Stand Watie: A Complex Man

Stand Watie, Cherokee Brigadeer General of the Confederacy, headed the last significant force to surrender in the American Civil war.

A native American from the Cherokee tribe, he consistently defies easy labeling. He fought on the side of the confederacy, and he owned slaves, yet he came from an arguably more oppressed group, native Americans.

An smart man, he wrote for the local paper, and involved himself in politics from a young age, fighting for the rights of his people, against state, local and federal policies.

I won’t go over all of Stand’s trials and tribulations here. He lived a complex, checkered, immoral, and human life. He faced adversity from every possible angle you could think of but ultimately he was a man of his time.

Was he a good man? Who am I to say? I just find him horribly fascinating. A man who himself was the victim of institutionalized federal racism willingly enforcing that racism on others. A man who fought to preserve his tribe yet, fought for a government that most likely would have turned on him eventually for being non-white.

To me he stands as the perfect example that history is never simple, never clean, and ultimately is the story of humans in all their flawed glory.

Attention is Power

Distraction is a powerful tool. Love him or hate him, whenever I see the president speaking in the news, I begin to sift through the news links on page 2.

Usually, congress, or some similar organization slips an unpopular piece of legislation under the noses of the United States’ people in plain sight.

It’s not so much a conspiracy as a tactic that taps into the central nerve of the current century. Our access to information is nearly infinite but our capacity to pay attention is hopelessly limited.

With the internet information’s power hollowed to a shell, the smartphone the last nail in the coffin. Few need a degree in English now that you have access to the opinions of the greatest literary minds’ on demand.

However, with this openness of information came the algorithmic dystopia. A constant nozzle of putrid bile, the worst of humanity poured daily into our minds, not our of malice, but instead out of capitalistic short sighted greed. Whatever the reason, man sits at the font of the whole of human tragedy, and sips from that poison cup, meeting it with near bottomless yet impotent rage.

Yet, it need not be this way.

The solution is simple, yet exceptionally difficult to achieve. Each wo/man must choose actively what they pay attention to.

It is not that the tragedy of the word are not worth paying attention to, but it is instead a humble detonation. “i am small. I can maybe save myself, and maybe I can make the world not a worse place to be. Saving others, that is truly an extraordinary feat.”

Many consider this defeatist, and I admire them for that, their hope and determination is admirable, but I think we do not honor the wo/man who simply does not make things worse, quite enough. The one who pays attention to what he can control, and directs his energy not at the masturbatory failures of the world but the failures of his personal world.

S/he is the one who votes in all the local elections, and volunteers where they live, donates what s/he can, and simply works to make their corner of the world a little better each day.

Some days you can only save one person, and it’s OK if that one person is you.

Knowledge is not Power

UCLA Library By Jemore at French Wikipedia.

In the time between the 1950s and the early 2000s, knowledge was power. Information hid behind books, in scholarly papers, and in the minds of scholars.

Going to college qualified you for the highest positions of employment on the basis alone that you had access to this forbidden knowledge and more importantly the proof you’d studied it.

The university education however, began to slip with the introduction of the internet, and the paradigm of power shifted as fast internet evolved.

As a child, we’d wait 10 minutes for a 5 minute video to load, lectures that were an hour long would take 1-2 hours of uninterrupted loading, and considering that the internet used to take a phone-line to connect that was a tall order.

With the advent of faster internet and the slow building of the Internet’s collective database, information long lost to the stacks of libraries became easily accessible.

Businesses no longer needed an MBA candidate to tell them how to run their marketing at top level, when they could simply look up what that candidate knew.

Without really meaning to the internet transformed the once instant success of a college degree into a hollow shell of a requirement, many businesses demanding it for tasks as simple as mail room attendant.

Moreover, it should be stated that universities were not ever constructed upon the basis of job skills training. While this was often a pleasant side effect of the educations received at these places, the true purpose of any university is the advancement of knowledge. The teaching parts were often stapled on as an unpleasant reality for many a researcher, a requirement to receive the funding they need.

The outside world, the business world, decided collectively that the job should be correlated to the education, though as of late one might argue this is simply a convenience measure for their HR departments to quickly remove a swath of candidates from the running of any one position.

Thus, as knowledge became easily available it became worthless, and little has come in its wake to replace it. Or so it seems. As a new resource once seen as trivial replaced it.

Attention.

The Least Sexy Political Topic: Publicly Funded Elections

The nature of structural change is difficult and slow moving, even without the influence of the capitalistic actors such as the news, and social media.

With them, the United States citizens have become simply burnt out.

Each day a new horror is unleashed before us, and we are exposed to them at an increasing rate.

Algorithms spew either echos of our own thoughts or those things that rile us.

But most of us are just burnt, because despite all the roaring against the machine many of us feel our wishes are being ignored. Largely because they are.

