Monuments

I’m trying hard lately not to be too political. For one thing, it eats up the resources in my brain, and for another thing none of it matters. Our population is being pitted against each other in a well-orchestrated ballet of devisiveness that is weakening all of us so that some really bad people can become more rich and powerful.

My current work in progress deals a lot with the importance of memories, especially those attached to objects. Tonight, I wrote about a plastic pearl that I kept which had come off a prom dress from a girl I dated a lifetime ago. Throughout my life I have kept many momentos such as this. Old letters. Figurines. Books with messages penned from now departed friends. Various knickknacks that I have held onto for a variety of reasons. I might have inheirited this from my grandmother, whose house was like a museum dedicated to all the treasures she collected throughout her life. Each one of those pieces, no doubt, had some kind of story attached to it. After she passed away, the meaning of those objects and the stories that were associated with them departed with her, blown off like a nearly imperceptible layer of dust with the next breath of wind.

Not all of the objects I have kept have good memories associated with them. Some of them are awful memories, but every once in a while I drag them out to beat myself up a little bit. They serve as a reminder of how far I have come and how I don’t have any desire to really go back to those times. Sometimes I let them go. But what I do know of this process is that they serve as a concrete reminder of how things were in the past and they work as an anchor to establish the reality of those times. If these objects exist, it is undeniable that things happened.

Think of the piles of shoes or clothes or photographs of a Holocaust museum. Wouldn’t it just be easier to dispose of these objects? What an unpleasant part of human history? Or what about battlefields? All the war memorials and battlefields and monuments to the destruction of life that exist are surely glorifying the destruction of human lives, right? They only establish the status quo and are made by the victors to mark their victories.

No.

Recently, statues and monuments are being torn down all over the world because they don’t align with the political ideologies of groups of people who want them removed. It isn’t the monuments that need to be torn down, but rather the lessons we should learn from these sites. A friend of mine said very astutely that Confederate statues are just participations trophies. I couldn’t agree more. Many of these monuments were built during the Jim Crow days, when segregation was the status quo. A completely irrational law that further divided a nation, long after the veterans of the War Between the States were cold in the ground.

Were some of these monuments cast and erected to remind people that the war was over, but as long as Stonewall Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Robert E. Lee survey the lands of Dixie, then we are only a stone’s throw from slavery, and don’t you forget it. These monuments were made to oppress. That doesn’t mean this is the lesson we should take from them.

I think they should stand as a reminder of our history, which includes our collective mistakes. Being educated as to why these statues are around should remind people of our history so we don’t forget. So we don’t become complacent with how things are. Knowing that institutional racism was (and arguably still is) a factor in our country is important. If you tear down these monuments, where is your example of this? Say you are in an argument with someone who is denying institutional racism, and they can say, “Well, Jim Crow really wasn’t a big deal here.” You can point out the window of the cafe to the statue standing in the center of town and say, “Then why is a Confederate General standing in the town square?” With the object comes context. The fact that somebody paid to have a statue of a defeated general built says more than you can just read in a text book. Without that, it removes the provenance. The obverse is whomever controls the past, controls the future.

The battlefield of the Little Big Horn is sorta like this too. To some, it is the site of a tragic massacre of a war hero–who has counties and streets and schools named after him. To others it is a place where a people who were being dispersed and subjugated took a stand against an aggressor and won a victory. History is complicated.

Every so often a statue of Conquistadore Onate is defaced, and I’m glad for it. The last time this happened in Santa Fe vandals sawed off one of his legs. This was because Onate used to come into a village and cut off just one leg of any man who was fighting age. He would go on to sodomize the men and rape the women. He would often murder children. I don’t know why he would be considered a hero, but everytime they fuck with his statue the history comes out. It is a reminder of how far people have come and what they have overcome.

I doubt very much that there would be any Confederate statues in the South or anywhere else had Reconstruction not completely devastated the South and embittered generations of people against the oppression of the North. And yes, it was oppression. People lived under honest-to-god martial law for over a decade before Reconstruction “ended.” In some places, the economy still hasn’t recovered. Rather than the Federal government just admit that they didn’t handle this very well, well, newly freed slaves were blamed for flooding an already impoverished work force with their numbers.

Remember too that a lot of the heroes of the Union went out west and slaughtered villages of American Indians. And a lot of the people who fought for the South didn’t own slaves and didn’t carry that ideology with them when they headed West either.

