulate things for his own benefit. There are plenty of tools to use now, if you are only out for yourself. If you wish to channel hate, that's apparently a lot easier than to channel love. The tools are out there in the wild and wonderful world of Facebook, Twitter, Google/YouTube search.

I suppose some kind of rage is required to see friendliness in the person of someone whose purpose is to manipulate rage. Where's the love, I'd like to know? I felt it in the recitations of our twenty-two-year-old first-ever national youth poet laureate. Plenty of people didn't. Perhaps they felt she shouldn't have dwelt so much on race; on what is wrong.

But how could we not dwell on race in this country? I just finished reading Greg Grandin's masterful book, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America. Our national history is not pretty when it comes to how those in power and bearing arms have dealt with those they consider "other." Blacks, Native Americans, Mexicans have been our primary "domestic" targets, not to mention those that we have dehumanized overseas. 

The documentation of our collective behaviors, especially as those are projected onto our young armed forces proxies, is hard to read. But there is perhaps some hope in that the anger on display during the ransacking of the capitol building was more like a tailgate rampage than a massacre. Go Bills!

Of course, we can't know what might have happened had the building been turned into a fortress, or had they lucked into a packed house. Perhaps we have been lucky in the creation of some kind of social antibodies, just as my own apparently successful antibody production kept my COVID-19 infection mild.

The raw fact of life in the twenty-first century is that we are all in everything together. Deny it though we might try to do, the twin viruses of COVID-19 and nationalism are rampant now across the globe. In the one case social distancing can help. In the other it is the social distance between the rich and the poor which is at the root of the disease processes which lead to exclusionary nationalism and hate-based authoritarianism. Well, it's not exactly the social distance is it? More like the ease by which the wealthy and powerful are able to manipulate the poor into subverting their own self-interest. 

No wonder there is mistrust even of COVID relief.

Mistrust of public directives against the pandemic are of a piece with mistrust of the motives of those who have or control all the money. Of course global capitalism will have to evolve before we can prevail, which is to say before we can sustain ourselves as a species. 

Nature was once the field of conquest. We have, collectively, been triumphant on that field. Now nature has moved within, and conquest becomes far more subtle. The choice feels stark between reverting to lives that are short and brutish simply because we cannot relinquish our behavioral profligacy, or finding other things to fantasize about than space travel, projected orgies of delight and body sculpting, say.

It feels like we are on the verge of being able to claim a kind of immunity to the ravages of the nature that is outside us; the one the wealthy reserve to themselves as a kind of playground now in so many ways. Sailing by superyacht on the seas of fate is not the same as living. This we do not yet believe.

Also on display during the inauguration were calls to our Heavenly Father, claimed by all sides as the Greater Authority, no matter how perverted by the words of worldly men. This is such a dumbed down version of the godhead. Like equating plastic surgery toward beauty with medicine to quiet illness. There is no God which celebrates rapacity, whether personal or national.

And so these many memes, from Q-Anon through anti-vaxxing, which have infected so many minds must be eradicated with consummate care. They are utterly resistant to attacks that are founded in hate. They can only be combated by genuine and meaningful education, and by opportunity to participate in a thriving and fair economy. Trust is built by free association among people who are unlike ourselves. 

This can happen in school when schools are not as segregated as the neighborhoods they sprout from. It happens at the university and in the military and in corporations that are not stratified by those same memes which stratify society at large. Which celebrate "free speech" internal, in the same way that our nation celebrates it in principle.

Lies told by way of government propaganda are no more dangerous than the lies told by the propaganda for selling. These are the things we must grasp, and not only how to quell the pandemic virus. The mechanics of quelling the pandemic have now been revealed as utterly one with the mechanics of quelling the various viruses of mistrust and of hatred.

The work to be done between now and the next election has nothing to do with revenge. Our work is not the Lords' work. Our wordly worldly work is to build back trust and to know one another as comrades. Without arms.

Meantime it won't stop being exhausting. Dreams of travel of visits of even skiing or taking a simple walk fade into quarantine, alone, at home. I wonder how we will navigate the next decade. Will we all be wearing masks all the time? Will we become unrecognizable, even to ourselves? Will I ever criss-cross the country again? 

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