The current nature of the US Political system isn’t evil. It’s ultimately self serving. Corporations give unlimited campaign donations to Congresspeople and Senators who ultimately become lobbyist themselves upon retirement.

Each of them rationalizes their taking of this money. “oh well if not me, then someone worse than me will come along, so yes, I might have to do some terrible thing to the American people, but others would do worse.” They say.

But that is not, as many people want it to be, a moral failing, but a systemic failure.

The solution is not a moral crusade, but instead the slow injection of policies that change the structure of how the system works.

I say slow, not out of some urge of caution, but instead as a flavor agent of sorts to make such a change more palatable to people in power. Very few people in power would vote for something that so dramatically threatens their self interest and so this system of implementing reforms would have to take place over a decade or so.

While this all might sound cynical, I am at my heart a man who thinks that a practical long term solution is much better than a flashy short term one.

Shame Feels Good but Fails to Fix Things

The court of public opinion is a powerful entity, but the current need to shame individuals is troublesome and puritanical.

Shame does not work to enact long term change. It is a short term solution that makes the one throwing it feel better.

Which makes sense. Nearly all creatures avoid discomfort, and seek comfort. It is the natural human response to want to remove the uncomfortable, and troublesome elements in the shortest time possible.

Unfortunately, in both individual and societal growth, quick fixes are the antithesis of sustained long term change.

The main problem with shame, and by reflection the whole of cancel culture, is that we have a method for vengeance, but no mechanism for forgiveness.

I am not saying that we should forget, or even allow certain individuals back into the collective tribe, but the current method of punishment is indefinite banishment. This seems a bit harsh, and does not encourage people to come forward and seek redemption.

If there is no method for redemption in our culture, no standard to be met collectively, what reason is there for the individual to change authentically? Moreover, seeing the destruction of their fellows will this not drive those who have similar beliefs further underground?

Here, in the quiet warmth will their views not continue to fester and rot, while they wear a mask?

Are we to summon the inquisition, and torture innocents to find these few hiding elements?

Would it not be better to simply have a true path to redemption?

Some may say providing a path would lead to immodest and untruthful seekers of forgiveness, but are we to toss the rest of those that actually want to be part of society out with the heathens?

I have no answers, only questions.


We Earn our Leaders

It is no secret that the United States, my preferred nomenclature for the country so often regarded as America, is in limbo of sorts.

Love him or hate him, the president of the USA ‘s actions are ineffectual for the most part. At the beginning of the pandemic he denied how serious it was.

This is not a political statement, though I am sure people will make it one. I can understand from a historical and personal perspective why many of his supporters chose him.

The current US President is precisely why Plato hated democracy.

However, I do not think, as ineffectual he can be he’s the problem.

We’ve not changed in 20,000 years always demanding leadership and sacrifice but not demanding it of ourselves.

We’ve lied to one another. We’ve acted against our best interests. We’ve earned our leaders.

We allowed our merchant class to export our jobs, because we feared what unions might inspire. We allowed our politicians to take money from special interests because we’ve swallowed the lie that the government is too corrupt to distribute funds to campaigns.

Each freedom stripped away did so in the face of great fear, and like all fears each time we did nothing to challenge it, each time we ran from it, it grew stronger and demanded more.

In the years of the Obama Administration we grew complacent. We did not demand accountability for things he’d done, we assumed racism was fading, we assumed people were simply going to do the right thing, that the historical forces were now one their way to permanent utopian levels.

We gave up the good, slow, habitual work that led to the first black president, and in that void others, powered by fear, hate and poverty elected a man unfit to lead.

The current state of the united states is on all of our heads. We all have work to do. We will always have work to do. That is the nature of the universe.

Cancel Culture: Well meaning, but misguided

In a the village of the blue bird the inquisitors walk in check-marked robes bustling in the winds of change. Like all inquisitions, it began with noble intent, and heretics and sinners they did find. Having burned through them, the hunger did not abate or abide.

So the inquisitors patrol, even now, as the residents scribble their thoughts, and post them to the town square. Here words are weird in the old sense.

These crusaders stepped out to stop predatory creatures from preying upon the weak, they are not to be hated, but pitied. Their problem came in their methods, not their intent.

Those self-empowered crusaders made no hard and fast rules of when to stop, and like a human algorithm, they simply began to follow their programing.

The openly monstrous hid away their darkness in the quiet distraction of the pyres ghastly shadows, and slipped into the mindless. So the inquisitors dug deeper, their personal slights becoming warrant enough to attempt to destroy those around them.

Those people, who seek only destruction, cannot see that in their scorched earth they leave behind the seeds of hate. Where education, compassion, and forgiveness might have lifted that yoke, their heavy hand locks it into place.

I understand that need. The deep existential debt they feel they owe to those around them,( for what but being born with more?) but in their hurry to abolish that guilt, rather than bear it with noble intent, what is lost?