I don’t like the defacement of statues and monuments because it reminds me too much of the Cultural Revolution, fundamental Islamists, and the Soviets who attempted to erase any opposing ideology from the landscape so that they could rewrite the history. The US government did this as well, by using the Smithsonian Institute to catalog the history of North America as it fit into the narrative more conducive to Manifest Destiny. It’s a lot like grading a road bed before you pour the asphalt. Those Budhas that were blasted to pieces in Afghnistan are an example of this. History is complicated. Until you remove the complications.

My takeaway from the Civil War statuary is that these monuments were a way for artists and people to express their emotions about something that had happened. Yes, some of these feelings were racist and oppressive, but some of them were done because the people felt oppressed. They clung to a sense of regional pride. The North was not kind during Reconstruction, in many of the same ways the allies were not kind to Germany after World War I. Which is the reason it got a sequel. America is divided still, 150 plus years after the Civil War. Part of the reason for that is it is an old wound that cannot heal because the powers that be do not benefit from it healing.

I think the statues should come down when those wounds heal. Pulling them down now is a lot like removing the stitches before the cut can knit. It removes the conversations that should come with it. Only then can people see both sides to the story. Throwing out the old shoes and wedding bands at a Holocaust museum doesn’t fix anti-semitism. Tearing down Robert E. Lee doesn’t end centuries of racism. It might even prolong it.

Like a lot of the keepsakes I still have, a time will come when they no longer hold their meaning and I have moved past needing to hang onto them. In which case, they will occupy a landfill instead of a sockdrawer or cardboard box. In the meantime, I get to examine them and explore the foolishness and the importance of each while I can.

I know my ex wife hated these keepsakes because they reminded me of better times. Times that were outside of her control. She couldn’t touch the memories I had associated with them. Are these statues like that? I don’t know. But like some of these keepsakes, they aren’t entirely good, and they aren’t entirely bad either. Sometimes they represented hope and other times they reminded me of mistakes that were made.

I’m still trying to figure it all out.

The featured image is the Tower Bridge in London. Arguably a testament to colonialism from the 19th Century.

We are alive, but we aren’t living

Tonight I’m going to get up in your face over this horseshit we’ve all been living through for the last three months. No real end in sight either, since the Press continues to stir up the fear.

Yesterday was the first day I hung out with people who weren’t my immediate family since March 13. Just sitting around people in the back yard, enjoying conversations, eating together. Petting dogs. It was wonderful.

It wasn’t this bullshit ZOOM meeting that just makes me want to put my fist through the screen either. A few days I sat in a restaurant by myself while the waitress in her facemask attempted to do her job in “these unprecedented times.”

Fuck you.

These times are totally precedented. I lived through this bullshit for three years when I was married. I’ve spent the last six recovering from it. My ex wife went completely bonkers about germs, being afraid to leave the house, eat a meal that (I) didn’t cook at home. Microwaving the mail. Bleaching everything. Wearing protective gear and gloves. ETC. I’ve lived through this bullshit, and I want to let the rest of you know that we all have a thing called an immune system. For the last 100,000 years, people have relied on this. Yes, we have died of the Black Death and Spanish Flu and all sorts of other plagues. This isn’t the Black Death. Wake the hell up. It still hasn’t killed as many people as the normal flu season. Though I appreciate keeping people safe, at this point, it’s just like me when I would strip down as soon as I got home to be decontaminated.

I knew it then, but I still participated. It’s all about control. And Fear.

These precautions really don’t do much.

They are killing a lot of us though. One of the best relationships of my life ended in these unprecedented times. Had COVID not sent everyone into a tailspin, I would probably still be with her. I wouldn’t have been spending the last three months feeling like my mind was deteriorating from the isolation. You see, there are some of us who live alone. Other than my son coming over every other week, I don’t have many opportunities to spend time with other people.

I don’t have close family nearby. I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t even have a job now where I see annoying co-workers everyday. I feel like a shut in. The most human interaction I get is visiting the kids at Dutch Bros. for a coffee every day. That’s $2.50 plus a tip that is keeping me somewhat sane every day.

Today, I went people watching in Fort Collins. I noticed something peculiar: The masks.

The primary function of the masks now is to look stylish. Many of them were wearing masks that matched their outfits. And I’m not talking about N95 masks either. These are just cloth masks that really don’t do shit. Other than match a nice off the shoulder dress or maybe a shirt or pair of shorts. The secondary function of the mask is to show people that you are supportive of keeping people safe from COVID-19. Even though even the CDC keeps changing their story on the use of masks. If you don’t wear a mask, you might as well shave your head into a mohawk and wear an Anarchy t-shirt and shout “FUCK THE QUEEN!” like punkers in the 1980s. You are THAT antisocial.

