Sunday, November 8, 2020

Streets: Part II - NOW


Photo of a street with the caption "now"
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The first question was this: How did we get here?

Let’s recap.

We live in an interconnected society—a natural human system, which contains within it many other interconnected natural human systems, all delivering value to its members in the way of natural human systems, that is: shared, foundational, generative, invisible, automatic, inextricable, configurable, and inherited. 

But: this system can be configured for harm. Intentional thieves who understand these basic truths can divert this shared, foundational, generative distribution of value that naturally arises from the very existence of community, stealing more and more for themselves.

This manipulation comes from failing to recognize who our neighbors are; from focusing on self or family or tribe or nation as the outermost limits of human connectivity, when in fact the natural human system extends across the entire globe.

Failure to understand that there are no limits to human connectivity results in foundational lies, which insist that there are some people who matter, and others who don’t.

A system configured along the lines of foundational lies creates injustice.

Injustice subverts a natural human system, to deliver harm and theft instead of value. Injustice consumes people to benefit others.

Both the theft and the loot produced by injustice arrive to each individual within that society in the same shared foundational, generative, invisible, automatic, inextricable, configurable, inherited way the value is delivered.

Eventually there comes, for each individual who benefits from the unjust arrangement of an unjust society, a moment of realization of this inheritance.

This knowledge forces a choice. The choice is whether or not to accept the responsibility for the inheritance. The choice determines an individual’s alignment with or against the injustice.

Failure on the part of those who benefit from injustice to accept this responsibility carries a far greater cost, which is to inevitably fall victim to the same harm and loss from which they have so long benefited.

Because a system that consumes people will eventually consume you, if you are a person.

Therefore, unjust systems are as unsustainable as a cancer or a virus.

And the defining quality of an unsustainable system is, it does not sustain.

And we are at the point of unsustainability.

Fixing an unsustainable system requires: first, knowledge of harm and loss; next, acceptance of personal individual responsibility; next, actually making the change; and, finally, paying the cost.

A lot of people don’t want to fix the system. They would rather make it even less just. They recently lost a battle, but they’re going to keep fighting to spread the spiritual virus of their bigotry and greed.

A lot of other people, who happily don’t want to make our system less just, still would rather not pay the price of fixing it, and would rather just get back to the way things were before they became aware of the cancerous growth of greed and human consumption within our natural human system—an urge toward false normalcy aligned not with health, but with a desire to inhabit the comfortably ignorant state that we once enjoyed, which is no longer achievable or practical.

Both perspectives will align our natural human system with a series of unsustainable lies.

Because of all this, we are still in pretty deep shit.

End recap.

He lost.

That is very very very good. I am beyond relieved. Hundreds of thousands of people will likely now live who would have died. We will have basic competence and a certain minimum level of human decency and minimum level of respect for human life in the executive branch again.

For the next four years at least, we won't be held hostage to the whims of a white supremacist fascist.

I'm very glad.

The person who beat him was a man named Joe.

Joe seems like a nice enough fella. He loves his family. He loves his wife. He loves his dogs. He has decades and decades of relevant experience. He speaks in complete sentences, and the things he say mostly align with observable reality, and are centered on matters of consequence rather than the latest demands of his own ego. He doesn't intend to simply abandon the country to the ravages of a pandemic. He won't encourage mobs of armed neo-Nazis, in or out of uniform. These are novelties these days. His vice president is the first woman, and the first woman of color, to hold that office. That's absolutely significant, particularly I'd imagine for the black women who formed the unbroken spine of his victory, which was made artificially narrow by legal structures designed to strip those black women of their agency and their voice.

Joe will be a far better president than his predecessor, in the same way that a casserole will make a better meal than a festering mountain of turkey shit. The point being: I don't even have to tell you what kind of casserole.

During the campaign, Joe faced a blistering range of attacks from his opponents, all of which amounted to "If this man gets into office, he will enact massive changes to the way things are, all of which are extremely obvious and needed changes to enormous and present problems that threaten all of our lives."