Hubris and other drugs

“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?”

Robert Browning

The heat death of the universe is appealing to the mind that is predisposed to Nihilism.

In a world where ultimately everything will die and end, what is the point?

Not to be unkind, but there are of course several problems with all of this.

The biggest of which is the hubris of man to assume he’s cracked the code of the universe. The second is a problem of context.

It is an easy trap to become enthralled with the scale of things. The mind damned in it’s ability to conceptional on some level huge things, but not to actually understand them, to say nothing of manipulating them.

It is a special skill, and it is a skill, that each man must cultivate to admit his own smallness in the face of the universe.

The first time I conceptualized how small I was, and I did not realize this until much a time after, came on the fourth date with a girl I loved. We stood on the Santa Monica pier at night, and looked out across the ocean. Behind us humans bustled and played, but before us stood the ocean.

She was talking about moving out of California, but I found myself distracted listening to the crash of the waves, and I in the dark of that sea knew what it was to stand before an unthinking god. I knew what my ancestors worshiped.

Man is such a small fragile creature, yet we can think of huge impossible things, and consequently become overwhelmed and consumed by them.

My first rebellion against Nihilism began with the admittance of how small I am in the face of the universe, and how thought I can reach for the concepts of infinity, I could never manipulate them.

We can conceptualization the death of the universe but none will be around to see it. To us, thought quite finite, our lives are our own practical infinity. They are all we will ever know, to the best of our knowledge, and they go on forever, until they don’t.

The Song

It’s no secret. Some of you were not as lucky as I. Some did not grow up in the shadow of a man dedicated to you for no other reason than love.

For this I am sorry, but not because I caused ill, or owe some form of existential debt, but instead I am sorry in the way Canadians say it. I feel for you.

There is a song. It’s in us. It is the song that hummed on the first night of humanity. Deep and long ago, where time stood the way we think of gods as big. Maybe, maybe we stood on the shores of a great lake, our fellows around, and gazed up by firelight at infinity.

Let us return there now. Let us now young men, come among the dark. Maybe you did not have a father or mother, or guiding light. let us become a village to raise the children inside our ourselves.

If you did not have someone around. If you are young. If you are old. If you simply want to be here, I invite you all to come, come to the fire and seek out the wisdom. Let us become the parents some of us never had.

I cannot save you, but I can guide your rage. I cannot heal you, but I can listen to your pain. I cannot live for you, but I can make the living a little more bearable.

We men, are victims of the same system that ate up our sisters. We are all drowning in it, we are simply drowning slower.

Let us instead reach up and heal ourselves. Create a world which we would have had for ourselves, and gift it to those of the next. Let us teach the past so that we can avoid this struggle.

Come now, hear the hum of the universe, it is you and me, and her and him and them.

Conspirarcism: A belief system for the ill informed

Niche is famous for saying ” god is dead…” unfortunately people miss the rest of the quote.

“God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

That last line is important to understand conspiracy theories.

Doubt endless doubt filled up the remains of the dead gods. So simple the world once seemed to those under the umbrella of god. God was all good, the devil all bad. The believer needed no nuance, no understanding of the grey, no comprehension of chaos theory.

But in a world where the central authorities are fractured, man is lost adrift.

The conditions of life are when seen from an objective as possible sense absurd. It is discomforting to look upon something as supernatural as say the Corona Virus, with all it’s power and hunger, all the while being invisible.

How to explain it? how to explain away the thing we cannot comprehend, or will not comprehend or know not to even being comprehending?

Enter, the conspiracy.

Come now, toss away your hard truths, complex interplay, and grey morals. Let us shut our eyes and plunge once again into Plato’s cave. Let us return back to the corpse of God, and with eyes wide shut embrace the simplicity of the dualism.

There are those who are the doer’s of bad, and then there is us, the defenders of truth.

Simplicity is the main defining factor of the conspiratorial minded. Not in the hoops they jump through, nor their methods of proof, no, these are quite obfuscated. But instead at the core of conspiracy theories lie a single thread, that life is simple, and all of it’s problems stem from an other.

That other can be anyone, but unfortunately it tends to favor the ideas that led to the Holocaust, and that is not hyperbole.

This is of course, even more complex. Because occasionally, rooting around in the muck, the conspiratorially minded finds a kernel of undigested corn. A truth, a real conspiracy by powerful people in attempt to cover things up.

Unfortunately, these well meaning muck-dwellers miss the forest for the trees, not seeing that the true conspiracies need not be hidden, but are played out right in front of our eyes. The 2008 financial crisis for example.

Rich people stole poor people’s money. Most of it, especially from minorities, and then…the government gave them more money.

The real crimes, the ones that matter happen at such a high level that whole kingdoms are traded in swaths, and we the common-folk are simply along for the ride.