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Going there

Monday 6/1/20

Half past six, sound of helicopters over Boston for a half hour now. If it takes a lot of people saying something, for you to appear--in flashes--as though you care, I don't think you care very much at all about what you purport to care about. I think you care about how you look, how you are perceived on social media, what you can tell yourself to believe about yourself, without investing much effort, time, or energy in that thing you purport to care about. I think if you cared about it you would have long been working tirelessly to learn more about it, you'd be an expert on everything pertaining to it, and you would have been finding your part of remedy on your own, if need be. It wouldn't have to have been something put in front of your face on Twitter, on the news. If that is what rouses you to make a show of caring, I don't think you care at all. Everything is out there. It's always waiting. And anyone caring about something, truly caring, can be working to a solution all along. Can be sinking years and years of their life into a solution. Even if it looks like not many others are, and even if not many are vocally. But that takes actually caring, that takes individuality, conviction, character. "Masking up" and showing up somewhere, when you do nothing else the rest of the time, tells me that you don't care. People are saying that protesters are different than rioters. Are they? Some are, some are not. That's not hard to tell. People take to social media. They brag about the cause. There is violence in their language, they state to approve of violence, they applaud it. You can read through their posts and tweets. Then they loot a pharmacy, which will then be closed, this place housing medicines that people need. Of course that is often the protesters. That's not protesting. Here's something I've learned: evil is the norm in this world. It's not this rare, pernicious force that is encountered seldomly. Evil is present in people far often than we think, it's present in people we know where we don't think it's present at all. Because we are inclined to be in their favor, and we might know them in ways that does not facilitate this evil coming out. But evil is the rule, not the exception. True decency, character, conviction, purpose, is the exception. I don't think these people care about the man in Minnesota. I think they care about how they look, how they can attempt to fill the void within, the trend, which they call a cause. I see some of the same people in publishing, the most bigoted people I've ever encountered. They will say what they say about people of color, but they'll hate someone smarter than they are because that person is smarter. There are all kinds of discrimination in the world. Certain forms take precedence over other forms, given the news cycle, given brands that can be build off of them, given how things play on social media. Pretty evil to murder a man in Minnesota by kneeling on his neck. That officer has been charged with murder, and is likely going to be convicted of murder. You know that cops have done the same thing to white people, right? Why do you think that wasn't a big story? Doesn't fit the narrative, doesn't suit what the media tries to do. Media is a dying business because most people in media have been so bad at their jobs for so long. The media rarely cares about truth. It cares about clicks. It has undercut and weakened its own business in pursuit of the clicks. There is racism in this country like oxygen molecules in the air. There are all forms of discrimination. If everyone is more or less the same in one area, the form of discrimination against someone who is not will not be talked about the same way because it doesn't impact the same amount of numbers. I live with nothing but discrimination, but how many people are in my situation? It's really just me. I don't have people to rally with, people I can turn to and say, "It sucks what we're going through." I see the hypocrisy of people doing what they do in my life, for the reasons they do it, thumping their chests on Facebook about how wonderful they are, how caring, how free of discrimination, while also advising people to "fuck them up," meaning the cops, meaning cities, property. While they hate someone because they are smarter, they out work them, out achieve, out produce, etc. They control that person's financial status, their quality of life, how they live, even their relationships. Those are the same people who are like, "Look how awesome I am," and it's like, no, I know you, you are evil. Racism is one of our dominant narratives going back to the time before we were a country. Hypocrisy is an even bigger problem in our country. Lack of self-awareness is a bigger problem in our country. Grandstanding is a bigger problem. What social media does to the self, to the individual, to critical thinking, to mental health, to the last vestiges of human authenticity, is a bigger problem in our country. And all of these other problems worsen the problem of racism. I say that because the people who pose as "the good ones," are every bit the problem as the obvious villains, they're just on the right side of a narrative that isn't about truth, nor justice. It's about need, utility, and what a person can get for themselves. Be that attention, praise, a way of telling themselves they're virtuous, a desperate means to feel part of something, anything, in a drifting, isolated life. Some people care, and they toil and they work. They were invested. They didn't need to be told to be invested. Social media, more than anything, is what will kill off humanity, if humanity gets killed off. It has changed our ethical DNA, it has changed our mental health, it has absorbed not just identity but the pursuit of becoming a fully realized individual, or as close as one can get to being one. I feel awful for the family of this murdered man. I feel awful for people of color or anyone who experiences discrimination and prejudice. I live with it, it's all I know. It's a different kind, it's not any kind in the news, and it is endemic to me, but it puts me on the verge of almost killing myself every day. It makes me white knuckle to hold on. I feel bad for the people already struggling who have had their businesses destroyed, people who need medicine who don't know what to do now that pharmacies have closed because some sub-humans broke into them and trashed the place. I feel bad for people pulled over because of their skin color, for people haunted by experiences they've had with law enforcement in which they did nothing wrong. I feel bad for the people who truly fight, who truly give of themselves, who are not these weekend warriors of justice--what fishing people call a googan, that guy who shows up once a week to act like he's a regular salt. I feel bad for the families of other murdered people when their tragedy did not get the attention it would have if the person was a different shade, which seems like one of the most ridiculous statements in all of the world. I feel awful that we have become this borderline illiterate society, where the people who hold the most sway are the people who often say the least intelligent, least nuanced things for the lowest common denominator on social media. (And no, I don't mean Trump, actually--Trump is Thackeray compared to the David Leavitts of this world. Who is David Leavitt? There are actually two. One is a prejudiced plagiarist who teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Florida--more on him later--and the other is a Marshall's employee who has never published anything in his life who lies about being a writer, who spends his life on Twitter. He has fooled people--he has a quarter of a million followers and a blue check mark--into thinking he's an award-winning writer. He was the person who called the police on the young woman who manages a Target because she would not sell him a display electric toothbrush for a penny--a story which went viral--and who made jokes about dying children on Twitter after the Ariana Grande concert tragedy. He's sick, deranged by Trump, and he posts his simple-minded screeds-which he often steals from other posters--all day, every day. And there are millions of people like him, living lies, toxic carbuncles that happen to have a first and last name.) That is who governs you--social media governs us now. It's not Trump, it's not the US government, it is social media. Governs us on the inside in terms of who we are, governs how we see the world, governs how we distort reality, governs what happens on the outside. We have given so much power to a cancer. By choice. And now we lack the individuality, the purpose--because purpose always begins as a private, personal venture--the courage, the vision, the humanity, to do anything about it, to break free. You don't have to be a good person when you can just post the right thing and be called a good person. See how easy that is? When you are an actual good person, you don't get anything for it, usually. A "thanks," maybe, but you do have the salutary knowledge that you do the right thing, and that provides a foundation of self on which to build. On social media, you get the meaningless trinket, the "like," the "follower," and we are so simple now that that's a prize for us, we make do with that. We build the self on that rickety, non-existent foundation. And we get more mentally ill, we get more depressed, we have less and less purpose, and when a cause comes along, even if we could not really care less, we play the game again, because it's all we have, all we can do with what we are turning ourselves into. And look at all of these people killed in the last few days. Anyone know their names? Of course not. That's not the narrative. The truth is, we are so oriented around discrimination now, that we discriminate deaths. One death is more useful than another because of the narrative that can be made from it. Now, you could possibly make the same narrative from the deaths that followed, but there is the timing of death. Something else got their first. You want to help? Invest thousands of hours. You don't have them? Find them. Get a new job. You're a divorce lawyer? Maybe quit that, teach in the inner city, I'm sure they'd love to have you with your educational background. Move to a different community. Put the time in. Put the time in with the stuff that doesn't play on social media. Help kids. Be a mentor. Be a foster parent. Teach your own children. Expose them to books, to music, to art. Expose yourself to it. Maybe you don't need nineteen hours of Netflix a week, maybe listen to a Charles Mingus record. Be a better friend, which is a lost art of our age. You know what people do now? They marry, they have their kids, they don't have friends. They bunker down, they isolate within the family unit. Require less praise. Find the praise within. Get better at being vulnerable, get better at saying you were wrong, get better at taking things less personally, get better at separating your feelings from your intellect. I mentioned that woman who was the professor at Florida State, with her sheltered life, going on Facebook, again and again and again, and virtue signaling, instructing protestors to hurt people, to burn things, to destroy. If you're that person, and you're supposed to be this poet, this artist, why aren't you writing a masterpiece of a 200-page poem that tells the story of what's wrong with our world right now in ways that people don't see it on their own and how to fix it? Why aren't you doing that? They're not doing that because they are a total fraud. They are lazy. Simple. Stupid. Bigoted themselves. And this is what they do, the Facebook posts. But actually commit to making something that could play a role in change? Eh...that's so damn tiring, all of that effort. Fraud, fool, liar. They don't care about anyone, they care how they look. And so do a lot of other people. And when you have two people who only care about how they look, and you get them together, they're going to help each other out. One will say, "Damn, you look good," so that the other will be more likely to say, "Damn, you look good, too."