And Joe won by promising repeatedly that he wouldn't do any of those absolutely necessary things, or at least he won while promising not to do them. Meanwhile his opponents are still terrified, convinced that he will do all these awesome and desperately necessary things he's promised not to do.

There's a lot of talk now about healing, which seems to be centered on healing the people who aren't wounded—the ones who did the harming. The ones who would like to do a lot more harming.

There's a lot of talk now about unifying, without much talk about what we would unify around, or what we would hope to accomplish once unified.

There's a lot of talk about compromise, without much discussion about what—or who, because it's always who—we would give up, or what we expect to gain, or what the other side has ever given up in compromise. By the way, they haven't even conceded the election yet, and don't seem likely to.

There's a lot of talk about how those we know want to demolish our democracy and hurt millions and millions of us aren't our enemy—as if that's something a person gets to choose, about people who are actively and enthusiastically attacking them or their loved ones. 

And all the people who cheered Trump on, who now refuse to acknowledge any of the depredations of the past four years ever actually happened, who have already determined not to even recognize Joe's authority, are ready and eager to cheer for the next fascist and white supremacist, because that is what they very much want. 

And a lot of people are already encouraging us to bring them back into the very fold they're actively trying to destroy—not because these people have become any safer, but because doing so would make things feel normal again, and comfortable.

You know, like it was before.

For a lot of people it truly feels as if this was basically just a parlor game, in which they didn't feel the stakes, for which this was mostly about how they personally felt about things.

They'd like to do the work of reconciliation on behalf of abusive people who are still eager to abuse.

They'd like to perform forgiveness upon abusive people on behalf of the abused.

They'd like to encourage those still being threatened and harmed to perform forgiveness upon those who still unrepentantly seek to harm them.

They'd like to enable reconciliation without reparation.

They'd rather not know things already known.

I suspect this is because if you know that something needs to be fixed, then you face a choice, which is whether or not to fix it.

They'd rather not fix things that need fixing.

I suspect this is because if you fix something that needs fixing, then you have to do the work of fixing it, and then you have to pay the price of repair.

We have a lot of work left to do.

One of the things my family is doing during the pandemic is watching through streaming TV shows. 

Perhaps you can relate.

We did Parks & Recreation, which was about many things—including how die-hard anti-government libertarians who don't believe in any natural human system at all are actually very nice and steadfast and true, at least to people they like. We did 30 Rock, which was about many things—including how corporate conservative elitists are actually very nice to people they value, and it’s pretty nice to be one of those valuable people. We did Brooklyn 99, which was about many things—including about how the New York police are fun and well-meaning but very open-minded and inclusive loveable goofballs.

I liked these shows a lot, I should say. They’re very funny, well-acted, and well written. I’m just mentioning a few things I noticed that those shows were about, that I didn't really notice before.

We’re watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer now. It’s about many things, some of which I didn’t notice before—but I’m not here to talk about those things. I said all that to mention a point in the denouement of an episode, which concludes with a pyrrhic victory for our heroes, in which they sing (it’s the musical episode) the following lines:

The battle’s done, and we kinda won, so we sound our victory cheer.

But where do we go from here?

And that’s my question.

I am one who now knows things previously unknown. This is my confession of knowledge. I assume there are still many things I don’t yet know that I’ll learn, and so I assume there are many ways in which this confession will be imperfect. So: let the imperfections stand as a part of the confession.

We know things about ourselves that we hate to know, but there’s no going back. There are two questions we have to face, now that we have this knowledge. I’ll get to the second question in time. I chose to wait until after the election to raise the second question, because while the election mattered a great deal, it mostly determined how much damage and harm and pain and theft and murder there was going to be in the near term; not whether there will be any, or what we have to do about it. And these questions, which sound simple, but aren’t, are the same after the election as they were before, and so are the answers.

The first question was about conviction and confession.

The second is about repentance and reparation.

The first question was this: How did we get here?

Here’s the second question: What do we do now?

A.R. Moxon is a writer. His novel The Revisionaries, is available now, with the paperback edition releasing December 1, 2020.

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