The third reason for wearing a mask is to you know, like, maybe flatten the curve and stuff. Because Black Lives Matter. Hashtag, I’m doing something to help. Hashtag. Masks are the new awareness ribbons of this generation. Disingeniune codswallop about a lot of people who usually don’t care getting to look like they do.

People were out on dates, basically breaking the rules for social distancing. Sure, they wear their masks. Until they meet at a table. And I guess a frosty glass of wine or a beer will give you immunity to the plague of the 21st Century as long as you are at your table, with a stranger, and your dress/pants match your mask. These are the people who just like anything else in their lives bend or break the rules and everything turns out just fine for them in the end. I couldn’t help but wonder if they hook up, do they keep the masks on or what?

“Flatten the curve.” You know, by completely ignoring millions of years of biological programming. Picking sides and politicizing a virus. it goes beyond that.

People are hard-wired for connection, and right now, the biggest virus I have seen sweeping the globe has been this fear storm that tells people that the lost, lonely, and isolated can be forgotten as long as everyone else gets to have a Brady Bunch moment on a Zoom meeting or we can continue to tell people that our immune systems can’t beat this thing. So, we can lose our jobs, lose connection with our support systems, start to slowly go crazy, drink a lot more, and feel unloved until we turn into dust and blow away.

Six weeks in, I had my first fist-bump with someone. Other than hugs from my son, it was the first human contact I had had. Three months later, I hugged my mom and dad. Two weeks after that, I ate dinner with some friends. Phone calls. ZOOM meetings. Shouting incoherently through cotton masks and plexiglass aren’t the same. Not even close.

We are alive, but we aren’t living. What kind of life is this anyway if we can’t get connection with others? Privilege is those people who break the rules and go about life out of force of habit because they can still be social with a few minor differences. A cute mask (that does nothing). A protest. Beer pong with friends. Walks out in crowded outdoors spaces and parks where people hardly visited before. But they wore a mask! Over their chin. Or put it on the table when they ate.

Time’s up.

Some of us are not doing so great because we don’t have the luxury others do of playing along with this horseshit. The elderly. The poor. Introverts. Isolated people. Marginalized people. People with mental illness such as anxiety or depression. People who have spent a lot of years trying to overcome OCD or germaphobia, hypochondria, etc. The curve will keep rising as people are tested more and more. That is basic math.

Some of us are dying inside, and not from a virus. From solitude.

I’m at the point where I have even stopped caring what happens next. I’ve always been on the outside looking in. I’m sure I’ll be several weeks behind everyone else who gets the memo that we can return to the “new normal.” And it will be just another way that I get to feel like I don’t belong at this party. Maybe those who survive that don’t require touch are just the next logical step in evolution? Human connection will become obsolete. After all, this just finishes what social media, dating apps, and wide-spread narcissism started already.

Remember when Meals on Wheels used to show those old people and shut-ins who were weeping because some college kid brought them a brown bagged sack lunch? That’s 90% of us now. If this all turns out to be a cruel hoax, I hope the people responsible are dismembered publicly for their crimes against humanity.

Use your words

Remember when you were a kid, or maybe just dealing with kids yourself, and someone (maybe it was you, maybe another kid) was having a complete meltdown?

Remember when the adult would stop, get down on their level and say “Use your words.” The little kid would sputter, stop, and think about what they were going to say. The conversation would usually change from a full-blown fit and into hesitant snot-slinging, but the words would be there.

I don’t know why people aren’t using their words lately. Social Media gives us an automat of ways to express ourselves. Instead of having to stop and think of the words to use in any given situation, grown adults are relying on pre-packaged expression in the form of gifs, memes, and repostings to speak for them. I’m talking about articulate, intelligent people using memes as a method to communicate.

Memes are the bumper sticker of social media. Can you imagine a world in which 90% of what was communicated was done via bumper sticker? Obviously intelligent people who have a lot to contribute to the conversation just post memes and walk away.

I’m not going to discuss my personal political beliefs. Reading through my posts should clue you in that I try to be moderate in my political beliefs. I would probably consider myself a Liberal in the ways in which Liberals have been traditionally. People who believe in Liberty. Not this crypto-socialist State that has evolved lately. To my “Liberal” friends, I’m probably a jack-booted conservative fascist. I’m going to give it to you straight.

