I have to admit, despite all of my narcissistic writing tendencies, that I have not had too many moments of actual self-realisation. Perhaps such lack of epiphanies is what drives my internal leanings; it would inherently make sense. I don’t know who I am, so I must filter all of my world through the lens of “I.” It would also probably explain my incessant need to start most of my posts with obvious throat clearing: I have no ability to enter a topic without first bringing some sort of meta-commentary on the thought process / develop an explanation for why I am even writing. Life is complicated.
This week, crystalised yesterday in a coversation with my friend, Pat, I realised I am a moron. And this realisation was not difficult to ascertain, nor was it actually a surprise. Pat and I were talking about the ridiculous mindset of some of the American voting public. I relayed to him a story about how at lunch I had to hear an older woman complain about the cost of her healthcare, how she was entitled to disability from the government because she at least earned it unlike all those “moochers”, how Obama won in 2012 through a sinister consipiracy of voter fraud proven by facts on the internet, and that while she doesn’t believe we are in the end times at this moment, the apacolypse is coming soon. I cannot handle people like this. I may disagree wildly with the conservative approach to government, but I can, at the very least, allow them to have an opinion if it has its own version of logic. However, you cannot complain about healthcare and demand government money be given to you and then immediately go into how the man who supports those very things shouldn’t be the president. That’s incomprehensible, and it is a specific type of destructive thinking: if it is important to me then it matters with no regard for the actuality of the thinking. I want my government money because I need it; Obama is a Muslim Antichrist socialist from Kenya hellbent on ending the world and this affects me because I’m a solidly white Christian American.
The problem, however, is I cannot truly condemn people who think like this because I do the exact same thing with a loosely connected idea.
I am a strong proponent of strict regulation when it comes to the environment. The science clearly indicates climate change is occurring and that we humans are major factors. To ignore these facts puts the Earth’s, and thus our own, existence in peril. Keep this in mind as I’m about to start writing about something completely ridiculous in light of those previous sentences. I have been, for quite a while now, trying to convince G. to let me buy a truck. And not just any truck, but a diesel engine truck, which means 250/2500 or bigger. I argue that owning such a truck makes sense because with the amount of outdoor maintenance I have to do on our yard, I need a commercial mower which means I need a trailer, plus I need to haul materials and because we need something with four-wheel drive. And the diesel engine makes sense because they last longer and hopefully we wouldn’t have to buy another one in a long time.
This isn’t even the most ridiculous part.
When I decide that we must get something, such as my future truck, I cannot stop myself from looking up prices online. Autotrader is permantly open on my laptop. I see if trucks I’ve marked as “possibilities” [despite already knowing that none of them are an actual possibility] have sold and feel dejected when one has. There is a part of my brain that believes a purchase will occur and some asshole has taken that away from me by going in and paying for a truck I have set aside on a laptop screen in some delusional belief about the future. However, it gets worse. Part (most) of my desire for owning a hulking 4×4 vehicle comes directly from a crippling paranoia of and disdain for driving in snow. I hate snow. I hate snow to the point of panic attacks, and I feel it is necessary to wall myself up in a societally-accepted tank whenever the threat of snow appears. And this is how I started looking at Hummer H2s on Autotrader, and this is why, in terms of weather/vehicles, I am a goddamn Tea Party member.
The problem with making decisions solely based on fear and paranoia is that irrational thoughts find a way of being rationalised by the person having them. Facts/blatant self-hypocricies/outside opinions will not, cannot, factor into the thought process because it, in some way, totally makes sense to me to think owning an H2 because of the 4 months or so of possible bad weather is a good idea. I disregard all my notions of environmental concern when it no longer trumps my personal concern. What this also means is that I can grandstand all I want about how stupid it is for that lady at lunch to contradict herself about entitelements/Obama, but she’s only thinking in the same exact way I am. Protect myself, worry about the others later if it’s convienent.