I know that we, as humans, are capable of being so much more than what we tell ourselves is good or good enough. I know that that exists within us. But we just do not go there. We don't go there of our own choosing, and there is so little in this world right now that impels us to go there. It's not in discourse right now, it's not on social media, it's not in media, in government, it's not in art or what passes for it--and it's not even in relationships, as the fundamental nature of what a relationship is, that symbiosis of vulnerability, effort, honest acts for others and their well-being, is being effaced by a culture whose entire modus operandi is becoming largely performative.

When you play a sport and you're serious about it and you're in a serious setting, you end up doing a version of going there. On your own, where you can coast, you'll still think you tried as hard as you could. Running sprints in the backyard, say. But then when you're in the more serious setting, you learn that you were not trying at all, in a way. When you can't stop, because you're at the official practices, and now you're training 10x harder. You could have done that all along, on your own, but you didn't. Life is that way. We think we are maxing out, and we think our situation is so different than anyone else's, that we, for real, are that busy. But we're not. We're just in our own backyard, coasting. And nothing gets done that way, at the level of the person, a person contributing to the improvement of a culture, an increase in justice and fairness, a person actually being a good friend, anything.

I'm not going to put up a photo of a scene of something on fire in Boston. I know every last flagstone of this city, a place that I have walked thousands of miles across in order to keep myself alive, to keep myself going, to keep myself trying, to keep myself composing, to keep myself continuing to advance to get to the place where I can help this world in a unique way, but I will put up a photo of Charles Mingus, who I mentioned earlier, who I am certain most people have never heard of, which is a shame, given what a towering artist he was, and how his music can both inspire, call out, teach, and heal. Be safe, be well, be a person for others--and by that I don't just mean don't attack people, don't discriminate, don't set cars on fire. I mean those things for the inside of you, in the truest sense of those words. If we are not what we need to be on the inside, there is very little we can do for this world on the outside. And very little we can even do for ourselves.

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