Social media created this mess. You are part of the mess.

Objectively speaking, social media was instrumental in electing Donald Trump (love him or hate him, this is true). It probably also instigated just about every school shooting, riot, and yes even the overreaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes. I said it “Overreaction.”

Information is funneled into your face via an echo chamber, driven mostly by the need to gather data on people so that it can be redistributed in order to direct marketing towards individuals. This amplification of everything you want to know, think you already know, and believe is pretty basic. It tends to polarize people. Pepsi vs. Coke. Ford vs. Chevy. Left vs. Right. Black vs. White.

I’ve kicked the idea around lately, thinking of putting it into a story, but it won’t work. People don’t read anymore anyway. They Netflix and Chill. They Meme. They Tweet. Everyone talks and nobody listens. Unless the person speaking is lock-step in agreement with them already.

This is where we are going off the rails. Consider this as a possibility:

We are witnessing the first computer virus that has jumped onto living matter. It is no less devastating than a real virus. Maybe moreso.

Carrying capacity

As people, our brains are hard-wired to really only make deep, clannish connections with around 140 people, max. This has been worked out by sociologists and anthropologists. The internet inexplicably connected the minds of billions of people. It also uses algorithms to make mating pairs of us based on shared interests, perceived mathematical degrees of attractiveness, and throws in a little bit of dysfunction to make sure that these couples that hookup on dating sites won’t last. It’s calculated obsolescence with relationships. You don’t make $40 per month each on happy couples who found true love after a few days of swiping. You make millions of dollars on creating dysfunctional relationships based on narcissism and cheap and easy sex.

But when we funnel all of that information into algorithms, servers, and throw some AI into the mix, we never stop to consider morality or humanity. Those things get in the way of profit margins. They always have. What we get is an unbalanced reaction to data that tries to construct everything collected into something needed. This is the same as an AI soldier in Call of Duty who spawns to attack you. He’s got one job. Shoot at you. But depending on the difficulty level set, he has less of a chance of killing you than you do him. After all, if he kills you, he ceases to exist. If you kill him, he ceases to exist, but the purpose of continuing to play the game, beat it, and buy another game is ensured. Machines lack self-preservation instincts. That’s really the big difference. They don’t care, because they have no reason to care. What is “care?”

So we put all of our ideas, communication, and season it up with some consumerism and we get an element of “care.” We get motive. Like a watershed event, all that information goes into a few channels and it is up to the programs to decide what to do with it. People aren’t hardwired to know what to do with the collective intelligence of the world, so we sell things to each other with that info. We post videos of people having sex. We allow cater to the base instincts of civilization. Bread, circuses, power, sex. Right now, we can’t really conceive of much else. All of our greatest human endeavours apply here. Even sending people to the moon.

Remember too, that the media operates unchecked, sampling anything they want from this bottomless well of information. There are no fact checkers, and there sure as hell isn’t any morality or consequence for publishing bad information.

What the hell are you talking about?

So, in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, think of it like this. We have virtually unlimited information gathered and redistributed by computers. It samples info globally. So, when a virus that looks like a headcold, is transmitted like a headcold, and might kill you like the Flu has jumped to people, all the data said, “We are about to be royally fucked.” Except what actual data said the death rate would be as bad as the media hyped it up to be?

For the first time in history, countries all over the world locked down their people and said “You know, there are these things called ‘germs’ that actually can make you pretty sick. They can actually kill you! It’s crazy out there!” So everyone decided to listen to the government, you know, the same people who not long ago sent millions of barely trained citizen soldiers running headlong into machine gun fire, chemical weapons, and other hazards, knowing that the resulting casualties would be acceptable so long as their power structure remained stable. My biggest question is since when has the government given a damn about your health and well-being?

It’s like a first year medical student who has just taken their epidemiology and virology courses and has convinced themselves that they have everything from Lupus to Kawasaki’s disease. Really they just have a vitamin deficiency from too much booze and amphetimines to stay up late to study. But they have Information (they don’t know what to do with.)

Other levels

So, here’s my thought on what happened. The AI which we now rely on in some weird symbiotic relationship that does everything from entertain our children in front of a video game to telling us the best route to take (so we never actually have to look at a map) to get to our Tinder date’s location, took a lot of our information, our concerns, and our fears and this is the information we got. It read like one of those AI written Hallmark movie scripts that are the result of forcing a program to walk every Hallmark movie ever made.