It is a deconstructionist approach to life. We can take an abstract idea–say, the social safety net–then destroy it to fit whatever definition works best for what we want. For the hard right, the safety net is an “entitlement.” For the hard left, the safety net is an “equaliser.” We are talking about the same thing, but we’ve broken it down into nothing, which means we are actually arguing over nothing, because the “nothing” [unlike the movie Neverending Story] can only be defined by breaking down other abstractions–entitlement to abuse to moocher to rising government costs to the collapse of American society to the Rapture happening. To me such deconstructionist thinking is absurd, but to those who believe it, not only is it not absurd, it is an inherent truth of being. But, in general, such things are still abstractions because we are arguing over the idea of something–the idea of government waste, the idea of a moocher–because in every single instance there is a counterargument based entirely on the need of the person making the argument. The cycle of thought does not allow for logic because to the thinker the logic is clear and infallible.
Factually, the largest portion of our current budget goes to healthcare and Social Security, and then Defense. Factually, owning an H2 is terrible for the environment. Yet, fear and paranoia dictates the logic necessary to rationalise the need for both. Living in the United States means being part of country where the general consensus states that not only must we have the largest military might in the world, we must have the largest by a wide margin. Without it, we apparently put ourselves at risk of the rest of the world coming together and rushing our borders like some vicious Orc horde; the terrorists win; and the Rapture begins even earlier than expected. There is absolutely no reason we need more missiles than could ever be used in a war without utterly destroying the planet because if it ever came to that, there would be no reason for humanity to even exist. However, we have been trained for decades, starting with the Cold War, that the U.S. must be omnipresent as a War Power in order to protect our way of life. Even if you disagree with that mindset, if you have lived here, you have grown up with that as a societal norm. There is no way to escape it. It’s insidious and pervasive and absolutely necessary to keep reinforcing in order to justify the bloated budget; according to the warhawks’ line of thinking we can’t take away money from defense and put it towards the safety net because without the defense there is no safety net. Change is not in dollars and cents; change is entirely spiritual, and the bottom line is our country’s spirit has been warmongering for decades.
Knowing this as our cultural baseline, it makes total sense our political representatives cannot find a way to talk to each other in non-hyperbolic, accusatory terms. We are all always worried about losing the war, whatever the hell that war may be. Sports are wars on the field, there is a war on drugs, there’s a war on women, a war on Christmas, a war on religion, a war on gun rights; we are all righteous soldiers in the wars of our everday lives. We must win; we must vanquish; we must, at all costs, be protected from the snow. And here is the problem with saying all that: it’s a hyperbolic response to an abstract idea of U.S. society, and it, sadly, ignores the greater good we are all capable of accomplishing.
Perhaps the greatest human fraility is our need to be entertained. We may be liars, at-all-costs-self-protectors, psychopaths, oil baron douchebags, whatever, but the real fraility capitalism, and those who take advantage of it, preys on is entertainment, the desire to be soothed by something other. In its purest form, such a desire leads to creativity; at its most bastardised, it mutates from creativity into self-hatred. It seems pretty obvious to me that those Tea Party Patriots loudly proclaiming their love of the United States actually hate it. They hate it because it isn’t the place they imagine in their flag-waving fantasies; they, in turn, support (capitalism) the voices (Fox News, Drudge Report, Rush, etc) who soothe that hatred by confirming their fears. In this cocoon, we are safe; everyone agrees with us; and anyone who doesn’t is attacking us; the war is ever on. What the previous statement ignores, however, is that, in general, most of the people in that cocoon believe they are accomplishing the greater good. They will save the country from itself; the problem though, again, is that the country they are saving doesn’t actually exist.
Fixing this is rather simplistic: put some bankers in jail where they belong; close corporate tax loopholes in conjunction with lowering those tax rates; stop defunding science that could change the world for the better; stop pretending education is a score-rating endeavour [really, Obama, tying federal funding to graduation rates is only going to make colleges pass students who should have failed (which, really, is already happening because schools need the tuition money, education be damned)–you may have noticed this at the lower education level, perhaps? No? You still think this is a good idea? Okay, well, thanks for that.]; accept strict environmental regulations because the world still needs to exist later; quit pretending that making money is more important than any other action in life–put mandatory CEO salary limits, start investing in your employees because they in turn will invest in the economy which in turn means your company is inherently being invested in, and, for the love of everything, stop acting like making money is somehow a patriotic act; being a patriot means giving back to the country you care about–pay your taxes, bring your companies here and hire workers with a living wage, make people see that the U.S. means something to you other than dollar signs.
There’s obviously more. There’s always more. It’s a fluid society. And if I have to give up my desire for a legal snow tank, then others can make some spiritual changes as well.