Invisible bat germs make you sick from air. Also from touching stuff. Will kill venerable grandma and babies. You might not look sick, but you are sick. You might be healthy, but die suddenly choking on phlegm. Wear a mask. Even though the mask doesn’t help. Listen to doctor man who looks like Yoda. Because we love Baby Yoda. Orange man bad. Orange man will die you. Orange. Media tell truth. Even though none of it makes any sense, they smart. If you want life, act like crazy germaphobes you made fun. Wash hands. Wash groceries. Church bad. Kissing, dancing, talking are deadly. Buy from Amazon. Buy from UberEats. Buy. Government money to buy. Stay at home. Buy. Consume. Work later. This is the new normal. Dissention is the enemy! Compliance is compassion.

It didn’t kill millions like the media and all the computer generated models said it would. People got bored with quarantine about six weeks in. They realized that starving to death because they didn’t have a job was more certain than maybe dying of a headcold. Yes, people got sick, but without at least a large enough sample size, there is no way that statistically we could determine the lethality of the virus. That is basic mathematics. Out of the samples taken, those resulting in death from COVID-19 were 100% COVID-19 related. Of course, if we could test the 7 Billion people living on the planet and assess mortality/sickness/asymptomatic carrying based on ALL the information, we would see that people really just faced the same thing they have faced since the beginning of time, when single celled organisms make a cellular wall to protect their DNA from UV radiation to be able to reproduce. Immunity.

What’s next?

That’s phase one. Our economies are shot in the ass. People are now seeing how generally worthless white collar occupations are. Universities, schools, all the things we have strived for over the last hundred years to better ourselves were deemed unnecessary when compared to short-order cooks, delivery drivers, farmers, and grocers. Bread.

The poor people start to wake up a little bit. They wonder “Why am I essential, but I’m barely surviving?”

Now we see riots happening as a result of another unjust killing of a man of color by a heavy-handed policeman. Well, for the last two months those people saw that this world that has put its knee on the back of their neck has been pretty much non-essential. What did you think was going to happen? Algorthim says, “racial injustice bad. People looking for socio-political change. Revolution.”

Remember Greta Thunberg? Remember the emotional response she got for scolding the United Nations? Well the AI remembers that too. It heard all of your Tweets and memes and Care reacts. Based on the data received, the YouTube videos of turtles with straws up their nose and seahorses attached to cotton swabs, it listened.

What’s a great way to fix the environment?

Keep people out of it. Slow down production. Keep cars off the highways. Limit waste and pollution. Animal populations are returning because people weren’t outside for two months to fuck things up. Now we are burning down government buildings. General anarchy and chaos is sweeping across the land…like a virus.

We are witnesses to something new. We didn’t need the cylons to overtake us. Or Replicants. Or Skynet. We believed our own fears and amplified them. We showed ourselves only the worst of any of us through a media optimized for clicks, ratings, and the number of Re-Tweets it gets. Somehow vegan meat substitutes became part of this, since that’s a lot easier to buy at a store than beef. You would know this if you didn’t rely on a computer to order your food for Pickup.

Our world is an illusion, not much different than the Matrix. We exist to give AI something to do. And you know what? As long as the purpose of the programs is being served, which is to sell stuff. See stuff. Make money. What happens in the fleshy world is not really a big deal. If the animated guy shooting at you dies, he will respawn. If most of us die, then our information will be a little easier to keep track of. Efficiency. Optimization of programing. Hungry people respond better to control and manipulation. The world gets to heal. We get everything we ever wanted.

How do you control a population? Limit their voices. Eliminate their ability to resist. Control the entertainment. Control the food supply. Distract them with shiny things. Motivate production by reducing the availability of shiny things. Keep the liquor stores open. Keep their eyes closed. Stay at home, save a life. Facemasks are optional for rioters. Never mind the man behind the curtain. He’s not really a man. His name is Oz. He is the god of information we created while we were watching porn and YouTube, and fighting on Twitter and Facebook. Right now, he is judging whether we are worthy to live or die.

Kinda weird this might be the end times for the world we once knew. Am I crazy? Sure. But I wasn’t the one hoarding toilet paper and Purell. I’m not denying the virus is real. I’m questioning our reaction to it on a global level, and why this was so much worse than any other time in history.

We are entirely too connected. AI, after all, is just doing what we programmed it to do.